Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Written and directed by Rian Johnson
By Christopher Spencer
Written and directed by Rian Johnson, Star Wars: The Last Jedi stars Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Kelly Marie Tran, Gwendoline Christie, with Laura Dern, and Benicio del Toro. The First Order is hot on the trail of the Resistance following Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and it is up to Finn (Boyega), Poe (Isaac), newcomer Rose (Tran) and General Leia (Fisher) to survive the onslaught, while Rey (Ridley) discovers her Jedi abilities under Luke Skywalker’s (Hamill) tutelage.
Rian Johnson had an unwieldy task to direct Episode VIII, which had to continue the story and characters of Episode VII without falling into its flaws or feeling too similar. This movie had to be different else the audience grows bored, but still retain that flair of the original films. Johnson has succeeded in spades.
The way that The Last Jedi handles its story and characters after what The Force Awakens did is almost masterful. Most characters from that movie have more to do and experience, the newcomers are unbelievably welcome, the callbacks to the originals are glorious and heartwarming, and the action is explosive (pun intended). Johnson teams together with cinematographer Steve Yedlin to create powerful visuals and compositions, as well as John Williams to form another strong score.
This film moves fast, though it has a weighty 2½ hour runtime, and at times doesn’t allow one to breathe. Once the credits rolled, I couldn’t really process what the film had just done. I needed time, and I still do. This isn’t to say that The Last Jedi is perfect, but it does things that I thought impossible to witness in something titled Star Wars.
We have truly amazing lightsaber fights and space battles, and this Star Wars film is still deeply about character and themes. Daisy Ridley is a triumph and an evolution as Rey, Boyega and Tran share wonderful chemistry, Isaac gives so much fire as Poe, Driver is deeper and more complicated than ever, Gleeson and Serkis are menacing in different ways, Dern is inspiring, Fisher gives a worthy farewell, and Hamill…wow. What Mark Hamill gives in his return as his most famous character is spectacular, challenging, unexpected and just perfect.
The Last Jedi does suffer with new CGI creatures in the same vein as The Force Awakens and Rogue One. The “space-horses” are a fine idea, but their scenes and most of the Canto Bight stuff is just mediocre. There are a few moments in the very beginning of the film that feel wonky or cliché but they luckily do not return as the film continues.
As a LONG-time Star Wars fan, The Last Jedi satisfied me in a deeper way than The Force Awakens. That movie needed to be good or else it all fails. The Last Jedi needed to be something else. What we get might not be for EVERYONE, and that is ok. What I got was a complex, moving, funny, raw and wild experience that I needed. Star Wars: The Last Jedi is beautiful and different, and the franchise is in a great place.