Remember when Star Wars
actually delivered on its promises and didn’t leave you with stale disappointment? So does Last Jedi
director Rian Johnson.
With The Last Jedi, Johnson hasn’t just recaptured the magic of the original trilogy and relied on nostalgia; he’s rejuvenated the franchise and served up the most satisfying Star Wars movie in decades.
Tasked with continuing Star Wars‘ legacy of adventure and excitement, Johnson fulfills all our wildest expectations.
Not only does The Last Jedi top The Force Awakens in almost every single way, it does it with panache—the movie features nearly non-stop action and story movement.
But just how does he do it?
[WARNING: POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD]
The Last Jedi starts immediately after the events of Episode VII.
The Resistance is on its heels, as the First Order tracks them down to finish off the last remnants of the new Rebel Alliance.
The Last Jedi starts with a bang. Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) flies heroically to take down a massive Star Destroyer in the film’s heart-stopping opening action sequence, as X-Wings and Tie-Fighters go head-to-head in one of the best space dog fights of the franchise. The sequence is a promise to the audience that this time around is going to be very different from what we’ve seen before.
Meanwhile, Rey (Daisy Ridley) is on the island planet of Ahch-To, where she hands Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) his old lightsaber from A New Hope
and The Empire Strikes Back
She wants to be trained as a Jedi Knight and continue the legacy of the Republic, while Skywalker is reluctant to teach her the ways of The Force. He’s grown fearful and beaten after his disappointment with his last Jedi Apprentice Ben Solo, who turned to the Dark Side to become Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Luke Skywalker shut himself off from the rest of the Universe and wants the memories of the Jedi Order to die with him.
The First Order is more of a looming threat in The Last Jedi with General Hux (a scenery-chewing Domhnall Gleeson) as the leading commander and Supreme Leader Snoke (a mustache-twirling Andy Serkis) as the puppet master and almighty Sith Lord. The evil military dictatorship has a new weapon and, gladly, it’s not another Death Star or Starkiller Base, it’s something more practical and threatening that actually makes sense when you think about hunting down an enemy. The new weapon catches the Resistance unaware, as new leadership in Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo (Laura Dern) tries to execute General Leia’s (Carrie Fisher) plan to keep the new Rebel Alliance together.
The storytelling in The Last Jedi
is sophisticated with a number of storylines and side-quests going on at the same time. It seems in lesser hands the movie would be a jumbled mess, but Rian Johnson makes every storyline and all of its characters clear with remarkable editing.
Although The Last Jedi is the longest of all of the Star Wars movies (clocking in at a hefty 152 minutes), it never feels long or exhausting.
It has a good pip and energy to it, even during the final battle sequence, which takes place about more than two hours into the movie.
It has an impressive visual style that borders on imaginative and fan-service, which there is plenty of for longtime fans of the franchise. However, it never feels out of place.
Unlike the nods and references in The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi seems more organic and natural. That finely-tuned balance goes along with the themes of the new Star Wars movie and the nature of The Force.
There are two sides, the light and the dark, and there needs to be a constant push and pull between the two to keep the universe going.
The presence of Luke Skywalker isrefreshing since we’ve only heard about him (and seen him once) at the very end of The Force Awakens
While he has a much bigger role in The Last Jedi, you can feel his wisdom and flaws throughout the characters from his past, especially in Kylo Ren.
Skywalker failed him as a teacher and regrets ever training him to be a Jedi in the first place. We can see why he’s so apprehensive about training Rey now and why he wants to bring an end to the Jedi Knights. The key moment of his failure with Kylo Ren returns from time-to-time with a little homage to Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon in the way that it’s told and re-visited. It’s hard to get a clear sense of the truth at first, but when you consider the events that led to Kylo Ren’s turn to the Dark Side it’s easy to be a little sympathetic to his character.
Johnson also fills in the corners of this new expanded universe with new characters that don’t just feel tacked on.
Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) is a maintenance worker with the Resistance who gets drawn into the action after she meets Finn (John Boyega). She’s a little star-struck with him because everyone in the new Rebel Alliance considers him a hero after he defects from the First Order. He’s shy about his new status because he still has it in him to run away. The only reason he doesn’t is because he has a better sense of duty and obligation to the Resistance.
Finn and Rose go on a side-mission to disable the First Order’s secret weapon, so the Resistance can get away and re-group on the planet Crait, which is a small mineral planet that’s covered in white salt with a rich red soil underneath. The pair’s adventure brings them to a wealthy casino planet called Canto Bight, where they team up with a shifty codebreaker played by Benicio del Toro.
Finn and Rose make a good team with genuine chemistry, while it’s amazing to see people of color with strong roles doing amazing things in a Star Wars movie. In fact, much of The Last Jedi is cast with diversity in mind and it’s pretty refreshing to watch on the big screen.
Overall, The Last Jedi accomplishes something that most big blockbusters can only hope to strive for. Rian Johnson creates a fully realized world with complex characters that defy cliches. Once you think you know where the story is taking you, Johnson flips the script and reveals a new truth.
While there are a number of movie conventions unique to the Star Wars franchise, there are definitely moments when it’s hard to tell how characters will react or what direction the story will take you. However, the directing and writing is so strong that you just have to put your faith Johnson and trust that he’ll lead you down a good path that will engage and enlighten you on your journey, much like Rey has to put her faith in Luke Skywalker to become a Jedi Knight.
Oh, and there are Porgs. Plenty of adorable Porgs.