A distressed Luke Skywalker’s words of warning to an unwavering Rey: “This is not going to go the way you think” impeccably sets the tone for the Rian Johnson-helmed Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Stunning visuals, a fantastic story augmented by old, returning, and new characters along with a plethora of impactful moments hurl the audience on a journey that they will never forget, regardless of how they feel about the film.
The Last Jedi picks up immediately where The Force Awakens left off, departing from the usual narrative time jump between episodes. With the Republic obliterated and the battered Resistance on the run, The First Order expedites their efforts to control the galaxy. Elsewhere, Rey finds an old and weary Luke Skywalker to help put an end to the rising tyranny of the dark side led by Kylo Ren and the malevolent Supreme Leader Snoke.
Johnson improves upon the gorgeous cinematography that JJ Abrahams exhibited in Episode 7 to produce some exquisite imagery with remarkable attention to detail. The use of CGI over practical effects is noticeable, such as the times when BB-8 is on screen. However, it doesn’t detract from the overall viewing experience. In fact, the special effects are gorgeously rendered, especially when it comes to a particular character.
Quips such as “droid please’ were absent this time around as the abundance of humor finds its mark in every outing. There are many instances, especially one near the beginning of the film, where the laughs work due to how various situations come about.
John Williams’ iconic sound once again makes its dramatic presence felt with a composition that carries a distinct tone from the previous movies while creating newer motifs. There wasn’t one piece of music that stood out to the point where I had to rush out and buy the soundtrack, however, as a complete overall score that complements and enhances the film, it’s brilliant.
In many ways, this is Adam Driver’s film as the multifaceted approach to a conflicted Kylo Ren keeps the audience guessing as to whether he will stay in the dark or turn to the light. Daisy Ridley is once again magnetic as Rey. The Jedi in training yearns to discover how she fits into the larger scheme of things.
Finn (John Boyega) is toned down a bit this time around. The former stormtrooper was missed in the main story arc, relegated to a mid-level role on the dazzling casino planet of Canto Bight. Oscar Isaacs’ Poe Dameron received more screen time with plenty to do as the hotshot Resistance pilot struggles with the transition from fighter to a commander.
Newcomers to the franchise make their mark while each bringing something different to the table. The purple haired Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) exemplified stern leadership despite unclear intentions. The flexible morality of the mysterious DJ (Benicio Del Toro) represents a peculiar sense of gray in this black and white saga. Resistance technician turned hero Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) is the heart of the film. It’s impossible not to love this character. Welsh actor Mark Lewis Johnson was simply great in his short role as the surly Captain Canady.
The tragic passing of Carrie Fisher made everyone wonder how Lucasfilm would handle the Princess (General) Leia in her final outing. I’m happy to report that they did her justice in spades. Now let’s talk about Mark Hamill, who puts on his finest performance as Luke Skywalker. Some people will disagree with that assessment due to what was done with the character, which is two completely separate issues. While I understand the backlash, the creative decisions were bold, unexpected and intriguing to see unfold.
For one hundred and fifty minutes, The Last Jedi latches on via force choke and never lets go. Rian Johnson fashioned a bold and invigorating journey that explores new ideas that lead to unforgettable moments. Moments that the film leans on are mixed with mystery and a dash of nostalgia that didn’t give me what I wanted but gave me things I didn’t know I wanted in return.