December 16, 2017 Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Movie Review)
In 2015, Star Wars: The Force Awakens debuted with more fanfare than any Star Wars movie before it. No longer bound by the past lore of the series, The Force Awakens would be the first time Star Wars went into completely new territory in over 30 years. The film was met with generally positive reception, but a widespread complaint was that it played things a little too safe. Well aware that it cannot just rehash an old story, this time around, The Last Jedi is the real indicator of the direction the story and franchise are heading. So how does it all pan out? Well, truly epic things happen in The Last Jedi, from new Force powers to the leadership on both sides. The Last Jedi feels like a true passing of the torch from the old generation to the new.
Premiering in theaters on Friday, December 15, 2017 through Walt Disney Studios, The Last Jedi starts with the rebel forces with their backs against the wall as the First Order continues their relentless pursuit of the heroes across the galaxy. The rebels jump to hyperspace to escape, but the Order manages to pursue them through it, which is thought to be impossible. Leia, Akbar, and other rebel leaders must bunker down and wait on a miracle before the imperial dreadnoughts blow them to bits. Poe Dameron, Finn, BB-8, and new character Rose Tico embark on a covert mission to board the dreadnaught and shut it down before the rebels are destroyed, but must employ the services of a mysterious master hacker to do so.
Elsewhere, Rey, Chewie, and R2 have found Luke Skywalker in self imposed exile, and try to convince him to return to the alliance in their most desperate hour. Luke, however, is not keen on the idea and has grown disillusioned with his own personal failings and what he feels is the arrogance of the Jedi way. Additionally, Kylo Ren has fallen out of favor with Supreme Leader Snoke for his failure at the end of the last movie, and is going through great struggle personally and professionally knowing that any further failures will certainly mark him for death.
The Last Jedi is just as much about the personal growth of the characters as it is the plot, and everyone from Rey, Kylo, Luke, and others will go through changes during the film, and we don’t mean insignificant details. By the time this is over, all three will be very different from where they were at the start of the new series. Big things happen in this movie, and the implications for all characters and the Star Wars canon going forward are enormous.
One of the major advancements are the introduction of new Force powers. We saw Kylo Ren display a mind rip technique in The Force Awakens, and here we see powers far more advanced. We cannot say much without giving things away, but we get to see major displays of power from Snoke, Ren, and some others who you might not have expected it from.
The future of the franchise can only be as good as the characters though, and it is essential that Rey, Kylo, and Finn as the three new leads establish themselves as being able to carry it going forward. Luckily, all the actors put on great performances here. Adam Driver (Girls series, Silence 2016) and Daisy Ridley (Murder on the Orient Express 2017, Only Yesterday 2016) as Kylo and Rey, respectively, really deliver, and Driver especially removes all doubt about his viability as a major presence.
Ren was met with mixed reviews from fans in The Force Awakens but will no doubt remove any complaints from most fans after this. He is a far more complex character than any Sith before him, and one of the series’ best choices was to show him up close and have fans understand his path. His vulnerability and latent anger are genuine and never feel forced.
Ridley is fantastic as she was in the previous film and has all the hallmarks of a great hero – Strong, driven, and bravely facing the challenges in front of her. Rey must act as the foundation of hope in the face of Luke’s disillusionment, and must do everything she can to make him see the error of his ways. Mark Hamill (Star Wars series, Castle in the Sky 2003) gives one of the best performances of his career as the aging Jedi Master Luke Skywalker. The role reversal he goes through here, from a depressed recluse to the reluctant trainer and rediscovery of his purpose is one of the highlights of the film.
Sadly, we all know this is the final performance of Carrie Fisher (Star Wars series, When Harry Met Sally 1989) in her iconic role as Princess, now general, Leia Organa after her untimely death last year. Fisher is phenomenal and plays Leia exactly as she should – tired but alert and wise. Long years of war have clearly taken their toll on her body, but her mind and strategic prowess are as sharp as ever. Leia knows that the rebels are on their last legs, but she displays the leadership and compassion that earned her the respect of the entire rebel alliance. It is sad she is gone, but she went out with a hell of a final performance.
The Last Jedi feels like the third movie of a trilogy rather than the second. That is how big the events of this film are. If people thought The Force Awakens was a rehash of 1977’s A New Hope, rest assured this is not a rehash of 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back and the story goes where fans will not expect it to. Rey, Kylo, and Finn, along with Poe, and BB-8 are firmly established as the leads going forward, much more so than their introductions in the last film, and all of them are amazing.
This film is a thrilling ride that takes a lot of risks and hits all the right notes. A new generation of Star Wars as well as the old ones have a lot to look forward to after this one. For these reasons, CrypticRock gives Star Wars: The Last Jedi 4 out of 5 stars.