After seeing Star Wars: The Last Jedi, I’m not surprised Lucasfilm is giving director Rian Johnson the keys to a new Star Wars trilogy after Episode XI; in fact, Rian Johnson’s now further involvement has me actually excited for the next Star Wars trilogy (and I’m not even a Star Wars fan). While The Last Jedi is a Star Wars movie, it also at times feels unlike any other Star Wars movie you’ve seen before. With that said, however, The Last Jedi is still a Star Wars movie through and through, and is filled with crowd-pleasing moments that should delight fans of the franchise. From the story and its gratifying twists and turns, to character developments for both new and old characters in the saga, to the movie’s dazzling action and visual effects, The Last Jedi is everything you could hope for in a grade-A blockbuster, and is easily one of the absolute best Star Wars movies in the franchise.
Rey develops her newly discovered abilities with the guidance of Luke Skywalker, who is unsettled by the strength of her powers. Meanwhile, the Resistance prepares to do battle with the First Order.
Part of what makes The Last Jedi one of the most memorable Star Wars movies is how the story covers so much ground in 152 minutes, making it the longest Star Wars movie to date. Some might complain about the movie being longer than it should be (and granted, it is just a bit too long), but the eighth entry in this saga benefits from its long runtime, as it allows the story to breathe and give focus with weighed balance to characters on both the light and dark side of the intergalactic battle. A big problem with some of the previous Star Wars movies and their stories is how they are not particularly engaging whenever a lightsaber isn’t ignited or a spaceship zooms by. But that’s not the case in The Last Jedi. Rian Johnson’s story gives purpose in dialogue-driven scenes, as both new and old characters are given their share of opportune moments and are awarded meaningful story progression. The result not only benefits their character’s intentions, but also the overarching story of the saga that moves the franchise forward. Some might argue that there is not as much emotional weight behind this new Star Wars trilogy, but I strongly disagree. The Last Jedi handles a numbers of issues the characters face in terms of what it means for them and those around them. Like Rey’s balancing of The Force, its slope dynamically changes and keeps things interesting for the sake of storytelling and for more than just space battles.
In more ways than expected (and without spoiling things), some of the story decisions in The Last Jedi might be surprising. At times whenever the movie would cut to the next scene by way of excellent editing, I kept thinking, “Wow, I did not expect things to play out that way in that scene.” While some of the scenes feel unconventional even for a Star Wars movie, they ultimately make the narrative of The Last Jedi all the more satisfying by movie’s end and viewers are sure to feel more appreciative on repeat viewings. Also, it’s worth mentioning that The Last Jedi is the funniest Star Wars movie yet, where within minutes of the movie’s opening the tone is set for the humor; The Last Jedi is consistently hilarious. And sure, as you would expect, there are twists, turns, and shocking revelations throughout. But unlike The Force Awakens, the “Say what?” instances in The Last Jedi don’t feel forced or purposely inserted with a red bow for you to spot, they, instead, are dropped subtly throughout.
Besides lightsabers, the Star Wars franchise is best known for its vast array of unforgettable characters, who are the driving force of the movies. And as you would expect, The Last Jedi is filled with a number of characters and outstanding performances from the movie’s massive ensemble. Mark Hamill (Star Wars) and Carrie Fisher (Catstrophe) return as Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia in their iconic roles; without question, the movie’s best scenes are when one of these two siblings is shown on screen, as they take command of the situation and never fail to astound us with their moments of wisdom and grace. And honestly, I think their performances in The Last Jedi may be their best to date in the franchise. The returning cast members from The Force Awakens are all exceptional, just like last time. Daisy Ridley is wonderful as protagonist Rey, who is trying to understand the balance of The Force. John Boyega is noble as Finn, who must again think outside the box in order to help the Resistance. Oscar Isaac is charming as ever as Poe Dameron, the dashing, trigger-happy X-pilot looking for any way to take down the First Order. And Adam Driver continues to play antagonist Kylo Ren with conflicting poise and further proves why he is turning into one of the best young actors in Hollywood. Joining the returning cast members are two new standout characters who make the most with what they are given. Kelly Marie Tran plays Rose, a maintenance worker in the Resistance who helps Finn and Poe. And Benicio del Toro plays a weird hacker with unknown intentions in the the grand scheme of things.
As you would expect, the visual effects in The Last Jedi are simply astonishing to behold. Shown through the lens of cinematographer Steve Yedlin, it’s easy to get lost in one of the movie’s space battles, lightsaber battles, or stunning locations. Speaking of locations, Star Wars fans are introduced to a few new noteworthy places and adorable-looking creatures that are sure to make everybody gasp and wish they actually existed so that they could own one (Porg or crystal fox? Your choice). Accompanying the movie’s first-rate visual effects is the movie’s stellar production design, where backdrops of numerous scenes look detailed rather than bogged down with numerous green screens. Supreme Leader Snoke’s lair in particular, though minimalistic, is easily one of the standout set pieces in the entire movie.
While JJ Abrams reinvigorated pop culture’s biggest franchise with great results in The Force Awakens, thanks to The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson takes this staple in a galaxy far, far away to parsecs that make Star Wars even more enjoyable. Balancing story, characters, action, and visuals, while not feeling so overloaded, The Last Jedi will undoubtedly bring in new fans to the franchise while also building even more anticipation for the next installment. The Force was certainly strong with Rian, and we can only hope that Disney’s annual release of a Star Wars movie can come close to matching what Rian has done with The Last Jedi.