Star Wars The Last Jedi
Starring Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Domhnall Gleeson, Benicio Del Toro and Anthon Daniels
Directed by Rian Johnson
How do you write about something that you feel must be experienced to be appreciated? Is there a way to express how you felt about something while at the same time wanting to covet the experience you just had? These were some of the questions I asked myself at the end of the movie. I guess the best way to start is with a spoiler free discussion of the plot.
The Last Jedi finds the last remnants of The Resistance on the run from The First Order. With The First Order gaining more and more power after destroying The Republic, the Resistance finds itself being driven from its former stronghold. The First Order has discovered a new technology that is giving them the advantage in the fight and that has put the remnants of the fleet on the run. At the same time, Rey is trying to convince Luke Skywalker to rejoin the fight and bring back the Jedi order. A prospect that Luke not only rejects, but adamantly refuses.
With the First Order’s main ship in pursuit, Leia clashes with her best pilot Poe Dameron about a strategy to disable the First Order ship and ensure the fleet escapes. During this time, Finn wakes up and is looking for Rey when he runs into Rose Tico during an attempt to leave the escaping ship. Rose has suffered a personal loss recently and her desire to help draws she and Finn into a desperate mission to find someone capable of disabling the First Order’s new advantage.
As Finn and Rose travel to the casino planet of Cando Bight, Rey and Luke continue to clash about the future of the Jedi and the events that led him to his current exile. Unbeknownst to Luke, Rey has been connecting with Kylo Ren through the Force and learning more about what happened. Luke decides to give Rey three lessons and in those lessons, he explains to her why the Jedi order should end, but the current situation the Resistance is in and the plans of Snoke will make that almost impossible.
The Last Jedi is a risky endeavor in both plot and execution. As a chase film, it manages to ramp up the tension and actually add a new element of suspense that hadn’t been in previous films. There is an impending sense of doom getting closer and closer to the fleet and it allows for moments of great drama between many of the characters and their philosophies. Poe’s risk taking and his clashes with Admiral Holdo and Leia are interesting dynamics to witness and makes one appreciate the characters and their ability to think strategically.
Rey’s journey is shaping up to be the spine of not only the next film, but the next trilogy and that is a good thing. One of the things that I loved about this movie is that the concept of change and growth are ever-present. The film finds a fine line between the characters and champions change based on experience rather than change for change sake and that is something I appreciated as a life long fan. There is a moment when Luke tells Rey everything that he knows the universe expects from him and his legend and how the reality of that is much different. This is probably the least subtle way of addressing fan expectations of what they want to see vs the reality of a new story needing to be served.
Luke Skywalker steals every scene he’s in and there is a power and purpose to everything he does that made me as a fan lean in to listen to what he had to say and was even more surprised and delighted when he said or did something completely unexpected instead.
Finn’s journey with Rose to Canto Bight gives an in your face lesson on who is really benefitting from the constant conflict in the galaxy. A moment that brings the overall conflict into clear focus and perspective and hopefully gets explored going forward.
There are some minor things I didn’t like. I wish Phasma’s arc was more realized. I think they’ve set her up as a dynamic character and I want to see more of that realized. I think Rose’s infatuation with Finn was a little forced, but it was sweet overall.
What I really liked was the challenge to the status quo of Star Wars and the risks the film took in both tone and humor. The Last Jedi isn’t flawless, but it does so much to challenge Star Wars and move it forward that it ranks high on my list of Star Wars films. It is an achievement to take the risks necessary to move a phenomenon this large forward and the moments that do so are both bittersweet and ultimately necessary. At no point in the film did I feel like I was being condescended to as a fan and the moments that were designed to push my nostalgia buttons worked in a way to bridge the gap between the original trilogy and the new films.
The Last Jedi is a film I recommend to be experienced on the big screen and enjoyed for moving Star Wars forward in new and unexpected places.