Star Wars: The Last Jedi review

For longtime hardcore Star Wars fans, Episode VII – The Force Awakens was too safe. Director/co-writer JJ Abrams essentially just remade Star Wars with new characters while still dismissing the hard-earned happy ending of the beloved original trilogy. With The Last Jedi, there’s a welcome return of hope for the Sequel Trilogy.

Director/Writer Rian Johnson, the mastermind behind the fantastic sci-fi time bender Looper, proves more than up to the challenge of helming the important middle chapter. Rather than modernizing Empire Strikes Back, Johnson echoes familiar themes from the franchise’s gold standard. Some elements like the Resistance on the run from the First Order mirroring the Rebels’ desperate escape from the Empire or Rey venturing off to learn the ways of the Force a la Luke Skywalker’s training with Yoda are obvious. For devoted Star Wars fans, the parallels are hard to miss.

Star Wars The Last Jedi review -Rey at Luke's base

But Johnson expands Last Jedi well beyond what’s come before. This film lets Rey, Finn and Poe have their own unique adventure, which is a far superior way to honor the spirit of the Original Trilogy.

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Picking up almost from the end of Force Awakens, Rey (Daisy Ridley) tries to get Jedi Master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to join the Resistance to take down the First Order while Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) wants his apprentice Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) to hunt down Skywalker. Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and General Leia (the late Carrie Fisher) try to avoid General Hux’s (Domnhall Gleeson) pursuit and Finn (John Boyega) and engineer Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) embark on a risky secret mission.

There’s a certain freshness to this installment. It doesn’t feel like a case of deja vu and there’s no predictable moments. Last Jedi is a unique experience that greatly expands the Star Wars universe.

Star Wars The Last Jedi review -General leia

I don’t want to spoil too much as the film has a series of truly terrific moments that are best left revealed in the theater. Last Jedi features two of my favorite moments in the entire saga and they were beautiful homages to the original films. Rather than dragging out some of the bigger mysteries introduced in Force Awakens, everything is neatly addressed here. That might prove underwhelming for some viewers expecting an ‘I am Your Father’ style bombshell, but keeping it simple is a better approach than trying to create some huge shocking moment.

Looper was enough indication, but Johnson seemed very well-equipped to handle a massive blockbuster production. The action sequences are spectacular. Nine films into the Star Wars saga it’s hard to establish new iconic sequences and Johnson wisely doesn’t try to reinvent Star Wars action.

Star Wars The Last Jedi review - Kylo Ren

Great action is fine, but the script is what helps Last Jedi stand out. Johnson builds layers on layers allowing the characters to have genuine arcs and development. This provides a better showcase for Driver in particular as he gets to do more than play Emo Darth Vader. Ridley is also really great working alongside Hamill.

As expected, it was somewhat emotional knowing this was Fisher’s final time appearing as Leia, but this was a great sendoff. Boyega and Marie Tran have a strong chemistry making the Finn/Rose subplot a fun surprise. Series newcomers Benecio del Toro and Laura Dern. Last Jedi continues to do a much better job of showcasing more minorities though it’d be nice to see some in leadership roles and not just grunts.

Star Wars The Last Jedi review - Finn vs Phasma

There are some developments that with the benefit of hindsight probably would have been changed. One of the bigger disappointments is that Johnson won’t be returning to direct the final installment. The Last Jedi isn’t at the same level as Empire, A New Hope and Revenge of the Sith, but it’s an easy fit in the second tier of really good Star Wars films.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10

Photo Credit: Walt Disney Pictures

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