After a couple of years of growing anticipation and rampant speculation, Rian Johnson’s highly hyped installment of the brand new Star Wars trilogy comes to the screen in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The sequel is a whole lot of movie, with a number of shocking moments interspersed between a lively and sometimes moving space adventure that builds upon George Lucas’ modern mythology while forging its own path for that galaxy far, far away. Whereas The Force Awakens leaned heavily on nostalgia with a story structure that mirrored the original Star Wars, The Last Jedi sets its own distinct tone and structure that makes it entirely its own thing.
Just to be clear, I’m not going to give away any of the major revelations that occur within The Last Jedi. If it’s included in this review, you can rest assured, dear reader, that it is not anything that will affect your enjoyment of Rian Johnson’s thrilling spectacle.
In The Last Jedi, The Resistance is struggling to survive as the nefarious First Order led by Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) is preparing a deadly offensive that could lay waste the band of rebels. Snoke orders General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) to carry out the offensive while lambasting his Sith apprentice Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), basically negging the young villain in order to better manipulate him.
The Resistance is given a chance when ace pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) leads a daring counter assault, but the ensuing loss of Resistance ships and pilots leaves the struggling rebels in a perilous situation. With the First Order tracking the ragtag Resistance fleet across the universe, there are few options for our heroes in order to survive. The losses from the counterattack leave General Leia (Carrie Fisher) no other option but to demote her ace pilot, and later he will butt heads with Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo (Laura Dern). In order to stop the First Order’s tracking of the Resistance fleet, Poe dispatches Finn (John Boyega) and Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), a young and eager mechanic, to travel to a distant planet and secure a codebreaker who can help the Resistance free themselves from the shadow of the First Order.
Elsewhere, Rey (Daisy Ridley) has discovered the whereabouts of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), though the once-legendary Jedi is disinterested in the ways of The Force. Rey is attempting to pressure Luke to come out of hiding and aid the Resistance in their fight against oppression, but the Master Jedi has no interests, as he’s haunted by the horrible events that led to the creation of Kylo Ren. As Rey learns more of The Force, her raw power frightens Luke who sees the parallels between her and his nephew, and those fears grow as Rey and Kylo interact with one another. Of course, all these characters in different corners of the universe will find themselves colliding.
Rian Johnson wastes no time in establishing the tone that he’s going to use for The Last Jedi. The film opens with a sequence that is humorous in parts and absolutely thrilling visually, providing us with a stunning star fight between the forces of good and evil. What stands out about The Last Jedi is the way in which the film feels truly epic yet its story retains a certain intimacy. The Last Jedi takes us to new worlds within the Star Wars universe that are fresh and lively, rarely if ever mirroring places we’ve been before over the course of the previous eight films. But the story is really contained; keeping the Resistance fighters on the run while Rey and Luke examine the nature of The Force.
As much as we see old faces from Star Wars past, the film never relies on nostalgia to make these moments work. It creates new scenarios and conflicts that they must confront. And the new characters continue to leave a lasting impression. Rose is a welcome addition to the sprawling cast, and Kelly Marie Tran gets some of the film’s most moving moments. Poe, Rey, and Finn are all added layers of complexity to their characters as they progress forward. Once again, Kylo Ren continues to be the best Star Wars villain in the series history, a character of uncontrolled rage amidst and ongoing internal conflict. The characters go through significant changes over the course of the film. They’re challenged and pushed into unexpected directions. And then there are the delightful Porgs and BB-8 expands his skillset as a fantastic droid full of personality.
It’s important, though, to avoid any and all spoilers for The Last Jedi. Rian Johnson takes the story in a number of unexpected directions, often with jaw-dropping results. So much of what occurs in the film carries great weight for the present and future of the series. Whatever the future holds for Star Wars, The Last Jedi will leave a lasting mark on this legendary series with numerous moments that are shocking and powerful with just enough humor to cut the tension. Rarely, if ever, does anything in The Last Jedi feel predictable. If J.J. Abrams set the table, Rian Johnson has delivered the feast. Now it’s up to J.J. to return to this series and deliver the dessert. After such a satisfying meal as The Last Jedi, J.J. Abrams has got a lot of work to do satisfy the appetite of Star Wars fans.