Star Wars: The Last Jedi is…
Jeez, I don't know where to start, really. This is a film that I walked into with very little knowledge of what to expect. I am as big a fan as anyone, and yet I found myself not anticipating this one as much as the last two entries in the series, The Force Awakens and Rogue One. I chalked it up to there being a 10-year gap between the end of the Prequels and Episode 7. Rogue One being the first standalone film offered the unknown. But this one? For some reason, I was able to keep the anticipation in check.
And boy, am I glad that I did.
NOTE: There will be no spoilers in this review whatsoever. Walk into this film as spoiler-free as you possibly can.
Rian Johnson has crafted a film that should be impossible. This is a film that has to accomplish so much, and the results on the screen not only exceed the huge expectations placed on it, but also create a new standard that the saga must live up to going forward.
The Last Jedi looks like a Star Wars film, all the while feeling like something completely new and fresh. Without going full in on spoilers, I found myself floored by the visual spectacle unfolding in front of my eyes. Johnson has always impressed me in the past, and here it feels like he is completely locked in. He understands Star Wars more than anyone has in years.
A good directer is only as good as his cast, and this cast is electric. All of the new "Big Three" — Oscar Issac, John Boyega, and Daisy Ridley — have a chance to shine in their individual storylines. I was pleasantly surprised by Issac and Boyega especially. Neither made much of an impression on me in The Force Awakens, truthfully. Even this time out, I will say that Finn's story is the weakest in the film for me and where it gets a tad bogged down. That's not to say I didn't enjoy it, but Poe and Rey's stories begged to pull my attention away. Poe has arguably the most growth over the course of the film.
Rey, of course, gets the biggest storyline, and Ridley knocks it out of the park. Her growth as an actress these past two years in rapid and exciting to watch unfold. She has some pretty heavy lifting to do here and is more than capable of grabbing your attention and keeping an iron grip on it. She also has Adam Driver there to play off of, and they have amazing chemistry. There is one sequence in particular that should elicit quite the reaction.
A special shout-out to Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico. Of all the newcomers, she shines the brightest. Off screen she is a delight, and on screen she personifies the spirit of the Resistance. She is the reason Finn's arc is as interesting as it is. They work as well together as Ridley and Driver do.
However, two actors overshadow everything. I can't add to what has already been said about seeing the late Carrie Fisher on screen in this film. She improves every scene she is in and produces stellar moments of raw emotion. Yes, it is extremely hard to separate her death from her character. It is a tough situation, but it is handled with the utmost care and consideration.
Which brings me to Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker. Everyone, including myself to a degree, was upset about him only appearing at the end of The Force Awakens. I have read the explanations as to why, but I just don't care. I wanted more Luke. Like many others, Luke Skywalker taught me how to be a good person. He was MY hero. Seeing how he is portrayed for most of this film is challenging to both watch and accept. Hamill has never been better. Right from his first scene until his last, he goes places that he has never been asked to go in a Star Wars film before. If the last film was about finding Luke Skywalker, this one is about the man living up to the legend that proceeds him. Hamill is more than up to the task.
This is a long film, as many have pointed out the longest of the franchise. While not a bad thing, you feel the length. It drags slightly in the middle, but once the pieces are moved around the board and in place, it takes off and does not stop until the credits begin to roll. The film also features one of the series best scores by John Williams. Like all great scores, it makes its presence known when it needs to and enhances the drama in the tensest scenes. There are some great nods to themes past, as well.
I am still stunned at how many risks this film takes. I left the theater processing what I had just saw, and it has stayed with me for days. It is hard to talk about without getting into some serious spoiler territory. But you will all have seen it soon. It can be discussed then. This is the passing of the torch from one generation of Star Wars to another, and all of the emotions and surprise that come with that. Get ready for a wild ride, everyone.
This is not going to go the way you think.