Filled with harrowing perils and noble heroics, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is every bit the deeply satisfying film Star Wars fans have hoped for.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi begins soon after The Force Awakens, and the First Order is eager to take revenge for the destruction of Starkiller Base. They're pursuing the Resistance with tireless brutality, and it is up to heroes Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and Finn (John Boyega) to help the Resistance Fleet escape, while Sith Lord Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) leads a fierce space battle to stop them. Meanwhile, Rey (Daisy Ridley) stands before Jedi Master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) as a hopeful student who is surprised in what she finds.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi undoubtedly paints with the same colors and strokes used in The Empire Strikes Back, yet it manages to create a completely unique film. It took ultimate skill from director Rian Johnson to deliver a film with such deep respect for the franchise, while feeling distinct and fresh. The Last Jedi shifts this trilogy into a darker tone, but there's a deep current of hope running through the film.
The Last Jedi is unpredictable, despite the deeply familiar plot. Luke Skywalker's admonishment from the trailer, “This is not going to go the way think,” holds true. There are moments of true, palpable tension as characters make decisions and then deal with the results. And there is an ultimate satisfaction that comes from all of the new possibilities opened by Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
In my review of The Force Awakens, I mention how the new characters of Finn, Rey and Poe had motivations all their own, and how happy I was that they weren't just new versions of Han, Leia and Luke. Star Wars: The Last Jedi takes this one step further, giving us deeper insight into Kylo Ren. Adam Driver brings fascinating new depth to the character, both in his torment and in his unexpected decisions. Another new character, Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), a Resistance engineer, is sure to be a hit with tweens everywhere.
There are some characters who don't get their moment to shine, however. Finn (John Boyega) doesn't deliver the knock-out performance we had in The Force Awakens. His dialogue is to blame for some of this, since he uses idioms that feel odd in the Star Wars universe. While he may be in the film to appeal more to kids this time, he gets some ultimately satisfying moments. Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) gets some oh-so-amazing screentime where we actually get to see her fight.
There's a vast improvement in digital effects over The Force Awakens. Characters like Snoke, who are completely digital, fit much better into the physical world. Add to that some brilliant practical effects decisions (one big one, which I'm betting that you notice) and you'll agree that fans will have a lot of fun with this film. We're going to see brilliant costumes at conventions this year as a result. The color composition and cinematography in Star Wars: The Last Jedi are a truly tasty treat. Colors come to life and planetscapes feel fully-realized. Franchise fans will have plenty of new ships to obsess about and costumes to cosplay for years to come.
When I walked out of this press screening and couldn't wait to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi again, I knew that it was among the best films in the franchise. But I expect this to be a bit of a controversial film, given the questions it answers and the new ones it raises. Just like The Empire Strikes Back.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is peppered with satisfying battles for the fate of the galaxy far, far away, and you'll cheer as characters new and old square off in familiar but completely unexpected ways.
I give Star Wars: The Last Jedi 5 out of 5 stars.
Rated: PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence
Directed by: Rian Johnson
Written by: Rian Johnson
Starring: Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Gwendoline Christie, Domhnall Gleeson, Carrie Fisher, Billie Lourd, Andy Serkis, Laura Dern, Oscar Isaac, Benicio Del Toro, Kelly Marie Tran, John Boyega, Lupita Nyong'o, Anthony Daniels, Jimmy Vee,
Release date: December 15, 2017
Runtime: 2h 32min
Post Credits Scene: No