Is Star Wars: The Last Jedi good? Oh yes, yes it is.
In fact, I’d go as far as to say that it’s just as good as The Empire Strikes Back, which is of course, the best movie in the Original Trilogy.
The Last Jedi kicks off from where The Force Awakens left off – with Rey (Daisy Ridley) flying off to find the self-exiled Jedi master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill).
Besides seeking answers about her sensitivity to the Force, she also hopes to bring him back to help the Resistance, led by his twin sister, General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher).
Leia has her own problems though – the First Order, led by Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) and Kylo Ren a.k.a. Ben Solo (Adam Driver) – are on a mission to wipe out the Resistance, and she, along with ace pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and former Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) have to find a way to keep the spark of the rebellion alive.
When J.J. Abrams was announced as the director for Episode IX a few months ago, I rejoiced. Now, I’m not so sure I want Abrams closing the trilogy.
As fun and entertaining as The Force Awakens was, it rather felt like Abrams was merely rehashing tropes from the Original Trilogy, specifically A New Hope.
Sure, he kept the old fans happy, and maybe brought in some new ones as well, but if you think about it, Abrams hardly brought anything new to the overall universe.
The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson, on the other hand, has managed to find balance between paying homage to the Original Trilogy and bringing the new one forward into the future.
He ramps up the action from the get go with a magnificent space battle capped by some of the best X-Wing sequences since A New Hope, and hardly ever takes his foot off the gas throughout the film.
Johnson manages to keep the plot and story tight with a few unexpected twists and turns that keep you guessing throughout the film. Even the slower Luke and Rey scenes feel more like entertaining respites to the action rather than expositional scenes shoehorned into the script.
Where The Force Awakens was more about introducing the major players in the new trilogy, here, Rey, Finn, Poe, Kylo Ren, and even BB-8 really get to develop their characters further.
Ridley has grown tremendously into her character as Rey, and her story develops in surprising ways, as does her counterpart on the Dark Side, Kylo Ren. To paraphrase a famous Star Wars quote – together, they bring balance to the Force, and to this movie as well.
The other supporting characters also get pretty satisfying developments. Poe gets a chance to show off his flying skills, and his interaction with Leia sets the groundwork for a more significant role in Episode IX.
Finn doesn’t quite get as much to do beyond a jaunt to a casino which is one of the movie’s weaker and more pointless sequences.
Still, those scenes also served to introduce one of the movie’s best new characters, the spunky Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), so Finn’s role is not quite finished yet.
On the Dark Side, Snoke is every bit as formidable as we expected him to be, but still can’t help coming across as “Palpatine Lite” at times.
All the same, it’s hard to take your eyes off Hamill and Fisher every time you see them on screen. Sure, it was great to see Harrison Ford back as Han Solo the last time around, but Luke and Leia have always been the heart and soul of the Star Wars saga. Here, the Skywalker siblings bring a huge amount of gravitas to the proceedings.
Having made little more than a cameo in The Force Awakens, Fisher gets a lot more screen time here (which still isn’t quite enough, if you ask me) and manages to steal every single scene she is in.
One can’t help but get emotional whenever Fisher is on-screen. It’s not just the knowledge that this is the final time we’ll be seeing her, but also the fact that the feisty, strong-willed Leia we knew and loved all these years ago has become so war-weary.
Now the leader of the Resistance, she is exhausted from the long years of fighting, but still pushes through despite the odds and her own personal demons, a state of mind reflected by Fisher’s masterful performance.
The last time we saw Hamill as Luke Skywalker was 34 years ago, in 1983’s Return Of The Jedi. This time around, however, Luke is no longer the idealistic, hopeful one we knew, but a jaded Jedi master haunted by his failure to prevent Ben Solo from turning to the Dark Side, and grappling with his own disillusionment towards the ancient Jedi order.
Hamill plays the character as though he has the weight of the galaxy on his shoulders, a world-weariness that is tempered with moments of dry humour bearing shades of the old Luke.
It’s a performance worthy of a Jedi master, and a fitting representation of this character’s place in this new Star Wars world.
The Force Awakens was about introducing a new generation of movie-goers to Star Wars. The Last Jedi, however, is about breaking the boundaries set by the Original Trilogy, forging a new future and expanding that galaxy far, far away to new horizons.
It takes the Star Wars mythology much, much further than its predecessor, and offers some tantalising looks at what the future of the Jedi and the Resistance looks like.
Now let’s hope that Abrams will be able to reach this very high bar that Johnson has set when he closes the trilogy in 2019.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Cast: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Benicio del Toro.
Director: Rian Johnson