When Star Wars: The Force Awakens debuted in 2015, it was a smash hit. The movie made over two billion dollars in the worldwide box office and also reinvigorated the franchise after the poorly received prequel films that chronicled Anakin Skywalker’s rise to infamy as the Sith lord, Darth Vader. Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the next iteration in the new trilogy, not only surpasses Episode VII, but breaks the mold and sets the standard for what a Star Wars movie should be moving forward.
Taking place moments after the literal and figurative cliffhanger of the last episodic film, Episode VIII continues Rey’s journey into the force. When she meets a war torn, grizzled Luke Skywalker, the legend of the Jedi knight that’s been told throughout the galaxy and the hope that comes with it will come crashing down upon her. Rey will encounter multiple trials that’ll test both her heart and moral compass, as the torch is passed (or in this case lightsaber). Daisy Ridley gives another great performance as a Jedi in training. She’s incredible as she struggles to maintain her commitment to the light side as the internal battle within her will continue to cloud her judgment, with her unflinching resolve also very empowering as well. Her chemistry with Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker is impeccable as it shows a complicated forceful (pun intended) relationship. Ever since the downfall of his Jedi knight teachings and his dark intentions, he’s been living in isolation plagued by guilt. Mark Hamill’s acting chops are utilized very well as he’s able to easily convey a defeated man with very little hope for his future or the galaxy’s.
Elsewhere, Finn, Poe and General Leia are doing whatever they can to combat the New Order and their vicious stormtroopers. With the help of maintenance worker Rose Tico, Finn infiltrates the Galactic Empire and seeks to create disarray within the Supremacy, the flagship of the Supreme Leader Snoke and the mobile headquarters of the First Order. Unfortunately, this adventure between the two is the weak link that’s woven throughout the movie. While it introduces new and interesting corners of the galaxy, it never succeeds in making these characters’ side story as engaging as the environments they inhabit. In the beginning, it started as a funny, quirky relationship that would have provided some comedic relief. It then tried to progress into a heartfelt companionship that would’ve been fine if it had been more genuine and not have ended on a corny, too on-the-nose note. And it also leaves nothing to the imagination on how it’ll evolve moving forward. While their own tale doesn’t ruin the movie in any way, it does somewhat burden it.
Oscar Isaac got very little screen time in The Force Awakens as Poe Dameron, but luckily, he’s much more front and center in Last Jedi. He’s slick, daring, bold and a rebel in every sense of the world. His hot-headed nature mixes very well with Leia’s direct, assertive personality. In terms of Carrie Fisher, she gives a great last performance as Leia. They take a lot of risks with her character’s development that don’t always payoff and come off as outlandish. But with that being said, the scenes that succeed in being emotional and heartfelt pack more of a punch, for better or worse, because of the actor’s recent passing.
Adam Driver also makes a return as the villainous Sith lord, Kylo Ren. Through the force, he’s able to connect with Rey’s thoughts and feelings. It allows us to see her at her most vulnerable making for some good chemistry between the two leads. Driver is great as Kylo as he’s able to portray, yet again, a hurt, angry and confused lost soul looking for closure in his attempts to bring order to the galaxy. Both of them share a yearning to find their true purpose, despite if their allegiance may change. It deepens their relationship and provides good emotional material. Without spoiling the ending, it leaves more to be desired, and I couldn’t help but feel it was a missed opportunity, in terms of a fulfilling action sequence. Also while mostly good throughout, every once in a while there was mediocre CGI, especially during the scenes on Canto Bight.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is another great entry in the iconic space opera franchise. It delivers on great character moments and development, intense action sequences and explores never-before-seen areas of a galaxy far, far away. Also acting as a satisfying send-off for Carrie Fisher, this incredible sequel builds more excitement and anticipation for Episode IX and both meets and challenges fans’ expectations.