There are NO SPOILERS in this review:
There are two distinct groups of Star Wars fans; those who enjoy the fun, galactic tale of Luke Skywalker’s adventures to become a Jedi knight, and his battles against the evil empire; and those who devour every morsel of mythos as though it were a tangible and essential part of their lives. Thus, writing a review on this film (series) is a daunting task, certain to offend one group or another.
Having lived through four decades of Star Wars, beginning as a young man enamored with the magic of this epic space story, the philosophy of a Force deity that somehow binds all parts of the living universe together, and now as an older, wiser, and certainly more jaded, human being, the series represents a large part of my adult life, in addition to being a fun set of films.
First, let’s recap.
Following The Force Awakens, many fans were upset with the deviations from keeping the core originals intact. With the death of Han Solo (Harrison Ford), and a new group of Force sensitives, Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega), as well as a new droid, the gang found themselves, along with General Leia Organa (the late Carrie Fisher,) back in the same old circle.
The resistance is still resisting, and the emperor, and his empire, though gone, are now embodied in the empirical First Order with the mysterious—and even more powerful than the emperor—evil Sith being, Snoke (Andy Serkis.)
TFA was a nice homecoming for those of us absent from the Star Wars prime storyline, the Skywalker storyline. But since, Han and Leia’s son, Ben, while being trained by Luke, had been turned to the dark side of the Force, desperately emulating the evil image of his grandfather, Darth Vader. Renamed Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), he is oblivious to grandpa’s return to the light side—moments before his death—and instead worships the old, broken, Vader mask.
After a clash with Rey, who surprisingly nearly bests him, leaving one of those nasty scars across his face, Ren has his training completed by Snoke.
At the end of TFA, Rey finds Luke, holds out his old lightsaber for him to take, as we viewers swirl around them to the closing credits.
Okay, you are now caught up.
No spoilers. Reviews that have to tell you the story are not reviewing, but revealing.
In The Last Jedi we find Luke, isolated and not prepared to train yet another potential Jedi, fearing failure, wanting to be left alone. He has learned one lesson; that Jedi and Sith are just two parts of a greater whole of the Force. It is time to end both, in his mind.
Meanwhile, Snoke, having trained Kylo Ren, has him facing off against Rey by manipulating events. Will she turn to the dark side? Who are her parents? Will Leia die (as Carrie Fisher did in real life) or will she find some way to get Luke back. After all. TFA and this movie complete the arc of that purpose. Does Finn die? And why are there no bathrooms on the Falcon?
This film is busy with the usual effects. The John Williams score pulls us back to the original film, through all the thematic variations we have seen in Episodes I through VII, adding new strains of emotive melodies.
Most of the film time is spent with the embattled rebels attempting to achieve just one or two goals, and with major turnabouts and character arcs, some of which will annoy viewers for a very long time. And in the end, the question of whether Luke will return to help restore peace in the galaxy, is answered in a new way, a way that may annoy those loyalists of the Star Wars cannon who cannot see past 40 years, to a new hope (no pun intended.)
It’s been 40 years for me. It’s been 40 years for the heroes we first cheered, the very first time. Time has not been so kind on some actors, despite the endurance of the franchise. But as is always the case in life, the old makes way for the new, not unlike old Obi-Wan giving way to Luke to become a Jedi.
There are new heroes in the making, and you can see that they are being set up for more post-Star Wars IX films. New stories, new discoveries. But for those of us who still recall the thrill the first time a lightsaber was activated, The Last Jedi is a reminder that the new audiences, even though they have seen the original trilogy, were not there during that time of optimism, when film was fresh, idealistic, and not milked for every last cent that a sequel could bring.
Nonetheless, the film is very enjoyable, poignant in parts, ironic in others, nostalgic to a degree, and hopeful with young Rey, Finn, Poe and others now finding their places in the worlds of this iconic series.
If you close your eyes, stretch out your feelings, and breathe…just breathe, you, too, can feel the Force surround you, flow through you, and bind you to that—still lovely—fanfare theme from a long, long time ago….
4-Stars if you just enjoy Star Wars
2- Stars if you are a die-hard SW fan-analyst
Written & Directed by Rian Johnson
Cast: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, and Gwendoline Christie in returning roles, with Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, and Benicio del Toro joining.