“This is not going to go the way you think.” This was the heavy hitting line that cemented the theme and tone for the latest installment of the Star Wars Saga. The Last Jedi is the second film in the new sequel trilogy, and with it comes much of the baggage and preconceived ideas of what a Star Wars movie needs to be successful.
For many viewers The Force Awakens seemed to be a step in the right direction in regards to a fun, action adventure ride, which many felt was missing from the prequel trilogy. But some fans felt it derived too much from Star Wars: A New Hope, trying too hard to recapture the spark that made that original film so popular in the first place.
Thus, The Last Jedi had a lot to accomplish in a short amount of time. It had to win over longtime fans who were still unconvinced that this new trilogy could meet the gold standards of its original stomping grounds. It had to give us something fresh and new without straying too far from what makes Star Wars the space opera we love. Most importantly, it had to take characters we’ve known, loved, and lived with for 40 years now, and do them justice in a world that’s changed around the mythic archetypes they’ve inhabited since their inception.
Does The Last Jedi do all these things? I don’t know. Even after nearly two months and several repeat viewings under my belt, it’s hard to narrow down exactly where it fits in the grand scheme of things. What I can say is that Star Wars: The Last Jedi will, in my opinion, go down in history as the most memorable and thought provoking Star Wars film to date.
Maybe even one of the most memorable films period to date.
Director and writer Rian Johnson takes careful steps to work the unexpected and ambiguous into his chapter of the Skywalker story, each character having to face what is probably the most difficult thing for them in this phase of their lives, making choices that affect others throughout the story.
Rey and Luke Skywalker’s journey opens up a new, never before delved into level of the franchise-asking question on what does light and dark truly mean and where the Jedi and Sith fit into the mix. Are they two outdated factions just fighting for supremacy and power? Smack dab in the middle is Kylo Ren and his arc mirrors that of his antagonist predecessor, Darth Vader. Kylo has to choose if there’s still light inside him and he has to decide what is truly the way to become who he was meant to be.
Adam Driver brings an outstanding performance that catches your attention every time he’s on screen. For anyone who left The Force Awakens disliking his character for his choice to kill Han Solo, The Last Jedi makes you drastically reconsider, provided you consider Kylo Ren in the wrong in any of his actions, as misdirection and how you receive what you see play a big part of his story.
And all that leads to Luke Skywalker, played by Mark Hamill, who came out during production to say that he fundamentally disagreed with every choice that was made with his character. That being said, his performance is downright stunning, bordering on Shakespearean; Rian Johnson takes a character we’ve all grown up with and idolized, then takes away all the legend and makes us view what’s really there underneath it all. A human being.
Whether you like what is done with Luke Skywalker in this film is left entirely up to the audience. But no one can deny the love and care that is given to his journey and his resolution towards the end leaves him in a place of peace and purpose you rarely get with legacy characters like Luke Skywalker.
Additionally, this film takes the imagery of Star Wars and ramps it up to 11, with some of the most eye catching and breathtaking action scenes and set pieces of the entire saga. The film takes the great battle scenes we all know and love and throws in some new and interesting twists to them. One particular battle scene at the beginning even mirrors that of a World War II epic.
All in all, The Last Jedi is a movie that will make you talk until the next and final installment. It leaves you with new and fresh ideas to ponder while also delivering a classic adventure entertaining enough to the point where you can’t wait to see what comes next.