Star Wars: The Last Jedi Non-spoiler Review
After years of anticipation and speculation, which began as the credits rolled on opening night for Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the second film in the newest trilogy about space wizards and laser swords has landed in theaters. And if people came away from Episode VII with a feeling of "right but I've seen a lot of that before, so...blah," first of all, relax and enjoy life a little, and secondly, Episode VIII is the film you've been waiting for.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi, directed by Rian Johnson, which picks up almost immediately after the events of the previous episode, tells two concurring stories. As Rey (Daisy Ridley) attempts to convince Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to train her, the Resistance, led by General Leia Organa (Her Royal Highness Carrie Fisher), is engaged in the fight of their lives with the First Order. The two stories, which at times feel a little unevenly paced, nonetheless keep viewers on the edge of their seats. If Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) wasn't given much to do in Episode VII, he is definitely given his time to shine here, and the newly introduced Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) was a delight.
Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver as Kylo Ren gave two of the film's best performances, each taking us along with them on a breakneck rollercoaster ride of emotions, but the standout roles came from Mark Hamill, who gave the performance of his life, and Carrie Fisher. After her heartbreaking passing, to see her return here only makes me miss her all over again, but she is truly given her time to shine.
Director Rian Johnson was given the nearly impossible task of writing and directing a film surrounding which there has been an astronomical amount of conversation and theorizing, meaning that hardcore fans of the series could very well land in one of two camps: a) guessing the major plot points or b) being disappointed by the film's events if they didn't. But The Last Jedi definitely came to play, and the name of the game is "subverting your expectations."
With some correct guesses here and there, I was given everything I thought I wanted and then some. Where I was right, and those moments were very few, I couldn't have even imagined how well executed it would be, and where I was wrong, I was glad to be so. For viewers still on their way to their theater, two things will ensure you have the best possible time:
- Let go of your theories.
- Just go with it.
This story will take you to places that, at first, you might be skeptical of going, but if you allow it to wash over you, you will be well rewarded.
And then there's the question on everyone's lips who hasn't yet made it out to the theater: "How similar is it to Empire Strikes Back?" In the way that Episode IV felt like a fairytale set in space and the follow-up took a darker, more grounded approach, they do achieve a similar tone. There are also a few nods to both Empire and Jedi but not in ways that compromise the story or take viewers out of the film.
There are one or two moments of humor that didn't work for me, while most did, and there is an entire sequence that felt that it could have been lifted from the movie without consequence, but although it occasionally fell short and left me with a few things that I still want to think over, it also contained some of my new all-time favorite Star Wars moments. There is one in particular that I would like to have playing on repeat in front of my face all day long. Just, wow. I was also very moved by the film's outlook on good and evil and the role that perspective plays in the journey between the two.
Along with the rest of the audience, I cheered like a crazy person, cried like a big old baby and was left breathless in shock. The Last Jedi is a movie that above all makes audiences feel. It didn't send me home in that haze of enraptured enchantment that swirled around Episode VII, but that simply wasn't its intention. This film takes daring risks that pay off in spades, and I for one am glad that it did.