Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Director(s): Rian Johnson
Writer(s): Rian Johnson
Cast: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong'o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern and Benicio Del Toro
Reviewed by: Ian Evans on
Release Date(s)Dec 15, 2017 - Wide
If I wanted to write an ultra-concise review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, I could probably do it in four words: Fun. Humour. Heart. Go.
I don’t get paid by the word, so a review like that expresses what you need to know while I can kick back and chill with a mug of coffee. However, I enjoyed The Last Jedi so much that leaving it at four words doesn’t do it justice. Writer-director Rian Johnson has given us a Star Wars movie that makes us cheer for heroes. That makes us laugh when old and new friends find themselves in funny moments. That makes us imagine piloting an X-Wing and taking on the First Order. This isn’t just a popcorn film. It’s a film that builds on and expands on the cinematic history of a franchise with loyal fans.
At the film’s opening, the First Order’s Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis in a motion-capture performance) feels that he has the Resistance cornered. At his side is the ambitious but conflicted Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), still moody and brooding and probably decorating his bedroom with Darth Vader posters despite being born as Ben Solo, son of Han and Leia. Under his command is the officious General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), who commands the First Order fleet and continues to make the mistake past generals have made: sneering at the dark side of the Force and the people who wield it’s power.
The Resistance, led by General Leia Organa Solo, still has a ragtag fleet of rebels willing to take on a well-oiled military machine that happens to count her son as one of its evil leaders. While hot-headed X-Wing pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) takes on the First Order in an epic space battle, their latest Force hopeful Rey (Daisy Ridley) has found the elusive Luke Skywalker — a man at war with his past — in the hopes she can convince him to return to fight the First Order. If that weren’t enough, Johnson manages to squeeze in a side expedition involving Finn (John Boyega) and a new character named Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) that takes them to a new planet that looks like the Mos Eisley Cantina owner opened a high-end casino.
After that setup, Johnson gives us a plot full of twists and turns and surprises that will not be divulged here. So let’s take a look at the performances. Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren isn’t a cardboard cutout of evil. He’s got issues he needs to deal with while still looking in control to his mentor, Snopes. Ridley’s Rey may be Force neophyte, but she’s got the backbone not to take no for an answer. Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron carries on the tradition of being a risk-taking and skilled pilot like Han Solo and Isaac has the charm and steel to carry it off. John Boyega’s Finn has the intestinal fortitude of a man who left a cushy job in the First Order in order to do the right thing. Tran’s Rose is sweet but also a hero fighting above her weight class after a lifetime of injustice. What’s most pleasing about The Last Jedi is that Mark Hamill and the late Carrie Fisher aren’t making glorified cameos here, like veteran characters passing on the torch to newer characters in the franchise. Hamill plays world-weary and conflicted to perfection and we cheer him on just like we did in the first film. Fisher gives us a Leia with the strength to lead an outnumbered Resistance while still encouraging the spark and intuition that allows the Resistance to believe they can outsmart the First Order. Obviously no one could have known that this was Fisher’s swan song, but it’s a beautiful way for us to say goodbye to a character and actress we’ve loved for years.
Johnson and his team give us all the effects, stunning visuals and varied characters that a Star Wars fan expects. Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a fun, adventurous and heart-warming story that will have you cheering for the good guys at a time when there doesn’t seem to be so many of those around.