Written and Directed by: Rian Johnson
Cast: Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher, John Boyega
Swift shot: With some recognizable elements from The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, The Last Jedi doesn’t fall into a cyclic garbage chute that many critics claimed was the downfall of The Force Awakens. It seems they listened to the critics a bit and ended up delivering one of the finest films of the Skywalker saga. Powerful story-telling and likable characters make The Last Jedi a must see movie theater experience. And much like I said in my The Force Awakens review, you need to see this one…NOW! People will not be able to keep silent for long, and you will have the film spoiled. I, of course, won’t do that.
When the Episode VIII title scroll ends, we see a desperate escape attempt in space, as a fresh-off-the-line First Order “dreadnought” is pursuing the remnants of the pathetic scraps calling themselves the resistance. When Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) sees an opportunity to destroy such a valuable asset to the First Order, he disobeys his orders from General Leia (Fisher) to retreat and commits all of the remaining resistance bombers to take out the gargantuan spacecraft. That sequence is edge of your seat suspense, and you aren’t really sure just what you are seeing, yet. As the story plays out; however, that bombing run becomes quite significant.
Quickly it’s established that General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) has developed the ability to track the resistance through light-speed jumps. This is unheard of in the Star Wars universe, as it has always been an easy plot device to get characters the hell out of dodge whenever needed. It’s the George Lucas equivalent of “call the eagles” when Tolkien would find his characters completely painted into a corner. So, right away, The Last Jedi throws that easy escape out and creates a fresh ticking clock of peril (that all great suspense films have) by allowing the resistance to speed along under light-speed and burn through their fuel, while the First Order, now joined by Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) and Kylo Ren (Driver) calmly wait for their prey to run out of fuel and be annihilated.
Ren joins the battle and has the opportunity to take out the resistance’s command bridge, but he hesitates when he force connects with his mom, Leia. What follows is one of those spine-tingling moments in the Star Wars universe that I will not reveal here, but when you see it happen – just wow – powerful, in every sense of the word! My body reacted the same way as it did when watching Darth Vader slicing up Rebel soldiers in Rogue One, actually.
While all this is happening in space, Finn (Boyega) wakes up and decides he needs to find Rey (Ridley), who is on Luke’s isolated island planet, desperate to get Luke (Hamill) to train her, and much like in The Empire Strikes Back, the Jedi master wants no part of training a padawan and actually goes a step further and says that the Jedi religion should just die with him. It made a monster out of his star pupil, Ben Solo, and while there is much light in the force there is also much darkness. We see several scenes where Rey desperately tries to convince Luke to train her, to no avail. But she never gives up, and a dark hand steps in to help convince Luke, unbeknownst to him. It is a dark passion that will stop at nothing to get what it wants.
Meanwhile Finn is detained by the plucky Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), an engineer whose sister perished doing her duty for the resistance. Rose is more dedicated to the resistance than ever, because of this. Together with Poe, Rose and Finn come up with a daring gambit to employ a code-breaker to let them sneak onto the First Order command ship and somehow surreptitiously disable the tracker. They head down to a planet nearby that is basically the den of arms dealers from across the galaxy. While there, they meet a space scoundrel named DJ (Benicio Del Toro) who assures them that, for a hefty price, he will help them out.
Finally, following her incredibly basic training, Rey realizes that the only way to control the power she is struggling with is to convince Ren he is not a monster and together, she hopes, they will confront Snoke – which is very similar to Luke reaching out to Vader in the hopes they can confront The Emperor in The Return of the Jedi. And, there are no ewoks in The Last Jedi, but yes, there are porgs. Don’t worry, the porgs were not overbearing and lame, in fact it was clear Johnson was mocking certain cutesy aspects of aforementioned Star Wars films. You’ll have to see the film to know what I mean; I don’t want to spoil it for you.
That’s really all the setup you need to know for the story, giving away anything else would be criminal. You have all the elements that matter, and this is just scratching the surface of the film.
There’s a space race against the clock as the resistance runs out of options under their leader, Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) whose command confidence is put into question as their fuel supplies deplete. You have Rey trying to come to terms with the force and how she can balance it to convince Ren that he has been mislead by Snoke. You will see some old, friendly faces, and you will be shocked by some revelations. You also have a requisite side-mission with DJ, Rose, and Finn trying to infiltrate the First Order to sabotage the tracking device, and you will end up with one of the most memorable climaxes in cinematic history! Not too shabby for the eighth film in a franchise.