Review by J.T. Johnson
A great Jedi Master once said, “You must unlearn what you have learned.” This is a great lesson for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” as the latest chapter of the saga takes the series in a bold new direction. It firmly establishes that Rey, Finn, Poe, and Kylo are our main characters in this particular trilogy. We also dive deeper into the nature of the what the Force is and how it can be used.
The movie picks up immediately where “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” ends as the Resistance, led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), is trying desperately to get away from the First Order. Their forces have been heavily depleted by their assault on the Starkiller Base and they only have a few soldiers and ships left. Throughout the movie, they are being hunted down by First Order ships with fuel quickly running out along with any lasting hopes of escape.
Meanwhile, Rey (Daisy Ridley) has finally reached Ahch-To, the island where she finds Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). She wants him to train her in the ways of the Force and rejoin the fight. The problem is that he does not want to have anything to do with the Jedi or the Resistance because of how things went down between him and his nephew Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).
These are the two primary stories and there is also a side story featuring Finn (John Boyega) and newcomer Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran). I’ll admit that their little mission proves to be the weakest part of the film and it highlights my only real problem with the movie. The middle act does tend to drag out a bit as we spend a little too much time being reminded that the Resistance is being chased by the First Order.
If writer and director Rian Johnson had just trimmed these scenes down and modified Finn and Rose’s story to fit more with the chase, then the pacing of the film would have been improved. That relatively small note aside, though, the movie is filled with many intense action sequences and a healthy sense of humor to balance out the film’s darker moments. Beyond the great space chase, the greatest scenes admittedly take place on Ahch-To with Luke and Rey.
This is because during this time, we learn more about what happened between Luke and Kylo. The answers are surprising and I don’t want to say too much more for fear of any major spoilers. I will say that I do believe that the direction that Johnson took Luke in may turn off some fans, but for me it ultimately added more depth and drama to the character’s journey in the movie.
The story also hints that there is more to the Force than what we’ve come to know about it in the past. Sure, there is still the light side and the dark side, but there is just more to how it works than we previously thought. That’s why I quoted the late Master Yoda in my opening statements. Again, I want to stop myself now before I get into too much spoiler territory here.
Beyond Luke and Rey’s story, there is still plenty of fantastic action going on in the great space chase between the Resistance and the First Order despite the drag in the middle. I was particularly impressed with Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron as the hotshot pilot proves he still has a lot to learn from the more experienced General Leia.
Speaking of Leia, this is unfortunately the final performance by Fisher after her untimely death last year. Thankfully, it is a hell of a performance and there are a few scenes that ended up being unintentionally poignant because of the actress’ passing. There is one scene in particular that was breathtaking and it is definitely one of the reasons to see the film.
This is the middle chapter of Rey, Finn, and Poe’s trilogy, so the film does end on a note of uncertainty for our heroes. Thankfully, Johnson fills the film up with both humor and hope in addition to taking the series into a bold new territory. Despite a few wrinkles, “The Last Jedi” is another thrilling addition to the saga and it proves that the Force is still absolutely strong for this long-running series.