Star Wars: The Last Jedi
After making fans wait for two years after the release of The Force Awakens, the Star Wars saga returns with raised expectations and higher stakes. The Last Jedi delivers with a bold new take on the 40-year-old franchise, and while the film may leave some unsatisfied with its unorthodoxy, it still manages to be both engaging and engrossing.
The film resumes the bitter conflict between the embattled Resistance, led by General Leia (Carrie Fisher), against the evil First Order. Our young heroes Poe (Oscar Isaac), Finn (John Boyega), and Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), must devise a convoluted plan to save the remaining Resistance fleet. In the meantime, Rey (Daisy Ridley) tries to convince the self-exiled Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to return to the fight and train her in the Jedi arts.
Full of beautiful effects and great acting from its ensemble cast, The Last Jedi is certainly a memorable film, if not one worth pondering afterwards. Hamill’s reprisal of Luke Skywalker was perhaps the best part of the film. His convincing portrayal of Luke is both tortured and sympathetic, serious and humorous. Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and newcomer Kelly Marie Tran all provide strong performances as the franchise’s new cohort of young heroes. Adam Driver, playing the hot-tempered and occasionally shirtless Kylo Ren, also makes for a powerful portrayal of anger and inner conflict. Additionally, composer John Williams’ iconic and enduring score, along with the film’s brilliant sound design, make The Last Jedi as much an auditory spectacle as it was a visual one.
Director Rian Johnson, whose previous work includes 2012’s Looper and several episodes of the TV series Breaking Bad, takes bold risks with the franchise. Unlike J.J. Abram’s 2015 film, The Force Awakens, whose storyline paralleled that of A New Hope too closely for many people’s liking, The Last Jedi firmly forges its own path. A recurring comment about how The Last Jedi feels the least Star Wars-y of the series rang true for me. The number of plot twists and subversive turns makes the film both gripping and unfamiliar. And with a runtime of over two-and-a-half hours, the movie had plenty of time to wade through unexpected waters.
Unfortunately, in part due to the unconventional and complicated storyline, The Last Jedi manages to feel both too long and too short. The film stretches to explore so many different themes and set up numerous surprises that the pacing feels uneven or underdeveloped at times. Ultimately, despite the many moments that took my breath away, The Last Jedi felt just a bit unfulfilling as the credits rolled. That feeling might’ve been compounded by the fact that as I walked out of the theater at 1:30am the night before my art history final. Regardless, the movie was a vastly delightful experience, one whose more baffling moments became insightful with time and discussion. It might have taken two years, but The Last Jedi was worth the wait.