A movie that I have been anticipating for the last two years, Star Wars: The Last Jedi was one of the best viewing experiences I had this year, managing to blow my already high expectations out of the water (an amazing feat!). After a third viewing, I’m comfortable in saying that The Last Jedi is a bold Star Wars movie, which took great risks with its characters, bringing the franchise to another level of greatness.
In the words of Luke Skywalker in the official trailer, “This is not going to go the way you think!”. When The Force Awakens premiered two years ago, it was met with criticism stating that it was a rehash of A New Hope, and I understand where they were coming from despite loving the film. However, I’d like to explicitly state The Last Jedi is in no way a copy of The Empire Strikes Back, as it is an original film on its own which is truly ‘Star Wars’ with unexpected twists. Rian Johnson, director of The Last Jedi, manages to smash fan expectations (and ridiculous fan theories!) and bring the sequel trilogy to new heights.
*Major spoilers ahead!
Left to right: Carrie Fisher, director Rian Johnson, Mark Hamill and Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy (Source: Vanity Fair)
Before that, I would like to outline the main themes of this film, the first being failure. Almost every character goes through failure of some kind throughout the course of this story and experienced the painful process of learning from them and growing as a character. As this is an important theme in The Last Jedi, I ask you to keep this in mind while reading this review, or before watching this film for the second or third (?) time to fully appreciate the film and the message it conveys.
Secondly, even if Star Wars is a space fairy tale of sorts, it doesn’t mean that its characters are without flaws. After all, it is human nature to possess flaws. From the trailers, Luke Skywalker can be seen as a broken, weary man who wanted the Jedi to end. This doesn’t mean that he is wildly out of character as some delusional fans claim, I mean, we don’t know what happened in the 30 years between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens that made him the man he is in this film. Also, do not underestimate the power of empathy in order to understand how and why someone came to be that way, even if that person committed a heinous act (guess who?).
Daisy Ridley’s Rey and Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker
Possibly the most important story arc of The Last Jedi (I’ll call it the force plot to make things easier) as it drives this trilogy forward involves Rey, Luke Skywalker and Kylo Ren/Ben Solo. The plot picks up immediately after the last scene in The Force Awakens, with Rey holding out the legacy lightsaber to Luke. Well, I laughed when Luke threw away the lightsaber over the cliffs like it was nothing because it was unexpected. Maybe it gives the impression that legacy is overrated? I admire Mark Hamill’s performance in this film as he perfectly portrays an older Luke who had grown wary in his abilities in the force and became pessimistic of the ways of the Jedi. In the film’s third act, Luke went to see his sister, the beloved Leia Organa and confronting his nephew, Ben Solo, to ask for his forgiveness as it was revealed that Luke’s moment of weakness proved to be the final push which led to Ben’s fall to the dark side. Mark’s performance was nothing but amazing, his last scene with the binary sunset was very fitting and was the most ‘Luke Skywalker’ way to go, which was with peace and purpose.
Daisy Ridley’s Rey and Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren/Ben Solo
Before The Last Jedi premiered, the marketing heavily featured Rey and Kylo Ren, implying that the audience should pay attention to their characters. Director Rian Johnson stated in interviews that these two were dual protagonists. This is further emphasised in the Star Wars databank, stating they share intertwined destinies.
Rey and Kylo/Ben had the best character dynamics in this film as every interaction they had left me wanting more. Throughout the film Rey and Ben had a force bond, and after several interactions, Rey had learned to empathise with Ben, how and why he fell to the dark side and became Kylo Ren. We learned that Ben killing his father, Han Solo weakened and added to his conflict and did not successfully seal him off the light side.
Rey and Ben Solo in Supreme Leader Snoke’s throne room (Source: Entertainment Weekly)
Later on, Rey traveled to the Supremacy, the First Order’s main ship with the hope of turning Ben back to the light and turn the tides in the war. In a shocking revelation, Ben managed to kill Supreme Leader Snoke who instructed him to kill Rey after she was captured. In my opinion, the throne room scene clearly stood out as it showed Rey and Ben teaming up to fight Snoke’s Praetorian guards after Ben killed him. I loved how they fought in sync and as equals in the dark and light. Where they ended up by the end of this whole debacle was a bit surprising, as Ben wanted Rey to join him to form a ‘new order’ without the First Order, the Resistance, the Jedi and the Sith. Adam Driver gave an astounding performance as an angsty Ben Solo and is clearly one of the best performances in The Last Jedi. Both Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley have an amazing chemistry, and it shows through Rey and Ben’s character dynamics.
John Boyega’s Finn and Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose Tico
We were introduced to Rose Tico, a new character who works with the Resistance’s maintenance. Rose and Finn met by accident when she confronted him in the middle of an attempted escape. Finn and Rose had great character dynamics and worked well together to infiltrate the Supremacy and cut the First Order off from tracking the Resistance ships. Though the Canto Bight plot tended to drag in the middle, I enjoyed the adventure that Finn and Rose undertook together, making me excited By the end of the film, Rose had her big moment when she saved Finn from getting blasted by the First Order’s Death Star cannon, and said my favourite line of this film, “This is how we’re gonna win, by saving someone we love, not fighting what we hate”. Kelly Marie Tran brings out a new side to the Resistance, I was touched that she was dedicated to the cause and carrying on to honour her sister Paige, who perished earlier on. John Boyega is also great as Finn, and I’m excited for what’s in store for Rose and Finn in Episode IX.
The late Carrie Fisher’s General Leia Organa and Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron
Poe Dameron had an interesting character arc as he learned to deal with his failures. In the beginning, he made a rash decision by insisting on bringing down the First Order’s dreadnought, leading to the Resistance’s bombers’ death, which included Rose’s sister, Paige Tico. There onwards, we see Poe learning that there are consequences to his actions, as it compromises the Resistance’s survival if he kept on rushing into battle rather than thinking through practical strategies. Our beloved princess/general Leia Organa had a hand in knocking some sense into Poe, as she urged him to prioritise the survival of the Resistance vs sacrificing soldiers as a futile attempt to bring the First Order down. There’s a passing of torch to the next generation moment towards the end as Leia shifted the command of the Resistance towards Poe, seeing as he is Commander Dameron after all. Oscar Isaac plays the Resistance’s local flyboy very well, and I love his character arc too. The late Carrie Fisher gave a stellar performance as our most beloved Leia Organa and every time she was onscreen, I felt like crying because sometimes I forgot that she had passed.
To wrap it up, The Last Jedi is a bold Star Wars movie, as it manages to be orginal, takes great risks and gave us realistic character arcs. I admire the emotional aspects of this film, as it respects every character, their journeys and where they end up. Although The Last Jedi has mixed reviews, I believe that over time it will be appreciated much like The Empire Strikes Back (which received a lot of criticism back in 1980! Don’t believe me? Take a look .)
I’m dedicating this review to the late Carrie Fisher, you’ll always be our beloved Princess Leia. Rest easy, Carrie.