You can call it a saga, or a series, or even an institution. Whatever your choose to call Star Wars, just know that it’s back with a bang! Technically the eighth and latest installment to this “saga”, The Last Jedi, debuted in theaters globally today (again, technically, since most areas had early showings last night). The fans of the tale from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away are lining up outside their local theaters rocking cosplay outfits awaiting the series’ much anticipated return.
I’d be the first to tell you off the bat that I am not the biggest Star Wars fan in this galaxy. However, I do appreciate its greatness and what it means to millions of people around the world. I also would be the first to tell you that I didn’t think The Force Awakens (Episode 7, keep up!) was worth the 32 year wait.
With all that said, I will get right to the point. Episode 8: The Last Jedi was absolutely worth the miniscule two year wait. In fact, as I walk over to the ledge, I may even say it could be the best Star Wars installment to date.
I know there has been some talk regarding Lucasfilm having Rian Johnson direct and write this film instead of staying with J.J. Abrams, who previously did both for Episode 7. Speaking of aforementioned ledges, George Lucas certainly stepped out on one to give the keys to the franchise to a guy who’s resume is far inferior and whose name doesn’t nearly have the clout that Abrams’ has, but it certainly paid off. While I have been a fan of previous works from Abrams, the right decision was made here.
After watching The Force Awakens in 2015, I couldn’t help but feel dissatisfied after leaving the theater. It felt like I just ate a bunch of empty carbs. I was still hungry for a full, protein-packed entrée. I felt like the technology, while still stellar, did not pop as much as it should have for being made over 30 years after Episode 6 (I am going in order of the films and not calculating the prequel films from the early part of last decade into this particular equation). I thought the storyline was a little weak, specifically the part where the main villain, Kylo Ren, is actually soft and not really built for this life. I wanted to see a bad-ass new villain who made Darth Vader, one of the greatest villains ever, look like a boy scout. Instead, I felt like I was watching a boy scout in a “Vader’esque” costume. On top of that, I felt uncomfortable because I couldn’t figure out who exactly was the main character.
As the old saying goes, patience is a virtue. Had I known then what I know now, I wouldn’t have been so hard on it. All my questions and concerns from Episode 7 were answered in Episode 8. Rey (played by Daisy Ridley), is undoubtedly the focal point of this new trilogy. Ridley was phenomenal in her role as the heroine. She masterfully projected her emotions on screen in a way that makes you see not only her character develop throughout the film, but also her artistic development as an actress. It can be very difficult to flex your acting muscles in an epic action movie, but Ridley doesn’t just flex, she holds the pose. But back to what I saying about the main character in the story, I wasn’t sure if it was her, or Poe (Oscar Isaac), or even Finn (John Boyega), because The Force Awakens left the door open for that ambiguity. Perhaps The Last Jedi will be the last time I have any questions about who’s who.
The special effects in the film were great, the new species and characters were cool, and the storyline was superb to its recent predecessors. We now know that Kylo Ren had to go through that softy phase ultimately to get to who he has become. To quote the Joker from The Dark Knight, in the same way that Gotham needed a villain, so did Star Wars…and Rian Johnson gave him to us. The proverbial tug-of-war internally between Ren and Rey is brilliant, and definitely keeps your attention. Johnson gives viewers the force to be able to pick a side.
The best line in the film comes from Rose (played by Kelly Marie Tran), a new character whose role in the film as the moral compass is extremely relatable. She says, “War isn’t about hurting those you hate. It’s about saving those you love.” That line tells you all you need to know about the theme of The Last Jedi.
Mark Hamill does great work here in his return to playing the legendary role of Luke Skywalker. Hamill was truly born to play this role. No matter what he does in life, he will always be Skywalker, and rightfully so.
The Last Jedi also marks the final time Carrie Fisher will play the great Princess Leia. Unfortunately, Fisher passed away during filming, and will never see her performance on the big screen. The chemistry between Leia and Luke is, was, and always will be as epic as the saga, and she truly will be missed in real life, as well as this storyline going forward.
There are some diehard fanatics who may not appreciate this film as much, because it’s “still just not like the old ones.” Whether it is or not, why does it have to be? If that’s the mindset, then why continue spending money on the films, knowing you have preset your mind to not give it a chance? If you are a true fan, you should be happy that pedestrian fans of the series like myself loved this movie and are looking forward to the next one. Quality breeds success and success breeds longevity. Without these new films, perhaps the Star Wars allure would burn out, and its legacy would conclude. To those fans specifically, I say embrace the love and success of The Last Jedi. Ironically, it’s because of the amazing work on The Last Jedi, that we may now have a new pool of fanatics and fresh new storylines for generations to come.
Of course, The Last Jedi has its cheesy attempts at comic relief. It can also at times feel like a forced reunion of older characters from throughout the series. But none of that presented a big enough issue to knock it off its pedestal. The ending alone, which would make M. Night Shymalan proud, makes this installment an instant classic and must-see.
MATTER RATING: 9/10
OSCAR SCALE: 7/10 (Production Design, Cinematography, Costume Design, Makeup/Hairstyling, Sound Mixing and Editing, Visual Effects, Original Score)
BY: CHRIS GUEST