Director: Rian Johnson
Cast: Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Mark Hamill, John Boyega, Carrie Fisher, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Gwendoline Christy, Benicio Del Toro, and Andy Serkis.
Synopsis: Rey develops her newly discovered abilities with the guidance of Luke Skywalker, who is unsettled by the strength of her powers. Meanwhile, the Resistance prepares to do battle with the First Order.
Anyone worried that the Star Wars Saga is in danger with writer/director Rian Johnson can rest easy; Star Wars: The Last Jedi is not only the most original film in the Disney era of the franchise but is undoubtedly the greatest instalment since The Empire Strikes Back.
Rian Johnson deserves a truckload of credit for the direction he took this story. The director has jumped into the Star Wars universe, and instead of recreating something we’ve already seen, he’s formed an entirely unique and original story to surround these characters with. Of course, individual elements reflect certain events from The Empire Strikes Back, but almost every scene and moment turns the franchise on its head and does what the audience least expects.
It’s obvious that Johnson has a clear understanding of who each of the main characters are and what they are experiencing as the film develops. Like every great movie, Star Wars: The Last Jedi has a heavy focus on character, and it’s evident that no decision was made without an understanding of what it will do for the story and more importantly, these characters.
After her incredible introduction in The Force Awakens, Rey (Daisy Ridley) is still trying to find her place in the universe, and Ridley plays the character with a surprising level of strength, naivety. At various points throughout the film, Ridley’s performance inspires a feeling of hope and optimism, which is why we root for these heroes in the first place. As for Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), the villainous Skywalker is on a similar path to Rey and is exploring his feelings and his position in the First Order. Adam Driver once again steals the show as Kylo, giving us one of the most compelling portrayals of a villain in the Star Wars universe.
Mark Hamill makes his triumphant return as Luke Skywalker, and fans won’t be disappointed with Luke’s journey in this movie. Taking the character in a new direction, Hamill offers his best portrayal of Luke ever and without spoiling the last Jedi’s role in the film, this is a very different Luke to the one that saved the Galaxy all those years ago.
Of course, Star Wars: The Last Jedi features the final performance from the late Carrie Fisher, and there couldn’t be a better way to say farewell to this star. Leia’s presence throughout the film is possibly the most emotional and gripping aspect of the narrative, and the character’s interactions with Poe (Oscar Isaac) stand as some of the most memorable moments in the entire franchise. While we’re on the subject of Poe Dameron, it’s also worth noting that Oscar Isaac is much better in this film and Poe is given much more to do, to the point where I would argue that Poe becomes one of the most interesting characters in this new trilogy.
Discussing Finn (John Boyega) and newcomer Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) is where we run into some of the film’s minor issues. While the performances from each of the actors are great and overall I enjoyed the development of their relationship, there are a few moments throughout the film where their storyline distracts from the larger narrative. Naturally, I won’t spoil anything, but the mission that Rose and Finn are on is easily the weakest portion of the film, and I found myself more than once wanting to revisit Rey, Luke and Kylo Ren during these scenes.
With a massive franchise like Star Wars, the visual style is always an essential factor, and you’ll be happy to hear that Star Wars has never looked better. Steve Yedlin’s cinematography is incredible, especially when studying some of the incredible locations, ships and planets. Johnson has also made a few modifications to specific visuals, which really helps to give The Last Jedi its own identity and personally, I hope every Star Wars director looks at what Johnson did with the visual style and tries to add their own stamp to the franchise.
On one final note, John Williams’ score for The Last Jedi is easily some of his best work. While I loved what the composer did with The Force Awakens, the music here is definitely an improvement and there are a few scenes where a theme really pushes the emotion of the story forward.
While The Force Awakens did an incredible job of re-introducing the world to this far away galaxy, Star Wars: The Last Jedi does an even better one of delivering a unique and original Star Wars movie. This feels like the first taste of what Disney has planned for the Star Wars franchise and with Johnson in charge, the galaxy has a very bright future.