In its 40 year history, Star Wars has built a tremendous fanbase that can rival any franchise’s. One can only imagine the pressure that Rian Johnson would have had to shoulder when he took on the director’s mantle, especially given that it came on the back of the nostalgia-inducing The Force Awakens. But where the previous film played it totally safe and by the book, Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi doesn’t. It’s ultimately the film every Star Wars fan – old and new – wanted and this is the direction the franchise badly needed to move in.
Cast: Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Andy Serkis, John Boyega, Domhnall Gleeson
Director: Rian Johnson
The Last Jedi picks off from the last scene of the previous film without missing a beat. There are five characters the story puts at the forefront – Rey (Daisy Ridley), who wants to bring back Luke Skywalker, the legend who has shunned the world because his disciple, Kylo Ren, turned to the dark side; Luke (Mark Hamill), who loomed large over all the proceedings of the previous film; Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who was bested by a novice force user in Rey; Finn (John Boyega), who has regained consciousness and wants to ensure safe passage for Rey; and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), a “trigger-happy flyboy” who wants the best for the Resistance, but goes headlong into battles without thinking through the consequences.
As Star Wars has always done, The Last Jedi has one overarching conflict which has to be solved, but which needs smaller side quests to be completed that hold the key to solving the larger puzzle. The film shines the most when it concentrates itself on the character arcs of the trio of Force wielders – Rey, Kylo Ren and Luke. Their interactions show completely new facets to the Force that has not been seen in any other Star Wars film to date. It keeps you guessing. Where Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi also excels is in the portrayal of the conflict of each of its three characters, who all have to suppress their dark side — an angle that, again, hasn’t been seen before in this franchise. The film also features some of the best space battles, with one particular end scene that happens in the stillness of space leaving you in awe.
Kylo Ren tells Rey, “Let the past die. Kill it if you have to. That’s the only way you become what you are meant to be.” Rian Johnson, it seems, has taken this advice to heart. He gives you nostalgic moments that put a smile on your face. But, he also tears away, bit by bit, the structure that has made up what has come to be seen as a Star Wars story. When Kylo Ren smashes his face mask and accepts his scars openly, or when we learn the truth of Rey’s heritage, we see a director who loves this franchise quite deeply, and has understood that he has to kill the past to establish a new future, but kills it gently enough that it won’t hurt.
While The Force Awakens was seen as the remake of A New Hope for a new generation of audience, The Last Jedi is the film that actually does what the original Star Wars film did — provide hope, not just for the galaxy, but also for the franchise.