In 2015, a little movie called Star Wars: The Force Awakens took many by surprise. The Star Wars universe found itself recently acquired by the Disney organization, and suddenly fans found themselves with new content at a rate unseen since the days of the prequels. The next year, Rogue One divided fans. However, 2017 sees us reentering continuity with the latest installment in the Star Wars saga. Will Star Wars: The Last Jedi continue where the popular franchise left off? Or will it see the market finally over saturated…

Star Wars: The Last Jedi continues the (SPOILER FREE!!!) adventures of our popular band of heroes: Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac), General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) as well as baddies General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis). When we last left, the long missing Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) rejoined the universe. That’s all you’re getting kids… you have to go see the film. 

The movie comes from writer and director Rian Johnson, who is perhaps best known to audiences for his work on films like Looper and Brick. In November, news broke that Johnson will helm a brand new Star Wars trilogy currently in development stages at Lucasfilm. 

While it seems like a tall order to discuss the film and avoid spoilers, Rian Johnson must be celebrated for his stunning work on The Last Jedi. Known for his unique story ideas, his innovative and creative scripts, and his interesting films, Johnson absolutely doesn’t disappoint with this movie.  From the opening crawl, Johnson not only sets the scene, but keeps audiences on their toes.

Watching the delicate intricacies of his script play out on screen, it’s difficult to resist predicting where this will end up. However, you’ll be wrong. Johnson takes the narrative through its paces, weaving a complicated and fascinating story. Just when you think one thing is going to happen, the story shifts. Showing the flair of a talented writer and filmmaker, Johnson crafts the story with an experienced hand. Nothing feels jarring or set-up (“Oh! What a twist!”), and the film really doesn’t feel like it clocks in at (its actual runtime) of 152 minutes. After watching this movie, Johnson feels like the ideal candidate to not only create, but shape a brand new Star Wars saga. 

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In the weeks leading up to the film, predictions flooded social media about what The Last Jedi would feel like. Were we in-store for a shot-for-shot remake of Empire Strikes Back? Well, Johnson crafts an interesting and complicated tone, which makes the film decidedly his own. Particularly refreshing is his blending of humor into the inherent darkness in the plot. There are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments as the story develops, with everyone from Poe, Hux, Chewie, the Porgs and even Rey joining in on the fun. And for those worrying… no, the Porgs don’t take over the story, or feel particularly oppressive. Johnson definitely uses them sparingly, and to good effect. 

To continue gushing, in this film Adam Driver shows that he’s so much more then the Girls hipster actor so many assumed he was (this reviewer included). The still young performer took interesting steps with his portrayal of villain Kylo Ren in the first film, and finds still more new and interesting places to take the character in this installment. In fact, by the time the ending credits roll, Driver has taken the character to some truly new, interesting and complicated places. His work throughout the second act is absolutely stellar, and Driver definitely stands-out in the talented cast. 

However, the performances in the film are stellar all-around. The return of Luke Skywalker to the action feels like a return to form. Actor Mark Hamill puts forward a layered and interesting portrayal of his iconic character. They explore some fascinating arcs, and it must have been fun for the actor to delve into those places. Furthermore, Laura Dern is an interesting addition as Vice Admiral Holdo. The crafting of the character feels beautiful and fitting in taking the actress responsible for the iconic Dr. Sadler (for anyone familiar with Jurassic Park), and placing her next to the equally iconic General Leia. Finally, Carrie Fisher is everything she was and continues to stand for. Particular moments in the film feel bittersweet, but particularly well-crafted in celebration of the well-loved and much missed performer. 

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Finally, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a well-crafted and visually stunning sequel. In particular is the film’s work creating Supreme Leader Snoke. With characters like Steppenwolf and Thanos taking some heat in other cinematic universes, it’s nice to see one team absolutely nail the look of a computer generated character. Furthermore, the story introduces new and interesting locations, completely expanding the already rich and fleshed out universe. The crew at Disney and Lucasfilm most definitely have more in their pocket. The opportunities for the Star Wars franchise are seemingly boundless. 

Speaking bluntly, even if this were a bad film, it would still kill at the box office. However, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a stellar entry to the iconic franchise. Fans of the series will most assuredly enjoy this movie, and have already likely purchased their tickets. However, there’s more to this film. If you stepped away from the franchise around the prequels, consider coming back for this one. 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi opens in theaters around the country in wide release December 15th. 

 

Kimberly Pierce
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