The force is strong with ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’

Review by Grant Dillard, Staff writer

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

2015’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was a familiar yet exciting film that reintroduced the Star Wars franchise to a new generation of fans. The film was basically a remake of “A New Hope,” yet still managed to provide viewers with an entertaining adventure that left them with lingering questions that would leave them pondering until the next film came out. After a bit of a detour with last year’s “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” the saga continues with “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” the boldest “Star Wars” film yet.

“The Last Jedi” picks up shortly after the events of “The Force Awakens,” where Rey (Daisy Ridley) attempts to recruit the long missing Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) so they can stand a chance against Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and the evil First Order. Meanwhile, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and the remaining Resistance members struggle to escape from a First Order brigade, while also dealing with the questionable leadership of new Resistance leader, Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern.)

Starting with the positives, the characters are great: particularly Rey and Kylo Ren. These were already great characters when they debuted in “The Force Awakens,” but “The Last Jedi” takes them to a whole new level in terms of character arcs. On top of that, Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver are absolutely phenomenal in their roles, giving their best performances yet as actors. The supporting cast is also very good. Poe Dameron is thankfully given a lot more to do here after not having much screen time in “The Force Awakens,” Vice Admiral Holdo makes for an entertaining adversary for Poe to try and negotiate with and the late Carrie Fisher does a marvelous job as Leia Organa once again. Then of course there’s Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, who is simply amazing. This has to be the best version of Luke that has ever been shown. He’s been secluded and mentally damaged for many years due to his former student, Ben Solo, causing so much death and destruction as Kylo Ren, so he’s not exactly the same person audiences got to know in the original trilogy. But every now and then, Luke has a moment that shows that underneath his scarred and grouchy exterior, he’s still the Rebel Alliance hero who grew up on Tatooine.

The film also has a gorgeous visual style. Whether it’s the planets, the different creatures or the action sequences  everything looks dazzling and stylish. The most impressive environment has to be the planet, Crait, where the ground is made of a mix of salt and red soil, which produces red smoke when walked or treaded across. “The Last Jedi” may perhaps be the most visually stimulating film in the entire “Star Wars” saga.

The most important takeaway from this film is that its story goes in new, unexpected directions that moviegoers won’t see coming. Those who felt that “The Force Awakens” was too predictable will be pleasantly surprised to see how unpredictable the story of this film is. There’s still a few story beats here and there similar to events of “The Empire Strikes Back” and even “Return of the Jedi,” but “The Last Jedi” is by no means a remake of those two films, having a number of differences and twists. The unpredictable story is the film’s biggest strength, but it can also be seen as the film’s biggest weakness. Some of the big choices made with the plot may be disappointing for those who’ve had their own theories about how the story would go, while others could be totally fine with the decisions made.

While the twists and turns in the story could be seen as flaws to a certain crowd of people, the film does have its share of legitimate problems. Characters such as Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) and Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) are terribly underutilized, which is a massive letdown for a number of reasons. Phasma being underused was one of the biggest criticisms audiences had with “The Force Awakens,” so one would think the filmmakers would give her a larger role this time around. The same can be said for Snoke, who has about as much screen time as he did in the last movie. Granted, viewers will get to see Snoke in the flesh rather than a giant hologram but they still won’t learn any details about who he is or where he came from. Not to mention, Snoke still doesn’t do a whole lot besides sitting on his throne.

The biggest problem with “The Last Jedi” has to be the storyline involving Finn (John Boyega) and newcomer, Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran.) In order to find a certain hacker to help them against the First Order, Finn and Rose have to go to a casino type planet. This is without a doubt the weakest storyline in the whole film, which is a shame since it involves two characters who deserve better and who are ultimately the glue holding the storyline together. Rose Tico seems like a fun character and Finn already showed how great he was in “The Force Awakens.” Along with that, John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran are really good in their roles, which can feel meaningless given the subpar story given to them. Overall, the storyline isn’t terrible but it can really drag at times and wear on the film’s pacing.

In conclusion, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is certainly a complex film that’s bound to be either loved or loathed by hardcore fans and casual moviegoers alike. However, that will mainly be due to personal tastes, as whether or not anyone likes or dislikes this film will largely depend on how they feel about some of the directions the story goes in. Regardless, the film is worth seeing so that audiences can draw their own conclusions. Whether it’s for the right or wrong reasons, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” will definitely be one of the most talked about films for years to come; at least until Episode IX comes out in December 2019.