This review is spoiler-free.
Forget everything you thought you knew about Star Wars. Director Rian Johnson delivers a bold and unprecedented second chapter in the newest trilogy as the franchise enters its 40th year. In a fanverse where familiar is folly (see The Force Awakens) and original is offensive, this movie continues the Skywalker saga while reshaping and challenging the traditional Star Wars universe.
The ninth chapter in the Star Wars saga and third since Disney’s acquisition of the franchise in 2014, The Last Jedi continues the galactic conflict between the Resistance and the First Order. Rey (Daisy Ridley) dazzles as the Force-sensitive scavenger aspiring to train as a Jedi under Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill).
The Last Jedi shatters the storylines and conflicts that The Force Awakens presented. By centering on Rey’s exploration of her own identity and the ways of the Force, Johnson revolutionizes the moral dichotomy of the Jedi and the Dark Side. What used to be black and white is now seen in shades of grey. Still, much like Anakin and Luke before her, Rey is thrown into a galactic conflict that pales in comparison to the war raging inside of her.
However, this film turns the saga in a new direction, departing from the Skywalker family and looking ahead. “Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to,” says Kylo Ren. Ironically, The Last Jedi respectfully kills the all-too-familiar trajectory of The Force Awakens, cementing our new heroes at the center of its story and transforming the way we see a franchise that was veering into banality.
The cast of The Last Jedi is phenomenal. Adam Driver dissolves into his role, boiling with internal conflict throughout the film. Meanwhile, Ridley is captivating as the wide-eyed, lionhearted heroine. Her veneration of Skywalker and determination to join the ranks of the Jedi is the central conflict in The Last Jedi, as Skywalker’s disillusionment since 1983’s Return of The Jedi is apparent even in the episodes’ names. Hamill returns as the Jedi master for the first substantial time in 35 years and delivers a stirring, nostalgic performance.
This collision of past and present heroes underscores the transformation of the entire franchise. Star Wars was iconic and transportive because of its timeless story set in a bold and unprecedented universe. The Last Jedi is well aware of the Star Wars we expect, yet reminds us that Star Wars was great because it defied expectations. This return to the unexpected will enrage some fans and delight others.
While the overarching direction of The Last Jedi will be endlessly debated, there are narrower elements of the movie that are disappointing. Tonal inconsistency plagues Johnson’s movie, shifting from dramatic intrigue one moment to Marvel-esque gags the next. Levity is no stranger to Star Wars, yet it pervades The Last Jedi rather than concentrating around specific moments as in previous installments. Additionally, entire subplots feel trivial and reverse-engineered for the sake of plot. What a coincidence that these flaws feel authentically Disney…
Overall, The Last Jedi is as daring as the original Star Wars. Is that a good thing? For some, this is the chapter of Star Wars we’ve needed for decades. For others, it’s an affront to their most beloved saga and its characters. In theory, I love the boldness. There are key points in its execution, however, where Johnson disappoints me – particularly when it comes to tonal inconsistency. Johnson’s The Last Jedi falls short of my expectations, earning an 8/10. Diehard fan or franchise newcomer, check out The Last Jedi over a break for a fresh take on one of Hollywood’s most iconic franchises.