Update: With The Rise of Skywalker less than a week away, it was inevitable that I would return to watching The Last Jedi. I am confident in saying that no other movie in my life time has ever been this divisive, splitting the opinions of families and friends world wide. I am still sticking to my guns (or blasters, as it were).
No one can overstate the fandom of the Star Wars Universe. Even so, regardless of how many times you have seen the movies, the amount of books you read, the hours of gameplay you have spent on KOTAR (Knights of the Old Republic) and the Lego versions, and even if you know the difference between a fambaa and a Tauntaun (actual creature names in the Star Wars Universe), you are still going to be surprised by Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi. The dialogue from Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) says it best:
“This is not going to go the way you think!”
Set right after the events of The Force Awakens, this film shows the rebels under attack and virtually cornered by the first order, led by Snoke (Andy Serkis) and his apprentice Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Despite efforts by Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and others, the rebel’s star ships seem to be running low on fuel and are at the end of their rope. Still, hope is still being held onto, mainly by Leia (the late great Carrie Fisher, whose final film performance both melts your heart and warms it at the same time). Meanwhile, Rey (Daisy Ridley) has finally found Luke Skywalker, but getting him to join the fight is no easy feat.
That is all I will say of the plot, because I would never dream of dropping any spoilers. I can say that this film does seem to be in a class of its own in the Star Wars franchise. It has shown us parts of the force we have not experienced before. Yet where it differs, the similarities are still there (there are vibes you get of The Empire Strikes Back as well as Return of the Jedi). There are twists we do not see coming, and I was shocked many a time during the film. That is a positive thing.
Obviously, the film is a technical marvel. It is so wondrous to see that, even after all these years, the Star Wars films can still give us imagery that we have not yet seen (the same goes for the music, done, once again, by the legend that is John Williams.) The credit of taking a risk with going in a different direction has got to go to director Rian Johnson (who also helped write the screenplay). This even includes some unexpected, yet delightful humorous moments.
The Last Jedi does have some faults that keep it from the likes of Episodes 4 and 5. The movie is long (the longest, in fact, of the franchise, at 2 1/2 hours). There is also a character played by Benecio Del Toro (undoubtedly an amazing actor) who, I feel, was totally redundant to the film. His character, DJ (which really seems a little odd for a Star Wars film, somehow) is in a situation to help the rebels, but that situation alone was awkward writing in the first place. One of the main arguments of the film (and there are too many to count from Star Wars fans) is that the subplot with the Casino does not work, and I agree.
Still, we get some fresh new faces that add to the franchise that are more than welcome. The two stand out characters are Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), a rebel fighter helping Poe and Finn (John Boyega), and Vice Admiral Holdo (the always wonderful Laura Dern). All these characters (and others) get at least one moment in the film to shine (some of which will have you applauding).
The one main scene involving Dern’s character has been debated constantly, with haters of the film saying that her decision would not work at all in the vast scheme of things. My response to that would be to simply ask, “Do we really go to a Star Wars film to be informed or entertained?” Let’s not forget, this is Science Fiction.
Parents, if your kids have seen at least one other film in this franchise (and if they haven’t and are old enough, what are you waiting for?!?!), they will be fine here. There is no nudity or sex, just some mild swearing and (obviously) action.
As of this review, there is a vast difference in opinion between critics and the public (as is normally the case). It is strange, however, that the critics seem to like it a lot more (at the moment, 93% of critics liked it, while only 63% of the audience liked it*). Upon reading the reviews from the latter, I realize a lot of people are upset that certain questions are not answered. Personally, I feel not all questions need to be answered in a movie. It is up for interpretation, meaning The Last Jedi will require many a viewing.
Something I will gladly do.
*As of 2019, the critics rating is 91%, while the audience is 43%. The ultra Star Wars fanboys/girls have given this film the treatment equivalent to throwing it to the almighty Sarlac.