Movie Review: Star Wars The Last Jedi

I was late to view the latest Star Wars installment. My sister Linda and I finally caught a showing this past week. Honestly, there were other films I was more interested in seeing, as they released. And as I am gearing up for the Academy Awards in about a month, I have a new slate of movies I want to watch. I wondered if I had at last outgrown the Star Wars saga…or if it had outgrown me. But I have seen every film in this franchise. I was there 40 years ago when Star Wars released and I will see the story through until the end.

The Last Jedi stars Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Joonas Suotamo, Jimmy Vee, Laura Dern, Benicio Del Toro and Kelly Marie Tran. This sci-fi adventure, directed by Rian Johnson, carries a PG-13 rating, for sequences of intense action and violence, and has a run time of 2 hours and 32 minutes.

We learn from the now traditional opening crawl that the First Order, led by Supreme Leader Snoke (Serkis), is planning to seize control of the galaxy. A small band of Resistance Fighters is evacuating from their base of operations, under the direction of General Leia Organa (Fisher). They are placing great hope on the return of Jedi Luke Skywalker (Hamill).

Rey (Ridley) pilots the Millennium Falcon to the planet Ahch-To, accompanied by Chewbacca (Suotamo) and R2-D2 (Vee). Their mission is to find Luke and bring him to Leia. Luke is not happy to be found, and indifferent at first to Rey’s requests for help. He eventually comes to recognize that the Force is strong in her and he reluctantly agrees to train her.

As Rey begins rigorous exercises to develop her abilities, she connects mentally with Kylo Ren (Driver), Leia and Han’s son who has gone over to the dark side. Rey and Kylo can see each other and communicate, in spite of the great distances between them. Rey hopes to bring Kylo back into the light. Kylo calls to Rey to join him, telling her the way of the Jedi is over and a new order is coming.

As the Resistance attempts to flee, Leia is injured when TIE fighters attack her ship. As she recovers, Vice Admiral Holdo (Dern) assumes command. She seeks to contain young fighter pilot Poe (Isaac), who is itching for immediate and decisive action. Finn (Boyega) wakes from the coma he has been in, after his fight with Kylo, as portrayed in the last film. He teams up with Rose (Tran), a mechanic who just lost her sister in the attack on the ship. They leave together to find a man called the code-breaker (Del Toro), who can help the Resistance escape Snoke’s pursuing ship.

Out of fuel, and with Snoke and Kylo getting closer, the Resistance leaves their ship in escape pods, heading toward the planet Crait, on which is an abandoned Resistance stronghold. The pods are picked off, one by one by enemy fire, until only a remnant is left. The ultimate confrontation comes on Crait, as the First Order seeks to destroy the last of the Resistance. Finn and Rose arrive, with the code-breaker in tow. Rey returns, without Luke, after very few lessons from the Jedi, and faces off with Kylo.

As General Leia awaits the outcome of this final fierce battle, hope arrives unexpectedly.

Much happens in Star Wars Episode VIII, in a relatively short span of time, storyline wise. There were the usual funny moments, a huge variety of interesting alien creatures and races, and excellent special effects. The best action sequences occurred toward the end of a very long film.

What stood out to me in this tale was the passing of the baton, or lightsaber if you will, to a younger generation. Han Solo died in the last movie. Luke, as the last Jedi…or is he?…fulfills his destiny in the story. And because of the sad, and untimely, death of actress Carrie Fisher, we will not see Leia again. The story will continue with Rey, Finn and Poe, and perhaps Rose who was a delight in this episode. And Kylo Ren assumes the dark shroud of the villain, seemingly following the path of his grandfather, Darth Vader.

It was very touching to watch Carrie Fisher’s final performance. General Leia was integral to the final three episodes, with IX intended to be her pinnacle story. Instead, she quietly shines in this, her last movie, and the concluding film has been rewritten without her. Which for me, made this episode feel like the end of the story. Those dynamic young characters that brought me into the Star Wars saga 40 years ago…Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, even Darth Vader…are all gone.

I am sure I will go and watch the last episode, to see where this next group of fresh characters end up. And I intend to see the upcoming backstory movie, Solo, which gives us a look at young Han at the beginning of his adventures. I sincerely hope that then concludes the amazing story that began…A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…