The Last Jedi Is The Empire Strikes Back Of Our Time
This headline may sound like a clickbaity overstatement—it’s not. Rian Johnson’s mid-trilogy epic could actually be the greatest Star Wars movie ever made. Even better than The Empire Strikes Back. I know, crazy talk. Let’s watch it a couple more times to confirm. But holy moly does The Last Jedi deliver in every possible way. Every action sequence, performance, plot thread, and slice of humour throughout the film’s beefy 152-minute running time is utterly captivating.
Whereas J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens was a more-than-sufficiently thrilling reboot following George Lucas’ abysmally disappointing prequel trilogy, it followed far too many familiar beats from A New Hope to be considered a full-fledged grand slam. Sure, they killed Han and introduced a new generation of heroes and villains with great potential, but overall it was a safe bet that lost a little lustre with each subsequent viewing. That will not be the case with The Last Jedi, a film overflowing with emotion, originality, and genuine surprises.
Picking up moments after the cliffhanger conclusion of The Force Awakens, the First Order is on the verge of attacking the Resistance’s home base, while Rey (Daisy Ridley) is desperately trying to recruit Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to rejoin the fight against the Dark Side. You could say things are pretty tense. Without going into too much detail, it’s not long before all the major characters embark on personal missions in order to save what little spark remains of the Resistance and stop the First Order at all costs. There’s a lot going on in The Last Jedi, and yet the story constantly moves at a breakneck pace, never once squandering a moment of deep-felt emotion or just a damn good one-liner.
Again, trying not to get too granular here, but it needs to be said that this is the best, most well-rounded representation of Luke Skywalker we’ve ever seen. No longer a two-dimensional good guy, Luke’s conflicted Jedi Master is anything but conventionally heroic. Hamill’s grizzled looks (a far cry from the blond boy we met in 1977) are highly effective in conveying his pain and apprehension to do the right thing—an internal struggle that basically sets this trilogy’s conflict in motion.
Rey spends the majority of the film on a secluded island with Luke (alongside some very adorable Porgs), and their chemistry is palpable. Never quite seeing eye-to-eye, the film presents a complex master-student dynamic that lasts until its spectacular climax. Ridley’s performance is also far more tortured and captivating than when we last saw her, owing to her evolving relationship with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) as well as her mysterious parentage.
On the subject of Kylo Ren, he’s also more perturbed and conflicted than when we last saw him, caught between his own mentor, Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), as well as his personal demons. You could say both Rey and Kylo Ren have some intense father figures to impress, as well as an uncertain future they will soon have to confront.
On the other side of the galaxy, Poe Dameron’s (Oscar Isaac) trigger-happy eagerness doesn’t go over well with General Organa (Carrie Fisher) and Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern), despite earning the Resistance a significant victory. Being the brash hero that he is, Poe teams up with Finn (John Boyega), a maintenance worker named Rose (Kelly Marie Tran, who is a wonderful addition to the cast), and everyone’s favourite soccer ball-shaped droid, BB-8, to save the Resistance from impending Star Destroyer doom.
Hats off to Johnson’s impeccable direction and script, which effortlessly interweaves both storylines and then builds them up to an incredibly satisfying climax that remains faithful to the franchise and also blows viewers’ expectations out of the stratosphere. Like a Jedi’s expert control of the Force, Johnson finds the perfect harmony between everything we love about Star Wars. Truth be told, nothing in the series has ever been as well-balanced as this.
On a purely spectacle note, The Last Jedi delivers some of the most exciting action sequences in the Star Wars universe. One of the best things about Rogue One was how elegantly its climactic battle handled in-flight and ground-level action on and above the tropical planet Scarif. I can honestly say that was just a teensy taste of what Johnson delivers here. The lightsaber duels, aerial dogfights, space-set skirmishes, and so much more are above and beyond anything we’ve come to expect in any Star Wars movie. Whether it’s a high-concept action sequence or an intimate exchange between two characters, you will have goosebumps for pretty much 90 per cent of the film. There’s so much I want to unpack right now, but I’ll resist. Just go see the damn movie before anyone spoils its many, many special moments.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is out Friday, December 15. Check out the trailer below. Then, y’know, go see it!