“Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to. That’s the only way to become what you are meant to be.”
Note: no spoilers here.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the second film in this new Star Wars film trilogy, injects new elements among a well-established palette as this rousing eighth episode prompts strong reactions from audiences of all ages.
Directed and written by Rian Johnson (Looper, Brothers Bloom) with originator George Lucas getting character writing credit, filmmakers offer function with immense fun throughout the 152-minute plot – the longest in the Star Wars films. Johnson will also likely begin another trilogy after this one.
The First Order has come to the forefront (a.k.a. Galactic Empire) and rule the galaxy while the Resistance (a.k.a. Rebellion) look to reinstate the Republic to bring peace and cooperation as the plot picks up right where Episode VII (The Force Awakens) left off as Rey hands Luke his light saber on the island of Ahch-To, which houses the first Jedi temple and has the latest memorable creatures called Porgs.
Character development in the newer characters mainly involves revealing backgrounds and new abilities to help drive the plot as the raging, yet intelligent Kylo Ren, played by Adam Driver (Patterson, Logan Lucky) presses his offensive against Rey, played by Daisy Ridley (Murder on the Orient Express) and the rebels. Both are reeling from family issues and force growing pains as Finn, played by John Boyega (Detroit), a former stormtrooper of the First Order who defected to the Resistance, recovers from his battle in the last installment.
Oscar Isaac (The Nativity Story, Inside Llewyn Davis) stars as pilot Poe Dameron. Audiences really get to know Poe’s passions and motivations in this installment as his heroic heart clashes with strategic intelligence within the “big picture” of the Rebellion’s survival.
The main returning characters are Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa and former princess of Alderaan who is also the twin sister of Luke Skywalker, played by Mark Hamill. Their roles anchor the strategy and history behind all the action.
Lupita Nyong’o also returns as Maz Kanata, a motion captured character and long-time rebellion collaborator, along with Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) as the main antagonist Supreme Leader Snoke who guarded by red suited warriors that rival the previous Emperor’s Royal Guard. Snope’s also complimented by Gwendoline Christie (TV’s Game of Thrones) as Captain Phasma who commands Stormtroopers and Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux.
Previous body double Joonas Suotamo suits up as Wookiee Chewbacca taking over for Peter Mayhew who still gets a consultant credit with Anthony Daniels returning as droid C-3PO. R2 D2 also has a key role while the orange-colored sphere droid BB-8’s functions mirror R2 D2’s while expanding his pilot companion duties for Poe.
DJ, played by Benicio del Toro (Guardians of the Galaxy, Usual Suspects), provides some intrigue while Rose Tico, played by newcomer Kelly Marie Tran, provides some great heart. This star making role has a humble beginning that yields great influence by the film’s end. Veronica Ngo plays Paige Tico. Laura Dern (Jurassic Park) plays Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo in the Resistance.
Look for even more familiar characters from previous films to make appearances in various ways/forms (e.g. Justin Theroux as the master codebreaker, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who has appeared in all Johnson’s films, most notably Looper) and Warwick Davis).
The settings are such a marvel that some (like the Vegas-like seaside city on planet Catonica) deserved more screen time. The film’s climax on the mineral planet Crait mirrors a previous episode. By the end, some resolutions offer appeasement for what could be some blockbusters surprises in the next episode.
Audiences must make certain assumption that might not match their envisioned expectations. Questionable elements could have been expanded with quick visuals to add more logical reasoning and background. New powers are huge factors as other elements will hopefully (and literally) rise in the future.
The surprisingly high amount of humor helps breaks the tension making this installment more kid-friendly even though its rated PG-13. Varied references (e.g. some dice) really enhance the experience, but the surprises and twists really make the film great.
Music composer John Williams returns with an amazing score while the sound department captures all the iconic sound effects (e.g. light saber, etc.) very well.
Recommended (*** out of four stars) and rated PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence. Also playing in 3D/IMAX theaters. Avoid the media filled with spoilers until you have seen this exhilarating film and look for more Star Wars films soon (including the spin-off Solo: A Star Wars Story) with Episode IX, directed by J.J. Abrams, coming to theaters on December 20, 2019. This film was dedicated in Fisher’s memory.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler