Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Directed & Written by: Rian Johnson
Starring: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Domnhall Gleeson, and Andy Serkis

Spoiler-free review by Allison O’Toole

It’s hard to talk about any Star Wars property without discussing its place in the larger world of the story, so the best thing I can say about The Last Jedi is that it feels like a Star Wars film. Some plot points and conflicts will feel familiar to fans, and aspects will invite comparison to The Empire Strikes Back, but there’s enough new in the film that it doesn’t feel like a pure retread.

The story picks up where The Force Awakens left off, with Rey seeking Luke Skywalker’s guidance on an obscure planet. Meanwhile, in the wake of the destruction of the Republic, the Rebel Alliance is once again on the run from the First Order. Almost everyone reading this won’t want to know much more before they see the movie, so suffice it to say that we get to know some new characters and learn more about some familiar ones.

Fans who were disappointed by the lack of Luke Skywalker in The Force Awakens will be pleased by the amount of screen time he gets in this follow-up. After his failure with Ben Solo, revealed in the first film, Luke is understandably reluctant to become a teacher again. Rey is drawn to Luke as a legendary Jedi, but the Force links her with Kylo Ren as well. Their fates seem joined by their connection to Luke, and as the next generation of Force users.

But, like any good Star Wars story, the Force is only one part of it. Our rebel heroes have their own heroics to execute, especially after the devastating losses the Resistance faced at the end of the last installment. Last Jedi, like last year’s Rogue One, puts a bit more effort into making audiences feel those losses. Johnson uses the Resistance to expand this movie’s cast of characters, and the stand out of the new figures is unquestionably Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose. She’s a mechanic who fervently believes in the cause of the Resistance, and is both sweet and determined. I wish they’d spent a bit more time on her backstory, since it feels a bit contrived at times, but the film is juggling so many characters that not every plot thread can get enough space to breathe.

The returning characters all get some great moments, too. Rey clearly believes in the Resistance, but she seeks Luke primarily to learn where she came from and what she’s destined for. Hamill and Fisher both get to do some great, emotional work as they reflect on their shared past, particularly with regards to Kylo’s turn to the Dark Side. John Boyega’s Finn continues to be resolute in his goals, and Poe’s desire to be a hero gets him into trouble. BB-8 is, predictably, adorable and great. Johnson gives everyone a chance to be funny, and while the humour feels a bit more modern than other Star Wars properties, it’s not quite Whedon levels of distracting quippiness.

The new locations don’t feel like another Mos Eisley or Tattooine. A world of conspicuous wealth for one-percenters also feels very timely, and I really enjoyed the aesthetic of a planet covered in snow and red salt. And unsurprisingly, the island where Rey and Luke spend much of the movie is absolutely gorgeous (and covered in porgs). To answer the question on everyone’s mind: the porgs are cute but not obtrusive – we don’t have another Ewok situation on our hands.

After a plot structure that heavily mirrored A New Hope in The Force Awakens, many fans worried that this trilogy would feel too much like the old, but The Last Jedi isn’t a rehash of The Empire Strikes Back. There are similarities, with one character leaving to train as a Jedi while the others stay behind to help the Resistance; but this film is different in its goals and in its scope. Rian Johnson has delivered a story about looking toward the future, and focusing on what you have instead of what you’ve lost. Like many of its characters, The Last Jedi is building toward a new future for the Star Wars universe.

Allison O'Toole
Allison is a part-time superhero, space bounty-hunter and crayon-colour-namer. She also edits comics, including the upcoming Wayward Sisters anthology.

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