When Star Wars: The Force Awakens
was released a couple of years back, fans noted that the plot closely mirrored that of the original Star Wars
(Episode IV: A New Hope
). It should only be fitting that Star Wars: The Last Jedi
would bear some similarities to Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
sees The Resistance, led by General Leia Organa (the late, great Carrie Fisher), being pummeled by The First Order to the point of almost being snuffed out. A small band of survivors, including ex-stormtrooper/current Resistor Finn (John Boyega from Attack the Block
) and ace starfighter pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac from Inside Llewyn Davis
), manage to escape in a single transport, but they are being tracked by General Hux (Ex Machina
's Domhnall Gleeson) and Kylo Ren (Paterson
's Adam Driver), who, along with Supreme Leader Snoke (motion capture super-hero Andy Serkis), are hell bent on crushing them and stamping out the Resistance for good.
Meanwhile, Rey (Daisy Ridley from Murder on the Orient Express
), having found the legendary Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill reprising his star-making role) at the end of The Force Awakens
, tries to convince the reclusive Jedi to join the Resistance. During her visit, Luke puts Rey through some makeshift training with The Force, and he sees what audiences already know - she has a natural command of it. And that means she must embrace the responsibilities and revelations of being a Jedi Knight herself. It also means that she is subject to the temptations of the Dark Side.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
was written and directed by Rian Johnson (Brick
). It's a bit surprising that he is the only credited writer (for perspective, Rogue One
had four writers and The Force Awakens
had three, not including George Lucas' ever-present "characters created by" credit), but the single vision makes for a tight and focused storyline, even if it meanders a little during the philosophical middle section. Johnson did have help, though. He was able to use the memorable characters, and everything is allowed to exist firmly within the context of the Star Wars
spectacle. And he got to use The Empire Strikes Back
as a blueprint.
The Last Jedi
loosely lifts its structure from The Empire Strikes Back
in the same way that The Force Awakens
did from A New Hope
, just not as obviously. The film starts with the First Order (The Empire) finding the Resistance (Rebels) and the Resistance (Rebels) having to evacuate. The heroes then spend most of the movie split up, with most of them running from the First Order (The Empire) while one studies the ways of The Force with a powerful mentor. And, like all Star Wars
movies, everything comes together in The Last Jedi
into a multi-layered climactic battle.
Now, I have to confess that I personally am a Star Wars
junkie. All I need to see is Chewbacca in the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon on a big screen and I'm in heaven. So, I'm a little soft on Star Wars
movies when it comes to criticism. That being said, there are some faults with The Last Jedi
. Actually, not really faults, just tonal inconsistencies. Rian Johnson seems to inject a weird style of humor into the material, especially when it comes to Oscar Isaac's Poe Dameron character. The middle section of the film is also a bit problematic, being just long and drawn out enough to take the air out of the otherwise brisk pacing. From a franchise that is known for its wall-to-wall action and suspenseful intrigue, the dialogue-heavy exposition just feels a bit off. Lucky for fans, there's plenty of movie left once the slow section wraps up, and the excitement comes back in droves once the film hits its third act.
No review is going to change anyone's mind about Star Wars: The Last Jedi
. Either people are in (and probably already have tickets) or they aren't (and they'll go see Roman J. Israel, Esq.
again this weekend instead). So, let's just end with this; on a Star Wars
scale, The Last Jedi
is in the Rogue One
/The Force Awakens
batch - better than the prequels, but not quite as great as the original trilogy. It answers some questions, but still leaves plenty of room for its own Return of the Jedi
Because it's a Star Wars
movie, Star Wars: The Last Jedi
has got its share of thrilling action sequences. There's not as much X-Wing/TIE Fighter dogfighting as there is in other movies, but it's exciting to see the Millennium Falcon back in action, and there are other cool vehicles and weapons that take center stage. There's one sequence in particular which emulates the Battle of Hoth from The Empire Strikes Back, but with little fighters called Skimmers kicking up salt dust instead of speeders whipping through snow flurries while they fight the Imperial Walkers. There are plenty of cool hand-to-hand and light saber fights, too, including one duel which features a pair of unexpected allies teaming up to clean house. The Last Jedi
is not non-stop action, but the combat sequences that are in the film are well executed and flawlessly paced. And to top it all off, it's all accompanied by the familiar triumphant John Williams score that all Star Wars
fans know, love, and will leave the theater humming to themselves.