Who Is The Last Jedi? (spoiler-free review)

Luke Skywalker IS the last Jedi…or is he?

In the opening crawl to The Force Awakens, it specifically states that Luke is the last Jedi.  But by the end of Episode VIII, is he still?  Debate has raged on since the title was released about what it means.  Luke’s cryptic message in the trailer fueled that debate. “I know only one truth. It’s time for the Jedi to end.” Would he train Rey? Is she even the Jedi referred to? Is Jedi plural? So many questions about who or what it means to be the last Jedi. And while that particular question SEEMS to be answered by the end of the film, The Last Jedi only leaves us with more questions.

Final movie poster for The Last Jedi

And that’s perfect.

The Last Jedi is to this trilogy what Empire Strikes Back was to the original – a bridge between the beginning and the end of a journey.  It resolves some questions, leaves us with others, and despite everything leaves us with a glimmer of hope.  But just a glimmer.  Writer and Director Rian Johnson crafted a worthy addition to the Star Wars legacy – about the best compliment anyone related to Star Wars can receive.  Filled with action, suspense, twists and turns, revelations, truths, untruths, and more, this film will leave you drained at the end.  It is such a cathartic experience, but one you’d be happy to go on again (and again and again).

Star Wars: The Last Jedi..Rey (Daisy Ridley)..Photo: Jules Heath..©2017 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

The story in The Last Jedi picks up immediately after the end of The Force Awakens.  Rey has found Luke, Finn is recovering from life-threatening injuries in battle with Kylo Ren, and the Resistance is preparing to evacuate the planet from the retaliation that is sure to come from the First Order.  While Rey is off with Luke hoping he will come back and inspire the Resistance movement, Poe, Finn, Leia, and the rest are doing their best to simply stay alive as the First Order doggedly hounds them.  During our heroes’ journey we meet three pivotal characters – Rose (played by Kelly Marie Tran), “DJ” (played by Benicio del Toro), and Vice Admiral Holdo (played by Laura Dern).  These weren’t just filler characters but essential to the complete story and each actor did a worthy job of portraying them.

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Poe gets a broader and more expansive role in this installment so fans of Oscar Issac will be very pleased.  Fittingly, Leia is brought front and center and even her character, as familiar as fans are with her, continues to develop.  General Hux is fleshed out a bit more as is Supreme Leader Snoke, but we don’t really learn much more about Captain Phasma.  Chewie is more of a backdrop character in this film, but seems fitting as it is clear this trilogy is about a new generation of Star Wars characters.  Of course, Rey, Finn, and Ben Solo (yes, that is Kylo Ren’s real name) continue to develop and get a lot of screen time and Rian Johnson takes them in interesting directions.

Thankfully, the adorable Porg and the amazing Crystal Fox species are seen just enough to add to the film, but not so much as to take away from it (unlike a certain Gungan we know of).  The Porg reminded me of really cute Tribbles (from Star Trek) – a somewhat invasive species but relatively benign.  They added a humorous touch without being cheesy.  And there was more humor in this episode than we’ve seen in the past.  It added a lighter touch to an emotionally heavy and intense story.  Often the humor in Star Wars is relegated to the lovable droids or animals or other species, but in this film there are some memorable laughs to be had by our heroes (and even our villains).  For those who love starfighters and ships and cool uniforms, there is plenty of that, too.  From the First Order’s new Dreadnaught to the Praetorian Guard to the Ski Speeder to the Resistance Bomber, the coolness factor is just overboard in this film.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Photo: Film Frames Industrial Light & Magic/Lucasfilm
©2017 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

Overall, the film is genuinely remarkable.  Daisy Ridley makes a formidable and noble warrior in Rey.  Poe is perhaps as risk-taking and hot-headed as Han Solo (although maybe not quite as street smart as the cunning smuggler).  John Boyega’s Finn is developing into a true hero.  And Carrie Fisher’s performance as Leia was surprising and captivating.  The story is engaging and now begins the long wait. How long until Episode IX?

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