If 2015’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” had one fault, it was that it was an almost beat-for-beat retelling of the original, “A New Hope.” (Don’t get me wrong – it was still very enjoyable.) “The Last Jedi,” however, takes the characters established in that film in a new direction.
“The Last Jedi” begins more or less where its predecessor left off, with Rey (Daisy Ridley) finding Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in hopes of recruiting him to aid The Resistance against the oppressive First Order. Meanwhile, everyone else is on the run, searching for a new base for the rebellion.
This film adds several new characters to the mix, including a rebel vice admiral portrayed by Laura Dern and a sketchy underworld character played by Benecio Del Toro, but they mostly play second fiddle to Rey, Finn (John Boyega), Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). The late Carrie Fisher reprises the role of Leia for a large portion of the film, sending off the character well.
For the ninth live-action movie in the franchise, “The Last Jedi” has some interesting visuals, especially when it comes to space and air battles. The setting and creature designs are also a bit novel. One would expect the puffin-like porgs on Luke Skywalker’s island sanctuary to get old fast, but they provide some of the movie’s best laughs. And perhaps the most impressive environment is a salt flat, of all places.
The plot of “The Last Jedi” subverts expectations in quite a few places, zigging when you expect it to zag. As a result, it’s difficult to predict what will happen throughout the movie and a lot of the twists are genuinely surprising. There are several places where it could have called back to the original trilogy, as, say, the prequel movies would have done. This movie, though, refreshingly chooses to go in its own direction.
This is not to say that it is devoid of classic Star Wars references. One of the movie’s more touching scenes brings back a beloved character without becoming too cloying in the process, as it easily could have. Similarly, instead of being annoying, its allusions to “A New Hope” serve to effectively bookend the saga up to this point.
“The Last Jedi” feels like what it is – the second movie in a trilogy. Its conclusion leaves viewers wondering how the next installment will tie up this movie’s loose ends, though not with the same sense of urgency as “The Empire Strikes Back” or even “The Attack of the Clones.” It’s still a solid and entertaining Star Wars movie, though, and fan of the series should be pleased with its current direction. Someone who had never seen any of them before would likely be hopelessly lost (I mean, it is the ninth movie), but anyone else should be able to enjoy Episode VIII.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Nick Gonzales is one of The Durango Herald newsroom’s resident film buffs. He welcomes movie recommendations. Follow him on Twitter @lackingzones.