From the moment that John William’s orchestra introduced the familiar, golden title of Star Wars, I felt an overwhelming sense of excitement and nostalgia rush through my veins. Having the privilege of a midnight premiere a day earlier here in England than back in the States, I remembered back to the stories my parents told me of seeing the original trilogy when it came to theaters. Getting the chance at real excitement for new Star Wars films as they premiere, I feel a connection to the previous generation of fans and the unspoiled pleasure of finding out what is next in store for the saga. As I read the opening description which set the scene for the eighth entry, which picks up right after the end of The Force Awakens, I considered my expectations for what this film would bring. Good guys, bad guys, hope, fear, action, one-liners – the common characteristics of a classic Star Wars episode. It had those things, but it had something I had not foreseen – complexity.
This film, similar to the (likely) eternal-reigning Empire Strikes Back, brought in shades of gray between the light and dark side of the Force. Many people agreed that Rogue One made strides in showing the darker sides of the Rebellion, but The Last Jedi showed the nuance of every character we’ve been introduced to – Luke is a struggling hero of the past, Rey and Kylo Ren are conflicted, powerful beings, and Poe Dameron clashes with authority. The good guys are not all good, and the bad guys are not all bad. This film brought a balance and a complexity to every character and situation that the series as a whole has desperately been missing since Empire.
This shift led to a deeply engaging film that made me forget to blink for the over two-and-a-half hour runtime. Not only was it engaging, but it was nerve-racking. In most of the other episodes, you have a pretty good idea of who is going to live and who has the potential to die. In VIII, everyone felt like fair game, and I was scared for my favorite characters like never before. This didn’t just have to do with death either, because I was anxious to find out some of the burning questions left from Episode VII - who were Rey’s parents going to turn out to be? Why did Luke really go into exile? Which way was Kylo going to turn to next? Don’t worry, I said that this would be spoiler free, so if you want these answers, I implore you to go see the film (and seeing it in the theater is the best option for an epic like this).
The Last Jedi was not completely devoid of negative aspects, but there were certainly very few. If anything, the long runtime could have been cut down slightly in some places, but I’ll take as many minutes of Star Wars as I can get. Aside from that, there were a few moments that left me thinking things like “Hmm, was that really how it turned out?” Once you see the movie, I’m sure you will be able to pinpoint a few spots that apply to that query.
The latest entry in the Star Wars saga succeeds in so many ways because it has strayed from what the prequels and JJ Abrams’ The Force Awakens tried to do, and that was to pay homage to Star Wars. This was a Star Wars movie first and foremost, but one that was not afraid to tread through the taller grass of unfamiliarity, nuance and complication. It established the idea that conflict is much deeper than what the other films have made it out to be. It was humorous, it was thrilling, it was intense, it was badass and it was thoughtful. Rian Johnson made a greater Star Wars directorial debut than I expected and effectively exceeded the very high standards that were set for him. As always, hope was a large theme, and this film followed through by giving us exactly that – hope that Star Wars moving forward can be so much greater than it already is, or than we had ever imagined it could be.
Overall Rating: 9.5/10