The nostalgia is no longer mine when it comes to Star Wars. A new generation of fans has picked up the mantel and while I still have strong feelings for my childhood favorite film series, it no longer belongs to me and my generation. Star Wars: The Last Jedi affirms the fact that the franchise has transcended what George Lucas created and morphed into something new. Does that mean I didn’t enjoy it? No, it just means that all things pass and while Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a fine movie, it’s no longer something I have deep feelings about.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi picks up the story of the battle between The First Order, led by Supreme Emperor Snoke and his apprentice Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), and the Resistance led by General Leia Organa. As we join the story, the Resistance is in grave danger. A First Order destroyer ship is on the tail of the Resistance and preparing to blow Leia and her army out of the universe. This opening scene is shockingly funny and smart and exciting with an outstanding performance from Oscar Isaac as resistance pilot Poe Damron.
From there, the story will branch out into three narratives. The first is the Resistance eluding the Empire, I mean The First Order. The second finds our former storm-trooper turned hero, Finn (John Boyega), teaming with a newcomer named Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) to try to find a hacker who could provide them the key to helping the Resistance escape from the encroaching First Order. The final thread in this triple narrative follows Rey (Daisy Ridley) as she tries to convince Jedi Master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to return to the Resistance.
The third thread of the narrative is the most powerful with Rey exploring the light and the dark of The Force while Luke tries to overcome his fear after having lost Ben Solo to the dark side. Mark Hamill is Oscar caliber, I kid you not, as the wise and conflicted Luke, still impetuous and still with much to learn even as he has become a master. Daisy Ridley brings out the best in Hamill, and I can’t wait to see where this arc goes.
This arc also connects Rey with Kylo Ren and carries some remarkable twists and turns. I loved the ways in which Rey and Kylo communicated via The Force. The chemistry between Ridley and Driver is remarkable, and the intrigue of how the two are connected really carries the second act of the film leading to an Act 2 battle that is surprising, thrilling, and fraught. This is Rian Johnson’s shining moment as a Star Wars director.
I don’t have any serious complaints about Star Wars The Last Jedi. I do wish Oscar Isaac as Poe Damron had more to do than just obfuscate for more time. Damron gets his cool hero moment early in the film and then is pretty much sidelined for the remainder of the film. The same thing happened to Isaac in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and we all speculated that perhaps he’d have a larger role here. I guess we will have to hold the same hope for the final act of this latest trilogy.
Rian Johnson is a masterful director. You can sense both his fanboy love of this material and his directorial skill permeating every scene. Johnson balances hitting big cool moments with story logic incredibly well and while some will say that particular story beats are overly familiar, Rey in particular has a memorable late movie arrival that will seem quite familiar, but those are just nitpicks. For the most part, Star Wars: The Last Jedi feels fresh and fun and that can be attributed to Johnson and his skilled direction.
I may not have connected with Star Wars: The Last Jedi the way I did with my first Star Wars experience, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, but that was inevitable. When you experience something the way I experienced Empire, as a wide eyed six-year-old boy who’d never seen anything so remarkable, there is no movie experience as an adult that could match that giddy pop culture thrill. For me, Empire will always be my favorite Star Wars movie just as I am sure a new crop of six-year-olds will fall in love with The Last Jedi. I envy them that experience.
I wish I could still feel the giddy thrill, but as you watch Star Wars: The Last Jedi, I think you will understand why it will never be the same. Kylo Ren at one point talks about ending it all, the Jedi, the Resistance, the First Order, the Force, and birthing something new. That’s what Rian Johnson is doing. He’s not killing Star Wars for long-time fans, but he has begun something new, something ever so slightly different and certainly, something that will never be the same.