JJ Abrams’ The Force Awakens was the highest grossing film of all time, and audiences everywhere have waited two years for another installment in the beloved Star Wars saga. Now it’s here, and some people are calling this “the most divisive Star Wars movie ever.”
Creating a film that would follow up The Force Awakens pleases new and old fans. Not to mention keeping it firmly rooted in the Star Wars mythos while also being an original story was no small undertaking. But Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi carries out all of these goals with relative success. It has the longest runtime of any Star Wars film to date, and it adds some truly epic visuals to the Star Wars galaxy. The Force Awakens was criticized for being a rehash of A New Hope, and some fans worried that The Last Jedi would similarly rehash The Empire Strikes Back. Fortunately, although some scenes draw on past Star Wars movies, the film overall feels different from any Star Wars before.
Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher reprise their original trilogy roles, and their performances are some of the movie’s high points. From the new cast, the characters of Finn, Poe, Rey, and Kylo Ren also return, and Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver deliver particularly strong performances, creating genuine tension in their shared scenes. There are also some new additions. Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico is likable enough that some fans love her already, but her character is ultimately forgettable. Laura Dern as Vice Admiral Holdo plays a more significant role, and while her performance is fine, her character is confusing.
The film is not without problems. It is too long, and the plot drags as Finn and Rose go on a side quest that bears little significance to the story. The movie also contains some plot twists, and while some are well-executed, some feel forced and even detrimental to the plot. Nevertheless, the movie keeps the audience guessing, and doesn’t follow the pattern you might expect.
The Last Jedi is certainly a mixed bag. It manages to be original while rehashing elements of past movies, and it gets some aspects of the Star Wars universe right while other scenes feel jarringly out of place. It will probably get mixed reactions from Star Wars fans, but it is worth watching, and, if nothing else, will give audiences something to think about.