Zach Steensma–Staff Writer
People cheered as the words on screen rolled once again. The world of light sabers, the force, and the rebellion is back in theatres. It’s almost an annual ritual at this point, ever since the Walt Disney Company purchased Star Wars—and the entire Lucasfilm studio—back in 2012.
The latest installment, the 9th movie in the Star Wars franchise and the 8th in the saga, debuted on December 15th and has already grossed over a billion dollars worldwide.
The Last Jedi takes place immediately after the events of JJ Abrams 2015 smash hit, The Force Awakens. At long last, fans finally get to witness the return of the legendary Mark Hamill to his equally legendary role as Jedi Master Luke Skywalker.
But does it live up to the impossibly high expectations of the enormous and diverse fan base? That, of course, depends on who you ask.
From a filmmaking standpoint, director Rian Johnson, a newcomer to the franchise, has delivered a visually stunning, emotionally captivating and edge-of-your seat entertaining spectacle of lights, lasers, and spaceships. The action is fast paced and exciting. The story is FULL of twists and unpredictability,
Episode VIII takes inspiration from previous installments, mixing practical and computer effects to maximize audience engagement, while still bringing in plenty of freshness with a unique production design and some new aesthetics.
But fans of the franchise will no doubt be divided on this episode, because, well, it’s different. Very different.
If you haven’t already seen it, you should know right now that The Last Jedi will leave you with more questions than answers. It certainly sets the stage for an exciting sequel: the yet unnamed Episode IX, which will conclude the sequel trilogy in 2019. There’s plenty of story and character decisions that will delight some fans and disappoint others.
For starters, there’s longtime (questionable) protagonist Luke Sky Walker (Mark Hamill). He’s aged, certainly, but with that age has come some jaded cynicism, a surprising new take on the farm boy turned hero of the original trilogy.
Then there’s Rey (Daisy Ridley), the hero of The Force Awakens, who spends most of the film isolated with Skywalker, learning the ways of the mystical Force, displaying both classic and never before seen capabilities alike. She is no longer the perfect Mary Sue of Episode VI, as she wrestles with her mysterious past and struggles with the conflicting messages of Luke and the villainous Vader fan boy, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).
Kylo Ren faces an inward struggle, and internal conflict between good and evil, as he finds himself trapped between his desire to please his master Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) and his ongoing fascination with Rey.
Meanwhile, Princess/General Leia Organa (Carrie Fischer) returns as the wise, experienced, and determined leader of the Galactic Resistance, and provides the story with some of its craziest twists that are simultaneously confusing, amusing, and…well, you’ll just have to see for yourself. It’s not what you think.
Under Leia’s leadership are the returning “bromance” duo of ex-stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) and hot headed pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), who, along with newcomer Rose (Lupita Nyong’o) go off on a largely irrelevant side mission involving mutiny, undercover work, and of course, a pointless love story, in perfect Disney fashion.
Perhaps the most noticeable change, however, is the humor. While the Star Wars movies are no stranger to laughs, the departure of longtime series scriptwriter Lawrence Kasdan leaves this particular installment straying from the witty, snappy and sarcastic humor of The Force Awakens and the beloved Original Trilogy…and instead replaces it with cheap, uncharacteristic one-liners. The humor of The Last Jedi is not very different from that of the Marvel cinematic universe. Whether this change is intentional or not, the similarities are striking (especially as both franchises are now part of the Mouse House) and outright cringe inducing at times. A very strange choice for a movie that is otherwise dark and serious in tone.
Overall, The Last Jedi brings Star Wars somewhere completely new. The character development is surprising, the humor is different, and the lore of the mystical Force (and it’s capabilities) is greatly expanded upon. It’s fun, confusing conglomerate filled with more twists and turns than the flightpath of the Millennium Falcon.
There’s a fine line between subverting expectations and delighting fans. Whether or not The Last Jedi crosses that line will completely change depending on one’s point of view.
But overall, The Last Jedi is exciting, captivating, and at the very least, worth seeing on the big screen.