I can remember thinking after watching “The Force Awakens” of how great a job J.J. Abrams did in rebooting this series. It couldn’t had been easy and quite frankly a big chance given the debacle that was “Episodes I, II and III.” But Abrams pulled it off and here we are two years later with “Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi,” the second of three total films from this sequel trilogy. And before I get into what I thought of this latest Episode, know that some are already comparing “The Last Jedi’s” impact to “Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back.” That’s big praise, so only time will tell how it holds up when we are all said and done, but the one thing we do know, the energy around this entire universe couldn’t be higher as we look to the future. So thank you J.J. Abrams for getting us started, as the sky is no longer the limit.
Picking up sometime after the events of “The Force Awakens,” we find Rey (Daisy Ridley) surprising Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) on planet Ahch-To with his lightsaber and The First Order close to finding out what’s left of the Resistance, led by none other than General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher). Two stories that sort of weave in and out through this film eventually merge as one, but the result is nothing what we would expect. While Luke initially resisted the urge of trying to show Rey what “her place was in all this,” he ultimately decided to help after a little push from his old pal R2-D2. A training that began a little rocky turned to be somewhat worthwhile, only we wouldn’t see that at first, especially when Rey left the isolated planet without Luke to meet Kylo Ren (Adam Brody) in hopes of ending this fight the Resistance could not win. This after finding out how The First Order was able to track the Resistance through hyperspace, a truth that X-wing fighter Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) was ready to defeat. So he enlisted the help of his old buddy Finn (John Boyega) and Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), a maintenance specialist to not only disable the tracking device, but hopefully get away and regroup. But, that was easier said than done once they were all aboard Supreme Leader Snoke’s ship and the question of what side you would rather be on was being tested to the fullest leading to an action-packed conclusion filled with a host of highs and lows.
What a time to be a “Star Wars” fan given everything that is in pipeline. Not only are we seeing a host of new films, Disney currently is adding what has been dubbed ‘Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge’ to both theme parks here in the U.S. with release dates sometime in 2018. That’s huge and only going to help bring the next generation along. But, let’s face it, a new theme park is only icing on the cake as most kids can’t get enough of the films featuring a young cast led by Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley. What a duo this has become and here, took it to another level that won’t soon be forgotten. Dealing with so much emotion and intrigue, you could feel their struggle and it sort of came to blows inside Snoke’s chambers. What a fight sequence and overall moment we will look back on in this series when it’s all said and done. Ridley is just getting better and better, proving that females can kick ass too while Driver’s Kylo Ren still has that temper, to which he pulls off well. And that’s all I want, so kudos to him, but at the end of the day, this was still Ridley’s film. And while we got plenty of her, there actually could have been more given some of the other wasted moments with say Finn and Rose. Way too much time was spent on their part of the story and that’s a shame given everything else that was going on. I mean, we have Luke Skywalker back and we instead want to show a bunch of Fathiers (Racing creatures that look like a combination of a lion and horse) tearing through the city of Canto Bight. I thought they were cool, but again, we could have wrapped that entire part of the story up a lot quicker. As for the rest, far too many to get into, but I will say that for her last film, Carrie Fisher was both a princess and war hero proving she still had a lot left in the tank. But, seeing her and Mark Hamill together in this film, even if it was only one scene, was great and something to remember.
There will be always be a love/hate fest with a film like “The Last Jedi” given the history and everyone’s personal story when it comes to this overall series. But, I think taking all that into account, this was a good second film for this new sequel trilogy. The special effects and action were certainly on point and maybe the best we have seen in quite some time. But it definitely felt like it was more of a goodbye to Luke and unfortunately Leia as the baton was indirectly passed on to the likes of Rey and Kylo Ren. That’s sad and it sort of overshadowed the film in a way that for fans my age will be hard to ignore or miss. But, if you can somehow breakout of that feeling, almost take a step back, you should see what director Rein Johnson was trying to accomplish. In effect, he was saying goodbye and hello all in the same film, mixing darkness and light and then reversing direction so that you almost come away more confused than when you went in. But, I think it was all in an effort to bridge the past to the future, however fuzzy that might be at the present moment. I just felt like a little more effort could have been made with the story around Luke and Rey. I think going in, we expected a good bit of time spent on this beautiful island in the middle of nowhere. At least that was my assumption with how “The Force Awakens” ended, but maybe I’m on an island with that thought. Either way, it was disappointing to not get more out of those quiet moments between the teacher and student. It’s a missed opportunity to really dig into her story and role, as she proclaimed to Luke in wanting “someone to show what her place was in all this.” Well, I’m not sure we got any clarity there, which is hard to believe given this film was over 150 minutes long. So while it could have been a lot tidier in spots, Rein Johnson did a good enough job for J.J. Abrams to now step back in behind the camera for the next film.