Johnson’s Last Jedi a stunning, entertaining film

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Rey (Daisy Ridley) in "Star Wars: The Last Jedi."

Shrey Parikh, Reporter

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the eighth installment of the mainline Star Wars saga, following the story of new characters  such as Rey, Finn, and Poe  as well as the characters from the original trilogy, Luke and Leia Skywalker.

It bring back the major roles from the previous movie, including Carrie Fisher in her final appearance as Leia following her untimely death in December 2016. It also features franchise newcomers Kelly Marie Tran as Rose, Laura Dern as admiral Holdo, and Benicio Del Toro as DJ.

The Last Jedi picks up right where The Force Awakens left off, with Rey seeking out Luke to help her complete her Jedi training. Meanwhile, Finn and Rose attempt to infiltrate the First Order from the inside and Poe and Leia lead the resistance on an intergalactic escape from the First Order.

With the sheer amount of storylines in the film, not all of them are guaranteed to land, and nowhere is that more apparent than Finn and Rose’s adventure. Their trip to the Casino City of Canto Bight is a drastic departure from the other two stories which are so clearly intertwined and connected. While there are some entertaining sequences, it feels like a 20 minute side adventure that ultimately feels like it has no relation to the overarching story taking place. One portion of their adventure has a message that feels slightly preachy and is odd to see in a Star Wars movie. While it is a positive message, it doesn’t feel like it belongs in the film, and could honestly be removed from the film with little effect on the main plot. The adventure sets up larger implications of the future of the force and where Star Wars could go next, but they really aren’t needed in this already long movie.

Due to her untimely death last year, it was interesting to see what the filmmakers would do with Carrie Fisher’s journey as Leia, and honestly, a bit worrying. however, even though Carrie’s death casts a long shadow over her scenes, Leia’s journey is masterfully handled and extremely touching. Some of the scenes feel like they were filmed with the knowledge of her death, and they just add that much more depth to her story. She has several powerful scenes sprinkled in throughout that film that may cause you to grin and tear up at the same time (I certainly did). Also, be sure to stick around through the end of the main credits, as there is a touching dedication to Carrie’s memory and what she meant to Star Wars fans everywhere.

Other than the Canto Bight story, everything else in the movie is extremely entertaining. While there are a large number of characters, rarely do any of them feel wasted. Instead, each character is used to develop each other’s stories. Rey and Kylo help each other develop as they learn more about each other following their duel from the end of The Force Awakens. As their relationship develops, more details about Luke’s self imposed isolation come to light as well as Kylo’s turn to the dark side. Together, these characters’ stories intertwine to build a solid foundation upon which the plot of The Last Jedi rests.

Rose’s determined spirit and commitment to the revolution is inspiring to Finn, and Laura Dern’s Holdo becomes a powerful, regal leader who helps take Poe’s story to new heights”

The new additions to the cast also work well, as Rose’s determined spirit and commitment to the revolution is inspiring to Finn, and Laura Dern’s Holdo becomes a powerful, regal leader who helps take Poe’s story to new heights following his largely underdeveloped arc in The Force Awakens. While he was certainly entertaining, there was a general lack of substance to him there, but with The Last Jedi, Poe’s story has been set on a path that looks promising for episode 9.

Snoke, who is played by Andy Serkis, once again displaying his mastery of motion capture acting, is a menacing and honestly terrifying villain and is more threatening here than Emperor Palpatine, his counterpart from the original trilogy, ever was in the original films. His theatricality is a large part of who he is, and it’s great to see him finally show that as a real, physical character rather than as a hologram.

One of the main complaints of The Force Awakens was that it relied too heavily on the storylines from the original Star Wars. The Last Jedi does borrow partially from its counterpart, The Empire Strikes Back, with parts of its story, but a lot of it takes Star Wars to places it has never gone before. New force powers are explored that have never been seen before, as well as new weaponry and new technologies. Additionally, The Last Jedi also features the most humor in a Star Wars film to date, something that may come as a surprise to those that expected it to be a darker installment, similar to The Empire Strikes Back. All of these may be problems for those who believe that the new additions are true to the spirit of Star Wars, but in reality, they’re exactly what the franchise needed to stay fresh and reinvent itself.

Rian Johnson also brings a masterful vision to The Last Jedi, serving up some of the most visually stunning scenes and sequences that the series has ever seen. The big fight in Snoke’s throne room as well as the battle of the planet of Crait are particular standouts. Both feature the color red prominently and use it to add a visual flair to the exciting proceedings on scene. Another sequence features a jump to lightspeed in a manner never before seen on screen that highlights the beauty, silence, and danger of space all at once. It is truly awe inspiring and impressive in its execution.

In the end, The Last Jedi is terrifically entertaining and visually stunning, even though there are parts that do make the movie drag. The exciting action sequences and surprising new additions to the universe provide the refreshing update that the franchise needed after the somewhat unoriginal story of The Force Awakens. In the words of Luke Skywalker, this is not going to go the way you think it is.