“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (or “Star Wars Episode VIII–The Last Jedi) answers the persistent question of the 2015 “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”: Where is Luke Skywalker and what has he been doing? Written and directed by Rian Johnson, this episode of the space opera has much better plotting than the previous JJ Abrams episode and great visuals.
As one expects, the movie begins with the opening crawl explaining the situation. “The Force Awakens” began 30 years after the destruction of the second Death Star. It introduced us to hot shot pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), janitor and sometimes Stormtrooper turned resistance fighter Finn (John Boyega), orphaned desert scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley) and her droid BB-8. General Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Han Solo had separated, but they had a son, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).
[Spoiler alert] Kylo Ren takes after his grandfather, Darth Vader, and embraces the dark side. He definitely has daddy issues, and dispatching his father (on a narrow metal bridge over a seemingly bottomless pit) doesn’t actually end them as we learn in “The Last Jedi.” The big reveal is that Rey finds the legendary light saber of Luke Skywalker and then she finds him on a deserted, mountainous island in the middle of a cold and unforgiving sea (The real location is Skellig Michael in Ireland).
What’s surprising about “The Last Jedi” is the small, humorous moments. Early on, an exchange between Poe and General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) that produced plenty of chuckles before first battle. The Resistance is on the run under the command of General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) with Finn and Poe not always agreeing with the official tactics. During one of his unsanctioned actions Finn meets Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), a maintenance worker whose sister has just died in battle. Despite the questionable nature of their meeting Finn and Rose work closely together although Finn worries about Rey.
Rey finds that Luke Skywalker has no desire to rejoin the Resistance and give hope to those fighting against the First Order. Even news of the death of Han Solo doesn’t move Luke, but Rey begins to experience a curious connection with Kylo Ren; they can see each other and touch. Luke’s reaction to Rey is negative: ” I’ve seen this raw strength only once before. It didn’t scare me enough then. It does now.”
Kylo Ren has anger management issues and his new father figure, the mysterious Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), gives him grief for his wavering allegiance. The murder of his father wasn’t enough and, at a critical moment, Kylo Ren will hesitate. Yet he continues to call to Rey, recognizing her power and, perhaps, even his own loneliness, “Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to. That’s the only way to become what you are meant to be.”
Remember, too, that Luke himself has said, ” I only know one truth: It’s time for the Jedi… to end.” That’s in the official trailer.
Rey has her own anger management issues, but remember, Luke Skywalker was a hothead, too. In many ways, the hubris of Luke’s past comes to haunt him and a figure from his past will return (not Han Solo) to help him at a decisive moment. Luke and Kylo Ren have a history and we’ll get two different sides to the story.
The movie is high on action but low on character development. The First Order has better costumes than the beige and gray clad Resistance. One wishes for more time with the mercenary underworld character played by Benicio del Toro. Maybe we’ll see more of him and more of Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong’o) would be cool. Other reveals are there will be blood red against a white background (great visual) but take that with a grain of salt and two sets of fox-faced creatures–one small and white and another large and brown. Both creatures will play key roles in escape plans. The porgs (puffin substitutes?) will have an effect on Chewbacca.
The story of Kylo Ren, Finn and Poe (and BB-8) isn’t at an end and although originally General Leia Organa was meant to appear in a future episode, with Carrie Fisher’s death, she will not (that was already revealed as a production decision). One can hope for more droid time for R2D2 and 3CPO and the newly introduced BB-9E. How this trilogy ends won’t be revealed until December 2019.