Star Wars: The Last Jedi is an Absolute Masterpiece

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Plot Summary:

After destroying Starkiller Base, the Resistance is relentlessly pursued by the First Order, as General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) tries desperately to lead them to safe haven.  Meanwhile, Rey (Daisy Ridley) has finally found Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in the hopes that he’ll join the fight and train her as a Jedi.

What I hoped for more than anything when these new Star Wars movies were announced was that they would dive deeper into the force, and expand on what it actually means.  After watching The Last Jedi, I got my wish.  Rian Johnson accomplishes something I’ve wanted to see in Star Wars for years.  While The Force Awakens teases it, this movie ignites it like a quadruple bladed lightsaber.  We see elements to the force we’ve never seen before.  And what stands out most of all, and what makes this Star Wars movie a masterpiece, is that the force responds in different ways to each of these characters.  That’s what makes this movie so brilliant.

There is so much to unpack here, but it all goes back to the characters.  I said in our Pre-Game column that the three characters I was interested in most were Rey, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and Luke Skywalker.  I couldn’t have been more right.

In The Force Awakens, Rey and Kylo Ren are bitter enemies at the end.  In this movie, it’s a different ball of wax like you’ve never seen before.  Holy Y-Wings.  Their interactions and dynamic is where this script truly shines.  So similar, yet so different.  This movie builds off Han Solo’s death seamlessly.  Listening to Kylo Ren’s philosophy on parents and the line from the trailer of “let the past die” is both twisted and beautiful at the same time.  You juxtapose this with Rey, who’s never known her parents, and the two are a perfect match up.  I desperately wanted a great, multilayered villain when this sequel trilogy began, and so far, Kylo Ren has over delivered.  I LOVE this character.

Daisy Ridley picks up right where she left off.  Rey feels something inside her, but has no clue what to do with it.  Her line in the trailer of needing to find her place in all this couldn’t ring more true.  Much like with Luke in The Empire Strikes Back, the force is not fun and games and lifting rocks.  The more he connected with the force, he learned harsh truths about himself.  The same goes for Rey.  It’s what Rey chooses to do with those harsh truths is where the heart of this film truly lies.  Her journey in this film was riveting.

Alright, enough is enough.  Mark Hamill.  There is no way I can over hype his performance.  We waited a long time for Luke Skywalker to truly reappear, and it was well worth the wait.  The audience laughed at the very first act Luke does, but honestly, I didn’t think it was very funny.  What he does perfectly sums up where his mindset was.  It’s no spoiler that Luke wants the Jedi to end.  It’s in the first trailer.  When you listen to Luke talk about the Jedi and everything that happened to him, you completely and wholeheartedly understand his point of view.  That’s what makes the debate between him and Rey so fascinating.

We already got a tease of Luke’s tragic Jedi Temple back story, but when the full truth unfolds, it’s devastating.  Hamill is an acting machine here.  How Ben Solo turns to the dark side is truly heartbreaking, and Luke is right at the center of it.  If I haven’t been clear, Luke, and Hamill’s performance in this film, is absolutely incredible.

Now this is where some slight criticisms start to seep in.  We all love Finn (John Boyega) in The Force Awakens.  You will love him again here as well.  The problem is all the force shenanigans with Rey, Kylo Ren and Luke is so damn good, that whenever we switch to the Finn plot, you kind of want to get back to the other stuff.  That’s why as great as this movie is, it still can’t touch the original trilogy.  The Han/Leia subplot in The Empire Strikes Back is just as good as Luke’s training with Yoda.

They pair Finn up with a new character named Rose, played by Kelly Marie Tran.  She’ll no doubt be a fan favorite, and for good reason.  Their quest is a lot of fun, and there’s definitely some great material between them, but it’s just not on the level as the main story.  Finn in the climax though is awesome.

Speaking of awesome, enter Oscar Isaac.  If you liked Poe Dameron a lot in The Force Awakens, wait till you see him here.  Poe is the man.  His humor and cunning is amped up tenfold, and it’s glorious.  Much like many Star Wars characters before him, his bravery can get him into trouble.  This leads to some great conflict between him and Leia.

As far as Leia goes, I don’t have a ton to say.  Simply put, Leia is Leia.  Carrie Fisher’s last turn could not have encapsulated this iconic character better.  She’s just the ultimate leader.  Fantastic.  There’s one unconventional Leia scene though that you don’t expect, and it’s a scene that will have everyone talking for a long time.  As you’re watching this scene, it kills you that Carrie Fisher can no longer play this character.  As a side note, she has the funniest line in the movie to C-3PO.  It sums up Threepio perfectly.  Man, does Rian Johnson get these characters.

Other characters who make their mark include Supreme Leader Snoke.  This guy is your prototypical villain, but my word, is Andy Serkis fantastic at it.  Snoke is just nasty.  He also dresses like Hugh Hefner.  Laura Dern and Benicio Del Toro are welcome additions to the franchise.  They don’t disappoint.  Domhnall Gleeson is even better this time around as General Hux, who’s like an infusion of Tarkin and Admiral Piett.  One disappointment I have is with Maz Kanata.  Lupita Nyong’o is great once again, but this character was one of my favorite parts to The Force Awakens, but her return here was kind of lame.  Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) was a little better, but that character was over hyped from the beginning.  BB-8 has a flurry of crowd pleasing moments, but it’s R2-D2 who arguably has one of the best moments of the entire film.

If you thought The Force Awakens was too predictable, there’s no need to fear that here.  There are so many twists and turns in this movie, it’s like twenty-five M. Night Shyamalan films.  The best part is that they all make sense.  There’s a certain something that happens in this movie, and from that point on, I had absolutely no clue where the film was going, and I loved it.

There are so many franchises today that force Easter Eggs and fan service, but this is where I have to credit Rian Johnson BIG TIME.  Anytime this movie harkened back to the original films, it couldn’t have been more perfect.  Beautiful.  Absolutely beautiful.

If I had one big criticism, it’s with one particular action scene that felt like it belonged in the prequels.  It was a bit silly.  Other than that, the action was stellar.  The first battle packs a punch right off the bat.  It’s the climax of this movie though that is beyond words.  I was shaking and gasping along with the rest of the audience.  It’s an experience I will never forget.  You will leave the theater emotionally drained.

The cast is extraordinary, John Williams is John Williams, but the real star is Rian Johnson.  Anytime something felt off, it was always explained.  He dots all the i’s and crosses all the t’s.  Like I said, it’s not the best Star Wars movie, but in time, who knows?  J.J. Abrams has a tough act to follow.

I cannot fathom where Episode IX takes us, but I’m not ready to go there.  This movie hasn’t fully sunk in yet.

Luke said it best – “Breathe.  Just breathe.”

Rating: 9.5 out of 10 (O…M…G)

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow’s fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.

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