Kelly Marie Tran
STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI
Episode VIII: The Last Jedi ended 2017 on an explosive note, to say the least. While this looked likely to become that year's biggest hit, it also quickly looked set to be the most divisive Star Wars movie in a while.
Picking up straight after The Force Awakens, we meet Rey (Daisy Ridley) as she finally hands an exiled Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) his old lightsaber, seeking training as the Resistance continues to fight for survival against the First Order. The main group of characters introduced in the last movie is divided with each one off on their own quest before they meet again at the end. Ridiculously good pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), whose philosophy tends to lean more towards blowing stuff up, finds himself having to consider alternative ways of fighting the enemy while Finn (John Boyega) and newcomer Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) attempt to track down a master code breaker.
Meanwhile, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) discovers a connection with Rey through the Force as they both appear to struggle with their destiny. Whereas The Force Awakens was a light-hearted introduction to a new generation in the Star Wars universe, with the usual good vs evil themes, The Last Jedi genuinely attempts to push ahead while focusing on the infinitely more complex grey areas in-between.
This is a darker film that explores deeper, more abstract themes and it's easy to see why some fans of the franchise might find that jarring when you consider the tone of the previous film in that series. The Last Jedi is closer to Rogue One in that it's much more earnest and fearless in its approach and there's an urgency to it. On the surface, this new film is a bit of a downer as heroes you took for granted show their flaws and reveal their humanity but, even though the conclusion is bittersweet, it leaves you with that optimistic feeling you expect from Star Wars.
We see a new side to Luke Skywalker in this movie and, whether you like it or not, it certainly makes an impact. This is Luke at his most defeatist and closed off so seeing the eager-to-learn Rey attempt to thaw some guidance out of him is both fascinating and frustrating. Mark Hamill gives probably his finest performance as Luke Skywalker and makes the most of the role that made him a star. The late Carrie Fisher is finally given a more significant part as Leia Organa and it's a joy to see her play a fuller role once again.
Our new heroes also have their fair share of conflicts to revolve: Rey looks for meaning in her past while getting closer to Kylo Ren, Finn struggles to live up to the heroic image his new sidekick Rose has of him and Poe learns a few lessons of his own. There's real character growth here and yet it remains unclear what everything is building up to so the third film in this new trilogy will have a lot of work to do, that's for sure. It's not all serious, grim and deep, however, as the much-feared Porgs are introduced along with countless other minor bizarre alien creatures and, while they serve no purpose, they are about as harmless as it gets.
The comedy in this film feels infinitely more organic and cheesy-in-the-right-way than in Force Awakens, where the jokes felt a little too forced. This is also a beautiful-looking movie with thrilling space battles, stunning locations and iconic moments you'll likely never forget. Expect this one to stick with you for a while as a lot of nifty surprises pop up.
If The Force Awakens was enjoyable if a tad bare, The Last Jedi is packed with just about everything you want from a Star Wars film and more. The lore is respectfully challenged and, for the first time in a long time, we feel like this universe is finally looking forward, not back.
A newest hope.