Since the announcement of a new trilogy coming to the Star Wars universe two years ago, fans have been begging for something like The Last Jedi. Director Rian Johnson made sure to deliver that us. Quick warning, the content talked about in this review do contain spoilers so read at your own risk. Now let’s get into it.
Episode VIII picks up directly after the events of 2015’s ‘The Force Awakens’. The resistance is turning tail and running from the first order, after destroying starkiller base the bad guys have found the location of the rebellion base and aim to erase them all from existence in one fell swoop. The film opens with commander Poe Dameron flying towards the First Order fleet, trying to contact General Hux. There was a funny opening moment between the two characters that made the film feel like a Marvel entry. I suppose that is what Disney does best. But when the plan goes south Poe takes it upon himself to attempt to destroy one of the Imperial Dreadnaughts targeting the base and the rebels attempting to escape. Against Leia’s wishes of course. Seeing Carrie Fisher on screen after her sudden passing a few months ago warmed my heart tremendously. Many fans in the audience clapped when she appeared on screen, so that was a very nice opening moment that set the tone for the remainder of the screening.
Having successfully taken out of the surface canons, the Resistance brings in bombers to finish the job. All but one make it to the target destination. The hero of the operation is the sibling to a major character in the film but we will come back to that shortly. With the rebels successfully escaping into light speed, Supreme Leader Snoke is none too pleased with how his General is performing. We see that as he force slams Hux to the ground from across the galaxy. Snoke seems to have power beyond measure it seems. But Hux assures his master that the resistance will not get away as they are tracking them through light speed. Brand new technology that should be impossible. I believe Johnson wanted to show us just how powerful and resourceful the First Order is in this film, giving fans a sense of hopelessness right off the bat.
We are then brought to Kylo Ren as he enters the throne room of Snoke. The room is spacious and radiates power and fear. With red decorating every wall and black marble lacing the floor like an endless pool of darkness. And in the middle of it all, sits Snoke. Surrounded by his faithful and deadly Elite Praetorian Guards, who play a big role in the films largest and most amazing fight scene. We see him speaking to battle-hardened and torn Ben Solo. His spirit broken after murdering his father in cold blood. Adam Driver does such an amazing job with this character in episode VIII. Yes, he is still childish in his anger but we see that anger turn into resolve, that weight and terrifying power we are used to seeing from Ren is cranked to 1,000 in this entry. As Snoke taunts him, we see Young Solo lash out in anger but Snoke quickly strikes him down with intense force lightning. The scary part is that Snoke didn’t even lift a finger to strike. So just how powerful is this man? One of my favorite scenes in the film happens as Ren takes the elevator down to the ship bay. As he is waiting, his anger burns and burns until he smashes his mask into the walls of the elevator. Over and over again until it is nothing but burning metal. As the door opens he shouts to the officers, “Prepare my ship” as he flys out to meet the Resistance in battle.
The moment that pulled at our hearts once again is when Kylo Ren has the opportunity to kill his mother but does not do it, the death troopers flying with do not share his feelings as they blast the bridge and send Leia into her grave in space. The entire audience was shocked, but it made sense for them to kill Leia, right? But our princess, in a surprising and amazing way, uses the force will floating in space to pull herself back to the cruiser and save herself. With Leia unable to lead Laura Dern’s General Holdo assumes command. I must say, Dern’s performance blew me away. I was very disappointed that they didn’t explore her character more. But from what we saw she was strong, determined, calm, collected and fiercely dedicated to the rebellion.
Not wanting Rey to come back to a deathbed, Finn goes on a rogue mission with a new addition to the Star Wars family, Rose. We instantly connect with Kelly Marie Tran’s character because she is the sister of the brave hero that helped destroy the Dreadnaught and died for it. We see that Rose is very fond of Finn, calling him a war hero. She is very bubbly but also determined to fight and make a difference in the war. The two are sent on a mission to Kanto Bite by Poe to find the ‘Code Breaker’, a man who can help the resistance hack into Snoke’s ship, destroy the machine that tracks them through light speed and give the rebels a chance to escape.
Meanwhile, Rey finds a broken and worn down Luke Skywalker. Who, when handed his father’s lightsaber, chucks it over a cliff and storms away into his hut. Rey is determined to get Luke to help her and Resistance so she follows him around the island for days. Mark Hamill should be nominated for an Academy Award for his performance as Luke but I will get to that in a moment. While on the island, something deep beneath it calls to her and leads her to the ancient Jedi tree. Home to the sacred Jedi texts. Curious as to who this girl actually is, Luke agrees to train Rey in the ways of the force but also teach her why the Jedi order needs to die. A strange occurrence unfolds as the force connects Kylo and Rey’s minds together. The two can speak and see one another. During the first conversation, Rey instantly shoots Ren with her blaster. There are some humorous moments that happen with the Porgs and caretakers in this sequence as well.
During her first training sessions, Rey shows her naive, childish side to Luke. While he says reach close your eyes and reach out, she actually reaches out her hand and says she feels something. But it’s just Luke touching her with a leave. The Last Jedi did very well with adding comedic relief to the film will keeping with the dark tone thematically. As she focuses, Rey sees the life, violence, and peace radiating from everything in the island. But a dark force is calling to her from beneath the island. As she goes deeper into it, Luke cries for her to resist it. The ground cracks beneath their feet and the rubble begins to float around them. Frightened and angry Luke speaks “I’ve seen this kind of raw strength only once before, it didn’t scare me enough then… It does now”. The interesting thing is that Rey went straight towards the darkness, not fearing what slept within it. That boldness scared Luke. Shortly after she goes to talk to Chewy, who has not been able to contact Leia or the Resistance. That’s when the second conversation with Ren occurs. Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver’s acting in this scene was phenomenal. Rey shouts “It’s over, you lost, I found Skywalker” the way she speaks with so much hate and pride to Ren made me fall in love with her character so much more. Ren speaks about the fight in woods and Rey calls him a monster. He simply replies through gritted teeth “Yes, I am”. If you had been paying attention up until that point you would know how much weight that scene carried. It was the start of a connection forming between the two characters.
During Rey’s second training session Luke explains why the Jedi order is misunderstood and explains the history of it. The Order is nothing but failure. They gave rise to a dark emperor, the failure of a Jedi Master was the reason for the creation of Darth Vader. He then explains everything that happened with Kylo Ren when he was in training. Rey explains to Luke that the galaxy may need a legend like Luke but she just needs someone to show her place in it all, a teacher. She then speaks a powerful statement “Kylo failed you, I won’t”. That’s when the third conversation occurs with Rey and Kylo. It’s start off with a funny moment as Ren stands there shirtless and Rey asks him to put a towel on. She asks him why did he kill his father, why did he hate him. He replies with “I didn’t hate him” and she wouldn’t understand because her parents threw her away like garbage, but she still looks for them in everyone, that even though you may be angry at them you still can’t stop needing them. “It’s our greatest weakness” he says, “Let the past die, kill it if you too. It’s the only way for you to become what you were meant to be,” is a line of great importance as we roll into the final phase of the film.
Heading Ren’s words, she delves into the deepest hole in the island and finds the reflective glass, something that shows you the answer to questions you that burn within you. This is another one of my favorite scenes as it leads to the final conversation that changes the tide of the film. Rey is telling Kylo what she saw in the glass. That when she thought she get answers to the question she thought of most, she got nothing. Ren tells her that she isn’t alone, she responds with “Neither are you”. She could feel the conflict within him as he told her what really happened that night with Luke. How he tried to kill him, how he created Kylo Ren. The two touch hands and form a bond that will be a very important element in Episode IX. Luke rushes in and destroys the stone hut with his force powers. Telling Rey she needs to leave the island now. An epic fight between student and master breaks out and ends with Rey shouting at Luke “Did you create Kylo Ren?”. He explains everything to her and she tells him that his choice wasn’t made. That there was still conflict in him, that if she went to Ben Solo then he would turn and shift the tide of the war. Still broken and afraid, Luke cannot bring himself to go with Rey. So she departs alone, racing to Snoke’s ship to save Ren.
While the First Order close in on the remaining rebel fleet, Finn and Rose find the Code breaker and make it to Snoke’s ship for infiltration. But right before they accomplish their mission, they get captured by Captain Phasma. The codebreaker cuts a deal with the enemy and gives up the rebel’s plan of escaping to Crait. Kylo Ren escorts Rey to the Supreme Leader. This was a scene straight out of Return of the Jedi as Rey speaks to Kylo in the elevator, saying she senses conflict within him and that he won’t bow before Snoke any longer. When the times comes he will turn. That was a parallel I truly enjoyed. This scene was by far my favorite. The uncertainty of what was going happen, the intense weight of it shook me to my core.
Rey comes before Snoke sitting on his throne. The weight of every word spoken could be felt in the theater. The fear and restlessness flowing from Ren, the anger gushing from Rey and the sinister evil radiating from Snoke. He launches Rey in the air saying “You will give, me, everything” as she screams in pain from the torture. Kylo Ren barely able to look at what was happening to her. As she collapses she attempts to force grab Anakin’s lightsaber from Snoke but he pulls it back effortlessly. He guides her over to the glass monitor to show her how the Fist Order was picking off the Resistance ships escaping to Crait one by one. Unable to control her anger any longer she breaks free of his force hold and pulls Ren’s lightsaber to her and ignites it, ready to fight. You can see the Praetorian Guard’s around the room lock into battle mode and that sight alone had me jumping from the chair. Everyone in the theater with me was preparing for what was about to happen. Rey runs at Snoke, ready to strike him down but with the wave of his finger, she goes flying towards Ren. He binds her again and faces her towards Ren. Snoke commands him to strike her down and complete his training.
The camera work in this moment is amazing. They give us a shot of Ren’s weapon lying on the ground as he reaches to pick it up. All the while Rey is still trying to reach him. “Ben, no,” she says. As she points the saber at her chest he uses his other hand to ignite Anakin’s lightsaber beside Snoke, pierce his waist and cut him in half. The saber zooms towards Rey has she catches it and faces Ben. The battle that unfolded in that moment was legendary. The camera work, the music, the fight choreography… Everything was perfect. The guy beside me was just as hyped as I was and it was amazing to see the fans in the theater react to the major twist of the film. But after everything Ben refuses to join Rey, he wants to rule the galaxy with her. Torn the two fight over Anakin’s saber and go their separate ways.
After a fight and victory over Phasma, Finn, and Rose escape to Craite with the remaining resistance members. All thanks to Holdo’s sacrifice. Which I must say was an epic thing to see on screen. Going full light speed, she flung the cruiser straight through Snoke’s ship, splitting it in half.
As Ben wakes up he is met by General Hux, who is beside himself over Snoke’s death. Young solo says that Rey killed him and orders Hux to have the army follow the rebels to Crait so they finally end everything. Hux questions Ren authority, but as he speaks Ren captures him in a force choke hold. Hux submits to his power and Kylo Ren is dubbed Supreme Leader of the First Order. The final battle on Crait unfolds as Ren watches from his ship above the salt-covered planet. Rey arrives with Chewy in the Falcon and helps pull the enemy away from the rebel ships as they advance their attack. Ren’s anger at seeing the Falcon causing problems was one of my favorite moments. It shows that his father is still with him, no matter how much he tries to fight it off. And that angers him deeply.
Finn attempts to make the ultimate sacrifice to save the Resistance but Rose flys in and stops him. When he asks why she stopped him she says “I saved you, dummy. We fight to protect the ones that we love” and that line is what ties together every single moment in The Last Jedi. This film is about family, discovery, hate, anger, passion, and sacrifice. Everyone is fighting to protect what they hold close. Whether it’s good or bad.
As things look bleak, Luke appears and ignites a tiny spark in the hearts of the Rebels. He and Leia share a scene that held so much weight with it. Seeing Mark and Carrie together again made me cry. As he holds her hands he places Han’s dice in them, saying “No one is ever really gone”. It felt like he was talking to us, the audience, about Carrie passing away. Telling us that she will always be with us.
Luke goes out to face Kylo Ren, finally. Ren speaks “Are you here to save my soul?”. Once again Adam Driver did such an amazing job with this character. Luke simply replies “No” as the two engage in battle, Giving the survivors a chance to reach Rey and escape the First Order. As Ren slices through Luke he realizes that he’s nothing more than a force projection, coming from the actual Luke on the other end of the galaxy. That was Rian Johnson giving us a tiny glimpse of just how strong Luke had grown. After his conversation with Yoda, Luke mustered up the resolve to join the fight and face what he had been running away from all this time. It was a final defining moment for Hamill’s character. As he regains his wits, he looks out into an oh-so-familiar sunset, exactly like the one we saw in A New Hope all those years ago, with the same exact music and a rush of sadness, peace, and nostalgia all at once. Finally at peace, Luke pulls an Obi-Wan and fades into the force.
Sensing his passing Rey and Leia escape with the remaining survivors. She reunites with Finn, which was another one of my favorite scenes simply because I love them together. As she’s closing the door to the Falcon she sees Kylo through their connection. No words are spoken but we can see that while she is disappointed, she still senses that conflict within him and we on his face and a glimpse of regret and sadness that Rey didn’t choose him. So now, he is more alone than he ever has been before and I think that scares him more than anything and pushes further into the dark.
In the final scene in the movie, we see the same kids from the Kanto Bite scenes with Finn and Rose. The little boy uses the force to pull the broom towards him, although it was really subtle you could catch it if you pay attention. He looks up to the sky and sees the Falcon jumping to lightspeed as it flies away as he holds the Resistance ring rose gave him in his hand. Telling us that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you came from. Anyone in the galaxy can be special and that spark of the Rebellion is in the hearts of many, so hope is never truly lost.
The Last Jedi, in my opinion, was the best installment since Empire Strikes Back. It kept me engaged the entire time. Never once did I feel bored or that the film dragged. The performances given in this film made it something truly special. I could feel the emotion and power behind every single character and that formed a connection/bond. The character development of Rey and Kylo especially is what drove the film and made it work. Side characters such as Poe, Finn, Rose, and Leia made major progression as well. You instantly fell in love with newcomers Rose and General Holdo. Kelly Marie Tran and Laura Dern have made their mark in the Star Wars franchise in the most fantastic way.
While the film was the darkest in the franchise, Johnson did a great job of mixing comedy and darkness together in the best and right ways. The serious moments remained serious and the light moments flowed beautifully. Although some fans predicted the twists in the film, a lot did not and it was something that we truly enjoyed. While some may be upset with the direction Johnson took, the majority of the fanbase loved and appreciated what he did. Episode VIII will be a Star Wars film that will spark debate and be talked about for years to come and that was its intended purpose I believe. It’s going to be difficult for JJ Abrams to follow up with IX. Although I’m not too worried; it is JJ Abrams after all.
I definitely recommend seeing ‘The Last Jedi’ as soon as you can. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry and you’ll definitely be on the edge of your seat. It’s a fantastic ride that you definitely do not want to miss.