Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review

After the thunderous reception for J.J. Abrams’ Episode VII: The Force Awakens two years ago, writer-director Rian Johnson had a lot to live up to with Episode VIII. And he delivers more than anyone expected: a lucid, entertaining film that operates on four distinct planes, deepens all of its characters, enriches the mythology and constantly surprises the audience with twists and turns. It’s a little overwhelming, a nonstop two and a half hours of action and intensity without any time to catch your breath. But there’s also a steady stream of sharp humour to help keep things in perspective.

The story picks up straight away, as the First Order led by Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) presses its advantage to wipe out the rebellion for good. Snoke is playing his apprentice Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) off against General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) for maximum effect as they launch an attack. Rebel General Leia (Carrie Fisher) is trying to protect her scrappy army, with pilot Poe (Oscar Isaac) trying against the odds to find a way to get them to safety. He sends rebel hero Finn (John Boyega) and mechanic Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) on a mission to track down a hacker who can give them a chance against the First Order. Meanwhile, Rey (Daisy Ridley) has tracked down Leia’s brother, jaded Jedi master Luke (Mark Hamill), who is trying to teach her hard truths about the Force.

Each of these characters finds a surprising connection to others, derailing plans and sending each person on an unexpected journey. The way Johnson orchestrates all of this is remarkable because it’s both coherent and compelling. And the actors beautifully inhabit the characters, offering telling glimpses beneath the surface. Driver has the strongest role, grappling with three other main characters to understand his destiny. It’s dark and complex, and unnervingly moving. Ridley and Hamill also have powerfully gripping moments, while Isaac gets to make good on his scallywag promise in the previous film. And in her final role, the late Fisher brings a wonderfully knowing, sassy edge to Leia.

Most of the action here takes place during epic, seriously exhilarating space battles. But there are also visits to a whizzy casino planet and more time on Luke’s isolated island, populated by porgs, those almost insanely cute critters who get the film’s edgiest joke. Johnson also offers several echoes of the saga’s iconic moments, mainly the shift of balance from The Empire Strikes Back as the rebels are constantly on the run. It’s a thunderously entertaining film with powerfully thoughtful themes about the blurry nature of good and evil. Bring on Episode IX.

Watch the trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi: