“That’s why ‘Star Wars’ is appealing. You watch someone fight the perilous monster” – Carrie Fisher
As Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens ends, “Rey” (Daisy Ridley – Murder on the Orient Express) has found “Luke Skywalker” (Mark Hamill – Kingsman: The Secret Service) and given him back his father’s lightsaber. “Kylo Ren” (Adam Driver – Silence) has been returned to “Supreme Leader Snoke” (Andy Serkis – War For the Planet of the Apes) to recover from the injuries suffered in the light-saber duel with Rey; and to complete his training. The Resistance celebrates and also mourns the loss of “Han Solo.”
The First Order is pursuing the remaining forces of the Resistance under the command of “Princess Leia” (the late Carrie Fisher to whom the film is lovingly dedicated). She is on the bridge of the lead Resistance ship when some TIE fighters hit the ship’s bridge. Leia survives but the rest of the main leadership of the Resistance is killed. This puts “Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo” (Laura Dern – The Founder) in command of the Resistance until Leia can recover. Prior to the destruction of that cruiser’s bridge, “Poe Dameron” (Oscar Isaac – 10 Years) led a successful but very costly mission to take out a First Republic dreadnought.
The Resistance fleet makes the jump to light speed and escapes…only to find the First Order ships coming out of light speed right behind them. Yes, somehow they are able to track ships at light speed, something previously thought impossible. “Rose” (Kelly Marie Tran) is a technician who stops “Finn” from doing the wrong thing for a good reason. Together they realize that there is a way to sneak aboard the First Order ship where “General Hux” (Dohmnall Gleeson – Dredd) is leading the pursuit of the Resistance. If they can do that, they can disable the tracking device that enables the First Order to track spacecraft in hyperspace. But they need a master codebreaker to carry out this mission, so Rose and “Finn” (John Boyega – The Circle) go off to a gambling resort world in search of the person recommended by “Maz” (Lupita Nyong’o – 12 Years a Slave). While they don’t find the man she recommended, they do meet up with “DJ” (Benicio Del Toro – Savages). He’s a thief and has major code-breaking skills and they decide to trust him. At the same time, having failed to persuade Luke Skywalker to leave his self-imposed exile and join the Resistance, Rey leaves him behind and goes off to face Kylo Ren. Alone.
Rian Johnson (Looper, Brick) has always had a deft touch in mixing story, action and visuals but he seriously ups his game here. Mark Hamill gives the performance of his career and his brief on-screen moments with Carrie Fisher are amazing.
Some say that this is the best Star Wars film ever, other saying it is the best since 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back. That is a judgment left to each individual fan of the franchise. Such subjective comparisons also ignore the fact that technology has leapt light-years ahead in the 40 years since I stood in line for hours to see the first film on opening day. In the end, the question should not be if The Last Jedi is better than its predecessors. The question is, just how good is it based solely on its own merits. Other than being a moment or two too long, it is wonderful.