Star Wars has an iconic history as one of the most critically-acclaimed franchise in Hollywood history, a status which means new additions will always carry the hopes and expectations of a lot of fans riding on its shoulders.
Despite the critical acceptance of The Force Awakens, many remained unconvinced by what was considered an unimaginative imitation of a previous installment in the franchise after viewers had been promised so much more.
Picking up from the events of that movie, The Last Jedi is a breathtaking fresh approach to the chaos of the galaxy that exists far, far away.
New franchise director, Rian Johnson, uses the familiar hook of good and evil to tell a story of hope amid a string of unfortunate circumstances for the rebellious Resistance.
Still trying to come to terms with her newfound powers that stems from the Force, Rey (Daisy Ridley) seeks out the last known Jedi, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who is in self-imposed exile on the visually-mesmerising planet of Ahch-To.
Fans who were a little unsatisfied with Hamill’s seconds-worth of screen time in Force Awakens will undoubtedly take delight in his outing in this sequel.
The actor’s return to action decades after he led the Rebel Alliance to victory against the Galactic Empire is a measured performance that’s tinged with the character’s struggle with the Force over the years.
With Luke determined to live out the rest of his days on Ahch-To after an unfortunate event with his nephew, Kylo Ren, Rey has an extremely hard time convincing the jedi to train her and join the rebels in a losing battle against the rejuvenated First Order led by Palpatine-esque Supreme Leader Snoke (voiced by Andy Serkis).
While Rey and Luke (with Chewbacca and R2-D2) are shut off from the other characters, the Resistance is trapped in an impossible situation with the First Order, led by General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), launching relentless attacks against them.
Still led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), the Resistance has to figure out a way to survive to fight another day against a force that’s bent on annihilating it and ruling the galaxy with iron fists.
Johnson does an incredible job of building the narrative of The Last Jedi solidly on the foundation of Force Awakens, telling an engaging story with such assured engagement.
He navigates around an expansive story punctuated by very high stakes that genuinely puts beloved characters in jeopardy and dramatically elevates the story.
While a bunch of old characters return to reprise their roles, The Last Jedi also introduces a few new characters that contribute to some of the movie’s exciting moments.
John Boyega returns as Finn while Oscar Isaac also reprises his role as Han Solo-esque Poe Dameron who has trouble following orders and gets into trouble for it a bunch of times.
He’s responsible for one of the movie’s most noteworthy sub-plots that catapults the audience into a whole new location of visual splendor.
This sub-plot involves the movie’s most significant new character: Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), a low-ranking member of the Resistance who rises from obscurity and impresses alongside the movie’s talented ensemble cast.
Adam Driver is also back in The Last Jedi to play the Force-corrupted Kylo Ren who continues on his dark path but with a more nuanced performance than his first appearance in Force Awakens.
With the weight of being Darth Vader‘s grandson weighing on his young shoulders, Kylo Ren has a lot to prove to Snoke that he’s worthy of his position in the First Order.
When Snoke calls him “just a baby with a mask”, it sets him off on a new path of vendetta that explores not just his capacity for evil, but for the occasional good.
The Last Jedi affords its characters the room to grow and properly develop into people worthy of the viewer’s time.
However, while it tells a captivating story that meaningfully engages and is filled with dramatic twists, the audience has to endure through what is largely a dragged out first act.
Even though it builds up to a stirring ending, some of it feels so unnecessary that it makes the movie’s 2 hours 30 minutes run time such a stressful bore at some points.
The mystery surrounding the character of Snoke also offers up a new surprising twist that raises more frustrating questions about his identity that the movie neglects to answer.
Coupled with a handful of other avoidable missteps, The Last Jedi isn’t remotely the best Star Wars movie, even if it gets an honourable mention.
However, its flaws are considerably negligible because they’re overshadowed by what is a memorable turn of events that has reinvented the galaxy’s story which appeared to be over after the credits rolled on the original trilogy.
In the spirit of reinventing, The Last Jedi served as a worthy send off for some of the galaxy’s most iconic fan-favourite characters from the original.
In what has turned out to be Fisher’s final appearance as Princess Leia, due to her unfortunate death, The Last Jedi is a fitting end to the actress’ career (and it’ll be interesting to see how her absence is explained away in the concluding part of this trilogy).
Hamill’s turn as Luke Skywalker might also be at an end after a mesmerising performance that offers a dramatically refreshing portrayal of the Force which is pivotal to the movie’s final act.
Although the movie’s overarching theme is that of hope, the future doesn’t look so bright for a significantly beaten Resistance that’s now in the obsessive crosshair of the emotionally-wounded Kylo Ren.
With the old guard depleted, the future of the franchise now rests on the new band of characters to stand against the tyrannical First Order.
The Last Jedi works incredibly well because it makes bold decisions with the story and delivers emotionally powerful moments that pushes its characters with genuine motivations that makes for remarkable entertainment.
It’s undoubtedly a great addition to the Star Wars universe.