Watching “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” was bittersweet knowing the death of Carrie Fisher means that, after this film, Princess Leia will never grace the big screen again. The character of Leia has always been the one to hold onto hope, even in the most desperate times. She does so again in “The Last Jedi.”
I felt the thrill of being in a full movie theater as the previews ended and the lights went dim. A hush settled in the room before the first strains of John Williams’ famous music erupted and the familiar scroll began to roll slowly up the screen. After the success of “The Force Awakens,” “The Last Jedi” has a lot of expectations to fulfill and it does so with just the right mix of gravitas and humor.
Writer-director Rian Johnson crafts a story that begins right where “The Force Awakens” left off. Even after the destruction of Starkiller Base, the First Order has fought the Rebellion to the point of extinction. What’s left of the rebels is led by the exquisite General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher). Together with her people, she’s trying to figure out how to overcome the power of the First Order, led by the pasty-faced slimeball, General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), and directed by Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis in another CGI role).
Meanwhile, on the island in the middle of nowhere, Rey (Daisy Ridley) tries to talk Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) into coming back to help the faltering rebellion and discovers that she has a weird connection with Kylo Ren (and appropriately brooding Adam Driver).
Two new characters grace the story this time around. Kelly Marie Tran plays Rose Tico, a talented rebel mechanic who teams up with Finn (John Boyega) on a mission that will, hopefully, enable the rebels to live long enough to fight another day. She starts off as an overexcited fan-girl of Finn’s but embraces her mission with determination. Laura Dern’s Vice Admiral Holdo, decked out in an amazing dress, steps into an unexpected leadership position and has to deal with hothead pilot, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), who seeks permission for his crazy plans.
Rian Johnson brings freshness and originality to “The Last Jedi.” While there are enough references to the Star Wars mythology to satisfy life-long fans, the film sets off in its own direction that will ultimately lead to the next chapter in Episode Nine.
The interplay between good and evil, the dark and the light, takes on a number of different forms in “The Last Jedi.” There are internal struggles, temptations to be overcome, sacrifices to be made. In the face of the evil of the First Order, the remnant of the rebels still have hope that the light will come out on top. It may not look like it right now but as long as there are people to hold onto the light the darkness will never overcome it.