It’s less Star Wars as you’ve never seen it than Star Wars as you’ve never felt it.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the quintessential Star Wars movie. It embraces everything in the franchise that came before while taking big risks to push the story into new and unexpected places.
Under the fastidious guidance of writer-director Johnson, The Last Jedi turns the commercial restrictions of this behemoth into a Trojan horse for rapid-fire filmmaking trickery and narrative finesse. The result is the most satisfying entry in this bumpy franchise since “The Empire Strikes Back” in 1980.
There are images in this movie that provoke awe and delight, and creatures that feel lifted out of half-remembered childhood dreams. And though it briefly appears to lose steam in the middle, that’s short-lived, with a third act harboring sequences that feel like a maestro conducting a concerto the size of the cosmos.
If having pure fun at a “Star Wars” movie is wrong, I don’t want to be right. So for me, The Last Jedi falls right behind “The Empire Strikes Back” and maybe the original film in providing the thrills and the heartbreak, the heroism and villainy, and the romance and betrayal that makes these films such a treat even for those of us who can’t name all the planets or the alien species or even the Empire’s flunkies.
Huge, important things happen to characters secondary and primary. Surprises big and small abound. As is the case with all of the “Star Wars” films, where there is evil there is heroism, and where there is bravery there is sacrifice — and sometimes where there is love, there is heartbreak.
The Last Jedi gives you an explosive sugar rush of spectacle. It’s a film that buzzes with belief in itself and its own mythic universe – a euphoric certainty that I think no other movie franchise has. And there is no provisional hesitation or energy dip of the sort that might have been expected between episodes seven and nine.
If The Force Awakens raised a lot of questions, The Last Jedi tackles them head-on, delivering answers that will shock and awe in equal measure. Fun, funny but with emotional heft, this is a mouth-watering set-up for Episode IX and a fitting tribute to Carrie Fisher.
The Last Jedi checks off all the boxes you want from a Star Wars movie, including one of the coolest lightsaber fights in the series’ 40 years, but Johnson is also interested in exploring new territory, including a consideration of the shadings and nuances to the Light and Dark Sides of the Force.
Intentions and inspiration aside, Last Jedi doesn’t add up to an “Empire Strikes Back” for this trilogy. There’s no romance, little pathos and no real punch-in-the-gut moment. Its emotionally sterile tone was set with “The Force Awakens,” and that’s proven hard to shake, new innovations and plot twists aside.