It's finally here! I don’t know about you, but I’ve been waiting not-so-patiently for this movie since the final scene of the last installment, 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens. I had my ticket and plans with friends months in advance, of course. Going into a movie like Star Wars: The Last Jedi, even on opening night, there’s already so many opinions and spoilers swirling around. For months, there has been speculation about director and writer Rian Johnson’s direction for the film. At one point, even Mark Hamill, Luke Skywalker himself, voiced concerns about the direction his character had taken. I had to take a deep breath, try to push them all out, and experience the movie just as it is. I was certainly not disappointed! It was a nearly visceral experience from beginning to end.
As soon as the opening notes of the music started playing and the logo began to crawl across the screen, I was ten years old again. That’s the power of Star Wars; the magic of it. This movie, right from the start, drew me in. Watching these characters, old and new, on screen was like seeing old friends after a long time apart. I was desperate when they were desperate, hopeful when they were hopeful, and my heart leapt and fell with theirs. That is an experience that very few stories can give us, and The Last Jedi rose to meet that standard with the speed of the Millennium Falcon.
Unlike the other movies in the saga, this one picks up almost directly after where The Force Awakens left off. The Resistance had just achieved a major victory in the destruction of Starkiller Base, but that victory left their position vulnerable to The First Order. General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) must rush to lead her people to safety, tasking her best pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) with providing defense for their retreat. That is right where this movie begins, so the first fifteen to twenty minutes are fairly jarring and intense. Nothing outside of normal Star Wars fare, but it certainly earns the PG-13 rating. There are several sequences and themes that could definitely be frightening or hard to watch for kids, but if they’ve seen the other movies, specifically The Force Awakens and Rogue One, the content is fairly similar.
Across the Galaxy, Rey, played by Daisy Ridley, must convince Luke Skywalker to end his self-enforced exile and aid the Resistance and his sister. Watching these two characters together was intriguing and every minute of screen time they had together was fascinating. What was also interesting to watch play out, was how Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) fits into their storyline, even though he was on the other side of the Galaxy.
For anyone that was worried, rest assured, Finn (Jon Boyega) is not in a coma the whole movie. He is one of my favorite characters, and I loved every second that I got to watch him grow and truly come into himself as an individual with choices and a place in the Galaxy. Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) was an absolute joy to watch. I instantly loved and felt for her character, and the movie left me wanting to know everything I possibly can about her.
As always, the score was amazing, and the visuals were truly stunning throughout. A scene that can be seen briefly in one of the trailers where there is a battle taking place on a salt flat was entirely breathtaking and powerful to me. It should also be noted that this is a very loud, sensory-overloading movie. I went home with a headache and my service dog had her doggy headphones securely on the whole movie. For me, it was entirely and completely worth it, but it’s something to keep in mind if you are easily bothered by noise or intense visuals.
However, there was so much packed into two and a half hours-plot twists and turns, action, drama, and character moments-that I could probably see this movie three more times and still be seeing new things and forming different opinions. Despite being instantly immersed in my beloved Galaxy far, far away, there were a few things I didn’t like. My main qualm is characterization. There is one crucial character, and possibly a second, (I wasn’t kidding, I need to see it again) that I felt went in a drastically different direction than I would have ever expected for them. Within the narrative, it does make some sense, I suppose, but it still left me feeling somewhat disillusioned.
This review would be incomplete without a word about our very loved and very missed Carrie Fisher. While she doesn’t have a huge amount of screen time, her presence was so strong in the theater. She changed my life as Princess Leia when I was a little girl who loved dresses and wanted to be a princess, but didn’t want to be rescued by someone else. She changed it again as Carrie Fisher when I was a teenager, by just being and living entirely unapologetically and authentically. Her reprisal as General Organa has already changed me as an adult, and I know that as long as people watch Star Wars, she will continue to do that for so, so many more.
When all snarky remarks have been said and daring acts of heroism have been done, it is at its heart, a Star Wars movie. It is full of humor in life and death situations; characters who are truly and deeply good under their flaws; and others so filled with darkness.
Echoing throughout the movie are the messages of defiance in the face of injustice and to never compromise yourself in the face of something stronger, or more powerful, than yourself. It paints a vivid picture of the costs of failure, but also the value of it. There is one thing, though, that Star Wars has shown me over and over again that this movie restated beautifully. That is how strong we can be when we stand with people we love and who love us.