‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ review

Every new Star Wars film was building to 'The Last Jedi,' and it's worth the wait

The Star Wars franchise is back from a galaxy far, far away, but is the Force with the new film? Read on for our Star Wars: The Last Jedi review!

Two years ago, Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens reignited the Star Wars movie franchise and blasted box-office records on its way to becoming the highest-grossing movie of all time (by a margin of nearly $200 million) in U.S. theaters. Although 2016’s prequel film, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, provided a bit of a buffer, make no mistake: This weekend’s Star Wars: Episode VIII — The Last Jedi has a lot to live up to when it picks up where The Force Awakens left off.

Star Wars fans can rest easy, though, because director Rian Johnson’s installment of the beloved sci-fi saga doesn’t just satisfy expectations — it triumphantly exceeds them.

Directed and written by Johnson, The Last Jedi brings back The Force Awakens stars Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, and Domhnall Gleeson, as well as franchise veterans Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, and Anthony Daniels to continue the story of the brave rebels battling the sinister forces of the First Order, the brutal military organization that rose from the ashes of the Galactic Empire. The film introduces new characters played by Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, and Benicio del Toro, and picks up shortly after the events of The Force Awakens.

The Last Jedi clocks in at a hefty 152-minute running time, making it the longest installment of the series so far, but the film does an impressive job of mixing new and familiar elements in a way that makes it feel more compact and efficient than its runtime suggests. Where The Force Awakens occasionally felt bogged down in reverence for the original trilogy — particularly 1977’s franchise-spawning first installment — The Last Jedi seems more inclined to spread its narrative wings and explore the universe that the eight prior films established.

The Last Jedi seems more inclined to spread its narrative wings and explore the universe that the eight prior films established.

Of the returning characters, Ridley’s mysterious, Force-sensitive scavenger, Rey, and Driver’s angsty aspiring Sith, Kylo Ren, are the most extensively developed in The Last Jedi, with Rey’s story arc serving up a particularly satisfying bridge between the past and the future of the Star Wars franchise. Although the film does an impressive job of spreading screen time around among its large cast, it’s her story that does most of the heavy lifting when it comes to expanding the saga narratively and validating what is — and more frequently, what isn’t — important about the series canon.

That last aspect of the film is an important one, as Johnson’s willingness to acknowledge then overtly dismiss or minimize certain elements or moments that Star Wars fans have been trained to revere is not just a bold move, but a refreshing one — due in no small way to how expertly it’s handled.

Along with being the longest installment of the franchise, The Last Jedi might also be the funniest film in the series, too.

The Star Wars franchise isn’t exactly known for its comedy, but Johnson’s script peppers the story with funny moments that play to his cast’s strengths. The dry humor of series veterans Hamill and Fisher provides some of the film’s funniest moments, and Johnson’s script seems unafraid to poke fun at what the audience expects from the film, only to turn around and offer something more rewarding to fans in return.

Star Wars The Last Jedi review

That self-awareness and a willingness not to take itself too seriously (Star Wars is essentially one big space opera, after all) is a big part of what makes The Last Jedi feel unique in the franchise. The “space magic” wielded by the heroes and villains of the franchise is treated as exactly that in The Last Jedi — with no further explanation necessary — and although the story generally remains compelling enough to earn the suspension of disbelief it begs, the film has moments that might verge too far into the campy for some audiences.

The Last Jedi offers the most exciting, wonder-inspiring view of the franchise’s future so far.

Driver’s brooding, Force-wielding First Order soldier Kylo Ren is the recipient of more character development in the film, but he still feels entirely unthreatening throughout most of The Last Jedi. His emo version of Darth Vader quickly wears out its welcome in the film, so it’s fortunate that The Last Jedi spends more time on its hero characters than on Kylo and the First Order. Driver’s character is clearly intended to show fans what Anakin or Luke Skywalker might have been like without the tempering influence of their Jedi mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi, but along with being more destructive and petulant than either Jedi, Kylo is also exponentially more annoying.

Johnson seems well aware of this aspect of Driver’s character, though, and his willingness to poke fun at Kylo’s persistent moodiness in The Last Jedi makes the character infinitely more tolerable.

In what is expected to be her final film in the franchise (due to her death in December 2016), Fisher is captivating and compelling as General Leia Organa, and the role she plays in the events that transpire is fitting for her station both in the Star Wars universe and as one of its greatest icons. The caliber of her performance is matched by that of fellow franchise star Hamill, whose Luke Skywalker might be older and wiser in The Last Jedi, but is still haunted by the character flaws that made him so endearing (and again, occasionally annoying) in the original trilogy.

star wars: the last jedi review

No mere cameo players in this newly revived Star Wars series, Fisher and Hamill — like Harrison Ford before them — have important parts to play in The Last Jedi and perform with a conviction that ultimately honors the franchise. Ford, while no longer a part of the current Star Wars universe, will play no small part in the 2018 offshoot, Solo: A Star Wars Story.

More so than The Force Awakens before it, The Last Jedi offers the most exciting, wonder-inspiring view of the franchise’s future so far (although who knows what Episode IX will bring). Johnson’s film is a great reminder of the saga’s potential for thrilling stories, powerful emotional moments, and a genuine sense of fun, and it provides that reminder without getting wrapped up in nostalgic navel-gazing.

If The Last Jedi is a sign of what’s to come for the Star Wars universe, the future certainly looks bright.

Movies & TV

Star Wars series 'The Mandalorian' adds 'Deadpool' actress Gina Carano

The Mandalorian, Jon Favreau's live-action Star Wars series planned for Disney's streaming video service, will be one of the most expensive television shows ever made. Here's everything we know about it so far.
Movies & TV

'Prime'-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite shows currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Movies & TV

Stay inside this fall with the best shows on Hulu, including 'Castle Rock'

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we've put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in November, from 'Buster Scruggs’ to ‘Dracula’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Deals

You can now watch soccer games online with streaming service ESPN+

Launched back in April, ESPN+ is a direct-to-consumer subscription streaming service. For a mere $5 a month or $50 per year, you can have access to the best sports content available including multiple soccer leagues.
Movies & TV

Out of movies to binge? Our staff picks the best flicks on Hulu right now

From classics to blockbusters, Hulu offers some great films to its subscribers. Check out the best movies on Hulu, whether you're into charming adventure tales or gruesome horror stories.
Business

‘Fantastic Beasts’ wins the weekend with underwhelming debut

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald won the weekend box office, but its big debut was a bit underwhelming, with the lowest opening weekend and worst reviews of any Harry Potter film so far.
Movies & TV

The best new movie trailers: ‘Alita: Battle Angel,’ ‘Detective Pikachu,’ and more

Everyone loves a good trailer, but keeping up with what's new isn't easy. That's why we round up the best ones for you. This week, it's new trailers for cyberpunk adventure Alita: Battle Angel, game adaptation Pokémon Detective Pikachu…
Movies & TV

Best new shows and movies to stream: The Coen brothers ride again and more

Need something to watch this weekend? Check out our list of the best new shows and movies to stream right now. On the list this week: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, Pacific Rim: Uprising, Nnarcos: Mexico, and more.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Amazon Prime right now (November 2018)

Prime Video provides subscribers with access to a host of fantastic films, but sorting through the catalog can be an undertaking. Luckily, we've done the work for you. Here are the best movies on Amazon Prime Video right now.
Deals

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…
Home Theater

What’s new on Netflix and what’s leaving in December 2018

Our complete list of what's new on Netflix for December 2018 and which titles will be removed will help you catch up on your bingeing, and also ensure you don't miss any titles heading into the streaming ether.
Home Theater

What’s new on HBO and what’s leaving in December 2018

Whether you're a cable lifer or a staunch cord cutter, there's never been a better time to get down with premium TV. Follow us to find out what's new on HBO each month. December 2018 brings sci-fi hit Ready Player One and the drama Icebox.
Web

Canceling Amazon Prime is easy, and you might get a refund

Don't be intimidated. Learning how to cancel Amazon Prime is easier than you might think. You might even get a partial or full refund on the cost, depending on how much you've used it. Check out our quick-hit guide for doing so.