Johnson seems to have devotedly studied the response to The Force Awakens, for there's great care in crafting the continued stories of Rey, Kylo, Finn and Poe. It's not only their courage that is tested, but their hope, vanity and motivations, urging each to pivotal realizations. Johnson offers some fun fan service as well, giving a winking scene to Poe/Finn shippers, and plenty of fuel for Rey/Kylo shippers. Basically, The Last Jedi is exploding with moments that will have fans cheering and squeeing.
The new wave of Star Wars stars is divine. Wielding her staff or a lightsaber, Ridley is stalwart and inspiring. In moments of inner conflict, she is vulnerable and riveting. Driver pushes the wrathful Kylo to new corners of angst and ambition, and lights up the screen with the fire in his eyes. Boyega is once more a winsome wonder, bounding about the galaxy with a boyish charm. And Isaac is once more a delicious blend of cocky, sexy and funny, offering new depth as his roguish rebel pilot learns a hard lesson in heroism.
Johnson's savvy writing does right by the characters we love, and pushes them to new places, both thrilling and disturbing. The performances of a sprawling and compelling cast make each moment sing, and John Williams' bombastic, classic themes make our pulses race to their rhythm. That Johnson has delivered breathtaking action sequences on top of all this means The Last Jedi is true to the very best of the Star Wars legacy.
There's a special magic when you're seated in a movie theater packed with an audience giddy to experience a film. There's a sense of joyful reverence in the air, and through watching the film, you become one. Together you gasp. Together you cheer. Together, you drop jaws at the wonders spilling forth before you. As a critic, I go to a lot of movies, and this sort of cathartic community experience is rare. But I felt it at Star Wars: The Last Jedi, where the audience throbbed as if we shared the same heartbeat.
Every action sequence in this movie is outstanding, from the opening spaceship battle, to a beautifully choreographed Kylo/Rey fight, and the spectacular ground war on a planet where kicked up dirt looks like sprays of blood. (It's very a clever way to get the impact of gore without incurring the censorship of the dreaded MPAA!) But there's a single moment where Johnson knows he has you in the palm of his hand. As it plays out, the sound drops out. Gone are the sound effects of lasers and tearing metal. Gone is the cry of our beloved characters. Gone is John Williams' booming score. It's silence on screen, and all you'll hear are the gasps and whimpers of the audience around you, awed by the majesty before them.
Last night once I walked out of the screening, someone dared me to find a fault in The Last Jedi. I'm sure they exist. No movie is truly perfect. But this morning, as I reflect on what I witnessed, I am only in awe.
Written and directed by Rian Johnson, Star Wars: The Last Jedi hits theaters December 15 and stars Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Daisy Ridley as Rey, John Boyega as Finn, Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron, Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke, Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux, Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma, Anthony Daniels as C-3PO, Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata, Benicio Del Toro as ‘DJ’, Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico, Laura Dern as Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo, and the late Carrie Fisher as General Leia Organa.