After destroying Starkiller Base, what's left of the Resistance is on the run, with a First Order fleet hot on their heels. In an attempt to aid their escape, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) sends Finn (John Boyega) and Resistance Mechanic Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) on a secret mission. Meanwhile on Ach-To, Rey (Daisy Ridley) attempts to convince Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to show her the ways of the Force and to join the Resistance in the fight against the First Order.
In what is a first for Star Wars (unless you count Rogue One), the story picks up immediately after the events of The Force Awakens. Rey finally gets to hand Luke his father's lightsaber - although she doesn't get quite the response she expects. It's here that Mark Hamill demonstrates his abilities as an actor, for Luke isn't the optimistic Jedi Knight we saw in Episode VI. Having endured a hard life along with the loss of his new Jedi Temple at the hands of Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), he has become disillusioned with the ways of the Jedi and gone into exile. Daisy Ridley's performance as the optimistic Rey - who's desperate to learn about her new found abilities - plays perfectly against Hamill's embittered old man.
Ridley has really settled into the role, not only is she ferocious in the fight scenes but you truly believe in her determination. It's interesting to watch her relationship with Kylo Ren develop, they are two sides of the same coin. Driver gets to develop his character as he deals with the changing relationships in his life. His complicated bonds with Rey and Leia (Carrie Fisher) weigh on him, and all the while Supreme Leader Snoke - played (in person this time) by the Mo-Cap master Andy Serkis - stokes his anger by playing him off against General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson). With all the mystery surrounding the Supreme Leader in The Force Awakens it would have been good to learn a bit more about him this time round. Unfortunately it's limited to meeting him face to face and witnessing his incredible abilities with the Force.
At the same time Rey arrives on Ach-To, the Resistance are in the process of abandoning their base on D'Qar. Leia has the look of a confident and experienced leader yet underneath she carries the scars of her days in the rebellion and the loss of her husband to the son that murdered him. Not to mention the fact that the Resistance is outnumbered and on the run, but Leia still has a few tricks up her sleeve. It's a brilliant final performance and a fitting tribute to the late, great Carrie Fisher.
One of the movie's major plot holes revolves around the relationship between two high ranking members of the Resistance. Poe Dameron - who despite being "one hell of a pilot" is struggling with what it means to be a leader - and Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) don't see eye to eye. A problem to which the solution is painfully obvious. It's thanks to this that the high risk mission Poe assigns to Finn and Rose feels at best tacked on, like they were struggling to find something for Finn to do. Although, it's during their visit to Canto Bight - Star Wars' equivalent of Monte Carlo - that we get to see Finn experience his first dose of life as a free man. Boyega's performance in this scene is filled with the naivety of a child, combined with the excitement of said child as they experience Toys "R" Us for the first time. Whereas Finn can't see past the shiny surface, Rose sees the rot underneath. Kelly Marie Tran - in her first major movie role - gives one of the best performances of the movie, Rose is someone who has lost everything and is just trying to do her part to help the Resistance, no matter how small.
It's on Canto Bight that Finn and Rose hook up with a codebreaker named DJ (Benecio del Toro). When I first heard del Toro had been cast I was excited, he's particularly good at playing mysterious and unpredictable characters. But DJ is annoyingly predictable, you know pretty much exactly what he's going to do from the first moment he appears on screen. Del Toro could have done so much more, and he's wasted on an insignificant character in a tacked on part of the story designed to get Finn to a certain place before the finale. Also under utilised are Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong'o) in a blink and you'll miss it cameo and Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie). Phasma does get some interesting scenes but we just don't see enough of her, although we do learn that she really can hold a grudge!
Whereas The Force Awakens can be described as "playing it safe" or "a bit too much like A New Hope", The Last Jedi is anything but. In fact I would describe The Last Jedi as "risky business". Rian Johnson's new approach to a Star Wars movie may not completely work, but he has definitely freshened things up! While it is respectful of what has come before it and - like The Force Awakens - sticks closer to the style of the original trilogy, The Last Jedi is about the future of a galaxy far, far away. But where the original trilogy drops the audience into an already ongoing rebellion, we're now two episodes into this new trilogy and things are just getting started for the Resistance.
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