Keepin’ It Reel: “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

It’s been two years since “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” shocked the world by both reinventing the franchise and reminding almost everyone why they fell in love with “Star Wars” to begin with. Director J.J. Abrams crafted a film that intrigued us with new characters and mystery, yet perfectly captured the nostalgia that die-hard fans of the series wished to return to. In a world where a lot classic films are being rebooted or remade, “The Force Awakens” was a reminder as to why “Star Wars” is so iconic, and further proves that the franchise has purpose in today’s culture.

Although the majority of the cast and familiar elements from “The Force Awakens” return for “The Last Jedi”, there was one major shift: a change in directors. J.J. Abrams now acts as the executive producer, while director Rian Johnson takes the reins to helm the franchise’s latest installment. Despite J.J. Abrams having quite the reputation and filmography, Rian Johnson is essentially only known for his 2012 science fiction film “Looper” and his 2005 indie film “Brick,” which gained traction primarily through festivals and a limited release. With such a change, numerous fans were cautious as to how the second film in this new Sequel Trilogy would play out.

If you know me, you know how massive of a “Star Wars” fan I am. In fact, the reason why I am captivated by the art of film so much is because of how inspirational watching the original trilogy was for me as a child. That being said, the first time I watched “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” on opening night, I was conflicted. Without going into spoilers, the film makes numerous bold choices that I didn’t see coming at all. I’m a massive fan of taking risks, but it felt like director Rian Johnson took too many risks with this film. As a diehard “Star Wars” fan, it hurt me that I didn’t automatically love the film after watching it. However, after seeing the film two more times, I’m very enthusiastic to report that I absolutely loved the film, and think it’s a captivating, visually appealing, and emotionally driven experience.

By this point, we pretty much know what to expect when it comes to a “Star Wars” film, as well as any sequel in general. That’s what makes “The Last Jedi” so unique: it completely subverts everything you expect, and instead replaces it with decisions that leave you gazing at the screen, contemplating how this will affect the final installment. What really drives this film are the characters, and how each of their motivations play alongside one another. Every member of the cast delivers a truly phenomenal performance, from Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren, who wants to bury the past, to Daisy Ridley’s Rey, who wants to dig up her own past. But perhaps the standout member of the film is Mark Hamill returning as Luke Skywalker, delivering one of the best performances of the year. Despite not being the traditional Luke Skywalker fans know him as, Hamill’s performance creates a lot of emotional weight and development for the Jedi Master that we haven’t seen before in any other “Star Wars” film.

The action sequences in the film never ceased to amaze me and Rian Johnson has truly made a “Star Wars” film like never before. Action without purpose is just meaningless action, but The Last Jedi creates action around emotion, resulting in some of the most astounding films the series has to offer. The film is visual masterwork, and the sweeping cinematography was truly breathtaking. This may not be a film for everyone, but if “The Force Awakens” was about the past, then “The Last Jedi” looks towards the future, and the future of “Star Wars” has never been brighter.