To start, it’s crucial to say that Star Wars: The Last Jedi is absolutely packed to the brim. There are simply so many stories at work within the larger tapestry, so many beautifully varied characters, so many tonal shifts, and so many transcendent and frankly epic moments – that Episode VIII truly offers something for everyone.
This film picks up with the continuing overarching Star Wars theme of good and evil, with the First Order in hot pursuit of the remnants of the Rebel Alliance / Republic. While The Force Awakens (VII) re-established and re-awakened the Star Wars landscape, making heavy use of a number of narrative hallmarks of the original first installment, A New Hope (IV), this new picture drives forwards into new territory – without losing sight of the eternal core conceits of the saga.
The performances are absolutely stellar throughout. The newer characters really settle in, adjusting to the weirdness of their immediate surroundings, taking up their relative places on both sides of the war. Daisy Ridley’s Rey is freed from the burden of carrying the whole nervous wonder of the piece (something she did so stunningly in VII) and now has room to grow, to develop and to carve out her own niche. Boyega’s Finn is perhaps slightly short-changed here, but he works well instead to introduce and integrate some of the entirely brand-new characters. And with the emphasis given to Han Solo in the last film, the older characters once again shine. The Last Jedi gives real space to the power of both Luke Skywalker, and especially General Leia, in a way that its predecessor at best only implied.
The Last Jedi might not end up deigned a ‘masterpiece’ as its breadth of scope means it’s not consistently singular, and particularly because it’s ultimately a fragment of a larger space opera which, in the hands of Disney, will surely run forever now. But despite those trappings, and they’re honestly not hefty criticisms at all, director Rian Johnson has turned in a massive, sprawling, stuffed picture which manages to tell a complete, satisfying story – a real feat. And goodness, the moments, such moments…