When J.J. Abrams took the reigns of the beloved Star Wars franchise with Force Awakens, Lucas-supporters were skeptical. He exceeded many people’s expectations, despite the comparisons to the A New Hope. In spite of that prior surprise, it seemed like a Herculean challenge for Rian Johnson to come in for Star Wars: The Last Jedi and keep the franchise climbing. However, he did. Johnson manages to further develop new and old characters, introduce familiar elements while pushing the story forward, and laying the groundwork for what looks to be an epic finale.

The Last Jedi is here and it’s everything I wanted!

The Last Jedi - Berk ReviewsThe Last Jedi continues in the aftermath of The Force Awakens. Rey (Daisy Ridley) is off attempting to convince Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to return to the Resistance led by his sister, Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher). The resistance is being hunted by General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and the First Order. Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and Finn (John Boyega) are working with Leia and the remaining forces of the Resistance in a desperate effort to avoid defeat. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver)  and Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) are still attempting to track down Luke, who Snoke views as the First Order’s greatest threat.

Johnson navigates these characters stories perfectly, and this film manages to never drag. He also introduces Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), a dynamic character who is teamed up with Finn.  Her introduction is emotional, and she quickly manages to stand out against all of the other characters in the film. Another strong female character Johnson introduces is Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo (Laura Dern), a Resistance leader who is initially hard to read upon her entry, but the audience will have a definitive opinion of her by the end. Johnson doesn’t end there, introducing Lieutenant Connix (Billie Lourd), DJ (Benicio Del Toro), and – probably most importantly – THE PORGS!!!

Star Wars fans should be pleased

The film has everything a Star Wars fan could want. References to the past, promises of the future, space battles, lightsabers, and fun moments alongside the emotional ones. Johnson sets this tone early on in a scene in which the fans have been waiting two years for closure: Rey, holding the lightsaber out to Luke, as occurs at the end of The Force Awakens…and it’s this film that will finally give the audience his reaction. No spoilers here, even though this comes very early on, but the audience in my screening loved it. There are tons of super-memorable moments, some major and others minor, that make this film tons of fun. Then there are those that only add to the legacy that is Star Wars, and make it all the more iconic.

The Last Jedi - Berk ReviewsIt’s impossible to watch this film and not have a bit of sadness. Seeing Carrie Fisher on screen after her death is tough, but also amazing. She is absolutely brilliant in this movie – and The Last Jedi, being her last movie – is a film worthy of that honor. She gets more to do in this film than in the previous, and it’s likely all of her fans will be happy with her treatment. However, there is a clear standout amongst the awesome performances of all involved, and it is the titular character.

Mark Hamill has always been the main face of the franchise. He absolutely owns this movie. Every second of screen time he is given, he uses to cement Luke Skywalker as one of the best characters ever created in cinema. I truly believe there isn’t an ounce of hyperbole in that statement. Hamill loves the work he has done, and it comes across in this performance.

Final thoughts…

There is so much to love about this movie, and despite having a two-and-a-half hour runtime, it makes me long for the next. It’s a good sign when people walking out of a movie are discussing when they will see it again. My daughter also loved this movie, as did the many friends and students who were in attendance at our sold out screening – a feat that doesn’t happen at our local theater very often. Star Wars: The Last Jedi earns the Must See rating.