Rian Johnson wrote and directed The Last Jedi, and I'm an unabashed fan of his previous work, particularly Brick and Looper. Here, he places heavy emphasis on the evolution of the main characters, plotting out their respective journeys as the Resistance hovers on the verge of annihilation: Poe ignores orders out of his zeal to ensure the survival of the fleeing Resistance; Finn and newcomer Rose Tico execute an unauthorized plan to save the home team, and Rey receives lessons about the Force from the now-reclusive Luke Skywalker.
All the young 'uns become better for it in the end: Poe learns to puts aside his impulsiveness and aggression to observe and come to the correct conclusions; Rey becomes even stronger and more determined; and Finn is gifted this gem of wisdom by Rose: “That's how we're gonna win. Not fighting what we hate, saving what we love.” Annnd smooch. Kidding aside, that's a powerful line that highlights the difference between the light of the Resistance and the darkness of the First Order.
Meanwhile, the veterans play significant roles in imparting their wisdom to the new heroes. Leia is her usual self, formidable and sweet at the same time. She literally slaps Finn for being so hotheaded, and calmly weathers the First Order's attacks. Her second-in-command, Admiral Holdo, is similarly even-keeled, looming over a shouting Poe and quietly dismissing him. Finn and Rose learn a hard lesson from DJ, who promises to help destroy the First Order's ability to track the Resistance fleet through light speed. And Rey wrests the truth from Luke, and from herself.
Luke is the key in The Last Jedi. He symbolizes hope and power, and his self-imposed exile is the result of his self-loathing after what he sees as his failure with Ben Solo and his Jedi students. His lessons to Rey about what the Force is and isn't are stern and sometimes humorous...and highly effective. His conversation with Yoda is enlightening, too, proving that no one can out-master the little green guy. Once Luke absorbs his master's final lesson, he makes his decision and is at peace.
And boy, what a decision! Off Luke goes to confront Kylo Ren, who is slightly less whiny this time around. Kylo reveals that his goal is to wipe out both the Resistance and the First Order, and to create something new from the ashes. He offers Rey a place by his side, but she knows he's a complete tool and rejects him. When Luke shows up for the obligatory dramatic confrontation with his former pupil, Kylo predictably reacts petulantly, which the remnants of the Resistance use to their advantage. Luke's sacrifice allows Leia's people to escape, and thus the stage is set for the final reckoning between the forces of light and darkness.
Overall, The Last Jedi is a true epic, and I don't just mean the running time--the themes of good versus evil, self-discovery, self-sacrifice, forgiveness, love, friendship, and more are showcased to great effect by engaging characters and an entertaining script. The unexpected funny moments, like the Chewbacca-porgs interactions and Luke's snide one-liners, are very welcome. A lot happens, and it serves to propel the story--and the Star Wars series--forward in a new direction. And that's fine by me.
TL;DR: I liked it and I can't wait for the next one! Also, RIP, Carrie Fisher. You are missed.
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