*Major Jedi spoilers ahead*
The Resistance prepares to do battle with the First Order. Meanwhile, Luke Skywalker is unsettled by the strength of Rey’s powers and connection to Kylo Ren.
Filmmaker Rian Johnson plays against expectations and bravely tries not rehash what's has been done before. Star Wars: Episode VIII Last Jedi has heaps of dramatic moments, heightened by John Williams’ score, the emotional impact most of which oozes from the late Carrie Fisher as Leia is poignant. Oscar Isaac’s Poe and Mark Hamill’s Luke steal the show but both Adam Driver (Kylo) and the perfectly cast Daisy Ridley (Rey) give the original trilogy actors a good run for their money. Less of a comedy side kick here John Boyega’s Finn is more focused and has a new love interest in Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose Tico.
Although Rey is present throughout she not as centre piece as she was previously, getting lost in amongst all the other story threads and characters. Both Driver and Daisy, when they are connected during new force power moments and later when they take on Snoke’s guards in an interestingly choreographed fight scenes do get a chance to excel.
Director, writer Johnson offers a good, but not brilliant Star Wars episode, unfortunately there’s a lot of jokes thrown in which feel off with the usual galactic humour of its predecessors. Jarringly there's misplaced dialogue about God and souls. Moreover, many of the effects are arguably not as good as Episode VII or Rogue One, surprising for a Star Wars film, many CGI shots (feel less model lifelike), rendering and movements stick out for example, a herd of fathiers (space horses) are freed and ridden across Canto Blight, or when BB-8 steals an AT-ST (Scout Walker) with Finn and Rose, moreover the back drop of AT-M6s, (the next generatiom of Walkers) frame Luke and Kylo.
To Johnson’s credit, there’s a stand out scene with Luke and R2-D2 where they view 1977’s Star Wars Leia hologram message, moreover is a huge spoiler moment that includes Luke’s impressive moving story closure (with a Obi-Wan, Yoda cloak twist) this is a high point not only of this episode but of all the episodes. Yoda returns (thankfully a puppet mastered by Frank OZ) appears as a force ghost. However, some of the characters feel a little fleeting and wasted including Andy Serkis Snoke’s brief and anticlimactic demise and Benicio del Toro’s DJ is excellent but also has limited screen time. With relief Maz shows up as a hologram in the midst of a firefight.
With already an abundance of species for Johnson’s to chose from there’s many new monsters/alien/animals crammed in and new space ships unnecessary added to the saga. Specifically during the messy Casio messy segment. That said, the cute puffin-like Porgs are surprisingly a good addition. Also favourites return including Chewie, R2-D2, C3-PO and there’s plenty newcomer BB-8 moments as the action moves from one planet, hopping from spaceship to another. With Kenny Baker's passing RD-D2 is performed now by Jimmy Vee. Joonas Suotamo reprises the Chewbacca role in which he doubled for Peter Mayhew respectively in Force Awakens but here takes over completely. Actress Billie Lourd (Fisher’s realife daughter) welcomingly gets more lines and to do as Lieutenant Connix. But even with more Phasma to enjoy her moments feel rushed like some of the special effects. In addition, the reveal of Rey’s parents leaves sour taste and Snoke’s origins is left bitter sweet in an abrupt end not seen since Dooku was disposed of in Revenge of the Sith. Also we’re still left with the unanswered question of how did Kylo get the blue lightsaber, and how did it get to Maz’s castle in Force Awakens, even if it is one and the same, and where are the Knights of Ren and the handful of Jedi in training that were not killed who left with Kylo? Questionable use in the film's design of Earth numerics being used instead of Star Wars symbols and language on consoles.
It has its fair share of story beats and character high points notably, Fisher and Johnson’s handling of Leia as she evades the First Order in a number of set pieces which offers genuine story surprises. Memorable is Leia’s resurrection 'Force' moment, Laura Dern’s character sacrifice and Yoda’s return to name a few. But there are niggling wasted opportunities and shoehorned on the nose social commentary.
Overall, debatably Johnson’s offering doesn’t feel as Star Warzy as it should, nevertheless, it’s Star Wars nonetheless, but don’t expect Empire Strikes Back or the Star Wars je ne sais quoi magic.