I’m sure everyone who saw Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens remembers how it ended. True to form, the new sequel, Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, picks up right where we left off. The young, aspiring Jedi named Rey (played by Daisy Ridley) finds herself face to face with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill).
After almost several years of self-imposed exile, the legendary Jedi is found. The interaction between these two is as you’d expect: an eager student meeting a reluctant teacher. As we look at how Luke has been living on this remote planet, we slowly edge into the backstory of why he left, and how the weight of his mistakes have hung over him. And as I sat through all two-and one-half-hours of the film, I saw that it was primarily about mistakes.
Where in the previous film we saw the new generation of Star Wars heroes in Rey, the rogue Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega), and ace Rebel Pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaacs), in this film we see how they’re just as defined by their flaws and weaknesses as by their strengths. The Resistance led by former Princess Leia Organa, played with an emotional final performance by the late Carrie Fisher, now finds itself battling the sinister First Order alone. Led by the enigmatic Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), the dastardly regime is closing in on our heroes. Finn teams up with a new protagonist named Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), a low-level worker in The Resistance grieving the death of her sister in the film’s first battle. As they embark on a secret journey together, we get some needed backstory for Rose, and the chemistry between her and Finn is strong enough to balance out the lengthy middle of the film. Of course, getting more close-ups of the brooding Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) doesn’t hurt either. Probably the biggest moment here is finding out what caused him to betray Luke and turn to the Dark Side, as he tries to coerce Rey through a connection with the Force. Rey, on the other hand, is convinced that she can still help Kylo Ren see the Light.
The balance between these two leads is remarkable in that it seems to reflect the constant balance between the Dark and Light Side, giving the film a very psychological aspect which, while unorthodox, rings true to the deep-rooted philosophy of the Jedi Order. But as engaging as they are, none of it compares to what happens at the end.
Here, we see Mark Hamill deliver one of the finest performances of any Star Wars Actor (or Jedi), sure to leave viewers ultimately satisfied while laying the groundwork for the final installment to the New Trilogy. No doubt there is a deep division between fans on this new film, and Rian Johnson is sure to receive his fair share of heckling (lord knows Mark Hamill already has).
But as I said before, this film was more psychological action thriller than adventure, the latter being what its predecessor was mainly about. Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi was never meant to measure up to the same level of expectations that the first one of the New Trilogy did. Just like Mark Hamill in his return performance, it did what it needed to do, and accomplished it flawlessly. Despite that, I’m very curious where they plan to go with the conclusion. With the untimely death of Carrie Fisher, it seems like many alterations will be needed. We can all just be thankful that the franchise is now in good hands.
About the Author: Isaac Boorstin is a working actor in New York who has done many productions in film and theater. A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and a native New Yorker, he enjoys going to museums, writing movie reviews, gaming and staying involved in local politics.