STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI renewed my faith in the STAR WARS universe. I’m going to review it, but first let me get a few things out of my system. I was 10 years old when STAR WARS hit the big screen, and my exploded along with the Death Star. I saw it eight times that year on the big screen and loved every minute of this incredibly simple yet powerful space opera. Despite the Ewoks, the entire first trilogy wowed me. Then George Lucas crushed any love I had for this universe with his three boring prequels. ROGUE ONE had great action but overall it was a forgettable movie, as I didn’t care about any of the stock characters. STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS similarly phoned it in with yet another rehashing of plots, cardboard villains, and stunning action and effects I found boring because I couldn’t be made to care about any of the characters. Han Solo, a beloved character, is brought back (wearing the same outfit he wore 30 years ago, apparently fashions never change, just as Jedi like to wear the same clothes as Tatooine water farmers), only to be thrown away like garbage. I wasn’t angry about it, just bored.
STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI starts off the same way, with the plucky rebels fighting the generic came-out-of-nowhere-to-destroy-the-helpless-Republic First Order led by a foppish and cartoonish villain, undeveloped characters doing stuff, huge stakes that are presented without any real context or meaning. Empty calories, but that’s okay, I was expecting fluff. Then the movie took an unexpected turn into telling a real story. Luke Skywalker steals the show, with Mark Hamill pouring his heart into Luke’s swansong. His internal conflict is gripping and real, which makes his conflict with both Rey and Kylo Ren tense and believable. Rey’s search for meaning and her strange connection with Kylo Ren add more strength to the story and make us care.
The script keeps setting up typical action punchlines and story questions, only to defy the usual rote resolution. Built on the foundation of a good story, the action scenes become gripping, from the fight with the emperor’s guards to the counterattack against the First Order fleet. Luke’s return to war is fantastic, his final scene with Leia touching. There are plenty of cute moments and one-liners to comically diffuse tension, but they aren’t shoved in your face with a saccharine grin. I don’t really care about the STAR WARS mythos anymore, so I can’t quibble about things like Rey’s parents, Snoke, or anything like that. I just wanted to be entertained by being made to care about the story and the people in it, and the movie accomplished that for me.
So overall, it wasn’t the best movie I’ve seen in the past year, but it was solid, and for me, it was the best STAR WARS film since the original trilogy.