Now Showing: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Pauline Woodley, A&E Editor

The legendary “Star Wars” franchise has succeeded yet again in delivering a thought-provoking, funny and enjoyable addition to the third set of trilogies with “Star Wars: The Last Jedi.” Although long and slightly overwhelming, “The Last Jedi” manages to keep  audiences entertained with breathtaking imagery, unexpected twists and strong performances from the large cast.

Written and directed by Rian Johnson, “The Last Jedi” is treated with the care and consideration that only a mega-fan such as Johnson (who directed “Looper”) could make possible. The movie felt like an ode to both the George Lucas-created franchise and the late Carrie Fisher, who appears throughout the film.

Picking up right where “The Force Awakens” leaves off, “The Last Jedi” portrays our heroes, the ever-shrinking rebel alliance, as they flee the First Order (formed after the fall of the Galactic Empire). Rey (Daisy Ridley) is on the planet Anch-To, trying to get the ultimate Jedi, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), to un-retire his lightsaber and help the resistance defeat Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and his growing power. Straying from the normal “Star Wars” narative, the ultimate mission in the movie is not victory, but survival. The rebels are a dying breed, and with the new found technology briefly mentioned in “Rogue One” just last year, there is no way to escape the supreme evil leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) and the rest of the First Order.

The film is split into three major storylines, which makes for an intricate plot, each occurring simultaneously and starring our heroes from “The Force Awakens.” Rey is off with Skywalker, Finn (John Boyega) and newcomer Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) are on a desperate hunt for an unknown code-breaker and Poe (Oscar Isaac) must stall Princess Leia (Fisher) and Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) from making any drastic decisions while Finn and Rose are off on their mission.

Filled to the rim with characters, both old and new, “The Last Jedi” does require some previous “Star Wars” knowledge in order to be followed, and it is almost necessary to have seen “The Force Awakens” to truly understand the character’s actions.

Though the plot is  strong and the performances memorable, the most powerful aspect of the sequel is  the brilliant cinematography by Steve Yedlin. Certain scenes felt as if they should be froze and hung in a museum. The beautiful camera work is especially notable in the movie’s most memorable  scene, which involves vivid reds and two unlikely characters partnering up to defeat a greater evil.

A standout performance is  given by Driver, who brought the multi-dimensional “second-coming of Darth Vader” to life in “The Force Awakens.” Finally removing his mask, (both physically and emotionally) we see a different side of Kylo Ren in “The Force Awakens.” He and Rey share an on-screen connection so powerful most fans are sure the duo will get together in the next film (despite the drastic difference in political views). As a viewer, you find yourself both rooting for Kylo Ren and wanting to see his demise, as we remember the horrible acts he performed in “The Force Awakens.”

Overall, the movie manages to be exactly what the franchise needed after the saddening loss of Fisher; it is a reminder of what “Star Wars” is all about. “The Last Jedi” did everything it needed to and more, and is providing the next generation of fans with something consistently mentioned throughout the series: hope.