‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ balances old and new

Rey learns what it means to be a Jedi. (Twitter)
Rey learns the nature of the force and makes peace with her past. (Twitter)

By Julia Dzurillay
Staff Writer

Get ready for epic lightsaber fights, romantic connections and questions left unanswered: “Star Wars” is back and the force is strong with its eighth film in the main series, “The Last Jedi.”

Heroine Rey (Daisy Ridley) stands out as she learns the ways of the Jedi Knights and makes peace with her past. With the help of Master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and a few unexpected characters, Rey finds her role within the Force.

As the second film in Disney’s new trilogy, “The Last Jedi” feels reminiscent of “The Empire Strikes Back.” Dark undertones linger through Rey’s actions and conversations, and leave her questioning what she thought she already knew.

Villain Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) gets deeper and more significant character development in “The Last Jedi.” The audience gets to see his internal struggles and learn more about his past, both in his Jedi training and in his decision to turn to the dark side and become Snoke’s apprentice. Driver easily steals the show. From his facial expressions to the infamous shirtless scene, fans across the globe praised Driver for his performance.

Star Wars welcomed its first Asian-American actress, Kelly Marie Tran, who plays the fearless and spunky new character, Rose. Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) was joined by another female leader in the Resistance, Vice Admiral Holdo, portrayed by Laura Dern. Through these new characters, this film seamlessly touches on real-world problems, like class struggle, feminism, religion and grief.

Most fans flock to “Star Wars” for the iconic lightsaber duels and outer space battles, and the action scenes in this film go above and beyond even as compared to the other films. Each battle contributed to the larger narrative of the Resistance and the First Order, as well as on a personal level for our main characters. With amazing special effects and sound design, these fights stimulated and captivated audiences, regardless of whether they enjoy action or not.

Sometimes, it felt as if there were too many subplots. Rey, Finn (John Boyega), Rose and Poe (Oscar Isaac) are on their respective journeys, rarely interacting with one another. This allows for uninterrupted self-exploration from our heroes, but makes the film as a whole feel fractured.

Some fans and critics felt as though director Rian Johnson was reaching too hard for comedic moments instead of using the established personas of these characters to their fullest potential. I would say this is just an attempt to grasp onto what newer, younger fans want: relatable characters, with a touch of humor.

What makes this new trilogy special is its ability to stand apart from the rest of the “Star Wars” franchise. It’s a new and exciting story that includes old characters, but doesn’t rely heavily on old themes and plotlines. “The Last Jedi” breaks a few of the established norms of the “Star Wars” universe, and only adds to the list of unanswered questions piling up from “The Force Awakens.”

“The Last Jedi” left me hungry for closure from the next movie. The movie ended with a sense of loss amongst several of the characters, yet this loss was punctuated with a ray of hope for the future of the Resistance and the Jedi. You better believe I will be reading fan theories until “Episode IX” is released.