Wesley R. Ball’s review published on Letterboxd:
For forty years, the Star Wars franchise has delighted audiences and terrified toy salesmen across the globe, generating billions upon billions of dollars in revenue, and making it one of the most successful and easily marketable franchises in history. For nearly half that time-span, the Star Wars films have become ingrained as a part of my way of life. I, like so many others, became wrought with fear when Disney bought up the entirety of Lucasfilm, Ltd. and with it its beloved flagship franchise- afraid that the Mouse would somehow find a way of diluting the sense of wonder and excitement that had been retained from the original classic trilogy.
Now here we are, two years and three new films since the start of this strange new journey, and I couldn't be more excited to be a part of this breathtaking endeavor.
If The Force Awakens is to be akin to A New Hope, then The Last Jedi is undoubtedly the Empire Strikes Back of this new trilogy. Certain plot elements remain that bear striking similarity to beats that can be found in Empire, but somehow director Rian Johnson has brought something completely new to the franchise unlike anything I've seen yet. It feels fresh, exciting, and invigorating- much like the unbelievable intensity found in The Force Awakens, yet simultaneously a beast all its own. These are the same characters we know and love from before, but they've changed. Their experiences between the last film and now have clearly made an impressionable mark, and their own individual developments can clearly be dissected and felt as their journeys progress.
Perhaps the greatest of these transformations is Luke Skywalker himself- hero of the Rebellion and the last living of the Jedi religion. Much has happened in the last thirty years to the aging Skywalker, whose whereabouts and motivations created most of the mystery that sparked the plot forward in The Force Awakens. Now we find him on a porg-ridden island, secluded from anyone and everyone in the outside world, like Yoda when he forced himself into exile after his failed heroism. His presence (and Leia's, by extension) serves as so much more than a simple familiar face to make the audience cheer and holler when he's on screen- Luke's journey isn't over yet. Disney and JJ Abrams could have easily used this new trilogy as an stroll down memory lane for the easily emotionally manipulated, but they once again proved that these new characters are clearly in the forefront of the action.
The balance between the light and dark has always been the greatest driving force behind the Star Wars series, and this eternal conflict reaches perhaps its greatest apex yet in The Last Jedi. Kylo Ren has evolved from the tantrum-throwing, Vader-worshiping child he began as and is coming up as what may be the most powerful villain yet in this franchise. Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley have an unbelievable screen chemistry, clashing together like day and night, delivering a intensely burning conflict between these two sides of the Force that delivers above and beyond anything The Force Awakens had even hinted at. There is a specific scene midway through The Last Jedi that is arguably one of my favorite moments I've seen in a Star Wars film yet. This moment takes all of the pent up tension built since the last episode and brings it all to an explosive moment of triumph- taking the franchise in a direction that was completely and utterly unexpected.
It's these bold moments of nuance that make The Last Jedi arguably the crowning achievement of the Star Wars franchise. Thirty years from now, when film historians look back upon landmark achievements in cinema, they may very well look upon The Last Jedi as one of the great classics in its own rights. It takes this iconic franchise in a direction we haven't really gone before (despite hitting some very familiar beats), and brings a new angle to the characters we already know and love. Rian Johnson has taken everything great about The Force Awakens and amplified it tenfold, delivering an audacious experience that completely revolutionizes what a Star Wars film really is.
Leave all your reservations at the door when walking into the theater- this is unlike anything I could have ever expected from this franchise.