Following the box office and critical powerhouse that was The Force Awakens, fans and enthusiasts were shocked to learn that J.J. Abrams wouldn't be returning to direct the next chapter of the Star Wars saga. Instead, Disney put its full faith behind Looper and Brick helmer Rian Johnson. But where would Johnson's vision take this delicate collection of old and new characters? Early indications and trailer footage suggested a darker tone would exist throughout The Last Jedi, and only time would tell if this was the correct path for the franchise. Well now, the time has finally arrived.
Rey (Daisy Ridley) has taken her newfound abilities to a desolate island to learn the ways of the Force from Jedi Master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). But as her understanding of the Force grows, so does Skywalker's skepticism in her intentions as he becomes fearful of her uncontrollable strength. Meanwhile, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and the First Order look to put an end to the Resistance once and for all.
From start to finish, The Last Jedi becomes plagued by an artificial cheapness in both story structure and delivery. This isn't to say that the film is a complete miss, because that's by no means accurate, Rian Johnson's effort is rather a misguided continuation of the re-branded universe that J.J. Abrams worked diligently to build. Where The Force Awakens goes overboard in its reliance on familiarity, both in terms of the story's likeness to A New Hope and its return to key figures from the original trilogy, The Last Jedi desperately ventures in a polar-opposite direction by offering numerous thematic statements that this trilogy intends to have its own voice. Consequently, this branching-out approach from Rian Johnson comes with a wide range of successes and failures. Rey, Finn and Poe prove to be a strongly-developed trio of characters who are well-equipped to carry the saga into Episode IX. However, an absolute mishandling of Luke Skywalker's character, which even drew public criticism from Mark Hamill leading up to the film's release, is just the beginning of The Last Jedi's careless ideas. Everything from the revelation of Rey's parents to shameful amounts of inorganic slapstick comedy sprinkled throughout, and lest we forget cinema's most unimaginative and prolonged "chase sequence" ever, The Last Jedi's most shining qualities are sadly clouded by many blatant and unforgivable blunders from its writer and director. Therefore, we must turn our hopes back to J.J. Abrams for a stronger and more appropriate conclusion when he returns for Episode IX.