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STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI cover image Click to play video trailer
As I sat back in the comfy leather seats and watched the star-dusted opening credits roll out in front of me, I reminisced about what it felt like watching the Star Wars series for the first time. It has been a long time since that happened and my only hope was that Star Wars: The Last Jedi would be just as mind-boggling as the others. Shame on me for ever doubting the legendary billion-dollar franchise, because (spoiler alert): It is!

If you haven't seen the previous installment, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, then I highly recommend you grab some friends to watch it with and get yourself back on track. Otherwise, you will be in for a big surprise. For those who have seen it, then you know that Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) makes an iconic return to the big screen and this time, with a vengeance. Luke went into hiding, undetected, to the Porg-infested island of Ahch-To die. Rey (Daisy Ridley) has a mission to bring Luke back to fight the Resistance as war is once again brewing against the First Order. Millions of porg-encounters later, Rey finally persuades Luke to lend her his knowledge in combat, leaving Luke unsettled by the strength of her powers.

This time around, Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo (Laura Dern) leads the Resistance due to unforeseen circumstances. Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and Holdo go head to head as he refuses to follow Holdo's rules. This creates major conflict in the storyline, as some things don't necessarily go as planned during combat. We are also introduced to a new lead character, Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), a maintenance worker that guards the escape pods. She bonds with Finn (John Boyega) as she takes him to her wealthy home of Canto Bight. Though, there's so much more to this planet than meets the eye.

Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) remains high and mighty, just for show. It's evident that he hides something deep within, something he cannot control - a slight hint of compassion. After a head-to-head conflict with Rey and Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), the film finally reveals who he truly is.

Now that you have an idea of what the film is about, let's talk about the magic that goes on behind-the-scenes. To be quite honest, the writing has its lows. There are moments when the audience would let out an uncomfortable laugh due to the awkward, juvenile jokes that we know certain characters would never say or do. It felt somewhat out-of-touch with the Star Wars franchise, especially since they are thrown in during the most serious, suspenseful scenes. Despite that, the rest of the screenplay is groundbreaking. It gives the audience what they want and what they didn't know they needed. Also, the cinematography is phenomenal. Shooting in locations such as Ireland and Croatia, the visual effects team make it seem as though they are off in a galaxy far, far away, without straying from its natural beauty. Special effects, as always, are mind-blowing. It's nearly impossible not to fathom lightsabers being real. Top it all off with detailed costume design and award-winning acting, and you've got yourself a masterpiece.

Ultimately, Star Wars: The Last Jedi exceeded far beyond my expectations, and I urge you to go out with your Jedi Knight robes and lightsabers and experience it on the big screen. I give it 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 13 to 18 as well as adults. It opens December 15, 2017 in U.S. theaters so, go check it out.

Reviewed by Michelle C., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 19

Star Wars: The Last Jedi lives up to the hype because of its wonderful story and action. The acting has never been better for the series. This is sure to be a hit for all Star Wars fans.

The story follows the events set in place after Star Wars: The Force Awakens when Rey (Daisy Ridley) turns to the legendary Jedi, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), for help to turn the tide of the desperate battle between the Resistance and the First Order. However, Luke has lost all hope after his failure of letting Ben Solo (Adam Driver) become Kylo Ren. While trying to convince Luke, Rey further learns to control her ties with the Force, while learning mysteries of the past. Meanwhile, the First Order learns an advanced battle tactic that could destroy the Resistance under Leia (Carrie Fisher). This leads to a newly awakened Finn (John Boyega) forming an unlikely team with the smart Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) and the determined Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), to save the Resistance.

Daisy Ridley, as Rey, excellently presents her newly learned powers and her inner battle between the light and the dark side as her character progresses to become an epic hero, like Luke. Mark Hamill, as Luke Skywalker, is the highlight of the movie and he is also my favorite character, due to his long-awaited return as the character, which delivers on all grounds. He delivers a more brooding edge to character as a hopeless Jedi who is adamant on his choices. Adam Driver, as Kylo Ren, is an incredible villain with well-developed motives, as you can feel his inner conflict with the Dark Side. Carrie Fisher, as Leia, delivers an impressive posthumous performance as the tactical leader of the Resistance. Her character is also tied up in a way that respects the actor. John Boyega, as Finn, delivers an excellent performance as his character stops being a coward and transforms into a brave rebel for the Resistance. Kelly Marie Tran, as Rose, is smart and resourceful in her team up with Finn. Oscar Isaac, as Poe Dameron, is a true maverick who refuses to follow orders for the safety of people.

Rian Johnson wonderful directs every scenic location, whether it is from the desolate ship of the First Order to the abandoned, yet beautiful landscapes of Crait. My favorite scene is the one where a certain choice must be made, on the side of Kylo to Rey. My only problem with this movie is that, while the performances between Finn and Rose are superb, their subplot drags the movie in a slower middle act. However, this a short part of a long movie is full of story and battles.

The message of the movie is about finding hope. The Resistance is put through extreme threats from the First Order, but they find a way to battle it with hope. I give this film 4.5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18 because of its intense action. The movie releases in theaters on December 15, 2017, so check it out.

Reviewed by Arjun N., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

Loyal audiences won't be disappointed! From the traditional opening scroll to the non-stop, action-packed 2:32 hours of characters new, known and loved, writer-director Rian Johnson's Star Wars: The Last Jedi is fantastic. As I watched the film, I thought about the yeoman's task to step into George Lucas' world, filled with beloved characters, and continuing the tale between good and evil, light and dark, all within The Force. After all, Johnson is known for film shorts and episodic television, not movie studio franchise blockbusters.

When we first see our hero, Luke, (Mark Hamill) I could not help but consider, "if Skywalker lives, hope lives." Hope is a central theme of this film and is voiced several times by Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega). Only Poe (Oscar Isaac) seems to have a less than optimistic view of the tasks at hand.

Rey demands Luke teach her the Jedi ways. She delivers Darth Vader's lightsaber to him almost as an offering. Luke declines to show her the Jedi religion telling her there are no more Jedi's. As he painfully explains the path his nephew, Ben Solo (Adam Driver) took from light, as a Jedi trainee, to dark as Kylo Ren, the pain is palpable. As Yoda later reminds us, "The greatest teacher is failure."

Carrie Fisher's final performance as Princess Leia is compelling and often funny. She reminds many crew members, "May The Force Be With You" often. At one point, her admonition to Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo (Laura Dern) is funny. In fact, there are many humorous bits within the film, humanizing the war among the worlds and battles within deep space. When we meet the Porgs, I laughed aloud at their antics, especially when they take flight with Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew).

The lessons in the film, spoken by various characters are impactful. My favorite is "saving what we love is the only way we fight hate."

Given the performances of the young actors, and possibilities at the end of the film, I wonder, can this story go on forever? As Luke aptly reminds us, "no one is ever really gone". Thank you, Luke. May we all know peace and purpose. I give this film 5 out of 5 stars and recommend it for ages 8 to 18 as well as adults. Some battle scenes could be too intense for younger children.

Reviewed by Kimbirly O., KIDS FIRST! Adult Juror

Following the events of The Force Awakens, Rey begins her Jedi training under Luke Skywalker, who is unsettled about Rey's immense strength with the Force. Meanwhile, the Resistance prepares to continue the fight against the First Order, which is led by Kylo Ren and the mysterious Snoke.
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