Review: "The Last Jedi" is, flaws and all, the best directed, most beautiful-looking "Star Wars" movie since "The Empire Strikes Back."

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At some point in "The Last Jedi" Luke Skywalker says: "This is not going to go the way you think." He couldn't be more right, and wrong.  "The Last Jedi" is a the most modern, hilarious, and meta installment of the franchise, filled with potent twists and surprising character development. And yet, it also feels safe. There's no risk-taking the way "The Empire Strikes Back" blew our mind back in 1980, but it is a significant step forward for this trilogy. It sets up characters, conflicts, situations, which leave you very hungry for the third installment, which will be released in 2019.

Director Rian Johnson ups the ante by creating a Star Wars movie that starts and ends at a breakneck pace. Despite the formulaic nature, his creativity and vision breaks through in "The Last Jedi." John Williams’ iconic score is back, so are Daisy Ridley as Rey, John Boyega as Finn and Oscar Isaac as Poe. Old-timers are here as well, more specifically the late Carrie Fisher as Leia and Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker.

When "The Force Awakens" ended, Rey found Luke isolated in a far away island, lost, confused, by his failure in training Kylo Ren to be a Jedi. Ren ended up going to the dark side and starting his own dark sided rebellion. Rey wants Luke to train her to defeat Ren, but the legendary Jedi wants none of that. He's learned his lessons of the past, the last time Ren practically killed him, destroyed the Jedi village and stole 12 of the students as made them his own. Rey can't accept no for an answer as  she sleeps night after night outside Luke's door until he finally gives in. Thanks to R2-D2 who shows him a hologram of a classic Leia speech in the original film, Luke budges.

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Meanwhile, the resistance, led by General Leia, are preparing to do battle with the first order. Poe's rebellious demeanor and risk-taking starts to rub her the wrong way and she demotes him from his command, he, of course, refuses to obey and goes on his own mission to destroy Ren's ship. Also, Finn wakes up from cryogenic sleep and teams up with Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) a mechanic that fawns over him at first glance as a legend of the resistance. 

If the first 20 or so minutes of the film suffer it's because Johnson decides to bring us head-on into a space battle between the resistance and the first order. It's an odd way to start the film when all you really want to see is Rey and Leia's mountaintop meet.  What "The Last Jedi" does so magnificently though is create a familiar yet different vision of the series, no wonder Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy decided to hire Johnson to tackle a whole other trilogy after this one is complete.

Training with Luke, Rey uncovers mysteries and secrets from her past, most of which involve Kylo, and all of which won't be mentioned here. Luke, with tired-looking eyes, a scruffy beard, and a weary look from years of suffering, is the heart and soul of the film. Hamill, now 66-years-old, gives his all in this performance, it's a character that has stayed deep inside him for now four decades, a mythic creation by George Lucas which now belongs to him. He gives Skywalker subtext, substance and touching gravity. This is a fully-fleshed role for Hamill that far surpasses the likable but naive Luke of the original trilogy. He's aged, grown weary, skeptical, even uttering the phrase "The Jedi needs to die."

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Daisy Ridley makes Rey rank with the very best Star Wars character we've ever seen. The range and dynamics added to Rey here are potent and unforgettable. The chemistry between Hamill and Ridley is palpably electric, it's the heart and soul of the film, which, at times, suffers whenever they're not onscreen. However, a terrifically restrained performance from Adam Driver has us enthralled as his existential self-battle has him fighting off Snoke (Andy Serkis), his supreme leader and Rey, who attempts to lure him back to the good side. Oscar Isaac and Gwendoline Christie are not as involved in the storytelling as in "The Force Awakens," and all the better for that, they are the weakest characters of the film, even if, at times, they do serve the story well here and there with fist-pumping sequences.

"The Last Jedi" could not have been what it is without Rian Johnson. It's very clear he's a massive fan of Star Wars, and this film must have been a dream come true for him. The way his writing beautifully pulls every story strand together in the climax, and there are many characters to juggle here, is truly fascinating to watch. Then again, this is the guy that directed "Looper," a sci-fi mind-bender that has gained cult classic status over the years and he brings the same visual ingenuity to "The Last Jedi," this might just be the best directed, most beautiful-looking "Star Wars" movie since "The Empire Strikes Back."

"The Last Jedi" has a terrific finale that provides cathartic significance for not just Luke, but the fans themselves, who have devoted their time and energy for decades encompassing every character, every memorable line of dialogue into their lives. The fact that Johnson has made a film worthy to be added to the legend is a cause for celebration. Flaws and all, the risks that are taken in "The Last Jedi" make it time-capsule worthy. 

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