Tag Archives: Star Wars

iReview | STAR WARS The Rise of Skywalker

Promising to wrap up 40 years of storytelling, the latest episode is filled with startling revelations, larger than could be imagined space battles, travels to distant planets and beyond, ending with the return of a major villain determined to tip the scales of good versus evil!

Here we are! Some several generations later, after redefining the movie-going experience (not to mention the merchandising of a viable narrative) we’ve reached what the filmmakers are promising is the final, final arc one of the cinemas most long-running franchises. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker carries the epitomes privilege of chronicling itself as “Episode IX” of the story first realized on the screen in writer/director George Lucas’ Star Wars: A New Hope. Released in 1977 to a throng of fans that would sell out multiplexes and line-up for hours just for the opportunity to be transported to a galaxy far, far away.

According to Lucas, the cinematic saga was always meant to focus on the legacy of the Skywalker family. The Original Trilogy centered on the redemption of Darth Vader, whose son, Luke Skywalker (a farm boy turned legendary knight) never gave up on the good in his father, Anakin before becoming the evil Sith Lord Vader. The prequels, released near the start of the new millennium, would narrate the fall of Anakin, from wide-eyed youth through his early years as a hero of a galactic war, and 40 years later, the final trilogy would complete the circle. After having defeated the Empire, a new evil has risen to spread tyranny on a fragile republic, and once again the will of Skywalker is called upon.

Movie fans, especially fans of the established canon, had been convinced the story had been told. Even with the connective franchise supplementary series that surfaced including the animated Clone Wars and eventual Rebels stories, the tale of the heroes at the conclusion of Episode VI Return of the Jedi appeared to have come to its natural conclusion. George Lucas himself had even said that there would be “no” Episodes VII-IX. After Disney acquired Lucasfilm and in effect everything related to Star Wars the fate of the future of the film franchises was tossed asunder. Under the new management of longtime colleague Kathleen Kennedy, Star Wars would return.

Spoiler Alert!

So, you’ve been warned! This review will discuss some key moments of the latest addition Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.  After the tumultuous critical response of Episode VIII The Last Jedi the ringmaster responsible for re-energizing the “revival” with Episode VII The Force Awakens J. J. Abrams was brought in to practically retcon the entirety of that feature which was helmed by Rian Johnson. When Kennedy brought Johnson in for Episode VIII the filmmaker had looked at the notes provided by Abrams, and he asked if he could vier in a slightly different direction. With Kennedy’s blessing, the result was perhaps the most un-Star Wars movie of the entire series.

Not that there was anything wrong with that. Johnson introduced some very interesting ideas in The Last Jedi: a duplicitous third party that was possibly playing both sides of the fence, supplying weapons to the tyrannical First Order and the fledgling Resistance army battling the good fight. It also tore the new trilogy’s trinity into three separate storylines apart from one another, and the worse of it (by many fan standards) it turned Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) into an aging hermit; a cynic who was once considered the only hope left in the galaxy had run out of it entirely. In his place, the new Jedi apprentice Rey (Daisy Ridley) was set adrift on a course of uncertainty. 

In this Age of Immediacy, with the internet and social networking dominating the attention spans of the general  [buying] audience, especially the rabid fandom that has risen to inherit this franchise, there is something that becomes undoubtedly compromised. One of the benefits of the original trilogy was the natural evolution of the main trio of characters at the center of the narrative that is allowed to evolve. Luke, Leia, and Han are brought together in the first film and share in the adventure, eventually destroying the Empire’s ultimate weapon. In the sequel, the trio all start together but are set on separate paths that ultimately lead them to a dark place.

Cut to Episode IX, the trinity is seen united on screen sharing in an adventure for the first time; in the previous installments Rey, Finn and Poe are fighting their adversaries or are facing their challenge on separate fronts, but all on a trajectory heading in a similar direction. The first half of Episode IX feels the most nostalgic because its reminiscent of the bond that is built by the original heroes and is solidified as legendary by the time Luke, Leia and Lando infiltrate Jabba the Hutt’s palace on Tatooine to rescue the carbon encased Han Solo. They’re a band of heroes — a family — formidable and aware. They are a force to be reckoned with and the audience is happy to see them all together.

In Episode iX when Poe, Finn, and Rey follow the trail of the film’s MacGuffin — a “Wayfinder” a mystic device that will lead them straight to their force-sensitive quarry — the chemistry among them is evident, but it’s fair to understand that they hardly have known one another. These three young people that have faced crisis after crisis since embarking on freeing the galaxy from evil and teamed up with the Resistance led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) but haven’t the band of the original film’s paragons. It’s deficient, to say the least especially when the audience must have an investment in their journey.

As the adventure begins, the trio learns they must travel to a new planet in search of a prize. It’s a running gag through the scene. Finn (John Boyega) and Rey are caught completely unaware of Poe’s shady affairs before becoming an able fighter pilot in the Resistance, and Poe (Oscar Isaacs) is not comfortable with the intimate shorthand between Finn and Rey, or the possibility that they may be keeping secrets from him. It’s an interestingly different dynamic, and would have probably worked well in a “middle act” of a trilogy, but “Rise” is the conclusion of the story. This is the end of the line for our heroes and they are coming to the final moments of their journey together.

It’s a thrill to see them working together especially when they are forced to confront the villainous Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and his gang of thugs (that’s how I’ll describe) The Knights of Ren. Kylo reveals to Rey that she has a greater purpose to fulfill, and Rey isn’t prepared to listen until she unpredictably unleashes a new power that proves deadly. There is a very familiar enemy among them, one that may hold the key to Rey’s past — it would seem that the power-hungry Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) is still pulling the strings in the balance of the force, and it’s no surprise that he’s set his claws into Rey and Ren.

Return, Revenge, Rise, Rehash?

There is a nostalgic thrill and wonder in the return to Lucas’ galaxy. It hardly feels like we’ve left, especially given how there have been expanded escapades to this universe throughout its 40-year history, whether we’re discussing the prequels, animated adventures or the newly minted Original Series that are surfacing on Disney+. With every visit, the mythology has had an opportunity to grow and fire our imaginations. With the advent of the prequels, Lucas was able to complete (and in some cases begin) the journey of many of his original characters. Where these sequels have failed is in validating that the story wasn’t already come full circle.

Obviously, with Disney’s purchase of the Lucasfilm franchise, it needed to come out of the ballpark swinging, and the powers that be believed that the best way to capitalize on Star Wars was to give the fandom a continuation of the Skywalker legacy. If that was the case, then perhaps a little more time and care should have been devoted to bringing that idea to life, in much the same way that the other big Disney franchise, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, had shown great restraint in elaborating on its shared universe of Marvel superheroes in its decade of box office dominance. It feels especially with The Rise of Skywalker that the filmmakers [Kennedy, Abrams] just hit on the “beats”.

The tactic was extremely beneficial to audiences coming into The Force Awakens easing them back into a cinematic universe that they hadn’t been to in over 3 decades, but it was hardly necessary and oft time predictably executed. By the time that Kennedy recruited Rian Johnson for The Last Jedi that director appeared determined to upset the apple cart at whatever the cost, but with even less care for consequence. The divergent tactic of that installment threw everyone for a loop, and when Abrams was brought back into the fold, clearly in an effort to clean up the mess, it may have been a lot more sense to have put the pieces back together much slowly and not with due haste.

Star Wars | Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker feels like it was rushed, pieced together and not methodically thought out. Narratively there are many very interesting points, that had Abrams and his team focused on not tying up could have instead set in motion the next generation of characters that we’ve hardly gotten the time to know. Instead, the feature digs into “what has worked before” and played to those key points, checking off the boxes as we went. If George Lucas proved anything with his original saga and prequels, it’s that sometimes the unpredictable is far more interesting especially when it’s given to the telling from a certain point of view.

Rise is a rollercoaster — the kind that you’ve been on before and doesn’t recognize immediately, but when you realize that it’s just been refurbished and slightly retooled to freshen it up — it’s too late! You’ve committed and been exhilarated as if for the first time! You can recall what made the journey fun the first time and again you succumb to the nostalgia.

Star Wars | Episode IX | The Rise of Skywalker starring Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaacs and John Boyega directed by JJ Abrams is in theaters now. 


STAR WARS IX | JJ Abrams Wraps Filming

Principal photography on JJ Abrams next Star Wars adventure has ended, and now fans can’t wait to return to the epic space opera that is promising to tie up many of its predecessor’s loose ends!

With a single image filmmaker, JJ Abrams set imaginations and pulses racing announcing via his Twitter feed that principal photography on Star Wars Episode IX had wrapped. The new trilogy’s premiere cast including Daisy RidleyOscar Isaacs, and John Boyega were featured in the shot which had the trio clasped in a warm embrace, behind a desert landscape that will undoubtedly serve as the backdrop for a scene in the next, and final installment of what Abrams has deemed is the third act in longer “Skywalker” adventure.

Star Wars, of course, debuted to theatrical audiences in 1977, the brainchild of George Lucas has gone on to become one of the cinema’s most successful and lucrative franchises. In 2015, Disney bought Lucasfilms and directed Abrams to resuscitate the adventures in a galaxy, far, far awayStar Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens reunited many of the original cast, their first time back in more than 30 years. Though Abrams did not direct The Last Jedi the most recent installment, the director had remained close to the story and decided to take the helm for the finale.

Few details about the Episode IX have escaped into the realm of public consumption, fans are hopeful that it will be a gratifying end especially given that the passing of one of the franchise’s stars Carrie Fisher has left a significant void. The film’s most centrifugal figure Luke Skywalker, played by actor Mark Hamill returned in The Last Jedi and although had apparently met an end by the final act, the actor had been seen on set and even hinted through social networking posts that he will be returning for the next feature which has yet to reveal its official title.

The caption read… “It feels impossible, but today wrapped photography on Episode IX.”

UnBoxing | STAR WARS Hot Wheels Elite

The high-end line of die-cast replicas from one of the most revered toy makers elevates the most famous starships in the Star Wars franchise to all new levels of collectibility.

The House the Mouse Built may have put a stop plug on the further development of any new films after the less than stellar reception from the recent release of Solo: A Star Wars Story adventure, the reviews for the young Han Solo feature starring xx were mostly warm, but that may not have been enough to fill seats at the multiplex, though demand for merchandise from a galaxy far, far away continues to command attention from collectors.

Since the acquisition of the Lucasfilm property by Disney collectors have benefited from the connectivity to that company’s long-time standing merchandise agreements across all spectrums whether from leading toy licensing with Hasbro, which continues to produce a near infinite amount of action figures and play sets based on the starships populating the expanding universe, to highly detailed, scaled models by Revell.

With the growing collectability of die-cast replicas, Disney has partnered with Hot Wheels to bring to the adult collector an all-new experience with the Hot Wheels Elite Series featuring the most popular starships in the Star Wars universe including the Millennium Falcon, Imperial TIE Fighter and Rebel X-Wing Fighter. Each model expertly modeled and highly detailed, with magnetically linked attachments and display stand, solidly packaged for long-time storage between play.

Millenium Falcon

Hot Wheels Elite release of the “fastest ship in the fleet” and the pride and joy of the rogue spacer Han Solo is a fitting replica of the Millennium Falcon and is perhaps the most highly detailed given it’s size — from stem to stern the die-cast starship model measures near 6” in length and weighs in at about 1 lb. featuring magnetically adaptable parts including landing gear and covers for displaying the ship in flight simulation on its transparent stand.

The model also is accurately detailed and war-torn given the mileage put upon it by its owners. There is an option to display the Millennium Falcon as it appeared throughout its legendary battles from the Original Trilogy, or the collector can remove the classic circular radar dish, for the rectangular version that appears in the latest episodes since being reunited with Solo in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

Compared to other die-cast collectibles of this size the Hot Wheels Elite release of the Falcon is among one of the most perfectly detailed and scaled replicas of its kind. The topside is even featured with the familiar
quad-blaster canons used to defend the ship from enemy fire, and the cockpit can be magnetically released to reveal a glimpse of the ships infamous pilot and co-pilot at their stations at the flight controls.

Imperial TIE Fighter

Without a doubt the Imperial TIE Fighter is the most feared one-man assault craft in the galaxy. The Empire’s Navy is dependent on the oddly terrifying spherical killing machines are piloted by a single expert flyer, widely regarded as a singularly minded agent of destruction preparing the reign down chaos using the TIE Fighters twin precision blaster canons. Deployed from larger capital ships like Star Destroyers that carry a squadron of 72 TIE Fighters, the die-cast replica is great!

Particularly sturdy in its craftsmanship, the model is beautifully scaled and detailed; it’s fearsome solar panels captured and are strategically perched like a raptors wings. The model sits effortlessly on its display stand bearing the Imperial symbol of its allegiance and the top access panel opens to gather the tight compartment that houses the TIE pilot inside. The design and coloring of the ship is evocative of its appearance in the Original Trilogy and is a reminder of those space battles.

Also available as part of this line of collectible replicas is the Rebel X-Wing Fighter also from the Original Trilogy. The Hot Wheels Elite line of Star Wars collectibles kicks off its inaugural launch of the models with the most famous ships from the series. Given how quickly collectors are adding these to their shelves, hopefully Disney and Hot Wheels will be inspired to expand on the series and include replicas of the Imperial Star Destroyer and Rebel Blockade Runner as well.

Hot Wheels Elite featuring the ships from Star Wars are available now through Amazon.

Celebrating STAR WARS DAY 2018

How a rebellion in a galaxy far, far away influenced a generation and continues to inspire that spark!

In 1983, with a car full of kids, my mother determined to get us into a screening opening weekend of Return of the Jedi was driving all over New Jersey as I quietly and nervously sat in the passenger seat. It was the same everywhere we went! The long lines at the multiplexes all wrapped several times around the complexes and spilled into the parking lots — in many cases navigating through the parking lots, was an adventure all of its own, and whenever we pulled over to approach the box office, it was always the same — SOLD OUT! But what did we expect opening weekend of the (then) final episode in George Lucas’ Star Wars saga.

I was only 6 years old when the first chapter appeared in theaters. My parents were in the midst of a divorce and Star Wars was the last film we would see together as a family. I remember holding my dad’s hand as we navigated the all-but deserted mall making our way to the theater box office to purchase our tickets. I remember feeling sad, the mood was somber and no one — not my brother or either one of our parents were really speaking to one another. A cloud of uncertainty hovered over all of hearts, but that all changed when we entered the darkened movie house and took our seats. The minute that the 20th Century Fox fanfare began to play and the dramatic title appeared on the screen, my entire life changed.

I knew almost immediately, whatever upheaval as a family we were about to experience, whatever form of adversity would creep into our lives, we were going to be fine. If Luke Skywalker, a farm boy from a desert planet on the Outer Rim could take on an Empire, so could I! A minute before the film started my world appeared to be coming to an end, and now my entire universe was exploding with possibilities. The world created by George Lucas would have an immeasurable influence on me, and would continue through to my adulthood often allowing me to access my most fond memories; the ones that I treasure and protect from my childhood. The ones that inevitably shape me and inspire me as a creative.

Cut back to 1983, and the day had turned into dusk and my disappointment had reached a level of relenting. I was feeling so badly for my mother, who had spent the day behind the wheel — her entire Saturday spent driving onto freeways and into main streets facing the same disappointment time after time. On the verge of giving in to the situation, I remember finding a tiny theater in a tiny suburb somewhere in New Jersey. The Star Wars: Return of the Jedi dominating the marquee of theater still visible peaking through the tree limbs that decorated the front of the house. The lights had just come on as the sky above us darkened, as my mother put the car into the parking position, turned to us in the car and said: “Wait here!”

From our double-parked position in the parking lot, I could see her heading toward the box office. There were no lines outside as theater goers made there way into the main lobby. I watched her nervously engaging in a discussing with the attendant inside the ticket booth, and just as quickly I watched her making her way back to us in the car. Certainly the show was sold out like all the previous stops we made and there was no indication on my mother’s face that this was any different. My mother opened the car door and slid into the driver’s seat, — my eyes trained on her hoping to read her expression — and as she put the car into drive and slid into a parking space…

…after spending an entire day in the vehicle, it didn’t even register on me that the engine had come to halt, all I heard was the moment my mom turned to me and said: “Let’s go!” I don’t remember walking out of the car, I don’t recall entering the theater lobby, It’s all a blur up until the moment that I took my aisle seat in the center of the house, my hands on a bucket of pop corn, and as the lights went down and the 20th Century Fox fanfare began — in the second before John Williams’ musical score would fill my head, my mother whispered in my ear…

“I hope it’s everything that you want it to be.” She kissed me on the head, the familiar soaring score began and immediately I was transported. Two and half hours later, I sobbed uncontrollably as the credits rolled across the screen, and I turned to my mom, and I said: “It was.” …And I couldn’t ever have loved her more.

Although my mom has since passed and I couldn’t today share this moment with her, The Force is still with me, and so is that memory, forever made more special wrapped in the love of my mother.

May the Fourth Be With You, too.

iEditorial | Why THE LAST JEDI Matters

With the expanding adventures of a galaxy far, far away continuing to draw audiences to the multiplex, there’s a reason Rogue One and The Last Jedi are a significantly important part of the Star Wars mythology.

Not since George Lucas’ prequels has a Star Wars film created so much controversy especially amongst the fandom, but with the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi the latest chapter in the growing narrative written and directed by Rian Johnson the filmmaker has given faithful fans an entirely new reason to scratch their heads, and this time we can’t put the blame of Lucas’ inflated overbearing sense. It was after all the creator of the Star Wars saga that decided to revisit his classic original trilogy with a revisited “Special Edition” before returning with new material.

The revisioning gave the creator the inspiration to return to the galaxy of Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, but his hope was to fully flesh out the backstory of the film’s ardent villain Darth Vader, who by the end of the Episode VI was on a road to redemption. For Lucas the character’s path into darkness would lay the ground work for the prequel films. With the technology finally entering into an age that would give Lucas the opportunity to manipulate his story, it was open season for him to tell the tale of Anakin Skywalker’s decent into the Dark Side.

If you ask Lucas, he would tell you had always every intention of telling that story; in fact, the story goes that Lucas had always intended for the story of Star Wars to actually be told over the course of nine episodes. After he completed work on the “special editions” and the prequels, Lucas decided that he was in fact, done — and a new generation inherited the franchise. Eventually the narrative extended to The Clone Wars animated series and its follow-up Rebels, but as Lucas handed over the reigns, a demand for more Star Wars would become inevitable.

The continuing adventures…

When Disney purchased the Star Wars empire from Lucas, it went into production immediately on a “new trilogy” — a follow-up to the adventures of Luke Skywalker revealing what had happened to the heroes following the destruction of the second Death Star and the redemption of Darth Vader. Unfortunately, it didn’t all turn out so great, at least not in the way that fans had anticipated. Responsible for reigniting interest in the Star Trek franchise with the 2009 reboot, director J. J. Abrams was recruited to return movie audiences to the Star Wars universe.

Intuitively Abrams was well aware that unlike Star Trek he couldn’t simply recast the original actors and continue to tell the story. Instead the introduction of a new generation of players would be pivotal as the characters that survived the Battle of Endor had gone on with their lives and aged 30 years. The battle was won, but out of the ashes of the evil Empire emerged a remnant force that proved every bit as dangerous in The First Order. The rebellion was done, but the Resistance was now the determinant agency dedicated to restoring freedom to the galaxy.

With Star Wars: The Force Awakens Abrams reminded audiences of what it was that made them fall in love with Star Wars in the first place. The beats of the film were pretty much the same, and with the exception of sacrificing Han Solo, giving the film its most emotional resonance, The Force Awakens was the hope that fans had imagined it would be. Gareth Edwards was tasked with the most challenging part, delivering the first stand-alone story and delivered Rogue One an untold tale and stand-alone that connects right into A New Hope — and it was really good.

Then there’s The Last Jedi

On the latest film director Rian Johnson performed double duty, having written the story and directed the feature, a daunting task indeed for any filmmaker, especially one coming into a franchise of this magnitude. For Star Wars: The Last Jedi Johnson chose to break convention with any expectations and deliver a decidedly different Star Wars film, one not unlike the prequel world that Lucas had ventured into where not everything was orderly or transparent. Where some things just didn’t add up, and perhaps for a reason.

In The Last Jedi Luke Skywalker has isolated himself on an alien planet hidden from prying eyes, but one that is centrifugal to the legacy of the Jedi Knights, and from here he puts Rey on a path — asking the force-sensitive youth to grab her things and go! From here Rey finds that she has a unique connectivity to the Force and links with her rival Kylo Ren. The pair are so powerful they take down the Supreme Leader Snoke, living everyone to wonder what Snoke was in the first place. The rebellion is reborn and in the end, it is Skywalker that gives the heroes the hope to survive.

At the end of The Last Jedi the rebellion lives to fight another day, the First Order is left in much disarray and Johnson has thrown a curveball, expanding the world of the galaxy far, far away and laying the ground work for what’s yet to come. There’s a lot of unraveling that occurs in The Last Jedi some storyline oddities that appear to be major hurdles for Abrams who will be working on Episode IX to face, but whether it’s coherent or not, it’s the “middle story” and therefore the necessary transition by which the next trilogy will find its conclusion.

That’s why it matters.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is available now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD.

iReview | STAR WARS The Last Jedi

The continuing adventures of a galaxy far, far away are finally coming to a Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD – Star Wars: The Last Jedi proves the most complex chapter in the ongoing saga that is the Skywalker legacy.

With the Force now awakened, STAR WARS: The Last Jedi the next chapter in the new trilogy is perhaps the most controversial narrative in the continuing adventures. As the galaxy races against time a mounting Resistance emerges to prevent the tightening totalitarian grip of the evil First Order from suffocating all that is good and right! After Disney purchased the franchise from its creator George Lucas, filmmaker J. J. Abrams was given the daunting task of reigniting the continuing saga, and went to work immediately to expanded on the universe.

In The Force Awakens Abrams introduced a new generation of heroes, the original trilogy’s cast was there too, but as a new threat to the galaxy emerges, the First Order, the Rebellion that defeated the Empire and destroyed their tyranny with the destruction of the second Death Star, has been mounting a new Resistance to stop this evil from taking root. Lead by the legendary might of General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) her ragtag group strike from hidden bases, but the First Order is growing and use a new super-weapon to destroy the New Republic.

It becomes apparent to the Resistance that if they are to defeat The First Order they must seek out Jedi Master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who must once again inspire them with renewed hope. The search for Skywalker is only the beginning for a lonely young woman on a journey of discovery, Rey (Daisy Ridley) who along with her companion, First Order defector Finn (John Boyega) and the astromech droid BB-8 begin an adventure that reunites them with the ill-fated Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and his trustee co-pilot Chewbacca.

Episode VII which sets in motion the events for this new trilogy, also introduced Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) who is the Force-wielding son of Leia and Han once known as Ben Solo. Luke Skywalker attempts to train his nephew, but loses him to the Dark Side. Rey is able to best Ren in combat as her own Force powers begin to surface, but she needs the self-exiled Luke Skywalker to help her. Once Kylo Ren mercilessly murders his own father, his path into the Dark Side becomes nearly complete, but Rey feels the conflict within him and is convinced she can save him.

After destroying Starkiller Base, The First Order’s weapon of mass destruction, the Resistance regroups, and Leia sends Rey to seek out Luke Skywalker with a map that will lead her right to him, but will Rey be able to bring the Jedi Master back into the fold, to rejoin the fight?

…in a galaxy far, far away.

Fans had waited nearly 40 years to see their favorite Rebel heroes back together! Although Abrams had sacrificed the rogue spacer Han Solo appropriately in the final act of his film; Harrison Ford had always expressed a desire to have his character meet a heroic end. Hoping to save the soul of his son, who is on the brink of complete corruption, Han exposes his vulnerability and pays the price. Abrams passed on directing the next installment and Kathleen Kennedy sought out Rian Johnson to both write and direct Star Wars: The Last Jedi the next chapter in the ongoing saga.

The filmmaker took a decidedly risky approach to expanding the universe, by elaborately deconstructing much of what Abrams had engineered to reestablish. The most obvious course for Johnson was to focus his attention on the new generation of characters specifically Rey and Kylo Ren whose fates appear intertwined. After Rey finds Luke Skywalker, the Jedi Master doesn’t live up to her expectations. Instead of a Rebel hero, she finds a cynical isolationist, who has lost the will to fight and is instead resigned to let the Jedi Order end.

Sensing the conflict within Kylo Ren, Rey uncovers secrets about the relationship between student and apprentice and the incident that leads to both their downfalls. Fearing that he’s failed his nephew as the evil influence of The First Order’s Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) Begins to take over the young Ben Solo, Luke feels he has no other alternative but to strike Ben down! The attempt delivers Ben Solo, now Kylo Ren right into the hands of Snoke, who sets his new apprentice on the path once traversed by his own grandfather Darth Vader.

For much of The Last Jedi the Resistance are at the relentless mercy of the seemingly unstoppable First Order and the advancing fleet that is slowly picking off each one of their vessels one by one. It seems foolhardy to say the least that the impressively powerful navy of the First Order doesn’t simply dispatch auxiliary ships to descend on the Resistance, giving the willful rebels an opportunity to strategize an action plan to make haste their escape. Dispatching Finn (Boyega) to the casino planet Canto Bight manufactures an opportunity to revisit a Star Wars trope indeed.

The film feels the most alien and not just because Johnson has created an entirely new world with Canto Bight, but introduced the idea of a corrupt capitalism and profiteering from war. The lines between who is good and who is bad are blurred, and even the question of whether the Jedi are necessary is questionable. These aren’t all-too new ideas within this universe, but it is the first time that they are so dynamically portrayed inside the narrative — and it is unexpected. As in The Empire Strikes Back, at the end of The Last Jedi there is a significant amount of loss.

The Resistance is decimated and ultimately make their escape aboard the Millennium Falcon; in effect all the remaining fighters fit within the smuggling ship’s seating area. Perhaps the most difficult pill to swallow is the uncharacteristic interpretation of Luke Skywalker; the actor himself, Mark Hamill had been very vocal about how disappointed he was with how the one-time Rebel hero and Jedi Knight was portrayed in what is obviously his last film. Johnson stood by his decision, even though Hamill protested. Whether it will ultimately serve the final act, has yet to be seen.

The most astounding aspect of the film is the complex relationship that is developing between Rey and Kylo Ren. How that is going to play out is still to be determined, and even now J. J. Abrams is figuring out what course to set with Episode IX, whether there is time to course correct will be determined by how much of Episode VIII, he intends to stick with; seeing as how much Johnson retconned to meet his own ends, will Star Wars Episode IX be something as obscure as The Last Jedi? Will The Force be with it?

The Blu-ray bonus features include several deleted scenes that fill out key action sequences, including pertinent dialogue that would have helped give Finn a little more bite not to mention a powerfully much more potent moment with First Order military Captain Phasma. The package also includes a specially produced documentary on the filmmaking process from Rian Johnson’s perspective that gives detailed insight to his process.

STAR WARS Episode VIII: The Last Jedi is directed by Rian Johnson and available now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD.