Space age megalomaniacs with ingenious mechanical marvels and fancy ancient titles, from The First Order to Supreme Leader – facing off against a dwindling resistance, the Rebellion, with odds stacked heavily against the good guys, making for an exciting roller coaster ride of things blowing up, spaceships digitally disappearing and re-appearing at will, with deep colors drenching the screen in a variety of shades. Welcome to the very precise re-shaping of the Star Wars legacy courtesy of the Walt Disney Corporation, a dark, desperate saga that hits the home run the fan base and the general public are both looking for.
The film is a thrilling, looming monster, and that’s a monster in a good way.
This is a film about the grandson of Darth Vader, and given that there’s no James Earl Jones or Alec Guinness, it is the legacy of the film that sustains the magic featuring the established stars in the series. Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher are, naturally, front and center – their last time together unless computer-generated imagery comes into play for future episodes. Keep in mind that Hamill was 26 when STAR WARS: A New Hope launched in 1977, which makes him 66 as of this writing (December 12, 2017.) The late Carrie Fisher was sixty and two months when she passed December 27, 2016, and that they – along with 71 year old Anthony Daniels (C-3PO,) 73 year old Peter Mayhew as Chebacca, the Millennium Falcon and R2-D2 …and Yoda…are the last remnants of the rebellious first initiates makes for an intriguing passing of the torch to the new personalities being established in the Star Wars canon. Kenny Baker, the original R2-D2, passed in August of 2016, four months before Fisher, and in The Last Jedi Jimmy Vee replaces Baker. Vee is known for performing as Gringott’s Goblin in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone as well as some Dr. Who characters. Nice to keep the fantasy/science fiction fans happy with their treasured heritage.
Rather than bringing in too many larger-than-life stars as Lucas did with Christopher Lee in the prequels, we have Laura Dern (the original Jurassic Park, 1993) playing Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo as well as Joseph Gordon-Leavitt’s voice somewhere in the film. As with Carrie Fisher, Dern’s parents were in the movies while Gordon-Leavitt was a child star, so there is film history in their DNA, but the point is that it is the Star Wars machine itself that is the bright light that all involved get to follow.
There are some historical “Easter eggs,” if you will, from both real life and the film world, as Supreme Leader Snoke channels former Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen’s immortal JFK line to Dan Quayle: “You’re no Vader, you’re just a child in a mask.”
(“Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy” was a remark made during the 1988 United States vice-presidential debate by Democratic vice-presidential candidate Senator Lloyd Bentsen)
And yes, Andy Serkis is a big star from The Hobbitt, The Lord of the Rings, Ulysses Klaue in the Avengers, Caesar in the Planet of the Apes films, so my comment about not having huge names to keep the fires burning is arguable and welcomes debate, fans of Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac and the rest of Star Wars: The Next Generation. The Easter eggs continue with references to the Matrix and Keanu Reeves – Maz Kanata, the magical little female creature with the glasses, channeling the Oracle from the Matrix with her words, the Rebellion pushed smack dab into the middle of Zion. It could not be any more obvious under Rian Johnson’s direction and script, and it is more intentional science fiction crossover fun than any kind of plagiarism. Heck, in the original Independence Day Bill Pullman gives an exact quote from C-3PO to Brett Spiner of The Next Generation “Exciting is hardly a word I would choose to describe it.” Sci-Fi fans love the nuances tucked in to other films, the trading-card thread that keeps the ball rolling… in a good way.