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‘The Last Jedi’ is the best Star Wars since the empire struck back

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” has a little something for everyone.

For action fans, plenty of battles scenes; mostly, but not all in space. For inspiration seekers, lots of talk about the meaning of The Force. For nostalgists, many cast members of the original trilogy, including Princess (now General) Leia, R2D2, C3PO, Chewbacca, and of course, Luke Skywalker. For the kids, imaginary animals are so cute they’ll keep toy stores busy for a long while.

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And for those who appreciate a little psychological depth in their Star Wars universe, many key characters, both heroes and villains, find themselves quite conflicted. The various relationships between them are often fraught with uncertainty and danger.

Throw in some eye-popping special effects, a little dash of humor, and even more culturally diverse casting, and you have a Star Wars entry that tries to be all things to all people. And remarkably, it all works.

After a lively opening battle in space between the evil First Order fleet and the guerilla-style Resistance fighters, this Episode 8 begins right where Episode 7 left off — with our heroine Rey meeting an aged Luke Skywalker on the cliffs of an isolated island.

“It’s time for the Jedi to end.”

That’s Luke’s surprising response to Rey’s request that he return to help the flailing Resistance. It sets up a challenging dynamic between the grizzled, disillusioned Jedi and an eager, determined Jedi-wannabe.

“I’ve seen this raw strength only once before. It didn’t scare me enough then. It does now.”

“Kylo failed you. I won’t.”

The stand-off between Luke and Rey is just one of many character-defining confrontations. Rey, for instance, has a series of equally charged showdowns with the dark side’s Kylo Ren. And Kylo Ren has his own separate issues.

“Let the past die. That’s the only way to become what you’re meant to be.”

“Darkness rises and light to meet it.”

Ren not only has to hold off pressures from the evil leader Snoke and the insidious General Hux, he must also face down Luke, his mentor that he may, or may not, have betrayed.

All these heavy-duty character studies are doled out judiciously, so as not to bog down the action. Between the exploits of the daredevil pilot Poe Dameron, and the escapades of ex-Stormtrooper Finn and a Resistance mechanic named Rose, the movie has no shortage of energizing action sequences.

But what sets “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” apart are those character depth charges. Much like how Darth Vader’s revelation to Luke Skywalker in “The Empire Strikes Back” deepens the way we see both Darth and Luke, this latest episode deepens our understanding of Rey, Kylo Ren, and especially Luke. And that goes a long way toward explaining why ‘The Last Jedi” is the best Star Wars movie since the empire struck back a long, long time ago.

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