There’s a delicate balance in the force, between light and darkness. That eternal push and pull of the forces that causes one to go to the light side or the dark. That same push and pull exists in films, and movies can sometimes give into their worst impulses. Luckily for viewers of the newest Star Wars film, they don’t have to worry about the new trilogy falling to the dark side. Star Wars: The Last Jedi is one of the most ambitious films of the year not just in terms of sheer scope, but in theme and character. The movie feels like both a rbuke of the legendary status the movies have accrued and a celebration of the inspiration and fun they’ve given millions of people. Watching this film was a thrilling and stressful experience, as all good adventure space operas should be.

As the title suggests, things don’t look particularly great for our heroes or the order that inspires them. Rey has found Luke Skywalker, though he seems loathe to help having gone to the island far away to die. Meanwhile, the Resistance is struggling something fierce having taken immense losses and seem to be on the verge of getting smote out by the First Order if they can’t gain an advantage of have Luke jump into the fray. Our heroes are joined by some new blood, namely Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), who help bolster them. But as everyone appears to be on a collision course with their destiny and each other, the fate of the galaxy will be forever changed.

If you go way back in the Awards Circuit Power Hour podcast library, you’ll remember that when this new trilogy was announced, I immediately suggested that Rian Johnson should be a director that the franchise should take a chance on. How wonderful to be rewarded in my faith! Rian has a command of the camera and actors, such that I was on the edge of my seat the entire film and no matter the inevitability of a character’s storyline, he kept me grounded in the present. Whether it’s staging immense space battles or helping actors find new ground in their characters, Rian is such an wonderful director and writer.

The movie does so many things exceptioanlly well that it almost seems bad to talk about those elements that don’t work, but talk about them we must. This is the longest Star Wars movie ever made and while there is enough to keep you going to the end, there are some lulls in the story. The lulls are mainly centered around the various character team ups and potential shipping moments. It’s in these situations that Rian slips a bit, making the camera, and thus the story, linger where it doesn’t or shouldn’t need to. I got a little fed up by it to be honest, though it’s not entirely his fault the cast seems to have chemistry. More than just the simple editing to appease shippers on tumblr, the movie just has so much story to cover and while the individual pieces can be interesting, the movie does struggle to hold tight to it’s reins in the middle of the picture.

However, the performances given in the movie are so worn in that even when your attention diverts, they bring you right back. I was pleasantly surprised at how this new generation (Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, Dohmnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, and the aforementioned Tran) have sewn themselves into the fabric of the world with their characters. Each provides an indelible view of the new landscape and it’s simply awesome to watch them hang with the old pros like Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill.

The franchise covers a lot of ground in this film but it manages to be be a great self-contained story and the perfect set up for a thrilling finale.