The more things change, they more they stay the same. It’s been forty years since the world was introduced to the first Star Wars film. The recent release of “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” builds on all the essential elements that have created this billion-dollar cultural phenomenon.

Don’t miss this film if you want to be part of pertinent movie conversations over the next few months. Don’t wait and settle for a small screen viewing; see it in a theater for full, glorious effects. Even if you’re not a die-hard “Star Wars” fan, you’ll find something meaningful in the bigness of the experience.

Of epic proportions in every sense of the word, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” delivers spell-binding battles of good and evil; complex characters with established relationships and histories; an immense, cosmic setting; and at its very core, and an essential moral philosophy.

In spite of the intricate plots laced with prequels and sequels, legions of characters, both android and human, and battles fought on every landscape the imagination can conjure, at its core, “Star Wars” ultimately asks what it means to be human. Why are we here? What does it all mean?

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” forces contrasts between good and evil, between dark and light, between love and hate. We’re reminded that a fall into evil from the precipice of good can be a short leap, indeed. Witness Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), whose very bloodlines literally blend the epitomes of good and evil. He faces the thorny business that destiny, no matter what, will be shaped by our own free will. Gray is the color of the universe’s moral center, not black and white.

The reunion scene of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and his sister Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) brings things full circle. Princess Leia has proven her skywalker credentials when she returns to life after being blown into deep space. As the “last Jedi,” Luke arrives from his self-imposed hermitage at the behest of the new great hope of the Resistance, Rey (Daisy Ridley). Luke’s return to fight comes with great reluctance given the enormity of the task and the waning strength of the Resistance. He returns on his own terms. Rey provides energy anew that will be essential in the fight to combat the evil forces.

At the end of the film, just before the credits, watch for the touching dedication to Carrie Fisher: “In loving memory of our princess.” All of Fisher’s important scenes had been shot before her untimely death last year. In the film, her character returns to life, so there’s something enigmatic about seeing Fisher in this role, in being reminded that in this case, life mirrors art. 

Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence.

Marilyn Robitaille has been writing film reviews since 1999.