Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2018)
Directed by: Rian Johnson
Written by: Rian Johnson
Starring: Adam Driver, Benicio Del Toro, Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, Domhnall Gleeson, John Boyega, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Mark Hamill, Oscar Isaac
What is it all about?
Rey develops her newly discovered abilities with the guidance of Luke Skywalker, who is unsettled by the strength of her powers. Meanwhile, the Resistance prepares to do battle with the First Order.
There is nothing that beats that feeling when you are sitting in a dark cinema and the Lucasfilm logo disappears from the screen and the caption “In a galaxy far far away” appears before the infamous music blares out around you. For me personally, it strokes the feeling of my childhood from within as for a brief moment, I feel 10 years old again, heading into a universe that I know and love. At the same time though, I am worried, as the memory of The Phantom Menace lingers around my head, a prequel that managed to get me to giddy heights beforehand, but left me soul searching and totally destroyed by the end!
The Force Awakens threw back much of my love for everything Skywalker, even though on repeated watch, it really offers nothing new and is basically a soft reboot that shamefully sweeps you away with nostalgia, but despite many fans beginning to turn their noses up to it since its release I stand by the fact that it did the job that was required. A joyful ride that showed you that there was still potential in a Star Wars film that thankfully had no “I don’t like sand!” dialogue anywhere near it!
The Last Jedi arrives then with much expectation. Now that we have got rid of the backstory and the introduction of the new characters, it was time for the story to settle and expand what was set out in the last film! Where were were? Ah yes! After seeing their Starkiller base destroyed by the resistance, The First Order were out for revenge and we had left Rey ( Daisy Ridley) on top of a mountain, holding out that Lightsaber to a much older Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill).
The film wastes no time in getting straight into the action, with an opening battle that will leave you swept away in the vast space. With a clearly out of his depth General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) leading the bad guys and with the new Han Solo, Poe (Oscar Issac) flying around outside with BB-8 by his side, we are rocketed back into a story line that makes you question as it really been two years since we were here? That alone perhaps shows the one strength The Force Awakens had that many have missed. That new characters like Poe now feel like established characters and BB-8 is now just as important as the likes of C3P0 and R2D2 who are ingrained in Star Wars lore!
The opening battle is exciting and thrilling, especially more so with General Leia running things for the Resistance, a poignant theme of sadness runs throughout each scene, every time the late Carrie Fisher appears. The trouble with a running time of 152 minutes is that its the first of many similar numerous set-pieces that may leave you thinking “What? yet another one!” but then the film’s title is called Star Wars, so why am I complaining that the film offers so many?
Director Rian Johnson who has been given the keys to create a whole new trilogy after this story wraps, manages to get many things right here. Those who are worried that he may follow the JJ Abrams approach and just remake Empire Strikes Back, will probably feel quite justified as at times The Last Jedi really does have similar beats to not only that film, but also Return Of The Jedi, and die hard fans will no doubt bemoan over this approach. But any criticism will be unfair because while nostalgia once more plays a role in this film, Johnson also has the confidence to go into a different direction and expand what we thought we knew.
All those theories and fans speculation over the last 24 months are swept aside as everything you think may happen, goes into a total direction. Yes, that scene may remind you of Yoda and Luke, or even Darth Vader and The Emperor, but then its followed by a total unexpected path, which at times is full of darkness that you can only applaud Johnson for giving fans what they want, but then pulling the rug from under them.
The heartbeat of the film is at its strongest when its centred around Rey, Luke and Kylo Ren (a fantastic Adam Driver who is really growing into this role). The film actually lowers in quality when it switches from this central core as the three bounce off each other to such wonderful effect! Kylo is clearly a confused young man who is lost in this world and Luke is clearly full of guilt for failing in his duties as Jedi master. Rey is stuck in the middle, a woman who is thrown into this battle while fighting demons of her own. Its amazing that a franchise most noted for lightsaber action is at its strongest when the theme turns to loss and the consequences of our actions, because Star Wars is not known for deep storytelling but somehow, within the familiar traits, there is a darkness that threatens to overtake the kid friendly action and you know what? Its a joy!
But at the same time, this is the first film in the franchise where there is a genuine attempt of humour and not in a subtle way either! Throughout there are tiny set-pieces and dialogue that brought howls of laughter in my cinema. I was quite taken aback at the approach, some of it works, some of it doesn’t, but I suppose within the darkness there has to be light and there is one moment where I did chuckle for a good few minutes, long after the scene was played out!
The Last Jedi is far from perfect! There are one or two set-pieces that could easily have been trimmed or even cut, the middle section sags thanks to a needless story line that feels out of place and sort of echoed the dreaded Phantom Menace and while Finn (John Boyega) was up battling in the forefront in the last film, he feels quite sidestepped here even though his interactions with newcomer Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) is a charming delight!
Also if you look past the seducing space battles and glorious cinematography – and believe me, the film looks gorgeous, just keep an eye out on tiny small details at the background – The Last Jedi doesn’t really move the story along for some certain characters. It kind of reminded me of the latest season of The Walking Dead (am I really mentioning that in a Star Wars review?), in that in between the fighting and the chaos, nothing is happening to develop some character arcs that we surely expected to have started to move forward by now, but then the characters that do manage to have a development, trust me, you’ll be richly awarded!
There are some odd directions in the story line that will no doubt cause debate for years! Some I was deeply frustrated with, others I thought was outstanding and the film on many occasions felt like an end of a trilogy and not the middle part, something which you’ll understand once you’ve seen it. There are some great surprises that Lucasfilm and Disney have done well to keep quiet (again, watch and you’ll understand) and the lightsaber action still rocks the action genre even after all this years.
Every Star Wars fan hopes that the next entry is not a disaster so its pleasing to say that The Last Jedi is a satisfactory entry in the franchise! For the adults alone, it offers enough surprises to have you shaking your head in disbelief, does it work? Only you can decide that as we have already spoke in the HCF Office in how divisive this film will become!
For the kids watching, the final scene sums it up perfectly. This is nothing more than a children’s film, a clean sweep of a broom to an open world of space and beyond, where Good Vs Evil rages in a battle of Spaceships. Kids will look up to the stars in hope and a huge smile on their face, while us adults will be thankful for one tiny thing…..
The Porgs are sooooo much better than those damn Ewoks! (and much more cute)
RIP CARRIE FISHER 1956 – 2016