So this is it! We’ve looked through all eight of the previous films in the Star Wars saga and finally arrived at the much anticipated Last Jedi. Hope you’ve enjoyed the journey and like the following review!
RELEASED: December 15th 2017
DIRECTED BY: Rian Johnson
WRITTEN BY: Rian Johnson
PRODUCED BY: Ram Bergman & Kathleen Kennedy
MUSIC BY: John Williams
STARRING: Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Carrie Fisher, Peter Mayhew, Kelly Marie Tran, Domhnall Gleeson, Gwendoline Christie, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, Laura Dern & Benicio del Toro
Compared to The Force Awakens, this film is phenomenal. Compared to most Star Wars films, this film is phenomenal. Is it one of the best Star Wars films ever? Maybe. It’s definitely one of the most original (and that’s what I’m all about).
The story is one of survival. Fresh off the heels of destroying Starkiller Base, the Resistance is forced into a hasty retreat as the fleets of the First Order find them. As Poe and Leia clash about the best way to survive, Finn and newcomer Rose hatch a plan to keep the First Order off their trail, while Rey ventures to the faraway Ahch-To to confront former Jedi Master Luke Skywalker, learn the ways of the Force and recruit him to the Resistance’s plight.
So yeah, there’s a lot going on.
When you really think about it, the story is quite small scale. In-universe, it only covers about a day or two, and the majority of the story is focused around the Resistance being pursued by the First Order. Each character’s plot relates to this in some way, and the relatively small scale means that the film can instead focus on character and who these people really are.
Don’t get me wrong, there are sill bombastic space battles and exhilarating lightsaber fights, but the reason this film really succeeds is because instead of focusing on that stuff, it takes a more thoughtful, personal route to its final destination.
If you weren’t fully invested in characters in The Force Awakens, then here you’ll see each of them bare their souls, and you’ll really understand who they all are, new and old, for better or for worse. The biggest surprise in that regard is that two of the truly central characters to the story are Poe and Hux; they are much more prominent and important to the story than, say, Force Awakens star Finn. Finn’s there too, and he is very important, but he spends a chunk of this film on a side-mission that isn’t neccessarily as interesting as the plots of Rey, Poe and Kylo Ren. It’s still very emotional though, and like all of the story arcs here, the events and the examinations of each character make you truly feel for them, and, more importantly, fear for them, when their lives are in danger. Even with new characters, like sisters Rose and Paige Tico, despite being new to the franchise, they’re embedded with so much emotion and heart. Great additions, both.
Perhaps the reason that Finn and Rose’ story doesn’t seem quite as interesting is because the stories of the Force wielders in this film are truly outstanding.
Mark Hamill delivers his best Luke Skywalker ever. It’s definitely a very different Luke Skywalker, but one that, when you come to understand his story, you can’t help but empathise with. He’s damaged goods. And Mark Hamill portrays both that weariness and wariness excellently. And, on top of that, he shows multiple sides to the character that we haven’t seen, such as gruff and witty Luke Skywalker. He may have been the cast member/character I found to be the funniest. His timing, both comedic and otherwise, is perfect. Similarly, Carrie Fisher really ups her game from The Force Awakens. It’s not that she was bad in that film, she just didn’t really have much to do. But here, she’s front and centre in the action, and she shines in every bit of it. Furthermore, when she and Luke are finally reunited (I don’t really think that’s a spoiler, if it didn’t happen in this film there would be mass outrage), it’s one of the most emotional moments in all of Star Wars. I was getting teary, for sure. Is that in part because this is the last time we’ll see Fisher on screen? Perhaps. But it was damn good acting nonetheless. A beautiful final performance.
Similarly, Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver seem like amazing choices to lead this franchise going forward. Johnson understands the natural destinations of these characters, and doesn’t hold anything back in showing us their journeys. I have to admit, while Ridley was good, in some of her scenes she can be overshadowed by the fact audiences are clamouring for more Hamill/Luke, but there are no such problems when it comes to watching the Kylo Ren-focused scenes. Once again, Driver gives it his all, and is perhaps more terrifying, yet understandable than he was in The Force Awakens.
Those of you who worry that the film may once again be an updated version of one of the older Star Wars films (like walker battles and Jedi training in Empire) there is a bit of that, but it’s more in the vein that George Lucas intended, with his whole ‘It’s like poetry, it rhymes’. It has elements of the Original Trilogy, but Johnson either subverts those elements or expands on them in interesting ways. The Force is the main topic of exploration, obviously, and it’s the way it’s used and the messages we get about it that makes it so unique from Empire. As one character says in the film, it’s not just about ‘lifting rocks’, there’s so much more to it. It’s used in some very interesting ways here and I’m excited to see the film again so I can really take it all in.
This is especially true because of Johnson’s incredible visuals. Like Empire took what was built in Star Wars and expanded on it, Last Jedi takes all the great visuals, flora and fauna in The Force Awakens, and makes it more spectacular. There are more interesting and unique creatures in this film than in a lot of it’s predecessors, and the new locations created for this movie are fantastic.
And then, of course, there’s that great John Williams score. Beautifully touching, with the perfect mix of new and old.
My favourite review snippet of The Force Awakens is by Stephanie Zacharek, TIME Magazine, in which she says:
“Somewhere along the way, Abrams begins delivering everything we expect, as opposed to those nebulous wonders we didn’t know we wanted.”
As I reflected on the things I didn’t like in the film, I thought of this quote, and realised that in The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson has done the exact opposite, delivering things you don’t expect (although some, you do) alongside all the nebulous wonders you didn’t know you wanted (although it may take you a while to realise – you’ll understand what I mean when you see the film).
All-in-all, I give it: