Review – Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi

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Woo.

Trailer

Two years on from Star Wars’ rip-roaring return to cinematic screens, we’re back again. There is little in the way of pre-amble that I can voice here without just repeating myself. It’s Star Wars, the biggest entertainment franchise in the history of entertainment. The Force Awakens, while laden with an acute respect for what came before, was a great way of reinvigorating the story of a long time ago and a galaxy far, far, away, introducing a quartet of great new characters, passing the torch in a manner that boded great things for the future.

Well, the future is now. Rogue One kept the hype-train moving steadily along, but this is the central saga, where Star Wars lives or dies. Rian Johnson was the man tasked with the responsibility this time around, and he has a hell of a task on his hands: a veritable mountain of characters to include, legacies to protect, and a plot-line to expand, with all-too-inevitable comparison to The Empire Strikes Back – the middle-film of a franchise that turned out to be the best one – sure to dog his heels. And we can’t forget that the film operates as an automatic tribute and final bow for the late, great Carrie Fisher. So, the pressure was on. Has Johnson, the cast and The Last Jedi delivered? Or is Star Wars already tilting back to a prequel level of quality?

On the mysterious Ahch-To Island, Rey (Daisy Ridley) seeks to learn the mysterious of the force from a very reluctant Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who, remembering his past failures, would rather the Jedi religion be left to die. On the other side of the galaxy, the last ships of Leia Organa’s (Carrie Fisher) Resistance flee the pursuit of General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and the First Order, with pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) left frustrated at being sidelined in the effort, while Finn (John Boyega) teams with Resistance engineer Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) to find a way out of their predicament. And still seeking to end the conflict within himself is Sith apprentice Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who faces his sternest test yet from Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis).

OK, where to start? I liked The Last Jedi. It’s an attempt to take Star Wars to new places that doesn’t completely succeed, and the amount of stuff that Johnson wants to cram in here is self-defeating. But I still really enjoyed this film, and I think it’s a suitable continuation of the franchise, that takes the good and bad of The Force Awakens and delights in blowing it all up as it sees fit.

It is, at the heart of it, a film about characters. A lot of characters. So many characters. And while The Last Jedi could stand to shed some weight – more on that in a bit – it’s biggest triumph is in crafting a succession of effective character journeys for all of these principals, even with very limited time. Indeed, while the material being worked with is dividing opinion, The Last Jedi is, in my opinion, a masterpiece of introducing characters, setting their sub-plot up, having them grow, and leaving us with a central point.

Let’s take it one by one. Rey solidifies her place as the new main character of the franchise here, with Daisy Ridley outstanding, showcasing her growth as an actress over the last two years and willingness to take Rey to new places. Han Solo was the designated torch-passer last time, but this is the serious business: the titular final space wizard is her foil for large stretches, as Rey both tries to get Luke Skywalker to re-join the galactic struggle and to convince him to become her mentor, her Yoda. At the same time, Rey frets about finding out the real identity of her parents. There’s a lot to trip up on there, but it all ties together in a singular search for identity – as a member of the Resistance, as a potential continuation of a Jedi Order she barely understands (as Luke mocks her for), as a lost daughter of parents she’ll never know. Luke Skywalker promises answers, or at least she hopes so, and Rey’s journey is a fascinating one to behold, as she repeatedly confronts very harsh realities and struggles to maintain her own idealism.

Luke Skywalker is the provider of many of the harsh realities. To go from the young man who was triumphant at the conclusion of Return Of The Jedi to this is jarring: Luke is a broken-down individual in The Last Jedi, patiently waiting to expire, and taking the Jedi religion with him. Even Hamill himself is on-record as not being entirely onboard with the idea. But it’s not all doom and gloom: Hamill keeps some of the fun and joy in the Luke character going, in every sarcastic aside and impatience with the world around him, so it isn’t just a gloomy slog. We still like Luke Skywalker, and thus we still appreciate his barely-spoken desire for redemption, to make up for a shocking failing in his own quest to be “Luke Skywalker, Jedi Master, a legend”, that is elaborated upon at the mid-point.

In a way that calls back to the barely explored prequel idea of Obi-Wan Kenobi failing Anakin Skywalker as a teacher, it is made clear that Luke had a large part to play in the creation of Kylo Ren, which Hamill outlines in some genuinely heart-breaking flashback scenes (Johnson cleverly shows this from two differing perspectives, with small, but crucial differences). Luke’s plot is a simple thing with an almost predictable outcome, but it never fails to stir up the emotions of longing, hope and a thirst for adventure in you. Luke’s final moments in The Last Jedi should count among the franchises most iconic: it’s been a while since that binary sunset, but the Skywalker character is as good as ever. This is pretty much Hamill’s best on-screen work since Return.

But Rey isn’t just interacting with Luke for the movie, there’s also probably the films best character, Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren. From the first moments that we see him, being mocked and derided by Snoke for his inability to contend with Rey, we’re irresistibly drawn to Ren, an antagonist character driven by pure unadulterated insecurity, a “child in a mask” that Snoke pointedly refers to as “ridiculous”. Ren’s desire to be a new Vader in The Force Awakens also drives him here, in a way, but like Rey he’s just looking for his own place in the universe, his own identity. And that doesn’t mean letting what came before drag him down. In one of the films best moments (and lines) he tells Rey she should “let the past die. Kill it, if you have to.” as an explanation for what occurred between him and his father in the last film.

Driver really owns the Ren character, so bubbling over with his own inadequacy that it’s easy to underestimate him, as many characters do. But that sheer burning rage is a powerful force of its own, and it’s almost cathartic to see Ren reaching out to become his own man, in a way. He’s a Trumpian villain, driven as much by his own bruised ego and need to be appreciated as much as anything else. Scenes between him and Ridley are some of the films high-points, sizzling with an almost, but not quite, sexual tension. A second act showdown involving them and a host of other characters is written and choregraphed wonderfully, and from start to finish the two own the screen.

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Looking good as always.

Meanwhile, in what is almost an entirely different movie, we have the Resistance, and it’s a real Resistance now, clearly taking a few cues from the war film feel of Rogue One. Where in Awakens the Resistance was just another Rebel Alliance with plenty of ships and fighters and people, here’s it’s real rag-tag, losing those ships and fighters and people fast, and not able to replace them. The First Order is the unstoppable juggernaut barrelling towards it, and The Last Jedi’s portions of the plot that focus on the Resistance is a succession of ticking clocks counting down towards doom, that the Resistance membership are flailing against. It might not be quite Dunkirk-level of dread – indeed, it shouldn’t be – but it does the job quite nicely of creating tension and the feel of a real race against time.

In the midst of all this are Poe, Finn, Leia and a few new faces to boot. Poe has one of the best sub-plots of the lot, having to learn to lead. The spectacular opening battle sequence as the Resistance retreats from the initial First Order pursuit is typical suicide mission stuff we’ve seen plenty of times from Star Wars’ protagonists before, but this is the first time that the film decides to depict it as a bad thing, with Poe as the reckless, heedless and ultimately wrong-headed hot-shot, who can’t accept that sometimes you don’t solve the problem by hopping in an X-Wing and blowing something up. He’s placed diametrically across from Laura Dern’s Vice-Admiral Holdo, a new but remarkably effective character, and Poe’s evolution during the course of The Last Jedi is a real treat, and a credit to Oscar Isaacs, who could easily have relaxed into quasi-Han Solo mode.

Finn, his coma not lasting all that long, has his own trip to take, literally and figuratively, departing the harassed fleet to try and find its salivation elsewhere, joined by Resistance engineer Rose. Their side-adventure has its ups and downs: on its own merits it’s a perfectly serviceable piece of plot, with both characters having something to work towards. Finn is essentially operating with a permanent death wish, very willing to sacrifice everything to take down the First Order – in a very critical moment, he memorably utters “I’m not going to let them win” as if it is more of a personal vendetta than a Resistance action – and Boyega plays up the sort of damaged psyche that Finn would have. And Ros is mourning her deceased sister, and dealing with a universe that seems to be rapidly losing hope in anything good. The two work well together on screen and their sub-plot allows for a suitable exploration of the idea that living for the Resistance is better than dying for it, and that it’s better to protect the victims of tyranny than strike back directly against it, but the downside is that their plot is essentially a private escapade that dominates the second act to very little direct effect on the overall narrative. The Last Jedi is a groaning 150+ minutes, and if you’re looking at things that could have been slimmed down, or cut altogether, then Finn and Rose’s trip to the casino planet of Canto Bight is a prime contender. The film generally is paced quite well, cutting back and forth between Ahch-To and the fleet and elsewhere regularly, rarely slowing down, but it could still do with some trimming.

Back in the Resistance fleet, there is also Carrie Fisher’s last hurrah. This Leia is one that plays up the idea of her being an exhausted figure to the hilt, having lost so many people and being wearied under the burden of needing to provide ceaseless leadership, and Fisher is remarkably affecting in such a role, providing both a much-needed gravitas to proceedings, and one of the saga’s most iconic moments involving her, her son and a vicious space battle that erupts at the top of the second act. Those wondering how Johnson would handle Fisher’s death might be left a bit bewildered by the ending, but Leia fits in well here, getting more screen time than she did in Awakens, and generally being awesome when she’s there, whether she’s sharing the screen with Oscar, Dern or, whisper it, Hamill.

Those seven (seven!) are the main group, but The Last Jedi is groaning with so much else. Notwithstanding my delight at the range and diversity of the cast, in no particular order, we’ve got Domhnall Gleeson’s deliciously pompous General Hux, used primarily as a comedic punching bag here, but not inappropriately so; a master codebreaker with a lisp named DJ, a surprising turn from Benicio Del Toro; the return of the under-utilised Captain Phasma, with Gwendoline Christie yet again jiped for screentime, even if she does get a moment of awesomeness with “FN-2187”; Chewbacca, who spends most of the film interacting with the delightfully cute porgs of Ahch-To Island; brief appearances for C3P0 and R2-D2, not to mention BB-8’s intrusion on proceedings; Lupito Nyongo reprising her role as “Maz Canata” for a one-note cameo; the return of a treasured former cast member; a veritable horde of unnamed Resistance fighters, First Order underlings, space urchins and war profiteers; and “old man Snoke”.

Snoke remains an intriguing, but ultimately frustrating enigma. It’s clear by the end of The Last Jedi that Johnson didn’t really want to spend all that much time on the “Supreme Leader”, on the character himself or on the mystery of his background. If you’re going into this film looking for answers on mysteries, you’ll walk away mostly disappointed: Snoke, a major victim of how much else is being packed in, appears only in a few scenes, and while Andy Serkis plays him brilliantly, intermingling with the stellar CGI work, Snoke appears to be the primary sufferer from Johnson’s aim to craft his own vision, separate to JJ Abrams.

Johnson sets out his main themes as the seemingly contrasting ideas of hope and failure as his main ingredients, and The Last Jedi takes these two things and runs with them as much as they can. Enkindling hope in a universe that is mostly lacking it is a central part of the fleet based stuff, as is Rey’s mission to get the titular new hope back in the fight. But it is remarkable how Johnson treats the idea of failure in turn, in how characters struggle, or remember past struggles, and yet maintain the essential optimism that is central to all of Star Wars. Other crucial messages concern the nature of sacrifice for a greater good.

Visually, of course, the film is a delight from start to finish, to the extent that I may end up just listing out the beautiful shots or inventive CGI work that went into it. Skellig Michael looks glorious throughout, The Last Jedi showing both the familiar lush beauty of the place and its hidden darkness in some key moments. The few alien environments are realised well, and the respective fleets of the Resistance and the First Order are brilliantly crafted, most notably the Supremacy, the flagship of Snoke himself. The physical production detail, in every uniform, hairstyle, synthetic alien outfit or just weapon prop, does what Star Wars has always been remarkably capable of doing, which is to make this universe feel real, lived-in and ultimately something you can connect to all the easier. And hey, porgs! I love porgs. I want one. Don’t be down on the porgs everyone.

The war portion of the title is also well realised. An opening escape sequence calls back to Star Wars’ Dambusters inspired roots, and is expertly framed. A lightsaber melee at the mid-point is an engaging treat. A chase sequence on the casino planet, while a touch childish, is still enjoyable. And the finale, a re-imagining of the Battle of Hoth which just about skirts the border of replication and homage, is full of inventive detail and character-rich story-telling.

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This is Ren’s movie.

But there are truly special elements as well. Johnson likes portrait style shots, preferring to get up close and personal to his cast as much as possible, on faces and hands, and seems adept at correctly framing two-person conversations. He also seems to get montage quite well, with that mid-point cutting back-and-forth brilliantly timed and paced. The finale takes place on a planet where slowly uncovered red crystal is used as an exceptionally well thought-out replacement for gore. But all that seems to pale in comparison to The Last Jedi’s signature visual moment, when the music and sounds dies out and a flash of light erupts across the screen, and to say much more would be to spoil the surprise: but it is a spectacular moment of science-fiction visuals.

Johnson is also the writer for the film (or, at least, the only named writer) and it helps to have a singular tiller for both the script and the production at large. I wouldn’t say The Last Jedi is the most quotable Star Wars movie, but Johnson gets these characters, how they were created and how they should proceed: their voices are captured and allowed to enthral us. There is important work to be done here: in convincing the audience that Luke truly thinks it is “time for the Jedi to end”; in Luke’s rudimentary lessons in the force for Rey; in making us buy into Finn’s death wish, and Rose’s attempts to save him; in charging up Poe’s insolent insubordination with fraught back-and-forths; in making the likes Snoke, Hux and others sneeringly evil without being outright cartoonish; in framing the dynamic between Rey and Kylo just right. Johnson’s script is a fine thing, that he deserves great credit for, an improvement even on what came before (Disney, take note).

Johnson mostly succeeds in finding the dramedy balance. Reading some of the other reactions to the film you might think two things: that The Last Jedi is an MCU-esque LOL-fest, and that Star Wars has never had a joke in it before. The people decrying The Last Jedi’s occasional penchant for humour seem to forget that the very first character scene in A New Hope was a comedic look at a cowardly C-3PO whining away to R2-D2. Or “Whose scruffy looking?” from Empire, or Ewok hijinks in Jedi, or Jar-Jar in Menace or “You don’t want to sell me death-sticks” in Clones or “Another happy landing” in Sith or “I need a pilot” in Awakens. Point being, Star Wars has always had humour. And I don’t believe The Last Jedi is overflowing with jokes either: what jokes there are seemed fairly organic to me, sarcastic jibes and gallows humour in the face of adversity, with even some of the more egregious examples – one early on, involving a lightsaber, is rightly divisive – actually tying into the general point of the film.

He does choose to divert back to the nostalgia bait that seems part and parcel of Disney’s Star Wars operation, though to nowhere near the amount that so unnecessarily dragged Rogue One down a few pegs. Plenty have pointed out similarities between The Last Jedi and Empire, although I would maintain its mostly superficial, but there are times when Johnson can’t help himself: the superstructure chase from Return is basically recreated from scratch at one point, “Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi” is trotted out (though I actually quite liked that scene) and a Dark Side cave sequence is easily compared to a similar moment from Dagobah. I didn’t find it all that distracting though, and certainly not in the moment.

And John Williams is back too, having taken Rogue One off. While The Last Jedi lacks a singular unique theme, beyond a motif that repeats for Finn and Rose, it still delivers the goods in its sweeps, majesty and all around power. The resounding honrs and crashing drums resound throughout, and Williams adds his typical twists and variations on well-worn themes – Empire’s Love Theme gets a brilliant triumphant arrangement at one point, and you’ll hear newish versions of “Yoda and the Force”, “Binary Sunset” and “Superstructure Chase”, but also more recent affairs: the “March Of The Resistance” and “Rey’s Theme” are given some upgrades to suit the occasion also.

I’d like to take the opportunity to get into some bullet point spoiler discussion, that will cease at a notified moment.

-“The First Order reigns” is how the film opens, which seems to make the destruction of Starkiller Base a bit of a let-down. This newest trilogy has erred a bit in ignoring galactic politics entirely, as it has in refusing to outline just how big and powerful the First Order is.

-How exactly did those bombs drop onto that dreadnought? And why are the bombers so slow? Still a cool sequence though.

-I could have stood to have seen a bit more of gruff Captain Canady on his dreadnought, he seemed sort of interesting as a competent counterpoint to Hux.

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Hamill’s best on-screen work in a long time.

-The initial Snoke/Ren scene is overflowing with memorable dialogue, from Snoke’s description of Hux and why he keeps him around, to his vicious denunciation of Ren’s failure “You were bested by a girl who had barely wielded a lightsaber!”.

-Luke tossing the lightsaber over his shoulder was a bit much, but did tie into how Johnson wanted that character set-up.

-Luke’s daily routine was a nice way of showing the kind of person he had become, green milk and all. The point is that Luke is lost, low and pitiful in a way, and he needs to come back from that.

-The “Sacred Jedi Texts” seemed set-up to be a MacGuffin, but rightfully proved a nice piece of mis-direction.

-Leia’s “death” was very well-handled, from Ren’s refusal to fire, to her using the Force to save herself and subvert audience expectation in the process.

-That whole sequence actually, with the Supremacy’s arrival to Ren’s destruction of the Resistance’ fighters, was very well put-together.

-Tick tock: the constant ticking clocks are great, from the fleet running out of fuel to the cannon coming to blow down the base door.

-I’ve seen some criticism of how Vide Admiral Holdo could have avoided a mutiny by just telling Poe her plan from the start, but on the second viewing I feel The Last Jedi covers this: he’s just been reckless and gotten people needlessly killed, leading to a demotion, which would make cutting him out of the loop a practical thing, and later he doesn’t actually give Holdo a chance to explain, he just flies off the handle when he sees her fuelling the transports, going as far as to call her a traitor: why should she share her plans with this stupid hothead?

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So hot.

-What is Maz Canata doing in this film? What is the point of this character generally?

-I’ll admit, her description of a smooth talker who could be found at the casino tables for the codebreaker had me thinking Billy Dee Williams was going to make an appearance. Oh well.

-Luke’s “Lesson One” was great as a denunciation of the Jedi’s apparent necessity to the plot, and I loved his eye-rolling reaction to Rey’s literal “reaching out”.

-His second lesson was also a well-made swipe at the prequels and how they depicted the Jedi Order.

-And the duel flashbacks to his confrontation with Ren were also great, with the look on his face being different in each one, just enough to showcase the perception of each participant.

-Finn and Rose have a nice meet cute, and their interaction generally was great: save for the kiss at the end, which felt needless. Why turn it romantic at that late stage?

-The notes on war profiteering, child labour and general “Look at the ugliness of the universe” on Canto Bight were strange, but did fit into the larger themes at least. And Rose’s release of the last fathier, indicating after that their destruction of the town was now worth it, also ties into the general theme of saving victims, not fighting tyranny that pops up throughout.

-Rey’s cave/mirror sequence was the one time Johnson allowed himself to get really weird, and I wasn’t a big fan, finding the imagery obtuse and confusing.

-So, Yoda. A ballsier move would have been putting Hayden Christensen or even Ewan McGregor in that role, but Frank Oz does the necessaries, still there to teach “young Skywalker” what he’s missing. A great closing line too, on the nature of masters and apprentices: “We are what they grow beyond”.

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An interesting, but cutable, sub-plot.

-Yoda is the one who fully enunciates the films key theme of failure not being a universally bad thing. Yoda reminds Luke that his failure as a Jedi Master is experience that needs to be passed on to Rey, and generally speaking nearly everyone fails in the film: Rey doesn’t turn Kylo, Finn and Rose don’t save the fleet with their crazy plan (they actually make things way worse), Poe doesn’t solve all their problems by just blowing things up. The important thing is that the Resistance, and the Jedi Order, survives, and they have a chance to learn from their failures.

-Rey and Kylo’s interactions have a slight romantic vibe to them, that was restrained enough that it didn’t become distracting. It did provide the tantalising possibility of them joining forces though, and that was enough.

-Indeed, that’s how I personally thought things were going once Snoke was offed, with Ren rejecting the idea of good, evil, Jedi, Sith, Resistance and First Order, but it quickly devolved back to the standard alignment. The road less travelled, etc. Ren and Rey as grey Force users would have been a bigtime new direction.

-DJ is weird. But at least it was a nice way of saying “Not every roguish mercenary has a heart of gold”. Presumably he’ll be back, as a foil for Finn, Rose or both. He got a lot of Resistance people killed.

-Snoke’s underestimation of Ren, that leads to the coup, was well-executed. Snoke is so convinced that his apprentice is a mentally fragile weakling, easily manipulated, that he doesn’t see until it is too late that Ren’s raging insecurity is a powerful driving force that Snoke can’t account for. Trump-like indeed.

-That lightsaber fight though. What an eye-catching sequence. The kind of evolution of lightsaber action sequences the prequels tried and failed to do.

-Rey’s parents turning out to be “nobody” is the perfect snipe at the kind of fandom that becomes obsessed with such things, and at the general idea of lineage in Star Wars, such a sacred cow that a petition calling for the film to be non-canonised over its treatment of Luke was an international news story the other day. But it still ties into the larger theme of letting go of the past and forging your own future.

-Holdo’s sacrifice, wherein she annihilates the First Order fleet and the Supremacy, is a jaw-droppingly awesome visual moment. It’s perfectly constructed.

-That being said, it does make you wonder why hyperspace jumping isn’t used as a weapon up to now, apparently?

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Uh ah, UH AHHH!

-Phasma’s tiny part is regretful, but at least she gets one half of the films crowning verbal moment: “You’ll always be scum.” “…Rebel scum”.

-I loved that Hux was about to off Ren before he came to. What a delightfully despicable little man he is. He’ll get his.

-The Battle of Crait was nice, just different enough from Hoth that I wasn’t too bothered by the obvious similarities. Everyone’s character journeys reach a nice confluence there: Poe learning that being a leader sometimes means retreating; Leia having her last cathartic interaction with Luke, including Han’s dice; Finn realising that being willing to die to defeat the First Order isn’t enough; Rose saving someone in a way that she couldn’t for her sister; Kylo becoming a Supreme Leader but trapped by his own weaknesses; Luke’s general redemption, finding a resolution and then departing from the stage; Rey decisively choosing the path of a Jedi.

– I was bobbing along to “Superstructure Chase” alright, even if that whole moment was a step too far into nostalgia bait.

-“Do you think you got him?” was my favourite comedy line. And it fit the scene, and the character.

-Kylo vs Luke was a great confrontation, and Luke’s final lines are spine-tingling: “The rebellion is reborn today, the war is just beginning, and I am not the last Jedi”.

-My guess when Luke turned up on Crait was that he had actually been dead the whole time, but I soon realised that this didn’t actually make all that much sense. Him using the last of his energy to force project such a distance – something Ren notes would kill most people earlier in the film – was awesome.

-Luke’s passing, observing another binary sunset and achieving a measure of peace, had some tears welling, let me tell you. Of all of Star Wars’ iconic visual moments, that idea of a double sunset is one of its best, providing a nice cap to the prequels, setting up something so important in A New Hope and now ending Luke’s (physical) journey.

-Nice ending scene too, showcasing a potential new generation of force users ready to carry the spark of rebellion.

-Where to from here? Will JJ Abrams resort to another superweapon as his primary plot-point, or could we possibly get something a bit more intelligent? Will Finn and Rose have a proper romantic plot? Will Rey’s inevitable confrontation with Kylo end in blood or in more efforts to save him? Will Kylo be as incompetent a Supreme Leader as I think he will? How will Carrie Fisher’s death be handled? How does the Resistance fight back against the First Order now? Will Rey re-found the Jedi Order on old lines, or will she make something entirely new?

Spoilers end

Looking at the reaction to The Last Jedi, I frequently found myself a bit disappointed. It seems as if a section of the Star Wars fanbase – a loud section, not necessarily a majority – dislike this film intensely. They don’t like its depiction of Luke, they don’t like the good guys failing, they don’t like this, that and the other. And it seems to be that what they want, judging from how The Force Awakens was treated so much nicer, is for A New Hope to be re-made again and again, with the same themes, ideas, character architypes, so that we never have to be challenged, so we never have to see Star Wars change. Well, nuts to that. The Last Jedi isn’t all-out change or uniqueness, not at all, but it’s trying new things. It’s breaking new ground, it’s showcasing characters dealing with the kind of conflict and problems that we haven’t seen in Star Wars before. That’s not something to be decried, it’s something to be lauded. And if you don’t like it, just stop watching. Don’t be a “I guess I’ll see it anyway” type of person.

As for me, I loved The Last Jedi. It has its problems: the second act bulge involving Finn and Rose’s side adventure that could have been its own movie if they really wanted to (yes, please), the side-lining of Snoke, a few ill-placed comedic moments and a few trips too many to the nostalgia well.

But it’s successes make up for it all. The story is great, capturing both the simplicity and epicness that any Star Wars tale requires. The cast is doing great work. The character journeys are strong, and the characters are vivid, fully realised people. The script is generally excellent, as is the production design, the music and the editing. Johnson is directorially triumphant throughout, showcasing his own skill, ingenuity and verve whenever he can. Moreover, it takes some risks and gets something new out of the franchise.

Star Wars is a franchise that, even as its worst, has had the ability to grab a hold of me, as it does for so many others. You sit down to watch it and, as I said two years ago, when it’s over you’re forced to contemplate a return to crappy normality, where there are no lightsabers, X-Wings or Force powers. The Force Awakens did all that for me, and The Last Jedi did it all over again. I suppose I can’t say, on the weight of contrary opinion, that if you are a Star Wars fan you will love this. But all I can say is that I am a Star Wars fan, and I loved the hell out of it. Highly recommended.

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Roll on IX.

(All images are copyright of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures).

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5 Responses to Review – Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

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