Director: Rian Johnson
Starring: Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley, Carrie Fisher, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Kelly Marie Tran, Benicio del Toro, Laura Dern, Gwendoline Christie, Domhnall Gleeson, Andy Serkis
Having taken her first steps into the Jedi world, Rey joins Luke Skywalker on an adventure with Leia, Finn and Poe that unlocks mysteries of the Force and secrets of the past.
This review is spoiler free.
Whereas The Force Awakens carried the weight of expectation of whether there really could be a great new Star Wars film, The Last Jedi has a slightly easier road. That isn’t to say that it doesn’t have expectations behind it; this is the biggest franchise in this galaxy or any other for that matter, and with director Rian Johnson now being given the green light to direct a brand new Star Wars trilogy, it’s time to see whether the faith Disney/Lucasfilm have in their main man is justified.
The Last Jedi is bold, brilliant, and frequently beautiful, and there’s no hesitation in admitting that it is strikingly different from everything else that has come before it. This may prove to be divisive initially, but given a bit of breathing room and without the overwhelming expectations of fans, this will be a film that stands the test of time, and like The Force Awakens, can easily stand up there with the original trilogy. What Johnson has created here is unlike anything the Star Wars universe has given so far, and is already being spoken about in the same breath as Empire Strikes Back. Personally, I struggle to make any kind of comparisons with the original trilogy because they’re so precious to me, but I don’t doubt that given time, The Last Jedi will rise in the ranks.
As someone who was too young to ever see Empire Strikes Back without knowing “the spoiler”, there’s never been the luxury of watching a Star Wars film that kept me guessing, but The Last Jedi is a film with so many layers, so many twists and turns, and a delightful unpredictability that meant it was utterly thrilling from start to finish. Much like “the force”, there is now more of a grey area, where the good could turn bad and the bad could turn good, and sometimes no clear way of deciphering which is which. This lack of black and white, or clear distinctions between the light and the dark, opens up a whole spectrum of opportunities for the Star Wars universe and it is utterly thrilling. This is an incredibly bold move on Rian Johnson’s part, and huge credit to him for delivering on this ambitious vision.
There’s an awful lot to unpack about this film, and I couldn’t hope to do justice to all of it, but it is much deeper and more complex than many Star Wars films, whilst at the same time ticking the necessary boxes to ensure it is in-keeping with the rest of the saga. It simply demands a second viewing, and the hope is I will be much more coherent after that.
Of course, one of the big things about this film was getting to see more of Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, having only glimpsed him at the end of The Force Awakens. Hamill is on impeccable form and it is so thrilling to see him back in this beloved role. There’s so many facets to this character now, beyond anything that the original trilogy suggested, and it is so fascinating to delve further into the character and at least answer some of the questions left hanging on the cliff-edge of The Force Awakens. Likewise, Carrie Fisher is absolutely wonderful, and this is a fitting tribute to her legacy; albeit all the more devastating that this will be the last time we see her on screen.
The new characters are now no longer new, and Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley continue to thrive in their roles. Kylo Ren/Ben Solo as a character is so complex, fascinating, and layered, and Driver delivers in every aspect. Daisy Ridley has grown massively in confidence since The Force Awakens and she commands the screen, convincing in both the big action scenes, and particularly in the more emotionally charged moments. After the mistreatment of the character in The Force Awakens, it is great to see Gwendoline Christie return as Captain Phasma, and Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron is afforded much more screentime. His hot-headed approach brings life into the scenes, and his interactions with Fisher are particularly wonderful. It would be remiss not to mention the real stars of the show however; the porgs. Forget all those worries about them being annoying, they’re the most adorable critters in the galaxy and are used sparingly and necessarily. The new characters are on the whole pretty great, with Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose being incredibly likeable and charming. Laura Dern and Benicio del Toro’s characters aren’t explored as much, but they’re still welcome additions to the ever increasing cast.
Johnson’s storytelling ensures the story can keep moving forward, and his handling of the characters and particular threads left behind by The Force Awakens are deftly managed. Avoiding all spoilers, the reveal of a certain characters parentage may surprise (or even disappoint) many, but upon reflection, it is the perfect way of ensuring the Star Wars universe stays ever-expansive and proves it has a life beyond the Skywalker saga; hints of which are left behind like a trail of breadcrumbs here.
It’s close to perfect, but there is a little nit-picking needed. The CGI is really noticeable at times, particularly in this film’s attempt at a “cantina” scene; the inclusion of which now seems obligatory in this new trilogy. Some of the alien creations brought back awful memories of the prequel trilogy, and this could’ve been scaled back in favour of more practical effects. The effects on the whole however are incredible, with the space battles and dogfights being on typically spectacular form. Johnson has a real visual flair, and there’s some gorgeous cinematography from Steve Yedlin (who previously worked with Johnson on Looper), that help the scenes really pop. Every single scene taking place in Snoke’s (Andy Serkis) “Red Room of Pain” (as no-one is calling it…) are absolutely stunning. One in particular – you’ll know it when you see it – is breathtakingly beautiful.
There were a couple of plot conveniences and light-speed jumps in storytelling that were a little irksome as well. Characters occasionally arrived with no explanation of how or why they got there, and in a 2.5 hour film, surely there was room to avoid some of these shortcuts! That being said, on a second viewing, I think these minor drawbacks won’t be as much of an issue when there is an idea of where the film is heading.
The Last Jedi is astonishing in many ways, managing to be both beautiful to look at, utterly thrilling, and full of complexities, darkness, well-placed humour, and some genuinely shocking twists. There’s real moments of genuine pathos, particularly with Luke, and some real surprises that will delight fans in the most wonderful, and unexpected ways. The Last Jedi is a future classic, and a worthy inclusion into the Star Wars pantheon.
I saw this movie and you should too…obviously!