So I watched The Last Jedi…
Words haven’t been invented yet to describe just how excited I was to see this movie. I missed watching it on opening weekend and had to wait a full week after the rest of the world had seen it to get my turn. After buying my ticket and handing the stub to the usher, I actually ran into the cinema. My gleeful gallop into the cinema was in stark contrast to the somber saunter that marked my exit. I knew I had just watched something truly amazing but I was left surprisingly disappointed…
Okay, basic plot: After finding Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Rey (Daisy Ridley) is eager not only to bring him back to aid in the resistance against The First Order but also to commence her Jedi training. Meanwhile a First Order fleet has the resistance on the run. Poe Dameron (Oscaar Isaac), Finn (John Boyega) as well as a spunky maintenance worker named Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) are forced to skirt the chain of command in order to ensure The Resistance’s survival. A survival that Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) and his ruthless pupil Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) are determined to destroy.
As with my review of The Force Awakens it’s really challenging to describe this movie. I always actively avoid letting spoilers creep into my reviews but with Star Wars revealing anything feels like a spoiler. I think I’ll start with why I found this movie disappointing. This is the longest Star Wars movie yet and when you look at the host of characters this film needs to juggle as well as the different story points, you understand why. This movie doesn’t feel overly-long or bloated at any stage but it does often feel cluttered. There’s a few new characters – not too many – but when you add them to the characters carried over from previous films, it does start to feel a bit saturated. Actually saturated is the wrong word, segmented is better. The story takes place in quite a few places and it often feels messy.
If you think about previous films in the saga, especially the original trilogy, the story had three different focal points – what Luke was doing; what Han and Leia were doing and what Vader was doing. And often these focal points would overlap as different characters faced off. In this film there are a lot more focal points and while the individual story points are entertaining, there’s often a lack of harmony between the transition between these points. Also there were a few moments of boredom that crept in especially during the middle of this film where the eventual climax is being set up by the different plot points.
This boredom is short-lived because this is a truly entertaining movie. The criticism I’ve laid out above is almost all that’s wrong with this film. Now I know I just criticised this film for having too many focal points but I do think they were necessary in order to carry across the style and tone this film sets out to achieve. This film reminded me a great deal of Rogue One, in that, it’s a Star Wars film that truly showcases the war aspect of its story. War isn’t about one ship saving the day, it’s a collection of infinite battles (often unseen) that culminate to an eventual victory. That’s what this film offers and even though I think the inclusion of so many different focal points wasn’t handled as well as it could have been, their inclusion did do a lot for the story.
I really enjoyed The Force Awakens but there was no denying that it borrowed heavily from A New Hope; so walking into The Last Jedi I wondered would it do the same with The Empire Strikes Back? Well…yes and no. There are parallels between the two films – some subtle and nuanced, others more blatant – but The Last Jedi does feel like a different offering. This film – much like Rogue One – feels like a war movie instead of the traditional space western of the original trilogy. It still has that dirty, dingy, authentic feel of Star Wars but director and writer Rian Johnson applies it to a bigger scale. The stakes in this film feel higher than ever and our heroes are tested to their respective limits. The scale of this film might be the largest of any Star Wars film but it still has an amazing intimacy. Every life loss weighs on you and the soldiers that make up the rebellion aren’t merely a faceless mob but feel like brothers in arms.
You’re able to build and sustain connections to almost every character in this film and – because of this – you’re incredibly invested in their success and the events of the film mean that much more you. I can’t tell you the amount of times I silently screamed ‘Nooooooo” at the screen or fell back in shock at the spectacle I was witnessing. This film is truly well made and has a great emotional weight at its centre.
The acting in this film is superb. I immediately have to go to Mark Hamill who not only has a meatier part in this film than in the previous one but also offers us a Luke Skywalker we haven’t seen before. I don’t want to get into spoilers but if you’ve watched the trailers you definitely get the sense that there’s a reluctance in Luke to train Rey and this is continued in the film. Gone are the days of the optimistic, bright-eyed Skywalker; the man we meet in this film is disillusioned and more grim than we’re accustomed. There are still plenty of hopeful characters in this film, chief among them being Rose who is wonderfully played by Kelly Marie Tran. Rose might be my favourite character in this movie and she definitely delivers my favourite line of the film. The character of Rose is really the embodiment of what the rebellion is all about – hope, perseverance, love – and Tran does phenomenal work bringing this character and these qualities to life.
Now you can’t say a word about actors in this film and not mention the late Carrie Fisher. This is the final film she worked on and she’s as powerful and memorable as Leia as she’s ever been. I’ve heard the cast in interviews describe this film as a love letter to her and you really feel that. Her passing only further elevates the quality of her performance and she is a presence that will be missed.
Returning to the rest of the cast, they all do deserve individual praise. I’m actually sad that certain cast members weren’t given as much screentime as I would have liked them to have. Because there is so much happening in this film and so many plot points, certain characters are marginalised to balance things out. It’s a pity. Another problem I had with this film is that its lacking a truly menacing and remarkable villain. After watching The Empire Strikes Back, I wanted to fall at Darth Vader’s feet, bear his children, build monuments in his name. Now with this film’s tone and the challenge its events present to our heroes, it would have been great to have a central figure to point at as the cause for the rebellion’s misery. Unfortunately the blame greats spread around and The First Order shoulders the blame instead of one badass. It’s a shame but not one that wrecks the film
Overall, The Last Jedi is probably the most ambitious Star Wars movie to date. It increases the scale of its story to new limits and while it does stumble at times, it manages to give us something fresh. It answers plenty of questions but also leaves us in need of a few answers; in short, we’re left wanting more and that’s always a good thing. Is it worth watching? Come on it’s Star Wars! 7/10