Star Wars: The Last Jedi stars Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie and Andy Serkis, as well as Benicio Del Toro, Laura Dern and Kelly Marie Tran.
The film is in cinemas worldwide now!
Luke Skywalker’s peaceful and solitary existence gets upended when he encounters Rey, a young woman who shows strong signs of the Force. Her desire to learn the ways of the Jedi forces Luke to make a decision that changes their lives forever. Meanwhile, Kylo Ren and General Hux lead the First Order in an all-out assault against Leia and the Resistance for supremacy of the galaxy.
This is a review I’ve been putting off writing for two weeks now. I very nearly took the decision not to review Star Wars: The Last Jedi. With films like Justice League and Power Rangers this year I knew that any opinions I expressed would be met with ridicule. This film was something completely unexpected.
Even discussing this film with friends and colleagues I’ve had to answer the question of “are you actually a Star Wars fan?” many times. The answer is yes, I was raised on the original trilogy. I saw the prequels at the cinema as a teenager and I was incredibly excited for The Last Jedi.
Where this film fell down for me was predominantly its tone. Regardless of the story in any of the previous films, to an extent even Rogue One, there was an air of Star Wars. A palpable je ne sais quoi which means that viewers know that they are getting in to. Director Rian Johnson has removed that here.
The Last Jedi doesn’t feel like Star Wars. Instead it feels like an SNL skit featuring characters who would appear to be from the universe created by George Lucas. There are moments of great drama but these are punctuated by an endless stream of poor humour.
To give an example which really irked me we need to journey to Ahch-To and the cliffhanger which ended The Force Awakens. We saw Rey arrive on the island to find Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). In a tense moment on a cliff face she raises his lightsaber. Fans were left on the edge of their seats. Luke is back! The hero of new meets the hero of old and we’re left for two years to ponder the outcome.
Well… Luke tosses the lightsaber off the cliff and walks away.
It’s a moment played for laughs. But it’s a moment which quite literally throws away the impact of J.J. Abrams franchise revitalising film. This sort of anti-fan service is repeated throughout the film. Key moments which fans held on to from The Force Awakens and theorised on for two years are thrown away. It feels disrespectful of Disney to allow the film to travel in this direction.
Johnson has to be applauded for his methods. It seems he looked at every potential obvious choice and made the exact opposite decision. Its like reverse-Star Wars. I only wish that I agreed with any of his decisions. From the awkward humour to the numerous side stories it all feels like awkward franchise growing pains.
I’m not without perspective though. The Force Awakens needed to evoke the nostalgia of the original trilogy. The Last Jedi needed to cement that franchise as a major player in the contemporary movie scene. It succeeds in doing so but at what cost? In my opinion the cost is its heart and soul.
The technical aspects of the film: cinematography; CGI, score etc., are all outstanding. This is a solidly made film. The colour palette is a little bleak in comparison to previous films but suits the overall aesthetic of the story.
Aside from one shot of Luke and Rey on a cliff face the CGI is excellent. Space battles are impressive and alien landscapes are sprawling. There is a lot of practical creature effects work throughout the film which is a great callback to the original trilogy. Even a surprise character from the past returns in puppet form rather than CGI much to the audience’s approval.
John Williams provides another excellent Star Wars score. Building on the themes from The Force Awakens he creates a soundscape which fits the film perfectly. Rey’s theme is a huge highlight of the new character themes and in the pantheon of Star Wars it deserves to sit next to the classic theme tune. There’s not a lot of new music to hear just new arrangements for familiar themes.
Those tonal issues were jarring enough to make plot holes in the story obvious. Foremost in my mind was the timeframe of the film. Whilst Rey had what appeared to be two nights on Ahch-To with Luke the rebels had only hours of fuel left to burn through. It’s that type of screwy movie pacing which passes by unnoticed when you are able to enjoy what you are watching.
The overall plot of the film is fair. The basic storyline is a nice change from previous entries. It’s the execution which lets it down. Whilst the film spends too much time pondering politics all potential for suspense is lost. At no point does The Last Jedi become anything vaguely resembling exciting. It dabbles in excitement during several key moments but plot contrivances stop the film from reaching its potential.
I don’t want to spoil too much fo the film but certainly the Kylo and Rey’s connection is a huge contrivance, followed only by the MacGuffin that is Supreme Leader Snoke. Both are wasted here. They are two of the most high profile choices that Johnson makes to shy away from pandering to the Star Wars audience. Instead choosing to appeal to the general audience these becomes simplistic elements in an overly simplistic construct.
That’s what this film boils down to. Pandering to a more general audience to guarantee bums on seats. This is definitely Star Wars at its most accessible. It’s a clever move to ensure the franchise future as Hollywood gold but a huge insult to long time fans of the franchise well defined tropes.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is not the film that this franchise fan was hoping for. A long slog of a viewing led to only disappointment and despair as fan favourite characters flounder in a mire tonal difficulties and muddy storytelling. Whilst not a disaster it’s not the Star Wars movie fans deserved.
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