Below you’ll find a mostly spoiler free review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Some of the reasons explaining my opinion on the film require spoilers and a deeper dive into the film, so I’ll be saving them for another article which I hope to have out soon. Until then, here’s what I thought about Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi feels like an episode of a television series that exists to develop characters rather than move the plot along substantially. Director Rian Johnson follows J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens (2015) by exploring the personalities of both old and new characters, their strengths and weaknesses, rather than making huge leaps forward in the plot. It’s a distinctly middle movie in a trilogy that is mostly successful in walking the line between charting new ground for a Star Wars film, and following what has come before.
Following the destruction of Star Killer Base in The Force Awakens, the First Order (the bad guys) has located the Resistance (the good guys) and is pursuing them as they try to flee. Realising that they are running out of fuel and the First Order has developed a new technology to track them through hyperspace, Poe Demaron (Oscar Issacs) decides to play the hero card against the wishes of the Resistance’s commanders. He secretly sends Finn (John Boyega) and newcomer Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) on a mission to find a hacker and infiltrate the First Order’s ship to disable the tracker.
Meanwhile, Rey (Daisy Ridley) has found Luke ‘get off my lawn, whippersnappers’ Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and attempts to convince him to train her to defeat Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). The Rey, Luke and Kylo storyline is by far the strongest and most engaging throughout the film. Rey sees Luke as a powerful Jedi who has saved the galaxy from Darth Vader, whereas Luke sees himself as a failure for being unable to save Kylo and maintain peace. At the same time, Rey still believes she can save Kylo from the dark side, and the film constantly plays with the idea that they both fit into a morally grey area of the Force rather than meeting the franchise’s good versus bad theme.
Mark Hamill steals the show as an aged Luke Skywalker. Given the rise of the First Order and Luke’s inability to maintain peace in the galaxy, his portrayal of Luke as the failed master feels like a natural progression of the character within the story. Hamill’s performance is sincere and the audience empathises with him and his inner struggles. Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver’s performances as Rey and Kylo are also great; the pair’s chemistry captivates in their scenes.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi has been such a polarising film because of how it treats Luke Skywalker, and the themes it addresses throughout the film. Johnson wants his Star Wars story to be more than a story about good triumphing over evil. He wants to explore the grey area, and ideas about what the Force is, doing so wonderfully with Luke, Rey and Kylo. However, he never truly commits to some of his themes. The result is a plot that answers some questions The Force Awakens was asking, but left me thinking, “so where do we go from here?” once the film concluded at the two and a half hour mark.
Telling three stories at once, the pacing is a slower burn than other Star Wars films. Thankfully, the narrative pay off largely rewards the viewer and places everyone’s actions into context. With that said, Johnson’s themes mean Finn and Rose’s lengthy trek on planet rich (not it’s real name) becomes kind of pointless for the overall advancement of the plot. I enjoyed exploring a different planet in the Star Wars universe, but if these scenes were shortened, allowing smaller gaps of time between Rey and Luke’s story, the film could have flowed better.
As with The Force Awakens, I loved the cinematography and special effects in The Last Jedi. The film has a distinct feel, while still being easily recognisable as a Star Wars film. The space battles look terrific and the fight choreography is entertaining. The scene with a hyper-drive and no sound (you’ll know it when you see it) left the audience in awe.
I’ve been reflecting on The Last Jedi for a few weeks now, and the more I think about it, the more I admire it. Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a polarising film because it tugs at the nostalgia of Star Wars’ most popular characters, while trying to move the franchise forward with new faces. I enjoyed the story that it told and felt the narrative pay off and where the character’s end up was worth the slower grind, despite it not flowing as well as it could have. Star Wars: The Last Jedi’s impact on the franchise will depend on the final film, but it deserves a watch, for Hamill’s performance alone. Rian Johnson bravely deals with new themes for the Star Wars franchise, producing an incredibly relevant film that gives us a better understanding of the strengths and shortcomings of its characters.
What did you think about The Last Jedi? Let me know in the comments below.