This 2017 American sci-fi fantasy is written and directed by Rian Johnson and is the sequel to 2015s ‘The Force Awakens’, the second of the New Trilogy and ninth in the overall Star Wars saga.
Following the destruction of Starkiller Base at the hands of the Resistance led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), the brave heroes find themselves mercilessly hunted by the First Order under the command of General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis).
As the Resistance attempts to survive the First Order, young Jedi in training Rey (Daisy Ridley) seeks the help of Jedi Master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to join the fight and defeat Snoke and his powerful apprentice, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).
Emotions will be pushed to breaking point as Rey discovers shocking truths about key fighters in the Resistance and First Order, and Luke Skywalker himself, which will force everyone to question just where their destiny lies within the galaxy and which side of the fight they are truly on…
I’m going to say it from the off here – I walked out of the midnight showing of ‘The Force Awakens’ and ‘The Last Jedi’ a little disappointed. Not for J.J. Abrams’ thrill ride, but for the new episode from writer/director Rian Johnson. ‘The Last Jedi’ is a blend of all that works from the prequels and original trilogy, but sadly lots that doesn’t. The result is a film that delivers on the most part, but stumbles along the way and gives, I think, little payoff for a film that should offer more resolutions than headaches.
Maybe I will feel different on the second viewing with a clearer head? Or maybe that’s me as an avid Star Wars fan desperate to find more in this blockbuster than I originally found.
We are catapulted into the fall-out from ‘The Force Awakens’ in a typical Star-Warsy narrative that is tried and tested; a number of stories running parallel that converge at the end. The late Carrie Fisher has far more to do this time around leading the Resistance again as General Leia Organa. Oscar Isaac is back as passionate pilot Poe along with John Boyega as Finn and newcomer Kelly Marie Tran as Rose, a maintenance worker for the Resistance. It is this group, along with Laura Dern as the ‘is she good / is she bad?’ Admiral Holdo, that are the ones scrabbling around trying to simultaneously fight against and flee from the First Order.
On the other hand, we have Daisy Ridley’s Rey and Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker seeking to understand each other, the Force and the state of the galaxy at war. On the OTHER other hand, Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren and Domhnall Gleeson’s General Hux ham it up for all it’s worth as the brash, short-fused, volatile but merciless First Order agents.
As you can see, it’s a busy narrative with lots of new and old characters, new planets, species and technology. And as you suspect, there is a lot of waste and a lot of back and forth that messes up the flow. The Resistance has a lazy plot that revolves around breaking a secret code on-board the biggest Star Destroyer in the First Order fleet to allow their ships to flee. So much time is spent on this task that is made out to be much easier to do than it really should be, giving Boyega, Tran and co. reasons to forge relationships and run around on the very prequel-esque digital world of Cantonica and Canto Bight. It detracts from the main flow of the story and is very digital, compared to the practical worlds of Takodana and Jakku from ‘The Force Awakens.’
The CGI here and throughout is very noticeable. It’s not 100% polished, but because there is so much it’s far easier to spot. From Snoke’s digital body to dozens of new alien species and much more gravity/physics defying action, it reminded me more of the flamboyant CGI of the prequels than the restrained, minimal CGI J.J. Abrams introduced us to. As I said, some of the prequel material worked, much didn’t. ‘The Last Jedi’ plays out like a new modern entry wrapped up in a prequel skin.
It’s a busy film, and the secondary narrative detracts from what we are here to see – the return of Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker and his relationship with Rey. We get this and more, and it’s wonderful. A highlight of the film is seeing the two bicker, argue try to understand each other, exploring lore from the past and touching on the future. Hamill is not the Jedi we last saw on Endor, but a world-weary, scared and bitter hermit questioning his own existence and the Force itself. He draws us into his story and the spark between him and Ridley grips you, wondering just who is right and who is wrong.
And on the subject of Luke; his Porgs. Not as annoying as you’d expect, and rather amusing in a restrained way. They are NOT the new Ewoks, believe me, and the best of the various digital creatures we have here (the Canto Bight ones truly pointless if you ask me).
But with constant interjections from a slightly boring Resistance story, it becomes frustrating being drip-fed so much about Luke, Rey and Kylo that while it is electric to watch, Johnson doesn’t offer clear resolutions to questions raised in 2015. I felt short-changed by many outcomes, and annoyed at what seemed to be a waste of established material. To be honest, at times I didn’t know if I was watching the middle of a trilogy or the end of one. As both stories crank up to converge, my mind’s eye saw ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ blended with ‘Return Of The Jedi’ in a mish-mash of sequences that, while hitting the humour, emotion and action just right, were just too rushed and hap-hazard to take in. Even the Battle Of Hoth-esque finale (spot the Gareth Edwards solider cameo!) is pretty boring, un-eventful and jammed with digital creations that I was turning off even when a certain character brushed his shoulder off. It felt too much, too late.
I was seeing things I didn’t want to see happen. Outcomes I didn’t want to witness. Characters go when I couldn’t see a reason for. The film itself is immersive, don’t get me wrong. There are some really beautiful shots and really tender, well executed moments developing our heroes and villains. I just felt the outcomes were either cheap or rushed. Even the score by John Williams is devoid of anything standout, and the only motifs that roused me were ones recycled from the Original Trilogy for a truly sentimental impact.
You can see, I am torn, and I’m annoyed that a Star Wars film has made me feel like this especially following such a blistering opening chapter.
As I said, I felt the trilogy was wrapping up towards the end of this. It was strange. Where will they go from here? J.J. Abrams needs to really add something new to ‘Episode IX’ because questions and motives are still clouded and over-looked all for dramatic effect, and opportunities have been missed. While I buy into this new galaxy and always will be an avid fan, I need more to invest in for this current battle between good and evil to give me chills the way that all closing chapters should. Because to me it feels Johnson has peaked the trilogy far too soon.
Directed by: Rian Johnson
Starring: Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Gwendoline Christie, Domhnall Gleeson, Andy Serkis, Laura Dern, Benicio Del Toro.