Disney whisks viewers off on another journey to a galaxy far, far away…
Starring: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis
Directed and written by: Rian Johnson / 152 minutes
What’s it about?
As the Resistance fights for survival against the First Order, Rey seeks to learn the ways of the Force and draw Luke Skywalker out of exile in the hope of restoring peace to the galaxy…
Following the colossal success of The Force Awakens and Rogue One, Disney unleash their latest cinematic Star Wars adventure with the ominously titled The Last Jedi, episode VIII of the main saga which focuses on the story and legacy of the Force-strong Skywalker family. Helmed by Looper director Rian Johnson, the title of this latest chapter may imply that all is hopeless with nothing but darkness beyond, yet despite some desperate stakes and high drama there’s still an overriding sense of optimism and a good dose of fun and humour (albeit some of the latter at times feeling out of place) along with the requisite spectacle that’s an essential element of any Star Wars outing.
It’s not a perfect film though and The Last Jedi doesn’t always fulfil its ambitions, there are certainly some wisely employed creative risks and surprising twists but the plot becomes burdened by one sub plot too many and a pace that drags momentum from time to time. There’s also some commercialism at play, where it seems clear that Disney have one eye on potential merchandising revenue. That being said, The Last Jedi is at least as good as The Force Awakens, even outshining it some instances though ultimately, it doesn’t achieve the same lauded status of ‘masterpiece’ awarded to classic instalments A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. Still, The Last Jedi, on the whole, is undeniably a good Star Wars film.
Picking up where The Force Awakens left off, General Leia’s Resistance faces annihilation by the First Order as Leia and her forces are relentlessly pursued by General Hux (a slightly cheesy but enjoyable Domhnall Gleeson) who seeks to eagerly prove himself to the sinister Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis). Leia’s only hope is that Rey can convince Luke Skywalker to cease his self-imposed exile and help end the First Order’s tyranny once and for all.
There is a jumble of sub plots along the way as the story shifts between Rey’s time with Luke and her exploration of the Force, the plight of the dwindling Resistance fleet, Kylo Renn’s continued slide into darkness and Finn’s (now recovered from the injuries he sustained in The Force Awakens) secret mission to a Casino planet. It all hangs together in the end but it does result in some uneven pacing. Thankfully, viewers are rewarded with an exciting, emotionally charged and epic final act that can be considered amongst the greatest Star Wars moments ever.
Where The Last Jedi can sometimes stumble in keeping its narrative concise and properly focused, it excels in its characterisation, actor performances and visual appeal. Firstly, Mark Hamill is superb in a surprisingly more tortured, less hopeful take on Luke Skywalker, here a grizzled, brooding recluse who sees himself as much more of a failure than the legend he is purported to be. Hamill is given some of the best material to work with and it leads to one of the finest performances of his career. Likewise, the late Carrie Fisher is captivating in her final screen role with a turn that’s poignant and enlightening and together with Hamill provide The Last Jedi with a strong, satisfying and nostalgic emotional core. The newer generation of characters are once again a delight, Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver are the clear standouts but there’s, pleasingly, an increased function for Oscar Isaac’s fearless Poe Dameron who, beyond more daring feats in the cockpit of an X-Wing, gets to butt heads with Laura Dern’s Vice Admiral Holdo. John Boyega, again, brings a neat balance of fun and seriousness to Finn and although his adventure to Canto Bight is one of the weaker and more unnecessary plot elements it facilitates the introduction of Kellie Mary Tran’s Rose and Benecio Del Toro’s shady convict ‘DJ’. Andy Serkis turns in another fine motion capture performance as Snoke and is a decent enough villain but it doesn’t feel as though the character quite lives up to the bleak threat that seemed promised in his brief appearance from The Force Awakens.
Director Rian Johnson (who also writes) is a masterful storyteller, delivering some astonishing visuals. The expected space battles, ground assaults and lightsabre duels are all there and executed with attention and skill but it’s in the quieter, more emotional character focused moments, tied together with some rather trippy Force-infused sequences, that give The Last Jedi its own unique voice and originality – there are things in this film that have never been seen in a Star Wars film before and The Last Jedi is all the better for it.
Anticipation for The Last Jedi has been feverishly high and it’s unlikely to please everyone but as it stands, it’s a strong entry in the Star Wars franchise that’s not without flaws but is a highly enjoyable if not instantly classic SF Fantasy adventure.
The bottom line: The Last Jedi has its flaws but is without a doubt a good Star Wars film and a highly enjoyable blockbuster that is a worthy addition to the series.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is in cinemas now.