It seems we are now in the full-on Disneyfication of the Star Wars Movie with three movies in as many years. For the most part, The Force Awakens and Rogue One were largely successful endeavour. Each succeeding in different ways while not exactly reinventing the formula. The Last Jedi, the latest entry is tasked with moving this latest trilogy along and does so in some surprising ways. But does it succeed as the middle act of this grand new set of movies? Find out in our review.
The Resistance as lead by General Leia is on the back foot despite having struck a blow to the First Order. They are seeking to escape their current base of operations now surrounded by the First Order and find themselves in something of a stalemate as they attempt to escape and build a new base of operations. Meanwhile, Rey attempts to lure Luke back to the fight as a source of inspiration to the Resistance.
The desired elements that fans come to a Star Wars film for are always a bit different for each fan. Some look for the adventure and action of aliens and epic battles, others the mysticism of the Force, while others still the melodrama and character moments of these scrappy underdogs. If any of these seem familiar than The Last Jedi has at least something to offer you.
The action, for the most part, is a standard (and I mean that in an expected but not derogatory sense) with space battles, sword fighting, and the ilk. Rian Johnson on occasions brings a striking visual flair to these proceedings. The use of salt and blood red in the final battles is spectacular as well as a wonderful almost dance-like dual with lightsabers. I imagine at this point it’s hard to create something substantially bigger and better than what has come before but still, it’s at least as good as that.
The story of Rey seeking out Luke for both help for The Resistance and training as a Jedi is where things seem to take a twist beyond the conventional. While The Force Awakens hints at a falling out between Kylo and Luke here it and its after-effects are explored. Luke is now a broken Jedi master but also a man and is somewhat cynical and the lessons he presents about The Force are different than we have come to expect. This training phase of the film is not the inspiring sequence we expect but one clouded with anger and sometimes frustrating. It’s the first indication that The Last Jedi doesn’t always play by the same rulebook.
The character moments in The Last Jedi are what I particularly liked and the emotional payoffs for both Luke and Leia are some of the more heartfelt moments across the movies. Hamill and Fisher are exceptional here. Their shared scene, is beyond words. Daisy Ridley continues to be our conflicted and complicated hero and Oscar Issac is finally given something to do as Poe Dameron. It’s nice to see the introduction of new characters of Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) and Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) who both have vital moments. The Dern/ Fisher scene is surprisingly emotive.
There is one sequence which falls a flat and largely revolves around Finn and Rose trying to recruit a hacker to break the stalemate between Resistance and First Order. The idea of a hacker or even Benicio Del Toro’s slimy character is a bit meh. But his introduction of the moral grey area around war is fascinating. Yet the whole casino planet for the rich feels like a side story that adds little to the forward momentum of the story. One gets the impression that Finn had little to do with the third act but needed a story nonetheless. It all feels a little bit flat and adds even more to the long running time.
The Last Jedi plays with tropes that will be instantly familiar to Star Wars fans and might quite possibly devastate some of them. Rian Johnson vision of this universe is often callous or cruel, filled with victims of poverty and exploitation. Even the Force which seemed so mystical and magical, now is open to being misunderstood and arguably was never in need of guardians to fight for it or over it. I can see how those who like to keep their fantasy space sagas separate from the real world will find these twists and turns divisive. But for me, Rian Johnson has made the most real Star Wars in a long time without destroying what came before it. It’s the most interesting vision of Star Wars since Empire Strikes Back and just remember things change, perhaps people wanted it to be more gradual and glacial-moving, but change they must.
The use of humour throughout The Last Jedi continues to surprise me with this new trilogy. Whether it is Porgs guilting Chewbacca, Rey destroying the Jedi temple, quippy one-liners from various characters or even ridiculous BB8 mechanical solutions all offset what at times can be a heavy film in tone.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review Cheat Sheet
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the most compelling and full Star Wars movie in a long time. It is crammed with emotions, humour, epic action and a delightful ability to play with tropes. Its tone at times is dire and its middle act that feels flat, yet is recovered by a strong third act and leaves me exceedingly curious for the third and closing chapter.
+Has all the familiar elements that Star Wars fans are looking for.
+Emotional payoff for a lot of beloved characters
+Some visual flairs to otherwise familiar action.
+Plays with tropes and expectations and revises how we have come to understand the Star Wars universe.
-Runs too long
-especially considering the flat side story of Finn and Rose