Star Wars: The Last Jedi review – Star Wars at its best

by | 14 Dec 2017

‘The Resistance prepares to battle the First Order while Ren develops her abilities with the guidance of Luke Skywalker.’

Arguably the most anticipated movie of the year, Star Wars: The Last Jedi picks up directly after where The Force Awakens (2015) ended: with the resistance on the run from the First Order, and Rey (Daisy Ridley) face-to-face with Jedi Master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Thanks to J.J. Abrams solid effort two years prior, happily putting to rest the worries that this could be like the terrible prequel trilogy, there’s no doubt episode eight has a ton of hype behind it, and a lot of expectation to live up to.

Luckily, taking over directing and writing duties is Rian Johnson. Although he may have only a few films to his name, when those films happen to be the excellent neo-noir Brick (2005) and sci-fi Looper (2012), you know he’s got what it takes to handle the big complex mythology of the Star Wars saga, tell a good story, and offer some grand spectacle as well.

Happily, that’s exactly what he does, delivering another brilliant instalment in this new trilogy of films set a long time ago in a galaxy far far away. He proves more than capable in taking over the reins in this long running and beloved franchise, offering all that fans expect and want to see. But, as the writer, he equally makes some bold choices with some of the characters, bringing something fresh to the plot.

To start with though, let’s look at some of the minor issues, as it’s not completely flawless, and at a broader look, the story has a similar structure and hits some familiar beats to other Star Wars sequels. This will likely frustrate those who made the same complaint about The Force Awakens being too much like A New Hope (1977). There are just certain scenes and moments that we’ve seen before in the other films, which as a result, take away some of that freshness. On top of that, it’s also the longest Star Wars to date, and at a whopping two and a half hour runtime, could out stay its welcome for some viewers.

If, however, you can get past all that, what Johnson does provide is a well-told story that continues the journey of both the old and new characters. Furthermore, he ups the emotional stakes, completely immersing the audience into their lives, and having us fully invested in what happens to them. Combined with John Williams’ classic score, you’ll definitely have that tingly feeling you get when you know you’re watching something truly special. Saying that, it’s not all sober in tone, with Johnson adding just the right amount of levity and humour in places, mostly involving Chewbacca and the ridiculously cute creatures the Porgs.

The movie’s further excelled by its amazing imagery, and in fact, The Last Jedi is quite possibly the best-looking Star Wars movie so far. Indeed, Johnson brings a distinct flare to the way he creates an action sequence, and the way he frames particular shots is so beautiful, it feels like we’re watching art just as much as entertainment. All this is elevated by the outstanding visual effects and production design, which blend seamlessly with each other, displaying an authentic and tangible world. Those effects are superbly utilised to treat us to some well-executed aerial dogfights that are truly exhilarating.

That’s not even mentioning the ground-level set pieces, which present some skilfully choreographed shoot-outs and Lightsaber battles. When it comes to the latter particularly, these are masterfully thought out, and with wide shots and no quick cuts, we get to see all the Lightsaber wielding in its glory. They also feel far more organic and real when compared to the over-stylised duels of the prequels.

Even with all this spectacle though, without good characters to care and root for, the movie wouldn’t be as good as it is. Fortunately, that’s not a problem, and all returning cast do a fabulous job of continuing their arcs and being further developed. Starting with Hamill’s Luke Skywalker, this is the one who’s sparked the most speculation and debate ever since he was teased at the end of the last film. You’ll be pleased to know he doesn’t disappoint, and Hamill slots perfectly back into the role that has defined his career for decades.

He’s not the Luke we remember, however, and Hamill brings a rawness to his performance, where we’re witnessing a broken and world-weary man who’s not the legend he’s been built up as. As one of her last roles before she passed, Carrie Fisher likewise gets a fair bit to do, and really, it’s great to see these older actors get a chance to shine again and not just have the story be about the young new talent.

Speaking of which, John Boyega and Oscar Isaac both have their moments as Finn and Poe, but rightly, the focus is on Rey and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Both Ridley and Driver bring real depth and complexity to their characters, and you can see the conflict each one is going through. Subtle and nuanced, these are riveting performances, and going forward, it will be fascinating to see what happens to these two in episode nine.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is another solid entry in the most popular space opera in the world, and will no doubt continue to create a new generation of fans to carry on its legacy. With solid performances and well-written characters, placed on top of spectacular visuals and action scenes, this is a film, that despite the few flaws it does have, will entertain, shock and inspire all who go and see it.’

David Axcell

Film Critic

David has quite a broad taste in film which includes big budget blockbusters and small indie films; including International and Arthouse cinema. As long as it’s good in that particular genre, he’ll watch anything.

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