Director: Rian Johnson
Cast: Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill, John Boyega, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Kelly Marie Tran, Andy Serkis, Laura Dern, Domhnall Gleeson, Benicio Del Toro, Gwendoline Christie and Carrie Fisher
Plot: As The First Order surround the final members of the Resistance, Rey (Ridley) tries to convince a world-weary Luke Skywalker (Hamill) to join the fight.
Star Wars is its own worst enemy. In their heads, people have a vague notion of what they want from a Star Wars movie. Generically handsome and righteous good guys fighting sinister bad people in swirling black cloaks. The rest of the movie should be made up of sound effects and the odd Wookie. It means that anyone trying to pull off a Star Wars movie has to impress the angriest fan base in the galaxy with a post-it note’s worth of information to go from. Not even the Star Wars maestro, George Lucas, was safe, reduced to a sobbing mess for daring to give us the prequels (we still haven’t gotten over the nightmare of an animated Yoda!) J.J Abrams had a slight benefit in following those three poorly-received movies, meaning that he was allowed to play it safe, simply dressing up A New Hope with some new characters and planets and calling it a day. You must feel for poor Rian Johnson, quivering in his boots at the thought of coming up with the follow-up to Force Awakens. It doesn’t help that the fans are watching the news feed for the slightest bit of information and blowing it out of proportion. Supreme Leader Snoke must be Darth Plagarias! BB-8 has an evil twin! Who are Rey’s parents?! Have you spotted that Ellie Goulding cameo? PORGS!!! How can Johnson hope to both please the critical fans but create something new, exciting and lasting?
The answer is to find the perfect balance between pleasing familiarity and being genuinely shocking. The sense of same old is still there. The plot to this film is essentially Domhnall Gleeson’s General Hux (looking even more manically villainous than ever before), pinning down the last of the Resistance and preparing to take them all out in a fell swoop. Cue half the film being one continuous space battle, with your favourite actors huddled over starship bridges and looking serious. There are also tense undercover heists in Imperial starships, strange alien planets full of interesting-looking critters and gripping lightsabre duels. Meanwhile as Rey and Luke Skywalker learn the ways of the Force in an isolated planet, you cannot help but think back to Luke’s own training in Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back. There is even a scene where Rey confronts her inner demons in a gloomy cave system. There are large moments of this film, where you think that Rian has once again played it safe and simply made a movie that will appeal to the younger audiences, but have little new for the more mature fans. The Force Awakens got away with simply dropping Chewbacca into a scene to bring it to life, but we have now all gotten used to the fact that Star Wars is back in action… We need things to get taken to the next level. That’s where Rian Johnson manages to bury in enough genuine shocks to keep proceedings alive. The answer to the film’s two biggest riddles (the identity of Snoke and Rey’s parents), might frustrate the over-hyped fans, but are subtly beautiful in their own ways. Luke Skywalker and Kylo Ren are constantly shifting characters, never not surprising you at every turn. There are some great surprises in this film that will have the rug genuinely pulled from your feet. In a film as scrutinised as Star Wars, it is such a pleasing feeling that there are a few tidbits unspoilt for the audience. Sometimes it is just scenes playing out differently than you would expect them. Laura Dern’s character fuels the middle of the film and remains one storyline that will have you questioning your perception of the film. And Carrie Fisher almost gets the biggest gasp of the film, in an explosive set-piece that will have you pulled through the emotional wringer.
While on the surface, The Last Jedi feels a little shallow, there is depth buried away. More than the Force Awakens had… While it is easy to get wrapped up in the shoot-outs between great characters and sink into Rey’s search for her place in the battle, Rian Johnson allows us to find more mature themes under the surface. For one, there are some interesting social debates bubbling away under the surface, probably hoping to introduce the younger viewers to weighty topics and getting them thinking about it early on. Cruelty to animals is brought up. Johnson debates if you can be religious yet disagree with the set formula created centuries ago. And then there is of course the brutality of war, as brave men sacrifice themselves and the hero image is brought into question. But the amazing thing is that these subjects don’t slow The Last Jedi down in the slightest. Then there are the performances. Oscar Isaac gets plenty to do this time around, upgraded from ‘handsome man’ as he was last time around. Hamill has the time of his life, balancing dry sarcasm, brooding seriousness and that light-hearted sense of fun that Star Wars needs. Hamill has pretty much reinvented the ‘brush dirt off your shoulder’ in the Moment of 2017. However, the actor who deserves the most credit is an incredible Adam Driver. His Kylo Ren was threatening to be a poor man’s Vader, a stroppy teenager replacing the most iconic bad guy in movie history. However, Driver’s antagonist reinvents what a bad guy is, showing us a struggling adolescent trying to make sense of a world that is forcing him into the darkness, confused by the uncontrollable power he has at his fingertips. Gone are the moments of insecurity. Star Wars is continuing to be the event of the year!
Oh, and BB-8 is still the best thing to happen to cinema. Ever!
Final Verdict: Rian Johnson perfects pleasing us with something new, but sticking to the core principals of what makes Star Wars so iconic.