Reviews: may the Force be with us – The Last Jedi
Star Wars: The Last Jedi,
Directed by Rian Johnson,
Starring Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Gwendoline Christie, Carrie Fisher, Domhnall Gleeson, OScar Isaacs
FInally it arrives, the movie so many of us have been waiting for, the follow up to The Force Awakens brings us across the galaxy in a film where everything that I expected was twisted around and around. As we know, Rey has travelled to find Luke to persuade him back to the fight against the First Order. The Rebellion are on the back foot as they have to find a new base and seek help from their friends. Kylo Ren must win back the respect and trust of Supreme Leader Snoke after the events of The Force Awakens.
I remember two years ago sitting in the same theatre that I was in today, and crying watching The Force Awakens. I don’t mind sharing that with you guys because we all love one another, and you know that, sitting around Star Wars fans watching a damn good movie is emotional. Today I thought that I knew what was going to happen through The Last Jedi, with every fan friend I know offering a theory, all seemingly possible or at least plausible. Director and writer Rian Johnson said no to these theories, and to what many of us thought would have happened, and instead delivered something that really kept me off balance, in the best possible way.
The film takes up almost right from the end of The Force Awakens. But there is a different feel to the movie. It seems that Rian Johnson has taken notes from last year’s Rogue One and upped the stakes with humour and the danger. I’ll give you an example, and this is about ten minutes in, so it’s not a spoiler (really, it’s not), but an attack on a new First Order ship goes drastically wrong. The scene could have been lifted directly from Rogue One, but with Johnson behind the camera it becomes its own beast altogether. The amount of sadness and bravery that is instantly translated from the characters just made me swell with tears again. Since Disney bought Lucasfilm I think they are responsible for more tears from me in theatres. That is my excuse.
But being called The Last Jedi there are, as you’d expect, a lot of moments that are between Luke and Rey. Ridley is once again strong as the young woman trying to find out where she belongs in the Force. It’s so nice to see Hamill back as Luke, as it was with Harrison Ford last year, and there is actual development to the character, which means he cannot just rely on the previous characterisation; this is a character who has evolved, seen things that have changed him. The eager youngster dreaming of adventure is gone, this older Luke does not want to be drawn back into the problems of the Force.
This is also the last film from Carrie Fisher, and her performance is as strong as Leia was forty years ago, to the point where I forgot for the running time that we do not have our Princess any more. It’s a pure testament to her talent and character. The film also develops Poe Dameron’s character further, to become the leader that the Rebellion is going to need. It’s great as Oscar Isaac deserves more of a role and it’s a great journey for him to go on. Joining the cast is the excellent Benicio Del Toro as DJ; I would have loved to see more of him, and Kelly Marie Tran as Rose.
We travel to many new worlds and see more of the characters that surround the new Rebellion. But the main new attraction to the science fiction franchise, at least at this level, is the humour that is thrown in. It’s not forced into the film, but naturally brought in to make you laugh when you least expect it. The confidence that Rian has to throw in a slapstick moment, a quick throw away gag, and a sarcastic comment is just something that took myself and nearly everyone around me by the most pleasant surprise, and is a nice counterpoint to the heavier scenes.
I don’t know if everyone will see what I saw in The Last Jedi, a film as different from The Force Awakens as you can get. As you approach the final reel of the film the goosebumps start to pop up on your arm. The desperation of Rogue One, and the similarities between The Last Jedi and Empire Strikes back are clear and yet new at the same time. The Last Jedi is the sequel that we needed, a brave new direction, with a tongue in cheek, and a darkness that the franchise is known to keep in its back pocket. If I’m honest there is nothing here that I can say that will change your mind about The Last Jedi: you’re going to see it this week if you are going to go see it, if you’re not then you’re just wrong. The Last Jedi isn’t just a great Star Wars Movie, it’s a great science fiction film.