Picking up where ‘The Force Awakens’ left off, The New Republic has been thrown into chaos, the First Order is on the rise and Rey has finally tracked down Luke Skywalker; The Last Jedi.
I took my seat in the cinema feeling a little bit curious; The Last Jedi was receiving critical acclaim but there was word that some Star Wars purists were spitting out their blue milk in outrage. In my review of The Force Awakens, I made reference to the near-religious reverence some Star Wars fans have for the canon of their series, so this wasn’t a huge shock to me. The thing about Awakens was that, while it did tread into new territory by putting the focus on the new characters, it played things safe. I maintain that the film was fantastic but it can’t be denied that the plot was a bit of a re-tread of A New Hope’s major plot points. This was the House of Mouse treading carefully with their new acquisition.
In Last Jedi, having dipped their little toe in, they now cannonball into the pool and start swimming. I can see why the purists might be upset, but it doesn’t change the fact that they are wrong. First of all, many of the iconic elements of the franchise are present; space battles, Lightsaber duels and frantic battles with evil. However, Last Jedi takes these familiar elements, plays with them and takes them in unexpected directions. Given how obsessed various Star Wars media has been obsessed with recreating those iconic moments from the original movies, this is a hugely exciting development. It gives me real hope that the franchise can work as a long-term film series.
The biggest unexpected twist on the formula is a spoiler that would merit public flogging for ruining, so I’ll give a more low-key example. When Luke begrudgingly gives Rey her first lesson, he has her close her eyes and tells her to ‘reach out’. Anyone who has seen anything to do with Star Wars would instantly know he means to reach out with her mind. Rey obediently reaches out with her hand, leading to Luke playing along and teasing her until she awkwardly realises what he meant.
The themes of the film are legacy and hope and are closely tied to the character development of Rey, Finn and Poe. The new power trio has the passion and energy that will make them into the Galaxy’s next big heroes but the old cast and more experienced characters still have the wisdom and experience that they lack. All three of them ignore advice or warnings from Luke, Leia and other veterans to their cost. But they learn from these mistakes and they slowly begin to continue the legacy of the previous generation of heroes. This also ties into the film’s theme of hope; the idea that heroes can come from anywhere and don’t have to have a direct connection to the heroes of years previously.
I find myself wishing I hadn’t given ‘The Force Awakens’ five out of five; not because I don’t think it still deserves it but because I can’t give the Last Jedi a higher score. It has everything that makes Star Wars great and plays with it in new and exciting ways.
Director: Rian Johnson
Starring: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern and Benicio del Toro.
Running Time: 152 minutes