The Force has awoken and brought to life a new and unpredictable Star Wars movie, challenging much of what fans were expecting in the sequel to The Force Awakens. Director Rian Johnson brought to life a beautiful looking film that focuses on the passing of the baton from the old generation of heroes to our new protagonist in a way that will see our new characters go deeper and develop in ways no one saw coming. The Last Jedi has some incredible highs, some epic battles on all scales, some beautiful story arcs and some minor disappointments, but this is a worthy second act in a three act saga.
The story picks up with Rey continuing her journey approaching Jedi Master Luke Skywalker, handing him his old lightsabre. This Luke is different to the one people remember from 30 years ago, doing something with the lightsabre that no one would have expected. Played brilliantly and intelligently by Mark Hamill, Luke is reluctant to become the teacher that Rey seeks, or the hero the galaxy expects of him based on the failures of his past. Rey, unwilling to give up on the Jedi Master, continues to try and learn how she fits into everything and how to better understand the Force. To quote Snoke “Darkness rises, and the Light to meet it.” As Rey becomes stronger with the force as does her dark side opponent, Kylo Ren.
Adam Driver gives perhaps one of the best performances in The Last Jedi, creating a depth to the character of Kylo Ren, to which the surface was scratched in The Force Awakens. Driver brings to Ren a conflict that fans were hoping to see in the prequels, as a young man gives himself to the dark side, even as the light is pulling at him. He still plays the young man, lacking control over his emotions and living in the shadow of what his Grand Father achieved, a legacy that weighs heavily on him. His relationship with his new master Snoke, his old master Luke and his light side counter part in Rey, play vital roles in his development as a main character in this Saga.
In between the tale of the light and dark side of the Force, there is a military story unlike any that has come before in a Star Wars movie. It is here we see a new military strategy used by The Resistance to out manoeuvre the First Order ships pursuing them, using an imaginative and slightly frustrating technique rather than engage in a losing battle. At the centre of this plot are two stories, one of Finn and Rose, the other of Poe, Leia and newcomer, Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern). On first viewing neither of these story lines sat right with me, it wasn’t until revisiting the movie that I saw what Johnson was aiming for. These stories play more towards the development of the characters of Finn and in particular Poe, setting them on a path to greatness for Episode IX. The arc of Poe felt unnecessary at first, the story would have been so simple to fix, but when a character goes through as much growth as he does, you can see why the story had to play out the way it did.
Whilst not all the new characters were successful additions to the franchise, newcomer Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose Tico definitely was. She represents the average person, not born into a special family or trained as Special Forces; she just wants to do her part for The Resistance. Her storyline with Finn is a rather interesting one, unfortunately though, their story on Canto Bight really does feel like it belongs in another movie.
Despite my love for this new instalment in the Star Wars Universe, it is not without its flaws. Some of the characters arcs feel dragged out, whilst others are rushed or wasted. The Finn and Rose story feels out of place in the movie, and the Poe story takes ages to make sense, though when it does the pay off is there. Laura Dern’s Admiral Holdo definitely needed to be fleshed out more, with the character potentially benefiting from more time, or even a role in The Force Awakens. The Last Jedi is far from perfect, but the ambitious nature of the story meant that it never would be, and that is something I admire about what Johnson is trying to achieve.
Something Johnson did that surprised me was the new way he perceives the Force. With these two new trilogy movies we have began to see new Force abilities not seen in any of the prior movies. The Force is a powerful entity that requires balance, light and dark, something that Johnson begins to explore throughout The Last Jedi. We see how it can protect characters, connect characters and even do some incredible things far beyond “a power that Jedi have that lets them control people and… make things float.” This might not appeal to everyone, especially people who feel that the force is simply mind tricks or telepathy but it furthers the Star Wars lore in ways that none of the other movies have pushed it.
The Last Jedi will make some people extremely happy, in particular those who feel wanted something different to what had come before, but with change comes disappointment to those who don’t get the change they wanted to see. Audiences will be polarised by this latest edition to the Star Wars universe, with there not being wide spread hate like there was for the prequels but there was not the same love that the Originals have. I was surprised to see what Johnson did and love what he created, especially with our new characters.
See it, but as the great Jedi Master Luke Skywalker says, “This is not going to go, the way you think.” If you see it for a second time, see it with fresh eyes; carry no emotion or expectations in with you.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi scores 8.75/10