‘The Last Jedi’ – A Review By a ‘Star Wars’ Hater
Director: Rian Johnson
Cast: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Andy Serkis, Domhall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Benicio del Toro
Plot: Rey has tracked down Master Luke Skywalker, but he is reluctant to train her as a Jedi. The Resistance, meanwhile, is being hunted by the First Order and are close to being trapped.
Review: Since the prequels and the tide of half-assessed cartoons, video games and merchandise that went with them I’ve been hating on Star Wars. It had come to represent the laziest and greediest part of the film industry. That position has been getting harder to take in recent years because the films…they’re not bad.
So a month after release and on a national holiday that is by tradition spent outdoors I took myself to the cinema to catch up on the latest entry to the canon, one that seems to be divisive among fans and viewers. First impressions is that it was fun…also a little weird.
The Last Jedi manages to maintain the immensely high quality of production the series has become known for. It looks and sounds a treat, and director Johnson has approached it with his considered use of colour and design. Some scenes in this film are downright striking, such as Snoke’s (Serkis) throne room and the wealthy casino resort. Other sequences, such as the white and red salt planet are striking but in a less effective manner. It’s also good to see a director who understands that special effects should support the story, not replace it.
Focusing the story on Rey (Ridley) yearning to be a Jedi but being more attuned to the Dark Side makes for more engaging viewing, and much more interesting than CGI robots and animals lining up to shoot lasers at each other. Mark Hamill returning as Luke Skywalker is a long awaited treat, and it’s a fascinating take on the iconic character. He feels like he’s grown, struggled and changed over the decades rather than being kept in stasis since Return of the Jedi. It would have been cool to see some of the in-between, but this is a good story for Luke.
Kylo Ren, the Sith Lord and son of Han Solo and Leia Organa, is equally fascinating, and there’s better work done with his internal conflict in this one film that they managed with Anakin Skywalker in three prequel films. Driver is perfectly cast in the role and as the story moves on it’s never clear where things are going to end up with Rey and Kylo Ren, who will fall on the side of good or evil. It’s a clash of ideologies and personality with laser swords.
With a running time of two and half hours it’s a shame that the rest of the cast feel like it’s padding things out. The ticking clock chase between the First Order and the Resistance works for a while but quickly feels like they had no plan for these characters beyond The Force Awakens. Finn (Boyega), who was one of the most interesting ideas in the previous film, is so stalled in this film that they added in a random love interest for him. Rose (Tran) is a fun character but she only exists to give Finn something to do. The film could have been much shorter if they weren’t burdened with characters they didn’t know what to do with, and we wouldn’t have felt like we’d reached a climatic battle and then…had another one.
And poor Gwendoline Christie, they created a cool looking badass character for her and then did nothing with her. Boo. They also need to think of new things to do with the Millennium Falcon rather than turning up in the nick of time and flying through narrow spaces.
As we said before the movie has some serious weirdness. Luke slurping down teal coloured milk from some weird cliff cow-giraffe thing who appears to be enjoying it is so out of place it may as well have been a 50’s diner in the middle of a space opera. Poe (Isaacs) makes a prank call to the First Order. It’s funny, but it’s an odd choice. Leia Organa can fly through space. She might’ve wanted to bust that skill out sooner, might’ve come in handy.
Out of the current batch of Star Wars films this one is the weakest. Plenty of great design, performances and ideas padded out with some real strange shit and pointless plot threads. With some more editing in the writing phase it could’ve been a really tight film, because Johnson knows what he’s doing. More than anything else it’s great to see the producers willing to take some risks instead of churning out fan-service clones of the previous efforts. With risk a franchise cannot grow and improve, and it’s the drive to please everyone that almost killed the series ten years ago.
So yeah, it’s not the best Star Wars out there but we’d like to see more in this direction.
Rating: SEVEN out of TEN