Star Wars: The Last Jedi is finally here – and it’s splitting the fandom. Personally, we loved it, though. Check out our review here…
It’s interesting to look at the varying reactions to the Star Wars subfranchises so far. While the majority love the original films and hate the prequels, the two installments of the sequel trilogy released so far have proven to be hugely controversial, splitting the fanbase right down the middle. While some complained about The Force Awakens for being too familiar, The Last Jedi is now being blasted for being too big a departure from what has come before.
Your humble reviewer, though, is happy to be someone who has loved both Episode VII and Episode VIII. TFA was a thoroughly entertaining ride that welcomed the saga back to our screens. TLJ, on the other hand, goes “Ok, now we’re back, let’s see if we can surprise you” – but in a way that, I feel, is still in keeping with the integrity of the characters and the mythos.
First of all, The Last Jedi at first invites us to make comparisons with The Empire Strikes Back – as it’s also the middle one of the trilogy featuring a young Force user being trained by a hobo Jedi master. But writer/director Rian Johnson knows when to play homage and when to twist our expectations. What’s most impressive is the nuance and shades of grey he introduces into a series known for its bombast and clearly-delineated heroes and villains.
The cast are also excellent all round. In particular, the most interesting dynamic of the movie is that between Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), as two people with a deep connection who are on different sides of the Force. After being underused last time, Oscar Isaac gets to tackle a proper character arc as Poe Dameron, while John Boyega’s former stormtrooper learns what it means to be a real hero alongside Kelly Marie Tran’s newcomer Rose Tico.
But it is the two OG characters that left the biggest impression for me. Mark Hamill gives one of the best performances of his career, rising up to the challenge of playing a disheartened, disillusioned Luke perfectly. It’s such a bold reinterpretation of the character that I totally understand why some fans hate it. Personally, I find it a fascinating deepening of Luke’s personality. Likewise, every fan knows that this is Carrie Fisher’s final turn as Leia, following her tragic death last December, and remarkably the movie actually works as an unintended send-off for the character. It even ticks off something that fans have been dying to see for decades.
Of course, I do have some criticisms, though. I really enjoyed the humour Johnson brought to the film for the most part, but at times I felt it was a little too intrusive and took me out of the drama of the scene. Spending time with Finn and Rose was great, but certain flaws in the storytelling render the entire Canto Bight plot rather superfluous. Likewise, Supreme Leader Snoke’s presence turned out to be pretty underwhelming, though the decision to bolster Kylo Ren’s character instead was definitely the right one.
Overall, I personally found The Last Jedi to be a terrific watch. Fun, engrossing, intelligent, it expanded the universe and explored the characters in fresh ways, all while leaving the door open for even more interesting developments to come in Episode IX (arriving in 2019). Maybe that one will buck the trend and actually manage to please all the fans.