Having taken her first steps into the Jedi world, Rey joins Luke Skywalker on an adventure with Leia, Finn and Poe that unlocks mysteries of the Force and secrets of the past.
The Star Wars episodic saga returns to cinemas with the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, picking up the reins from JJ Abrams, and Lawrence Kasdan is Rian Johnson as director and writer with his first film since the 2012 time thriller Looper.
The Last Jedi picks up almost immediately following the end of The Force Awakens, with Rey pursuing Luke Skywalker to help forge her destiny as a Jedi, and to return him to the Resistance, while Leia continues to fight the expansion and oppression of the First Order led by Supreme Leader Snoke.
The Last Jedi is almost entirely driven by characters, even more so than The Empire Strikes Back before it, The Last Jedi plot is simple, and less grandiose than most Star Wars films. Its success as a film rests almost entirely upon the characters driving it, and Johnson has done a superb job of delivering on this. His handling of Kylo Ren in particular is excellent, with Kylo’s arc both interesting, engaging, and unexpected. In support roles Poe Dameron and Finn’s arcs are also well developed, with a clear progression throughout the film. This delicate and considered handling of character is consistent across the board, and is a huge achievement of the film.
At a run time of approximately 2.5 hours there is so much going on in this film, however the core premise felt less ambitious than most Star Wars films. There is a very simple idea at the heart of the story, and unfortunately its one that is not particularly original. If you strip away the peripheral elements it felt a little disappointing. The key sub-plot in the second act of the film, whilst entertaining is unnecessary.
Johnson clearly had the desire with his chapter, to take the trilogy into unexpected places, and throw off the criticism previously faced by JJ by delivering a film not dissimilar from its equivalent in the original trilogy. Credit to Johnson for achieving this, the film easily delivers more than its share of surprises however it’s not without some short comings. The continuity between the Force Awakens and Last Jedi feels like it has been sacrificed, with so much of the setup from the Abrams film being twisted around, dismissed, or seemingly abandoned. The writing behind a key character is insufficient in justifying how the character is portrayed here, and while entertaining, many of the payoffs didn’t feel as earned as they should in a trilogy long story.
These issues made the allocation of screen time even more paramount which again, is reason to streamline some of the unnecessary subplot happening elsewhere in the film so that time can be repurposed to addressing some of these more central issues.
Plotting aside Johnson delivers a number of dazzling action sequences, the film opens with one of the most memorable scenes which is purely action based, before transitioning to more character driven and drama filled action set pieces by the films end. The score of the film is joy to the ears, capturing and delivering the feel of Star Wars as much as ever.
Cast performances are strong all round and Johnson’s direction of them is on point, Adam Driver crushes his role in this film, making the most of Kylo’s arc, as does Mark Hamill in what is a career defining performance for him, regardless of my deep misgivings around the characterisation of Luke Skywalker in this film. Daisy Ridley is sound but with a few moments where she faltered a little in delivering some dialogue, while Oscar Isaac’s, and John Boyega deliver a seamless continuation of their performances in Force Awakens.
Carrie Fisher’s final performance as Leia is an emotional ride, in The Last Jedi she fits in with the film perfectly and is even given a few extra moments to shine in ways she hasn’t previously. This makes what is potentially a swansong for the character more memorable. How Leia is going to be managed for Episode IX we’ll simply have to wait and see.
So some overall thoughts, Last Jedi is an excellent film and Rian Johnson a great choice as director, I look forward to seeing what he does now that he’s been assigned the task of delivering an entirely new trilogy of films set in the Star Wars universe. His attention to detail and his management of character excels here.
However, I felt the desire to shake things up has overridden too much of the setup from Force Awakens that it damages the continuity of the trilogy, the story structure is a little messy and some of its climatic moments didn’t feel as earned as they needed to be.
I’m giving Star Wars: The Last Jedi 7.5 out of 10, it’s currently in cinemas around Australia.