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Review – Star Wars: The Last Jedi gives us everything and more

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SPOILERS GALORE

There was a special kind of camaraderie at 3AM this morning, as the thrall left the cinema, rolling out into the cold moonlight. We gave each other surreptitious glances, looking for validation. Were we right? The Last Jedi was that eagerly-awaited masterpiece that deserved its place in the canon. Remember, we’ve been burned before  *COUGH*Jar Jar*COUGH* but, just like the Rebellion, we’ve also learned to hope, basking in the re-energised glow of J J Abram’s The Force Awakens and wiping away a tear at the sorrowful beauty of Rogue One.

It’s safe to say that The Last Jedi was an old-school experience. I’m going to have to let the dust settle before I can determine whether it stands the test of time, but this film ticked all of the boxes. Most notably, The Last Jedi subverts all of the narratives so precisely stacked up by The Force Awakens, as well as cementing the tight bond we had with Rey, Finn and Poe. If the colour palette for episodes 4-6 was silver and for 1-3 was blue, director Rian Johnson and cinematographer Steve Yedlin thoughtfully built on Abrams and Dan Mindel’s red, white and black theme from episode VII, producing cinematography that ranks alongside the greatest in the genre.

However, The Last Jedi’s balloon was punctured with some truly dire and ill-timed ‘comic’ moments. And, by answering so many questions I wonder where we can go next. From now on this piece is nothing but SPOILERS. You have been warned.

The plot is a bit long, but I’ll summarise: Big opening battle well represented by women and people of colour. Rey needs to be trained to use the force by Luke. Porgs appear. Chewie may or may not eat Porgs. The Resistance is extremely thin on the ground, in numbers and fuel. Kylo Ren/Ben has made it through those difficult teen years to work full time for fun-size Snoke and his band of merry red men.  Rey trains. BB-8 is somehow less cute, but more vital to the plot. Poe is more nerf-herder than Solo. Kylo rages. Luke worries. Yoda makes an extremely welcome appearance. Kylo blows up his mother (who has started to dress like Bram Stoker’s Dracula). Leia uses the Resurrection Force in the most ridiculous manner ever. Maz Tanaka is insane. We meet the wonderful Rose. Every five minutes a new famous person appears for two seconds (Ade Edmondson, Lily Cole, Michaela Coel, Justin Theroux and they’re just the ones whose faces I could see). There’s a casino planet with a side-story taken from OKJA and ruined by Benicio Del Toro. It slowly dawns that Billie Lourd’s Connix is in this film a lot. There are cheers for Ackbar. Rey and Kylo have a psychic connection and might fancy each other in an unwelcome “this has gone a bit GoT” manner. They fight. They hold hands. They wave bye bye to Snoke. They really, really want that lightsaber. The Resistance are dying. Holdo (Laura Dern) is a woman and Poe can’t get over it. Hux is around, but he really is only there to be Kylo’s pale biatch. BB9-E is a supergrass. There is a showdown and I think it’s over. Then the most amazing almost silent destruction of a spaceship happens and we all audibly gasp. There’s another showdown and I think it’s all over. It is for chrome dome Phasma. Nope there’s another showdown (yes! new gorilla-inspired AT-ATs). Luke does his thing. It’s still not over (cute crystal foxes), Rey uses the Force and thanks to Luke it’s not even that exciting. Her and Poe meet for the first time (WTF?) and there is a wonderful scene where all the gang’s together…and it should have ended there. But, no, there’s expositional hope in the form of Anakin lookalikes playing with Jedi toys and we’ve finally reached the meta end.

Wow, that was exhausting. Rian Johnson packs an awful lot in. Too much? Definitely. Do we care? No. The Last Jedi is a film that you want to talk about, maybe scream about. It is that rare thing, an individual pursuit that becomes a group activity by the sheer audacity of its scope.

The first thing I remember is Snoke. The number of articles and tweets that circled after The Force Awakens decrying his huge, hologram face, meant that I was expecting a giant. In fact, actor Andy Serkis put it perfectly by calling his Snoke akin to the Wizard from The Wizard of Oz. Peek behind the curtain and Snoke is revealed to be an average-sized human-like entity. He’s still undeniably evil, and yet he seems fallible, simply because he no longer hides behind a projected image, oh and because he is killed in such a basic, boring fashion.

The second thing is the women of the Rebellion. I cannot tell you how my heart sang with joy when Leia, in a coma, has her command replaced by Holdo. Dern is really good, not overplaying her part and keeping us guessing as to her true nature. And her first admiral is also a woman. Has this ever happened before? The sci-fi genre has always been trailblazing, but it is testament to the work he put in to Rogue One that Johnson can effortlessly populate The Last Jedi with female characters that feel natural, purposeful and not distracting. Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose is great. Rey strikes a balance of anxiety and bravery that makes her a first class hero. Power is also wielded by both genders, although I was disappointed with the lack of screen time devoted to Phasma. Gwendoline Christie played her with such menace, she will be missed. Johnson could still up his game with greater inclusion of black actors, but the representation of people of colour across main and secondary cast members was formidable. I truly believe that if more films take this approach to casting then the battle for cinematic equality would be more easily won than that between the First Order and the Rebel Scum. NB: Not a lot of women on Hux’s team.

The third thing is the humour. I consider Johnson one of the most intellectual directors of modern times. It is jarring to see these inserted jokes that don’t ring true with neither the events nor the personality of those speaking the lines. I can’t believe I am saying this about a fictitious world, but Johnson is in danger of failing to treat this material with the deference that it deserves. Visual gags and wisecracks are the staple of George Lucas’s omniverse and reducing characters such as Hux, Kylo and Rey to jokesters does not ring true. This takes away from the spectacle that Johnson has painstakingly brought to screen. That being said, some of the jokes are funny, it is the witty little asides that generate the biggest laughs.

The fourth thing is the destruction scene. Wow. In both a world and a film so chockablock with music, it was a bold, fresh choice to deliver this scene by fixing it so precisely within deep space. Using slowmo visuals first and audio second garners a seriousness and a sense of threat unmatched by anything within the Star wars canon, the DC universe or the MCU. Bravo.

The last thing is the spirit of homage. I left the cinema thinking that I had somehow watched childish magic unfold – not normally part of the science fiction scene. Parts of the story seemed ripped from the script of a Harry Potter adaptation, a weird feeling of two universes colliding, much as I am partial to a sparkling crystal fox. Johnson continues his meta approach with unnecessary references to Jurassic Park and Star Trek. Star Wars is THE canon that OTHER movies rip from, it is one of the few franchises that stands entirely on its own feet. Again, because I’m not here to needlessly criticise a film that I loved, I see that Johnson knows how to use reference when necessary, such as a stirring tribute to Leia’s ‘only hope’ speech from A New Hope, and Yoda’s part, which made me grin. This movie is not a relation to Empire Strikes Back but more to Return of the Jedi. It is a message from Johnson, who like Kylo, wants to blow up all the old and take it in a completely new direction. And now we grieve for the Skywalkers while Johnson begins work on his new trilogy.

How many other movies are we willing to see at Midnight, to dissect for months afterwards, to become enraged on behalf of entities that don’t exist? None. Star Wars: The Last Jedi is unique. It has it all. And more.

I’ll leave you with two questions.

  1. Is it possible that we all might come to identify with Kylo Ren’s cause?
  2. Where on earth do we go now?

You can also read Alan’s review here.

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One Comment

  1. It’s a pity Holdo and Po couldn’t meet in the middle with a little more balance, maybe more lives would have been saved. Neither were right or wrong but petty squabbling and genitalia got in the way! Sad reflection of our times that even in Star Wars we are yet to achieve balance! We need Humans of the rebellion!

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