Saturday, 16 December 2017

Film Review: Star Wars - The Last Jedi


Director Rian Johnson assumes control of the Star Wars series and steers it into deeper, darker and stranger territory than ever before. Brace yourselves for shocks aplenty.

Rose (Kelly-Marie Tran) and Finn (John Boyega).
Star Wars: The Last Jedi picks up mere moments after the end of JJ Abrams' The Force Awakens. The Resistance, still reeling from the destruction of the New Republic, are in full retreat, with the First Order hot on their heels. Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac) and newcomer Rose (Kelly-Marie Tran) hatch a daring plan to save the Resistance fleet from certain defeat. Meanwhile, Rey (Daisy Ridley) is furthering her training under the tutelage of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill).

Right out of the box, The Last Jedi presents itself as a decisively different Star Wars adventure. Johnson strives to subvert expectation at every turn, undercutting the myriad internet theories and speculation to challenge audiences. Where The Force Awakens was expected, The Last Jedi is daring. The underlying mantra in Johnson's film is of letting go of the past and starting afresh. The past is the past; it's time to brush that aside and look to the future. 

Channelling influences that range from Akira Kurosawa to manga and anime, Johnson's bold direction paints the Star Wars universe with gorgeous visuals and cinematography. The Last Jedi is without question to most visually stunning Star Wars film to date, with Johnson distinguishing his film by working deep crimson and vivid scarlet into the palette. 

Undoubtedly the strongest aspect of his film is the evolving dynamic between Rey and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver); emotional, unexpected and at times surreal, Johnson reshapes our understanding of the universe to deepen the connection between his two leads. Hamill also rises to the occasion, delivering his best ever performance as Luke Skywalker. Poe and General Leia (the late Carrie Fisher) are also afforded a satisfying and touching storyline that farewells the latter with power and grace. 


That said, not everything runs as smoothly as Rey and Kylo. Some of the humour falls surprisingly flat and a subplot concerning Finn and Rose doesn't weave as seamlessly into the narrative as you would hope. That's not to say it isn't needed; all of the major characters are afforded meaningful arcs, especially Rose. If there is one thing The Last Jedi achieves, it's advancing its characters; even bit players like Hux (Domnhall Gleeson) and Holdo (Laura Dern) are found space in the sprawling screenplay. It's just this one particular subplot often pulls attention away from the really good stuff (Rey, Luke and Kylo) to whisk us through this protracted storyline that is a smidgen too long.

At just a hair over two-and-a-half hours, The Last Jedi is the longest Star Wars film to date. It doesn't feel like it. With so much going on (Johnson packs a lot into the runtime) and with the number of twists and turns (just as the trailer warned, this isn't going to go how you expect), the film just races by. The second act is definitely where things feel flabby (again, going back to that diversion with Finn), but everything ties together nicely for a third act that, like the rest of the film, is more concerned with padding out its characters than it is blowing up planets.

The scale in The Last Jedi is pleasingly small; a select group of characters and an innately personal narrative where everyone comes out the other side different to how they went in. What's more, Johnson sets up a third chapter that could realistically go anywhere and do anything. What happens next is anyone's guess.

The Verdict: 9/10


If The Force Awakens was the appetiser, The Last Jedi is a four-course meal complete with dessert and coffee. Johnson defies expectation to deliver a rollercoaster blockbuster that leaves you speechless. A character-driven instalment that changes the game entirely, The Last Jedi is gorgeous, poignant, compelling, surreal and thematically relevant.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is in cinemas across Australia now.

6 comments:

  1. Great review! I'm glad you liked it.

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    1. I did, and it really grows in standing the more I think about it too :)

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  2. Great review! By the way, we basically liked and disliked the same things.

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  3. Nice review! I had a lot of problems with this onethe first time I saw it, but it got better the second time around. Some of the humor and sideplots sideswiped my enthusiasm for it overall, but the overwhelming hate for the movie by other fans is over-the-top. I look forward to seeing it again sometime and seeing if my opinion changes. :D

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    1. I was the same; I was still a bit shellshocked after the first viewing, but I think that's a good thing – it's really rare that a film throws some genuine surprises at you.

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