NEW RELEASE – SPOILER FREE ZONE!
Directed by Rian Johnson
Writer/Director Rian Johnson brings his own slant to Star Wars with Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. JJ Abrams played it safely to fans of the Original Trilogy with The Force Awakens, and he did so successfully. He did little to expand the mythos, but Rian Johnson has certainly stepped up in that regard. Some fans are already going apeshit. The old “George Lucas ruined my childhood” has been replaced by “Rian Johnson and Disney have ruined Star Wars”. They’re also upset because just about every single fan theory…was wrong.
Some fans will have difficulty accepting certain revelations about The Last Jedi. There are also stylistic choices that are questionable, such as the return of lens flare, and lazy gimmicky slow motion. Johnson also chose to tell parts of this story by use of flashbacks, something that Lucas generally avoided. These factors, plus the recurring symbolic use of the colour red, make The Last Jedi feel like the odd man out of the saga.
Now, somebody hand Mark Hamill an Academy Award, because he earned it this time. His curmudgeonly older and wiser Luke Skywalker is note-perfect. Some fans have complained that this Luke is not the Luke they hoped for, based on the old Expanded Universe (EU) novels. On the other hand, this previously unseen Luke rocks because it’s completely different from previously told stories, which is what the Sequel Trilogy needs to be. Remember, Lucas never would have followed those old books any way. He never has. Regardless, Hamill has clearly done his best cinematic work in The Last Jedi, fulfilling the wishes of every fan who wanted to see the most powerful Jedi master in the history of the order.
This isn’t really a spoiler, but The Last Jedi does prove that Luke Skywalker has indeed fulfilled his destiny of becoming more powerful than any other.
Don’t worry, fanboys, there is lightsaber action to be seen; and don’t forget the original 1977 Star Wars had very little to start with. Instead of prequel-esque lightsaber stupidity, Johnson gives us a more contemplative Skywalker. The stories of Luke and his new student Rey (Daisy Ridley) are so compelling that other heroes are left by the wayside. Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), Finn (John Boyega) and newcomer Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) have their own mission on the side, to cripple the evil First Order. Unfortunately, and perhaps just due to the gravity of Luke’s story, these side missions only prolong the wait for more scenes with Luke. Or, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), the Vader wannabe with the temper of his grandfather. Ren has a strange connection through the Force with Rey, and the two are eventually brought together to face each other again.
The Last Jedi should satisfy some who thought The Force Awakens didn’t acknowledge the Prequel Trilogy enough. There is a reference to Darth Sidious (better known as the Emperor) and the new setting of Canto Bight would fit in with Attack of the Clones. Finn and Rose must find a master hacker in Canto Bight, a posh gambling centre frequented by rich weapons dealers making money off both sides in the war(s). New character DJ (Benecio Del Toro) is sceptical of both sides, because he knows it doesn’t matter. The same people are getting rich no matter what side wins. This is a relatively new concept in Star Wars, although Darth Sidious did control both sides of the Clone Wars, he didn’t do it to get rich.
Poe, Finn and Rose are among those under the command of Princess Leia, still a badass, and so sad knowing that Carrie Fisher has gone. Leia has her own moments in this movie, and we know that she was to be the main focus of Episode IX. Now that Carrie is one with the Force, it is very unfortunate that she didn’t have a larger part of The Last Jedi. She has a few good one-liners, and Carrie portrayed Leia as a strong and immediately charismatic leader. There is also one Leia sequence that has fanboys destroying their action figures in anger.
Also noteworthy: Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke (via motion capture). Serkis makes Snoke more three-dimensional, and though his scenes are short, they satisfy. Laura Dern’s new character Admiral Holdo was memorable for the scenes she had. Unfortunately, Gwendoline Christie was wasted for a second time as Captain Phasma, in what was little more than a cameo. General Hux (Domnhall Gleeson) does a little better as the token second-in-command.
John Williams did it again with another fantastic score, although even here reviews are mixed. Bass clarinettist and fan Kathryn Ladano was disappointed that there were not many new themes involved. Radio personality Jason Drury on the other hand called the score “possibly the best of 2017” and “another triumph for John Williams”. I was pleased to hear the return of Rey’s theme and a few other favourites from the olden days.
Expect the unexpected with Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Don’t pay too much attention to the extremely negative or extremely positive reviews. The truth is, as always, somewhere in the middle. And that is part of the story of The Last Jedi. The truth depends largely on your point of view. The two other main themes here are hope, and the power of a symbol. If the title wasn’t already used in another movie, you could have called it Episode VIII: A New Hope.