After two years Rey and Fin are back for more action in Star Wars Episode VIII – The Last Jedi. And after 35 years Luke is also back to finally finish Jedi School and make Uncle Ben no longer ashamed of his drop-out nephew.
It goes without saying that this review will contain spoilers.
Back a long, long time ago in happier time called 2015 Star Wars was finally cut loose from the wild horse that had been dragging the brand through the dirt for the last twenty years. It was picked up, brushed off, and given a spit-and-polish from none other than Mickey Mouse himself.
The result was Star Wars Episode VII; a huge success both commercially and critically. As the bank balances of upper management at Disney began to slip into the disgustingly-rich zone, the follow up sequel became even more crucial to Disney’s business plans. Which makes the commercial and creative decision of having Rian Johnson being both director and writer on the project a little curious. Johnson is mostly only know for having directed 2012’s Looper and 2005’s Brick. That’s a lot of pressure for an average experienced director/writer. Did Rian deliver? Well, yes and no.
There is always something special about seeing a new Star Wars film. When the title sequence kicks in and the ascending yellow text appears even the most disciplined adult regresses to a giddy-child. What will happen next!? Will a giant Star Destroyer fly over head? Will a escape pod ping by? Will a planet explode?
After the intro sequence of Last Jedi the camera pans down to show a green planet. The camera quickly begins to descend. It passes a large spaceship, pings past a few asteroids, and begins it’s rapid descent to the planet. But before we get to feel giddy from this descent the shot cuts abruptly to two characters on the ground discussing the evacuation of the resistance base. It’s an odd and confusing cut to have made. It conveyed the message that the scene required but did so in a manner that felt uncomfortable. It’s a small pedantic point to noice I admit, but this small example is a pattern of messiness that continues throughout the entirety of The Last Jedi.
The Last Jedi is often odd. It’s often weird. It’s often sloppy. It’s often chaotic. But then nestled within all this mess is moments of cinematic brilliance. The film pitches, banks, and wobbles from scene to scene leaving a confused trifle of elements. It’s almost ironic that in a film based around a lead character learning to focus her power, the film struggles to focus on it’s own strongest elements.
For example comedic elements in the film are badly timed and mis-placed. We last saw Luke (played once again by Mark Hamill) in the dramatic conclusion to The Force Awakens. He’s been finally tracked down by Rey (Daisy Ridley) and he now stands face to face with his past demons. The Last Jedi takes this touching moment and turns it into a Seth Rogen joke. A joke that managed to raise little more than an under-the-breath snort in my screening.
Elsewhere we have Fin (Jon Boyega) and new entry to the series Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) travel to a Casino town and wreck havoc. A ambitious CGI sequence followers that is painfully reminiscent of the Star Wars prequels. Together Rey and Fin meet a hacker who’s story-arc alignment is back and forth like a tennis ball (I’m still not sure exactly what the character purpose was). Fin and Rose’s whole sub-plot ends in them failing their critical mission (that turns out wasn’t actually so critical). This b-story line concludes in a uncomfortable romantic element that had as much genuine-affection as a I do for a bowl of muesli. It’s nothing short of a mess of a side-plot.
But the main storyline follows the struggles between Rey and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and their ambitions with the Force. The conflicts between the characters is easily the strongest and best delivered plot in the film. Adam Driver’s delivery of a troubled Jedi will go down as one of the best character developments in the Star Wars universe. Rey and Kylo’s story reaches it’s strongest moment in a lightsaber battle within the red adorned chamber of Supreme Leader Snoke. A scene that’ll easily go down as one of the best yet in the Star Wars franchise.
But even in it’s strongest moments it’s understandable to see why a more elitist Star Wars fan maybe left angry by The Last Jedi. The hot topics left over from Episode VIII, such as Rey’s lineage or Snoke’s existence, are brushed aside with a ‘eh, don’t worry about that’ smirk. Personally for myself this was not a problem. It’s obvious throughout the film that the groundwork is being laid for the almighty follow-up and it’s sensible in doing so.
After watching Star Wars Episode VIII : The Last Jedi I could relate strongly to lead character Rey. Rey deals with a internal struggle in herself that she can’t understand or control. Parts of her know there are the bad parts stirring that make her mad and angry. But that she has potential to be one of the greatest. She feels conflicted, challenged, but ambitious. Episode VIII had the same effect on me. It’s “chaotic good”. It swings between awful and brilliant often. As a result I could never commit it fully to the Dark Side and call it a terrible film, but neither could I embrace the Light Side and call the film a triumph.