Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review
"Can The Last Jedi be the spark for the new trilogy?"
- a series that is a license to print money and has one
of the most devoted and hardest to please fanbases. Now the eighth film in the official series (excluding spin-offs) has to face the love and wrath of the fans.
The Resistance is on its knees; only a few hundred fighters are left and they are being chased down by The First Order. They need a spark, they need hope and Rey (Daisy Ridley) has been sent to find Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). However, Luke has become a jaded recluse who has gone to one of the most remote parts of the galaxy after becoming disillusioned with the Jedi Order.
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Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Photo: Film Frames Industrial Light & Magic/Lucasfilm
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Star Wars: The Force Awakens
was faced with criticisms that it a copy of A New Hope
: the seventh film used a lot of plot ideas and points from the original. Any continuation had to walk a tightrope of continuing the story, offering something new and whilst still being familiar. New writer/director Rian Johnson manages to deliver what fans would want and expect from a Star Wars
There are similarities to The Empire Strikes Back
and Return of the Jedi
but they are not as blatant as The Force Awakens
' copying of A New Hope
. The basic set up in The Last Jedi
is like "Empire", the rebels are on the defensive, the core team is split up and Rey is in Luke's position: being trained by a lost Jedi master. The Last Jedi
also borrows a few visual cues from "Empire" like a mission to a casino city but this is more of a homage from a fan.
The other similarity The Last Jedi
has with The Empire Strikes Back
and Return of the Jedi
was Rey believing there was still some good in Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and he could be brought back to the light whilst Kylo promises to win over Rey to the dark side. This is a long-running theme in the series: both Luke and Vader were trying to convince the other to join their faction and the whole idea behind the prequel trilogy is Anakin Skywalker being seduced by the Dark Side.
The first half of The Last Jedi
was seemingly typical Star Wars
: it was at the halfway point when the film truly stands out from the rest of the series. It is a much more bold affair with Johnson throwing many twists. This is a spoiler-free review so all I will say is expect the unexpected. This is how The Last Jedi
improves upon The Force Awakens
Johnson also injects a sense of moral ambiguity in the Star Wars
universe or at least enhances it. This was most evident when Finn (John Boyega) and Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) go to a city that's wealth is based on the weapons trade. Finn and Rose have a black-and-white view on these people but another character shows that the situation is not as clear-cut. Luke adds to the moral grays of the world when he describes the events in past showing that the Jedi order is not as clean cut as history lead us
to believe and that even the great hero Luke is fallible.
The main reasons why the Star Wars
is so beloved is its characters, rich mythology and internal history. Johnson understood this and built on that, particularly with Luke and his disillusion of the Jedi Order. It is especially useful for people who are not as knowledgeable of the expanded universe.
The Last Jedi
is Johnson's biggest film from a financial and technical standpoint and he easily faces the challenge. The film starts with a terrific space battle that was a spectacle of special effects and it continued from there. The Last Jedi
continues the series' legacy of breathtaking special effects, combining CGI, models and animatronics and the film excels with the space battles and war scenes. There are some lightsaber battles which are well choreographed but they are used sparingly. Supreme Leader Snoke's personal bodyguards had an interesting weapon that could turn from a sword to a whip to a set of fighting knives.
It is not just the special effects that provide visual slender, there are also simple visual tricks that help give The Last Jedi
an identity. There was a montage where Rey is feeling the force around her under Luke's guidance and sees that there is darkness and light, life and death just on the small island. It was a little like the montage in Johnson's previous film Looper
One of the influences on A New Hope
was the Second World War. George Lucas used footage of World War Two aerial battles as a template for the dogfights in the film series and the Stormtroopers in the films have been seen as a metaphor for the Nazis and their conquests. Johnson continued this tradition by introducing more World War Two influenced imagery like the bombers opening their bomb bays: impractical for a civilization that has mastered space travel but it looked cool.
The trailers for The Last Jedi
have made out to be a serious and darker film but in reality, it's light-hearted and comedic. BB-8 and the Porgs (who are going to be big toys this Christmas) offer some of the biggest laughs in the film and there are witty lines and actions throughout the film. The Last Jedi
is not The Empire Strikes Back
of the new trilogy.
This is not to say there isn't any levity in The Last Jedi
. Rose reveals her background and the casino city and the empire as a whole is built on slavery. This ties into the legend of Luke Skywalker and the hope of the Resistance is Luke’s reappearance would spark an uprising, essentially turning the character into Katniss. The flashbacks revealing what happened between Luke and Kylo Ren shows that even Luke can still succumb to darkness.
The Last Jedi
is suffering the same fate as The Force Awakens
where there is a minority of vocal detractors who complain because the films don't meet their exact standards. This affects so many major releases that it is beyond a joke. The Last Jedi
is an improvement
compared to The Force Awakens
because it was much more ambitious and willing to take risks. Yet it does not match the heights of the original trilogy.