Synopsis – Rey develops her newly discovered abilities with the guidance of Luke Skywalker, who is unsettled by the strength of her powers. Meanwhile, the Resistance prepares to do battle with the First Order.
My Take – The latest entry in the most successful & celebrated franchise of all time is finally here!! Following the critical and commercial success of The Force Awakens, the second entry of this radically different trilogy, filled with new characters, new scenarios, groundbreaking approach and laudable themes recycled from the original had a had a lot to live up to. Mainly, as the middle film is always the toughest one to pull off, while the predecessor gets to introduce characters and ideas and themes; its successor gets to finish off the tale and tie up all the loose ends. It’s often the second film which ends up treading water, padding out a story without the benefit of including either its first chapter or its last. Luckily, as a Star Wars fan (not as crazy as some but a fan nevertheless), I can proudly say that writer-director Rian Johnson‘s film most certainly delivered the hype in terms of story, characters and twists. Without a doubt, the 8th chapter of this the newly resurrected Star Wars series, is a roller-coaster of an adventure, filled with the unexpected fun, twist and turns that have been delightfully introduced by director Rian Johnson, who has not only dared to take risks & take our beloved characters to a new level, but has also dared to make this the most spectacular and whimsical film you’ll see in a cinema this year. Taking place right after the events of the Force Awakens, the story follows Rey (Daisy Ridley), who has finally found Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), the legendary Jedi Master, who refuses to come out of his self-imposed exile due to his failure to keep his nephew, Ben Solo a.k.a. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), from turning to the Dark Side. Luke doesn’t want to be a Jedi or a master, let alone the resistance’s final hope.
Meanwhile, the First Order remains hell-bent on extinguishing the remnants of the Resistance, led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher). However, as the Order’s military forces commandeered by General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) continues to overpower the resistance, friction begins among the rebels as the charmingly impulsive Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) clashes with flinty war hero Vice-Admiral Amilyn Holdo (Laura Dern) on every turn, until Finn (John Boyega) & new rebel recruit Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) come up with a solution which no one would agree to, but might effectively change the tide of the war. Yes, the wait was definitely worth it, as the film perfectly fits into the well-established atmosphere of Star Wars saga, but at the same time it is different. This is a unique Star Wars film in its story telling aspects, in its humor, and in its style, and will drop as many jaws as I assume The Empire Strikes Back originally did. This film could not have been what it is without director Rian Johnson. It’s very clear he’s a massive fan of Star Wars, and this film is honestly more like an impassioned labor of love. His writing, the way he’s directed this film, it all shines as some of the best I’ve seen this year. Unlike The Force Awakens, where it was set to be more secure, here director Rian Johnson allowed himself to insert entirely new things that make up the big universe of Star Wars. Where The Force Awakens introduces us to the new trio who will be front and center throughout the new trilogy, it is this film that shows us who they really are. Each character is tested throughout the full length of the film, not only against their enemies in the First Order but, more essentially, against their own flaws and misgivings. We experience these trying moments alongside our newest and oldest heroes and the fascination we learned in this film gives way to real love. The film is also noticeably darker, as was clear from the release of the first poster, the trailer and the ad campaign, seeing that the film is darker, which is not a minus, even makes it more interesting, because the last such film was The Empire Strikes Back, of course there are many fun moments that cannot be missed. It will trick you, confuse you and ask you questions, only to pay them off and answer them in the most surprising and satisfying way possible. None of the main characters are one sided, as director Rian Johnson manages to make you feel empathy for all of its characters, from a brilliant dramatic tension between, Rey and Luke, to Ren’s desperation to prove himself to Supreme Leader Snoke, and the resistance struggling to work cooperatively against the First Order. Director Johnson wants these characters’ personal journeys to be a refined in the fire type of journeys. Each revelation, each aspect, brings them one step closer to being the lead stars, front and center of this new trilogy as the old icons take a step back further away from the spotlight. The film develops the parallels between Rey and Kylo Ren, hinting at a mutual respect, maybe even love for one another. They are the light and the darkness, the yin and yang, the balance in the Force. Luke’s first impression of Yoda seems to have had a strong influence; he has gone into exile to die, refusing to join the battle out of fear of doing more harm. Failing Kylo Ren was Luke truly losing, and in that failure he is able to let go of his arrogance and fear, and rises as more than a Jedi Master.I was intrigued by Snoke in the last film, but really enjoyed the direction the character went in this film. Leia’s space walk was odd at first, her Force use has always been a subtle and rare thing. I think she unconsciously saved herself, and it wasn’t an easy thing for her to do as she immediately falls into a coma after. The Finn and Rose story line seems to be considered the weakest, and I would agree but I did enjoy the scene where they rescued the horse-dogs. The events of that plot make a statement about inequality and shows us how important the Resistance and hope are for the galaxy.
I wonder if director Johnson‘s new trilogy is hinted at in these scenes. Here, director Johnson unearths moments of heart and heroism as his characters wage war amongst the leads, and he quite effectively plumbs the dark depths of Luke’s despair and Rey’s desperation to understand her place in the world. Regarding the new additions in terms of characters, three roles are those that stand out in importance and presence. The first one is the aforementioned Rose Tico, a three-dimensional maintenance worker introduced in a key point and although it presents absolutely nothing of her past, she stars one of the most poignant and deeply romantic scenes of the franchise. The second one concern Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo, whose tenacity and courage make this woman a fundamental character for the progress of the story. Finally and personally the most unexpected participation is Puerto Rican Benicio del Toro‘s performance. Surrounded by complete secrecy and theories, DJ, is a kind of intergalactic mercenary, corrupt moral, an expert in deciphering ultra-confidential codes, currently, one of the most potential roles for following installments. This is also a beautiful, beautiful looking film with what is quite possibly the best cinematography and visuals of any Star Wars film ever made. If not for anything else, the film benefits from some of the best cinematography I’ve laid my eyes on in years. From the addition of the seamlessly blended visual effects, to the mind- blowing scenery constructed by the entire art department, I have nothing but praise for this film. Whether or not you find yourself enjoying your experience, the visuals alone should have you applauding, due to their incredibly detailed nature. Nevertheless, it’s not a perfect film. There are some risks that Johnson takes as a writer, that will upset some fans, but some of those decisions have made me ponder the force in a new way. One of the main problems for me was the ‘detour’ from the main storyline with Finn and Rose. This storyline felt a bit sluggish, ‘forced’ and feels kind of shoehorned in there, and it also doesn’t really serve the greater story-but then again, maybe it DOES. I will need to see it again to decide on this. There were also a handful of ‘dumb’ little moments that I won’t get into and certainly at times I was reminded that Star Wars films were originally made for children, and while we have our darker adult themes at work here (and even spiritual themes), there are also many magical moments for children. Maybe us ‘grownups’ need to stop taking it all so seriously and learn to be kids again? And of course, the score by John Williams is wholesome. Unsurprisingly, the film is also incredibly well acted! Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver perform their roles as Rey and Kylo Ren perfectly. Both are broken and conflicted characters, and the arc of their growth is put firmly at the forefront of this story. Mark Hamill absolutely kills it, as he delivers the performance of his life as the middle-aged Luke. While Hamill shines bright, but the brightest star is the Late Carrie Fisher, as General Leia. It is difficult not to feel emotional every time you see her on the screen. She plays her iconic character as well as ever, and could not be in a better film as her last. Oscar Isaac with his extended screen time is charismatic and certainly charming. John Boyega, Domhnall Gleeson, Andy Serkis, Laura Dern, Kelly Marie Tran, Gwendoline Christie and Benicio Del Toro are also quite good. On the whole, ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ is a solid, absurdly entertaining and gorgeous entry into the well established canon.
Directed – Rian Johnson
Rated – PG13
Run Time – 152 minutes