Film Review: The Last Jedi

Welcome to Film Reviews. In this series I will look to review any new films that come out in the Star Wars galaxy. I am no expert in films or film critic, so this is very much from a fan’s point of view. I will generally look to do 2 reviews: one with and one without spoilers. First up is my look back at The Last Jedi. In each review, I will also try to point out a few “Moments in Canon” – moments that link into the wider canon like easter eggs or references to other canon stories.

Please be aware that as the film is out on DVD and Blu-ray, this will contain spoilers

Background

20180415_192657Directed by Rian Johnson, Episode 8: The Last Jedi is the 2nd movie in the Sequel Trilogy and the 3rd movie to be released since Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm. Though the critics were largely positive, the movie has received mixed reviews with an Audience Score of 47% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Plot overview

Following on directly from the ending of The Force Awakens, the film starts with Rey attempting to learn the ways of the Jedi from Luke Skywalker on Ahch-To, while the First Order seek to continue on from their destruction of the Republic by destroying the Resistance, who are on the run following the discovery of their base on D’Qar. With the First Order able to follow the Resistance wherever they try to escape to, Poe stays with the fleet while Finn and Rose go to find a way to help the Resistance escape.

Review

Visually, I think the film looks great, with the right balance between CGI and practical effects, as has now become the norm for the Disney-era films. Ahch-To looks incredible and it is hard to believe that the island exists in real life (though don’t expect to find any real Porgs). I also like the contrast of different settings, from the hallways of the Supremacy and the Raddus, the opulence of Canto Bight – it was nice to see a desert planet from a different perspective following Jakku and Tatooine – and the mix of red and white on Crait, especially during the climactic battle as the Resistance ski speeders throw up the red trails. The battles as well looked amazing, and I love Veronica Ngo’s performance as Paige Tico during the opening battle, I would argue her death has been one of the most emotional deaths ever in a space battle. I would also argue that the moment where the Resistance cruiser destroys the First Order ships is one of the most stunning moments in all of the Star Wars films!

“Let the past die. Kill it if you have to.” – Kylo Ren

In terms of the storyline, I was very impressed with the Luke/Rey/Kylo/Snoke storyline (though I know a lot of people didn’t like the decisions made around Luke) and think that this was the real strength of the movie. Mark Hamill, Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver and Andy Serkis all put in amazing performances and with Driver especially does a great job of playing Kylo Ren as stuck between the Light and the Dark, to the point that on first viewing I was never quite sure if he would turn back to the Light or stay loyal to Snoke. I think that Finn’s storyline – especially the section with Rose on Canto Bight – was not quite up to the same level and the chemistry between John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran did not seem as good as we have seen for most of the leads, though I do understand what Rian Johnson was going for with this storyline as Rose works like the angel on Finn’s shoulder compared to Benicio del Toro’s DJ who is the devil on his other shoulder. Poe’s section of this story is also not one of my favourites as I do not think it takes full advantage of the Holdo character. I can understand her decision to not tell Poe the plan as that is not how the chain of command works, but I think the decision to keep punishing Poe for the attack on the First Order Dreadnought makes no sense considering it would have been able to destroy the fleet after the First Order tracked them down.

The untimely passing of Carrie Fisher following filming certainly made things difficult but I have to give Rian Johnson praise for not shying away from his plan to kill off Luke Skywalker in the film and while many people thought it didn’t work that Luke would die from his actions, I think it was set up well by Kylo’s statement to Rey earlier in the film that the effort of projecting across the galaxy would kill her. Though we may not have had a full closure to her story, Leia’s storyline is not left on a cliff-hanger as she has admitted there is no saving her son and also appears to pass over leadership of the escaping Resistance fighters on Crait once Poe has gone through his arc. I also loved the dedication to Carrie in the credits and the usage of Leia’s theme as this appeared on screen.

“This is not going to go the way you think” – Luke Skywalker

Looking at the comedy in the film, while I laughed plenty, I felt that many of the jokes and humorous moments felt like they were more appropriate to a Marvel film as opposed to a Star Wars film. I still laughed of course, but some of them didn’t feel necessary, especially some of the Porg-related humour – they were cute but pushed a bit too much in my opinion. I know some people were not fond of Hux appearing incompetent in this film but there was nothing much to suggest otherwise in The Force Awakens that he was a good officer and it goes into the idea through the canon that he has got the position off the back of his father’s name and record (we see a young Armitage Hux and his father Brendol in the Aftermath trilogy of books).

In the build-up to this film I got caught up a bit too much in the hype and thought that this would challenge Empire Strikes Back for the spot of my favourite film. Having watched it twice in the cinema and once on Blu-ray, it has not quite reached that height but I still feel that it is a very good film and that it could be a sign of the future as new films continue to take us outside our comfort zone. If I were to rank the Star Wars films in order of preference I would feel comfortable placing it in my top 4, competing with A New Hope and Rogue One (the exact order of places 2-4 changes on a regular basis).

Moments in Canon

  • The main ship we see in the Resistance fleet is named the Raddus in honour of Admiral Raddus from Rogue One.
  • The First Order knew where to find the Resistance’s base as they tracked Snap Wexley back t D’Qar when he was doing reconnaissance on Starkiller Base in The Force Awakens
  • Luke refers to the Emperor as Darth Sidious, a reference back to the Prequel Trilogy, which we have had very little of in the newer films
  • This is the first Star Wars film to not feature any lightsaber v lightsaber combat: Rey and Kylo are fighting together against Snoke’s Praetorian Guards who have a variety of melee weapons, whereas Kylo and Luke never properly engage in combat due to Luke being just a projection.
  • Many people thought that this was the first film to not have some variant on the “I have a bad feeling about this” line, however Rian Johnson has confirmed that the line is said by BB-8 as he and Poe go against the Dreadnought.

“Amazing… Every word of what you just said was wrong” – Luke Skywalker

What were your thoughts on The Last Jedi? Where would you rank it on a list of your favourite Star Wars films? Thanks for reading and May the Force be with you…

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