After the failings of the prequel trilogy, J.J Abrams breathed in new life to the Star Wars franchise with the excellent seventh instalment; The Force Awakens. Expectations were incredibly high for the film and now two years later, expectations are even higher for 2017s most anticipated film directed by Rian Johnson; The Last Jedi. Picking up almost instantly where the last film finished, we follow the adventures of Leia, Poe and Finn as they try and keep what is left of the Resistance from being destroyed by the First Order. Across the galaxy, Rey has met up with Luke Skywalker and is trying to persuade him to teach her in the ways of the Force whilst going on her own journey unlocking mysteries of the Force and secrets of the past.
While The Force Awakens felt fresh and brought in great new characters, Abrams and the producers played it safe by making it a carbon copy of A New Hope, my main issue with The Last Jedi was that Rian Johnson would do the same by rehashing the franchises best instalment; The Empire Strikes Back. I happy to say, this is not the case. While Empire definitely plays as an influence to this film, it feels fresh and has its own story. Like Empire, all the characters remain separate from each other for the majority of the film, each of them having their own mission to do in a race against time.
2017 has delivered us some incredible films. And Rian Johnson has delivered an absolutely incredible explosive intergalactic thrill ride. It winds me up at times when studios go through different directors when making a trilogy because we get several different styles of film making and it can sometimes be annoying. However, this time round, Johnson’s style of filming feels a bit more artistic as he delivers breath taking action sequences whether it be lightsaber duels or impressive space battles that will have you sat on the edge of your seat. The film also feels like his vision too, I’d think its safe to say that he was given more free reign than what Disney would normally allow directors to have. I think that this is fairly obvious with the dialogue as it is a lot more joke heavy than previous films of the franchise, the jokes don’t fall flat either.
There aren’t many directors who have this skill, but in this film Johnson will make you feel like none of the characters are safe and that they could be killed off at any given time. Even events in the first half hour had me sat on the edge of my seat. The character development is also handled excellently, the new trio of Rey, Finn and Poe all shine. However like in The Force Awakens, Ridley does still feel a bit wooden but once more comes into her own as the film progresses and makes you truly believe that she is an individual with the weight of the galaxy on her shoulders. John Boyega once again shines as Finn and Oscar Isaac certainly has a lot more to do this time round where the part of the story where he was most prominent was one of my favourite parts of the film.
Personally though, I feel the best performances of this film were that of Adam Driver and Mark Hamill as Kylo Ren and Luke Skywalker. This is Mark Hamill’s best outing as Skywalker and the complexity he brings to the character is brilliant, especially alongside Kylo Ren, who is equally as complex as we delve deeper into the shards of their shattered relationship. A special mention has to go to Carrie Fisher who is in her last film before her untimely death, quite fitting that it should be Princess Leia too. She is excellent and it is an emotional and well rounded goodbye to one of the most iconic characters in cinema. Make sure you stay for the credits at the end of the film for her tribute! I feel that this film does benefit from the absence of Han Solo as this time all of the characters get a share of the limelight and the best lines of the film.
I’m going to keep this bit brief as I can. My only qualms about this film is that it felt a bit too long. In places it dragged, especially on the casino planet where at times it felt a bit too much like one of the prequels. While some new characters are introduced they aren’t as well fleshed out as the main cast and feel a bit flat, while they’re good Laura Dern as Admiral Holdo and Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico feel a tad shoe horned in and aren’t as likeable as other characters. There is also still some mystery around Supreme Leader Snoke and his character isn’t as fleshed out as I’d have hoped but hopefully we will hear more about him in Episode IX.
2017 has been an incredible year for cinema and with the release of The Last Jedi, it is an incredible fete to finish the year on. This film has everything you’ve come to expect from a Star Wars film; enormous sweeping space battles and epic lightsaber fights. However, it also raises the question on who is good and who is evil is a reoccurring theme throughout, which I thought was a interesting theme to include and is something never really touched on before in the franchise.
This was one of the best cinema experiences I’ve ever had watching a film, I left this film with a huge grin on my face, it was everything I’ve ever wanted in a Star Wars film and more. Unlike The Force Awakens, it didn’t feel the need to rely on safety of nostalgia to please its audiences, it follows an excellent story arc that will leave you feeling simultaneously ecstatic and emotional. This film almost feels like a conclusion as it left me with a feeling I’d normally get at the end of a trilogy because there was a lot of closure with questions that needed answers but also raised a few more that I’m sure will be answered in the finale released in 2019. While I am happy that J.J Abrams is returning to direct, this film made me wish that Rian Johnson was returning to take care of what is sure to be one hell of a finale, however he will be returning with his own Star Wars trilogy, once this one concludes. As an aspiring film maker myself, if I can make a film half as good as any of Rian Johnson’s, then I’d be a happy man. Now it’s just the long two year wait until the end!