Star Wars: The Last Jedi is like an old pair of shoes with a new sole. It is undeniably a classic Star Wars film, but still feels fresh. Those worried about it being a nostalgia-fest, à la The Force Awakens, should cast their doubts aside; The Last Jedi succeeds in pushing the story along and welcoming new viewers.
Rian Johnson has successfully supported what The Force Awakens laid the groundwork for, adding depth to the characters with meaningful relationships and heartfelt scenes. Rey (Daisy Ridley) steals the show becoming the defining character in the new trilogy. In The Last Jedi we see her start her training with the belligerent but charming Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). This sequence could easily become a Rocky-esque training montage but instead provides depth to the previously stereotypical characterisation Rey occupied in The Force Awakens. The choice our protagonist makes between light and dark is more impactful than ever; every action feels like it could change and morph the entire Star Wars universe forever.
Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) are back and better than ever. The adventures they embark on provide many of the film’s most explosive jolts of fun. The Stormtrooper turned Rebel, Finn, aims to finish what he started in The Force Awakens and does so with the comedic charm everyone has come to love. Poe’s X-Wing piloting is expertly choreographed with each blast of a laser cannon packing a powerful punch. All three of the current trilogy’s protagonists are truly fighting for something they believe in.
Meanwhile, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is also taking strides. He attempts to build on his darker character, but can’t escape the petty teenage angst that he has become known for. He isn’t helped by the reappearance of Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), whose unparalleled power dwarfs Kylo completely. While Kylo shrinks, General Hux takes centre stage, allowing Domhnall Gleeson the prominence that escaped him in The Force Awakens. The additional screen time really allows his cruelty to emerge.
In contrast, the late Carrie Fisher’s Princess/General Leia fades into the background. It is a heart-warming performance that left me wanting more. There are fascinating hints at stories left untold, which we may now sadly never get to see. It is a shame that, in what may be her final film in the franchise, Fisher’s presence isn’t more strongly felt.
The new additions to the character roster are a bit of a mixed bag. Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) is the shining star of the new crowd, quickly becoming a fan favourite. Laura Dern’s performance as Vice Admiral Holdo is a pleasant addition to the cast, in particular her role in one standout scene. I was really excited to see Dern’s role in the film and I wasn’t disappointed. Not all is good however, with Benicio Del Toro’s character, DJ, feeling underdeveloped and is one of the more disappointing additions. The acting talents of Gwendoline Christie are again sadly under-utilised in the role of Captain Phasma. The character is pushed to the sidelines and has very limited screen time, much as in The Force Awakens.
Even though it comes in at just over 2 hours 30 minutes it really doesn’t feel that long, much like this year’s Blade Runner 2049. The Last Jedi feels new and fresh but the story doesn’t break the mould. The intertwining of two or three adventures simultaneously paces the film really nicely, but on the other hand, it didn’t feel like it hit the big cinematic moments of Rogue One. That said, excellent set pieces are definitely not in short supply. Landscapes and “spacescapes”(?) are both equally stunning throughout. The diversity of locations in the film makes it feel like you’re exploring these new planets with the characters, instead of merely touring around space. This paired with the excellent John Williams score and unforgettable sound make this film a joy to watch. The darker tone in the storyline of Rogue One doesn’t carry over as much as I would have liked, but the series is moving toward a more sinister overall feel. The bigger role of Supreme Leader Snoke adds to this foreboding feeling of darkness.
Now that the franchise has firmly planted its feet in a new galaxy, and established the type of universe it wants to expand on, it can begin to form its image and curate its legacy. The Last Jedi, commands high expectations for Episode 9.
The Last Jedi is currently showing at Leicester’s Phoenix Cinema.