DIR/WRI: Rian Johnson • PRO: Kathleen Kennedy, Ram Bergman • DOP: Steve Yedlin • ED: Bob Ducsay • MUS: John Williams • DES: Chris L. Spellman • CAST: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong’o, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern and Benicio Del Toro
Although Star Wars has long been cemented as one of the firm favourites of science fiction cinema, it still shares the same problem as all film series do. Sequels are always potential downfalls – can the films keep getting better or will they be mere shadows of their former entertainment? Putting the comforting and familiar magic of Star Wars aside is Star Wars: The Last Jedi a worthwhile addition to the much loved franchise?
Getting a sequel right is a finely tuned art. On the one hand, changing too much threatens to wipe out all that is special about the series. On the other hand, choose to stay too close to the original works and a film can feel jaded and unimaginative. Luckily this film manages to strike the balance between old and new plots and characters to create both a fresh and authentic experience for viewers. Arguably the strongest aspect of this film is its ability to interweave the narratives of the new exciting episode 7 characters with the original and iconic protagonists of episodes 4, 5 and 6. The audience gets everything they want from a Star Wars movie such as light-sabers, the Force and intergalactic battle scenes yet these familiar aspects merely echo rather than rely on the past.
One of the overarching motifs in this film is the idea of the end, of conclusion. The film commences with The New Order on the verge of obliterating the nearby rebel troops. Of course, there is a lucky escape but this does not feel like a hopeful time for those who wish to bring peace and justice to the galaxy. We fear for the rebels as they make their shaky attempts to fight against and flee the opposite side. For hope that the end isn’t truly in sight, Rey, the new headstrong and hardworking Jedi, tries to persuade Luke for help and guidance as a last resource for the galaxy. Despite Rey’s determined struggles to convince the new despairing and hermit-like version of Luke Skywalker to believe in the importance of saving the rebel troops, Luke’s initial equally stern opposition could make audiences really toy with the idea that maybe everything really isn’t going to turn out okay, that the end is on the horizon.
The theme of approaching finality pervades the film, yet the conclusions present in this film are neither the depletion of the rebel troops or The First order. The sense of conclusion in this film is carried out on a symbolic level. Luke on his isolated planet is tormented by his loss of faith in the tradition of Jedi training. While this may not be heroic it is understandable as he bares the heavy burden of feeling responsible for the creation of Kylo Ren and fears the same dark destiny for Rey. In one of Luke’s conflicted moments, the ghostly figure of Yoda appears and all the sacred texts of the Jedi order are burned. Rather than seeing this as an end to any possible continuation of the Jedi legacy, it is just the end of the Jedi tradition as it is known. With this burning comes a new sense of hope and change, by letting go of the mythology of the past.
One evident development that is well illustrated in this feature is that the Jedi, rebels and bad guys which make up the film are becoming more nuanced. The majority of our new heroes are not destined for great good or evil but rather they are changing the face of their past and fighting their own battles. They are self-made rather than following in footsteps. By contrast to the prophesied Luke Skywalker, Rey’s family comes from nothing. Finn, a former Stormtrooper and Rose a nobody hidden amongst other rebels are the only ones brave enough to embark on a journey which could save the rebel troops. The angst ridden and self-conflicted Kylo Ren also makes for much more intriguing viewing than his inspiration Darth Vader. With Darth Vader we could feel more assured of his intentions and of his switching from dark to light. Contrastingly, with Kylo Ren the audience are destabilised by the uneven keel of whether he is pure evil or a moody teenager. No matter how cruel he is, it still remains difficult to take his character fully seriously.
Overall, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is an engaging mesh of new and old threads of past and present Star Wars narratives coming together to make a cohesive and exciting film. The pacing of dually concluding the narrative of old favourites and developing that of the new characters is well achieved. Noticeable highlights include several laugh-out-loud moments in otherwise high-tension scenes and even more cute and fascinating creatures. However, there are moments towards the end of the film that feel as though they are just a tad unnecessary, that the race to the finale is going on just a little too long. Despite this minor error, this film is an almost seamless addition to the franchise which opens the way to much more Star Wars excitement to come.
12A (See IFCO for details)
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is released 15th December 2017