After two years of waiting, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is finally here! Was it worth the wait?…mostly.
I’m not going to sit here and write a long meandering text about how Star Wars is probably the primary reason I’m a science fiction nerd.
I could write pages and pages on my connection to the franchise starting with myself as a young boy crying when A New Hope came to an end (true!)
There would be pages and pages of history detailing my reaction to all the films so far leading up to the release of the latest instalment, The Last Jedi.
So look, here’s the deal, I love Star Wars and please be aware this review may of a slight bias. Also, these thoughts are based on my first initial viewing. I’d love to watch this again but this won’t happen for several months until the home video release.
NOTE: Whilst I tried to keep this review spoiler free, there are some mild reveals that hopefully won’t ruin your enjoyment of the film if you haven’t seen it yet.
So without further ado…
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.
The Last Jedi, episode eight of the Star Wars saga, begins mere moments after The Force Awakens came to an end.
From the very beginning, as you may have guessed, the story will start off initially as two separate adventures. The Rebels are fleeing their current base as the First Order have tracked them down, and they’ve turned up one of the biggest Star Wars ships you’ll ever likely to see, a dreadnought.
Is there some kind of unwritten Star Wars rule that states you must have a larger and more powerful spaceship than the last film? This first started with the appearance of Darth Vader’s Super Star Destroyer, The Executor, in The Empire Strikes Back, now it appears to be a running theme.
Anyway, the rebels are struggling to survive this encounter but Finn and story newcomer Rose hatch a plan that will hopefully give them the advantage in this conflict.
Meanwhile, we finally see what happened in the following moments when Rey met Luke Skywalker. Luke has been living like a hermit for years and his response to meeting Rey is not what you’re going to expect.
The First Order also has their own problems. Kylo Ren is not the young Darth Vader that Supreme Leader Snoke was hoping he would become. This point is proved by his defeat at the hands of Rey’s lightsaber in the forest on Starkiller base. In trying to find Luke and prove his worth, Kylo’s path will cross with Rey’s uncovering a little of both their histories.
Don’t worry, the Porgs aren’t the new Jar Jar.
After the initial opening battle, in which we witness more of Poe Dameron’s amazing flight skills in his trusty X-Wing, he becomes stuck with the Rebel fleet and comes into conflict with Star Wars newcomer Vice Admiral Haldo, played by Laura Dern.
Whilst I enjoyed Dern’s presence in this film, she doesn’t really have a lot to do until the last act where her actions will cause what I consider to be the film’s most jaw-dropping moment.
Similarly, fellow newcomer Benicio Del Toro plays DJ, a thief/code breaker who will do anything for the right price. I found him to be a very interesting character but was ultimately not featured as much as I had hoped.
Whilst his actions and the reasons for doing so are made clear, I am hoping we’ll see him in the future as I really liked his character.
Continuing with the tradition of British actors playing Imperial officers/bad guys, Adrian Edmondson appears as First Order officer Captain Peavey, General Hux’s right-hand man.
I have read comments made by others that seeing an actor most famous for the violent, slapstick British comedy of shows such as The Young Ones and Bottom made him out of place for a Star Wars film. I have to disagree and actually cheered him on because of this acting link.
But what of the regular cast?
Rey, as you might expect, starts to learn the ways of the Force. However, her journey through the film along with Luke Skywalker is what I felt slowed the pacing of the film, especially during the middle. It’s easy to make comparisons with Luke’s training with Yoda on Dagobah from The Empire Strikes Back.
Luke isn’t the character you’re going to expect either as he comes across as a grumpy old hermit initially but his attitudes change as the film progresses. Don’t expect the Luke Skywalker of the original trilogy.
Finn initially doesn’t seem to be the hero everyone thinks he is but once he teams up with Rose, he proves his worth once again. There have been comments about how the story arc with Finn and Rose is the weakest part of the film. In some respects this is true but it’s still an adventure for our heroes to experience.
Rose and Finn set off on their own mission.
Star Wars newcomer, Rose Tico, an engineer played by Kelly Marie Tran, provides one of the films important messages and I enjoyed her character and hope to see more of her in the last instalment of this current trilogy.
Captain Phasma makes a return appearance but her role is unfortunately reduced to Boba Fett style proportions. Despite watching The Force Awakens again recently I had honestly forgotten her character and had assumed she died on Starkiller base. It was a shame to see a character used in this way.
Adam Driver, as Kylo Ren, shines above all others and has the best on-screen presence in this film. Ren ditches the helmet very early on and this makes for a better character as we can see his emotional reaction to the events surrounding him, even if he is still just an emo kid at heart!
A special mention must be made for Princess Leia Organa as this will be her final appearance due to the untimely passing of actor Carrie Fisher. Whilst her performance was great, there is a story point that may upset a lot of fans. Apparently this upset is less so if you’ve read certain novels, but you can’t expect that from the majority of cinema-goers.
It’s safe to say that her story comes to a natural close by the end of the film and her absence from the last film in the trilogy will be missed but ultimately not required. Disney has already stated they will not be bringing her back to life via the use of CGI.
Director Rian Johnson has certainly created one of the most beautiful Star Wars films. As I watched the film there were several moments where I wished I could grab a shot of the film, frame it and put it up on the wall.
He’s also created probably the funniest Star Wars films that I can remember. Obviously, this isn’t an outright comedy, but there are more humorous moments in this film compared to previous entries in the series.
I’m a little conflicted on this subject as I genuinely found all the moments to be funny as intended. However, after sleeping on it since my viewing, I do feel maybe several moments could easily be removed without harming the overall picture.
Kylo Ren appears but unfortunately no Radar Technician Matt!
Like most fans, I was worried that the penguin-like creatures of the Porgs were going to be a problem in this film but that luckily, this wasn’t the case. In my opinion, there were several other jokes were off-putting.
For example, in retrospect, BB-8 has a lot more comedy in The Last Jedi than compared to The Force Awakens but the final comedy setpiece, which I won’t spoil here, felt like it was pushing too far.
Did we need to see Luke milking an alien creature? Did the native alien creatures that look after the Jedi temple need to look like Victorian chambermaids? Is this the result of Disney meddling pushing the film more towards a younger market?
Rian Johnson also appears to have cleared away the groundwork laid down by the J.J. Abrams in The Force Awakens. Set-ups and mysteries feel like they were simply brushed aside to make room for events in The Last Jedi.
Whereas George Lucas had a huge story in his head that he broke up into separate films, this trilogy doesn’t feel like it has the same plan. Rian Johnson has taken the film where he thinks it should have gone leaving the following director, J.J. Abrams, to resolve the trilogy.
The Last Jedi is also the longest entry into the saga so far clocking in at around two and a half hours. Whilst I never felt bored at any point, I did feel the passage of time, especially during Rey’s training sequences.
The comedy and pacing issues are my only real caveats with this film. The action is excellent (apart from one sequence that felt like it came from the prequel trilogy) and the one major lightsaber battle was awesome.
There’s lots of lovely new hardware on display, my favourite aspect of any science fiction film, including the return of the oft-forgotten ‘A’ wing starfighter, the Rebel bombers and the new improved AT-ATs known as AT-M6s, which are unfortunately underused (but in retrospect would’ve ended up being a re-tread of the Battle of Hoth sequence from The Empire Strikes Back.)
The Last Jedi has plenty of surprises, a few sucker punch moments and I can’t deny I was genuinely entertained whilst sat in that cinema seat.
Now reset the countdown clock for two years and let’s patiently wait for the conclusion.