Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review (Spoiler Free)
Reviewed by Mark McCullough.
Two years ago, a new Star Wars trilogy started with the excellent The Force Awakens. Following on from the success of its predecessor, The Last Jedi was always going to be an eagerly awaited instalment in what is undoubtedly one of the biggest movie franchises of all time. So naturally the bar was set very high.
Whether or not you feel that the film meets this standard or not will probably come down to personal preference. The narrative is a vast departure to what has become the traditional format for a Star Wars film where the plot can be divided into a few acts, usually culminating in a battle with extremely high stakes for the galaxy. That’s not to say that the film doesn’t roughly follow that format, but the focus is certainly elsewhere here with the story itself being fundamentally simpler than any previous outing.
Star Wars has always been driven by its characters and that is something which is perhaps truer here than in any of the other films to date. Simply put the focus is on the characters journey’s rather than what’s happening in the galaxy. The result is a much more personal film that delivers the shocking moments which use the foundations laid in The Force Awakens. The film expertly invokes pathos to draw an emotive response from the audience. I have a personal preference for this type of story so was delighted to see the series take this route, and to do so as well as they did.
To be able to deliver so many of these moments across the significant run time, the movie needs a solid bank of characters to which the audience relate: Daisy Ridley’s Rey offers another solid performance excelling particularly in the scene in which she interacts with other characters. Adam Driver’s portrayal of Kylo Ren goes a long way to help cement his character as one of the most compelling film antagonists in recent memory. Driver steals almost every scene that he is in. Oscar Isaac’s Poe is given a lot more of the narrative this time out and naturally benefits from this. A highlight is newcomer Kelly Marie Tran who plays Rose, a character allied with the Resistance who holds her own very well among the established cast. Finn is the character who receives the least development between films, that said John Boyega still does extremely well with the material as Finn remains one of the most lovable characters.
Deserving of a special mention are the actors from the original trilogy. Mark Hamill brings to life a Luke Skywalker very different to the one fans have come to know. Hamill excels in his role here becoming a vital cog in the story and offering perhaps his best Star Wars performance to date. Harrison Ford is missed greatly from the story, but naturally the fate of his character last time out is a spectre that hangs over this film and goes some way to shaping the narrative. If I had to pick a star performer, it would have to be the late Carrie Fisher. Her character and everything she stands for is given the chance to shine and Fisher makes sure that she delivers, and it is fitting that her final performance is one of her best.
Another major selling point of the film is that it makes a departure from the binary good versus evil that has been fundamental to the series. This is something that works extremely well blurring the lines and allowing for a much more realistic character study. There are moments that will undoubtedly have you questioning what you think about characters and their motives. The only real certainty from start to finish is the opening scroll.
Credit too must be given to the design department. Not only are there several new visually stunning locations, but there is also a plethora of new creatures and new ships introduced. These combine to make the episode one of the most aesthetically pleasing films of the year. The framing of particular moments too have noticeably and skilfully shot to match the thematic changes of the narrative.
I love character pieces and this one seems to hit every note just right delivering twists that will leave your jaw on the floor, moments that will break your heart, and will have you genuinely laugh at loud at times. The film manages to feel like something totally new whilst still hanging on to that Star Wars core (there’s a littering of Easter Eggs for fans to discover too). As the middle part to a trilogy it functions extremely well rounding up the plot in a manner that sets up the finale. That said it also stands on its own with an endpoint that works both as a thematic and narrative one. All in all you couldn’t have asked for much more from the film