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‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Review: Dir. Rian Johnson (2017)

Star Wars The Last Jedi review: Rian Johnson writes and directs the latest installment in the legendary space saga.

Star Wars The Last Jedi review by Luke Ryan Baldock.

Star Wars The Last Jedi review

Star Wars The Last Jedi review

Star Wars made a shock return in 2015 with a brand new start to a brand new trilogy. Disney had bought the rights to Star Wars, and like their Marvel Universe had every intention of milking the franchise. Yes, now we are receiving a Star Wars film every year for the foreseeable future, and with that it makes you wonder if the fanbase will get tired of constantly being bombarded by the thing they love. Although ‘The Force Awakens’ was a well-received return to the world of a galaxy far, far away, it also became more and more criticised for relying too much on the formula of the 1977 original. After the reception of the prequel trilogy, this is understandable.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story was also highly praised, but again was too reliant on the DNA of its ancestors. Now it’s time to shake it up a bit for Star Wars to show it’s heading in a new direction for the finale to this trilogy in 2019. Of course, the plot is rather similar, in that you get the villainous First Order trying to take over the galaxy, while a rebellion is hoping to put a stop to it. Meanwhile, Rey (Daisy Ridley) is hoping to convince Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to either join the rebellion and/or train her in the ways of the Jedi.

Star Wars The Last Jedi review

Star Wars The Last Jedi review

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a mixed bag between the new and the old. When it tries something new it usually succeeds, whereas there is still too strong a presence from the ever-encroaching House of Mouse to make sure that this doesn’t stray from a winning formula. So, without spoiling anything (as in you’ve seen it in the trailers), Rey emulates Luke’s journey in ‘The Empire Strikes Back’ by finding a Jedi master to train her. Meanwhile, her friend Finn (John Boyega) and the rest of the resistance evade capture/destruction. There’s a battle on a white landscape, but it isn’t snow, as one helpful soldier points out, but salt. Completely different.

Related: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story review

But the film’s biggest mistake is to repeat stuff from ‘The Force Awakens’, and this is down to too many characters and not knowing what the hell to do with them. Finn is left doing the exact same thing he did in the last film, and although we are spared yet another Death Star clone, there are three instances of weapons with weaknesses needing to be destroyed. New characters don’t fare much better, with Laura Dern’s Admiral Holdo seeming unnecessary, and Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose standing in for Rey while the latter is off training. This isn’t to say either is bad in the role. In fact, their performances are stellar (as are most of the cast), but as the longest Star Wars film to date, some fat needed to be trimmed.

Star Wars The Last Jedi review

Star Wars The Last Jedi review

The standout by a huge margin, however, is Adam Driver as Kylo Ren. Building on his role from the previous entry, Ren is one of the most interesting and conflicted characters to have ever been included in the Star Wars universe. He’s the Anakin many of us imagined in the first place, not entirely evil, yet a long way from the light. His interactions with Rey are at times beautiful, and it leaves the film in a very interesting place to be explored later. Hamill steps back into the role with ease, but his progression and actions won’t please all, while Gwendoline Christie is wasted again as the shiny Captain Phasma, and Domhnall Gleeson does what he can having been turned into a pantomime screamer that is the butt of most jokes.

Related: Star Wars: The Force Awakens review

Guardians of the Galaxy humour edges its way even more into this installment, while the cute but useless Porgs just keep Chewie company in cutaways that are reminiscent of Scrat in the Ice Age films. There’s no doubt that this is Disney’s baby now, which is a damn shame because when Rian Johnson’s passion and style shine through, you can see what the film this could have been. There are very deep themes, that actually relate to war, which are covered in this film.A few lines from Benicio Del Toro’s DJ make you look at these battles in a whole new light, questioning good and bad. We are treated to surreal moments of meditation, and many twists that shake up what you may have come to expect. But then Johnson also flirts with truly shocking moments that could have redefined everything and given ‘The Last Jedi’ what it truly lacks, BB-8 sized balls.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a beautifully made film with excellent style and cracking prosthetics. The performances squeeze out everything they can, and there is one moment that simply blew me away. But at the end, I was left hollow. The main plot was too familiar, and aside from Kylo Ren and a few new characters, I didn’t feel that anybody else moved forward. We have, of course, all had our ideas of where Star Wars could go, and despite its quality, it feels here as though it is stalling while running out of fuel. Perhaps a Star Wars film a year is just too much. Fingers crossed for something truly exceptional come Episode IX.

Star Wars The Last Jedi review by Luke Ryan Baldock, December 2017.

Star Wars The Last Jedi is released in UK cinemas from December 14th, 2017.

Luke likes many things, films and penguins being among them. He's loved films since the age of 9, when STARGATE and BATMAN FOREVER changed the landscape of modern cinema as we know it. His love of film extends to all aspects of his life, with trips abroad being planned around film locations and only buying products featured in Will Smith movies. His favourite films include SEVEN SAMURAI, PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC, IN BRUGES, LONE STAR, GODZILLA, and a thousand others.


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