In a world full of continuous reboots and sequels, many franchises have failed to recapture that original beauty that fans adore, but not Star Wars. Following on from 2015’s box-office record smashing and critically acclaimed sequel Episode VII: The Force Awakens, the task was handed to director Rian Johnson (Looper), to take the saga to new places with the second film in the final Skywalker trilogy: The Last Jedi. So many theories and constant speculation had fans trying to figure out whether this could be the new Empire Strikes Back or another Attack of the Clones, but fortunately for the true Star Wars faithful (including myself of course), Johnson has delivered a masterclass in filmmaking and gifted us with surely the best Star Wars film since Empire.
Old and new faces taken to new places
With returning cast members Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), Carrie Fisher (Leia), Domnhall Gleeson (Hux), Andy Serkis (Snoke), Gwendoline Christie (Phasma) and Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), one may worry that this stacked cast would lead to little room for manoeuvre in terms of how the plot would pan out, but such worries are simply unfounded in The Last Jedi. The direction that Johnson has taken each of these characters plays out so perfectly on-screen, with some really sharp editing linking together all the related storylines, whilst superbly toeing the line between being shocking and wholly satisfying. Mark Hamill in particular turns out a career-best performance that truly resonates throughout and would deservedly be a dark horse for the Best Supporting Actor Oscar. Carrie Fisher graces the screen beautifully in her final outing as Leia (as confirmed by Disney), after her tragic passing in 2016, and each scene with her in carries that extra emotional weight that sublimely underlines the whole film. Equally, the excellent development of Poe Dameron really gives the saga a new loveable rogue, and Oscar Isaac effortlessly oozes charm and humour throughout.
Not to forget the new faces that are introduced in the film, such as Benicio Del Toro’s DJ or Laura Dern’s Vice Admiral Holdo, but it is Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose that truly leaves a lasting impact and has brought another instant fan-favourite character into the world of Star Wars. Particularly; it’s her fantastic chemistry with John Boyega’s Finn, which is one of the film’s many, many highlights, that makes her such a loveable character, with that superb blend of humour and emotion that seems to be defining this particular trilogy. Equally, fans will be delighted in how the development of polar opposite characters Rey and Kylo Ren plays out, with Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver respectively bringing new dimensions to their characters under the invisible guiding hand that is Johnson’s impressive screenplay.
A technical marvel of titanic proportion
When George Lucas brought A New Hope to the world in 1977, he revolutionised the way films would go on to be made with the stunning visual effects he introduced, and 40 years on, Star Wars remains the very pinnacle of these visual effects. The nostalgia seeps through in every scene, from the humming of lightsabers to the iconic sounds of TIE Fighters and X-Wings dogfighting and an introduction to a new type of AT-ATs, the sights and sounds of The Last Jedi could not be more quintessentially Star Wars. With films in 2017 like Blade Runner: 2049 and Dunkirk being so beautifully shot, one would not expect them to be rivalled, but goodness the cinematography is astoundingly beautiful. Director of photography Steve Yedlin produces a number of stunning shots that left my jaw firmly on the floor, with the mixture of lighting, sound editing and John Williams’ goosebump-inducing score providing a wonderful backbone for the visual marvels this film so effortlessly displays.
In terms of action, there’s a not film in the whole of the Star Wars universe that could rival the blistering intensity of The Last Jedi. From start to finish the action is relentless but wholly welcome, with each separate part of the story having its own unique storytelling style and notable traits. From inevitable lightsaber duels to space battles and a stunning homage to the running of the bulls in Pamplona, the action is displayed to the very highest standards, and it is such an integral part of Star Wars that once again Rian Johnson got exactly right. Only once in the film is there CGI that one could describe as questionable, and without giving anything away the scene in which this happens is wholly blatant and probably unnecessary, yet takes nothing away from the rest of the phenomenal production values that go into making a film of this magnitude. Furthermore, despite the high quality of Johnson’s screenplay, there are certain bits of dialogue that border on cheesy and are clearly very “Americanised”, but at the end of the day it’s a Star Wars film, so the need to cater to every age group has to ooze through at some point. Minor problems however that bare little effect on the overall quality of the film.
Following up something as universally loved as The Force Awakens is never easy, but amazingly The Last Jedi exceeds its predecessor in every single way, cementing itself as easily the best Star Wars since The Empire Strikes Back and over time a potential rival to its crown as the best of the bunch. Despite some questionable CGI and a hint of overly cheesy dialogue, The Last Jedi is an outstanding film in its own right, that thrives on wholly thoughtful storytelling and its effortless technical prowess. An impeccable entry into the Star Wars universe that will surely leave fans wholly satisfied and have them hankering for the next episode.
Critical Rating: 9/10
Star Wars Uber Fan Rating: 10/10
Words by Elliott Jones