I’ve been a ‘Star Wars’ fan for as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories is being ill from school aged about 4 and watching ‘The Phantom Menace’ on VHS. By the age of 7, I had seen all the first 6 films (that should tell you how old I am now), and I loved them all, even the prequels. In fact, I never quite understood why they got so much stick. Yes, the excessive CGI was annoying, and the script was absolutely dire, but it was an interesting and exciting story on the most part, although I do understand why the prequels are little more than memes nowadays. The point I’m trying to make is that I’m a real Star Wars fan. All the ‘fans’ who loved ‘Empire’ and ‘New Hope’ and hated every other film, including the newest ones, maybe you’re not actually Star Wars fans… When sci-fi master JJ Abrams brought back the saga in 2015 with a brand new set of characters, I loved it. It was derivative of ‘A New Hope’ for sure, but it was an enjoyable blockbuster and set up the new characters perfectly. But the ‘fans’ clamoured for something new, something different. And boy, did we get it.
If there’s one thing you can’t call ‘The Last Jedi’, it’s derivative of the other films. Rian Johnson put his own stamp on the saga with this, to the point where many even complained it was too different, it wasn’t what ‘Star Wars’ is about, and people just generally hated it. I largely disagree. The new characters are back, and they’re just as good as we remember. Rey is a worthy new star, Finn a hilarious sidekick, Poe a cool, rebellious maverick, and Kylo a terrifying and complex villain. And the acting throughout this film cannot be criticised. It amazes me that TFA was Daisy Ridley’s first proper film role, and it amazes me even more that John Boyega is the guy me and my mates saw as Moses in ‘Attack the Block’ (great film). Those two deserve all the global stardom they now possess, and I hope that being in a series as huge as ‘Star Wars’ doesn’t hold them back from getting other big roles, because their acting is awesome. But Adam Driver really does own this film. Kylo Ren is a magnificent villain; tortured, terrifying and in this film, strangely appealing, and the quality of Driver’s performance is unprecedented in the ‘Star Wars’ universe. The biggest surprise from TLJ though, is undoubtedly Mark Hamill. I loved Luke Skywalker, but I never really rated Hamill as an actor. However, having seen him more recently appear ‘The Flash’ and ‘Criminal Minds’ I was optimistic about his performance, and he doesn’t disappoint. Skywalker is a new man, different to how we’ve ever seen him and you’ll either get on board with that or you’ll hate it. I was on board. He’s by no means the omnipotent mentor that Yoda was, but he is captivating all the same.
This is also one of the more beautiful to watch films of the saga. Of course, sci-fi films benefit from modern technology, so it’s difficult to compare to the original trilogy, and even the prequels, but the Johnson’s cinematography is at worst gorgeous, and at best, jaw-dropping. The scene that sticks out for me is when Holdo drives her ship at lightspeed into the First Order fleet as the sound cuts to silence. It is quite literally breathtaking, and brought about audible gasps from the audience. The final set-piece on Crait is just as spectacular, bringing about nostalgia and memories of the Hoth battle from ‘Empire’. The sight of speeders flying across the ground, kicking up red dust is hard to hate. Similarly, the space battles are well-handled, not too busy but dense and full of action. In this sense, TLJ is ‘Star Wars’ at its best, colourful, energetic and introduces us to new and amazing worlds.
Now, on to the plot. The main plot, I’m with it, I love it. Rey learning from, and being disappointed by, a wounded Luke? Sign me up. Rey and Kylo being connected by the force and introducing a hint of romance and companionship between them? Awesome. Rey and Kylo teaming up and killing Snoke and the guards all before Kylo turns back and ends up fighting Luke Skywalker on a white and red salt planet?? Yes please, Ryan. But man, there was just so much about the other plots that I hated. The side-plot involving Finn and Rose (did not like her at all), felt like just giving Finn something to do; it didn’t have much of an effect on the plot, and to be honest it was just boring, which is hard to do given that Finn was my favourite character by far in TFA. And the romance with Rose was just awful, forced and I don’t think anyone in the audience wanted it. Throughout the Finn and Rose scenes I just found myself wanting Rey and Kylo back. But all that side-plot boredom was nothing compared to what I thought of THAT Leia scene. It was a tragedy when Carrie Fisher passed away, and Star Wars fans around the world found it emotional to watch her in this film, and she got the most applause of any actor/actress in this movie. And when Leia’s command bridge was blown up and she was left ‘dead’, it would’ve been a suitable and peaceful death for the beloved Princess. So to see her open her eyes and float through space like Mary Poppins was not something I enjoyed. I do not want to see her CG’ed into the final film, but she has not recorded her scenes for it, so whatever they do with her character, it better do her justice.
Overall, I did like this film, but it confuses me. When I came out of it, I immediately texted my mate and said it was the “best Star Wars film yet”. Then I slept on it, and texted him saying it was the “most enjoyable yet”. But when I saw it again, I had my doubts, and in all honesty, I don’t really know where I rank it. It had some of my favourite scenes ever in Star Wars (Rey and Kylo fighting together was something I never knew I needed), and Johnson’s cinematography took the saga to a place it deserved to go to, and a place I hope JJ Abrams stays in the last film. But for all the good in the film, there’s a lot of disappointment, and a lot of frustration. I went into it wanting answers to two questions: who are Rey’s parents and who is Snoke? Both of the answers were disappointing. Rey being a nobody is a cop-out (assuming Kylo was telling the truth, which I do have my doubts about), and Snoke being killed so early after just being introduced was a shame. It’s a frustrating film, enjoyable, but frustrating, and I think my opinions on it will always be confused.
Best scene: Rey and Kylo fight together
Best character: Kylo Ren
Best actor/actress: Mark Hamill
Best quote: “Amazing. Every word of what you just said was wrong. The Rebellion is reborn today. The war is just beginning. And I will not be the last Jedi.” – Luke Skywalker