The expectations on Star Wars movies to deliver are unparalleled. The director is tasked with somehow finding the right balance to satisfy hardcore fans, first-time viewers and Disney’s big-wigs and with The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson does this exceptionally with a bold step forward that brings with it a mixture of intrigue, humour and breathtaking action sequences.
The story is a direct continuation from 2015’s Episode VII: The Force Awakens. While the vengeful First Order are bearing down on the fleeing Resistance, Rey (Daisy Ridley) finally begins her Jedi training under the reluctant tutelage of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill – who actually has lines in this film).
Mark Hamill does an excellent job in properly reprising the role of Luke Skywalker, he brings a whole wealth of experience, emotional weight and conflict to the character, something we hadn’t seen before in what is an evocative and mature performance. What’s even more endearing about Hamill’s reprisal of Luke is the relationship with Daisy Ridley’s Rey who advances her character well, showing a lot of growth since her exploits in The Force Awakens.
However, the most talked about performance will be that of the late, great Carrie Fisher, in her final appearance as Leia before her untimely death, late last year. The film pays a loving tribute to Fisher in a film where her performance is key and she is given a much more influential role than in the previous instalment.
Meanwhile, the film introduces a number of new characters, the most prominent of these being Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), who joins Finn (John Boyega) on an adventure to the Casino on Canto Bight, the Monte Carlo of the galaxy.
While their exploits in the Casino are enjoyable, they are more of a meandering distraction and lack the gripping intrigue of the rest of the film in a sequence that feels as if it’s just ticking a box marked ‘cantina scene’.
Aside from this diversion however, the strongest scenes in the film come from Rey’s training on the Island where we met Luke at the end of The Force Awakens, home of the Porgs, a puffin like race which result in some of the best moments of humour in the film but I digress. During Rey’s journey of discovery, the Force is explored in new, intriguing and exciting ways and a lot of credit must go to the writer and director for this aspect of the film.
The easiest thing Rian Johnson could’ve done was to play it safe by copying and pasting The Empire Strikes Back but no, he has created a wonderfully thought-provoking film which strikes out into new territory, never before seen in the Star Wars movies and though this doesn’t always work and leads to one or two moments which are very on the nose and are likely to leave viewers divided, there are more plentiful moments in particular which are some of the finest pieces of cinema I have ever seen.
To be truly appreciated though, I would massively recommend a repeat viewing of The Last Jedi as there is an awful lot to take in, with it being the longest film in the saga at 152 minutes (2:32 hours) long.
Overall, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, despite a few moments which do fall flat, is a superb and joyous romp that somehow manages to balance enthralling dialogue, captivating character building, superb humour and jaw-dropping action set-pieces in what is a bold step forward for the franchise, making it one of my favourite films in the Star Wars saga.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi was released in the UK on December 14, 2017.