Yes, apologies for this review being later than expected, this was down to a few circumstances that were a bit out of my control.
Star Wars The Last Jedi is the eight entry now in the franchise and it comes off the heels of the phenomenal Star Wars The Force Awakens, which involved J J Abrams adding to the franchise in a way that almost redeemed it following the prequel trilogy. If you want my thoughts on that, check out my previous review on it, I actually thought it was a pretty good film. In fact, I put it at number 2 in my 10 Best Films of 2015.
The Last Jedi had a lot to live up to considering that there were many unanswered questions following the conclusion of that film. But, this time there is a change in writer/director, J J Abrams being moved into a Producers credit. The writing and directing job was handed over to Rian Johnson, whose most notable credit prior to this film was the 2012 Sci Fi thriller, Looper, which is a film I don’t feel has got its due, I actually liked the film, but I don’t see a lot of people having the same praise for it I have. Let’s just say it’s one of Bruce Willis’s better films over the last few years. Now, obviously it’s almost impossible to talk about this film without talking about Force Awakens so I will have to spoil to plot of that film to talk about this one. I will not, however, spoil the plot of The Last Jedi. If you have seen the film and want a spoiler review of it, myself and Ren did a Vlog on the topic. This is a strictly non-spoiler review.
The Last Jedi’s plot is really focused some time after the events of Force Awakens, they are a bit all over the place with time line at this point. The First Order is taking back most of the Galaxy and Leia, played by Carrie Fisher is leading the charge against it, alongside several other members of the resistance including Poe Dameron, played by Oscar Isaac. Meanwhile, there is another sub-plot with the First Order able to track them through hyper-space travel, resistance members Finn, played by John Boyega and Rose played by Kelly Marie Tran travel to track down a missing code breaker so they can disable the tracker. Meanwhile Rey, played by Daisy Ridley has sought out Luke Skywalker, played by Mark Hamill, they want to train her in the ways of the Force. However, she is in constant conflict due to her connection with Kylo Ren, played by Adam Driver and they both seem to believe they can turn the other one to their side.
There is a ton of plot in The Last Jedi. But in almost every regard, The Last Jedi is a pretty dam good Star Wars film. The quality of these films have just been brilliant. That’s not to say I don’t think The Last Jedi has it’s niggling points, I’m not sure its quite as good as Force Awakens and doesn’t quite have the same impact for me. But at the same time, it also fixes one of the problems I have with Force Awakens, which is I don’t believe it has much of a reliance over nostalgia. Force Awakens had a nasty tendency to recycle plots from most of the original trilogy. The Last Jedi on the other hand has a much more original plot, borrowing much less significantly, though there are a few points that feel eerily similar to scenes from Return of the Jedi, in fact some of the lines from Supreme Leader Snoke, played by Andy Serkis feel very similar to the scenes with Emperor Pablatine in those films. The Last Jedi also has a nasty tendency, that these films have not really given the scope of the Star Wars Universe, and I think it’s more to tie in with the sort of world that the original trilogy created. As much as the prequels aren’t great films, they did do a pretty good job expanding the Star Wars Universe to make it seem even wider and more epic and I wish this film would take more advantage of it and that’s probably my biggest problem with the film. In terms of a running plot, I actually think this one is pretty dam good. The plot is well written, there are some excellent character moments, though I think Luke is slightly inconsistent, something that I have heard is a common criticism of the film. I do have to slightly agree, however, I don’t believe it’s to the extent that people have made it out to be and I think when we get the full back story of his history with Kylo Ren, it’s actually kind of understandable.
Even with a couple of nit pics, the film never quite falls down, it actually builds on some of the plot points from Force Awakens pretty well, though, not to the point that we can’t spot some inconsistencies.
The film is two and a half hours long and it uses the time to its advantage. In fact, this is one of the few rare films that suits a two and a half hour running time, even if I did think the plot was starting to drag slightly towards the end. The film maybe could have done with being ten minutes shorter.
Kylo Ren is also turning into a more interesting villain, he has basically kind have become a better written of Anakin Skywalkers fall to the dark side from the prequels. Granted, he has a few whiny moments but at the same time, he actually has the ability to back up since he has a lot of bad ass moments as well. Despite her death, you may be surprised to hear that Leia has a much more prominent role than I was expecting in this film. She is actually a big part of it and it was one of the biggest genuine surprises of the film. Pleasant surprise, but none the less a surprise. I actually think they handled it pretty well. The whole film feels like a tribute to her and I felt that everything was done pretty well.
Now, while the film does have three competing plot lines, but one of the things that pleased me with this film is that these films are not too Jedi heavy. In fact the Jedi plot is actually rather relegated for a couple of points and at some moments it feels like it has gone permanently. There are also quite a few reveals in this film and a couple of them are really good, especially one in particular that I felt could have been really confusing and open up a million plot holes, but it is actually handled really well and makes sense and really strengthened the characters. The new characters are given a chance to be their own. With Luke being the only prominent character from the iconic trilogy to have a prominent role this time around, the film gives much more room for these new characters to build their identity. Something I appreciated, as without giving too much away, the next film is going to even more reliant on them.
Now, again, if you are like me, you are probably wondering how good are the light sabre battles. Well, I don’t think they have improved all that much on Force Awakens, but they have not exactly gone downhill either. In fact, one of the action scenes is so good, that it sold the movie for me. Again, I have to be very vague, as to not give away plot spoilers, but let’s just say the light sabre fight scenes are, on some levels better and on some levels, not much better. The rest of the action scenes are handled brilliantly, all things considered, however, I’m do think they are a bit too few and far between, but I like the fact that there is a plot exposition and we aren’t constantly in fight scenes. I think the effects have got a bit better too.
Now I did see the film in 2D, so I’m not sure how the 3D effects were in this film, but judging by the 3D in Force Awakens and the way this film looks very similar, I would say, don’t bother. If I am going on about production design, I loved the design of some of these new worlds. They are very interesting editions to the Star Wars Universe and fit in quite well. Once again, rather like the previous film none of the planets this time around have featured in previous Star Wars films. So, it’s a new experience all round. I would particularly like to point out the Red Dessert planet which I particularly liked and didn’t feel like a Tattoo Eden clone, and, of course, it’s a Star Wars film so the make-up effects are fantastic to create the aliens.
Of course, John Williams score is fantastic.
As for the performances, they are all brilliant as well. Daisy Ridley gives a phenomenal performance. Adam Driver I think is really coming into his own with Kylo Ren. Carrie Fisher gives a brilliant final performance in this film and it’s a credit for her to go out on her iconic character. John Boyega is once again pretty good, even if he is slightly down played this time around, I also really enjoyed Oscar Isaac. I am also kind of a fan of newcomer Kelly Marie Tran who gives a more expanded role. Of course you have more returning cast members including Domhall Gleeson who is on good form, Anthony Daniels reprises his role as C-3P0 and does a really good job and Andy Serkis once again returns to play Snoke, I actually think he is pretty dam good in this film, though, again, is nothing compared to his performance as Ceasar in War For The Planet of the Apes. Seriously, if Andy Serkis doesn’t get an Oscar nomination for that role at last, it’s a travesty. There are also newcomers, Gwendoline Christie who does a good performance, Laura Dern does a pretty dam good job and I enjoyed Benicio Del Toro in his performance as DJ. Plus there are a ton of cameo’s in there, including one very famous Star Wars one, which I won’t dare spoil.
The Last Jedi is not a perfect film, but I dam well enjoyed it. It’s definitely showing signs that the franchise is moving towards another trilogy that we can all get behind and I am really enjoying the films so far. The cast is brilliant, the effects are brilliant and I think it tells a rather compelling story. It feels very interesting as we are now moving into the ninth film, which will be out in 2019 and I am thoroughly looking forward to it, especially with J J Abrams returning to direct. It’s a solid entry in the franchise but it again suffers from the fact that it has to be the middle portion of trilogy, so as a result, can’t be definitive with much. Though personally, I thought this film was great, I really think you should go and check it out.
That’s it for 2017 with the Axia Film Society. Another year gone.
Thanks a lot for reading my review. I hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it and I am on my two week Christmas break now.
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