JReviews: Star Wars Episode VIII- The Last Jedi

So, I've just got back from seeing the new Star Wars film, which can only mean one thing. Review time.

I'll try to do this as spoiler free as I possibly can, but just a warning for any minor spoilers that may occur.

The Last Jedi is a great improvement on The Force Awakens. Where its predecessor played it safe and aped the originals to a T, The Last Jedi stands on its own two feet, being bold and taking risks, whilst still touching back on the original films with both small references and broader themes. One of my main fears for the film was that it was going to be a carbon copy of Empire Strikes Back (as Force Awakens was of New Hope), but whilst there are allusions to the Battle Of Hoth during one sequence and the escape from Hoth in another (alongside a mash-up of the asteroid run and the second Death Star attack during the former scene) it is nowhere near as obvious or intrusive as with Awakens. In fact, the main Empire comparrison that can be made is in the darkness of the story when compared to what came before and how much the storytelling and the characters have matured between the two movies.

Anyway, as I've made mention of the characters already, there are three that deserve mention, the first being Rey. I did not care for her in Awakens, her character was bland and felt more like a series of plot devices rather than a character I should care for. However, in Last Jedi, she is much improved. Not perfect yet, her personal motivations are still very impersonal (in that she seems to have no stakes in what happens other than she is the main character of the film and therefore has to. And this film also takes away her seeming primary motivation, being the knowledge of who her family is, though it is brilliantly handled) and Daisy Ridley still doesn't seem to have got her performance quite right, but there were flashes of brilliance in this film, especially in a few of her scenes with Luke Skywalker and Kylo Ren. And speaking of those two, they are the other two characters I want to talk about. We'll deal with Luke next, as he is the person most people are likely to be interested in. It has been reported that Mark Hamill clashed with the writers and director over Luke's characterisation in this film and, if I'm being honest, it is not hard to see why. This is not the Luke Skywalker we knew. This Luke is jaded by his failures and his past mistakes. He has, for all intents and purposes, given up. We already know the answer as to why, but as the movie goes on you question your preconceptions on what caused Luke to lose his faith, not only in himself, but in the Jedi as a whole. And once you know the whole story and see how Luke's arc plays out in the film, you understand why they wrote him the way that they did, whether you agree with it or not (for the record, I agree with it). Now, Kylo Ren. His character arc is my favourite of the film. In the last film, he felt out of his depth, both by design as part of his character arc and by weight of expectation (after all, he had to live up to not only being the new villain to follow Vader and Palpatine, but also live up to what had been done in the Expanded Universe and justify its dismissal, which for that film he didn't). In this film his character feels so much stronger and more secure by really expanding on his insecurities. His motivations are expanded upon and it gives every action he has undertaken in both films deeper meaning, from betraying his family in the lead up to Awakens to his actions in the superb final third of this film. This is more Kylo Ren's film than any other character, it's all about what he will do or what he won't do, more than Rey and more than Luke.

I must also make mention, as we are talking about the films postives, that the usual praise must be heaped upon the technical side of proceedings. The cinematography, effects, set-design and costuming are all top-notch, the best example probably being the casino scene that shows of the oppulant wealth of the richest beings in the Star Wars galaxy. Imagine the Mos Eisley cantina if it were based in Monte Carlo rather than Tattoine and you get the idea. And of course there isn't much I need to say about the John Williams score, because it is a John Williams score. There aren't as many sure-fire classic pieces amongst the numerous works on display throughout this film, but there doesn't really need to when this film sees the return of Luke's Theme from Return Of The Jedi and Luke & Leia's theme from the same film, alongside the excellent cuts from the previous film (Kylo Ren's Suite in particular), that make the score still stand amongst the rest of the Star Wars cannon with pride.

However, as much as I have given praise to this film, I must also administer critisism. My biggest critisism is over Supreme Leader Snoke's backstory, or abscence there-of. Unless they are planning further explaination of and exploration into the character of this enimga of a leader, then I cannot but see this as a waste opportunity to give us a truely great character. Where we could have had another Palpatine (a phenominal villain whose motivations and actions where given room to florish and grow, to be built upon with each appearance) we instead appear to have another Darth Maul (an admittedly cool character who wasn't explored to his fullest potential in the films).

My next problem is with Finn's subplot for the film. Finn was my favourite character from the last film and still remains my favourite from the new trilogy, and I have already praised the casino on Canto Blight for its aesthetics, but Finn's expedition to Canto Blight felt like an unnessescary distraction from the main thrust of the film, as pretty as it was. The scenes felt like they dragged you away from where all of the real action was going on, where the film you wanted to see was happening. And Benicio Del Toro's character DJ, who is a fairly major part of this sub-plot, is a disappointment. The character felt done already, the type of archetype you've seen done in a much more interesting way a dozen times before and the job he is brought in to do is hyped up to be almost impossible, but ends up looking less complex than R2 opening the doors on Cloud City.

And there lies my final problem with this film. Too many characters that you just don't get a reason to care about. In Empire, they brought in Lando Calrissian, who was given enough build and enough personality for fans to invest in him. They also brought in Boba Fett, who fans invested in purely because of how he came across (as the baddest guy in the room when that room also contained Darth Vader). This film introduced Rose Tico, a Resistance maintenance worker with a dead sister who can apparently disable First Order equipment because reasons, Vice Admiral Holdo, who is basically a clone of this films Princess Leia when this film already has a Princess Leia (though she does get the best jump to light-speed scene in any Star Wars film) and the aforementioned DJ, who I've already talked about. Add on the once again criminally underused Captain Phasma, the first proper appearance of Supreme Leader Snoke and what little they actually do with him, plus the fact that you have increased roles for Poe Dameron and General Hux (whose actor, Domhnall Gleeson, gets an honourable mention for dishonour for how slimey and nasty his performance is) and you have too many characters with things going on that we're apparently meant to care about that it is impossible to really care about t such an extent that when an important character moment happens you're more interested in what one of the characters they've actually built up already is doing. None of the characters are bad, per-se, but there could have been a better balancing for the characters between this film and the previous film, where some of the characters introduced in the last film got moments to shine in that film so as those introduced in this film didn't have to war for the spotlight.

So, in conclusion. Not the best Star Wars film, but it stands above it's predecessor and all of the prequels as the best "Star Wars Trilogy Movie" since the originals. It builds on the groundworks nicely, has some excellent scenes and improves a lot on characters that were lacking previously, but has problems with other supporting characters and a distracting subplot that interupts the pace of the main story, taking time away from expanding on certain characters. However, all in all, the problems aren't major enough to really detract from the enjoyment of the film and, as I have said already, it comfortably outstrips all other Star Wars films released since the 1980's, with the possible exception of Rouge One (and that is purely down to taste).

Final Grade: B+

So, what did you guys think of the film? Did you like it or did you hate it? Let us know in the comments below.  Also, if you are going to discuss particular parts of the film in the comments please put SPOILERS at the start of your post so as to warn anyone who has yet to see the film, thank you.

May the force be with you.

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