— WARNING – SPOILERS AHEAD —
If JJ Abrams’ The Force Awakens was Star Wars playing it safe, Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi was Star Wars throwing the rulebook off a cliff as quickly and with as much trepidation as Luke did that sabre. Brave choices and the most beautiful cinematography I can remember ever witnessing in a cinema, I think, pushed the saga into places that nobody expected it to go. We had answers to the Big Questions from the preceding chapter: Who Are Rey’s Parents? Who Is Snoke? The answers are Nobody and Nobody. And I’m more than happy with that.
What Johnson has done here, as far as I can tell, is say “you don’t have to be special to do special things” and that’s a message we can all get behind. That is unless you’re one of any number of alt-right crybabies currently losing their shit on a comment thread near you because there are too many strong women and not enough references to obscure fan theories. Whether it was commenting on the hypocrisy of war profiteering, the horrors of animal cruelty or the fact that even whiny wannabes can be dangerous given enough power, this was the most political chapter in the saga, ironic when you think that the prequel trilogy (much maligned, though not by me) was literally about a war, started over a trade dispute, which resulted in a power grab to end all power grabs. It’s not “pro-leftist vegan propaganda” as I saw one commenter call it, but a film set in a universe where important things happen, even off-screen.
The heroes can be split into three groups: the Old Big Three (now Two; RIP Han), the New Big Three and the Newcomers. Mark Hamill gives the performance of his career as a grizzled and green-milk-slurping Luke Skywalker. I love what Johnson did with the character, showing that it’s never a good idea to meet your heroes. The late Carrie Fisher shines as General Leia, capturing the vulnerability of age and the pressures of reluctant power perfectly. I shed a tear or two when we first saw her on-screen and all-out blubbed like a baby when Luke and Leia had their chat on Crait. Killing off Luke Skywalker in the way they did was a masterstroke. Opinion is that he’ll show up again as a Force Ghost – as Yoda did this time around – to keep our hero on the straight and narrow; I’m not sure I agree that he will. I’ll be happy either way.
As for New Big Three, it’s Poe Dameron who stands out. Barely appearing in The Force Awakens, Poe is every inch the reckless rebel in this chapter. An early mistake causing an untold number of deaths weighs heavy and every move he makes afterwards feels like a desperate attempt to make up for that. Oscar Isaac makes what was a fairly two-dimensional character into one of the most compelling characters in the saga’s history. Rey is off on Ahch-To, seeking wisdom and training from Master Skywalker, but she doesn’t get what she expects. Rather than being taken under his wing, Rey is mercilessly dismissed by Luke in scenes reminiscent of the Pai Mei training segment from Kill Bill Vol.2. The call of the Dark Side tempts her in ways she’s never experienced but a string of ‘Forcetime calls’ from a sometimes-topless Kylo Ren sets her on a path to save him from the darkness.
Meanwhile, Finn and newcomer Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) are shuttled off on a secret mission to save the Resistance by deactivating the First Order’s lightspeed tracker. To do this they must go to Canto Bight, SPACE VEGAS, and find a hacker who can break through the shields of the Supremacy and get them aboard. Things don’t go to plan: they end up with a hacker (but not the hacker), an unnamed-on-screen scoundrel played pitch-perfectly by Benicio del Toro. I loved this whole segment of the film. I think I might be the only one who did. Plot-wise, there wasn’t a misstep, in my opinion. Everything worked, even though everyone failed. This film has a lot to say about failure and our reactions to it. Luke says “failure is the greatest teacher there is” and even he learns that failing a task is one thing, failing a friend is unforgivable.
Villains, then. Kylo Ren is as petulant as ever, but with a new purpose that makes him even more dangerous than before. Snoke meets a sticky end, sliced into at least four pieces, struck down by his apprentice as is the lot of all Sith (he’s a fucking Sith, whatever anyone says), but not before he jumps out of the screen and into our nightmares. What an enthralling, horrific villain! It’s a shame we won’t see any more of him, but I’m so happy with his ending. As for Who’s Snoke? Who cares? He’s just some really evil guy. Phasma pops up again, only to get her arse handed to her by FN-2187 in a scene that some have said did her a disservice. I didn’t think so; she’s a minor character and her demise was fitting – she went down fighting and remains, in my mind, a great addition to the roster of minor Star Wars characters who were bloody awesome. The last battle of the film, the walker attack on the Resistance base on Crait, culminating in the showdown between Kylo Ren and Luke Skywalker (albeit a younger, fitter, friskier, fake Luke Skywalker) was a visual treat. And if it’s visual treats you want, look no further than the snarky Vice Admiral Holdo’s sacrificial trip to light speed, through the middle of the First Order flagship! I want that image on my wall.
I found myself literally punching the air more than once throughout this film. It was a triumph. I laughed, I gasped, I cried like a baby (twice, when R2 showed Luke the hologram from A New Hope and when Luke finally gave in and became one with the Force, in Peace and with Purpose). At around two and a half hours, this is the longest Star Wars movie ever, but it flew by. I would happily have rejoined the line and gone straight back into the screen to see it a second time. I can’t wait until I get chance to devour this masterpiece again. This hasn’t been much of a review, but it’s the best I could come up with at short notice. I have so, so much more to say that I fear I’ll have to split my thoughts into a few separate posts. But not today. Today, I listen to the soundtrack to The Last Jedi and relive the thrills all over again in my mind.
For being one of the best films – never mind Star Wars films – I’ve ever seen, The Last Jedi gets a strong 9/10. Stay tuned for more from me on this film, coming soon. Ish.