By Ryan Keating-Lambert
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a breath of fresh air in a franchise that rarely takes risks. Director Rian Johnson takes the trilogy in a bold new direction.
Rey (Daisy Ridley) gets help from Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in learning the ways of the force, but is confronted with some dark secrets. Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac) help General Leia (Carrie Fisher) and the resistance escape the clutches of the sinister First Order.
‘This is not going to go the way you think,’ Luke says to Rey during her Jedi training, and he’s right. The Last Jedi picks up from the moment Episode VII The Force Awakens leaves off. However, instead of relying on nostalgia and a safe and predictable plot, Johnson amps up the twists and turns and boldly goes where no Jedi has gone before.
Many are comparing this film to The Empire Strikes Back, and some even say that it’s better. Truth be told, this is an entirely different Star Wars movie. There’s so much that happens in this film that it’s more like The Empire Strikes Back AND Return of the Jedi rolled into one. There’s a lot of time and action covered, but the story in itself takes the Star Wars universe in a whole new direction.
Director Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper) has cleverly, and very ambitiously, toyed with the Jedi religion and shaken it to the core. The relationship between Rey and Luke is wonderful and we see a much darker and more pessimistic side to the old Jedi who has since become a recluse on an island full of funny little puffin-like creatures called porgs – just imagine the millions in merchandise that these little guys are going to make.
Johnson also brought something new to the action sequences. We all love a good Star Wars dogfight, and there’s a whole lot of that, but there’s a lot more escape than attack in this one, and some very crafty moves that make way for some proper ‘wow’ moments – Laura Dern, you are an absolute bad-ass.
There are a lot of characters to comprehend here, both old and new, and every sub-plot has adequate screen time, but it’s the main plot with Rey, Luke, and Kylo Ren that’s the most fascinating and surprisingly unpredictable. As the relationship between master and apprentice goes through some growing pains, so does the overall philosophy of the force. Some of these changes are quite dramatic, and I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if the franchise even loses a couple of hardcore fans! But let’s face it. This needed to happen. Never in my life would I think that I’d be saying a Star Wars film is polarising, but this one is going to divide people.
Other sub-plots however, are sometimes a bit tedious. Finn and new character Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) embark on a journey that make way for some interesting allegories on the refugee crisis and the dire political situation of modern day, but it’s a little contrived at times. It feels as though this side-story only served as a purpose to tie up lose ends from The Force Awakens. As you saw in the trailer, Finn and the underwhelming Captain Phasma (Gwedoline Christie) finally get the chance to fight it out. I thought the stormtrooper would have more of a part in this one. What a waste of talent!
Carrie Fisher does however get a lot more screen time in this film. We finally get to see where this character has gone and how she’s grown since the original trilogy. The nostalgia factor is still very much there, but the film doesn’t rely on it. The Last Jedi is a grand send-off for the actress.
This is going to be a MONSTER opening weekend for the film, and I’m curious where director J. J. Abrams is going to take the trilogy from here. We’re now in uncharted territory.