Star Wars Episode 8 – The Last Jedi

The biggest film of the year is finally here and Star Wars hype is once again at fever pitch – but does The Last Jedi answer the questions posed by 2015’s The Force Awakens? Unfortunately, the answer is no; and you may find yourself asking even bigger questions as you walk out of the cinema.

The Last Jedi has been met with universal praise from critics and with most Star Wars fans, like The Force Awakens two years ago and Rogue One last year. However, I cannot say that I have been hugely impressed with any of them. The Force Awakens was a superb watch in December 2015, uniting the original cast and characters with a host of new characters such as Rey, Finn and villainous Kylo Ren; however, over the last two years it hasn’t benefited too well from numerous re-watches, and left many questions for it’s successor to answer. Enter director Rian Johnson and The Last Jedi to respond to those questions.

Addressing the concerns and the things that I liked or loved in The Last Jedi without revealing any spoilers or specific plot points is particularly tricky as there is certain scenes and interactions that I wish I could discuss. Without revealing specific details – I particularly enjoyed Adam Driver’s performance as Kylo Ren. Ren is a rare class of villain: he’s clearly completely torn between good and evil, and Driver plays this out brilliantly all film. He also manages to rage so violently that he makes Vader look tame by comparison at times. The character arc between Rey and Kylo is by far the most compelling of the film and probably the trilogy also. Mark Hamill is also excellent as Luke Skywalker this time around (ignore any talk of him winning any Academy Awards, however, he’s not quite that good) and it’s arguably Hamill’s best performance as Luke over the course of the entire saga. Oscar Isaac is also highly prominent as fighter pilot Poe Dameron this time around and is much more enjoyable than his Force Awakens turn.

Another major plus The Last Jedi has are the fight sequences: not only the lightsaber battles, but also the battles in space. One battle scene in particular is incredibly tense, and the rest weren’t far off it. Rian Johnson deserves great credit for delivering the best set-pieces of the trilogy to date and for also daring to take the saga in a different direction. Whereas The Force Awakens drew easy comparisons to A New Hope, The Last Jedi leans towards The Empire Strikes Back then veers off course entirely. However, it doesn’t always prove to be a success.

Firstly, The Last Jedi is quite simply too long – there were entire scenes where I found myself asking myself if this really needed to be included in the film, which is never a good sign. Part of that was down to the side-plot which followed Finn and new character Rose’s mission to infiltrate the First Order undercover. I have to admit – I feel that the jury is still out on John Boyega’s Finn. He almost seems shoe-horned into scenes at times as a comic relief and it comes off as cringeworthy. Kelly Marie Tran as Rose was an adequate addition to the cast and I found some of her story quite compelling, while other parts fell flat unfortunately.

My main gripe with The Last Jedi (that I can talk about without revealing any spoilers) was with certain lines of dialogue that were used during the course of the film. During the film, I found myself cringe several times and stop to consider whether those lines really fit into a Star Wars film. Without revealing any specifics, I even wondered at one point if one line would have actually been more suited to the plot of a Fast and Furious film. The dialogue isn’t bad, exactly; at times, it’s just not Star Wars dialogue.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is by no means a bad film. I will probably (almost certainly) go and see it again at the cinema. But it’s not a great film either, and is certainly not as incredible as some critics will have you believe. As for the declaration that I have seen recently that this is the best Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back, just remember that one of the films in the saga since then was a 133 minute political think-piece starring Jar Jar Binks and another featured a scene where Anakin Skywalker, who would go on to become the most feared Sith leader in the galaxy, discussed his dislike of the feel of sand. The Last Jedi will divide opinion amongst fans for decades to come of course, all Star Wars films do. I just wish that it could have answered more of the big questions that remain after The Force Awakens.

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