Jacob Richardson | 19/12/2017
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
The Force Awakens was a beloved but overly familiar take on A New Hope. Johnson seems to realise this in his new piece, taking great pains to zag left every time you thought he was going to zig right. He surprises you time and time again, and while Star Wars die-hards seem averse to his trampling of their lore, as movie-goers it’s an impossibly enjoyable experience; to be utterly surprised.
This instalment sees much more of Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, and presumably he has learnt how to act since his early days in the prequels, because here he is tremendous. He’s menacing, intimidating, kindly, crotchety and wise all at once. Oscar Isaac also gets more screen time as Poe Dameron, and his Han Solo wannabe pilot is a welcome addition following the loss of the inspiration in the film universe previously.
Newcomers, in the form of Laura Dern as Vice Admiral Holdo and Benicio Del Toro as rascally code breaker DJ are both fantastic; Dern bringing a wonderful veneer of authority to her character and Del Toro making some striking artistic decisions with his character that keep you transfixed to the screen when he is on it.
But much like The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi always feels like it’s acting in Adam Driver’s shadow. Driver’s performance as Kylo Ren is incredible. He is an impossibly well-rounded villain, falling from the light side to the dark not through some sort of inherent malice but through a series of childish and poor decisions. Johnson uses this in the films favour. Because Ren’s failures are our own, we can sympathize with him and his plight. When Rey believes she can turn him, we do too, and it makes for all the more compelling viewing.
Johnson crams all this emotionality in around a couple of absolutely spectacular action sequences. Whether it’s Rey and Kylo’s fight with Snoke’s guards, Finn’s escape on the gambling planet or Luke’s final confrontation with Kylo in the red salt sands of Crait, Johnson brings this sense of surprise, gravity and spectacle to each of his set pieces to craft an utterly watchable picture.
Unexpectedly funny, engrossing and boundlessly fun, Star Wars: The Last Jedi takes all the traditional Star Wars elements and churns them through the auteurish mind of Rian Johnson to deliver an incredible cinematic experience.
A satisfying continuation of the story, particularly for film fans, Rian Johnson’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a beautiful piece of creative risk taking. It doesn’t always pay off, but when it does, it’s worth it.