Monday, 15 January 2018

Review: 'The Last Jedi'

by Alex Gibson

Generating more than $450-million worth of global ticket sales in its first weekend alone, the Star Wars franchise was back with a bang with the eight episode of the main saga, The Last Jedi. Considering the film has been out in cinemas for approximately a month, I thought it would be an ideal time to give my review. It goes without saying, but spoilers ahead.

When Luke Skywalker announced in the trailer, ‘this is not going to go the way you think’, he was absolutely right and I must confess I left the cinema in a world a conflict - a theme that is ironically explored throughout the franchise. I didn’t know if it was a huge success or a downright failure, but one thing to note, it was most certainly different.

Let’s start with the positives as there were several.

As with many modern-day films, The Last Jedi was visually stunning, from Luke Skywalker’s residence off the coast of Ireland, to the vivid detail of Crait - it was wonderful. Combined with an unsurprisingly magnificent musical score by John Williams, one could not help but feel truly immersed in the Star Wars ‘universe’ once more.

Not only this, but some of the characters were also very good, showing that the new breed of actors are positive replacements for those in the original trilogy who we have some anticipation of letting go. For example, the acting of Oscar Isaac playing lovable rogue Poe Dameron was a definite standout for me, especially as we perhaps did not see as much of him in The Force Awakens as we might have liked. John Boyega was another who gave a promising performance, once again proving that he has a bright future ahead of him. And, of course, appearances by Mark Hamill and the late Carrie Fisher (who both carried a considerable presence on-screen I must add) were moments that really encapsulated the transition between old and new.

In addition to this, certain scenes brought a thrill to the latest instalment of the saga, such as the moments when Rey and Kylo Ren appeared to communicate using the Force and when these two characters fought side-by-side against Snoke’s guards. The latter made up for the fact that there were no lightsabre duelling for the first time in the main story’s history.

Similarly with episode seven, this new film drew parallels with the original trilogy, namely the use of large, intimidating walkers marching towards a base. However, the fact that the film was different was refreshing and is a definite reason as to why some enjoyed it. It was also a reason as to why some detested it.

The new characters introduced to the audience in The Last Jedi were, in my view, poor. Firstly, Laura Dern’s Vice Admiral Holdo just appeared as the irritating commander who needlessly conflicted with others, including Poe Dameron, when they did not need to and whose only use was sacrificing themselves for the cause, perhaps unnecessarily as some have pointed out on social media. Moreover, Rose was an entirely expendable and forgettable character who did very little for the film, except waste a good portion of time with her and Finn’s subplot on the casino planet, Canto Bight, which for many viewers, was not needed, especially in a film that was already rather long. On the subject of useless characters, Captain Phasma was once again seen to be nothing but an opportunity to create a chrome stormtrooper and the ability to make more merchandise. This is because, apart from one fight scene with Finn, Gwendoline Christie’s character was yet again given very little screen-time and a miniscule role. Her whole appearance throughout the new films have been shown to be a waste of a very promising addition to the franchise.

Many fans of the series were also disappointed with the role of Luke Skywalker - a true cornerstone of the series. We expected to see him return as the all-powerful being that we assumed him to be after Return of the Jedi. However, instead, we saw the opposite. We saw a coward who, rather than trying to bring ‘peace to the galaxy’, would prefer to kill his own nephew. I did, however, enjoy his final minutes on-screen where we saw a Luke Skywalker who was perhaps more familiar and I, for one, thoroughly enjoyed his ‘Force projection’ to save his allies.

Despite some of these clearly important aspects of the film, my main disappointment with the film resulted from what I alluded to earlier - the fact that it was different. I think changing director mid-season was not the wisest choice as, whether you enjoyed the seventh episode or not, JJ Abrams left you with questions that you’d hope would be answered in the next film. This was not the case. Instead of learning more about Snoke, who Rey’s parents were or even theories behind the ‘Knights of Ren’, director Rian Johnson either ignored or completely ruined these ideas (that had been brewing for the best part of two years) in a bathetic manner. Some may disagree with me, but my view of a good saga is something that has a great deal of continuity, where there is a constant development of character’s stories and where questions the audience have are answered and not ignored.

So overall, I have mixed views in regards to The Last Jedi - some of it was absolutely outstanding and some scenes made me feel the excitement and anticipation that we all sampled with the original trilogies. However, parts of the film (the ill-timed humour, poor character development and the fact that there was a political statement being made at times in my opinion) made the eighth instalment of the Star Wars franchise not as favourable as I had perhaps hoped.

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