Star Wars The Last Jedi - This Movie Rocks A Galaxy Far, Far Away
Dir: Rian Johnson
Starring Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Andy Serkis, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Adam Driver, Gewndoline Christie, Ade Edmonson, Kelly Marie Tran, Benicio Del Toro, Laura Dern, Anthony Daniels, Prince William Windsor, Prince Harry Windsor, Frank Oz, Lupita Nyong'O, Justin Theroux
Rian Johnson’s first entry in the Star Wars universe (there will be more) is certainly a successful one. And while it poses a few problems, ultimately it becomes stronger for having done so (and it has two and a half hours to accomplish this!)
First off, it doesn’t start well. OK, obviously it starts well - that title card about a certain galaxy and where and when it is, that first stab of John William’s immortal theme, an opening crawl – all that’s missing in fact is the Fox logo and fanfare – can you sort that Disney, now that you own the world? Much appreciated if you would (it’s not like these films aren’t up for retro-tinkering.)
Then, rather than take us straight back to the end of the previous movie – with Rey and Luke sorting out the major themes of the piece, we cut to Domhnall Gleeson facing off with the “cocky kid” that is Oscar Isaac’s Poe Damaron. It’s a good action sequence but one that is undermined by a number of things – most notably its emphasis on misplaced humour (and it’s attempt to remould Poe as the new Han – not happening.) The usually wonderfully reliable Gleeson is overacting in a galaxy far, far away from a good one, Isaac is making gags about being on hold – surely a phone reference – can’t recall seeing a phone in this universe at any point?? And – worst of all – there’s Ade Edmonson. Now don’t get us wrong, we love a bit of Ade, and he has developed into a very decent straight actor since his days as a Dangerous Brother. But here, he unfortunately stands out like a sore thumb on a Star Destroyer (and please, don’t bother correcting us if we got the class of ship wrong - that’s not the point.) Then again, given Johnson’s direction for Gleeson to play it one step away from panto – maybe not.
It’s not an auspicious start, so thankfully we are back on Skellig Michael with Luke and Rey and The Last Jedi begins to hit it stride, trading in ancient mythology and newly focused characterisation, leading down paths we have waited to explore and blind siding us as we go. Which is, all in all, a delicious combination.
As things unfold, it’s fair to say a lot unfolds. The bond between Kylo Ren (who Driver still plays like a truculent teen) and Rey is developed, Snoke’s role in everything is brought to the fore, as the fate of the Rebellion – and its de facto totum Leia (farewell, Ms Fisher) comes into sharp relief. Finn is back and boisterous, some new characters make a mark (Tran’s Rose), some less so (Del Toro, Dern.) More importantly, there are revelations – again, some expected, some totally unexpected, and there are genuine surprise. And losses. Although at 152 mins it is the longest of the Star Wars movies, Johnson keeps everything moving at an admirable clip. And, more importantly, he grips you emotionally as much as the best SW movie ever did.
There are times, however, where the action dominates the emotion and the schematics of events are easier to spot. And the pure emotive reinforcement of JJ’s Force Awakens is lacking. But that film was designed to do just that and this film is designed to do just this. And they are different beasts. (Even if there is a feeling that when Luke chucks that light sabre over his shoulder, this is Johnson's way of thorwing out just about every major idea JJ set up last time round - coupled with the fac that this feels more like a concluding part of a trilogy rather than the middle.)
The last one was comfort food for the Star Wars loving soul; this is the challenge of the new and the future (check out that very last shot.) It’s a tougher gig – and one The Last Jedi ultimately gets about 90% right. Which in itself is a hell of a triumph.
You will be moved by some bits, surprised by others – and you won’t hate the Porgs! We call that a good night out.
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