If you are after more of what you got from The Force Awakens then this isn’t the film that you are looking for. Rian Johnson has done a really good job bringing The Last Jedi to life, crafting a Star Wars film that still feels like it fits into the wider view but at the same time carving a new path in a way that TFA doesn’t.
Starting at the point where we left the previous film, Rey has found Luke on his lonely island and is, as she is generally, full of hope. It takes approximately 30 seconds for this to be put into context about what this film is about. The old meeting the new, the serious meeting a surprising amount of humour and a new direction being taken. That is what this film does well, takes the previous stories and runs with it and I must admit I didn’t have any idea where it was going to go to (maybe I was just enjoying the film too much to think too hard about it at the time!).
Mostly centring around a space battle as The First Order chase down the last remaining ships of the Resistance, we do get a good amount of slowly increasing tension as ship after ship falls by the wayside as the relentless Destroyers lumber along. Visually it feels very much like a Star Wars film, a good amount of time spent in space with battles taking place on top of the Battlestar Galactica-style sub-plot of being chased endlessly by the enemy. Add to this the wondrous worlds that they encounter are decent locations and are inhabited by a vast array of creatures. Ok so Luke’s island isn’t that wondrous but the later planets are amazingly visualised and brought to life.
In between the chase scene updates the action abounds. Rey, Kylo Ren/Ben, Finn, Poe and the seemingly endless cast of extra Stormtroopers, Snoke’s private guards, all get in on the action in various ways and to various levels. As impressive as the fight scenes are they felt a little bit over-choreographed, never quite reaching the fluidity of some of the fight scenes that are commonplace in films these days (I’m thinking about John Wick but even TFA felt more natural and less stilted).
The concerted effort to give each major player their time in the spotlight leads to a slightly fragmented storyline. Moving here and there to keep everyone up to date with the various characters movements and developments, indeed i felt the whole side-mission for Finn & Rose was entirely unnecessary and felt like it was added purely to ensure the screen quota is achieved.
What does work really well is the relationship and scenes between Rey and Kylo Ren. They are two sides of the same coin: both conflicted and both liable to flip at a moments notice. Which way are they going to go? Which path will they take? It is a refreshing update on the strong-bonded relationships that are build throughout the Star Wars saga and it is their uncertainty that elevates, making it more thrilling to watch. Add to this General Hux and Kylo Ren are one of the best double acts in cinema today. Their bickering, one-upmanship and positioning for the best scraps from Snoke’s table is great to see, I’m pretty sure they were having a blast whilst filming those scenes together!
Supreme Leader Snoke, however, isn’t as imposing as he was in TFA, becoming realised and embodied leads to him seeming less threatening, getting to show only a fraction of his power. General Leia is more of less a mascot throughout, a figurehead for the rebellion, chiming in with wise words when needed but never showing the vitality that she had, even more emphasised when R2D2 repeats Leia’s message for Obi Wan in an attempt to mobilise Luke. Speaking of Luke, again he felt like a call to the past, nothing more than the legend that he has become over time. Like Leia, he puts in some wise words at the right time and does his small part to help the resistance but never gets the more weighty performance that maybe this role needed.
The Last Jedi is a genuinely funny film but never descends into being jokey, there are some dark moments but they never quite reach the depths that maybe it should have taken it (thinking about some of the scenes in The Empire Strikes Back, they go to some really dark places and it is a better film for it). The action is really good and had me thoroughly entertained throughout, even if the performances sometimes left a bit to be desired but remained good enough to carry the story off.
A worthy addition to the saga and sets up what will hopefully be a thrilling conclusion to this latest trilogy (and closes off the trilogy of trilogies).