The galactic saga continues in a brand new chapter of Star Wars with Star Wars: The Last Jedi and this time the force is needed to be balanced as hope hangs by a thread and new director Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper) brings a whole new vision to this galaxy far, far away.
Following the events of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Rey (Daisy Ridley) has gone to seek out revered Jedi Master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to learn from the great Jedi himself. But darkness rises, and the resistance is threatened and on its last breath of hope as Rey hopes to learn to control her great powers to help restore order and peace to the galaxy.
For those of you afraid of spoilers. Don’t worry, you’re in good hands here. There will be none in this review. Instead, I implore that each of you goes and sees this amazing film for yourself and let its layered themes and multi-arched character journeys wash over you. It is from the mind of celebrated writer/director Rian Johnson that the world of The Last Jedi springs and while watching this film you feel every beat of his creativity and passion for this fantastic sci-fi universe. Johnson is a lifelong Star Wars fan and he understands George Lucas’ characters intimately and uses his knowledge to present a side of them that was there all along, but which until now we had not seen. Johnson is also a gifted writer and his knack for structure, and prose also find their way into a very well-crafted script and a plot that keeps you guessing proving that he was most-definitely the right man for the job here.
The world of this new Star Wars saga expands here, and this is specific to the characters of Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Each of these two characters go on a journey of growth as they learn new things about themselves and each other. Part of what makes for a great sequel is the fact that the stories characters must grow in some dramatic way, and that is certainly the case here. The prominence of each of these characters to the success of The Last Jedi also adheres to the film’s thematic emphasis on balance. The idea of balance between light and dark is essential to both these characters and Johnson’s exploration of it via these two characters makes for a very interesting experience.
If there was one moment I was waiting for though then it was most definitely the return of Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker. As a child, Luke was always my favourite character and I can assure longtime fans that Hamill does not disappoint as the Jedi master. But Hamill’s now aged Luke is not the man we once knew and is portrayed as a monastic figure and whose appearance within the story brings another big theme into the movie. That of the position of the force and its deep spiritual subtext of belief and hope. Like Rey, Luke himself goes on quite a journey, and his is one of an interesting interior reflection. As a viewer and lifelong fan of Luke Skywalker, I was pleased that Johnson focused his attention on Luke’s spiritual side as it offered something different and unexpected along with considerable growth for the character. Hamill is in top form throughout the entire film, and fans will be pleased that he has made his return.
If you’re looking for spectacle and size then you’ve come to the right place as Johnson fills the screen (preferably IMAX, trust me you have to watch this in IMAX) with extraordinary action set piece and large-scale sets. He has a knack for art direction, and The Last Jedi is filled with rich colours and intricate details that reflects its different environments from the forgotten earth of Ahch-To to the glitz and glam of the casino planet Canto Bight to the read earthed salt plains of the planet Crait. While each of these settings might be vast in their construction, they are also intimate and there is a real sense of care with each of these new worlds. Both production designer Rick Heinrichs and cinematographer Steve Yedlin, both heavy hitters in the industry, bring their all to this production, and alongside Johnson, these three artists create the far away universe we have come to love and explore through Star Wars.
A lot of thought has been placed into making Star Wars: The Last Jedi a very exciting ride and this extends to the film’s larger than life battle sequences. While I won’t discuss the action involved as to not run into spoilers lets just say that there are all kinds of towering space battles and if you like lightsabers, well, you’re in for a treat.
But in talking about Star Wars: The Last Jedi one cannot pass the presence of the late, great Carrie Fisher who made her final appearance on the big screen as General Leia Organa before her sad passing. While we only got to see Leia for a moment in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, here she has a far grander role and her presence reflects the grace, decorum and strength of character that Fisher brought to both the original Star Wars films, along with the science fiction genre in general. Like the other characters, including her brother Luke, Leia herself goes on quite a journey and becomes the symbol for one of the film’s most poignant symbols: hope. Believing when no one else will, Leia’s faith in the power of the force and in the good of others is a poignant reminder of the strength of Star Wars and of what Fisher brought to it. I can say that I welled up a little with our princesses final scene, but Fisher’s performance is flawless and Johnson along with the cast and crew do right by her with a very fitting film.
Whether you’re a longtime fan or have only recently entered into the Star Wars universe you’ll be guaranteed to love Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Both large in scale and intimate in its narrative and character development, this is a film that has been crafted with love and attention from a group of filmmakers who have such passion for what they do and the universe that George Lucas created. Do yourself a favour and make sure you go and watch this film as soon as you can (preferably in IMAX) because you won’t be disappointed.
Image: Walt Disney Pictures