Release date: 14th December 2017/Watch the trailer here
The Last Jedi is Episode VIII of the Star Wars saga, with The Force Awakens‘ J.J. Abrams passing on the writing and directing responsibilities to Rian Johnson this time around. With the story picking up almost exactly where it left off two years ago, The Last Jedi begins with Rey (Daisy Ridley) having found Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) on a remote island planet, where he reluctantly agrees to train her in the ways of the Force. Elsewhere in a galaxy far, far away and the Resistance, led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), are struggling to defeat the First Order. While The Force Awakens was very much about Rey’s journey, The Last Jedi chooses to focus on the battle of light vs dark, good vs evil, and the fact that the difference between the two isn’t always so clear-cut.
At two and a half hours, The Last Jedi is the longest Star Wars film yet, and with good reason: there’s an awful lot of story to be told here, constantly alternating between Rey and Luke; Leia, Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and the rest of the Resistance; the First Order, led by Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) and his apprentice Kylo Ren (Adam Driver); and a separate mission undertaken by Finn (John Boyega) and newcomer Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), a Resistance maintenance worker. For the most part, The Last Jedi succeeds in juggling between its many characters, and while there may be long periods where some of our protagonists are absent, each individual thread weaves together in the end to produce an explosive finale, the likes of which have never been seen before in a Star Wars movie.
It helps that such an incredible cast has been assembled here, and to list the strengths of each individual actor would probably take all day. Standouts, however, are of course Luke and Leia – although the presence of Han Solo is missed – and The Last Jedi makes for a perfect, albeit bittersweet, tribute to the wonderful Carrie Fisher. As for some of the newer faces, it’s good to see Poe receiving more screen time after being underused in The Force Awakens, and Kylo Ren continues to be an incredibly well-written antagonist who is at the forefront of some of the film’s best set pieces. Rose makes for a charming new addition and she is the most likeable of the lot, with Laura Dern’s Resistance officer Vice Admiral Holdo being a little under-developed and Benicio Del Toro’s shady codebreaker DJ missing the mark slightly.
While The Last Jedi is a vital addition to the saga, there’s no denying that many fans are going to find themselves disappointed – but what might make it disappointing to some will likely be what makes it so excellent to others. The Force Awakens, though a fantastic film (and, in all honesty, probably slightly better than The Last Jedi), played things very safe: Abrams made a film that was unmistakably a Star Wars movie by following a tried and tested formula. The Last Jedi doesn’t do this: it takes risks, and lots of them. The film’s most repeated message is one of letting the past die, and The Last Jedi does this by paving a new path for the forty-year-old franchise going forwards into Episode IX. This is not a mere retread of The Empire Strikes Back; this is something very different, and it succeeds with almost every risk it takes. If nothing else, it’s going to inspire a lot of heated discussions, but it’s refreshing to have a big-budget blockbuster that dares to challenge its audience.
This is still a Star Wars movie, though, and while it may challenge its audience, it doesn’t forget to excite them, either. There are spectacular set pieces, one of the best lightsaber battles in all eight episodes, adorable new aliens in the form of Porgs, as well as all of the heart, humour, heroism, villainy and the occasional plot twist that one can expect. It may not be a perfect Star Wars film, but it comes very close – and it provides two and a half hours of non-stop awe, delight and wonder while pushing its story in unexpected and exciting directions.