Facing annihilation after the events of ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’, the Resistance have been tracked down to their base by Kylo Ren’s evil First Order. In an audacious counter attack, they manage to escape by jumping into light speed only to discover the First Order have developed a way to track them through hyperspace…
‘The Last Jedi’ is a story made up of its parts, rather than its sum.
Following on from J.J.Abram’s ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’, director Rian Johnson’s ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ is a story about everybody and yet strangely nobody. Principally following Rey (Daisy Ridley) and her search for Luke Sykwalker (Mark Hamill), this is a movie that jumps around at a frenetic pace. Intentionally never lingering on a theme or character too long, ‘The Last Jedi’ is a story made up of its parts, rather than its sum. Whereas George Lucas’s original trilogy played itself out across a huge galactic canvas, ‘The Last Jedi’ is a film where you are told much but shown sadly little.
Nowhere is this more obvious than in the development (or under development) of Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren. With even less dark deeds than in J.J. Abram’s ‘Force Awakens’, lots of dialogue and heaving of chests is employed to establish Ren’s dark credentials instead. Where this all feels a bit light is in comparison to ‘Star Wars’ role models Darth Vader and Peter Cushing’s text-book perfect Grand Moff Tarkin. In the earlier Star Wars movies they did bad things like torturing prisoners and blowing up planets. Now beset by even more leaden dialogue than in George Lucas’s films, Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley’s fights are now with their own speeches than their light sabres.
That said, in the role of Luke Skywalker, Mark Hamill earns a reprieve from being the de facto hero by playing something more nuanced and questioning. Stabbing holes into the Jedi ethos that underpins many of the Star Wars movies, both his performance and that of Oscar Isaacs’s Poe Dameron are the most human hearts on the screen. Sadly previous stalwarts of the franchise like Chewbacca, R2-D2 and C-3PO are firmly pushed into the realm of window dressing, and it is now new robot BB-8 who saves the day on nearly every occasion.
In scenes that oddly mirror those from other movies in the Star Wars canon, ‘The Last Jedi’s’ setups often feel identical to those from the original three movies. With each dying imperial Officer who clutches their throat, their body count exposes a gaping hole in the First Order’s villainy. Having characters sounding bad purely for the sake of it, really doesn’t cut it anymore. By neither being able to collectively (or individually) articulate the reason behind their evil ambitions, each of their sneers and hisses now feel comical, whittling away at any potential dread or terror.
So whilst this is not a Star Wars movie expressly aimed at children, there’s little here to grab adults either. Excusing one near disastrous moment where a pivotal character nearly jumps-the-shark, ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ is an odd addition that neither offends nor detracts. In a strange coda to what is meant to be the resolution to the Skywalker family storyline, the high drama and operatic bombast of the original trilogy (episodes IV, V and VI) has been lost. Compared to the grittiness of ‘Star Wars: Rogue One’, ‘The Last Jedi’ continues the same overtly feel-good mantra of the ‘Force Awakens’, diluting any potential intrigue with a barrage of forced inside-jokes and a myriad of small characters.
Without the real oxygen of internecine drama for its characters to feed off, the rumoured resurrection of Felicity Jones’s Jyn Erso from ‘Rogue One’ now feels like a destiny worth waiting for. Hopefully the next Star Wars film will give Rey’s character the drama it so achingly needs.