Film review: Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

‘Breathe. Just Breathe.’

Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi is a film which injects high-octane drama, a fresh story and yet another whirlwind of perplexity into the most famous movie franchise in history. It will undoubtedly spark controversy and giddiness among all fans of a galaxy far, far away as a mix of new and returning cast take their next steps into a larger world.

Written and directed by Rian Johnson, the film begins immediately after the events of The Force Awakens, with the Resistance continuing its fight against the First Order. Rey (Daisy Ridley) has made her way to the island on which Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) is in self-exile, hiding as a result of the shame and guilt he feels in failing a new generation of Jedi, particularly Kylo Ren, the son of Han Solo and Princess Leia. Rey hands the visibly perturbed and scruffy looking Jedi Master the Skywalker lightsaber as the new adventure takes off.

One of the film’s major improvements from The Force Awakens is far deeper character development. Bolstered by the much-improved performances of cast members, particularly Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver, the audience is given a finer taste of how the personalities of our favourite heroes and villains, new and old, are evolving. Indeed, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher (this film being her last on-screen performance) do not disappoint in delivering the perfect amount of nostalgia from the originals.

Unfortunately, other members of the cast are not as impressive. The addition of Vice Admiral Holdo, played as well as the role can be by Laura Dern, is pointless and has little relevance whatsoever. Benecio Del Toro’s character is also hardly worth mentioning. The returning Finn (John Boyega) has a disappointing anti-climactic arc in this movie, not to mention the frustrating role of Captain Phasma. However, Kelly Marie-Tran brings a welcoming ability to ‘keep things real’ in the part of Rose Tico, a humble and genuine maintenance worker.

Despite being peppered with dissatisfaction in many instances, nobody can fault this film’s special effects and CGI. The animation team does a fantastic job in bringing the new creatures to life, and continues to impress with their mesmeric dogfight sequences in space. The way this motion picture is shot also adds to the drama and enjoyment. It seamlessly gifts the audience the ability to share every emotion the characters are experiencing.

With that being said, the biggest talking point of this film is the controversial writing and direction of Rian Johnson. The highly original direction of the The Last Jedi is entertaining, intriguing and a tad astonishing, creating many possibilities for Episode IX. With Johnson having clearly had free rein over this motion picture, however, the mind boggles about whether Episode VIII could have been done in a more ‘Star Wars’ way whilst still maintaining the director’s seriously entertaining spin. For example, despite this being the funniest Star Wars motion picture ever, the quantity of humour throughout the film feels uncharacteristic of the billion-dollar franchise. On some occasions, it both detracts from points of tension which are clearly important to the film, and generates unnecessarily cringe-worthy moments.

In addition, the ways in which Johnson uses certain characters, particularly the new faces, creates an underwhelming sub-plot and addresses the highly anticipated topics badly. In some places, it makes for disconcerting viewing.

However, this is a Star Wars film. It is a thoroughly engaging form of escapism which has enough twists and turns for every fan to appreciate. The Last Jedi makes it difficult not to be swept away with its spell-binding excitement, but regrettable and deflating frustration at the same time. Episode VIII is definitely worth a second viewing in order to fully appreciate the good bits and overcome the bad. Don’t give into the hate, just yet.

By Blair Macbride