STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI
Director: Rian Johnson
Screenwriters: Rian Johnson, based on characters created by George Lucas.
Runtime: 152 mins.
Australian Release Date: 14 December 2017
Previewed at: Hoyts Entertainment Quarter, Moore Park, Sydney, on 13 December 2017.
Fans and entertainment-lovers alike will be pleased to learn that this latest instalment of the Star Wars saga, number eight in the SW universe, is up there with the best in the series. Rian Johnson, writer/director of 2012’s terrific brain teaser Looper, has moved into the big league with Star Wars: The Last Jedi, taking the reins from J. J. Abrams who gave us episode seven, The Force Awakens. Johnson is a clever writer and his directing chops are on a par with those of his predecessors’; he’s also much admired by his actors, allowing them to contribute to their characters’ development, rather then being precious about his words. That’s good news for the viewers because these roles become fully-formed people that we care about, flaws and all.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been 40 years since we first saw the words “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” crawl across the screen. The Last Jedi picks up exactly where The Force Awakens left off, with Rey (Daisy Ridley) on a mysterious island where she has found the recluse Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), imploring him to come to the aid of General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher). She’s also sensing the stirring Force within her and wants Luke to teach her the ways of the Jedi. He’s having none of it, however, but the reasons for his refusal are buried deep inside him. Rey informs him that Leia and the remnants of the Resistance are in imminent danger of being destroyed by The First Order, under the command of Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis, unrecognisable as always) and led by Kylo Ren, aka Ben Solo (Adam Driver) and General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) but even this news fails to stir Luke. Meanwhile, Leia and her faithful troops are trying to avoid the grasp of Ren and Hux, so Finn (John Boyega), Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and newcomer Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) come up with a daredevil plan, but one so fraught with danger they don’t tell Leia, knowing she will refuse to endorse it. This naturally leads to an array of subplots and tributaries but they all successfully serve the central narrative arc without causing confusion.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is an enjoyable magic pudding that goes on giving even when you think there can’t possibly be anything left on the plate. It’s refreshing, and very topical, that the hero’s journey undertaken here is by a young woman battling to understand her place in the world… or should that be, cosmos? Johnson’s script makes clear the chronology of the events and the genealogy of the characters, especially to those who don’t live or die by these things; indeed, you could enjoy this film even if it was the first time you were entering the Star Wars universe. The pacing is excellent too; you won’t find yourself looking at your watch or planning what you’re having for dinner and there’s sufficient light and shade to keep your interest from flagging. The ensemble cast are uniformly first-rate, especially Driver as the conflicted Kylo Ren. A number of new characters are introduced (I defy anyone not to be beguiled by the Porgs, a kind of penguin-rabbit cross residing on Luke Skywalker’s island), plus Laura Dern as a heroic Resistance officer and Benicio del Toro as a stuttering ne’er-do-well. And if that’s not enough for you, apparently Princes William and Harry are there as Stormtroopers too! John Williams’ dramatic score makes a welcome return and the SFX are as spectacular and seamless as always. Overall, you’d be correct to say, “the Force is strong with this one.”