Picking up right after the end of The Force Awakens, The dwindling Resistance are on the run from the First Order. Meanwhile on the ocean planet of Ahch-To, Rey (Daisy Ridley) is desperately trying to persuade a very reluctant Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to train her in the ways of the force and save the Resistance from his former apprentice Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and his evil master – Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis).
So here it is – the ninth chapter in the Star Wars saga (yes i do include Rogue One in that) and i am very relieved to report that for the most part we have another genuinely fantastic Star Wars film on our hands.
To begin with its superbly directed by Rian Johnson – who seems to really understand the material and injects proceedings with a real sense of fun that brought back the feel of the original trilogy.
Its also very well written, with a clever story that at times pulls some really surprising twists and turns.
Acting wise – all the central performances were excellent – Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and a far more present Oscar Isaac (as Poe Dameron) are all on top form and have grown well into their respective roles. The late Carrie Fisher is alot better here than she was in The Force Awakens, she plays Leia with a lovely knowing twinkle in her eye and to say the least she will be very sorely missed in episode 9. Special mention must be given to Mark Hamill who is superb as Luke Skywalker – gone is the blonde haired callow farm boy from A New Hope, instead Luke is a bitter and broken old man,who has turned his back on The Force and wants nothing more than for the Jedi to die out – with him along with it. Hamill brilliantly injects the character with traits we have never seen in him before – fear, regret, anger, even downright sarcasm – indeed i found that in every scene he has (and mercifully there are many) he gives a completely gripping performance that reminds us what a talented actor he is really is.
Finally i have to single out Adam Driver who is once again absolutely incredible as Kylo Ren/Ben Solo -without doubt he was the standout actor in The Force Awakens and he’s done it again here – the guy just effortlessly owns this part and one can only hope that if Driver is allowed to keep going the way he is then he could end up being remembered as giving one of the greatest performances in the whole damn franchise – yes folks he is that good, id even go so far as to say that we may well have on our hands a character that could be a contender to challenge Darth Vader’s title as Star Wars’ all time best villain.
Now we all know one does not go to a Star Wars film for its acting or writing alone- no indeed – what we really want is some top notch fights and a shed load of space battles – mercifully with The Last Jedi we get these in spades. An opening melee between the escaping Resistance fleet and The First Order is very good, then there’s a god almighty light sabre tear up in Snoke’s throne room that could well be up there with one of the most exciting of the series so far – however the best is left to last in the film’s final battle – i wont say too much – but it involves an appearance from a certain Wookie piloting a familiar looking spaceship and John Williams classic Star Wars theme – not to put too fine a point on it but during this scene I geeked out so much i actually cried tears of joy.
Moving on – there are a few quibbles and im not going to lie and say the whole thing was perfect. For a start, at two and half hours it is a tad too long and as a result does sag a bit in the middle – particularly in the casino scenes on the planet Canto Bight which seemed a bit out of place. Then there is Benicio Del Toro’s appearance as a mysterious code breaker which really didn’t work at all (his characters habit of stuttering is downright odd) plus there was one special effect that was very iffy indeed (you’ll know it when you see it) and regardless of the very honorable intentions behind it i really felt that it could have been done better. Finally, despite some excellent character development and highly unexpected twists and turns in the story there was more than a degree of similarity to the basic plot of Empire Strikes Back – which did annoy me a little bit – however that’s the die hard Star Wars fan in me so maybe others may disagree.
However despite these (admittedly small) issues, i can say wholeheartedly that The Last Jedi is a damn fine Star Wars film, certainly one for the grass roots fans, a million miles better than the prequels, not as good as the original trilogy (it was never going to be) but compared to The Force Awakens, which despite being very good indeed was a bit too safe in its tone and plot, this new chapter is refreshingly more ballsier, funnier and unpredictable and all credit to Rhian Johnson and the writers for successfully achieving this -which is no mean feat in a 40 year old franchise.
Over to you JJ – you are gonna have your work cut out for you if episode 9 is gonna top this one.
Author: Will Strong aka Grosse Point Geek