Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Cinema Review)

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12A – 152mins – 2017 – 3D


 

THE BURDEN OF ALL MASTERS

“It’s time for the Jedi… to end.”

Having recently announced that writer/director Rian Johnson will spearhead a brand-new Star Wars trilogy unrelated to the principal Skywalker saga in the coming years, it is clear that Lucas’ successor Kathleen Kennedy et al at Lucasfilm/Disney are unequivocally thrilled with how Episode VIII has turned out. George himself is on record as praising it for being “beautifully shot,” while early reviews seem to be unanimously positive and box office projections astronomically high…

Which makes the conflict within me all the more perturbing. The Last Jedi has all the hallmark ingredients: wonder, mystique, an unpredictable plot, humour, drama, conflict, deaths, nods to cannon, fan service, characters new and legendary, John William’s iconic score… yet all throughout my first watch at last night’s midnight opening, it rarely felt like a “true” Star Wars film. It’s not that something is missing or that the universe is no longer staying true to itself, but Johnson’s approach to dialogue and camerawork jarred with what I have come to expect from a galaxy far, far away.

Perhaps it also didn’t help that I saw it in a double bill with J.J. Abrams’ preceding episode, The Force Awakens (reviewed HERE), which is so unashamedly referential to A New Hope that it couldn’t fail – and even on what must have been at least my 11th viewing of that film, its overwhelming charm still made me beam. Obviously The Last Jedi was new to me so I was engrossed in taking in every line of dialogue, detail of landscape, scrap of battle and pixel of CGI, but I didn’t feel as content or comfortable watching it.

It’s undeniably epic and spectacular; it’s the late Carrie Fisher’s final appearance as General Leia Organa and exiled Jedi Master Luke Skywalker’s (Mark Hamill) time to shine – and speak! – after his all-too-brief introduction last time out, but the narrative progressed in such boldly unexpected ways that I couldn’t help feeling it was breaking with convention and being different for the sake of being different. Was Johnson – perhaps subconsciously – trying too hard to break from TFA‘s homage gluttony?!

While Rey (Daisy Murder on the Orient Express Ridley) attempts to sway a grizzled Luke  to re-join the Resistance’s cause, a rehabilitated Finn (John Boyega) joins forces with a plucky bomber (Kelly Marie Tran) to find a master codebreaker on a casino world, while dashing pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) goes all-out rebel in his impassioned stance against elusive Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern). There’s a lot of grey in the film. Not visually but thematically: the dark side and the light have never felt more intertwined and less clear cut. Could the father-murdering Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) still be saved from Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy War for the Planet of the Apes Serkis), or will he turn those on the edge away from the light?

Image result for star wars the last jedi posterThese are deep questions and Johnson is brave for asking them, especially when it comes to such an iconic figure as Luke Skywalker and such a contemporary role model as Rey, but was it the right progression for these characters? I will definitely need a rewatch or two more before I can answer that with any real certainty. For now, my mind is still swimming with everything The Last Jedi threw at me, from the good (Force visions; “cheap shot”) to the cringeworthy (“Hold for Hux”; Benicio del Toro’s random stuttering; Snoke’s unfinished green red screen chambers), via the unexpected (… no spoilers!). My rating may raise to four CR@Bs come the end of its theatrical run, but for now my gut reaction is more middling.

CR@B’s Claw Score: 3 stars

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