Rey, Fin, and Poe are back at it again in The Last Jedi. Those of you that know me well will remember that I was not the biggest fan of the last instalment in the series, and found A Force Awakens wanting. A Force Awakens brought us a new cast to mix together with the old, and swapped out goofy one-liners for slapstick comedy. In The Last Jedi, we sadly haven’t lost the ill-timed moments of slapstick, but Rian Johnson has supplied us with a slightly more cohesive story that doesn’t depend on gratuitous fan-service. If anything, the latest Star Wars purposely twists and turns away from what is expected. And I quite like that.
Despite being incredibly plot-driven, some of the characters from the new franchise are allowed to grow exponentially throughout the short timeline of the film. Rey, in particular, benefits from being separated from Fin, whose only purpose seems to be to run, return, crack-a-joke, rinse, and repeat. Her development into becoming a Jedi is fast. Some could argue too fast, but her growth is an interesting take on the Mentor dynamic in which her purity, untainted by experience, actually provides Luke with a lesson, rather than the other way around.
Ben, or Kylo Ren, however, is an unusual figure. Once I got used to him and just how unintimidating he is without his mask, I started trying to figure his character out. His job as an actor is a difficult one. Without falling into the trap of being as annoying as Hayden Christensen, Adam Driver has to play out an internal conflict between not good and evil, but between varying degrees of evil. His motivation remains unclear as the story continues, and his remaining role to play in the final episode could prove quite tricky.
One thing that can be said about the film as a whole is that it is aesthetically fun to look at. There are several scenes that make a really big deal out of the colour red, and it really pulls the entire film together stylistically.
If A Force Awakens was an attempt at recreating the feel and impact of A New Hope, then it was probably the studio’s intent to create The Empire Strikes Back with The Last Jedi. There are, I confess moments of brilliance, moments of visual perfection, and moments of comedy worthy of the first trilogy. And where there were hints back to the original series – the Battle of Crait is much like the Battle of Hoth, Luke’s final moments are reminiscent of Yoda’s – they weren’t as painfully obvious as they were in A Force Awakens.
But all the same, there did feel like there was something crucial missing. Something unfinished. Large sections of the plot were rushed or completely unexplained, and all because, perhaps, Star Wars is trying to be too clever.
All in all, it was a visual feast, the acting was better than your usual Star Wars outing, and the plot only went mildly astray in the second act.
A solid 8/10 from me.