- Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
In a galaxy far, far away, the Resistance is transforming and Jedi get transcendental, but it’s only for the best. The newest episode of Star Wars answers a handful of questions, delivers on the familiarity, twists the execution ever so slightly and sets the bar high for the continuation.
The film doesn’t waste time on reminding us the plot and picking up in the midst of the previous film’s ending, confidently plunging into deep waters from the start. Kylo Ren is hungry for personal vendetta as much as for power, seeking to face off the titular Last Jedi. Rey sets off to find Luke Skywalker, hoping that he could teach her how to use her staggering power. Finn and Poe find out that they could make or break the battle with The New Order soldiers lead by General Leia, and plan how to protect the rebels. There are many opened doors left by the previous film and even more questions asked after almost a third of The Last Jedi‘s runtime, but the new movie drives the plot so skilfully with its intense characters and little surprises that we take pleasure with anticipating, and being fooled by its next move.
The film boasts a slew of great performances, especially from its female characters who are reshaping the rebellion on our watch. Carrie Fisher’s appearance mixes the heart of Princess Leia with the knowledge that General Organa inevitably accumulated, creating a noble, wise commander of the Resistance. She’s a leader with a big heart, overwhelming decisiveness and ability of deep reflection: a mature conclusive point to her development in the saga. Alongside her is Laura Dern, who wrestles with her authoritativeness, making us wish that we saw a little more of her on the big screen. One of the highlights is also Kelly Marie Tran – a brave, sensitive, and sweet heroine who introduces herself to this universe so skilfully we can’t wait to reunite with her soon. And Daisy Ridley is phenomenal at channelling Rey’s youthful optimism and bravery; her pureness and integrity make her an inspiring character who constantly betters herself. She’s sketched convincingly and grounded well, but still mysterious enough to keep us intrigued about the progress of the plot from the final scenes onwards.
John Boyega, Benicio del Toro and Oscar Isaac get their own part to play in all of this, and they’re having a whole lot of fun while picking their battles. However, their parts have some minor flaws: for Finn, DJ and Poe, the plotline is a little muddled and distracting, but it stays fun regardless. Structurally, the second part of the film provides also a bit of a “breather” between the intense opening and the grand finale. Even if it meanders a little, it tries to regulate the pacing with mixed results.
The Episode VIII is a film that focuses on a parable of the wandering human struggling to understand themselves in the intergalactic space. Adam Driver as Kylo Ren continues to invest in the growth of the antagonist: he serves us the depiction of hate with shattering waves of anger that we can feel emanating from the screen with his every wince, or moments of wandering eyes and clenched fists. His confusion and internal conflict are also consistently explained through his actions, making him an impressively believable villain. The temptation attempts he pulls off are also magnetic. They’re making us guess whether his desire for power comes from his insecurities or rebellion against the values which his parent figures tried to instil in him.
Mark Hamill’s appearance is a delight, too: the bitterness mixed with the sense of duty in his grown-up, experienced Jedi master attaches much-needed explanations to a handful of story strands. His own doubts and the reasons behind his actions help us understand what the Jedi actually are. It’s not about moving rocks and waving a lightsaber, but about understanding your own place in the grand scheme of things. And in a way, the film practices what it preaches, playing with the characterisation and careful introspection.
Although we can argue that the philosophy was always deeply ingrained in the saga, The Last Jedi is not afraid to stray into spiritual choices that are a little deeper than its predecessors. Human confusion about the choices between the good and the evil switches to a transcendental analysis of morality. It finds the perfect balance between the familiar ways of portraying the personalities and making us really feel what they’re experiencing: be it many a closeup that lay the emotions bare or the transformations that never feel out of character and fuel the base we’ve been given in The Force Awakens.
The Last Jedi is a film that’s not scared to respond to the times which provide for its context either. The Resistance is changing, and it’s important that it learns from the past as well as understands the shifts in the world they’re a part of. It’s a beautiful metaphor for the societal shifts we’re through, so thoughtfully aware of the problems they’re dealing with. And maybe that’s why it’s easier to slip into the seat and empathise with our heroes or understand why it’s such a hopeful tale: with its characters, drafted so vividly and moving the plot ahead, comes the identity search and identifying your priorities in the times of unrest.
This is not to scare you away if you’re the type who looks at this space opera and expect something completely different altogether. Johnson imprints his own mark on the story, but you’ll still get everything you’d expect from Star Wars: bold, exciting battle scenes, a bit of humour, interweaving plotlines and even a subtle love story. It’s still a lot of fun in the familiar context of the entire saga, but it’s also a great standalone film in terms of storytelling and character development. And there are all of our favourite droids, which I felt obligated to mention, as BB-8 steals the show for a brief second in the last act too.
Questioning everything we know about Star Wars, Rian Johnson presents us with a refreshed episode of the beloved space epic, investing into characters’ emotions and driving the plot by developing all of them. Taking some risks and injecting new approaches into The Last Jedi upheld the second film in the trilogy and prevented it from becoming a less important passage between the onset and the finale, giving us a delightful film that works well as a part of the entire franchise as well as a refreshed, tongue-in-cheek response to it.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi opens in the UK on the 14th of December 2017.