Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the highly anticipated second film in the new Star Wars storyline. We return to our new heroes, Rey, Finn and Poe. We also see old heroes Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia as they take on Kylo Ren and Emperor Snoke.
Following from where The Force Awakens finished, we follow Rey’s attempts to learn the way of the Jedi from Luke Skywalker. Meanwhile, the Resistance led by Princess Leia are battling against The First Order who are taking over the galaxy after the fall of the destruction of the Republic.
As someone who never really got into the original Star Wars, I can honestly say The Last Jedi is my favourite Star Wars movie so far. Where The Force Awakens felt like one giant homage to the original franchise, TLJ feels like it’s able to really start to get into its own storyline. Of course, there are still many nods to the original.
Empire Strikes Back?
As mentioned, The Force Awakens felt like a rehash of A New Hope. Many therefore were worried that The Last Jedi would be a rehash of Empire Strikes Back. If you wanted to, you can definitely make the connections. The bad guys are winning, the rebels are pushed back, etc etc.
But TLJ is able to stand on its own two feet. The plot isn’t practically identical. The story follows directly after TFA and successfully manages to pass the torch from our old heroes to our new heroes. If TFA was the homage to the classic series, then TLJ is a transition from old to new. It sets up very clearly that from now on Star Wars will be focused on its new characters.
Epic Space Battles
One thing that really stood out to me in the cinema was how fantastic the space fight scenes were. From the opening sequence to the climactic finale I was on edge with anticipation.
When the film starts, we see The First Order bring out a dreadnought ship. It’s sudden massive presence on screen really instilled a feeling of overwhelming power.
The movie instantly brings you that feeling joy at watching Poe take out its guns, the little fighter ship vs the destroyer. Yet the underdogs don’t really win. TLJ put a big emphasis on the losses the Resistance had to make to take down that ship, losing their entire bomber fleet.
There’s a real sense of desperation. Of sacrifice. That theme follows throughout the film and is especially evident in the big battle scenes. Perhaps Disney learnt the effectiveness of emotional sacrifice after the success of Rogue One.
Creative World Building
One thing I think really made Star Wars big was the world building and immersion. Believable, lovable aliens and interesting landscapes may only be background but it’s the foundation that gives credit to the series.
There are a lot of new creatures shown in TLJ. Some of them are whimsical, weird, and some might seem like an easy grab at comedy. However, I personally felt they helped make the film that bit more endearing. People connect with animals. Even fictional ones.
When it comes to a franchise set in a galaxy far, far away, you get free reign on world building as well. TFA took place mostly on a desert planet and some spaceships. The set was amazing for sure, but nothing really stood out.
In TLJ, we get really cool new ships. We get a planet that has a layer of salt over red sand. The climactic finale fight across the red sands was visually stunning and the landscape definitely added to the fight scenes.
It’s not all about grand acts of heroism
Touching upon the theme of sacrifice, TLJ also plays a lot on heroism. We’re so used to the plucky heroes doing something crazy and saving the day. For instance, finding a master hacker, getting on board a super security enemy ship, disabling their tracker, then safely getting away.
As soon as you heard this plan you think “Yup, that’s how the movie is going to go.” It’s not a bad plot by any measure. It’s classic and definitely falls in line. This is a franchise that destroyed the Death Star with a single fighter plane after all.
Only the plan doesn’t work. Poe’s mutiny is not applauded. Instead, we see the consequences of hot-headed heroism. The huge casualties, the loss of lives, and the final understanding that hard choices need to be made for the survivability of the cause.
This is also mirrored in Luke Skywalker’s storyline. People believe he’s an all-powerful Jedi and should be able to make things all better if only he came back. He’s the resistance’s last hope after all. Only he isn’t, and Rey tells him so.
The student becomes the teacher as it were. Only I don’t think Luke really understood it until ghost Yoda came along to tell him. Also, I liked Ghost Yoda’s scene.
Is it too much?
Whilst at the cinema watching this, my friend kept asking me why the film was so long. Even as much as I enjoyed it, I was noticing how long it was running. In hindsight, there are possibly scenes that could have been cut or at least shortened.
There was also a distinct feeling of watching two films, one following Rey, another following Finn. The two stories sort of join up at the end, but both storylines alone felt that they had enough to make a single film.
Whilst we all hate films that are split into two parts, a film running on for too long can lose some of its magic and excitement. Overall, I don’t think it was a huge problem. If they had finished the film after the sacrifical hyperjump I would have been fine. But I’m sort of glad they didn’t.
As for some of the comedy, corny lines and even a few scenes felt forced or rushed. Phasma once again felt like a cool chrome character that was used as an afterthought. BB8 blowing smoke from his “gun” felt like they were trying too hard to recreate the lighter thumbs up scene.
Were they the answers we wanted?
For two years fans have been speculating over the big mysteries set up in TFA. Who is Emperor Snoke? Who are Rey’s parents? Those questions get answered, and the answer is “it doesn’t really matter”. It’s definitely left some people feeling weird.
We find out how Ben Solo became Kylo Ren. We learn a lot of things. But as always, more questions arise. Were these the answers we wanted? Did they live up to speculation?
I think overall it’s a good thing that Star Wars decided to go it’s own way. Rather than pander to what audiences think is important, they moved the plot and focus according to their own goals.
A little bit of everything
Honestly, this has been my favourite Star Wars film yet. Which is a good thing. Sure, a lot of fans will argue with me here, but unlike them, I never cared much for the original films. What The Last Jedi does is it gives brings back that sense of awe to a new generation of viewers.
I think this film will inspire young kids in the same way the original trilogy did. Everything from the battles, to the character development to the music, was wonderful.
Yes, some parts are cheesy. But that’s definitely part of the Star Wars packaging. There’s a lot of humour, and some might be argued to be a cheap laugh grab, but it works. For all the serious moments and intense edge-of-seat tension, there are lots of laugh-out-loud moments and cheerful happy bits.
For me, this film has managed to balance a bit of everything. The Jedi Knights would be proud. Plus, the ending is beautifully done, sparking hope in a new generation who are in tune with the force.