The Last Jedi
Writer & Director: Rian Johnson
Lucasfilm Ltd, 2017
Review by TC Phillips
Diehard Star Wars fans are a peculiar breed, I should know — I’ve been one for as long I can
remember, watching an old VHS recording of A New Hope endlessly as young boy. I pretended to look for Luke, who had been pulled under the waters of the Death Star trash compactor, in my nightly bubble baths (I may also still do it as a 37 year old man – but that’s just between you and me and the rest of the internet).
There is one thing I have noticed in more recent years though, and that these diehard fans typically fall into one of two categories:
A) The “Purists”, these are the fans who treat the original trilogy as sacrosanct and like to piss and moan about how George Lucas ruined their childhoods with the travesty that was the prequel trilogy and generally treat everything else that has come after it with barely disguised disdain.
B) The “Expansionists”, like myself, who recognise the golden place the original trilogy plays in their lives, but always clamour for more adventures in a galaxy far, far away. (Even if sometimes those adventures have to include someone like Jar Jar Binks along the way). I don’t loathe the prequels like the Purists do, but I do know they are far inferior to the original trilogy, yet will still always be first in line for whatever Lucasfilm has to offer me.
I bring all this up for a very good reason, with the latest addition to the Star Wars galaxy, Episode VII: The Last Jedi, the unique vision of director Rian Johnson has the real potential to deeply divide opinions between the Purists and Expansionists. First of all, let’s address the biggest concern raised by many a fan (Purists and Expansionists alike) ever since we got our first glimpse of what was in store for us when the first teasers hit the net – taking one look at the behemoth walkers, and the idea of force sensitive Rey seeking Jedi training from a reclusive Luke Skywalker, everyone feared we would all be in for what would amount to a simple rehash of The Empire Strikes Back. After all, many of the notes of JJ Abram’s The Force Awakens deliberately mirrored those of A New Hope (and didn’t we hear about THAT ad nauseam from the Purist camp). Let me assure you, The Last Jedi is not a rehash of anything – Rian Johnson has done something completely new with this new film in the Skywalker saga, and is truly taking Star Wars into territory it has never been before.
Where once it had started as a simple story of good versus evil, of a young farm boy and a princess, Johnson’s Star Wars now fully embraces various shades of grey, and explores deeper questions about who really profits in endless cycles of war. It is an experience unlike any other that had been shown to us previously – and I must admit I loved every single second of it. The Purists will probably hate what Johnson has done, whereas the Expansionists will celebrate this brave renewal of the Saga which has enriched all our lives.
It’s hard to really delve too deeply into what makes this film such a great experience without revealing too much (spoilers after all are the path to the dark side), but three things really stood out to me as I was surrounded by the cheers of my fellow midnight showing audience members. Firstly, the late, great Carrie Fisher was magnificent and seeing her on screen as Princess Leia for the last time was totally bittersweet. Unlike The Force Awakens, Leia has a much bigger role to play and her final performance will always cement her in our hearts. She is, and always will be, royalty.
Secondly, after 30 years we finally get to see what Jedi Master Luke Skywalker is like – and it’s not anything like what you expect. Mark Hamill shines in this film, delivering his finest performance of his Jedi career to date.
Finally, in terms of new characters to the Saga, we are introduced newcomer Kelly Marie Tran’s resistance mechanic Rose, who I must admit I am now completely enamoured with. Much like Leia was in the original trilogy, Rose becomes the real voice behind the true spirit of the resistance – but she’s no princess, no Jedi, not even a smuggler that can do the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs. Nonetheless she is a real presence on the screen and found that she stole much of the show. Hands down, Rose is my new favourite amongst of the new generation of characters.
All in all I haven’t had an experience watching Star Wars like I did with The Last Jedi since I was a kid. For those following along the Star Wars news, Lucasfilm have recently gifted Johnson with his very own new trilogy to write and produce – a faith in his abilities which is completely justified. I can not sufficiently say how much I loved this movie, and will even go so far as to make the extraordinary claim that it now ties with Empire as my favourite film of the entire Saga (and I just heard the Purists gasp and sputter in utter disbelief at that bold claim).
In short, go see it. I know I’m going back for more.
May the Force be with you.