Review – Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Despite some big reveals and plenty of twists and turns, Phil Turner discovers that Star Wars: The Last Jedi is overlong and ultimately a bit of a mess.

This review is spoiler-free

Oh dear. And we expected so much…

It may have riffed a little too closely to the original trilogy for some tastes but The Force Awakens was exactly what most Star Wars fans wanted when it hit the big screen two years ago. I literally cheered as I left the cinema, thankful that the series was back in safe hands after the abominations that made up 2/3 of the prequels.

The spin-off, Rogue One, which followed a year later, was even better… enough of a departure to feel like it wasn’t just another part of the trilogy but close enough in tone to feel like it belonged. The final scenes which saw the return of Darth Vader as he boarded the rebel ship at the start of A New Hope were genuinely spine-tingling.

But The Last Jedi, from writer/director Rian Johnson, is a bit of a mess. Even the start – usually such a strength of the Star Wars franchise – falls flat. We begin as The Force Awakens ended with trigger-happy rebel pilot Poe Dameron attacking the starships of the First Order in an overlong battle that sets the tone for the rest of the film’s space sequences.

Poe is a great character, closest in character to Han Solo, and is given more screen-time here than in ‘Force’, but sometimes he isn’t half reckless. This sequence includes one of the other major issues with the film: the comedy. When he prank-calls General Hux it feels more like a scene from a Family Guy parody than something you’d expect to find in the real thing. And that issue continues. Star Wars has always had its lighter moments (and that’s without even thinking about Jar Jar Binks) but they were tonally in keeping with its overall earnestness. Here, The Last Jedi is almost accidentally taking the piss out of itself. When someone uses the phrase: ‘The ancient Jedi scripts, page turners they are not,’ as the Jedi temple bursts into flames, you can’t help but laugh. However, I question if that kind of gag is in the right movie.

Elsewhere the subplot is all a little pedestrian. The First Order spend most of the movie chasing the resistance around space while Finn and new character Rose fill out some of the film’s most unsatisfactory sequences as they to head to Canto Bight (a kind of intergalactic Montecarlo) to find the high-rolling ‘codebreaker’ who will help them in their quest to escape First Order’s clutches.

Meanwhile, Rey and Luke are engaging in some ‘Empire Strikes Back’-esque verbal sparring on Luke’s remote island of Ahch-To as the new hope of the force tries to convince the old one to rejoin the good guys. It’s striking that while the Luke and Yoda episodes in ‘Empire’ pretty much pulled you away from the exciting part of the plot, here, these equivalent scenes are actually what keeps the film interesting.

True, it’s not all hard work. The developing psychological struggle between Kylo and Rey is well handled and thoroughly believable, while the deeper exploration into how the force actually works sheds greater light on the crucial conceit that binds the whole series together.

The last half hour is also pretty good, probably saving this movie from a panning (most reviews have been positive despite the obvious flaws) and no doubt, there is still a thrill in seeing Luke, Leia, Chewie and the old crew back on screen, even if they are largely more peripheral. But several characters’ plotlines feel tacked on just to give them something to do while Rey is away. Finn could do with a much more central role, while new characters played by Laura Dern and Benicio Del Toro are crucial to the plot but completely underwritten.

All in all, at more than two and a half hours, it’s too long, tonally jarring and a bit of a disappointment. As someone we all know and love would say: “The Last Jedi… a page turner it is not.”

2.5/5 PT

Exposed watched Star Wars: Last Jedi at Sheffield Cineworld 

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