On screen, Star Wars is a franchise that has continuously obsessed with it’s own past. Prequels, animated shows and Rogue One all busied themselves by painstakingly filling in gaps of established timelines and even The Force Awakens, while introducing new characters, still mirrored many familiar beats from A New Hope all in the name of damage control.
So finally, with Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi, the Star Wars universe moves onward into an uncertain future for the first time since 1984’s Return Of The Jedi, and it’s thankfully fearless.
Using the death of Han Solo at the hands of his space-emo son as a slate cleaner, we open with the Resistance, ridden with in-fighting, while having seven bells of banther poo-doo booted out of them by the First Order, unslowed by the destruction of the Starkiller Base from the previous movie. Simultaneously, young scavenger Rey finds that Luke Skywalker has been living like a hermit for good reason (he’s a prick) and tries to convince the broken Jedi to help her.
Finally, ex-stormtrooper Finn teams up with Rose, a young mechanic to jump ship to a local casino planet and attempt to save the day.
How much you enjoy The Last Jedi will probably be down to how much you are prepared to see this titan among franchises move on. There are VERY un-Star Wars things going on here that may give hard-core fans an ulcer. Flash backs, big whip-cracking plot twists, not a scene dissolving wipe to be found and a buttock testing 2 1/2 hour runtime will surely have the devoted spluttering into their blue milk, however Johnson’s crack at evolving the Star Wars universe may be initially jarring, but ends up being ultimately rewarding.
Firstly, characterisation here is very strong. In fact probably the strongest it’s ever been. Rage flinging, anger cyclone, Kylo Renn continues to be the most interesting character here, still desperately trying to be the villain he wants to be by any means necessary, while Poe, Finn and Rey all have neat arcs which make sense while leaving them still room to grow in future films. The late Carrie Fisher radiates regality in her final role but it’s Mark Hamill we’ve come to see. Gnarled, bitter and broken, Luke has fallen as far from the climax of Return Of The Jedi as it’s possible to go. Waiting to die on a desolate rock, surrounded by Porgs, screeching pug-dog-faced puffins and troll faced nun/caretaker things, he’s given up on everything and everyone. It’s an intriguing take on a past hero.
The plot takes the basic premise of Empire Strikes Back (the gang splits up and bad shit goes down) and complicates it further with intelligent character arcs. Finn is planning to flee in order to save Rey, Poe is a stone’s throw from staging a full sized coup and Rey is having doubts that Luke could even teach her to cook Porg stew, let alone steer her to become a full fledged Jedi. These separate stories expand and expand and expand out, and just when you think it’s maybe stretched itself too far, it contracts. Showdowns, tearful reunions and a battle involving Imperial Walkers sporting the knuckles of an East End bouncer light up the screen. A action highlight involves a super cool lightsaber battle in Supreme Leader Snoke’s very Flash Gordon-esque throne room. It’s very likely this could be the most intriguing Star Wars yet.
Flaws? Some. Finn and Rose’s arc, while ultimately finishing strong, seems redundant before it even starts and Benicio Del Toro’s character is a non-starter. Also a heavy hitting cameo two thirds of the way through (I won’t say who) is marred by some oddly weak technical work.
But this is literally ground zero for what Star Wars is going to eventually become (Lucasfilm realises you can’t pump out a film a year and keep things the same, even if some fans don’t) and it may take more than one viewing to make some nay sayers see that. But after this movies ends, more so than even The Force Awakens, literally anything can happen now.
No limits. No boundaries. This franchise could become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.