I know this is possibly going to be my most controversial review yet, with the debate still raging online following the second instalment of the modern Star Wars trilogy. Following what I thought was a successful beginning to Disney’s space adventure, The Force Awakens reimagined the sci-fi classic for a new generation, even bringing those who missed the phenomenon (like myself) into the fold. This review does come with a warning, other than the standard spoiler warning, I am approaching this as a non-Star Wars fan, but still a lover of cinema. Director Rian Johnson had a big task at hand, almost as big as his upcoming Star Wars spin-off trilogy, but Star Wars: The Last Jedi was a bit of a let down for me.
Arguments can be found all over the internet as to whether the film fails to deliver on plot points that fans have theorises over for the last two year’s since Ray, Finn and Kylo Ren were introduced on the big screen. I understand that Johnson had no responsibility in living up to any of the theories, but in trying to go so far against them, I worry he chose meaningless and boring options. One example is Snoke, brought to life by the insanely talented Andy Serkis, who I felt was completely mistreated in this film. Other elements of the story felt dragged out for little reward, it was especially frustrating to see some characters make uncharacteristic decisions.
One of my favourite character from TFA was Finn played by the energetic and charismatic John Boyega, but I felt his character was lost in this film. I enjoyed the introduction of Rose played by Kelly Marie Tran, but their storyline seemed a little out of place. Cutting between serious, dark scenes to a creature filled casino did take me out of the film. I think Finn is a heroic character so I thought his final decision was on-character, but when he was saved last minute and then an awkward romance was forced on the audience, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed. Some of my favourite scenes of the film were those that included both Rey and Finn together, although there wasn’t many, they helped to remind me of the relationship I loved with the first film. Talk about wasted characters, I almost feel bad for Gwendoline Christie, not only wasted in TFA but also this film.
Daisy Ridley shows that she wasn’t a one-trick pony, arguably giving the best performance in the film. Rey’scharacter is interesting and engaging, I especially enjoyed how Johnson explored the relationship between Rey and Kylo Ren. Despite not being a fan of the original series, I appreciated how they worked Mark Hamill into the storyline, it is clear that this is a franchise he loves to be involved with. I do feel that sometimes the creators rely on the nostalgia of the old character, but this can shut off those audiences members that might not be as invested. Johnson used some impressive special effects to showcase Rey struggling with her force powers, these often were used subtly with expert precision.
The final relationship I enjoyed in the film was between Lea, played by the late Carrie Fisher, and Po played by Oscar Isaac. It is clear that Lea was trying to shape Po into being a successor to the character, something that might come to fruition as I can only expect Lea to pass away in the gap between TLJ and J.J.Abrams‘ final trilogy instalment. Isaac got more screentime this film, and they weren’t afraid to give the character flaws. His character development from the start of the film to the end was massively influenced by his dealings with Laura Dern’s character Vice Admiral Holdo. I really enjoyed the deliberate sound editing during her climactic scene, it resonated massively as the packed out screening fell silent.
Although I felt Johnson struggled with some story points, his visuals were amazing for the film. I really enjoyed the opening scene with the rebellion bombers, it drew the audience in with some great action shots. I wish the film had included some more action, it would have broken up some of the slower moments. Adding to this, I thought the visuals of the salt planet were stunning, seeing the Millennium Falcon flying through the scarlet salt crystals even got this Star Wars newbie excited. Including some bigger action scenes in the Jedi-training story might have increased my interest, I couldn’t wait for the characters to leave the Jedi island and get involved in the action.
Having enjoyed TFA, I for one am excited to see what Abrams will bring the conclusion to the story. As I mentioned earlier, I think a time jump seems inevitable, allowing Rey, Po and Finn to rise to the authority levels of the Rebellion. Despite being disappointed with Snoke, I have enjoyed seeing Adam Driver develop the Kylo Ren character into a serious villain, double-crossing everyone to get what he wants. With a worrying Solo: A Star Wars Story still to be released in the meantime, there might be a lot of pressure for Episode IX to get the franchise back on track. No matter what you think about TLJ, it is important to let everyone have their own opinion, and although I had problems with the film, I appreciate the risks that Johnson took.
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