There are two quotes from the Star Wars: The Last Jedi trailer that prove prophetic to the rest of the film. The first, which the now fully-returning and all-talking Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) tells our new heroine Rey (Daisy Ridley), sums up just how polarising this chapter of the series may go down with some fans: “This is not going to go the way you think”. It’s a powerful statement about Rey’s training – but also the bigger picture under the watchful eyes of new writer/director Rian Johnson.
The second, echoed by The Force Awakens’ big bad Kylo Ren (Adam Driver in another magnificent performance) says that to become who you were meant to be is to “Let the past die. Kill it if you have to” – something that Johnson runs with through the whole adventure, shredding the rulebook of what you are expecting and what had gone before may not re-emerge in quite the same way, that those things that made the franchise what it is may not be quite how you remember them. The true strength of The Last Jedi, aside from being a visual masterclass, is in its unpredictability – the safeness of J.J. Abrams’ preceding film a mere dot across space as Johnson manipulates proceedings and takes it to places in the galaxy far, far away that no outlandish fan theory will quite have worked out. That’s not to say those things are gone entirely but everything you see here is different, made new and fresh and, in some regards, more dangerous but it’s credit to Johnson that he has followed his instincts and shaken things just enough to keep everyone wondering even after the credits roll.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi; dir.: Rian Johnson; USA 2017, 152 minutes. Our Rating: ★★★★½/5
At two and a half hours, this is the longest film of the series so far and it whizzes by too quickly for our liking. The richness and complexity of the film is a sight to behold, whether it’s on the lush greens of Ahch-To as Rey begins her Jedi training or in amongst the last remaining resistance fighters (led by Carrie Fisher, Oscar Isaac and Laura Dern) as they try to stave off the impending doom as the First Order closes in around them. Every inch of the screen is meticulously crafted and realised. That’s not to say that everything works, mind you – a sub-plot that sees Finn (John Boyega) teamed with new addition Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) does nothing for the film visually or narratively aside from getting us from beginning to end and feels superfluous – and while he’s having a ball, Domhnall Gleeson’s Hux may already had his fill.
But when it’s good, The Last Jedi is simply astonishing and will certainly take the crown for blockbuster of the year. In fact, such is its brilliance, its darkness and light and its unexpectedness, that it wouldn’t be faint praise to suggest that this may be the best film of its kind since Christopher Nolan ripped-up the rule book(s) with The Dark Knight. And, in similar fashion, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is everything you hoped for and everything you didn’t know you wanted. A staggering achievement.