21 December 2017

SPOILER-FREE REVIEW: Star Wars: Episode VIII, The Last Jedi

Star Wars: Episode VIII
Directed by Rian Johnson
Run time: 2h32min
Our rating: 7.5/10

"Luke Skywalker's peaceful and solitary existence gets upended when he encounters Rey, a young woman who shows strong signs of the Force. Her desire to learn the ways of the Jedi forces Luke to make a decision that changes their lives forever. Meanwhile, Kylo Ren and General Hux lead the First Order in an all-out assault against Leia and the Resistance for supremacy of the galaxy."

This review contains very minor spoilers and is a general review, not an analysis. (I will be posting a spoilery discussion post about it soon though!) I do not own any of these images.

2 years after JJ Abrams successful revived the iconic Star Wars franchise on the big screen with The Force Awakens, the anticipated sequel The Last Jedi has finally been released.  

The Last Jedi embodies all the traditional Star Wars characteristics, which are the foundations of the iconic franchise: good vs evil, light vs darkness, theatrical and at times cheesy (but isn't that why we love it?). We have 2 main storylines in this film (as detailed in the above synopsis) which evolve around these two characteristics: good vs evil and theatricality. The First Order vs The Resistance.  We have the hugely anticipated return of cinema's first sci-fi hero Luke Skywalker, and he did not disappoint. Afterall, the Skywalkers are known for occasionally messing up the galaxy and being a little dramatic about it. With that  being said, TLJ has some heart-warming emotional moments that are much needed. We are blessed with one last portrayal of General Leia by Carrie Fisher, who passed after production wrapped on the film. Her passing made the film more poignant and touching, like a love letter to Leia and the franchise in general. 

Despite embracing these traditional Star Wars characteristics, Rian Johnson takes risks which blow some of these old rules out of the window: he masters the traditional aspects of the franchise whilst sending it in a new, risky & unpredictable direction. The Last Jedi destroys any expectations you may have had upon seeing The Force Awakens, in a good way. These two adjectives have been used in most reviews, and rightfully so: we have unexpected and frankly risky twists throughout, which contribute to this unpredictability that we feel when watching the final scenes of the film. Although it's too early to tell whether these risks pay off (with one more film left to complete this trilogy) , it's safe to say the Star Wars franchise is aiming towards a new direction whilst still holding on to it's established roots.

We return to our beloved new trio, Rey, Finn and Poe. The Last Jedi is a journey of personal growth for all of them, but Rey most all. Accepting who she is, her heritage & what she wants. The most interesting aspect of the film is the connection between her and Kylo Ren, who through the force are able to communicate. This connection brings a human touch to the film, and is very interesting in terms of plot development: the possibility of a redemption arc and the simple desire of wanting to know more about Kylo Ren's thoughts and mindset, and the potential Jedi team up to take down the bad guy. However the unpredictable-ness set in motion by Rian Johnson throws this possible storyline into doubt as it continues to linger, not yet coming to full fruition. We have different dynamics in TLJ, such as Poe & General Leia, Finn & Rose, Luke & Rey, Rey & Kylo.

We also have the introduction of a new character Rose, who teams up with Finn as they attempt to stop the enemy vessel from destroying the last of the Resistance. This team up allows us a fresh glimpse at the Star Wars universe, away from the battles. What about those in-between, who watch from the side lines and contribute to the ongoing battle between good vs bad? I'm talking of course of the war profiteers but also the younger generation who hear stories of what is happening beyond their own world.

This new Star Wars franchise is beautifully diverse. We have a female Jedi, women in positions of power, people of colour, old, middle-aged and young, and of course the newest Star Wars hero Rose Tico, portrayed by American-Vietnamese actress Kelly Marie Tran. The Force Awakens, Rogue One & now The Last Jedi triumphantly portrays a more inclusive mass of characters, who not only contribute to the overall plot but have a huge impact of the franchise's audience. We need to depict a more diverse and accurate representation of society, and thanks to the revival of Star Wars we are witnessing the turn of the tide in terms of representation on screen. Yes, we still have a very long way to go yet, but the importance of films such as The Last Jedi can not be understated. This article by Angela Watercutter about inclusion in the Star Wars universe is well worth a read!

My favourite part of this newest addition to the SW universe has to be the *stunning* visual effects.  I'm struggling to find accurate adjectives to translate my love for them. To put it simply, it's a visual treat from start to finish. Effortlessly marvelous and alluring. There is more CGI than it's predecessor TFA, the majority of which is used for the magical and enchanting animals. TLJ fully embraces this weird and wonderful aspect of the universe: cute little creatures and fascinating people, yet the CGI is in no way overwhelming. Although we have become accustomed to superb special effects in action films, TLJ truly blew me away with the visuals and sound effects. At 2 and a half hours long, the length is easily the worst part of the film - yet it's the outstanding special effects which makes it all worth while: not only the stunning, whimsical creatures, but the space battles which fill you with awe. Simple wide angle shots which are incredibly aesthetically pleasing, and the use of colour- specifically in the final sequences - which are so beautiful. 

Rian Johnson embraces the traditions of Star Wars, whilst taking it in to a new, risky and unpredictable future. It's bold and unafraid of venturing into a new direction. The film is perhaps too long at 2 1/2 hours, yet the stunning visuals and the charming characters make it all worth while. Many consider this new trilogy to not only be a revival but a rebirth, an accurate description. With The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi but also with Rogue One, we can expect our SW expectations to be crushed in the best way, and patiently wait to see where this iconic franchise will go next. 

This is an overall review not an analysis as I wanted to keep it spoiler-free, but I may write a more in-depth article once I've pondered it a little more! I saw it last night so it's still pretty fresh in my mind and I wanted to express my first thoughts on it. After a lot if debate and discussing it with my brother who saw it with me, I decided to give it a 7 - 7.5 / 10 . It is flawed and I still can't make up my mind about whether I absolutely love it. It's a good film, but perhaps not a good Star Wars film. Please note I have only seen the film once, and there is a lot to say on it. (Mostly about Luke, Snoke, Kylo but that would require in depth analysis and tons of spoilers, but also about the good vs evil, uncertainty, grey areas and the overall fight to vanquish the First Order.) There is also lots to say about toxic masculinity (Snoke & Kylo) women in power (General Leia & Poe) and what the film means in today's political environment. Lots of plot points that could be debated and discussed. Let me know if you'd be interested in any of these topics!


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