Posted February 4, 2018 by Becky Hall in Movies

Movie Review: The Last Jedi (spoiler free)

©Lucasfilm Ltd/ Disney

This review contains no spoilers for The Last Jedi, but massive spoilers for Rogue One if you’ve been living under a rock and not seen it yet.

Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Carrie Fisher, Laura Dern, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson, Andy Serkis, Gwendoline Christie

Director: Rian Johnson

Release Date: 14th December 2017 (UK), 9th December 2017 (U.S.A.)

The Last Jedi, the eighth episode in the Star Wars saga, took an impressive $220 million in the domestic box office in its opening weekend, grossed $1.2 billion, and is currently 90% on Rotten Tomatoes’ Tomatometer with an average review of 8.1/10. And yet it is repeatedly slammed by audiences, scoring only 49% on Rotten Tomatoes’ Audience Score. There was even a petition signed by thousands of people to retract The Last Jedi from canon (where’s that Jackie Chan meme when you need it?)

Is the critical response from the audience justified? Well, no. Not in my opinion anyway, though perhaps I’m easy to please. The Last Jedi has everything that I want from a Star Wars movie. Grand adventure, plucky heroes, life and death stakes… even the character development isn’t terrible, which it could easily have been considering the amount of plot that is shoehorned into the 2-hour runtime.

©Lucasfilm Ltd/ Disney

A large portion of the fandom seemed to be slightly irked by the way Johnson uses the Force to solve some of the characters’ problems during the course of the movie. I’m impressed by their dedication to what is an utterly fictional plot device, but the thing with such a device being utterly fictional is that you can pretty much do whatever you want with it. Using the Force to feed your illicit lover weird fruit? Go nuts. Using the Force to hail a lift off the bottom of a floating city? I am Down With That. Using the Force as a cosmic tow truck? Well, apparently that’s just a step too far.

Gah. I rolled my eyes so hard they’re now stuck looking at the back of my skull.

The main problem is the divergence from the “traditional” Star Wars canon, which, to be fair, diverging is exactly what The Last Jedi does. There’s barely a subplot in the entire movie that goes the way you’d expect it to, making it unpredictable in a way that The Force Awakens really wasn’t. Don’t get me wrong, TFA is incredible, but Abrams took no risks. Johnson, on the other hand, clearly got it into his head to throw the rulebook out the window and go a bit wild. And it works! Not perfectly, but it works, and what’s more, it’s necessary.

It was Rogue One that broke the rigid framework that Star Wars has hitherto existed in. Killing everyone off at the end was the only real way Rogue One could end. It was wholly unexpected, and it set the precedent that TLJ needed to really break free of its shackles. There were characters whose development was decidedly not positive, despite the fact that they were one of the Good Guys. I get that it’s not always fun to see your fave become problematic, but it is interesting. It makes them seem more realistic. Even the best person can be a pain in the ass. Johnson played the risk and didn’t quite strike gold. The thing is, that there are now nine movies in the Star Wars franchise, with more on the way, and the franchise cannot continue to entertain by emulating what made the old movies great. It has to expand, to grow past what is acceptable canon, or it will become same-y, and audiences will lose interest. The Last Jedi doesn’t play it safe, and the Star Wars universe will be better off for it.

©Lucasfilm Ltd/ Disney

It’s far from perfect. There were aspects of the movie that were baffling. There were plot holes which can’t really be avoided. Benicio Del Toro did that thing with his mouth that made me want to punch him. And there were definitely characters that missed out on their own more nuanced development arcs; I hope that’s addressed in the next film because these actors are amazing. I loved the addition of Kelly Marie Tran’s ‘Rose Tico’ to the cast list, and she damn well better be in the next one.

The Last Jedi is a great movie. It may not be everything you want or expect from a Star Wars movie, but that lends it an element of unpredictability that is much needed. It’s full of laughs and action, characters that are intriguing and, in some notable cases, inspiring.

The saddest part by far is the knowledge that Carrie Fisher will not return for the final installment. She would have absolutely nailed it. May the Force be with you, Space Mom.

©Lucasfilm Ltd/ Disney

Galactic rating: 8/10

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