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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Star Wars: The Last Jedi review – ‘unpredictable plot twists and deeper characters’

Hannah Patient finds the new 'Star Wars' adventure far more satisfying than the previous instalment in the franchise

I didn’t go into Star Wars: The Last Jedi with particularly high expectations. I found The Force Awakens reasonably enjoyable, but it felt like such a rehash of old Star Wars moments that I didn’t feel a burning desire to see more. Yet, as I sat down to watch this new entry in the saga, the familiar trumpet fanfare resounded through the cinema and the same old yellow font began to roll off into space, and I realised I had goosebumps. Despite everything, I was actually ready to see where this new film would take the franchise.

Episode VIII immediately hurls the viewer into the thick of the action as ex-Stormtrooper Finn wakes from his coma to find that Commander Poe has led Resistance forces on a high-stakes mission to take down a dreadnaught. Meanwhile, Supreme Leader Snoke wants Kylo Ren to prove his strength once and for all, while Rey desperately tries to enlist the help of Luke Skywalker to take the First Order down. What follows is a thrilling, twisting plot which culminates in a stunning (if slightly too long) end sequence. The CGI and cinematography of the firework-like red explosions of dust on the white topsoil of the planet Crait during this sequence provides some of the most epic visuals the series has ever seen, which couldn’t be contrasted more than with the adorable Porgs, creatures which are best described as a cross between puffins and lemmings.

Though the franchise made a clear attempt to increase the number of female characters in prior entries, The Last Jedi proved that the tables have begun to turn. In The Force Awakens, I thought Rey seemed like any forgettable heroine from a YA novel; here, her character blossomed and began to show intriguing depths as she struggles with the temptations of the Dark Side. New character Rose, a downtrodden mechanic who never changed out of her boiler suit, made an unlikely heroine, and yet she was given a chance to prove herself in her adventures with Finn without sinking into cliché. Purple-haired pilot Admiral Holdo (Jurassic Park and Big Little Lies’ Laura Dern!) was yet another unpredictable and refreshing addition, while Carrie Fisher gave a heartbreakingly captivating final performance as Leia.

The unpredictability of this film was one of its greatest strengths. I was genuinely surprised by many plot twists and found the big reveals provided satisfying, plausible retorts to fan speculation. Another interesting aspect of the film was the apparent blurring of boundaries between the light and dark sides of the Force, a reminder that no character is totally good or evil. The telepathic exchanges between Rey and Kylo Ren proved tense, adding a welcome new dimension to each character.

The film was by no means perfect. Domnhall Gleeson’s performance as the squealingly evil Hux was not particularly multi-dimensional and verged on the camp, although it looked like he was enjoying himself. I thought the initial exchanges between Rey and Luke were rather hurried and wooden, and was slightly baffled by the scenes where she followed him around his island home, watching him drink green milk from the udders of what looked like overgrown Heffalumps. However, it’s easy enough to view these things as part of the fun and take them in your stride.

All in all, then, The Last Jedi’s character development and intelligent nods to the rest of the series are welcome developments, while its exciting plot and above-average number of humorous moments help keep its two-and-a-half hour running time feel less unwieldy. As the credits rolled, I was filled with a new hope that far from being on their last legs, the Jedi would return with a vengeance – and so would I for Episode IX.

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