1984. Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017)

8.1 Dark and heavy, but intriguing
  • Acting 8.2
  • Directing 8.2
  • Story 7.8
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Starring: Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill, John Boyega

Director: Rian Johnson

Running Time: 152 mins

Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi is an American film and the eighth in the Star Wars saga. After taking her first steps into the Jedi world, Rey joins Luke Skywalker as they unlock the mysteries of the Force and secrets of the past.

Following on from the enormous excitement and fever surrounding The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi has a lot to live up to. When it comes down to it, the eighth instalment in the Star Wars saga is a very entertaining one, with some of the most intense and dramatic moments of the entire franchise, furthered by thrilling visuals from start to finish. However, it’s not the most consistently exhilarating watch, getting heavily bogged down at points over its two and a half hour runtime, all the while suffering from some glaring and often frustrating narrative flaws.

So, The Last Jedi isn’t quite the perfect film, but that doesn’t mean it’s no fun. Above all, with the amount of depth and drama that the episode brings to the Star Wars saga as a whole, it is undoubtedly enough to really intrigue you for its entire duration, planting more and more seeds for debate and excitement that make the film a particularly mysterious watch, as you try to come to terms with how the fate of the galaxy hangs so much in the balance.

Therefore, as a story, the film is complete with a lot more depth and lore in the context of the Star Wars universe, all the while offering some really exciting building blocks going ahead into Episode IX.

What’s more is that the film offers up a lot more original twists and turns than The Force Awakens. While Episode VII was a hugely entertaining blockbuster, its parallels to A New Hope were more than clear. However, The Last Jedi doesn’t follow quite the same path as you may have expected, and although it parallels moments from The Empire Strikes Back, it’s much more its own story, and the situation that is left at the end of the movie suggests that the trilogy finale definitely will not be a carbon copy, something I was delighted to see.

Of course, it’s hard to really go into depth about where the film’s story works best without treading into spoiler terriotry, however you can rest assured that there really are enough surprises, twists and both emotionally and narratively deep elements to The Last Jedi, and that’s what ultimately helps to make it such an entertaining watch.

However, the story isn’t quite flawless. There is undoubtedly a lot more to it than many Star Wars movies before, but it really takes its time about delivering the best drama and thrills. While a two and a half hour Star Wars extravaganza may sound like heaven on paper to some fans, the film really drags in its opening act, with almost all of the characters in pretty inactive situations, and although you continue to learn new truths about the scenario that was set up in The Force Awakens, it definitely isn’t quite as riveting and exhilarating until the end of the first hour, when things really start to pick up, and the film becomes a truly thrilling watch.

So, although the first hour may drag significantly, a problem that could be worse on repeat viewings, if you stick with it and stay focused throughout, it will definitely be worth it for the excitement and drama that explodes in the middle and final acts.

Another element of the film that could prove somewhat controversial is simply how dark it is. Rian Johnson does a great job at giving the film a really heavy and dramatic atmosphere, but that means The Last Jedi isn’t the optimistic crowdpleaser that many may want it to be as a Star Wars movie.

In truth, this is a fairly slow-paced movie, and if you’re not wholly enthralled by the depth of the story at hand after The Force Awakens, some of the more heavy-going revelations may pass you by. That doesn’t mean the film isn’t fun, because once it really explodes into life after an hour, there’s a lot of action and excitement to sit back and enjoy, but more casual viewers may struggle to adore the film as much simply because it strays into such dark territory.

Moving on from the story, we need to talk about Rian Johnson’s directing. As I’ve already said, Johnson brings real darkness to the saga that proves thrilling in one regard, albeit a little excessive in another. In that, the film feels a lot more satisfying when it’s at its best, and although there are a significant amount of narrative flaws that can make it a little frustrating and even confusing at times, particularly with some really jarring and abrupt big twists in the story, the weightiness of the film as a whole thanks to Johnson is impressive to see.

I have to say that, unlike The Force Awakens, which felt like a very consistent, swift and energetic blockbuster, The Last Jedi occasionally stumbles as an entire piece, and definitely wouldn’t stand up as well were it not part of a trilogy. What’s more is that the darker atmosphere really clashes with the lighter comedy, something that The Empire Strikes Back managed to mix so brilliantly, but proves rather awkward and regularly irritating here.

A lot of the performances do help to add some energy and life into the movie when it drags, with Mark Hamill and Daisy Ridley both impressing in the less-than-stellar first act. However, when the film bursts into life, Adam Driver excels with an exceptional performance as Kylo Ren, adding more and more emotional depth to his character, and making all of Ren’s twists throughout fully convincing and thoroughly riveting.

The supporting cast is generally strong too, with Carrie Fisher shining for one last time as Leia, Oscar Isaac proving far more riveting (and not just charismatic) as Poe Dameron, and John Boyega just as entertaining as last time out. Some players, including Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern and Benicio Del Toro, aren’t quite as enjoyable to watch, but in the midst of the whole ensemble cast, there’s still a lot to enjoy regardless.

And finally, let’s talk about the visuals. The Force Awakens proved exhilarating with its dynamic use of CGI and practical effects, finally finding the middle ground that so many Hollywood movies had struggled with for years. Rogue One, too, was a visual masterpiece, and particularly in its incredible final act, offered up some of the most beautiful and exhilarating shots in the whole Star Wars sage.

And that’s just the case with The Last Jedi. Some of its landscapes and shots are a marvel to behold, while the visual palette builds on Rian Johnson’s dark atmosphere brilliantly. There are times when it feels like there’s a little too much CGI, however it is in general still a beautiful film, and one that’s just as spectacular as any Star Wars movie.

Overall, then, I was intrigued by Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It’s a film with quite a few flaws, and following its very slow and inactive first act, coupled with its occasionally excessively dark atmosphere, it’s definitely not the crowd-pleasing blockbuster that The Force Awakens was. However, with thrilling drama and depth to its story, building excitement for Episode IX, as well as an explosive and non-stop final hour and a half, complete with exceptional visuals and strong performances, The Last Jedi is ultimately a very entertaining watch, and that’s why I’m giving it an 8.1.


About Author

The Mad Movie Man, AKA Anthony Cullen, writes articles and reviews about movies and the world of cinema. Since January 1st, 2013, he has watched and reviewed a movie every day. This is the blog dedicated to the project: www.madmovieman.com