The Star Wars franchise has had its fair share of ups and downs over the years, with The Empire Strikes Back being lauded by many of its vociferous fans as the critical pinnacle. Well, The Last Jedi comes pretty close, only missing out for this reviewer because along with an extra three decades of age comes the unavoidable onset of cynicalitus (the medical term for being a cynical old film critic). Shame I couldn’t quite muster up my starry-eyed younger self from the eighties for this viewing. But for the less cynically challenged, The Last Jedi provides everything to lose yourself in; engaging characters, intriguing atmosphere, action sequences that aren’t overdrawn… and it’s better than most of its predecessors.
Arguably the “middle” film does have the luxury of avoiding plot setups and tying up loose ends. In short, it’s allowed to immediately hit the ground running and have fun—and The Last Jedi does just this.
It’s difficult to cover the salient plot points without slipping on a few spoiler shaped banana skins along the way. So, treading carefully, all you really need to know is that Rey (Daisy Ridley) continues to develop her Jedi skills that she discovered in Episode 7, with the help of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). This covers a significant portion of the film and operates ostensibly as the Luke/Yoda sequence from The Empire Strikes Back. Meanwhile, the Resistance continues to … well, resist. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and his First Order cronies give chase in pursuit of Leia, Finn, Poe and their eclectic bunch of Resistance fighters. All the while, Kylo Ren comes to terms with his own identity issues. The film traverses across the stars and salty planets (quite literally) climaxing in a satisfying if somewhat open-ended finish. Indeed, it packs a lot into its 160+ mins, but thankfully never feels forced.
The film appears to know its audience and despite its target market being as wide as the grand canyon, it still manages to pack in a healthy mix of racial and gender empowered characters and have time to promote its life-affirming philosophy.
A few continuity hiccups aside, the film runs a fairly fluid telling of some reasonably complex ideas. It avoids getting bogged down in its mythology, whilst still paying homage to everything that is “Star Wars”. In short, there’s more Star Wars here than you’ll know what to do with. Even Yoda pays a small visit, to which I’m sure his advice for the cranky cynics would be: this not the film you are looking for, no. For others … go see this film you must, yes.
You can see my published reviews here.