As a Star Wars fan, there is always two kinds of excitement going on inside me when I sit down to watch a new film in the franchise. Of course, I am always genuinely excited that, once again, I get to see a new chapter in the franchise that I love. But there is always a kind of nervous excitement that bubbles away there as well. I loved both Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Rogue One, but a part of me just keeps waiting for one of these modern-day filmmakers to deliver up a Star Wars film that isn’t loved by the fans.
Luckily, writer/director Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper) isn’t the one to do so. No, he has instead gone back to basics and delivered a Star Wars film that looks good but also has a genuinely good storyline and characterisation. He also seems to remember just how important suspense is to a movie as well.
There are a few storylines running throughout Star Wars: The Last Jedi. While Leia (Carrie Fisher – Maps To The Stars, Fanboys) finds herself and her troops trapped by General Hux (Domnhall Gleeson – Ex Machina, About Time) while Rey (Daisy Ridley – Murder On The Orient Express, Scrawl) works on getting the rumoured last Jedi, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill – Brigsby Bear, Batman: The Killing Joke), to join their fight.
Meanwhile, Rey is fighting an internal fight of her own, and she suddenly finds herself linked to her nemesis Kylo Ren (Adam Driver – Paterson, Inside Llewyn Davis). While she is trying to lure him to the light, he is trying to lure her to the dark. At the same time, Poe (Oscar Isaac – Ex Machina, Inside Llewyn Davis) learns that all actions have consequences while Finn (John Boyega – The Circle, Detroit) teams up with young mechanic, Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran – Untouchable, XOXO), on a journey to help the Rebels gain a way to infiltrate Hux’s ship.
It is hard to explain why Star Wars: The Last Jedi is such an enjoyable watch without purely saying that it is a film that captures the old-fashioned Star Wars magic while being helmed by one of the most underrated filmmakers of our generation. Rian Johnson created cinema magic with films like Brick and Looper, and he does that here by putting his own stamp on the franchise while also embracing the films of the past.
Somehow Johnson manages to create memorable space-fighter sequences, epic lightsaber battles while still remembering that a good film needs a good story, twists, and turns and suspense. He delivers that in one great bundle, complete with some new cute fluffy Star Wars creatures that aren’t annoying like the Jar Jar Binks of old. He even manages to put some tongue-in-cheek humour as well – things like an iron looking like a ship docking… simple but effective enough to give the audience a laugh.
Johnson also treats the franchise with complete respect. He makes sure that Carrie Fisher’s last performance as Leia is faithful to her character and also a brilliant finale for her career, and his emotionally-shredded Luke Skywalker is a welcome return to the faithful fans of the franchise. That characterisation also spreads to the new characters as well. While he doesn’t put much backstory in characters like Rose and DJ (Benicio Del Toro – Guardians Of The Galaxy, Traffic), as an audience, you still feel like you get to know these characters really well.
The main thing that works in this film is the twists and turns that Johnson has included in his screenplay. You have this feeling ever-present in this film that never allows you to settle completely. Johnson time and time again puts these characters through suspenseful moments or pulls another twist out of his sleeve without you ever feeling that he has gone too far. As a result, he builds an air of suspense right through the film where you simply never know what is going to happen next. More importantly, those twists are so creative that they work brilliantly well.
The great storylines also mean that the actors get a lot more to work with. Johnson gets the best out of his young stars Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley, but it is Benicio Del Toro that steals the show. He brilliantly plays DJ, a suave thief, and you can only hope that we see more of this character in the future. Mark Hamill also embraces his chance to play Luke Skywalker again, and no Star Wars fan is going to be disappointed with that.
True fans of the franchise are going to love Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Rian Johnson has done an amazing job embracing the old magic of the series while bringing the film into the modern-day cinema world. Everything is there that fans want to see battles, a little bit of comedy and the most important thing is the film has a great plot. Rian Johnson, take a bow because you have delivered a gem.