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Film Review: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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Before The Last Jedi came out, I was shocked and surprised to see Disney announce they were handing Rian Johnson the keys to a brand new additional Star Wars trilogy after the conclusion of Episode IX

After The Last Jedi has been released, I can see exactly why they've put so much faith in him. If J.J. Abrams most certainly did not understand Star Wars with his imperfect The Force Awakens, Rian Johnson has perfectly understood the mantra, mentality and nature of Star Wars

The set pieces and battles are spectacular. Starting off right where The Force Awakens ended, the battle between the Republic and First Order rages on, with casualties aplenty. Supreme Leader Snoke, General Hux and Kylo Ren are on the war-path hunting down the Resistance. Rey is trying to persuade Luke to return to save everyone.

From deep hyperspace, to the decadent hedonism of Canto Blight and the sparse salt flats of Crait, no-one really is safe throughout and there are some absolutely shocking moments, choreographed brilliantly to ensure action and suspense.

There is a lot of thought in the film too, including a wider exploration into Star Wars lore and the legacy of the Jedi- something which die-hard fans will care about much more than more caual fans- but these moments of quieter contemplation and focus slot in neatly against the all-guns-blazing action. It's probably a 70-30 split in regards to action sequences against developmental periods of dialogue, but the pace of the film is retained throughout. In this aspect, The Last Jedi works as one giant chase sequence.  

Johnson's mastery of sound effects is demonstrated through several brief but effective cuts of silence. The cinematography is comfortingly familiar, the wipes, pans and wide shots pay homage to the original trilogy in a nostalgic, respectful way. The music has always been a strong point for the Star Wars films and The Last Jedi continues this rich tradition with a super score- pay particular attention during the Canto Blight sequence for a sneaky reworking of an absolute series classic. 

The three plots- Rey and Luke, Poe and the Resistance and Finn vs. The First Order don't always totally interlink with perfection, but the cohesion between the three is strong enough for the film to work. The humour maintains a good tone throughout, although the shameless marketing materials that are the Porgs could easily be cut and nothing would be lost from the narrative. Rey and Luke certainly get top billing in regards to development, but Finn does become more prominent in the second half of the film, whilst Poe starts off central and wanes slightly- although this does allow for more well rounded and equal character development. 

Johnson is helped by two especially brilliant performances. Mark Hamill is imperious as the aged, cynical Luke Skywalker, who has moved into legendary status and shows a prominent awareness for his mortal coil. The deadpan dark humour and sly comments blend perfectly with the emotive anguish that he has, holding himself responsible for the Rise of the First Order. We get a true sense of Luke's power as the film progresses and his stewardship over Rey (Daisy Ridley) is fantastic throughout.

Adam Driver equally steals the show as the conflicted Kylo Ren/Ben Solo, as he finds himself increasingly questioning his power and trying to seperate himself from his past and his mother, General Leia Organa- the formidable and regrettably late Carrie Fisher. If he could be accused as being a watered-down angsty poor imitation of Darth Vader in The Force Awakens, a new Ben Solo certainly emerges throughout The Last Jedi. He isn't a Darth Vader, but that is more than okay, the diversification is much more useful and avoids unecessary comparisons between the two. 

Ridley's acting deserves plaudits too, she has improved immensely from her disjointed performance in the prequel. The evolution from arguable 'Mary-Sue' to fearless poster-girl of the revived trilogy is startling. Finn's (John Boyega) subplot is at times shoe-horned in, but Johnson has good intentions and tries to use it to effectively blur the lines between good and evil.

Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron is solid, if unspectacular and Kelly Marie Trann's Rose lurches between useful comic relief and irritating distraction.  Domhnall Gleeson's General Hux also shows welcome improvement from the first film, becoming genuinely menacing and at times absolutely maniacal in his unquestionable service to Snoke and The First Order. BB-8 threatens to usurp R2-D2 as everyone's favourite droid, but at times his power is somewhat farcical. 

Despite these minor gripes, Rian Johnson has created a sci-fi masterpiece with Star Wars: The Last Jedi, one that contemplates the boundaries of life and death, good and evil, the light and the dark in a way which no other Star Wars film has managed- or indeed will manage for that matter. Some doors close, other doors open and by the end, you are left in real suspense as to what will happen in the final film of the Revived Trilogy in a few years time. Here's hoping that J.J. Abrams was taking notes while he was executive-producing. 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is out now, distributed by Walt Disney Studios.

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