Sunday, 28 January 2018

The Last Jedi by Rian Johnson

What a relief... I am always up for a good Star Wars movie, and I utterly rejoiced in The Force Awakens. Or The Franchise Reawakens, as I like to think of it.

Then along came Rogue One. It was a big hit and beloved by millions upon millions of people worldwide (and indeed many people I know personally). What can I say... I hated it.

So I was braced for a disaster when The Last Jedi came along. But it was simply terrific. It gripped me from the first moments when the good guys (the Resistance) are getting their asses kicked in a space battle.

In particular there's a nail-biting sequence as the last of the Resistance bombers — their final hope — get shot to pieces as Paige Tico (Veronica Ngo) pilots it on a suicide mission. I won't tell you what happens...

At the other end of the movie there is a lavishly wonderful ground battle on a snowy* world called Crait where the war machines gouge up streaks of bright red dirt as if the planet itself is bleeding.

So the Last Jedi is visually ravishing, and it's also expertly plotted. Whenever the Resistance seems about to succeed, they get knocked back. This gives the film a dark tone which is deliberately reminiscent of the second instalment of the first trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back (another favourite of mine).

Last Jedi is written and directed by Rian Johnson. Yup, just one name on the screenplay, which is pretty amazing. Johnson has made some notable films, starting with Brick, a Dashiell Hammett style crime story recast as a high school movie which I loved. 

He also wrote and directed the time travel thriller Looper and directed several episodes of the TV series Breaking Bad. Johnson brings a fresh and intriguing sensibility to the Star Wars canon.

The cast of the Last Jedi features some fine performances. I am increasingly impressed with Daisy Ridley now that I've seen the range of her acting (she was excellent in Murder on the Orient Express). Here she continues to light up the screen as Rey, a luscious tomboy with a light sabre.

In Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), the franchise has hit the jackpot in terms of a truly great villain. There is a sequence where Rey and Kylo Ren have a sword fight in a bright red throne room and the place ends up ripped to pieces with burning cinders falling through the air. It's amazing.

But the most surprising performance is from as Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker. His mature and embittered depiction of Skywalker has real depth.

He's not my favourite character in the movie, though. That honour goes to Benicio Del Toro as DJ, a complex figure — you don't know whether to like him or hate him — and probably the only pragmatist in the entire story.

There also some fun alien animals. You can hardly have missed the cute porgs — big eyed, stubby birds. In one cherishably funny scene they almost convert Chewbacca to vegetarianism.

However, my favourite exo-fauna are the tinkling crystal critters on the planet Crait.

The Last Jedi has its flaws. On second viewing the clumsy dialogue began to grate — is it supposed to be a homage to some of the awful George Lucas writing of yesteryear? If so, it's a miscalculation.

But let's not end on a down note. The Last Jedi is magnificent. And spectacular. And great fun.

Oh, and here are the box office receipts for the three recent Star Wars films. Rogue One is in third place. So there is some justice in the world...

(*Yes, I now know it's not snow on the planet's surface but salt. But I don't give a shit.)

(Image credits: No less than 67 posters to chose from at the indispensable Imp Awards.)


  1. I'm always behind with Star Wars films so only got to watch Rogue One over Christmas. It was pretty ropey wasn't it?

    1. I really hated Rogue One, but as I say, millions of others (including close friends!) loved it. I find it telling though that it is particularly disliked by screenwriters of my acquaintance. It is a truly weak script. More details (and venom!) can be found in my post on the movie. Thanks for reading!

  2. I *hated* Rogue One as well. Reminded me of the story I wrote, when I was 10 or 11, that overly explained all the events between Star Wars and Empire--i.e., juvenile fan fiction.