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Star Wars: The last Jedi  rating

Review: written 2018

A Rey of Hope

To say this movie has divided opinion would be an understatement. From glowing critic’s reviews to devastatedly disappointed fans, it’s a movie which has generated a lot of media time. So here’s my take on it – I think it falls squarely in the middle of these camps – it’s a great piece of entertainment which I enjoyed while watching, but had elements which brought me out of the moment and back to reality with a clunk, rather than spending the full 2 and a half hours in a galaxy far, far, away.

Atypically for Star Wars, the movie follows directly on from its predecessor – no time has elapsed to allow events to have taken place off screen. What starts as a tense battle scene then drifts for a while as a weirdly unconvincing slow motion chase through space, while our characters split up for various missions – some feeling important (Rey and Luke), some feeling completely unessential (Finn and Rose, we are looking at you). After a wonderful scene with Rey and Kylo Ren which pushes the ambiguity of their characters right to the edge before defusing the moment in an unexpected way, the last third of the movie pulls itself back together with a final standoff which wraps things up more successfully than a middle movie of a trilogy has any right to.

While The Force Awakens was loved for its successful rebooting of Star Wars in the form of a movie and characters that FELT like Star Wars, more than the prequels ever did, it was also criticised by many for following a safe plot story, echoing A New Hope to the point of plagiarism. I relished the moments in The Force Awakens that took those expectations and subverted them. What starts like an echo of the ROTJ throne room scene becomes something unexpected. What appears to be a Dagobah type Jedi training set up – turns out to be anything but. It’s refreshing and leaves you wondering what’s next... it feels original. At the same time, some of those subversive choices have been so bold as to make me wonder if I am still watching the same world, or the same characters. Luke’s story arc in this one does sometimes feel like a different character than one we have come to know over so many years. Finn’s new buddy Rose is a nice addition, but their adventure together does feel a bit like an afterthought.

Then there is the humour. I’m delighted that the wry humour that has been a staple of the best of the series, has continued. That said, there are some moments which fall so flat my mouth was actually opening in dismay.. the scene near the beginning where a dramatic face off of fighter and Star destroyer is punctuated by a jokey scene, is so ill judged I lost my suspension of belief, and I’m not sure I ever got it back until the last third of the movie. Harrison Ford could pull this stuff off with his rogueish charm.. he is missed.

Look, the acting is good, the script has its share of cheese in places, but is made up for by some meaty moments particularly with Adam Driver playing Kylo Ren – whose ambiguity and unpredictability is making him a terrific villain. It’s got some wonderful cinematography and beautiful visual moments. The narrative is just untidy and feels as unfocussed as any Star Wars movie has to date – and yet, it does pull things together enough at the end, that with an open mind there is no reason you shouldn’t leave the cinema with a smile on your face. And for all the flaws and discussions over narrative choices – let’s just remember, this is no Phantom Menace. It’s a darn sight more entertaining.

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