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‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ (review by Leyla Mikkelsen)

Produced by Kathleen Kennedy,
Ram Bergman

Written and Directed by Rian Johnson
Based on Characters by George Lucas
Starring Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver,
Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac,
Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson,
Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie,
Kelly Marie Tran,
Laura Dern, Benicio del Toro,

 

When The Force Awakens was released in 2015, it was met with overwhelmingly favorable reviews, just as the fans for the most part seemed thoroughly pleased by the continuation of the beloved saga.

The cause for the success was largely attributed to J.J. Abrams having managed to bring the franchise back to its roots in terms of tone and atmosphere, just as many of the new additions to the cast were also commended for being highly compelling.

However, with a change of director and the untimely death of the inimitable Carrie Fisher, people have been wondering where director Rian Johnson would take the Saga, as the ominous episode title The Last Jedi and the secretive marketing campaign seemed to suggest that the latest installment would be a much darker outing than its predecessor.

Picking up where The Force Awakens left off, The Last Jedi builds on the playfulness of the highly retrospective seventh installment in the episodic film saga. That being said, director Rian Johnson quickly establishes his own distinct tone and style for The Last Jedi, which in part means that the nostalgic callbacks to the original trilogy have been dialed down significantly. Offering a fresh perspective and story line, Johnson instead presents the audience with a Star Wars film that looks to the future of the franchise rather than dwelling on the past, both in terms of the story itself as well as the narrative structure in more general terms.

The visuals are stunning, often presenting the viewer with breathtaking cinematography that makes a seemingly endless number of frames stand out almost like paintings on a gallery wall. The composition of the action sequences is also exquisite, drawing many parallels to the Japanese samurai films that inspired the original Star Wars trilogy. As for the execution of the fight choreography, Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver bring a fierce energy to the fight sequences, which makes the scenes they are involved in thoroughly exhilarating action set pieces.

However, what truly shines in The Last Jedi is the character development. The arcs of Driver’s Kylo Ren and Ridley’s Rey develop and intensify brilliantly, enhancing the main story line of the film, which is brimming with mystery and intrigue. The complexity of this story line may alienate the casual viewer, but the long-suffering fans of the film franchise will likely find that the lore of the saga is being expanded upon in a deeply satisfying manner.

In terms of the supporting characters, on the First Order side of things, Domhnall Gleeson’s General Hux is allowed more screentime this time around, giving the versatile actor the opportunity to further flesh out his character and thereby effectively join the menacing ranks of the dastardly officers that served the masters of the dark side in the original trilogy. Supreme Leader Snoke also becomes a more sinister presence, with Andy Serkis once again doing a great job with a fully animated character.

For the Resistance, Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose makes for a compelling new addition, who spars well with John Boyega’s Finn as the two characters find common ground. Oscar Isaac gets to command the screen and more superb space battles as the reprise of his role in The Last Jedi is much more substantial than it was in The Force Awakens, thus properly showcasing Isaac’s intensity as he channels this into conveying the thoroughly rebellious nature of Poe Dameron.

Mark Hamill delivers a remarkable performance, making the exiled and aging Luke Skywalker not only his most captivating turn as the powerful Jedi since the character was introduced, but also one of the best efforts of his career in general. Lastly, Carrie Fisher’s somber performance serves as a bittersweet, but powerful swansong for the actress, as she portrays the iconic princess-turned-general with a renewed depth that does both the actress and the character the utmost of justice.

Unfortunately, as excellent as The Last Jedi largely is, it is not flawless. During the first act in particular, the drama and tension is continuously undercut by the use of bathos, where there is a sudden shift from the serious to the trivial for comedic effect. This does detract somewhat from the film, much in the same way that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is also increasingly let down by its over-reliance on bathos.

The biggest issue, however, is a side mission during the second act; not only running overly long and thereby slowing down the pacing of the film significantly, this mission also serves as an unwelcome reminder of the prequel trilogy in terms of narrative, tone and style. Thankfully, the last part of the second act and the entire third act is perfectly balanced and nail-bittingly intense, which deservedly makes the film a genuinely enthralling piece of cinema.

All in all, the Force is well and truly strong with this one.

Verdict: 8 out of 10.

 

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