A closer look at The Last Jedi (2017)
The Last Jedi has proved to be a confident and innovative follow up to the underwhelming The Force Awakens (2015), and has reinvigorated the newest trilogy. Much like the Force, however, The Last Jedi has a dark side and a light side. Here, we take a closer look at some of the strengths and weaknesses of Episode VIII.
No rest for the wicked
The Last Jedi gets off to a racing start, mirroring the opening scenes of Revenge of the Sith (2005), with a enigmatic space dogfight between the First Order and the Resistance. While that doesn't sound particularly novel on its own, the introduction of the 'Dreadnought', a frighteningly menacing First Order weapon, gives this battle an entirely new flavour. Similarly, the Resistance's response to this new threat, their StarFortress bombers, again gives Star Wars fans a unique visual experience. The introduction of these fresh ideas, all in the space of a few minutes, is aggressively engaging. The Last Jedi starts off screaming for its independence and does a brilliant job of proving that Star Wars has moved into the 21st century.
How the mighty fall
So far, the Biggest Waste of a Character award has been held by The Phantom Menace (1999) for Darth Maul or Return of the Jedi (1983) for Boba Fett, depending on who you ask. Now though, The Last Jedi may have just clinched it for the shameless smothering of one of the Sequel Trilogy's most intriguing characters, Supreme Leader Snoke.
For all of its faults, The Force Awakens did a brilliant job of introducing Snoke as the new villain on campus, limiting his exposure to maintain his mystery, while consolidating his obvious dominance over Kylo Ren and General Hux. Fast-forward to The Last Jedi and we see Snoke up close and personal, his dominance firmly established and glimpses of his power fed to us a bit at a time, feeding a desire to know more of this mysterious character; Who is he? Where did he come from? How powerful is he?
So it is a hugely disappointing moment when he is killed off half-way through the film by a lightsaber sat right next to him. That he wouldn't be able to sense Kylo Ren's true intentions at that moment is stretching believability to its maximum, and it is a shameful waste of such an intriguing character, and a decision which sent the film in an entirely different direction. Perhaps a necessary evil in order for the story to advance, but an approach to the character which was decidedly cruel to the audience.
He giveth and he taketh away
One of my favourite moments of the The Last Jedi has to be Vice Admiral Holdo's 'hyperspace bullet' move, whereby she fires the Resistance Star Crusier into Snoke's Super StarDestroyer at the speed of light. Not only is this a valiant display of heroism and an inspirational sacrifice, it is also a visually stunning, fantastic use of special effects. A brilliantly written and directed piece of film, one which intensifies our love for the Resistance, if nothing else.
In a cruel contrast, however, Finn's heroic gesture is handled extremely poorly. During the otherwise brilliant set piece on the salty planet of Crait, Finn bravely decides to give his life for his friends and allies by flying his rickety ski-speeder into the 'Death Star tech' laser battering ram, in true David and Goliath style.
What a valiant and poignant death that would have been for Finn, what a legacy he would have had left behind, after renouncing the First Order and fighting alongside the Resistance, ultimately giving his life to protect them. That would have been swell, right? Sure we would have been sad because Finn has gone, but what a courageous and emotive piece of film-making would that have been.
Unfortunately, Rose had to steal that away from us, pushing Finn's ski-speeder out of the way at the last moment. The things is, you can't have a heroic sacrifice without the sacrifice actually taking place, even if the hero fully intended to make it. The decision to have Rose save Finn at the last moment feels feeble and uninspired, an attempt to appease the masses. It would have been better not to include it at all, leaving Holdo's sacrifice as a singular moment in the film. It subtracts from her decision, while adding little itself.
All things Jedi
Luke's return to the fray is overall fantastic, especially with the way we were teased in the final moments of Episode VII. His crowning moment, however, must be his fantastic inter-planetary Force projection as a distraction to allow the Resistance to escape the First Order. This is a brilliant display of Luke's immense command of the Force, something which is neglected throughout the main body of the film. His subsequent 'death' may be rather under-explained, but it beautifully mirrors the final moments of his mentor in A New Hope (1977) Obi-Wan Kenobi. It is poetic, if nothing else, and is a moving send-off for one of the franchise's most loved characters, not to mention its original poster boy.
Speaking of Jedi, the appearance of Yoda, in his original puppet form no less, was one of the most brilliant moments of the film, a delicate injection of nostalgia, guaranteed to slap a grin on the face of Star Wars nerds in cinemas everywhere. Wise as ever, strong as ever, Yoda once again cheerfully puts Luke on the right path, and proves that you are never too old or too clever to be taught something new.
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