This review contains very mild spoilers.
From the moment the lights do down and you see those glowing yellow letters, accompanied by John William’s tingling score, I think it’s safe to say that every Star Wars fan hold their breath in anticipation of what might follow the title text. There has been so much build up to The Last Jedi – the countdown has essentially been on since The Force Awakens – that the excitement in the cinema last night was palpable.
Those fans looking for a special effects extravaganza, laden with references to the past and the development of new characters will get exactly what they are looking for. The Last Jedi has plenty of X-Wing action and lots of my particular favourite “pachew pachew” type blaster noises. There are many critics hailing Rian Johnson’s efforts as the best sci-fi movie since the 1980s … I’m absolutely certain that this isn’t the case (I even preferred The Force Awakens), but it’s certainly the popcorn blockbuster I had hoped for.
I won’t get into plot at all as the review could end up a bit spoiler-ific if I did. What I will say, though, is how utterly brilliant Adam Driver is as Kylo Ren. I loved his chest thumping performance in his previous outing as the “is he-isn’t he” villain of the piece and he stole every scene he was in in The Last Jedi. This might sound like a paradox when describing an actor, but he barely has to emote and I still feel absolutely everything he does. His frame was imposing and dominating; even the way he holds his sabre is different and threatening. The slight tremble he had throughout the film was inspired. He played Ren so subtlely; so understated … It made him even more frightening and unpredictable when he did finally lose his temper.
Mark Hamill is also joyous to watch; his eyes constantly flickering with emotion. The moment where he cups Leia’s face and tells her that “No one ever really leaves” had my bottom lip trembling – not least because the late Carrie Fisher (also a very strong presence in the film) is no longer with us. The scenes he shared with both Rey and Ren were captivating to watch. The dynamic between these actors is so interesting; there are real relationships developing and it’s almost impossible not to feel emotionally involved.
Andy Serkis is positively repulsive as Emperor Snoke and Domhnall Gleeson looks entirely vaudevillian with his slicked back hair and cape. I would have liked to have seen more of Finn (John Boyega), however, and I did feel like his storyline in this episode was entirely underdeveloped. It was a subplot that didn’t really hold my interest. Many fans were worried that the inclusion of the Porgs was going to see a repeat of Jar Jar Binks but I can assure you – much to my extreme disappointment – that their appearances are fleeting and not detrimental to the action.
There are a couple of hiccups, however. I felt at times that some of the CGI was really ropey – there were a couple of cases of really obvious green screen. I found a few of the attempts at humour or one-liners a little “try too hard” as I don’t feel the films need it. The Last Jedi also suffers from a little too much editing. I felt like we were revisiting a lot of scenes repeatedly, simply because the cuts prevented them from being seen all the way through to their natural end. I also wasn’t entirely too sure why Benicio del Toro cropped up, doing his very best Porky Pig impression – but that was part of Finn’s storyline that didn’t really go anywhere.
That being said, the constant change of pace will keep you on your toes as Johnson cleverly alternates between Poe’s attempts to defeat and escape from The First Order; Rey’s training under Luke; and the relationship between Snoke and Ren. Just when you feel like things might be falling into place, more drama and action unfolds. I would have liked to have seen a little more hand to hand (or should that be sabre to sabre?) contact … But you can’t have everything.
The Last Jedi has a fairly epic run time of two and a half hours – but it really won’t feel like that. It’s nostalgic and exciting, despite the minor issues. A solid contribution to the saga. Even if there wasn’t enough Porgs.