Thursday, 14 December 2017

Review: Star Wars - The Last Jedi (first-pass)

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (first-pass / 3D / SPOILER-FREE)
Cert: 12A / 152 mins / Dir. Rian Johnson / Trailer

Oh, and here we are again; too many thoughts, too many feelings, not enough words. Although I assure you that there are categorically no spoilers (stated or inferred) in this review, my sole piece of advice would be to neither click, read, watch nor listen to anything Star Wars related until you have seen The Last Jedi. Including this. You need to see the new episode knowing no more than you currently do.

Go on. You can come back to this when you get in from the cinema.

Ah, welcome back. As I write this, it's 3am. I have a fresh beer open and I'm trying to think of what I can say, never mind how I can say it. It's outstanding that a series this far into its mythos can still return a product so unexpected, and with so much delightful uncertainty. Rian Johnson's The Last Jedi addresses some (but by no means all) of the questions raised in The Force Awakens, and even then those answers are split between sincere, vague and frankly-suspicious. But there's plenty for future dissection in there, that's for sure.

In terms of overall tone, this latest installment is much the same as its chronological predecessor. The melancholy is increased the year-old loss of Carrie Fisher of course, an inescapable backdrop to every one of her scenes, but the film is a fitting tribute to the princess we all miss. Leia's screentime is increased and Rian Johnson has written (and more importantly directed) a more satisfying role for her, here. Truth be told, Johnson gets more layered performances from all the cast here, although obviously the returning actors have more backstory to draw from now. Oh, and the spot-the-cameo game has been raised to the same level as Rogue One, which is always entertaining*1.

The main thread of narrative connection is to The Force Awakens for obvious reasons, but there are still strong links with the Original Trilogy-era (and fleeting references to the Prequel Trilogy). Fans of the animated TV shows will spot a few visual nods here and there, but there seemed little more on this first-pass of the movie. Steve Yeldin's cinematography is more urgent than Dan Mindel's work in SW:TFA, to reflect the story it's telling. Higher in contrast, richer in tone and more dynamic overall. John Williams does the business with the score as one would expect, but as usual there's far more to be unpacked in there than can be accomplished by just watching the film once. Much like the film itself, in fact.

Aficionados of the saga will love The Last Jedi. As mentioned above, the screenplay doesn't devote itself to box-ticking, but isn't afraid to ask new questions and take the story to new, unexplored places (physically and metaphorically). Whether casual audiences will get quite the same buzz remains to be seen; this isn't 'for-the-fans' Star Wars, but it's certainly by-the-fans. Rian Johnson's love and respect for the Galaxy Far, Far Away is clear, but what I took away as 'pleasant surprises' may be received by others as pushing the envelope.

But what the hell do I know?
I've only watched it once…

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
The Star Wars.

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
It's strong.
It's very strong

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
I shall look over my spectacles and ask you to jolly well explain yourself.

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
As usual, I didn't hear one this time but will be listening intently during future-passes.

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 0: This is Star Wars.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 Oh and if you're reading this AJ and Owen? Told ya! [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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