Friday, 15 December 2017

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

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (second-pass / 2D / spoiler-free)
Cert: 12A / 152 mins / Dir. Rian Johnson / Trailer

Previous reviews: 1

Having stuck my head very briefly over the parapet and looked into the ongoing shouty-battleground that is the internet, it appears that not absolutely everyone loves The Last Jedi as much as I do. Which is absolutely fine. My aim is not to change other people's opinions with this blog, only to deconstruct my own. To keep things at a broad level (because there will be no plot-spoilers in this second-pass review), the root of discontent seems to be the difference when compared to earlier releases. This is not a regular Star Wars flick. But should it be?

Two years ago, The Force Awakens came in for flak at the opposite end of the spectrum; some argued it was too similar, structurally, to A New Hope (and to The Phantom Menace for that matter). The classic Hero's Journey, played out again for a new generation. This cyclical nature served two purposes. First, to bring wary audiences back into the Galaxy Far, Far Away with a sense of familiarity - especially in relation to the Original Trilogy era. And second, to set foundations for new characters in old guises - to establish them solidly in the opening chapter so that the following episodes could go further afield.

Twelve months later we got Rogue One, of course, and this was altogether a different type of film. Rather than sprawling space-opera, Gareth Edwards brought us a heist-movie set in the GFFA. This particular tale was perfectly suited to its format, and since it was the first un-numbered anthology entry, being out-of-step with the saga was entirely permissible.

Which brings us to December 2017 and a saga-entry which doesn't play by the previously established rules. The classic three-act structure (introduce characters, present problem, resolve problem) that has previously worked for individual movies as well as trilogies as a whole is skewed by a screenplay that has its own ideas. The overall direction of the story is still firmly present, but there's a particular moment near the start where everyone watching for the first time thinks 'okay, I wasn't expecting that' and a ripple of laughter goes round the auditorium in automatic response. This is a microcosm of the whole film. And the intentional humour is a recurring feature this time around, too. Not used excessively (although that will depend on whose opinions you're reading), but the laughs are certainly ramped up from the Solo/Finn bickering in The Force Awakens, and come from unexpected angles.

There are situations, events and even feats in The Last Jedi that we've never seen attempted in a Star Wars movie before*1, and accompanied (in tandem with Steve Yedlin's intense cinematography) by flashbacks, cutaways and visions which are new to the property as a whole. Rian Johnson's script is more informal than previous saga-episodes*2, staying true to the characters but indicating that we're seeing a new era of Star Wars take shape more firmly.

But it's probably the character-arcs which will raise eyebrows for the longest time. Not everything appears to make sense the first time round, and while the overall detail becomes clearer with a second-pass, there will be a certain amount of it resigned to the pile of 'guessing until the next episode is released'. Again. As mentioned previously, this is an inherently spoilable movie, with (presumably) irreversible consequences. Also as mentioned previously, go to see it with no more knowledge than you currently possess.

But most importantly, don't go into The Last Jedi second-guessing what you're about to watch - but also don't go in expecting the Star Wars movie you expect it to be.
Just open yourself to celebrate the difference…

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
The Star Wars.
(although apparently not all of 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?
That all depends on how wrong you are.

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
I'm fairly certain there is, yes.
WIthout going into detail, it's a truncated version which is used during the first battle which takes place in space (that's not a spoiler for a Star Wars movie, right?). Although I think I might have heard a version towards the end of the movie, too. Time will tell.

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

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 And I do worry about how the novels and comics will latch onto some of the new ideas, applying too much backstory or just exploiting them until they become the norm. Because the old Legends continuity and the new Story Group version can be startlingly similar in that regard. [ BACK ]

*2 Where one character uses the distinctly 21st century phrases "…the what, now?" and "that big-ass door" [ 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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