I went to see this film as soon as some of the hoo-hah and hype slowed down during my Christmas break. Between the release and then, I dropped off social media and warned my friends, and anyone I bumped into, that if they mentioned anything about the film I was likely to turn violent like a pissed off Wookiee.
Thankfully, even the most loose-lipped of people I know kept quiet and beyond most people saying it was ‘good’, playing the Crait multiplayer level on Star Wars Battlefront II and seeing a couple of trailers, my exposure to potential spoilers was kept to an all-time low.
After having an awful adverse reaction to The Force Awakens, regardless of how many dimensions I saw the film in, my expectations for The Last Jedi were lower than a Jawa’s gonads and that perhaps went a long way to explaining why I really enjoyed the film.
Sure it’s flawed in quite a few ways but, like the Marmite flavoured popcorn I took with me to the cinema, it satisfied me more than it left a strange taste in my mouth. I even liked the porgs – merch-driven cutesy kid’s characters more blatant but somehow easier to stomach than ewoks.
For me The Force Awakens was far too derivative of the original 1977 film – almost a beat-for-beat rehash in fact. While The Last Jedi does have some reference points (e.g. the opening battle on Hoth from The Empire Strikes Back and Luke’s face-off with Vader in front of a laughing Palpatine in Return of the Jedi) it also sticks two fingers up at the predictability of the previous film and forges a new path.
There’s less nostalgia in The Last Jedi to the point where some fans have been very hateful of what they perceive as irreverence towards much-loved characters such as Luke Skywalker. It’s precisely this irreverance that I welcomed. I actually thought Luke was a bit of a whiny prick anyway, so it’s nice to see him old and flawed in this film and actually acting like a true hero at the end. Even though he’s not really there… ahem sorry… did I mention there’d be spoilers?
So after the huge dollop of nostalgia served up to us in Rogue One – a film I loved precisely because of the nostalgia – there’s very little for old fans in The Last Jedi. What the film does give us a point of view that says that, well in fact Yoda actually says it in the film – “the greatest teacher, failure is” – plans go awry, character expectations are not met and still the struggle against the First Order goes on.
Also it’s made clear that our heroes don’t have to be from the ‘royal blood’ stock of the Skywalkers and they don’t have to be flawless as long as they fight to protect those they love. It’s powerful stuff beyond anything you’ll see in the subtexts of the Marvel or DC cinematic universes. It helps if you can command huge amounts of force-wielding ability with no proper tuition at all, but it’s not entirely a prerequisite anymore. Finn and Poe do a good job at their flavours of heroism, as do pretty much every female cast member without much help from the force.
Also if you are just a sucker for massive eye-candy space battles, explosions and pew-pew laser pistol shootouts (not to mention some lightsaber kick-assery) then you won’t be disappointed. The end of the much-criticised OJ Simpson style chase in space in which the last surviving Resistance cruiser turns and jumps to hyperspace through the pursuing First Order ships, and the brilliant soundtrack goes silent, is a thing of pure widescreen joy.
Like Vader’s killing frenzy at the end of Rogue One, this is the one scene that will stand out in my mind for some time to come. That and Leia’s first use of the force for anything beyond long-distance mental instant messaging – just when you though they’d written Carrie Fisher out of the franchise she goes all Mary Poppins on our asses.
Much like The Avengers films, there’s also a good helping of humour which is nicely balanced against the darker parts of the film. Bearing in mind that the film is trying to cater to adults and kids in equal measure, I think they do a really good job.
It is quite telling that very early on, when the story of Rey’s awakening picks up where The Force Awakens left off and she hands Luke his old lightsaber, he tosses it over his shoulder like a piece of trash. It sets the scene for the humour and unpredictability of the story.
I’m surprised at myself for not harping on about all the holes in the plot to be honest. Maybe my exposure to the animated shows The Clone Wars and Rebels has opened my eyes to a wider range of possibilities within the Star Wars universe and perhaps the filmmakers have woven a spell on me, but long may it last because there really is no going back now. Like Marmite popcorn, love it or loathe it. The old Star Wars is dead, long live the new Star Wars…