Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017): ‘Failure and the Risk of the New’ – A Film Review

Introduction

The signing of Star Wars over to Disney, and the subsequent continuation of the Star Wars Legacy, with Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, was a huge thing in film. Star Wars can sit beside The Lord of the Rings or Star Trek as one of the biggest Fantasy/Sci-Fi franchises with a fanatical fan-base worshipping the extremely rich and detailed universe. Star Wars is like a Space Opera, a fairytale and an allegory for good versus evil and for the spirituality of every religion. We all know what to expect from a Star Wars film: it will be fun, it will have lightsabers, spaceships and blasters; it will have droids, aliens and generally many characters.

The Force Awakens, ran very similar to many of the earlier films, which in light of Star Wars Ring Theory, may have been the point. Ring Theory, in an oversimplified summary, posits that epic stories are circular and things will repeat themselves with subtle changes. So the repeat of Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens, may be similar to how Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace corresponds to Star Wars: Episode VI – The Return of the Jedi, Star Wars: Episode II – The Attack of the Clones to Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back and finally how Star Wars: Episode III – The Revenge of the Sith corresponds to Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope; The Force Awakens could be an intentional start of another ring similar to A New Hope. This would explain the similarities and this could indicate that Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi is meant to correspond to The Empire Strikes Back. On the other hand, star Daisy Ridley, amongst others, have hinted that director Rian Johnson is doing something ‘different’.

 

Ratings

Entertainment:

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Performances:

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Predictability:

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Technical:

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The Rebellion

The film feels like an interweaving of two major themes that also correspond to each other. One follows Finn (John Boyega)and the Resistance (Read Rebels) and the other is Rey (Ridley), Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and Snoke (Andy Serkis). The films greatest strengths are also its weaknesses. Bizarrely this is really a movie to see repeatedly to properly come to terms with. We start things off with a bit of humour and a bit of fun as we see our heroes make very bold moves and succeed in a very cheesy way. We also get everything set up and given to us from these moments and the lines of dialogue. The humour pushes things at times, as does the overachievement of some of the central cast like Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). That being said there is a darker undercurrent. In an expected dark turn for the film we have a complex exploration of what a rebellion truly is. Essentially, bold heroic moves don’t save rebellions, staying alive does – exemplified in the opposites of Poe and Finn with Leia (Carrie Fisher)and Holdo (Laura Dern). (This theme is explored much better here.)

The Balance in the Force

While this is failure on a larger, military group basis; Rey and Luke explore failure on a personal basis. Psychologically they have to deal with a lot and it’s very interesting. This gives for a much more mature and fully understood version of the force which also looks to expand into questionable areas. Communication and peaceful mastery of the self at its best, cheesy and covering pointless detours at its worst. SPOILERS: Rey and Kylo Ren talking across miles of space is very mature filmmaking. Luke’s actions, particularly at the climax, feel like the calm confidence of a monk: it wouldn’t feel right for him to actually be there. Whilst, Leia in space, pushes things to an almost unnecessary place. END OF SPOILERS. Similar to the narrative; the cinematography is both amazing and sometimes missing the marks but only just. Despite some mistakes there are some wonderfully awe inspiringly inventive shots and moments, like the lightspeed jump and Paige Tico (Veronica Ngo)’s early scene is on a level much like Stanley Kubrick or Steven Spielberg, respectively.

Conclusion

The Last Jedi is not to be taken lightly. It is hard to predict and take in. It may not be easy to swallow, but it is trying to do something powerful. In many ways, as it gets better with repeat viewings, it will make more and more of an impact. The changes to the Star Wars lore will be the biggest things to swallow and may be a deal breaker for some and may even cause complications with Episode IX. So with this in mind, we can only wait and see where Star Wars will go from here.

 

A Note on My Reviews

Please read ‘On Reviews‘ for a guide to how I write film reviews. Any spoilers are appropriately marked and, though I personally prefer to know little about a film before seeing it, there is a synopsis below for any who wish to see one.

 

Synopsis

Whilst Rey asks Luke for help for the Resistance and training in the ways of the force; Leia, Poe, Finn and the rest of the Resistance struggle with escaping the First Order (Read The Empire).

 

Films Mentioned

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (d. George Lucas USA 2001)

Star Wars: Episode II – The Attack of the Clones  (d. George Lucas USA 2002)

Star Wars: Episode III – The Revenge of the Sith (d. George Lucas USA 2004)

Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (d. George Lucas USA 1977)

Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back  (d. Irvin Kershner USA 1980)

Star Wars: Episode VI – The Return of the Jedi, (d. Richard Marquad USA 1983)

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens  (d. J. J. Abrams USA 2015) 

Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (d. Rian Johnson USA 2017)

 

Further Reading

rottentomatoes.com

metacritic.com

Official Site

Interview with Rian Johnson

Interview with Cast

Interview with Steve Yedlin (Cinematographer)

Behind the Scenes

Easter Eggs

The Last Jedi and Feminism

The Last Jedi and Military Failure

The Last Jedi and Video Game Narrative Logic

The Last Jedi and Changes to the Force

Another Look at Changing things

 

If you liked this…

Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015) A Film Review

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) A Film Review

Blade Runner 2049 (2017): Real or Immitation? – A Film Review

Alien: Covenant (2017) A Film Review

 

This was an analytical review of….

 

Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (d. Rian Johnson USA 2017)



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