"This is not going to go the way you think." - Luke Skywalker
There is no better experience than seeing a new Star Wars film at the first midnight screening, in a multiplex packed to the rafters with like minded fans, milling around, all eagerly anticipating the next instalment in the saga. Seemingly, everyone has their own theory of what’s about to be revealed, based on their own analysis of what happened in the last movie, plotlines to be expanded and good old fashioned fanboy wishful thinking. I’m no exception.
We saw The Last Jedi on a midnight premiere double bill with The Force Awakens, and it made for a tremendous night’s entertainment (after all, who wouldn’t enjoy just shy of five hours of Star Wars?) It brought the two films into sharp focus, and revealed how successfully they work alongside each other. The Last Jedi is literally a continuation of The Force Awakens, the scenes between Rey and Luke taking place seconds after the credits rolled on The Force Awakens.
Let’s do a non spoilery overview of the film.
The trailers had led us to believe that this was the darkest dark version of the Dark Side that had ever darkened upon our heroes. Even the Star Wars logo had abandoned its usual cheery bright yellow for the ominous blood red of a Dark Side lightsabre. Make no mistake, the rebels face dark days indeed in Episode VIII, but there’s also an undercurrent of optimism and a good dose of humour in the two and a half hour running time.
Seeing The Force Awakens minutes before reminded me of how strong the echoes of A New Hope were in that film. The same, I found true with Jedi and The Empire Strikes Back. The similarities were stunning.
We have a brash young Jedi apprentice wanting to be taught by a Master in God forsaken surroundings, much like Luke and Yoda on Dagobah. Meanwhile, another band of our heroes are finding it hard to escape from the First Order, remember the Falcon couldn’t shake the Empire due to a malfunction. We have AT-ATs attacking a rebel base in snow-like surroundings, we have a pilot make a suicidal run at a much larger Imperial ship, the Dark Side being used to humiliate a ranking officer who failed…. The echoes to the past are actually numerous and stunning.
But I hasten to add that this isn’t a dull retread, or a by the books re-imagining. This is new and it is stunning.
But better than that – it’s surprising. As Luke said in the trailer, and it’s completely true, “this isn’t going to go the way you think.” Certain lines in the film even address this directly to the audience. It feels as if Rian Johnson who wrote and directed knew exactly how deeply we fans were looking in to Ep VII and had were going deep into the minutae of what we wanted to happen, the explanations and origins for the characters we had seen two years ago and he actually teases us – good naturedly.
Scenes and characters that we were salivating with anticipation for are simply thrown away. Kicked to the side. One character is even told bluntly they’re nobody, not even a part of the story. We have far, far overthought the plot and the importance of certain characters whom we were led to believe would be integral, key elements to the ongoing story. Meanwhile, others we thought perhaps less important are the ones to watch.
Initially, I felt surprised and a little underwhelmed, but as I’ve been unable to think of very little else, other than this film in the twelve hours since I’ve seen it, other than a brief snatched few hours of sleep, I find the more I can’t help mulling the film over, the more I find I think it’s genius.
Rian Johnson and Lucasfilm threw every Star Wars film out there a curveball we couldn’t see coming and they actually TOLD US THEY WERE GOING TO DO IT in the trailer.
Jedi is less on spectacle than some of the other entries in the series, but it’s deeper on character. It’s pretty much a character driven piece. But that’s not to say that there aren’t some stunning action sequences. In particular, the opening standoff between an X-Wing and a Dreadnought, involving the bombers – and the attack on the rebel base by the AT-ATs that I mentioned. It’s not an ice planet like Hoth, exactly – but it looks like it. The top layer is salt, but under that is a red crystalline soil-substance, and it just gives the scene an added burst of colour.
I’m looking forward to seeing what the general reaction will be, and I’m curious to see where they go with Ep IX.
And that’s all I want you to read for now, unless you’ve seen the film because we’re going into THE SPOILER ZONE!
Now, regular readers will know how this works. If you’re new, then a quick explanation.
I’m going to discuss some things down below that will contain heavy spoilers if you haven’t seen the film already. I don’t want to spoil it for you, so I give an interval where I count down, and then it’s no holds barred. So, if you haven’t seen the movie, please scroll back to the top and read further when you’ve enjoyed the film. Okay?
WELCOME TO THE SPOILER ZONE.
You made it this far, so I’m assuming you’re here of your own free will.
Some of the plot points that I found surprising are as follows;
I thought for sure we were going to get a detailed explanation of who Snoak was. Everybody I had spoken to was convinced he was an incarnation of Darth Plagus. The last thing I expected was a rerun of the Throne Room scene in Return of the Jedi and have him sliced in two halfway through the film.
It was a good final performance by Carrie Fisher and there was a touching dedication to the late actress at the end of the film, but I was surprised that Leia was actually still alive at the end of the film. I thought the scene where she somehow managed to stay alive in the vacuum of space and came floating back to the ship like an angel was just plain silly and without explanation where one was sorely needed. Is Leia strong enough with the Force that she’s practically a Goddess? That’s what’s implied. If so, how will they explain her absence in Ep IX?
So, Rey is “nobody”? (I was convinced she was Luke’s daughter) She’s the nobody daughter of nobodies who traded junk on Jakku and they abandoned her there? How is she so strong with the Force? We know that Anakin Skywalker was the immaculately conceived son of a slave on Tattooine. Is Rey the same? Is she the product of those perky Midichlorians?
Why, at one point, does Luke refer to a lightsabre as a laser sword? (Anakin did the same thing in The Phantom Menace).
The film is called The Last Jedi. In the introductory title crawl in The Force Awakens, it states clearly that Luke is the last Jedi. This film really isn’t about Luke, it’s more about Rey learning about using the Force, but more than that, it’s about Kylo Ren – and his wavering at times between good and evil. So my question is this – who actually IS the last Jedi?
Yoda’s showing up in spectral form was a nice surprise. It kind of made up for the uncomfortable viewing of Luke milking that creature while it looked on contentedly.
I found the way Luke passed away surprising – I expected him to carry on to the final film and for Leia to pass away in this episode, for purely logical reasons. But Luke’s passing made complete sense the more I think about it. He expended all his energy on projecting his image, not actually engaging in combat but providing an essential diversion while the others got away.
I think the thing I found the most surprising was the upbeat ending. Taking several cues from Empire, and it being the middle part of a trilogy, I would have bet on a downbeat ending – with most probably a cliffhanger to keep us all guessing. Yes, we have Ben Solo/Kylo Ren as the Supreme Leader and he’s after our heroes. And we have them beginning to prepare, knowing there must surely be a final battle. The closing scene even has a young boy, looking skyward, holding a broomstick as a lightsabre.
There will be a battle, and I’ll be there on opening night in 2019 to see it.
Copyright © 2010 - 2017 Robin Pierce. All Rights reserved.