Star Wars: The Last Jedi

The Last Jedi

In many ways, The Last Jedi delivers exactly what is promised by its title and as the sequel to the remarkable franchise re-starter, The Force Awakens. In a risky move, and one unprecedented in the saga except for when George Lucas worked on the first film and then the prequels, director Rian Johnson works double duty here – he is also credited as the film only screenwriter. Thus he is largely given free reign over how the story unfolds, which provides a refreshing feel, both visually as well as in terms of plot development, even though this has somewhat mixed results.

Last Jedi is almost a direct continuation of the previous film. It picks up exactly where we left the tale the last time we met these characters –Rey finally finding a guilt-ridden Luke Skywalker who seems to have renounced the Jedi way, Finn waking up from his injury coma to play an important role and Poe assuming command of what amounts to a near-suicide mission to attack a mighty formation of First Order ships that have assembled at the Resistance’s home base planet. This opening act battle especially is a gripping example of a space fight we haven’t seen or experienced in the Star Wars universe before. As spectacular as any movie finale, it sets the desperate tone for the rest of the film – Resistance fighters forever on the run from forces that both outnumber and outgun them. Last Jedi, in this way, is really about survival and the word hope is at least three times throughout to reflect this.

The script is carefully calibrated to address any concerns, criticisms or reactions that fans had to Awakens. Thought Kyle Ren was too much of a whiny brat the first time we saw him? Here he is more purposeful (though there is still some internal conflict) and does some very unprecedented things when you least expect it. But, and this isn’t even novel criticism for a Star Wars film, the middle portion is uninvolving and assembled as a collection of red herrings interspersed with moments of fan service.

The detour for example to find a code breaker, which in the process also introduces a couple of new characters, is a distracting sideshow to location hop and try to expand the universe. While this is something that every Star Wars film has done (and can be accused of), Johnson’s script makes this feel like an unnecessary interruption from the real problem of how the dwindling resistance forces will shake off the enemy on its back without even developing the newly introduced characters. Many of the situational setups are also little more than role reversals – Luke essentially plays an Obi-Wan/Yoda hybrid teacher to Rey’s curiously hungry Luke like student archetype. Of course, these are still rewarding in the way they take on surprising and less than expected outcomes but can’t help calling attention to themselves either.

For both loyal and casual fans, and this is the good news, the film reaches a resounding apex during the final act. Visually dazzling battles taking place on a planet with blood red sand that also doubles as the resistance’s stronghold and some fist-pumping moments of marvelously well-realised confrontations between enemies along the way are more than enough to forgive any nitpickings. The Last Jedi thus has the same energy and zest as the previous film even if it can’t quite equal it in terms of fluidity and sheer spectacle. For that, we’ll just have to wait for Abrams to return for the last episode.

Rating: ★★★★☆

About Faizan Rashid

A veteran Dubai based film critic, Faizan has been reviewing movies for nearly a decade. His work has been published in local newspapers such as 7days and on prestigious online websites such as MSN Arabia and