I normally don’t place mainstream franchised films on my top 10; there’s something about them typically that feels oddly staged, overworked, and coldly calculated. Very suitable then that as soon as a highly controversial and fiercely debated franchised film does enter the frame, it jumps straight onto my year’s top 10 – not that I’m placing it there just to be controversial, of course.
To enjoy The Last Jedi is to frustrate two opposed sets of audiences. The Star Wars crowd seem to dismiss the film on the count of its lack of character, narrative, or its inability to suit the needs of extremely high expectations. On the other hand, art-house audiences hoping for another of Rian Johnson’s Brick are met with a giant space opera filled with bold characters and extraordinary worlds of magical wonder and creative creatures.
Maybe then this is why I particularly enjoyed the film – I’m not really a Star Wars fan, in any sense, and I remember disliking Brick when I first saw it.
I had little hope for The Last Jedi, no expectations, no needs, or history… but what I got was a highly entertaining film with clever dialog, a sense of adventure, and a relatively complex look at character emotion and motivation. The character of ‘Kylo Ren’ gave the film its much-needed emotional weight and human grounding, adding heart to what otherwise could just be a particularly thrilling space romp. Yet other characters add their own flavour and personality to the narrative, Daisy Ridley’s ‘Rey’ adds the same youthful naivety that the young Mark Hamill once brought, and Hamill’s ‘Luke Skywalker’ himself brings a doubtful authority that successfully contrasts Carrie Fisher’s strong and hopeful ‘Leia’. The film feels less like a Marvel movie of heroes and villains, and more like a classic tale of the line between good and evil, the consequences of choices we make, and all the nuanced spaces in-between.
Above all, The Last Jedi is about these personalities coming together, but the film also succeeds in its technical filmmaking abilities. Johnson stays mainstream, but the film is not without creative filmic and art direction sparks that really set the film apart from many other modern-day blockbusters. Colours and shadows are used wonderfully in the aesthetic of the film, and its staged sets are often strangely post-modern and alien in tone for such a mega hit such as a Star Wars movie.
Personally, I was surprised how gripped I was by the film. I wasn’t expecting a great deal, but what I got was what we all look for deciding to see a film – a great time at the cinema. Simple as that.