Rian Johnson takes huge risks in a film that sees the return of the last Jedi.
To summarise the plot of The Last Jedi would be to miss and undersell a great deal of the film, it is densely packed with lots of twists and turns all happening at a very fast pace. It gives the viewer a lot to think about for each of its main characters and their relationships with one and other. But the best way to think of the story behind The Last Jedi is as a tale of balance, hope and loss. It asks questions of what it is to be a hero or a villain in a universe like this and is constantly toying with its audience as a result. It always has an ace in the hole, sometimes they are exactly the ace you were expecting and sometimes they are the least expected option on the table. It’s far from a “playing it safe” sequel and it’s a good thing too as it shakes up and adds to the ongoing saga in some extremely meaningful ways.
One of the most important things about Star Wars, from Episode I through all the way to The Force Awakens, is how the imaginative character and world design has led to a film world with a truly unique look and feel and The Last Jedi is arguably the most imaginative Star Wars outing since the original trilogy. The film is overflowing with beautiful creature designs, each who serve a function in the places where we encounter them. This massively adds to the feeling that these worlds are real, living places with their own flora and fauna. Star Wars has a reputation for being a home for the weird and wonderful, its films like The Last Jedi that keep that reputation written in stone and for all the right reasons.
These worlds and creatures are usually the most eye catching part of any scene, which is often in stark contrast to the darker, bleaker look of the film this time around. Don’t worry, there are still lightsabers lighting up scenes left, right and centre but those scenes are a bit less filled with colour, a bit darker and play a lot more with shadows then they do light. The major set pieces are striking as a result of this, the film skips between huge, ornate set piece to tight, dark personal shots and manages to impressively fold them together in to one consistent and unified vision of this universe in its current state.
But above all else The Last Jedi is ballsy. Johnson and the script writing team have taken risks on this film that certain film makers wouldn’t dream of doing in a life time. Twists and turns are abundant. Some are small and inconsequential but others are huge and intentionally shift the audiences expectation from scene to scene, toying with viewers desires and emotions, much like the characters they are watching. There is one particular risk that the film takes that deserves massive kudos for its guts and the class with which it is handled. It makes for one of the best scenes in the film if not the entire canon of Star Wars and it will be talked about for a while to come.
Balance. Balance is the key at the core of The Last Jedi, the balance between light and dark, heroes and villains, hope and hate. It’s also the balance between the new and the old and in almost every way it treads that line fantastically. Star Wars Episode 8 is not what you expect, it will surprise you and shock you but, in the end, it is exactly what you want. It’s a brilliant, imaginative, dark, twisty Star Wars film. It will bring a smile to your face, keep you on the edge of your seat and make you gasp in equal measure. It cannot be recommended highly enough.