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Saturday, 16 December 2017

Review: Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017)

Warning: May Contain Spoilers!
The Last Jedi
The new, and much anticipated, Star Wars movie has finally been released. Two years after The Force Awakens we finally have an eighth entry into the mainline Star Wars movies. Before going ahead I have tried to avoid spoilers to the best of my abilities but there may be some present. 

Shortly after the events of The Force Awakens Rey (Daisy Ridley) hopes to be trained by Jedi Master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) who has disconnected himself from the Force after a traumatic event years prior. Meanwhile, the leaders of the Resistance, led by General Leia Organa (the late great Carrie Fischer), are close to being destroyed by the First Order under Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), which prompts Po Dameron (Oscar Isaac) to send Finn (John Boyega) and engineer Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) to find a way to save them. After his battle with Rey in the prior movie Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is facing an inner turmoil which creates a Force-link with Rey whom she wishes to rescue from the Dark side of the Force. I really enjoyed the plot and preferred it to The Force Awakens. I fundamentally disagree with some of the criticisms in regards to the plot which have been put forward by 'fanboys'. The main reason is the apparent shift in character of Luke Skywalker abandoning his friends and the Force. I thought it was an inventive move and not too out of his character (it was an impulsive choice and he did very impulsive choices in the Original Trilogy). People seem to forget that characters can change over medium, after all Luke has turned to the Dark side several times in the comics, and trauma can irreparably change someone's character. Personally, I saw a connection between Anakin's fall and Luke's fall: both had very lofty dreams, both were destined to bring balance to the Force, their own impulsiveness created a wrong decision which shattered their dreams, everything they once knew crumbled around them, and they fell from the Light (Luke becoming disconnected and Anakin falling to the Dark). Throughout the EU the Jedi have always been portrayed as being deeply, and inherently flawed, and I feel this is just one aspect which they've decided to adapt.

Overall, I would say that the plot is good. Bar some overly cheesy lines the dialogue was well written, and the last shot in the movie I felt was a bit too cheesy as well. One problem I did have was the handling of Snoke. Albeit this was partly my own fault and that of other fans: we hyped up Snoke beyond belief. However, the screenwriters should have recognized the hype, and you don't include a new Sith Lord on the magnitude of a new Palpatine and you don't go and do what they did. Other than that I did enjoy the plot. It felt like its own thing and was actually a sequel compared to The Force Awakens

Luckily The Last Jedi follows the trend of The Force Awakens and Rouge One where they mix practical effects with CGI. After over twenty years of CGI you can definitely tell which is CGI and which is practical effects so not all the effects are of the same quality. Due to the blending of effect styles this helps make the CGI seem much better than it actually is. At times I was wondering is what I am looking at computer generated, or is it a practical effect? For the most part the effects are phenomenal and makes it feel far more real compared to say the prequels, Kong: Skull Island, or Jurassic World which were mainly CGI so felt very artificial at times. There is a good example of how they blend the two effect styles together. A Force Ghost does appear which blends them together and it looks really good. Especially when they do this the effects are really good. Not all effects are at such a high standard though. The ice dogs on the salt planet seem very out of place, especially as animal effects were done much better earlier on in the movie. If they had merged practical and CGI together they could have looked better. However, the effects and CGI were overall good in this movie.

The acting was good. Of course Carrie Fischer and Mark Hamill are seasoned and excellent actors so they did a flawless job. Although Mark Hamill didn't like the apparent change in character he played in anyway in an extremely good way. The newer actors are good as well. Daisy Ridley was good and I felt Adam Driver really improved his acting from the first film. I think with him spending the majority of this movie without his helmet really improved his confidence on screen. In particular his acting with Daisy Ridley was really good. Personally, I could just have watched the movie where it just followed John Boyega. He is extremely talented and charismatic, and it made me want to just see him all the time. Easily the best new actor in the movie.

Like Rouge One I felt that The Last Jedi felt truly part of the Star Wars universe. This movie actually bothers to show the repercussions of the events of the prior film in a realistic way. Although Empire remains my favorite entry into the series, and one of my top ten movies of all time, I was bothered by the fact that there seemed to be no immediate repercussions for the destruction of the Death Star and Alderaan. In The Last Jedi the First Order immediately retaliates for the destruction of Starkiller Base and people aligned with the Resistance choose not to assist them due to fear of the First Order. Yes their prime weapon has been destroyed but they wiped out the Republic and seemed to be unfazed by Starkiller Base's destruction. With the exception of the ice dogs I felt all the animals shown in the movie felt part of the Star Wars universe. One particular detail which I liked was how a reptilian tail could be seen breaking the water as Rey and Skywalker was talking; no one made a deal out of it which grounds the unseen creature in that universe's reality. It felt like someone in Cornwall or Orkney seeing a basking shark near the surface. Canto Bight I thought was really fitting with the Star Wars universe. The casino where unrepentant capitalistic arms dealers spent their blood money watching child slaves ride animals in races using their profits from selling arms to the First Order seemed straight out of the EU or now Canon comics. It felt like a Mos Eisley for the Galaxy's elite. I do like how in both this movie and Rouge One they show the darker side to the Resistance/Rebellion with them buying arms from the same people who supply the First Order. One issue I did have was Laura Dern's character saying 'God speed'; in the Star Wars universe 'Maker' is more commonly used. Finally, I want to talk about the Force in this movie. How Luke, Rey, and another character uses the Light side, as well as the depiction of the Dark, is phenomenally done. It felt a natural part of how the Force is used in the Star Wars universe.

As you can probably tell I really enjoyed this movie. Although I prefer Empire and Rouge One I did really enjoy this one. I thought it was better than The Force Awakens but being better than A New Hope is debatable, and I would have to rewatch all the movies to decide which order I would place The Last Jedi. I felt this was a fitting last movie for Carrie Fischer who tragically passed away a year ago. She had two stunning moments which gave her, and Leia, the respect which an actor of her caliber deserved. For good effects and acting but for some questionable choices done throughout the movie in would give The Last Jedi an 8/10.

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed my review. Did you agree with me or completely disagree? I would love to hear your opinions, positive and negative, about The Last Jedi. For future blog updates please see either our Facebook or catch me on Twitter @LewisTwiby. Normally I don't announce the topic of next week's post but this week I shall: I'll be discussing how I would bring Deadpool, the X-Men and Fantastic Four into the MCU. Thanks for reading and may the Force be with you.

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