As the modern revival of Star Wars continues, director Rian Johnson takes the reins for the eighth episode of the space-opera saga. The Last Jedi picks up where 2015’s The Force Awakens left off, as the dwindling Resistance prepares to do combat once again with The First Order. As Rey (Daisy Ridley) tracks down Jedi master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to ask for help with the impending battle, her fellow fighters including defector Finn (John Boyega) and pilot Poe (Oscar Isaac) remain at base, with General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) fronting the army. Meanwhile, the First Order, led by General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) plan an attack to wipe out their enemies once and for all.
After the iconic opening titles and music are followed by the famous scroll to set the scene, we are immediately thrust into mindless action. There is a lot to take in from the narrative which is rather convoluted at first, and the film only takes shape once we are reintroduced Rey and Luke. Further exploring the integral ‘good vs evil’ theme, sequences shared between Rey, Luke and Kylo Ren are engaging and compelling as they tussle with the forces that pull them between light and dark. Aside from this strand of the story, the other elements unfortunately feel like filler rather than thriller. Battles lack the excitement and exhilaration that we have become accustomed to, and the attempts at cheap humour are far too frequent, and often fall flat. There are, of course, some big crowd-pleasing moments, but it’s as though the writers are box-ticking to pander to fan’s expectations.
From the host of characters involved, there’s stiff competition to leave a lasting impact on the movie. Performance-wise, it’s the newcomers that really come into their own, and Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver powerfully take centre stage. Many of the older characters take up supporting roles, and Boyega’s courageous Finn is mostly side-lined on this occasion, though he does have a subplot that develops him further. Mark Hamill is excellent in his stubborn reprisal of Star Wars’ original hero, giving Luke a grumpy old man charm and Carrie Fisher’s scenes have genuine poignancy as we bid a fond farewell to Princess Leia.
The Last Jedi is a solid if unspectacular chapter of the Star Wars canon, and Rian Johnson efficiently bridges the gap between the nostalgia of it’s resurgence and whatever Episode IX will bring. It’s a transitionary tale that passes the lightsaber torch onto the next generation, and although it doesn’t quite to achieve the same magic spark that was ignited in previous efforts, the hope is still very much alive for the trilogy to fulfil its destiny.