“Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope.” It’s the recording from a galaxy far, far away that caught entire generations in its neo-mythical orbit, back in 1977. Since then a multitude of planets and satellites have joined the narrative system of the Star Wars Saga. JJ Abrams punched the hyperdrive of The Force Awakens with class, gusto and the kind of heart not seen since Return of the Jedi. So then, Star Wars: The Last Jedi falls to Rian Johnson (Looper) to pick up the sabre and run with it.
Whether it be Saturday Morning serials, like Rebels, or spin-off tales attempting to break out of the originals colossal orbit, like Rogue One, the telling has become much more sophisticated along with its audience. So too did the canvases get grander. Our demand to be taken back “A long time ago…” meant more complex stories, characters and more CGI than you can shake a rancor at. It’s an order taller than Vader to balance the delicate nuance of the childhood wonder, keep the aging fans satisfied and offer the thrills that only the Millenium Falcon pirouetting amidst exploding TIE Fighters can offer. Thankfully, Johnson does bring this and more to The Last Jedi, but there are moments that impact on the surface.
There’s a lot going on in The Last Jedi. Imperial – sorry – First Order ships full of bad guys who look like they were cast from a 70’s pub, dog fights, lightsabres, bearded sages and merchandise baiting. One of the core reasons we know and love Star Wars so much is the updated echoes of story beats; asteroid chases, exploding bases and hands being cut off are as much expected as there are entitled. Where Johnson really excels with The Last Jedi is the crafty commitment to side-step all of the Empire Strikes Back nods and hydro-spanner saga high points. The result is not only a satisfying thrill, but something to keep you on your toes through the narrative rop-a-dope.
There are moments where they outsmart themselves. The humour in the opening exchange feels out place and a little too broad for the situation. The middle act is poo-doo messy, with an unnecessary sojourn to a seedy world that feels like Naboo soaked in cheap whisky and punctuated with moments that feel like Lucas turned up to the editing suite with the kind of ill-conceived notions that gave us the musical number in Jabba’s palace. It’s not enough to bring the engines to a stop, but it does bring us out of hyperspace until the final act sustains one of the most exciting sequences since Darth Maul turned on his double-edged lightsabre.
While the course plotted in Episode VIII, is as bleak as it’s other mid-trilogy siblings, getting there is a giddy mix of wish-fulfilment, nail-biting, laughs and surprisingly powerful feels. The reassuring thing, come the final Williams’ fanfare, is that even with all our monumental expectations, Star Wars is always able to bring something true…Hope.
4* – Dr.Darth: How We Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Force