Star Wars: The Last Jedi

STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI. Starring: Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, and John Boyega. Also starring Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, and Domhnall Gleeson. Directed by Rian Johnson. Rated M (Science fiction violence). 152 min.

This American action-adventure, sci-fi fantasy is the eighth episode in the epic Star Wars that has been twice revived over a period of 40 years. It is the penultimate film in the Star Wars series, which concludes with Episode 9, that is scheduled for release in December, 2019.

The Star War series, of which this movie is a part, began with Episode 4.  After Episode 6, it reverted to Episode 1, and now the Episodes are back in sequence. It has been a two-year wait since “The Force Awakens” (2015), which was the seventh Star Wars movie. The Director of this film (Rian Johnson) has not directed any other movie in the series. Johnson was writer for the film, and the film has both new and old characters (and creatures) in it, and he describes Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller-romance movie, “To catch a Thief” (1955), as influencing his direction.

In “The Force Awakens”, a Galactic Civil War had occurred and events returned us to where The  Force - the intangible energy field that surrounds “every living thing”- was back in action. The Resistance and the First Order do battle with each other for its fate.  A new heroine emerged in Rey (Daisy Riddle), a scavenging fugitive, and The Resistance was led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher). This movie essentially prepares us for where the First Order’s vengeance is likely to go. The next and final movie in the series (Episode IX) will reveal its nature and the outcome.

In this movie, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill ), hides as a recluse on an isolated mountain. He is the last Jedi of the film’s title, but not the last Jedi at the film’s finish. There, he meets Rey, the new protagonist in the series, who has gone to his retreat to find him. Rey is adversary to the evil Kylo Ren, and has been helped by reformed Stormtrooper, Finn (John Boyega). On the mountain, Rey develops her abilities under the guidance of Skywalker who senses the strength of her powers. He tutors her for the inevitable, while the Resistance prepares to go to war against the First Order.

The movie is gripping, powerful, touching, and witty. The action of the movie is virtually relentless, and the movie targets assumptions and preconceptions of the past. We learn who Rey’s parents are, and what Luke Skywalker has been thinking about in his mountain retreat. In the lead-up to Episode IX, the film delivers answers that will intrigue the huge following of the Star Wars franchise. In the way it answers its questions, however, the film presents itself as perhaps the most distinctive film in the series to date. It surprises, and it is filled with action that frequently goes in unexpected directions. 

Under Rian Johnson’s imaginative and intelligent direction, the film preserves the tone of the series as a whole, and its sci-fi look, but it focuses much more heavily on “character”. The surprise-elements guarantee that the plot line is attention-grabbing, and behind the unpredictable events, and often witty asides, there are some spectacular action scenes and striking visual imagery. This is the longest film in the Star War series to date, and it holds its length. Every scene aims to have a purpose in the film, and the movie finishes (after multiple space battles) by showing the Resistance snatching moral victory out of almost certain defeat.

This is a film that is exciting and funny at the same time, and its cinematography is dazzling. The film is state-of-the-art “sight and sound”. The acting, as in most of the Star Wars Films remains impressive: Ridley’s acting as Rey expands her character and confirms her as a major actress, and Adam Driver is compellingly malevolent, and appropriately conflicted, as Kylo Ren.

Fans will specially note the fact that the movie is dedicated to the memory of Carrie Fisher, who plays Princess/General Leia with style and reserve. Her role has great sentimental relevance to the impact of the franchise. This is an impressive Episode and it eagerly sets the clock ticking for Episode IX, which will return us to the Director of “The Force Awakens”, J.J. Abrams, who was also heavily involved in the production of this film.

Peter W. Sheehan is Associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film and Broadcasting

Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Released December 14th., 2017

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