“Overall, a huge success which is sure to please the fans, both old and new”
Last week, I was lucky enough to get tickets to the European Premiere of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the eighth film in the most famous franchise in the world. I was so excited. Arguably the biggest blockbuster of 2017, the hype has been crazy. It is remarkable that no major leaks have been revealed prior to its worldwide release (carry on reading, no spoilers here!).
So I donned my black tie and arrived on the Red carpet at 6:30pm. The atmosphere was electric. There were lights everywhere, huge posters, multiple screens, Star Wars music playing, Stormtroopers, even Kylo Ren himself, and of course the mandatory red carpet leading to the Royal Albert Hall, bathed in a red light. It was truly magical. As I walked down the red carpet, I just soaked up the atmosphere. The surrounding crowd was massive, hoping to get a glimpse of one of the stars, perhaps an autograph or even a selfie.
I entered the building, a hive of activity as people bought food and drinks and took their seats. Stroomtroopers took to the stage heralding the arrival of the Producer Kathleen Kennedy, the Director Rian Johnson and most of the cast members – all immaculately dressed. After a brief introduction by the Director, an obligatory rendition of the National Anthem (as Prince William and Prince Harry were in attendance), the lights went down, the cheers went up and the Lucasfilm logo flickered onto the screen. Then John Williams’ famous score blasted out from the speakers. This was it!
Suffice it to say, this film is a success. The credit must go to Rian Johnson, Writer and Director, who had huge pressure on him to impress with the next instalment in the franchise. One of his great achievements must be the title: so subtle, yet so integral to the themes of this film. He has already won the praise of Lucasfilm, Kathleen Kennedy and Disney (who all clearly expect good things from this film at the box office) as he has been given the reins to another trilogy of films set in the Star Wars Universe.
As a writer, he has created a relatively coherent screenplay, which follows immediately after the events in the Force Awakens. The dialogue is sharp, and at times humorous. The film can stand proudly in its own right, and while it harkens back to the original trilogy, it does not simply repeat them. This is its own story, but aware of its heritage. In particular, this story delves into the motivations and feelings of the characters. It is a more human story for it. It has evolved from the “black and white”/”good and bad” storylines from the original trilogy and the huge (often convoluted) storylines of the prequel trilogy. It is more complex emotionally and feels like a more mature film, dealing with more mature themes.
There were laughs, there were tears. There are details for the fans and also a wider appeal to non-believers. If the reaction at the end of the Premiere screening was anything to go by, this film will be a huge success.
Within moments of the film starting, we are confronted with one of the main themes of this movie: sacrifice. It is a powerful theme, which was notably also a key theme in the standalone film Rogue One. Another theme is family, what it is and what it means. We have multiple reunions during this movie, which serve to remind us that you do not have to be related to be part of a family. Closely linked to sacrifice is the theme of friendship, asking what are we willing to do to protect our friends. And finally hope, the glue that binds the Rebellion together. Sometimes lost, and then refound. Overall, it is an uplifting story that combines all of these themes into one.
Through his depth of understanding of the previous films, Johnson is genuinely respectful of this Universe. He makes multiple clever references to the original trilogy. Near the beginning of the film, we see a replay of one the most famous speeches of the franchise. Nearer the middle, Luke meets one of our favourite characters from the Star Wars Universe. With this story, he delves deeper into the Jedi lore to try to answer big questions about the force, what it means to be a Jedi and explores some of the force powers such as telepathic communication. He also addresses some of the clear desires of the fan base. There is a very poignant scene with Leia, which not only will satisfy fans everywhere, but which clearly portends the significant role which Carrie Fisher would have played in the final movie. Near the end of the film, there is even a scene which is reminiscent of the confrontation between Obi Wan Kenobi and Darth Vader on the Death Star (from Star Wars: A New Hope). At the end of the film, there is a scene which reminded me of a moving scene from The Return of the Jedi.
As a Director, Johnson transports you to this Universe and you find yourself caring about the characters in it. His storytelling is swift, but precise. The film keeps pace and never drags. He entertains multiple storylines at once masterfully and we watch as they develop in unison. The cinematography is more in keeping with the original trilogy than that of the prequel film. However, the cameras move fast and the graphics are superlative. Where the original trilogy’s graphics were old-fashioned and the prequel trilogy’s graphics often looked digitally recreated, these look genuinely real.
The acting is unparalleled. Mark Hamill gives his greatest performance in the series to date (he actually speaks in this film!). Carrie Fisher, who is once again front and centre in this film, is given a greater emotional depth to her character: the loss of her husband, the relationship with her son and the connection with her brother. Her lasting contribution to this franchise is attested by her leading role in this film. She will be missed. Daisy Ridley gives an honest portrayal of her character: unsure of herself and her powers. Adam Driver plays to the irascibility, cruelty and anger of his character. Andy Serkis, the master of motion-capture technology, does not disappoint as the evil Supreme Leader Snoke. John Boyega plays the ever likeable hero Finn with great care. He, like everyone, is at times conflicted and tested. Oscar Isaac, the hot headed Fighter Pilot Poe Dameron, is given greater prominence in this film, and even comes into conflict with Leia and Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo, played by Laura Dern. Domnhall Gleeson gives a dry performance as the perpetually downtrodden General Hux.
Last but not least, the music for this film is incredible: beautiful from start to finish. John Williams really is a master of his craft and has managed, yet again, to create new unique themes based on his existing score. His music is operatic in its scope, with an almost uninterrupted score accompanying the film. It is grand, dramatic, and emotional and serves to elevate the film. His music is so integral to this Universe that I can’t imagine Star Wars being the same without it.
In my opinion, I was hoping for something more. Perhaps some more depth or explanation to the narrative, as some scenes sometimes felt incongruous or superfluous. Or perhaps I just wanted some more answers! But I am sure that it will assuage the most ardent fans. Maybe I am just hard to please. Anyway, I am already eagerly awaiting the third and final film of the trilogy. I am keen to see how they resolve some of the events in this film and create a unified ending to this trilogy and this enduring franchise.
Star Wars : The Last Jedi is in cinemas nationwide from today.
Feature image shows Gwendoline Christie being interviewed at the London Premier. Photo Credit: Samuel Edge