Having seen “The Last Jedi” in both 2D and 3D, and finally coming to terms with the fact there has been a large hole burnt in the bottom of my wallet because of this, the film ties some of the loose ends left frayed two years ago in the “The Force Awakens”. It is difficult to separate “The Last Jedi” from the ‘hype’ that preceded it. Since the first trailer came out, my childhood appetite was whetted for more Star Wars action. The expectations for the franchise’s reboot were high, not least among fans, but also for the primed marketers determined to sell their Star Wars morsels. Despite the rampant, uneasy commercialisation of cinema, in many ways “The Last Jedi” ticked all the appropriate boxes, harking back to the original trilogy with deftness.
The opening scene sets the tone for the film: outnumbered resistance fighters, spurred on by unremitting hope, trying to blow up a huge, unnaturally armoured First Order ‘dreadnought’. The film switches between huge fights and poignant dialogue about hope triumphing over despair. The message is inherently left wing. A supressed class, desperately trying to rebuild a republic which has been shattered and oppressed by tyranny; therefore, I love it.
Visually, the film is stunning. Rhian Johnson delivers potent and raw battle scenes, whilst also carefully managing the complexity of the character’s intentions. Johnson portrays Kylo Ren’s savagery as something not inherently coded into one’s mental furniture. Here, it is portrayed as a choice to try and counteract his rampant despondency. This is further foregrounded in the final battle, where approximately ten Resistance fighters face the might of the First Order. The salt-laden ground erupts into a screen of visceral red, signifying the blood spilt during the quest for peace, further alluding to the choice for destruction.
Despite this, it was a safe and dare I say, formulaic move, to position “The Last Jedi” within the same cinematographic parameters as the original trilogy. I question the extent to which Johnson had much control over how far he could stretch the film, since there were clearly several franchise-obligations that had to be included to stoke the eternal fire which was ignited 40 years ago.
Luke is portrayed in the same vein as Obi-Wan Kenobi: a quasi-religious loner, deeply troubled by the world after failing to successfully indoctrinate new Jedi with the ‘way of the force’. Indeed, Rey’s desire to navigate her way through the Jedi order mirrors a younger Luke Skywalker’s journey in “A New Hope”, except Rey’s character is much more complex; we still don’t know who her parents are and where she has really come from. This darkness and mystery makes her character unpredictable, powerful and wonderful. Yoda is also thrown in for good measure, always popping up to deliver ‘linguistic genius’ in times of ultimate despair. When Yoda appears, viewers know things have gotten particularly bad
Admittedly, it would have been incredibly difficult, perhaps impossible, to reboot the franchise and to not film in the same spirit as the original trilogy, mainly because of commercial pressures and audience expectation. There is an aching melancholy to the “Last Jedi”, though. I have never seen Luke Skywalker or Han Solo on the ‘big screen’ before, because I wasn’t born when the original trilogy was made. I did, however, grow up with these characters and to see them killed off individually, in the most spectacular fashion, is cathartic. Hopefully, the franchise can now grow and become something even more meaningful to so many people who are ‘growing up’ with these new characters.
Callum is a guest contributor to the Glacé Media Film Club. His unique perspective on an array of films, new and old, will explore both their visual and cultural impact. His eye for the detail below the surface of the cinematographic experience will offer you insights you may not have previously considered.
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