Star Wars The Last Jedi is the 8th Installment in The Star Wars Saga and follows the exploits of a bunch of character who are all in some way or the other associated with a rebel army that is trying to overthrow an oppressive regime known as the “first order” led by Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis). Snoke has Kylo Ren (the son of Han Solo and Leia Organa), played by Adam Driver as his primary henchman. He is to Snoke what Darth Vader was to Emperor Palpatin. The resistance has Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac) leading them in different fronts. Rey has the force on her side and she is just learning to master it.
The story here starts from where the first film left off. Rey meets Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and hands him over his lightsaber bringing him the message to join the resistance but Luke is reluctant. He wants to stay away from it as he believes that he led to the rise of Kylo Ren and also because he is afraid to plunge back into the force and commit any more mistakes. The “first order” led by Kylo Ren has launched a relentless offensive to wipe out the remaining members of the resistance. The resistance led by Leia is making a last-ditch effort to save itself hoping that Rey would come back with Luke and they would get help from other forces of the outer rim. What happens next forms the crux of the narrative.
I would like to start off by reiterating the fact that people need to see atleast “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” before they leap into this film. We never get the background or for that matter the backstory of the characters. Hence to understand the film and to be able to relate to the characters, one needs to see its predecessor from where this fresh story started. To get an even better understanding of the epic, it’s advisable to watch Episodes IV, V and VI.
This is a gorgeous looking film. Every frame of the film is carefully envisioned and thoughtfully executed. Be it the digital characters or the real ones, the director makes it a point to present them in the most visually attractive manner. The fact that the film unfolds across different topographies and settings gives the director and the creative team a chance to make most of the opportunities they have at hand. Visually speaking, “The Last Jedi” is bound to take your breath away.
The film has many action sequences albeit not enough for an epic that is 2 hours 33 minutes long. The action sequences are brilliant. The film starts off with a sequence that literally gave me goosebumps. I immediately developed very high hopes for the film simply because of the manner in which this action sequence was executed. Here was a sequence infused with not only visual wizardry but a lot of heart. The same can be said about the sequence at the lair of Snoke where Rey and Kylo are pitted against some Ninja-esc guards of Snoke who each have a different choice of weapon. The color scheme used in this sequence adds to its charisma. Even the smaller battles are done with aplomb. My only wish was that there was more.
Having said all that, “Star Wars The Last Jedi” still left me unsatisfied. After the initial blitz, the film slips down into a slumber from which it momentarily wakes when there is an action sequence. There is no sense of urgency among the characters even though they have a ticking clock hanging over their head. Add to that some very poorly envisioned turn of events like the miraculous escape from death of Leia and you have a film that has lost a lot of its steam and opportunities.
As I have said many times before, an action film can be only as good as the villain it has. Adam Driver is a great actor but he doesn’t have the charisma or for that matter the physicality to infuse fear of his character. Let’s just agree that he is not even a shadow of Darth Vader and since we have seen Vader in action already, his act just feels that much weaker. He appears more like an angsty teenager with daddy issues than a super villain out to win the world.
Luke Skywalker may have been a big hit in the 70s but his presence in this film is hardly inspiring. He does have a scene or two of comedy that is bound to make you giggle but he doesn’t work out in the dramatic sequences and he doesn’t have any serious action sequences to inspire cheers. His return is also done in a manner that’s a blink and miss affair. The director should have known better to milk these sequences. A film of this type should exude a lot of heroism. Sans the character of Poe played with a lot of gusto by Oscar Isaac, no other character really rises to that level so as to extract cheers. Ridley, Boyega and Carrie Fisher (bless her soul) are all very generic and stay within their limits never trying to rise above the material. Laura Dern, on the other hand, is great. I loved her act thoroughly.
There are also certain subplots that do take us to some pretty places and give us some jaw-dropping action sequences but end up adding little to the actual plot and hence are a waste. The background score in this film is better than its predecessor. The score for “The Force Awakens” felt rushed but here the track is rousing and adds character to the action sequences.
Final words, sans the visuals and action, Star Wars The Last Jedi felt flat and at times even stretched. This is the longest Star Wars film till date and it did have a lot of material to work with but it didn’t fully capitalize on those opportunities and hence what we have is an underwhelming epic that will not age well. People will see it for what it is once the initial onslaught of fandom wears off and the euphoria settles down. It is still a worthy one time watch.