After numerous accusations that 2015’s The Force Awakens was a rehash of A New Hope, director Rian Johnson has it cut out for him to not only avoid such comparison in The Last Jedi, but to also meet the expectations that come with any Star Wars movie. Will it be another Empire? Will it suck? Will the Porgs be this generation’s equivalent for Ewoks?

After having to wake up early to catch the special media preview today, I am happy to report to all Star Wars fans – casuals and hardcores alike – that the answer to all of those questions is a ‘No’. OK perhaps there were breadcrumbs and homages to scenes and themes we’ve seen in Empire Strikes Back and these bits will hit any Star Wars fan like a Wampa love tap – but these are more of nods to the classic than a replication of those moments.

I believe I am not going overboard here by claiming that The Last Jedi is the most war-sy (is that even a word) of all Star Wars movies – Rogue One included. I don’t recall seeing more cannons, blasters, rockets and stuff exploding on screen in other Star Wars movie. These explosions however do not dampen the overall tone of the movie which is desperation and hope in the face of adversity. Never have I seen in any Star Wars movie that our heroes were in such precarious position. Even with Starkiller Base staring right at the Resistance in The Force Awakens, we knew that they’d find a way with Han, Finn and Rey on the ground. But in The Last Jedi, the situation appears to be so dire that anyone muttering the word ‘hope’ can instantly be deemed as not living in the real world.

The movie picks up almost immediately after The Force Awakens and the situation is desperate than ever. The First Order are hot on the heels of the Resistance and we are thrown into the thick of a planet evacuation process, with Poe, again with his heroics showing everyone what a badass X-Wing pilot he is. While all this is happening, Rey is on her mission of her own, to bring back Luke Skywalker from his self-imposed exile as seen at the end of The Force Awakens. In the meantime, Kylo Ren faces his own personal conflict in regards to his turn to the dark which leads to him attempting to recruit Rey to his side.

Those who theorized on how that The Last Jedi is going to pan out cannot be any more wrong as while the trailers does show a very generic tone of what to expect, the folks who cut the trailers effectively threw everyone off-track when it comes to expecting what was set to happen in The Last Jedi.

My favorite character from The Last Jedi is surprisingly Poe Dameron, who’s shown so much growth in character when compared to what we saw of him in The Force Awakens. Dare we say that he’s the most relatable character in this movie. If you liked Poe in The Force Awakens, you’ll love him in The Last Jedi. Rey’s trials and tribulations as well as her challenges in trying to persuade Luke to join the Resistance was an expected one as alluded in the trailers. Daisy Ridley was even more relatable and likeable as Rey this time around. The whole ‘Marie Sue’ complaints – “How’d she know how to use the force?” – are addressed in the subtlest manner and as expected – questions pertaining to her parentage will also be addressed.

As for Kylo Ren, his descend to the darkness is explored more and we are finally shown what really happened the night he torched down Luke’s Jedi Temple. The conflict within Kylo Ren’s character was given extra attention as well as his motivation behind all of his actions which also include him killing his own father, Han Solo. The differing ideologies of how the light and the dark sides of the force were supposed to function and exist were also delved in The Last Jedi and we appreciate that the Rian Johnson stopped just short of being preachy in delivering them.

Finn’s character felt really hollow in The Last Jedi as his arc was the weakest of the main three and could easily be omitted from the whole movie without jeopardising much of the plot. A bummer, really considering his past with the First Order as I was half-expecting him to doubt the decision he made in The Force Awakens which could have led to sub-plots relating to his allegiances. The introduction of Kelly Marie Tran as Rose also gave some inkling of a relationship between her and one of the main cast but this is easily our least liked portion of The Last Jedi.

What about the OGs? Well it certainly was a bitter-sweet moment seeing the late Carrie Fisher on screen. She will always be our Princess Leia and we finally get to see her competence in regards to The Force. Ignore what Lor San Tekka said – It’s General Organa and despite her age-related frailty and grief following Han Solo’s recent passing, is still a pillar for the Resistance whom everyone else look to for guidance and leadership. As for the man of the hour, Luke Skywalker, Mark Hamill bossed every scene he was in. He was funny, he was witty and most of all, his wisdom from being a Jedi Master for over 40-years shone throughout. Every question on why he went into exile was also answered and we loved how the director handled Luke’s character.

As for the main baddie, Supreme Leader Snoke finally made his proper on-screen appearance and even with that limited time, was able to showcase what he was capable of. My only gripe was the janky CGI work done for him. In a world where wookies pilot a space freighter with a space penguin on tow, Snoke’s CGI left a lot to be desired.

There were genuinely funny moments throughout and the amount of lame jokes which was quite ubiquitous in The Force Awakens are thankfully minimal. The porgs, which many fear would be this movie’s stand-ins for the ewoks were surprisingly likeable. None of that forced-cutesy bits and we have no issues with these space penguins. Also, a shoutout to Domhnall Gleeson’s Admiral Hux who also, like Hamill, stole every scene he was in.

The twists are aplenty in The Last Jedi and they came at the most unsuspecting moments. Yes, there will be deaths of major characters and while you will be shocked at first, will slowly accept that Star Wars doesn’t revolve around several key characters. There are also several ‘plot holes’ that eagle-eyed viewers would start questioning mid-scene but all of these ‘issues’ will be resolved by the end of the movie. A legendary character also makes a very unexpected yet pleasant cameo in The Last Jedi and even his motives were found out by the time the credits roll.

TL; DR

Positives 

– A movie of its own without heavily reflecting any of the original trilogy movie

– The most action-packed Star Wars movie to date

– Good flow following The Force Awakens

– Exploring of the wider concept of the light and dark sides of the force and viewing it from a whole new perspective

– Every scene featuring Mark Hamill

– The most satisfying of all modern Star Wars movies to date (vs The Force Awakens & Rogue One)

Negatives

– Certain plot points seemed pointless and fillers and could be easily omitted without affecting the overall story

– Could have had more lightsaber combat moments

– The universe’s timeframe and timeline were a little out of whack

– Dodgy CGI at certain parts

SCORE : 85 /100


Star Wars: The Last Jedi opens in Malaysian cinemas 14th December 2017. We caught the movie on iMAX via press screening courtesy of The Walt Disney Company (Malaysia) Sdn. Bhd

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