The best thing in the world for any Star Wars fan who wants to go along and see The Last Jedi is to heed this advice: go in spoiler-free. I mean, do everything you can to avoid the memes, the Tweets, the trailers, ads, reviews, all of it. Which is weird coming from someone writing a review of the thing, but take my word for it, avoid the spoilers.
It’s really an amazing thing on multiple levels. For one, it’s a great, rollicking adventure on its own. It stands to analysis and enjoyment even without having digested the previous seven films (plus Rogue One), and at 150-odd minutes, packs a heck of a lot into its duration. It simultaneously is open to the next adventure, all the while closing the book on the entire canon. As far as sequels go, it’s superior to its predecessor, and that really is saying something.
I have a theory about George Lucas – he’s a great ideas man. A producer. He can conceive of a great sequence of events, or a basic plot, a twist, a set-piece, but writing – especially dialogue – was never his strong suit (he’d admit as much) and his directing style is not really adding much to general auteur theory. This is a series that has struggled over the years due to Lucas’ high-level creative control – to the point where the better films are the ones where he has little to nothing to do with the execution. The Last Jedi is very much a film by Rian Johnson, whose previous outings as a director include the very clever and crafty sci-fi/noir Looper, as well as three of the better episodes of Breaking Bad. Whoever made the very astute decision to put him at the helm of Episode VIII… I want to buy you a drink (Kathleen Kennedy, cool, what’ll it be?)
Johnson’s take on the material is to do as he pleases: infuse the telling with humour; nod to the past, to the canon, all the while doing the film as he wants to do it. In it, SW devotees will notice a few very distinct differences, or firsts: the way force-sensitive characters can communicate and interact with each other; the nature of the characters; the use of flashbacks; the very structure of the thing.
I can’t fault the film. The only thing I wanted was more of it, and if I got what I wanted the film would be about five hours’ long. The problem it has is that there are so many characters, and those who get smaller roles are inevitably going to be robbed of their due screen time. But Johnson gets over this by making every moment count. Across the board, performances are first rate; the dialogue is sharp, and the tale’s unfolding delivers nothing short of aching anticipation for the next chapter.
Here’s a challenge: do what you can to not see any of the trailers, TV spots or images from the forthcoming JJ Abrams-directed Episode IX. That one is two years away… and they’ve not even started shooting it yet. Do as best you can to walk into the theatre in the last weeks of 2019 having seen as little as possible than what they put on the posters and be prepared to be wowed.
In the meantime, your whistle can be whetted with Ron Howard’s Solo next year, Johnson’s forthcoming expanded universe trilogy, Stephen Daldry’s rumoured Obi-Wan Kenobi standalone film, and then what we can only assume is a new Star Wars film every single year until the end of time. This makes me more than a little happy.