Danny B’s review published on Letterboxd:
(Cinema) (Odeon - Guildford)
It feels weird that we're already at the end of 2017 and all the biggest films of the year already out (In the UK at least, some December Oscar contenders we don't get till January/February). At least Star Wars is a huge note to end it on, the continuation of the new trilogy J.J. Abrams started back in 2015. It's been a long wait for answers raised by this new set of films in the saga, and they mostly get answered, but not how you'd expect.
For all my criticisms about The Last Jedi (Which I'll get to), you can't call the film predictable or formulaic. This is unlike any Star Wars film before it, while still fitting nicely into the overall series. All the complaints that Force Awakens was simply a rehash of A New Hope are completely thrown under the bus here. There are some allusions to Empire Strikes Back (The tone is darker and the stakes are the highest they've ever been), but the film has its own unique take for the series. I wouldn't say Rian Johnson did a better job than J.J., but he comes damn close at times.
I'll get to my favourite stuff first. Daisy Ridley as Rey is still an infinitely likeable an strong character who goes through an excellently compelling arc as she's trained in the ways of the force by Luke Skywalker. Mark Hamill has a much more expanded role here as he reluctantly trains Rey. He's a broken, hallow shell of the Luke Skywalker we remember, he's also given the heartbreaking and emotional core of Last Jedi. Every scene focusing on Rey, Luke and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) are by far the best parts of Last Jedi. Not that the rest is bad, it's just every scene without them, I'd just wish it would go back to their story.
Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac) and series newcomer Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) go on a separate adventure trying to find a hacker to disable a tracking device on the Imperial fleet. Nothing at all was bad, there was some great moments, but it just dragged things out. A long stretch in a sci-fi version of Vegas brings thing to a halt and just seemed to stretch out an already very long film. Boyega and Isaac are still excellent in their roles, Isaac is just effortlessly cool as the hotshot pilot, while Boyega's Finn still struggles with finding his place in the Resistance. Carrie Fisher delivers a very different Leia filled with hope and anchors some very emotional scenes, aside from one bizarre moment that feels like a fake-out and leads way to one of the weirdest looking scenes I've scene all year. Not weird in a good way, in a way where I didn't know whether to laugh or just be confused. I'm amazed anyone thought that was a good idea.
While Last Jedi takes a lot of risks to create something new, some moments really suffer from the lack of willingness to commit. They were a few highly built-up scenes where you think they actually had the balls to do something, but sadly, they fail to commit to it and the characters make it out safe. I'd be fine if it was just the one one, but they do it a few times. I was sadly reminded of The Walking Dead's annoying fake-out deaths, which is not a good sign.
Adam Driver continues to be the MVP of this new trilogy, a deeply disturbed and pure evil character that seems to be capable of good, but continues his path to the Dark Side while showing shades of the prequel trilogies Anakin (I mean that in a good way). Thank God Driver was in this to provide a good villain, as all the hype and build-up to Snoke amounted to a giant wet-noodle. Andy Serkis is completely wasted as a generic and uninspired throw-away bad guy that ultimately amounted to nothing. He could have fitted perfectly as a Marvel villain.
At least on the visual/audio side, Johnson creates an incredible spectacle for the eyes that opens up and expands the world of Star Wars. Near enough everything looks gorgeous and cinematic, the action is some of the best seen in the series, John Williams score soars and the sound design was incredible. I love the cinematography of these new Star Wars films, they are filled with so many beautiful moments. Nothing feels like an overpriced CGI mess, the mix of practical and CGI is wonderfully balanced and leaves a lasting impression. Of all the new creatures, the only one I had a problem with was those goddamn Porgs, they have their moments, but mostly just feel like annoying, overly cute creatures made to sell toys.
I sound a bit negative about The Last Jedi, but I really did like it a lot, it has a lot of problems, but that mostly doesn't take away from the enjoyment I had from it. I know I have a soft spot for Star Wars, but if you're a fan, I'm sure you're going to have a good time. A gorgeous, emotionally rich entry that's focused on character and spectacle while proving a 40 year old series still has the ability to surprise. I'm sure this will grow on me on rewatches, but for now I'll say it was great.