Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi ★★★★½

I have a confession to make. There's something you need to understand about me.

I am a Star Wars fan.

...no, that's not the confession.

The Empire Strikes Back sits proudly on my Letterboxd collection of favourite films, and will probably sit there for the rest of time. I love every moment, every bone in it's body.

But...it's not my favourite Star Wars thing. My favourite Star Wars thing, potentially my favourite story, is a video game called Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. It's a story about why the Force is creepy and weird, about why Lightsabers are embarrassing nerd bait, about how the Jedi and Sith are done and need to die, about rejecting everything about Star Wars that makes it Star Wars, and building something new on the ashes.

When I first saw The Force Awakens, it was with my family. I largely enjoyed the film, but felt it was far too reliant on familiar Star Wars scenes and iconography. It was a superbly competent film, but I couldn't say it was anything more. I remember on the ride home, my Dad asked me what I would do with this trilogy going forward. And like Superman ripping off his shirt to reveal the nerd Clark Kent beneath, I went into a spiel about a hypothetical movie about how the Force is creepy and weird, about how the Jedi and Sith are done and need to die, a movie about rejecting everything about Star Wars that makes it Star Wars, and building something new on the ashes. It was basically KotOR 2, but processed through someone who's seen the word "restraint" written down, but hasn't quite worked out what it means.

When I finished vomiting Star Wars fan-fiction all over my parents' car, I said "Of course, you could never do that. The Brand is more important than the story. You could never make a Star Wars movie destroying everything everyone loves about Star Wars."

It's 2 years later now. And all I have to say is...

...FUCK.

Rian Johnson is an absolute madman. He actually did it. He actually sneaked a ritualistic narrative exorcism disguised as a blockbuster into thousands of cinemas across the globe. He took a look at the vastness of this franchise, picked up Knights of the Old Republic 2 and said "Yes. This is it. This is the one that got it right." Almost a week after my first screening, my shock that someone made a multi-million dollar thematic adaptation of the most subversive and interesting Star Wars story ever written has only grown and grown, along with my appreciation of the film itself.

When I first left the cinema, I was torn in a way I haven't felt since Blade Runner a few months ago. In many ways, it was the Star Wars movie I always wanted to see. But it was also messy, hideously bloated, self-indulgent, humour that missed more than it hit...for a while, it was hard for me to reconcile the parts I hated with the parts I loved. But time, as they say, heals all wounds.

I still think the movie is flawed. It's full of bizarre decisions (Del Toro's accent, THAT Leia bit, opening the movie with a "Yo Momma" joke), equally full of superfluous scenes, it shares themes with Empire but handles them in a far more ham-fisted manner, and there's a bit where someone says there's a laser battering ram powered by death star technology and that was so fan-fic-y that it made cringe through my seat, but all those moments are so fleeting in my mind now. All I think now is that I genuinely, sincerely, love this film.

When I left the cinema, I felt that, for a movie that really wanted to reject Star Wars iconography, it relied on it too much for it's most emotional moments. But now I understand that The Last Jedi is not Post-Star Wars Star Wars, and it's because we haven't reached that point. Before he could move past it, Rian Johnson had to Kill The Past. He took all the recognisable elements of this franchise, everything that fans latch on to and think Star Wars is, and destroyed them. With kindness, to be sure, but he still destroyed them. And make no mistake, by the end of this movie, there's very little of the past left. Without some truly disastrous bullshit, there's no way whatever comes next will be able to rely on iconography the way films like TFA and Rogue One did. It was a ritual, to exorcise all the elements holding this series back. And it was beautiful. Messy, full of blemishes, and with a sense of humour that couldn't get a giggle out of Salacious Crumb, but beautiful all the same.

JJ Abrams is making Episode IX. Whether he'll follow the path Rian Johnson laid out or return Star Wars to the safety of the cradle remains to be seen. But no matter what, we'll always have you, The Last Jedi. You mad, mad, mad, mad, mad, mad, mad thing.

Star Wars is dead.

Long live Star Wars.

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