The latest episode in the much-loved sci-fi series was released to the world this time last year to much critical acclaim but The Last Jedi is still dividing audiences to this day
The run-up to release
As with any film in the Star Wars franchise, the hype that built around Episode VIII before its release was electric.
Months beforehand, when the first teasers and trailers gave us our first glimpses of The Last Jedi, fans everywhere were jumping aboard the hype-train.
As December’s release date drew ever-closer fan theorists went into overdrive, latching onto any tiny thread of information they could find and weaved their own potential narratives for the film and its characters.
Then the reviews came in, just a few days before release. Brilliant scores across the board. The critics loved it!
Not long after, in mid-December, the The Last Jedi was released to the world.
The Last Jedi is released
But no one could have expected just how divisive Star Wars Episode VIII would become.
The fan base was seemingly torn in half. One side believed Rian Johnson’s addition to the Star Wars saga was among the best films in the series, while the other side were let down and left furious by the film, for a whole myriad of reasons.
Naturally, with such an ease of expressing opinions online, the internet exploded with debate and comment on The Last Jedi. Both sides put forward reasons for their view but this did little more than entrench the two sides yet further into their beliefs.
Now, don’t get me wrong, a good amount of healthy debate is always welcome and can really add to a film. After all, allowing different audience members to share their own experiences is part of why we see films at the cinema.
But then there are times when it can go too far.
For the last year, the creators and stars of the film have come under some serious fire on social media, with Kelly Marie Tran, who plays Rose in The Last Jedi, bearing most of the brunt and being forced to quit social media over torrential abuse over her role in the film.
Episode VIII’s director, Rian Johnson, recently tweeted to mark the anniversary of the film, thanking fans on both sides for loving the film and criticising it in equal measure.
Want to thank all the amazing passionate thoughtful kind creative talented supportive argumentative opinionated respectful open-hearted inspiring AMAZING Star Wars fans for the past year. Getting to hear from & meet so many of you has been the experience of a lifetime. ❤️— Rian Johnson (@rianjohnson) 15 December 2018
A genuinely lovely tweet, right?
However, as always with the internet, don’t go venturing into the comments unless you have a thick skin as Johnson is still inundated with complaints about the film, with people complaining that he’s ‘ruined Star Wars.’
So what’s wrong with the film?
Star Wars fans will never be happy, just look at the reaction to the prequels and now in turn, the sequel trilogy.
Unless it’s the classic original trilogy, some fans will simply never be happy.
Now, I should point out I’m definitely in the camp that absolutely loves this film, but even I can see that it’s not perfect. The Last Jedi does have some issues, but then no film is totally without flaw.
The biggest gripe of all with fans seems to be the Canto Bight casino sequences and it’s certainly the biggest issue of the film for me.
Upon first viewing I felt that the film could’ve done with being 10 to 15 minutes shorter. Perhaps cutting a bit of the ‘B story’ in order to focus on the fascinating exploits of Rey and Luke on Ahch To would’ve been a better choice. But that’s where I’d draw the line personally.
However, venture onto any social media comments section and you’ll see countless more complaints with the film, some of the criticisms are genuine and reasonable, other however, are plain silly and completely forget that there’s a final instalment to the trilogy coming next year that could still yield some as-yet untold answers.
Literally everything from Leia using the force in space and Snoke’s apparent demise to Luke’s character supposedly ‘ruining childhoods’ is chastised and criticised by certain groups of the audience.
I will admit that Leia using the force to fly through space isn’t my favourite moment of The Last Jedi. I’m totally fine with Leia using the force but it just looks a little naff to me.
Other than that, the two complaints I’ve mentioned (there are more out there, but there’s only so much time in the day), Snoke’s apparent death and Luke’s character are open for debate as to whether they work or not.
But the degree of offence people are taking over these aspects of the film is mind-boggling, with certain members of the audience accusing Johnson of ‘ruining Star Wars’ or its ‘best character.’
The film’s message clearly wasn’t grasped by everyone.
What’s so good about the film, then?
Following on from the astonishing success of The Force Awakens was always going to be a struggle, particularly with its cliff-hanger ending that left Rey face-to-face with the legend, Luke Skywalker.
Two years would pass before we got to see the next instalment and the resolution of that cliff-side stare-off.
That wait came to an end with the sight of Luke Skywalker throwing his light sabre aside.
A contentious moment for some, but that action is the perfect metaphor for the film’s obligation to let go of the original trilogy and move the story on to something new. A bold move, but one it needed to make.
Continuing on from Luke and Rey’s first meeting, the pair’s interactions on the Ahch To island are brilliant and allow for a whole new exploration into the force that really reinstates the mystery surrounding it that was present way back in the original trilogy.
Speaking of which, the new powers and abilities that are brought to the fore in The Last Jedi are fascinating.
Seeing Rey and Kylo Ren communicate through the force is delightfully unsettling. Plus, the different tellings of Luke’s Jedi temple being destroyed are superb at toying with the emotions of Rey and the audience.
All of that is made compelling by some of the best acting ever seen in a Star Wars film.
You’ve seen Mark Hamill in A New Hope, right? Hardly an Oscar-winning performance. And the less said about Hayden Christensen in the prequels, the better.
Daisy Ridley as Rey pulls off a competent performance that builds on her introduction in The Force Awakens but the real gems in The Last Jedi are the excellent Mark Hamill and Adam Driver.
Hamill gives possibly his best performance and brings so much to the down-trodden and melancholic Luke Skywalker.
Meanwhile, Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, is given so much more character by stripping him of his mask. The child-like innocence he brings, while also trying to act as the all-powerful heir to Darth Vader is a wonderful contrast and is easily the strongest performance in the film.
Couple that with the action scenes, notably the battle in Snoke’s throne room in the third act and you’ve got a terrific set of acting and stunt performances.
Said throne room scene is quite possibly one of the best action scenes in any sci-fi film and is really brought to life by the brilliant choreography on show from all involved.
Despite all the criticism he’s received, Rian Johnson is widely credited with creating possibly the best-looking Star Wars film of the saga.
The cinematography and set design are unparalleled in the galaxy far, far away.
The consistent use of red, in Snoke’s throne room and on the planet Crait give a sinister undertone to the events on screen.
Furthermore, the reintroduction of Yoda in puppet form is a master stroke and it’s a joy to see the tiny green Jedi master again, offering much-needed words of wisdom to Luke and indeed the audience.
But quite possibly the best moment of the film has to be THAT light-speed scene.
Vice-Admiral Haldo piloting the Resistance cruiser into the First Order fleet and the aftermath that follows, has to go down as one of the greatest moments in cinematic history.
The 10 seconds or so where the sound cuts out as you’re left with images of the fleet’s destruction, is jaw-dropping. In a packed cinema, the odd whisper of ‘woah’ really cements how brilliant a moment that was.
The Last Jedi has to be praised for its willingness to change up the franchise and for its daring effort to try something new.
The Force Awakens’ success was based almost solely on nostalgia and I think a lot of fans were expecting The Last Jedi to do the same, but what we got was the most original Star Wars film, that continues to push the story forward, in decades.
Not all of it may have worked, but credit has to go to Johnson for finally pushing the story into new territory.
I sincerely can’t wait for next year when Episode IX will finally be upon us!