Last Jedi review part 1: The Good

Luke, Leia and Kylo Ren shine in Episode VIII

Luke Skywalker in the Last Jedi

Please note this review contains spoilers.

The Last Jedi was exciting, exhilarating and a joy to watch. We’d waited two years to see the next instalment and a lot happened but not necessarily as we expected.

Let’s be honest, sitting in a theatre watching a Star Wars movie for the first time is, and always will be, a special occasion.

The Last Jedi took forward the Skywalker saga in a number of profound ways, but exactly where we’ll end up isn’t clear. Spoilers from now on.

Luke is back!

Without doubt the highlight of the film is Mark Hamill’s portrayal of Luke Skywalker. Let’s just say that again so that we can really enjoy it – Luke Skywalker. The Luke Skywalker.

The original trilogy was about the redemption of Darth Vader, but the story was told through Luke. He was the hero we adored back in late seventies and early eighties.

Sure Han was cool, Leia as courageous and Chewie was steadfast. But it was Luke’s journey from farm boy to a man bravely standing up to Emperor Palpatine in the face of certain death that captured our imaginations.

Seeing Luke back on the big screen was a genuinely powerful moment.

Fortunately Luke appeared on screen for more than just a few moments and thankfully had some dialogue to accompany his screen time.

Luke the hermit did evoke memories of Yoda on Dagobah, but unlike Yoda we knew he would rejoin the fray. And Luke didn’t disappoint. In the final act of the movie Luke’s mastery of the Force was a lesson not just to Kylo Ren but to us in the movie theatre too. By outwitting the over zealous Kylo Ren, he showed how powerful he had become.

Luke’s actions in the Last Jedi will surely place him amongst the very greatest of the Jedi Knights. Long before Kylo Ren appeared, Luke became a true Jedi when he turned down the Emperor’s offer to join him, something that his father – Anakin Skywalker – failed to do.

Like all great Jedi Luke, through one final act of selflessness, like Yoda and Kenobi before him, gave everything, including himself to the Force.

Star Wars is Luke Skywalker and Luke Skywalker will forever be Star Wars. You will be missed.

Fight in the Throne room

It’s sometimes difficult to decide which is your favourite Lightsaber fight. So it doesn’t get any easier when a new fight immediately enters your top five, top three and maybe takes top spot?

The first point to note is how different this style of fighting was when compared to its predecessors. The fight felt fresh and exciting.

The fight had much more of a hand to hand style. The combatants fought using their body-weight in an approximation of martial arts. Which is different to the lightsaber duels of the past where the weapons do most of the work.

In truth it’s hard to break down until the blu-ray is released but the scene in the throne room was spectacular. The fight was noteworthy in that both Rey and Kylo used a very unorthodox style.

In effect it was street fighting with a lightsaber by a duo who are already powerful in the force.

But Rey isn’t a Jedi and Kylo isn’t a Sith. Both had to adapt their fighting abilities with their powers and equally their powers with their fighting styles.

The fight was so different from the highly trained and disciplined Sith and Jedi fighting styles that Darth Maul, Obi-Wan and Qui-gon used on Naboo.

Whilst the visual elements of the fight stood out the it was distinct because both Rey and Kylo, who up until this point were mortal enemies, fought side by side in the tradition of my enemy’s enemy is my friend.

We didn’t know how much they could trust one another. Either could have turned on the other at any point. Even after the fight ended we still didn’t know what their relationship would be.

For these reasons this fight was amazing. More please.

Yoda

This doesn’t even need saying really. But Yoda. Actually Yoda.

Yoda along with Jabba and Vader became instant icons of popular culture when they appeared in episodes four to six.

Such was the character’s impact that Yoda became a shorthand reference for anyone showing great wisdom.

Whilst we enjoyed seeing Yoda’s character and history expanded in Clone Wars, seeing the actual character return was thrilling.

Thankfully Yoda’s return wasn’t advertised in the trailers so his appearance was a genuine surprise.

Yoda is one of the group we could call the Fundamental Five of Star Wars. These five characters stood-out in the original trilogy and have embodied all things Star Wars since. Along with Yoda the list contains Luke, Darth Vader, Princess Leia and Obi Wan Kenobi.

Yoda and Luke’s interaction in the Last Jedi went by so quickly that two viewings weren’t enough to properly appreciate the importance of what was said.

Seeing Yoda exchange witty comments with Luke again was worth the wait.

Character progression

Whist the Force Awakens was criticised for its more than passing resemblance to A New Hope, it had to establish never before seen characters just like episode 4.

And it did so very well. Rey, Kylo, Finn and Poe were all brilliantly introduced as individual protagonists and each with their own story arc.

For these four characters their back stories, motivations and decisions were expanded and told in a effective plot.

In Star Wars we are used to seeing the forces of good and evil in very stark terms – the light and the dark sides of the force. But in the new trilogy and the Last Jedi in particular this distinction is less clear.

And so we see Rey and Kylo struggle to find their place in the force. At times Rey appears to be drawn to the dark and Kylo is clearly conflicted in where his allegiances lie.

However, by the end of the film, where they stand is abundantly clear and the next time they cross swords it will be to the death. These two characters progress the most.

Poe’s journey as a young hot-head pilot takes a significant turn when he is forced to face the realities of his brash actions. In doing so he becomes a much more balanced leader by giving thought to situations when previously he might have rushed in.

Vice Admiral Holdo’s refusal to let Poe know her plan is frustrating but necessary in order for him to learn patience and trust.

And finally Finn. His journey progressed the least when compared to the first film. In the first we see his story as one of the main storylines of the film. The idea of a converted Stormtrooper was genius.

But here we see Finn learn to accept his role is to fight for the whole of the Resistance and not just Rey.

However, the relative lack of character progression for Finn meant there was space to introduce Rose Tico, DJ, Holdo and Lieutenant Connix. Let’s hope we see more of Connix, especially with the absence of Carrie Fisher in episode 9.

Conclusion

The Last Jedi took the story of our heroes forward whilst reuniting us with old favorites. The film was gripping and enthralling and caused audiences to gasp more than once in pure joy. Episode 9 here we come.

However the film was not without flaws which will be covered in Last Jedi review part 2: The Bad and also Last Jedi review part 3: The Ugly.

* Fundamental Five

So who would be in your fundamental five? Use the comments to to agree or propose your own.

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