Nine films and over forty years since the world was graced with George Lucas' first Star Wars film, this sprawling saga continues to deliver one of the most universal stories in the world as it cyclically pits good against evil and light against dark in an endless battle to save everyone's favorite galaxy far, far away. Now though, in a world of ever-growing divisions and extremes, it only seems fit that the latest Episode - 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017),' - should take a new direction and explore that sludgy area in the middle where most of us really lie.
Director Rian Johnson ('Brick,' 'Looper,') is certainly aiming to do just that, as his epic tale looks through a stronger lens at the characters and stories we were introduced to in 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015),' and aims to delve below the surface of everything and everyone. Think Rey's all light and Kylo's all dark? Think the Resistance are good and The First Order bad? Johnson takes one big mixing brush to that painting and blurs those clearly cut lines without pause here, and the result is a very, very different kind of Star Wars film overall.
Indeed, if 2015's 'The Force Awakens,' was a beautiful Renaissance pastiche, 'The Last Jedi,' is a big, bold Impressionist statement that takes the characters and stories we all know and love and paints them with a surprising range of rich, colourful brush-strokes. The question now of course is whether the end result of such a universe-altering proposition has the polish and engaging brilliance to back-up its bravery within the greatest film saga of all, or whether it will collapse under the weight of its own ambitions.
Well, thankfully the film is definitely a success there for the most part, as the powerful execution of each balanced narrative here is enough on its own to impress, and the beautiful visuals do further service to all of that too. There are many truly great ideas explored that draw poetic parallels between the previous blacks and whites, and that beauty is extended through the spiritual nature of much of the imagery and the grandiose battles that are all portrayed beautifully through the sweeping landscape and focused character shots of Steve Yedlin.
All of this not only makes for a more balanced and thoughtful experience than we've previously seen from this saga, but also unlocks the opportunity for some properly ballsy storylines that will have you on the edge of your seat and genuinely shocked as countless revelations and powerful explorations are made.
In fact, it's an awful lot to take in in just one viewing (particularly if you chose to go at some ungodly hour of the morning for no real reason other than the very valid fact that you can't wait another twelve hours to see it) as the film throws out its huge revelations and themes at one heck of a pace - albeit with much of the power and impact you'd hope for - from start to finish.
It really is a movie with a lot of smart stuff on its mind, and there the only issue really lies with the extra stuff that's layered on top, as Johnson seems to revel in excessive world-building, silly creatures and tangents a little too much as they often feel hugely forced and annoying. Perhaps it's just because the stories being told require so much serious investment and consideration that that's such an issue, but it does certainly feel that greater attention could have been given to the more important things had we not spent valuable moments watching, say, Luke drinking green milk from the udders of a twenty-foot monster.
Regardless, a better judgement of what to keep and what to ditch might have lead to a thematic journey that concludes itself more effectively, as it feels as though much of the balancing and ballsy clouding of the light vs dark idea is somewhat undone in the third act.
Having said that, underneath any of the irritating tangents, this film is still a hugely poetic and beautiful ride that most of all proves that the new Lucasfilm aren't afraid to test and push the boundaries of this franchise's characters and stories and take them to new places that surprise and amaze.
'Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017),' sees Rian Johnson paint one brave and brilliant work of art, and in the end, whilst the final piece may have its issues, you just can't deny what a beautifully hard-hitting, spiritual experience it is that moves along with all the whit, speed and emotion you'd hope for. Anyone planning to see it (I mean, who isn't?) should at least book twice, as this is a film that demands multiple viewing, and you most definitely wont be complaining about that.