Review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

IN WHICH THE WRITER OF A BLOG THAT IS ENTITLED “AN ALBUM A DAY” HAS NOT LISTENED TO AN ALBUM TODAY AND INSTEAD IS WRITING ABOUT A FILM HE SAW, THUS FAILING IN HIS STATED AIM OF WRITING ABOUT ONE ALBUM, A DAY. HE DOESN’T EVEN BOTHER TO TRY TO LINK IT TO MUSIC UNTIL THE VERY END, THE LAZY GET

Star Wars has taken root in the collective consciousness to such an extent that trying to comment on it in any detached way feels redundant, seeing as I’m not Roland Barthes. I ruddy love Star Wars. It’s a big corporate behemoth, and also one of the great popular myths of our time, and whilst a younger and more cynical me would have focussed on the former, I’m going with the latter. It’s a part of my (cultural) life and a part of our (cultural) lives, a part of our (cultural) family, and just as when I was younger the idea of big family get-togethers bored me a little (I was (am) a precocious shit who’s always worrying about being somewhere more exciting), now I really look forward to them, because they’re rare and to be savoured.

There aren’t many films I feel comfortable talking about in such an intimate way, but there we go. The Last Jedi is fantastic. It’s a perfect continuation of the series, that draws heavily on what has come before, and also brings something genuinely new to the table. It doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It signals growth for the characters, in particular Luke Skywalker, and it is a much needed injection of shades of grey into a franchise that has been almost gleefully Manichaean in the past. It expounds on previous myths of Jedi, Sith, the light, the dark, and the force, to the point where it is actually a little unclear who is good, and who is bad.

For example, we see one scene (a flashback) three different times, each time with new information, and in each instance our sympathies shift slightly until we get at something resembling the whole truth. Another scene, involving Rey, includes a presentation of Lacan’s mirror phase idea that’s too overt to mean anything else, but also represents a break from the series’ previously dominant idea that the past is always connected with the present. It stops short of fully embracing the dialectic of negation, but there’s always the third film.

That’s the subtext stuff out of the way. The film is really, really fun. It’s got space battles, cool scenes with lightsabers, and lashings of derring-do. There’s also a genuine emotional involvement going on, particularly with General Leia, for obvious reasons, but also the subplot involving Finn and newcomer Rose (Kelly Marie Tran). Real tears were shed. Daisy Ridley’s a better actor this time around. There were three or four moments that stand out as not just exemplary blockbuster filmmaking, but of sheer heart-stopping intensity that makes you think that intelligent auteurs should be given £250 million more often.

Also: the sexual tension between Laura Dern and Oscar Isaac is worth the price of admission alone.

To link it to music, this is a full-on symphony. And a damn good one.