So, a few days since seeing the latest instalment of Star Wars, here we go with the review of Episode 8 or as I now shall refer to it in this – TLJ.
Written and directed by Rian Johnson (Looper, The Brothers Bloom), TLJ comes at easiest the longest film in the saga. It also comes off the back of the well received The Force Awakens (TFA) and also the very popular standalone story Rogue One.
And, whilst TFA was effectively a reboot / remake of A New Hope (which I’m still good with), the next part of the story is very much a new creation.
The film picks up directly after the end of TFA, and gets straight into it. We find Rey setting off on her journey of learning with Luke Skywalker, Finn recovering from his injuries, and Poe Dameron, General Leia Organa and the Rebellion continuing their fight against the First Order – still including General Hux, Kylo Ren and Supreme Leader Snoke.
We also meet new characters in the story – most notably Rose Tico (a maintenance member of the Resistance brought into the action).
It’s a good film. I didn’t love it but it is a good film. The niggling issue that I have had since I watched it, is that I’m not sure it is a good film in the context of the Star Wars saga overall. It makes choices that may work in a standalone film, but less so when viewed as the 8th part of a broader story.
Im sure at some point I will write a spoiler filled version of this (which will likely read like a rant) in terms of these choices.
What is frustrating is that with this film Johnson creates some visually stunning, classic Star Wars moments. Moments of real humour, and maintained JJ Abrams approach of things not feeling ‘too digital’ (see prequel trilogy for errors in this area). In fact, I think with some changes (some brief reaction moments in the first third, unnecessary content in the second, and some larger plot points in the third) this would be an absolute classic Star Wars film.
We’re already seeing split between critical reviews of the film and fan reaction, and I get it. Success for films in the saga will always need a balance between new story telling and a recognition to the broader ‘lore’ that has made this franchise what it is.
One of my friends saw The Force Awakens before me and when I asked them for a brief ‘no spoiler review’ of the film, they rightly replied with “its the star wars film that you want it to be”. That’s the thing – Episode 8 wasn’t. Not for me.
It’s both a good film but a missed opportunity and disappointing offering in the context of the broader story.