Edinburgh Cinema

Edinburgh’s cinemas have their own, different feel. When I visit them, I’ll be writing about both the film and the place, giving you the organic experience. Film critics on the big scale can’t really cater for this, so I hope my reviews bring something extra in this respect.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi 15.12.17

I would watch this film again. Not for the lightsaber fights, which were strangely banal, or for the romance that develops between Boyega's Finn and Tan's Rose, which glowed slightly at the end. In fact not for the many shoulder-shrug participants of this movie: Oscar Isaac's ace pilot Po and his one-dimensional charisma; Laura Derne's heroic but stiffly boring turn as a rebel leader. I could go on, but what's the point? I wish this film had scaled down on the casting and accommodating sub-plots. It already has three outstanding performers: Luke Skywalker (Hamill), Rei (Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Driver). I understand that every actor in Hollywood wants to be in Star Wars, but sometimes, less is more.

Speaking of which, Mark Hamill's hermit-like Luke is simply divine. He broods on his island as a failed teacher, dry humour mixing with anger and bitterness, but his uplifting humanity is never in question. His dialogue with Yoda I particularly loved; Yoda who for the first time since Empire Strikes Back, comes across as loveable and benign. Beyond the rugged islands, Luke convinces too in his agile fight against Driver's Ren, with shades of The Matrix, leaving Ren to look lumbering and awkward. Luke, in short, is kick-ass in this movie as warrior, teacher and sexagenarian whose regrets are not nearly as bad as he thinks. Hyperbole perhaps, but his is the most wonderful sixty-something character I've seen on screen, certainly in an action movie.

So what makes The Last Jedi work, its core, is the triangle of dark history between Skywalker, Rei and Kylo Ren. I wish this had been more fleshed out with more flashbacks and twists; the mystery that hangs over Luke's broken relationship with Ren, and Rei's unknown parentage, could have been even more intriguing. Still, Rei's descent into the island pit, to confront her own darkness and doubts, is a Star Wars moment to savour. Driver, meanwhile, confirms in this latest performance that his is the most complex and mesmeric villain in sci-fi or fantasy since Heath Ledger's Joker.

There are, in fact, moments of beauty scattered throughout in the photography: none more so than Luke at the end as he faces that sunset of his youth, but also the shattering of a Star Destroyer in silent slow-mo, leaving the audience to enter some kind of heavenly dreamscape.

What's left to say that won't kill the mystery? My favourite character has gone the way of Han Solo and won't be there for the final act. What remains is a large and seemingly ever-expanding cast of barely memorable characters, and two super stars at war. In the meantime, and for Hamill's performance in particular, I will watch this film again.
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Wednesday, 29 June 2022

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