The contrasting reactions from critics and hardcore fans to the latest Star Wars blockbuster have gradually become the dominant conversation piece surrounding the franchise. As its reviews bubbled with near unanimous praise over director Rian Johnson’s defiantly risk-taking attitude, the Jedi obsessives were instead left entirely frustrated by a near sacrilegious approach to characters they had grown up with. Chatrooms and Twitter-feeds alike have been engulfed by irritable fanboys vying for blood.
Which is unfortunate, because the movie itself is great. After the stale repetition of The Force Awakens Johnson opts to shake things up wherever he can, chewing up and spitting out storylines that J.J. Abrams began in the previous instalment. Entire plot threads are bluntly and unceremoniously dispatched, a tact Johnson surely must have known would irk the diehards and any fans of the previous film. His lack of reverence for the Star Wars mythology is a refreshing change after Abrams’ boring adherence to George Lucas’ original trilogy.
There are clear flaws throughout, from a few pointless side-plots and an unnecessarily long running time to a couple of awkwardly developed relationships that unfortunately don’t hold up by film’s end. In chasing new directions Johnson swings and misses more than he needs to, but his ambition manages to plant the seeds for future possibilities that just weren’t there before. The classic older characters are given their chance to shine, particularly Luke Skywalker in what is easily Mark Hamill’s best performance to date, but above all else it’s the likes of Daisy Ridley as Rey, Adam Driver as Kylo Ren and Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron who linger best. In snatching the franchise out of the grasp of its icons and handing it to the younger generation Johnson has reenergized the entire Star Wars universe. The fanboys may miss the old days, but The Last Jedi sets up the next chapter perfectly.