By Anna Hermes
It is 1977. The saga of Star Wars hit the earth like a sci-fi-fairy-tale-fantasy comet. Viewers fell in love with the classic battle of good versus evil, the subtle humor of droids and the love story that, in fact, was of brotherly and sisterly love. Now 40 Years later Episode VIII hits again. Not so much in an epic form of something new and exciting, but rather like a well-known friend — in Disney outfit.
We left Rey (played by Daisy Ridley) and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) at the end of Episode VII on a rocky island in the sea, not knowing if he will be the savior of them all. We do know that at least one of the beloved heroes – Han Solo won’t be there anymore to save Luke like he did so many times before. We do not know, on the other hand, what Kylo Ren’s (performed by Adam Driver) problem is and what the new Head Villain (supreme leader Snoke played brilliantly by Andy Serkis) really wants except for world domination. There are so many questions. It is the perfect cliff hanger.
So here we are again. The story unfolds as expected: Luke doesn’t want to help and has neglected his Jedi principles, thinking it is better to be an exile on a holy Jedi island. Rey is stubborn enough to make him teach her the ways of the force anyway. But he sees darkness in her that reminds him of his other student he has lost – or abandoned? – Kylo Ren. While the conflict of good and evil is being fought in the minds between Rey and Kylo – and also inside Rey herself as she learns more about the force – in another part of the universe the fight is much more immediate.
We still have Leia Skywalker (Carrie Fisher) – the general of the fleet of the resistance. While fleeing their outpost because of an attack by the first order, a conflict of hierarchy arises , orders are not obeyed, and, as a consequence, the main ship is destroyed. SPOILER!! Leia should be dead, being sucked out into the vacuum of the universe. But oh no, let’s remember that the force is strong in the Skywalker family. And this is the very fairy-tale moment we have been waiting for. By using the force, she is able to pull herself back to the safety of the ship – or what is left of it. So she survives and is ready for the last stand of the resistance on a mining planet.
Director Rian Johnson agreed to the job only if he was allowed to write his own story. And write he did. The 152 minute film – the longest so far – brings back the story behind the story. Finally, Kylo Ren has a face I can believe in; finally, the supporting characters, such as the deserted Storm Trooper, are given a background story, showing us more than their plain good or evil side.
My expectations of the movie were not that high, since I was quite disappointed with the last one. My horror at learning that Disney had bought the franchise and seeing all of the mountains of merchandise sold before and after Episode VII, made me take a step back. I remembered what I had loved about Star Wars and also what I love about Disney. But I could not imagine that this marriage would work out. But knowing that Disney, for me, does creature design very well, I was happy to see the Last Jedi’s cute animals that brought the planets they live on to life. For example: the adorable little penguin-guinea-pig-like birds on Luke’s Island made me tilt my head and say “oh, I wanna have that as a pet”. Even the strong and mighty Wookie was not able to resist their cuteness. And that is exactly what is left after the movie ends. I said “How cute were the creatures?” and “I am so very glad for John Williams’ brilliant music!”.
Nonetheless, it is movie worth watching. The special effects are amazing (though I question the need for 3D in most of the scenes), the love for details and little things are beautiful to watch – Johnson was able to capture intimacy by keeping a close eye on the hands of the characters. Like the hands, the theme of “the last” keeps on returning. It is the last bomber that destroys the ship of the First Order; it is the last Jedi that needs to come forth to confront evil; the last few members of the resistance that spread the spark of hope into the rest of the universe.
Let’s hope it is not the last we see of attention to detail and love for the Star Wars universe and hope that the next – the last? – Episode will make us feel Georg Lukas’ vision even more. Johnsons attempt has certainly brought back an old friend even though he might dresses a bit differently than we are used to.