Watch this as soon as you can…

“This is not going to go the way you think,” says Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill),  early in Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Apparently not a meta reference to the fan backlash against this movie, and the reason why The Rise of Skywalker is not receiving the same hype, this quote does encapsulate the film. For better or worse, this film takes the decades old saga in a new direction, forcing either love or hate in response. Hopefully Knives Out proves less divisive for Rian Johnson…

Of course, not everything has been changed. Rian Johnson’s film does not borrow so heavily from the past as The Force Awakens, but there are clear parallels between Episode VIII and the two direct sequels to A New Hope: The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Some parallels: the Resistance is on the defensive against an aggressive First Order, the protagonist is being trained by an old Jedi master, and characters have to choose between the light and dark side of the force. The music is familiarly grand and captivating, even if unsurprising. There are also the tense light-saber battles, creatively designed aliens, and dogfights in space one would expect from a Star Wars film.

However, Rian Johnson is much more comfortable with letting “the past die”. Big twists surrounding parentage do not replicate famous twists from the original trilogy. The big light-saber battle at the end involves characters on both sides of the force working together, leading to a memorable scene with on an impressively designed set and some thrilling choreography. Characters return, but not as they were before. For example, Luke is back, but his youthful, idealistic heroism is not. Hamill portrays Luke as damaged and disillusioned, sarcastic and bitter. It is his strongest, most layered and moving performance in the series.  These changes are still extremely controversial as fans debate whether the person who turned Darth Vader from the dark side would give up on Kylo Ren. People change. Time chips away at the spirit, so it is not too far fetched to believe Luke would lose his unwavering belief in good. Your enjoyment of this film will ultimately be determined by whether you can buy this change or not, though.

Other changes are harder to justify. There are changes to Star Wars lore, particularly with regards to the use of hyperspace. The way hyperspace is used does make for one of the most stunning shots in Star Wars history. It is truly jaw dropping and unforgettable, even two years on. However, stunning shots do not justify themselves in everyone’s view. Perhaps everyone could have been impressed if Johnson took the time to explain why hyperspace can now be used differently. You cannot fault the shot, but you can criticise Johnson for not explaining changes to established rules of the series. Spiderman can’t suddenly have a gun sticking out of his arm, right? It needs to be explained.

The Last Jedi will always be controversial. Many consider it an abomination. Others consider it the only rival to The Empire Strikes Back. Regardless of what you think, it is important to recognise the good and the bad for a balanced view. The Last Jedi brings back everything great about the series so far, and is not afraid to change things to offer fresh sources of excitement and drama. The Last Jedi could have done more to fit in with the established continuity. Perhaps more backstory for Luke to explain his drastic change, or an explanation for changes to the use of hyperspace. Change is good, but easier to digest when done slowly and with consideration.

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