STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI, OUT NOW NATIONWIDE, CERT 12a, FOUR STARS
WHEN Star Wars: The Force Awakens opened in 2015, fans of the franchise breathed a massive sigh of relief.
Set 30 years after the events of The Return Of The Jedi, the film captured new audiences and reignited the nostalgia within those of us who had grown up in the early years of the franchise.
It was no easy feat. In the intervening years, a series of prequels never quite found their footing and fans wondered, quite rightly, if we could ever feel the force like we once had.
We need not have worried. The Force Awakens was a five-star triumph that balanced the old and the new, carefully introducing us to new characters who blended seamlessly with the old guard.
This was the beginning of a new series, new films to feel the force and spread the light.
As we approached the release of The Last Jedi, the next in the sequence, the filmmakers were hit by a tragedy that would ricochet across the fandom: the death of Carrie Fisher, the true princess of Star Wars, Princess Leia.
Her death would not just sadden people but change the course of the Star Wars film. The latest film has at last arrived and, as with all Star Wars films, the fear of spoilers is as a scary as Kylo Ren in a bad mood.
This review will tread carefully. No major plot points will be revealed and, no, I am not going to tell you who Rey’s parents are.
The Last Jedi takes off from where the Force Awakens ended. Rey (Daisey Ridley) is not so subtly knocking on Luke Skywalker’s (Mark Hamill) stone door. She is demanding an explanation as to why he has been living as a recluse and insists that he comes back and help the resistance fight against the alliance.
Luke is not interested. The weight of the past weighs too heavily on his shoulders. He is content to remain in isolation on his little stone island, our own Skellig Michael, looking mighty fine indeed.
However, Luke is not a Jedi master for nothing. He senses something about Rey, something that she feels is growing stronger, a power she does not understand. She needs Luke’s help and is not going to give up on him, despite his protestations.
In the meantime, she senses a connection to the last person she wants to be connected to, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).
Kylo is struggling in the aftermath of Han Solo’s death. Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) can feel the conflict and preys on it. Kylo is more uncertain than he has ever been. All he wants is to be all dark side but there is some light still in him; if only there was someone who could help him find it. Cue John Williams’s emotive score.
While Rey is off trying to unlock Jedi secrets, the ship she left behind is under attack. General Leia (Carrie Fisher) is at her wit’s end trying to outsmart and out-fly General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson).
She is both helped and hindered by Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). She is fond of her ace pilot, after all, he carries many of the characteristics of her beloved Han, but much like Han, Poe is on the reckless sides and Leia needs him to learn that sometimes blowing things up is not the wisest course of action.
Poe locks horns with Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo (Laura Dern), a resistance officer who has a vastly different view on warfare than he does and insists that he has lessons to learn.
And lastly, Finn (John Boyega) awakens from his medical coma on time to go on a mission with Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), a wonderful new addition to the Star Wars clan.
There, I’ve given little away, no hints on Leia’s future, nowt on which side Kylo is going to choose, and definitely nada on Rey’s parents.
I will say that this does not match the perfection of the last film but then again, how could it? The last one came with attachment, memory and childhood fondness. Everything old was new again.
This one is too long, some points laboured to fill two hours and thirty minutes. Yet it has heart, it has emotion, it packs a punch and has wonderful performances from the cast, particularly Hamill, his best to date, and the fantastic newbie Tran.
Old fans will love it, the new fans will too. This might be the Last Jedi but it certainly won’t be the last film for this wondrous franchise.