With $2.2 billion dollars in the bank and 2 years of eager anticipation behind it, The Force Awakens laid down a hefty benchmark for The Last Jedi to match up to. Rian Johnson’s directorial Star Wars debut comes at a crucial time for the future development of the franchise. Get it wrong and it’s potentially a cycle of diminishing returns. Get it right - with Galaxy’s Edge, the live action and animated shows and much more besides at stake - and the skies the limit. Luckily, Rian Johnson manages to just about pull it off.
We rejoin the story not at the expected moment of Rey handing Anakin Skywalkers lightsaber back to Luke Skywalker after years of self-imposed solitude but as the Resistance fleet, battered by the destruction of the Republic, flees D’Qar and heads for the skies with the First Order in hot pursuit. This chase – distinctly reminiscent of the long voyage of the Battlestar Galactica – forms the spine of the story that other elements weave around. A healed Finn (John Boyega) and Rose (newcomer Kelly Marie Tran) strike out to buy the fleet a chance, heading for the casino world of Canto Bight in search of a hacker who can help them stop the First Order from tracking them while Leia, Poe and Amilyn Holdo (Laura Dern) try to buy time.
Meanwhile, Rey is confronted not by the eager master Jedi she expected, but by a tired, beaten Luke Skywalker who wants no part of any of this, and this is the part of the film where new lore is laid, and the lines between darkness and light are distinctly blurred. It’s a brave director who challenges the status quo of the saga, but Johnson rocks all over the world of Star Wars and gives us much to think about. No doubt about it, this is a film you need to see multiple times to catch the nuance and drama on display.
Carrie Fisher, in her final Star Wars performance, is the heart and soul of the film, stealing scenes with ease and on more than one occasion bringing lumps to the throat. While Luke wearily plays his part in the development of Rey, Leia - bowed by age and time but unbroken by the weight of constant fight and defeat – gives courage to those around her, and inspiration in the darkest moments. Can J.J. Abrams make a Star Wars film without her spirit at the heart of it? Sadly he has no choice…
Dramatic to the point of distraction, flippant and quirky, sometimes to its disadvantage, loaded with cameos of varying effectiveness and another great John Williams score, The Last Jedi is impressive filmmaking with first-class performances from Fisher, Hamill and Adam Driver. Back over to you J.J..
STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI / CERT: 12A / DIRECTOR & SCREENPLAY: RIAN JOHNSON / STARRING: DAISY RIDLEY, JOHN BOYEGA, MARK HAMILL, ADAM DRIVER, CARRIE FISHER / RELEASE DATE: DECEMBER 14TH
Expected Rating: 9 out of 10