Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review

It was with a cocktail of excitement and dread that I sat down in the cinema and saw the immortal words “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” fade in and fade out as Star Wars: The Last Jedi began. I need not have feared. Under the near-masterful hand of writer-director Rian Johnson, Episode VIII finds new places for the Star Wars saga to explore in every way: new character arcs; new emotional territory; new plot structures; new images. I breathed a sigh of relief and joy as the credits rolled: relief that it wasn’t awful and joy that it was magnificent.

The Last Jedi starts exactly where The Force Awakens left off. In the following two and a half hours (which absolutely fly by) we see psychological explorations on a remote Jedi island, an escape from a decadent casino city, an attack on a stunning salt-flat planet, a jaw-dropping lightsaber battle in a grand throne room and much more. All of this looks incredible in a richly detailed way, using state-of-the-art CGI along with physical sets, props and costumes to great effect. Gone is the synthetic blandness of the prequels; this is a Star Wars film you can touch and feel.

But it’s the characters that drive the best Star Wars films, and here they are a joy to watch. Performances are great all-round, with strong leads in Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver but it’s Mark Hamill, reprising his role as Luke Skywalker, that provides the standout. It has been the source of much anger that his older Luke is more cynical than his previous film outings (even Hamill himself has been quoted as saying it’s “not my Luke”), but Johnson makes it work, expanding on the character last seen in 1983. The plot unfolds naturally from the characters and takes us to moments of real surprise and shock not felt since (dare I say it) The Empire Strikes Back.

Despite the naysayers (and there are many), The Last Jedi is terrific because, like the cherished original films, it is remarkably simple in concept. It takes a group of fun, interesting characters and puts them in galaxy-sized, exciting situations, lavishing the whole thing in creative images and inventive world-building. It’s fresh, funny, huge and exhilarating. I can’t ask any more of Star Wars film.

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