Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi ★★★½

With The Last Jedi Rian Johnson has conjured an at times incredibly beautiful film filled with emotional pathos and pay-off. The old school fans will largely feel respected, while there is plenty here for the new wave of fans to chew on - including an expansion of the main characters beyond those introduced in The Force Awakens. There are, however, many problems with The Last Jedi as a film, and those overlooking those problems are likely being blinded by their nostalgia for something they have loved for as long as they can remember.

Effectively the dual story of the Resistance's attempted escape from The First Order while Rey discovers her truth path, The Last Jedi starts strongly with an awesome space battle that features Commander Poe (Oscar Isaac) buying his friends (including Carrie Fisher in her final role as Leia Organa) time to escape their base. Both Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and General Hux (Domhall Gleeson) are a part of the pursuing armada, but soon find themselves having to answer to Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis doing his usual excellent thing) about how it all went pear-shaped. Meanwhile, Rey (Daisy Ridley) is trying to talk Luke (Mark Hammill) into returning to help the Resistance but he is having none of it. Cue lessons about The Force, chases, escapes, ships being blown up, desperate plans, even more desperate final stands, and an unlikely bond forming between ...

Johnson does well to balance the handling of the old characters with the new. And by the film's end, it really does feel as if the baton has been passed in a respectful and organic manner.

But along the way the pacing of the film stutters and, at one point, almost coughs to a complete halt, as Johnson sends certain characters off on a side-mission that seems only shoehorned in to provide an action sequence while Luke is getting scholastically serious with Rey.

Quite simply, at 150 plus minutes, The Last Jedi is too long. It's second act is boring at times - a mortal sin when it comes to this film series after the dense and unwieldy prequels. There are also far too many creatures that exist purely for the toys they will sell, with the Porgs, in particular, doing nothing more than trying to elicit the occasional laugh.

Yet the film comes alive in its final hour in ways that would be too spoilery to speak about here. But rest assured there are battles, light saber fights, rescues and heroic acts aplenty - with one scene in particular giving me chills like I have not felt since Mad Max: Fury Road. This last hour more than makes up for the cumbersome second act, and is likely to bring a tear to many a Star Wars fan's eye - not least of all because they know this is the last time they will be seeing the late, great Carrie Fisher on screen.

To say anything more would risk spoiling too much, and it's fair to say The Last Jedi - far more than The Force Awakens before it - deserves a second viewing before final judgments are made. The former film was popcorn entertainment designed to honour the original Star Wars while also wooing a new generation. Rian Johnson is allowed by Disney to give far fewer fucks and as such the film stands alone as different to what has come before it (even if tonally it has the same bittersweet, darker edge that The Empire Strikes Back sported).

3.5 Lessons on The Force for The Last Jedi.

Is discussed in more detail on Episode 142 of The Countdown: Movie and TV Reviews podcast.

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