12th Dec2017

‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ Review

by Matthew Turner

Review by Matthew Turner

Stars: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Benicio del Toro | Written and Directed by Rian Johnson

star-wars-the-last-jedi-poster

Star Wars fans rejoice! Rian Johnson’s eagerly-awaited follow-up to 2015′s The Force Awakens is everything you could possibly have wished for and more.

Picking up from where Episode VII left off, Star Wars – Episode VIII: The Last Jedi jumps straight into the action, with ace Resistance star pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) leading a thrilling bombing attack on a First Order Dreadnought. However, the tables are soon turned as the Resistance realise, with sickening horror, that the First Order are capable of tracking them through hyper-space jumps, sending them into a desperate retreat.

With fuel supplies running low, former-Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) embarks on a secret race-against-time mission involving a visit to an interplanetary casino, accompanied by mechanics whizz Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) and scene-stealing astro-droid BB-8.

Meanwhile, on a remote island, Rey (Daisy Ridley) attempts to connect with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), but finds he’s reluctant to rejoin the fight against the First Order. At the same time, Rey discovers she shares a psychic connection to Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and the pair draw closer to each other, each hoping to tempt the other to their side of the battle.

Looper‘s Johnson, who also wrote the script, proves a winning choice as director, capturing the tone of the franchise right from the opening battle, but also immediately making it his own in a distinctive way. This is a Star Wars film that’s alive to the pleasures of the franchise and duly delivers everything fans could want in terms of thrilling space adventure, lightsaber duels, comedy droid antics and the like; however, it also takes on board the criticism that The Force Awakens stuck too closely to the story beats of Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back and takes things in a series of surprising directions as a result.

The performances are wonderful. Hamill’s appearance was reduced to an audacious tease at the end of The Force Awakens, but here he gets the chance to deliver the performance fans have been waiting for and it doesn’t disappoint. Similarly, Fisher puts all fears that she might have been side-lined for this instalment aside with a touching performance that is, like the rest of the film, full of surprises – indeed, if any digital trickery was required to complete her scenes, then you can’t see the joins.

On top of that, a mo-capped Andy Serkis is deliciously evil as Supreme Leader Snoke and there’s delightful support from Benicio del Toro as a wily figure Finn encounters on his secret mission, while Ridley enriches and deepens her performance this time round, sparking dangerous chemistry with Driver’s Ren.

For his part, while his amusing tantrums might have drawn criticism in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Driver is nothing short of sensational here, delivering a compelling, torturously conflicted performance that’s both terrifying in its fury and pain and heart-breaking in its occasional glimmers of hope.

As for the adorable / deplorable (delete as applicable) Porgs (the cute hamster-like creatures accompanying Chewbacca in the trailer), rest assured that they are used sparingly (albeit cutely) and nimbly avoid a potential Jar-Jar Binks / Ewoks situation. To that end, the Porgs are part and parcel of a pervasive and appealing weirdness in the island scenes, particularly when it comes with the issue of what to eat and drink.

By turns thrilling, laugh-out-loud funny and powerfully moving, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a worthy continuation of the Star Wars saga, marred only by an overlong running time.

**** 4/5

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is released across the UK on December 14th.

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