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Extraordinary Last Jedi is an irresistible force

The latest Star Wars film isn’t very far, far away from other episodes, but with spectacular effects and strong performances from a new generation of rebels, it will delight its loyal fans

12 December, 2017 — By Dan Carrier

Young Jedi Rey (Daisy Ridley) continues where we left her in The Force Awakens

Directed by Rian Johnson
Certificate: 12a

IF the first three Star Wars films are classics, and the next three were car crashes, then the contemporary offerings (so far) sit somewhere in the upper middle bracket between them.

They are well made, well cast and good fun, but also perhaps lack a crucial spark of originality. They feel like they are trying to satisfy the demands of Star Wars fans – which they do – but don’t push the envelope as much as they could in terms of story telling.

While this is a galaxy far, far away, it feels close to home. With The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, you can’t help but sense you’ve done all this before.

Still, it’s an entertaining formula, so why change the ingredients and method when baking a cake when you know it’s going to turn out tasty?

The Last Jedi has three strands of stories. Young Jedi Rey (Daisy Ridley) continues where we left her in The Force Awakens – on a rocky, sea-battered outcrop hassling Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to ditch being a hermit and use his powers for the good of the universe. Then there is space warrior stuff going down, with General Hux (Domnall Gleeson, like a tasteless stag party clown in a cheap uniform) chasing the last of the rebel army, led by Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) through galaxies while trying not to be strangled from afar by the nasty Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who in turn is doing the bidding of evil overlord Snoke.

An offshoot of this plot strand is Finn, the one-time Storm Trooper (John Boyega) zipping away with Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) to find some codes to help get the baddies’ gunships off the remains of the rebel fleet.

It is a jumpy tale but works, helped by the fact it looks absolutely fantastic. Set design, effects, costumes – this is an extraordinary creation.

Add to this, the new generation of Star Wars rebels take the baton from Leia, Luke and Han with a sure grip. They are loveable and representative: how cool to have strong female leads, and not all-white, either.

Director Rian Johnson tries to make this a truly everyman experience, offering something to all across the vast age range who will catch this film at the weekend.

There is Force mumbo-jumbo for the Star Wars heads. There is plenty of action. There is visual and spoken wit. Smaller viewers have furry creatures to say “ahhh” at, older viewers will get the social comment.

But it feels like we’ve been here before. The Force Awakens was modelled on the first Star Wars, with the heroes trying to blow up a weapon of mass destruction – and The Last Jedi reminds of The Empire Strikes Back.

For Luke, substitute Rey. She has a Dark Side education skit. Like Empire, there are ragtag rebels being pursued across starry skies.

Despite the eye-catching crashes, bangs and wallops to keep us on our toes, it is long – and too long by half an hour, with a final battle scene that feels unnecessary. But instead of trying to be all things to all people, it could have been braver. It could say “this is a cowboy film set in space, like it or lump it”. Instead it has all Tolkien-esque asides about good and evil, love stories, family betrayal and furry Ewok-style scene fillers.

Fans will love it. For others, it’s well made and jolly.


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