“Let the past die. Kill it if you have to. It’s the only way to become what you’re meant to be.” Kylo Ren’s words could almost be applied to the Star Wars franchise itself, as Episode VIII doesn’t so much have the heroes of the resistance on the ropes, as it does tumbling outside the ring to be pummelled like a CNN logo by The Donald. The action picks up exactly where The Force Awakens left off, with the First Order aware of the rebel scum’s location and on its way to destroy its last remnants. They take to this task so gleefully that there are times Last Jedi feels like it’s heading for a TPK to hail a new beginning. Yet by its very nature, that makes this film the Empire Strikes Back of the new trilogy, showing that sometimes it’s harder to let the past die than you think.
The Last Jedi’s biggest problem is that it feels long, and having never even checked our watch during the comparatively lacklustre prequels, that’s an issue. This is largely down to the need to keep dual plotlines running in parallel, attempting to maintain the excitement as Rey (Daisy Ridley) is rebuffed by Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and potters about on a lonely island. Meanwhile, Amilyn Holdo (Laura Dern) commands the rebel fleet in a ball gown, as they try to outrun the chasing ships, while Finn and Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) head out on what feels like a wholly unnecessary venture.
That slow middle section aside, there’s an awful lot for fans to coo over. Ren (an excellent Adam Driver) gets a much meatier role, and his sparring – verbally, for the most part – with Rey is a highlight. The script also zings more often than might be expected, and has some great sight gags, while its major moments deliver real joy. Hamill also gives the performance his character deserves, as he takes centre stage. There’s even some clarity on the question that is frequently posed to Rey: “Who are you?” Although the one she herself should be asking is, “Do all Jedi masters end up living alone as hermits?”
“The greatest teacher, failure is,” says a familiar face popping up for a key scene, so perhaps those scripting issues will be sorted by the time this latest arc reaches its finale. Until then, this is a hugely slick – if unevenly plotted – entry for this iconic space opera.
Release: 14 December 2017
From: Walt Disney Studios
Format: Theatrical Release
Age Rating: 12A