THE LAST JEDI
Running time: 152 minutes approx
Rey - Daisy Ridley
Kylo Ren - Adam Driver
Finn - John Boyega
Pie Dameron - Oscar Isaac
Luke Skywalker - Mark Hamill
Leia Organa - Carrie Fisher
Hux - Domhnall Gleeson
Rose - Kelly Marie Tran
Vice Admiral Holdo - Laura Dern
DJ - Benicio Del Toro
Directed by Rian Johnson
Written by Rian Johnson
Beware for there be spoilers here, no matter how hard we try not to.
It is a dark time for the galaxy. The First Order now control almost every star system and the Rebellion is failing. Their last outpost has been attacked and their final ships are on the run, facing certain annihilation once their fuel runs out. Their last, best hope lies on a small island where Rey tries to convince the legendary Luke Skywalker to return to the fight.
When Disney bought Lucasfilm and announced new STAR WARS films, they didn't mention that they would be remakes. THE FORCE AWAKENS, is a virtual rerun of A NEW HOPE with added family drama and a bigger Death Star. Nobody seemed to mind since it was hugely entertaining and it took in a huge amount of money. This has clearly not been lost on the makers of THE LAST JEDI since the film relentlessly mines virtually its entire storyline from THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK and RETURN OF THE JEDI, amongst others.
The Hoth battle scene from THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK is used not once, but twice, effectively bookending the movie. The flight from the First Order starships is the Millennium Falcon running from stardestroyers in the same film. Rey and Skywalker redo the Skywalker/Yoda scenes and the tree laden with the dark side of the force becomes a seaweed festooned hole laden with the dark side of the force. The cantina from A NEW HOPE gets upgraded to a casino, the speeder race from THE PHANTOM MENACE is redone with alien horses, Rey facing down Kylo Ren and Snoke is Luke facing down Darth Vader and the Emperor from RETURN OF THE JEDI. The Millennium Falcon even gets to rework its race through the interior of the Death Star from RETURN OF THE JEDI.
Very little of which matters whilst you're watching it. The opening, complete with fanfare and explanatory crawl, is pure STAR WARS with action, adventure and excitement jostling with the predictability and darkness that is to come. Whilst Mark Hamill's Luke suggests that things will not go as Rey foresees, there are times when the audience can say the lines before the actors do, so clunky is the script. Certain scenes, however, set up familiar scenarios to play them out differently. Rey in Snoke's throne room is a nice example of the film firing on all its cylinders and when Luke reveals just what a badass Jedi master he is, it's an air-punching moment (though the film then strangely throws that feeling away immediately).
The film is certainly too long and is baggy in the middle. Whilst it gives strong character arcs to Rey, Poe, Luke and Leia, it has no idea what to do with Finn and his entire subplot could have been excised since it has very little bearing on the outcome of the main storyline. As it lumbers into yet another set piece towards the end of its two and half hour running time, younger members of the audience will find their patience sorely tested.
The action is slick, plentiful and epic in scale. The special effects are flawless as you would expect, but do not overshadow the personal stories that are the core of the film. There is plenty of humour and funny references to the earlier films (BB8's disguise on board Snoke's ship is a gleeful nod to earlier times). Creature effects abound and the feared overly-cute porgs prove to have little influence over the film. Certainly in looks, this is most definitely a STAR WARS film.
The acting is perfectly fine, though there is little for most of the actors to do. Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill and Adam Driver get the best of the interpersonal exchanges whilst Carrie Fisher (in her last role), John Boyega and Laura Dern pretty much have to play the same expression throughout.
THE LAST JEDI doesn't have the freshness of THE FORCE AWAKENS' triumphant return after so long away from the galaxy far, far away and it doesn't have the originality or defiant difference of ROGUE ONE. There is a lot to love about it and there is almost as much to be disappointed about, but that only settles into the mind in the days after seeing the film. Whilst you're there its an uneven, but entertaining ride.
And Luke Skywalker really is a badass Jedi master.