Show of Force from Johnson
Two years ago Star Wars fans across the globe were left on tenterhooks when Luke Skywalker’s (Mark Hamill) much-anticipated return closed out The Force Awakens in a dialogue-free appearance.
It’s fair to say the next step in this new trilogy takes the space saga off in directions very few will have expected as Rian Johnson (Looper) takes over from J.J. Abrams to direct this middle chapter.
One of the main criticisms aimed at Abrams’ Force Awakens was it was like a retread of A New Hope – there are no such worries with The Last Jedi.
I don’t want to give too much away about the plot – and I’d urge you to avoid spoilers at all costs before strapping yourself in for the ride – but Johnson’s story splits into three separate arcs, one of which seeing Daisy Ridley’s heroine Rey trying to coax a reluctant Luke into training her in the ways of the Force.
Kicking off with an enormous space battle, The Last Jedi barely lets up as an array of characters are physically, emotionally and mentally tested like never before.
As the second of a trilogy and taking a few darker turns, inevitable pre-release comparisons were made with The Empire Strikes Back – but this follows its own path.
Duplicity is an overriding theme as it’s difficult to know who to trust as characters’ loyalties and motivations shift, and the battle lines between the light and dark side of the Force have never been this blurred.
Johnson packs in an avalanche of raw emotion and makes several brave choices that may test some of the series’ more passionate fans.
Surprises and twists come thick and fast and there are three or four genuinely shocking moments that you’ll be left thinking about long after leaving the cinema.
Hamill not only gets to speak this time around, but delivers a career-best turn as the tortured Luke and Ridley builds on her bow as Rey with an even more impressive second outing.
The standards of the cast across the board are first-class; Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren is arguably the saga’s most interesting, well-rounded villain ever, John Boyega (Finn) and Oscar Isaac (Poe) have charisma to burn and the late Carrie Fisher (Leia) is given a fitting swan-song.
But minor flaws leave The Last Jedi short of the series’ best ; a few scenes should’ve been left on the cutting room floor – with one chase sequence belonging more in a Harry Potter flick – and the fate of some characters a bit of a letdown.
However, while it is overlong, the final third, which sees all of the collective parts come together, is outstanding.
Johnson has done a grand job – and leaves another hugely intriguing start-off point for 2019’s trilogy-closer for a returning Abrams.
Troubled mentor Luke is reluctant to train Rey