Show of Force from John­son

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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

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