I sit here at my desk in work typing away, bleary eyed, having managed just three and a half hours sleep after seeing the midnight release of the latest Star Wars movie. It feels more like a hangover than tiredness; but my word it was worth it.
Sitting in the screen of the local cinema with a galaxy of people (geddit?) the feeling was very different as to the one I felt two years ago when The Force Awakens was released. Back then, despite encouraging trailers and knowing what Disney had done with the MCU, there was trepidation. Did we need more Star Wars? The prequels were terrible. Was it really worth potentially ruining the legacy and status of three of the most cherished films (the original trilogy, not the prequels, just so we are clear) in pop culture?
I could not have been more wrong. As I sat there listening to Ben tell me how many people he’s recommended to Cineworld Unlimited, I was excited to see what Rian Johnson could do with Star Wars. I could not be anything else. The Force Awakens, while in some ways a tribute act for A New Hope, was charming, exciting, and did a good job at giving us great new characters while bringing back many that we loved. Rogue One was also a great adventure in a departure from the Skywalker saga.
The Last Jedi picks up not long after The Force Awakens ends. Rey (Daisy Ridley) has met Luke (Mark Hamill) and will undergo training in the force while the Republic is more or less wiped out, along with Leia’s (Carrie Fisher) Resistance and The First Order, helmed by the fearsome triumvirate of Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), is getting to the same level as galactic domination as the Empire.
We open on a daring escape from a Resistance base after the First Order discover its location and a slight worry that it will be a beat-by-beat homage to The Empire Strikes Back creeps in, given the shared similar themes at the beginning of each film. Those fears were unfounded as, while there are similarities (the darker tone of the middle third of each trilogy being the main one), The Last Jedi stands out as original, brave and different.
Ridley, Driver and John Boyega as Finn are still great to watch as three people really making this franchise their own but for me Mark Hamill, playing a conflicted Skywalker full of fear and regret, steals the show and makes me wonder why we have hardly seen in him anything outside of Star Wars.
The film is not perfect, there are side plots that could be trimmed and some of the jokes, quips and one liners, of which, for me at least, there are too many, fall flat. Although they do not grate as much as they did in the prequels. Also there is not enough Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac).
Overall though it is a worthy inclusion to the saga (isn’t saga a much nicer word than franchise) that asks more questions than it answers but leaves me wanting more and excited to see how this story ends.