Hold onto your battle helmets – while two years may have passed for us earthlings between the release of The Force Awakens (aka Episode VII) in 2015 and this follow-up, in the Star Wars universe it is pretty much the same day, with events picking up immediately where they left off. Which means that wannabe Jedi Rey (Ridley) is on a remote island making first contact with Luke Skywalker (Hamill), and former stormtrooper Finn (Boyega) is napping in a coma. Meanwhile resistance leader Leia (Fisher), pilot Poe Dameron (Isaac) and pals are fighting a losing battle against the First Order, led by creepy Snoke (Serkis) pouty General Hux (Gleeson) and scarred Kylo Ren (a superb Driver).
Writer/director Rian Johnson (best known for the superb time travel thriller Looper) takes the baton (or should that be lightsaber?) from Force Awakens’ JJ Abrams and gloriously sprints with it, opening the movie with an impressive space battle sequence and then scattering his characters throughout the galaxy, each with their own adventure stories that are destined to intertwine later on. There is betrayal, hope, desperation, a daring escape and surprising alliances in the sharply scripted plot, and while a few moments are too slow – the initial interaction between Rey and Luke drags as he refuses to have anything to do with her but won’t explain why – at about the time that Finn wakes up, things move into lightspeed and the adventure really takes off.
A shade darker than The Force Awakens (but, as an aid to parents, nowhere near as nasty as Revenge Of The Sith), The Last Jedi does have some lighter moments. There’s cuteness from adorable love-‘em-or-hate-‘em (we love them) Porgs – creatures on Luke’s island that look like gerbils crossed with owls, and laughs as Finn and fellow rebel Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) embark on a secret mission without really knowing what the hell they are doing.
There are new locations to dazzle us – including a stunning salt mining planet that is so red underneath it looks like it bleeds – and new characters to meet, including Laura Dern’s Vice Admiral Holdo and Benicio Del Toro’s roguish DJ, and Johnson deftly blends all the elements, turning up the tension and the action as the movie progresses until, about two-thirds of the way in, you’ll realise you have been sitting on the edge of your seat for at least an hour.
In the end, however, the memories that will stay with you are of the two Star Wars veterans, outshining all their talented costars in every scene they are in. Carrie Fisher, in what tragically was to be her final role, is every bit the princess, leader, and voice of reason to her rebels. But the true star of The Last Jedi is Mark Hamill, giving the performance of his career as the anguished, isolated, tortured former Jedi Master. His scenes are worth the ticket price alone.
Please note this is a 12A film in the UK (PG-13 in the US).
This film is aimed at older children and adults, and does feature numerous battle and fight scenes. Characters are often in danger.
Younger children may be frightened by Snoke’s disfigured appearance.
There are two scenes in which characters are almost suffocated. Many lesser characters die in gunfights and space battles.
A scene shows a camp set on fire and numerous people killed.
Young children may be upset when they realise one of the characters has cooked and is about to eat a porg.
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