Star Wars: The Last Jedi (M) 

In a word: Bolder

Star Wars1

 

Star Wars 2

NEW HEROES AND OLD: Top - Rey (played by Daisy Ridley); and, Below - The late Carrie Fisher stars as Princess Leia for the last time. 

 

"This is a solid first outing in the Star Wars franchise for little known director Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper) who has managed to take the story in a new direction (sure, it's still about the dark side v the light side but at least it's not a direct replay of the original series like the first in this latest trilogy pretty much was) while still maintaining the integrity of the universe in which it's based."

 

The much anticipated eighth film in the main Star Wars series brings much of the best that the franchise has to offer as well as taking the story into new - and at times unexpected - directions.

The story picks up with a small band of rebels known here as the Resistance, led by Princess (now General) Leia Organa (played for the final time by Carrie Fisher), fleeing before the overwhelming might of the First Order, led by General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson).

They have a minor victory, thanks to the daring X-Wing pilot Poe Damron (Oscar Isaac), but when First Order ships once again close in on them and wipe out most of their senior command, they soon realise that, thanks to new tracking technology, they will never be able to shake their enemy - led by the Supreme Commander Snoke (Andy Serkis) - from their tail. While their smaller and faster ships are able to outpace those of the First Order, limited fuel means its only a matter of time before the First Order's vastly more powerful ships overtake them and bring about an end to the Resistance once and for all.  

Damron, at odds with the new Resistance leader Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern), hatches his own secret plan to save them with the help of former Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) and Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) and the latter two are soon off on their own adventure to find a code-breaker so they can gain access to the First Order tech that's enabling the fleet to be tracked. 

Meanwhile, on the remote island where we saw Rey (Daisy Ridley) meet the reclusive Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) at the end of The Force Awakens, the young star is trying to get a very reluctant Luke to return to the fight while at the same time finding herself caught in a weird bond - via The Force - with the evil son of Han Solo and Leia and now Snoke's apprentice, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver).

Needless to say, the two storylines soon become intertwined leading to some unexpected twists and interesting character developments.

This is a solid first outing in the Star Wars franchise for little known director Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper) who has managed to take the story in a new direction (sure, it's still about the dark side v the light side but at least it's not a direct replay of the original series like the first in this latest trilogy pretty much was) while still maintaining the integrity of the universe in which it's based. While the storyline in The Force Awakens seemed overwhelmed by the legacy it upheld, Johnson - who co-wrote the script with franchise creator George Lucas - is more willing to take some steps in different directions to the benefit of the film as a whole.

There's stunning visuals as new worlds are opened up for the first time and new creatures (yes, including some there for their cuteness) are seen for the first time,  and plenty of action and humour (which mostly lands well, apart from one ill-timed clanger at the start). While the Jedi "religion" of The Force - based largely apparently on eastern mysticism and ideas of "balance" between good and evil (something is at odds with the supremacy of God in Christianity) - is given more air, it's not done in a heavy-handed way and the film does also explore concepts more familiar to Christianity like the power of self-sacrifice in the face of evil.

Like the first in the new series, there's a good mix of old characters and new. While the old characters bring the familiar (and beloved), the new - especially Ridley, Isaac and Tran as well as Benicio del Toro - stand up well and Driver finds his feet in the role of Kylo Ren with a stronger, more nuanced, performance than in the last film. And, of course, the death of Carrie Fisher late last year - referenced in the end credits - adds an overall sense of poignancy to what we're watching as we realise afresh we'll not be seeing her play Leia again.

And, at 152 minutes running time, it's long, but not too long - there's enough in the plot to keep the audience entertained throughout. Should appeal to long-time fans and newcomers - having presumably watched The Force Awakens - alike. Very much looking forward to the final chapter in this trilogy.