Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) – Rian Johnson

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…

Every time I see those words on a big screen, I get a shiver of anticipation, and if I’m being honest, a little teary-eyed.

There is an inherent nostalgia when it comes to Star Wars. I can’t tell you what I had for dinner two weeks ago, but I can remember almost all of my involvement with the Star Wars universe. I remember every theatrical screening, my first action figure, my first trading card, my first novel, both the Expanded Universe, and the new canon, and every image I coveted when I discovered it for the first time.

Since 1977 Star Wars has become ingrained in my DNA. Its part of my life; from treasured childhood memories through to yesterday’s early Xmas gift, a screening of The Last Jedi.

Which raises the question: Can I be objective when watching a Star Wars film?

I’d like to think so, having tempered my love of Star Wars with a constant diet of cinema from all ages and regions.

It was this person, paired with the gleeful inner child (who teared up at appearances of treasured phrases, familiar faces and earned moments) that settled into a theatre seat eager to continue the Skywalker Saga.

Rian Johnson takes over the writing and directing reins. And the big question is how did he top the closing shot of The Force Awakes with Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill)?

The answer – perfectly.

As writer/director Johnson takes the story in unexpected directions while at the same time making nods to all that has gone before, especially the arguably best episode in the series, The Empire Strikes Back.

There are themes of leadership, the cost of war (and the business of it), the creation of legends, and hope, as well as certain point of views.

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Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) – in a decidedly Han Solo jacket and shirt – is faced with challenges as a running battle is waged between the First Order, let by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and General Hux (Domhnall Gleason). Finn (John Boyega) and new character, Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) end up with the short shrift, story-wise as they try to come up with a way to save the fleet. Sadly, I couldn’t wait to return to the other characters, their story arc and their emotional payoff felt both forced and unearned.

The sequences centring around Rey and Luke are my favourites, thematically, storywise, and in terms of dialogue. Accompanied by John Williams’ brilliant score, embracing familiar tunes and motiffs from decades worth of Star Wars music, seeing Luke on the big screen again, dealing with losses, truths, and returns, brought me chills.

Those chills also returned, as did the tears, as the story embraced its fantasy, fairy tale elements as it paid homage and shared our love for our princess, Carrie Fisher in her final film role as General Leia Organa. It pushed belief for a moment, but I was willing to let it go, because I didn’t want to let her go.

Filled with iconic shots and moments, this film embraces its comedic elements, as well as delivering stunning revelations.

Nothing may be more iconic in the film than the salt encrusted surface of the red-soiled planet Crait (a planet I had previously visited thanks to Claudia Gray’s Leia, Princess of Alderaan). In fact, speaking of the tie-in books, there was a brief shot with Luke on the island that I got extra out of, because I read how he learned about it in The Legends of Luke Skywalker.

The canon universe is really tying everything together!

The story is revelatory – no spoilers – and everyone gets a moment, the droids, R2-D2, and BB-8 both get a chance to shine, and the new cute, adorable porgs are around just enough… But it’s the moments I didn’t expect that caught me.

And while there may be no real cliffhanger to this middle part of the new trilogy, it does leave a lot of unanswered questions…

While nothing will ever compare to that moment when the theatre darkened for me in 1977, knowing that every couple of years or so we’ll check in on the Skywalkers and their saga, not to mention the stand alone films fills me with joy.

The Force returns this Friday when Star Wars: The Last Jedi hits theatres.

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