Looper's Rian Johnson delivers the goods with this thrilling addition to the space opera
The eighth episode in the Star Wars saga sees the Empire strike back hard and Rey (Daisy Ridley) meet with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) to learn all about the force. This may sound familiar but with Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper) in the directing seat fans can expect plenty of surprises and awe-inspiring visual wizardry.
One of the most powerful images in predecessor The Force Awakens was when a fallen stormtrooper spread his bloody fingerprints over the helmet of Finn (John Boyega) mid battle. Johnson expands on this symbol of the casualties of war, making his magnificent action sequences sing with a ferocious, spine-tingling roar and leading the viewer through a blood-stained moral labyrinth.
Adam Driver returns with a vengeance as Kylo Ren, scowling and gargling his simmering rage in another astonishing performance, and his scenes with Ridley are emotionally absorbing, alarming and euphoric. Laura Dern is terrific as the elegant, purple-haired Vice Admiral who scolds trigger-happy fly boy Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac). She maintains a dignified posture in their numerous face-offs, while also conveying the eye-rolling irritation of a wise woman who has met one too many men who think they know better than her.
credit: Lucasfilm Ltd. Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) is another new character who will be remembered for her smarts in the face of conflict, and Tran switches between chirpy and deadly serious with ease. The Last Jedi is dedicated to Carrie Fisher who sadly passed away last year and her iconic turn as Leia will always have a place in our hearts. Fisher plays the role with a cheeky and confident swagger, as her general marches the rebellion through dark days.
Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) may not make much of an intimidating impact but his crimson lair, guarded by red knights in sculpted armour, gives off the menacing whiff of pure evil. Its sleek design is one of many eye-catching sets in the film, which also includes a city that looks like an updated version of the Roman town of Baiae, complete with Las Vegas-style slot machines and inhabited by arms dealers.
Amid all the fighting is a goofy sense of humour that truly lightens the mood and recalls the work of Terry Gilliam; Chewbacca fretting over the adorable Porgs who start nesting in the Millennium Falcon, and Rey winding up the habit-wearing fish people who live on Luke's lonely island by accidentally destroying the local environment make for giggle-inducing viewing. There are of course in-jokes aplenty, but they don't distract, with Johnson locating that sweet spot between nostalgia and gripping storytelling as he presents a thrilling spin on the revered space opera.
Cast: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Lupita Nyong'o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Andy Serkis, Benicio del Toro, Laura Dern, Kelly Marie Tran
UK release: 14 December 2017
Rey (Ridley) meets Luke (Hamill) to learn all about the Force. Johnson expands on the casualties-of-war theme, making magnificent, roaring action sequences and leading the viewer through a blood-stained moral labyrinth. Driver returns with a vengeance, Dern is terrific and it hits the sweet spot between nostalgia and…