Somehow, Rey has become even more irritating than Luke in the second instalmentWALT DISNEY STUDIOS MOTION PICTURES

Before the screening, an advert showed a mother and daughter sharing in the delights of The Sound of Music. It defines quite perfectly what is meant by the ‘magic’ of cinema – the passing of a baton from one generation to the next, while simultaneously building a bridge between them. It could just have easily featured Star Wars, its hopes, dreams, fears, and loves similarly universal to those in Rogers & Hammerstein’s shimmering musical.

“A welcome return adds the weight this film so desperately needs”

Two Christmases ago, J. J. Abrams took on the task of bringing those themes, and the characters that embody them, to the millennial generation. The Force Awakens was then the deftly-delivered fruit of this genuine care for a legacy that had been somewhat dampened by the prequels. Scepticism does not quite cut it in expressing the worry instilled in fans all over the world, and yet it shines as one of the finest instalments yet, with moments, most obviously the death of Han Solo, transcending emotion altogether. The swelling finale left fans reaching out for more, for continuation, and, ultimately, resolution.

If Episode VII has been criticised for borrowing too much from A New Hope, then it might have been hoped that the eighth episode would mirror the saga’s peak, The Empire Strikes Back. The desire and longing for a darker middle section has proved tantalising from the moment the Star Wars logo appeared in bloody scarlet at the end of the first teaser.

Finn takes on Phasma in what could have been a truly epic momentWALT DISNEY STUDIOS MOTION PICTURES

It is in the scenes that most obviously reflect Empire that The Last Jedi succeeds, with a pulse-raising sequence in a mystical cave challenging the one Luke had entered over thirty years before, and a welcome return adds the weight this film so desperately needs. It is then, with tearful regret, that it must be stated that the film’s powers more-or-less end there.

“There is certainly the time and place for a laugh in the galaxy far, far away”

There is nothing more heart-breaking for a Star Wars fan than witnessing the molestation and destruction of the onscreen things they know and love most. Hideously bloated to over 150-minutes, The Last Jedi is an endurance test of proportions only previously achieved by Attack of the Clones, which is undoubtedly the film it most closely resembles.

The Zam Wesell chase over Coruscant is channelled through an unnecessary debacle in Canto Bight, the utterly incongruous casino that serves only to drive Rian Johnson’s two political messages: hate arms dealers and become a vegan. While admirable, Star Wars hardly seems the stage upon which to make these statements, as forced as any Marvel movie.

One of the film's highlights is Snoke's exquisite throne roomWALT DISNEY STUDIOS MOTION PICTURES

Indeed, Johnson’s script borrows heavily from the tropes expected of superhero cinema, and is most painfully evident in the film’s relentless humour. There is certainly the time and place for a laugh in the galaxy far, far away, but in its most farcical moments The Last Jedi descends into self-parody, reminiscent of a Saturday Night Live sketch. Unlike The Force Awakens’ razor-sharp quips, most of the ‘gags’ here rely on slapstick, with some of the physical comedy excruciating to watch.

“Ridley continues to be determined to massacre every line she delivers”

The Phantom Menace might be criticised for the overuse of Jar Jar Binks, whose character traits seem to have been spread thinly throughout so to avoid such overtness. The porgs are certainly a point in favour, but there are only so many times one can laugh at them splatting into a windscreen or getting hit by Chewbacca. A moment in which Luke tickles Rey with a leaf is more mind-boggling than Anakin’s dislike of sand.

Perhaps even worse an offence on Johnson’s part is the catastrophic pacing of the mess. And what a mess it is! The film is determined to thrust forward new characters, then give them a quick backstory in the hope that audiences might shed a tear when they are killed off in the next scene.

Mark Hamill does a fine job as Luke, considering the surreal surroundings in which his character livesWALT DISNEY STUDIOS MOTION PICTURES

Laura Dern is woefully underused as Vice Admiral Holdo, while Benicio Del Toro seems to have stumbled onto the set without purpose or direction. Newcomer Kelly Marie Tran’s squealing cuteness fails as a foil to John Boyega’s Finn, and Daisy Ridley continues to be determined to massacre every line she delivers. If it was not for Adam Driver, the whole film might just have fallen apart without a single performance worthy of merit.

That being claimed, Kylo Ren returns as even more of a stroppy teenager than last time, now with Domnhall Gleeson’s Hux pitted against him, much in the same fraternal rivalry as Thor and Loki. Revealed in the flesh, Supreme Leader Snoke is an awesome creation that could have made for a remarkable villain, before Johnson pulled the rug sharply from beneath the feet of proceedings.

Trailer for The Last JediYOUTUBE

Doing so is hardly worthy of criticism alone, but his fumbling attempts to straighten it out again and return to convention fail to create anything truly original or consistent. The use of the same flashback played slightly differently three or four times is unnecessary, and the connection between Ren and Rey is bizarrely similar to that between Harry Potter and Voldemort, albeit with less effectiveness.


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Too often does the film seem to be ‘getting good’, only to come crashing back down to mediocrity. Occasionally it is actively bad, descending to the depths of parts of The Phantom Menace, and the ending sequence is so laughably awful it has one fearing a quasi-Jake Lloyd will be the focus of Episode IX (surely Johnson was told to never use child actors in Star Wars?). With hopes that this might be the darkest and most narratively brilliant film in the series to date, this strikes an even harsher blow than it might otherwise have done.

Perhaps on repeated viewing its merits will shine, for it certainly has them, more in the sumptuous visuals (Snoke’s Kurosawa-esque throne room and the white-red landscape of Crait are unmissable highlights) and stirring John Williams score than in the details. With Abrams set to return for the final chapter in the trilogy, The Last Jedi may well come to be a necessary middle section. In the mean time, calling it a disappointment might just be the understatement of the year

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