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By Freddie Thomas-Neher

(Mild plot spoilers)

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the eighth instalment in the Star Wars franchise, and the second in Disney’s sequel trilogy. The story follows on from The Force Awakens (2015), with General Leia Organa’s (Carrie Fisher) Resistance desperately trying to escape extinction at the hands of the prospering First Order, while Rey (Daisy Ridley) faces the trying task of becoming a Jedi. John Boyega also reprises his role as Finn, alongside newcomer Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) their quest to save the Resistance from its doom.

At the end of The Force Awakens, we see Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker finally discovered by Rey on the sacred island of Ahch-To, with the film ending on her offering him his father’s lightsaber. In The Last Jedi, director and writer Rian Johnson explores why Luke came to the island in the first place, telling the story of the destruction of Luke Skywalker’s New Jedi Order and what prompted his most promising yet conflicted apprentice Ben Solo to turn to the Dark Side. Hamill delivers a career-best performance as a broken and lost Skywalker, who is conflicted at the prospect of training Rey as a Jedi under the belief that the Jedi Order needs to come to an end.

       “Darkness rises, and light to meet it”

                          -Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis)

The man responsible for the end of Luke Skywalker’s Jedi, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) builds a telepathic relationship through the Force with Rey, where he becomes conflicted at his choice to turn to the Dark Side. In this film, he turns from an angry teenager to a brilliant bad guy, living up to his grandfather (Darth Vader) and his father (Han Solo)’s legacies. But before he can do that, he faces the task of winning back Supreme Leader Snoke’s trust, after losing it when Rey defeated and scarred him in a duel during the destruction of Starkiller Base. The concept of Ren’s appearances in The Last Jedi were fantastic, and it was conveyed even better by Adam Driver.

This time around, Rey is training with Jedi Master Luke Skywalker, while also trying to persuade him to return to the Resistance and help them win the war with the First Order. Rey represents the strong female lead that the Star Wars universe traditionally has had, but more mysteries surround her character than others.

Rian Johnson is the latest Star Wars director to attempt at recreating the cantina on Tatooine, with him making a casino planet called Canto Bight, after J.J. Abrams attempt in The Force Awakens as Maz Kanata’s castle on Takodana.  Johnson was mainly successful, however Canto Bight looked a bit too Earth-y compared to basically everywhere else in Star Wars. There were a few unnecessary characters and scenes but except from that, it had a good aesthetic and worked for it’s purpose.

Rian Johnson is a madman to even consider making a film like this and he came up with some of the best ideas ever in Star Wars, like the salt planet Crait, where the colour scheme is so contrasting it perfectly fits the film’s general aesthetic. It also draws back comparisons to the original films, for example, Supreme Leader Snoke’s lair and guards both look similar to Darth Sidious’ lair and guards, but the concept is incredible and looks similar but only subtly to Sidious’ alternative. They constantly walk side by side

The newcomers in the film are also very well cast, and they pulled in some big names. Kell Marie Tran is not as well known as the rest of the cast, but her character fits her image perfectly, a maintenance worker that has had her life made a lot more interesting when she meets Resistance hero Finn and they embark on a quest to find a codebreaker that can crack The First Order’s shields and get them onto Snoke’s ship. They find Benicio del Toro’s DJ, a grungy criminal that helps Finn and Rose. Del Toro plays the erratic character well, despite his limited backgrounding. Perhaps the biggest name added was Golden Globe winner Laura Dern as Leia’s Vice Admiral Holdo. The character has a rivalry with Commander/Captain Poe Dameron due to their disagreements over how the rebellion can avoid the First Order, with Poe even mutinying against her. For some reason she has purple hair (??) to make her look mildly alien, but she is a good stepping stone for both Poe and Leia.

Much like its predecessor, TLJ had several cameo appearances from celebrities. They had Chewing Gum’s Michaela Cole, Rouge One director Gareth Edwards as a rebel soldier in the trenches of Crait, actor Ade Edmondson as a First Order officer, Gary Barlow (?) and Tom Hardy in a deleted scene.

A big worry for fans was the introduction of Porgs, the cute bird-like creatures that inhabit Acht-To, with people thinking that they would become the next Jar-Jar Binks’ or Ewoks. Luckily though, the Porgs don’t add much to the storyline and are just the right amount of cute to not be annoying.

A character that I was hoping to see more of in this film was Gwendoline Christie’s Captain Phasma, Finn’s former commanding officer who we were introduced to in the Force Awakens. A fight between her and Finn was teased in The Last Jedi’s trailers, and it does happen but is not as monumental as originally thought. Unfortunately, she was only given about three minutes of screen time, and was certainly not used well enough by J.J. Abrams or Rian Johnson.

To conclude, I think that this is one of the best Star Wars films ever, only beaten by Empire Strikes Back. It has an unusual way of conveying the plot, but is the perfect set-up for Episode IX, making the fight for the Resistance as bleak as possible, and makes people question whether they can make their way back, or at what cost?

Star Wars-Episode VIII: The Last Jedi is in cinemas now.