It's important to look at Disney's new Star Wars trilogy in the right way to actually enjoy Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi properly.
Put simply: These films did not need to be made. They are nice-to-haves. While George Lucas's prequel films were interesting in that we all knew what the story outcome was going to be, and it was fun (and often infuriating) to see the venerable architect of the Star Wars universe sketch out the backstory, the post-Return of the Jedi trilogy has no such crutch on which to lean.
The new films could - theoretically - do whatever they want in order to sell action figures and t-shirts, and Episode VIII definitely isn't backing off from doing away with the past in order to set up a shiny commercial future for its new stories and characters.
Episode VII played it pretty straight on the whole, giving us little more than a retelling of Episode IV: A New Hope, but with enough twists to keep things interesting. Adam Driver as Kylo Ren; an ineffectual, budget Darth Vader, Daisy Ridley's nicely portrayed but ultimately - by Episode VII's conclusion - rather unreadable and undriven Rey. New and interesting gung-ho heroes in the form of John Boyega's ex-stormtrooper Finn and Oscar Isaac's dashing Poe Dameron. All while Luke, Leia, Han and Chewie cameoed on the sidelines to hand over the reigns.
But the Last Jedi's director Rian Johnson, who it seems was passed ownership of Episode VIII with no provisos whatsoever as to a story arc, clearly has no interest in most of the dominos Abrams set up, clearing basically the whole lot from the table by this film's final act.
Instead, we're left with a far, far more interesting film than Episode VII. It's clear even from the first ten minutes, which is full of dialogue so camp and chucklesome that Bottom's Ade Edmondson has to be drafted in for a brief cameo. Domnhall Gleeson's General Hux - a sort of understated homage to Grand Moff Tarkin in Episode VII - now villainously chews the scenery in every scene he's given, to highly enjoyable effect, setting up an adorably squabbly relationship with Kylo Ren which creates genuine laughs, and often.
Mark Hamill's Luke Skywalker, meanwhile, defies expectations from his first three seconds on screen, obviously having an enormous amount of fun doing exactly what the character's probably not meant to, and serving as Johnson's primary instrument to take a big, steaming dump all over Star Wars lore.
While all this anarchy is going on, the story begins to draw its focus on Kylo Ren and Rey, who begin to develop an uncanny ability to use the force a bit like a mystical Skype, tapping each other up across lightyears at inopportune moments, as their initial spat turns to something a little more rounded and exploratory.
Ridley really comes into her own here, as Rey's past and motivations are better discussed, and the mounting chemistry between the two leads makes it more and more clear why Adam Driver, best known for starring in HBO comedy series Girls, was such an excellent choice to play Star Wars' new conflicted, ludicrous and unhinged tentpole villain.
While the tone of the movie does often lurch between bitingly funny and almost wearyingly overdramatic, unlike, say, the haphazard Episode II, it's mostly a well-written script that manages to acquit itself, despite feeling like it needed a slightly more even hand on the tiller.
And cinematographically, The Last Jedi is a treat. It's probably the boldest approach yet taken in a Star Wars film. Detailed flashback sequences, effective, spine-tingling slow motion, and even an iconic moment of monochrome make the past films look pedestrian. It's modern, exciting, and it works brilliantly.
Because despite the fact The Last Jedi basically destroys Star Wars as we know it, it's still absolutely a Star Wars film, in its own special way. Cockpit banter, daring escapes, unlikely plans, cocky disobedience and everybody having a matey cuddle when it all (sort of) comes off at the end. It's all here, it's all exhilarating, and two and a half hours actually does fly by (although it sags a bit in the middle with a slightly boring and pointless sidequest which wastes the massive talent John Boyega displayed in The Force Awakens).
Star Wars Episode VIII has clearly already made a lot of people very angry, but that's largely only because they went in expecting their Star Wars, restated and served up in as faithful a way as possible. That's what JJ Abrams did, and in doing so, he created a safe, enjoyable but ultimately forgettable new chapter.
Rian Johnson has made sure those plans lie in utter ruins, and it'll be interesting to see how Abrams tackles the weird, disrespectful and highly unusual trajectory Star Wars has now found itself on as he takes up the reigns for Episode VIX.
For now, enjoy the fruits of Johnson's cheeky labour. The Last Jedi is noisy, silly, funny, epic and highly enjoyable, and in many ways way better than we could expect for a trilogy of films essentially crafted to sell hats and lunchboxes.
Just enjoy it, and try to calm down. These are childrens' fantasy films, after all.
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