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We’ve watched the latest Star Wars movie. Now here’s what you need to know – spoiler free.

If the past 40 years of sci-fi movie history have taught us anything, it’s that you should never mess with a Star Wars fanboy. George Lucas’s famed soap opera set in space has garnered such an iconic following that the series’ reboot after being bought by Disney, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, opened itself up to scrutiny from the OG fans – some of who were even there to see A New Hope on opening day.

It’s a franchise that’s sacred to so many, so when a new installment arrives, fans are particularly keen to hear the gritty details. Helmed by Looper director Rian Johnson, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the latest one to hit cinemas. Filled with as much galactic violence, saga-shifting events and characters (both vintage and fresh-faced) as the episodes which came before it, it’s a thrilling and reflective addition to the series that’s bound to go down well when it hits cinemas worldwide this weekend.

Fancy knowing more about what goes down, but don’t want the major plot points given away? Then check out our guide to the eighth, hotly-anticipated installment in the Stars Wars series – spoiler free.

It’s Set in the Immediate Aftermath of ‘The Force Awakens’…

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We’re thrown into a monumental intergalactic fight between The Rebellion – orchestrated by Leia and led by Poe Dameron on a rebellious streak – and the First Order, headed by the villainous Supreme Leader Snoke. We meet the film’s heroic clan at a point when their army of supporters is depleting, with just 400 men, women and creatures on board. Facing certain death if they fight the First Order head-on, they’re relying on two things: finding a way to outrun their enemies – who have found a way to track them through lightyears – and the return of Luke Skywalker, the most powerful and influential living Jedi master.

He, however, is still happily cast away on the far-flung planet Ahch-To, wondering why Rey, The Force Awakens’ whip-smart new protagonist, was chosen as the one to come and summon him. Everybody back home, however – including Snoke – is aware of Rey’s power. There’s a chance the Rebellion can come out on top, but Rey needs to convince Skywalker to make his comeback.

You’d Benefit by Seeing Its Predecessor First

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Being in charge of one of the most famous film series of all time, you’d expect the audiences who come to see your effort to be clued up on the story that came before it. Just in case, most directors like to clear up any possible miscommunications, but Rian Johnson throws you into the action in a way that might not work if you didn’t at least have a little bit of interest in the franchise beforehand.

While visually spectacular and blessed with an action-packed, constantly evolving narrative, The Last Jedi feels like the sweet, jelly-like filling in a Star Wars sandwich: there’s a lot to gorge on, but take away the bread (in this analogy, The Force Awakens and the series’ 2019 follow-up), and you’re going to have a hard time getting your teeth around it. The film relies on you having an emotional investment in the characters and the direction they’re heading in, so if you want to experience The Last Jedi to the full, I’d suggest you ensure you’ve at least seen The Force Awakens first. Trust me: it’ll make the trip a whole lot sweeter.

It’s One of the Most Jaw-Dropping ‘Star Wars’ Movies So Far

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Whether it’s hurtling you through space, or taking you to a desolate island on a faraway planet, there’s no denying that The Last Jedi is one of the most remarkable-looking additions to the Star Wars franchise to date.

Essentially, the film takes place in two main locations and slowly brings them both together, capturing the brilliant beauty of both landscapes. There’s the dazzling starry galaxy we’re used to seeing, dotted with spaceships and star fighters that hurtle towards each other, leaving explosions in their wake. Then, there’s the serene element of the story taking place on Ahch-To. Filmed on a remote island off the coast of Ireland, it looks like a land plucked from Lord of the Rings, only the fantastical creatures – lactating sea aliens (that Luke Skywalker drinks the milk of) and Porgs, those adorable-as-hell owl-ferret creatures from the trailer – confirm that you’re in the Star Wars universe. The jagged rocks and lush grass make for a beguiling backdrop to a series of Jedi training sequences; Rey, lightsaber in hand, silhouetted as the sun sets.

On the ground, a cat-and-mouse chase sequence on a planet overrun by a wealthy, yet morally starved population, is the film’s most riotous and nostalgic highlight; it’ll take you back to halcyon films like The Neverending Story, and the pirate-filled story of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Planet. But The Last Jedi’s most impressive and memorable scene takes place in the film’s penultimate chapter. It involves space crafts, a disastrous collision, and plays out in complete silence. For the few short seconds it’s on screen, you can physically feel your jaw drop and your heart stop.

And Has an Ace Sense of Humor

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Rian Johnson’s back-catalog hardly reads like a collection of tongue-in-cheek buddy movies or intergalactic comedies; his cult breakout Brick was a film about heroin abuse. But he’s very aware of the Star Wars franchise’s responsibility to have some sort of comic relief – especially when things get dark like they do here.

The trailers for The Last Jedi have painted it as another ominous installment in the series, but Rian Johnson’s film enjoys being quite frothy and frivolous at times, too. There’s a spectacularly immature gag in the opening scene between Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron and the First Order’s super serious General Hux that most directors handling villains like this wouldn’t have the nerve to execute. To Johnson’s credit, he does. That silliness is scattered throughout The Last Jedi. Look out for a scene that makes an iron look foreboding and dangerous.

It Spawns a Brand New Modern Heroine

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While we were all made aware of Luke Skywalker’s return in the final scene of The Force Awakens, there are a few additions to the original Star Wars cast that appear in its follow-up. Laura Dern has a few scenes as the purple-haired Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo, who briefly helms the Resistance ship, much to the annoyance of Poe Dameron. Benicio del Toro makes a bigger mark with a similar amount of screen time, playing a pirate-like character from the aforementioned corrupt planet, who helps Finn (played by John Boyega) and Rose Tico, a maintenance worker aboard the same Rebellion ship, to crack a code that could help save them from certain death.

In fact, of the whole new line-up, it’s Rose, played by Kelly Marie Tran, that has the greatest impact on the story. She’s ushered in unexpectedly, first found by Finn crying in the crevices of the Rebellion ship, and swiftly becomes the brains of the operation. Brave, loyal and intelligent, she’s destined to become the next woman in the Star Wars franchise to be the younger generation’s new sci-fi idol.

It’s the Longest Movie in the Franchise – It Feels Like It, Too

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Clocking in at 2 hours and 32 minutes, The Last Jedi takes the crown for being the longest Star Wars film ever made. Although it doesn’t seem that extravagant on paper – heck, the vast majority of the Avengers films hit that runtime anyway – quite whether Rian Johnston uses that time wisely is another story.

The Last Jedi never ceases to be entertaining, and there are plenty of twists and turns to keep you switched on throughout, but its one major shortfall is how hesitantly it seems to wrap things up. Whenever it reaches a spectacular climax, you’re expecting the screen to cut to black, but it keeps going for another half hour until everybody gets some closure. There’s some standout moments in those final 30 minutes, but it would have been nicer if the way it dragged didn’t feel so laborious.

That being said, everything you’ve heard about The Last Jedi is true: it’s a thrilling, agile and surprisingly existential dive into a universe dominated by spaceships and aliens. Rian Johnson leaves some indelible prints on the Star Wars story that will make things interesting when the next chapter begins. After some hiccups in pre-production, with screenwriter and director changes, it looks like J.J. Abrams is back in the chair for that one.

Will it match, or surpass the nostalgic excellence of The Force Awakens? Or will it tread similar ground to Rian Johnson’s effort? You’ll have to wait until December 2019 to find out – but until then, you’re welcome to revel in the rich, inventive world of The Last Jedi.

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  • Main & Featured Image: Lucasfilm Ltd.
Words by Douglas Greenwood
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