Let’s begin of all places at the end. That last 60 seconds. The moment you realise hope is truly still alive in the galaxy. It’s a beautiful and enchanting vision of the rebellion, and unlike anything which has come before in 8 films truly seems to present how important the rebellion is not just to those few ragtag fighters but to the whole oppressed galaxy. These 3 children, telling the story of Luke Skywalker, are as important as any Jedi or Sith or Rebel or First Order fighter. Where Empire Strikes Back leaves the universe in torment at the end of its trilogies second act, Last Jedi's message is one of hope from tyranny. I know even after one viewing that this tops even Empire Strikes Back, long held in my heart as the high watermark by which Star Wars should be judged. A statement of intent on how the franchise could work.
Last Jedi is without a single shadow of a doubt in my mind the most well crafted Star Wars film ever made. Peril which genuinely felt perilous; a story which took everything I expected (an Empire carbon copy to follow on from Force Awakens’ New Hope carbon copy) and turned them on their heads; and even while it’s probably the bleakest vision of this universe we have had to date it’s also somehow the funniest. Yoda being his playful mischievous self - and a PUPPET NOT CGI - was wonderful. Also a far younger puppet than the one in Jedi, because it would seem like Anakin in NewJedi he has decided to present himself in his prime not at the point of his death. No, even in the darkness of a film in which we learn Luke nearly murdered a child, director Rian Johnson is brave enough to intersperse a nice amount of comedy and brevity to the proceedings without for one moment lessening any of those big moments. We learn that where we thought Snoke was going to be our big bad a la The Emperor, in the grand scheme of things the point was that Snoke wasn’t that important. We assumed we would relive Jedi, and the struggle would be for Rens soul against Snoke as Vader’s was with the Emperor. But then they killed Snoke and Ben was still evil. The twist was the real important bit, not Snoke. Ren was able to hide his true feelings from Snoke. Suggests Snoke was never that powerful a Sith, and that his apprentice is already WAY more powerful. Supreme Leader Kylo Ren is a bad guy reborn from the ashes of his failures in Force Awakens. He is a mad man the likes of whom cannot be reckoned with, and to see him battle Luke at the end, with even Luke - who could turn Darth Vader of all people - conceding that Ren could not be saved sets Kylo up as an almighty big bad come Episode IX and his seemingly inevitable reunion-come-battle with Rey and her new Jedi order. On Rey, her not being a skywalker or a Kenobi or a Solo is a bold, some might even suggest inspired choice. She’s just Rey. Its huge for the franchise because it takes it beyond the Skywalker saga. If Ren dies, the final part of the Skywalker bloodline dies with it. It also once again helps to subvert every expectation that this was going to be Empire2. We spend the film waiting for a huge familial reveal, because that is what must come, and it simply doesn’t. I wept when Luke and Leia reunited, and actually cheered out loud when we finally got Leia's force moment. We have always kind of known she was at least passably force sensitive, but she is literally like a fully untrained Jedi. These characters have lived with so many of us for so long that to finally see them shine again on the big screen is incredible.
Carrie Fisher’s General Organa is fantastic. She has matured from the Princess cracking wise to a leader who understands that every life lost in the resistance is a blow which could wipe it out. Her expression while everyone else celebrates the Dreadnaught kill and she simply looks at the screen listing the fleet members lost is one of the more finely played moments in the franchise to date.
It is Mark Hamill though who deserves the most plaudits. Luke Skywalker, our legend, our hero, has been torn asunder, and its in Hamills performance that it never for one moment feels forced. He gets the odd laugh (brushing himself off after the AT-AT barrage is a particular highlight), but for the most part he has completely inhabited the role of the old and broken master, desperate to end the Jedi once and for all, not because he has turned to the dark side, but because he believes it is the only way to bring balance to the force, ending the Jedi’s hold over it once and for all.
His final emotional sequence as he pronounces the rebellion (an interesting choice of words, not Resistance but Rebellion, just like the old days) reborn, and that he is not the last Jedi after all is the completing of a story arc more than 40 years in the making. Him then bowing out in silence before the twin suns, clearly having transported his consciousness back to Tatooine one final time, is the beautiful and touching end to a character we saw come from nothing all those years ago.
I can't remember how long its been since I felt so entirely euphoric coming out of a movie. I am so excited to see how they move forward, because right now we are in a position of great hope. They have to rebuild the rebellion, and they have to rebuild the Jedi order, and getting there is going to be so intriguing. There are what, maybe 50 people on the Millennium Falcon. Thats technically the entire Rebel Alliance (a phrase which as mentioned above I think may be about to make a resurgence). Yet somehow we know they will overcome. We have what George Lucas knew was most important to the franchise decades ago, when he came back to sub-title Episode IV. We have: A New Hope.