I woke up on the morning of Wednesday 13th December 2017, knowing that in less than 17 hours I was going to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi and I was as excited as I was at 5 years old after my parents told me they were taking me to see A New Hope.
Around 9:30 that evening I met with former Jedi News reporter Paul Naylor in Telford to have a beer and share our excitement at the spectacle we were about to see. We made the short walk to the cinema and took our seats ready for the show to begin.
Disappointingly, the cinema had not arranged any special events for the midnight showings and only 2 fans turned up in costume. Joseph Masefield and Grant Brown, both from Cannock, arrived dressed as Jedi armed with popcorn and soft drinks. I also bumped into a friend of Jedi News, Richard Powell from the Rebel Garrison. He had made the journey from Sedgley, near Dudley in the snow for a back to back viewing of The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. He had already seen the movie at the European Premiere in London, but that day he was on duty as a Rebel Pilot.
Nearly 3 hours later I briefly caught up with Joseph, who said “I don’t know what to think at this stage, I need to go away and think about what I have just seen.” These were my thoughts exactly, I could not quite understand what I had seen. But, as I exited the cinema, for some reason I didn’t know whether I actually liked it or disliked it.
Now, stay with me at this point please. I will explain this all to you without spoilers!
For me it was a roller coaster of a movie, in fact a spectacular movie that was visually stunning. But, I felt like I had just witnessed a brilliant adventure fantasy movie and not a Star Wars movie.
There were some things I couldn’t see past and the way the story is told is completely different to all the other movies. Maybe this is why I couldn’t process what I had seen or was it the storyline? Does it go somewhere I didn’t want Star Wars to go personally? Was it some of the CGI sequences, that I felt were not up to scratch?
The only way forward had to be a second screening. This time I booked IMAX and not standard 2D as in my first viewing. Maybe that would help me? Did it help? Yes, it certainly did. I probably went into the second viewing more open minded than the first time and I felt like I processed it all properly.
One thing I did find that stood out, even after my first viewing, was the level of performance from Mark Hamill. Wow, just wow. For a man pilloried in the early years of his acting career as being wooden and false, that is far from what I saw in the movie. His performance is a stunning portrayal of Luke Skywalker and I know an Oscar nomination has been rumoured. I can only agree, that if he is nominated, it is deserved. I don’t think I’ve seen any movie this year where he could have been bested by another actor.
Another highlight for me was the introduction of Kelly Marie-Tran as Rose Tico. Kelly has become a bit of sensation off screen with fans due to her humility and her tendency to burst into tears on the red carpet from sheer joy of the experience. Her character brought her natural humility to the big screen with a warmth that glowed throughout her scenes.
The performances of Andy Serkis, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Domnhall Gleeson, Laura Dern, Oscar Isaac and Joonas Suotamo are all top drawer. Serkis’s delivery of Snoke, brought a malevolence that is worthy of a mention. For delivery of characters, this is possibly the best we have seen in all the movies so far.
And finally, I have to mention ‘Our Princess’ the late Carrie Fisher. This was by far her best performance in any of the Star Wars movies. She held her position with an imperious air and delivered her own brand of wry humour to perfection. She will be missed, by us all.
The Creature Shop and special effects team were on point. We saw more new creatures and alien species than ever before. Although when watched in 2D some of the CGI creations didn’t work well, in IMAX they seemed faultless.
So, after putting my thoughts down here, that puts it right in my mind now. It was the storyline and the way it was told that has caused me such angst.
It was down to Rian Johnson and the story group! Rian has taken Star Wars and shook it up after the relatively ‘safe’ The Force Awakens from JJ Abrams. It does go where you may not expect, it does part in some ways part with ‘tradition’, but it is Star Wars. A brand of Star Wars that I actually want to see more of. I can see exactly why Disney Lucasfilm want him to tackle his own trilogy away from the main story arc we know and love.
The Last Jedi is here and is now part of the galaxy far, far away. Please embrace it and give it a chance, I think you’ll love it!