Reviewing a Star Wars film is interesting, the series stirs strong emotions in some people.
Mythical, revered, analyzed and judged against childhood memories of earlier films or a fun, space romp to waste a couple of hours or somewhere between these two extremes.
After the phenomenal success of the “Force Awakens”, essentially a retread of “A New Hope”, this film fulfills the middle or “Empire Strikes Back” part of the new trilogy. Setting up a finale that Disney, new business owner of the franchise, hopes will provide a solid platform to spawn a whole new generation of films.
Following a barnstorming space battle, involving the retreating Rebel Alliance and a plethora of vast First Order Star Destroyers and a Dreadnought. We move back to where we left “Rey” (Daisy Ridley), on an isolated island on the planet Ahch-To hoping to secure training and mentoring from “Luke” (Mark Hamill).
It would have been easy for director and writer Rian Johnson to take the usual route of a training montage but the early scenes do not go the way you might expect, treating some of the previous mythology with less reverence. Skywalker the young optimistic and idealistic farm boy is no more.
Meanwhile “Finn” (John Boyega), still with the resistance and “Leia” (the late Carrie Fisher), is recovering from his light sabre battle. Again his story takes a left turn, leading him to interact with a new interesting character, mechanic “Rose Tico” (Kelly Marie Tran).
Following an event, we also get introduced to “Vice Admiral Holdo” (Laura Dern) who does not take too kindly to the gung-ho attitude of “Poe” (Oscar Isaac). This can and will lead to plot twists later in the story.
On the dark side, “Kylo Ren” (Adam Driver) gets more conflicted screen time and interacts with a more visible “Snoke” (Andy Serkis), busy manipulating characters as evil puppets to do his bidding. “General Hux” (Domhnall Gleeson) is in serious snarling mode, a huge part for Gleeson and great fun to play.
This film is about change, moving from the old to the new, a transition and as with all change some fans are not keen to go along with the ride. There are some interesting choices made by the director/writer, whether the film was intended to be divisive, only he can know.
However, for this reviewer this “is” Star Wars, epic space battles, humour, C-3PO, R2D2, Millennium Falcon, Chewbacca, occasional irreverent scenes and daft alien creatures (see the Casino scenes and Benicio Del Toro for details). A backbone of myth and supernatural themes, they are all present and correct here.
The effects are now almost seamless, you are just watching fantastic space battles as if they are real, albeit occasionally skewed towards a new Disney ride, next time you are in a theme park.
There are artistic flourishes, a battle on what appears to be ice and is in fact is red tinged salt, is beautifully rendered, seemingly for no reason other than it looks damn cool. “Captain Phasma” also finally gets a decent fight, which would please Gwendoline Christie.
Difficult to comment further without giving away plot points but all actors seem more confident in their roles. In many ways this is a stronger, better film than “Force Awakens” but to move the story on, requires sacred cows to be “considered”, which not all viewers will enjoy.
Great fun and a worthy addition to the series, if you like Star Wars, you will enjoy this film
However, if you are not a fan of change the SW world is moving in directions you may not always like, such is life.
Next up is another “Star Wars Story: Solo”, featuring a young Han Solo – due May 2019