As the disappointed bishop said to the under-performing actress: “You didn’t blow me away.” The ending, in particular, as flat as a witch’s Bristols. The whimper of a “dot, dot, dot, to be continued” where an exclamation mark and a big bang should be. Which is a pity for there is much to like in writer and director Rian Johnson’s eighth instalment of the Star Wars franchise which as the subtitle suggests is focused on the fate of the “The Last Jedi” Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) who is coaxed out of retirement by freedom fighter Rey (Daisy Ridley) to save “the very last of the resistance” from annihilation at the hands of a triumvirate of panto villains: Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader of the First Order Snoke, Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux and Adam Driver as Kylo Ren aka Han Solo’s son Ben.
A number of plot strands run concurrently, the most engaging of which is Rey’s attempts to convince Luke out of his self-imposed hibernation in “the most un-findable place in the galaxy”. For once, John Williams’ stirring score takes a back seat and all eyes are on the characters, what makes them tick and the demons within. “Who are you? Where are you from? Why are you here?” Rey is grilled. The answers to which forces Luke to philosophise about The Force: “the energy between things”, “the balance that binds the universe together”.
Meanwhile, “in a galaxy far, far away”, stromtrooper-turned-Resistance fighter Finn (John Boyega) and engineer-turned-token love interest Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) track down the master codebreaker DJ (Benicio del Toro) in “a terrible place filled with the worst kind of people in the galaxy” (think an intergalactic casino as built by Trump and populated with highly corrupt but ludicrously rich arms dealers) to disable the tracker which the First Order have placed on the spacecraft of General Leia (played by the late Carrie Fisher).
The three strands combine into a lightsaber-rattling finale in which good defeats evil and “the seed of the Jedi order lives”. All’s well that ends well, then. Only, the film doesn’t end well. In fact, it shudders to a halt like Theresa May’s failed general election campaign ‒ both of which ended far from strong and woefully unstable. Thankfully, much of the preceding two hours and thirty minutes zipped by at lightspeed and contained wonderfully tongue-in-cheek visuals and one-liners to save the day. Hamill and Driver’s performances particularly impressive. And Williams’ pulsating score together with the jaw-dropping cinematography of Steve Yedlin restore what the opening crawl called “a spark of hope to the fight”.