SPOILER-FREE REVIEW ROUND-UP
With Star Wars 8: The Last Jedi out in cinemas this week, the reviews for Rian Johnson’s hotly anticipated new instalment are finally in and, for the most part, they are glowing.
Following an initial outpouring of praise on social media after Sunday’s world premiere, critics have lined up to described the film as “thrilling”, “explosively fun” and “surprising”, with some even suggesting it could take its place as the best Star Wars film of all time.
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It has received four or five stars from the majority of reviewers and scores a 93% “fresh” rating on aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes.
Written and directed by Johnson, best known for his breakthrough debut Brick and the sci-fi time-travelling thriller Looper, The Last Jedi picks up where The Force Awakens left off and sees the return of Daisy Ridley as Jedi-in-waiting Rey, John Boyega as reformed stormtrooper Finn, Adam Driver as Kylo Ren and Mark Hammill as Luke Skywalker.
Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian says Johnson “delivers a tidal wave of energy and emotion” in an “explosive thrill-ride of galactic proportions”.
“This one has it all and then some” says Deadline, and “in addition to brilliant action sequences and state-of-the-art CGI effects, there is strong character development as this chapter continues to pave the way for a new generation of stars to take on the mantle and lift it further into galaxies far far away”.
Rather than playing the hits, as JJ Abrams’s franchise-reviving The Force Awakens did two Christmases ago, The Last Jedi “flexes its fingers before riffing over old chord progressions in ways that will leave fans beaming with surprise”, says the Daily Telegraph.
“If The Force Awakens raised a lot of questions, The Last Jedi tackles them head-on,” says Empire, “delivering answers that will shock and awe in equal measure. Fun, funny but with emotional heft, this is a mouth-watering set-up for Episode IX”.
Some, such as Kevin Maher in The Times, even went so far as to declare it best Star Wars movie yet, calling it a “film of wit and wonder, of eye-gouging visual spectacle, and one that is buttressed by entirely unexpected, and frequently devastating, emotional power”.
Meanwhile USA Today singled out Driver’s Kylo Ren as “blockbuster cinema’s most magnetic and unpredictable antagonist since Heath Ledger’s Dark Knight Joker.”
Praise has not, however, been universal. At two-and-a-half hours, some critics felt the movie could have done with cutting down. Among the most outspoken of these was Peter Debruge in Variety, who described it as “ultimately a disappointment” and “the longest and least essential chapter in the series”, paying homage in all the right places to George Lucas’s original “while barely advancing the narrative”.
The real question will be whether Johnson has done enough to keep the franchise ticking over for future instalments and further spin-offs. CNN wasn’t sure, saying the film “does far less than its predecessor to stoke enthusiasm for the next leg in the trilogy”.
Yet Todd McCarthy in Hollywood Reporter argued “there’s a pervasive freshness and enthusiasm to Johnson’s approach that keeps the film, and with it the franchise alive, and that is not doubt what matters most”.
You do not need to be a psychic to predict The Last Jedi will be a box office smash, but producers will be watching closely at its opening weekend receipts to see how it fares against previous Star Wars outings. Boxoffice.com has projected it will take in around $200m in North America over the weekend, making it one of the biggest film debuts in history.
But with a new trilogy planned by Disney, to be overseen by Johnson, anything less and the studio could begin to question how strong the Force really is in the franchise.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is out in UK cinemas now
Could The Last Jedi be the best episode ever? First social media reaction
After months of fevered excitement, Star Wars 8: The Last Jedi finally received its world premiere last night in Los Angeles.
The director of the new instalment, Rian Johnson, was joined by cast including John Boyega, Daisy Ridley and Mark Hammill as well as a panoply of droids, stormtroopers and an enormous AT-AT Walker on the red carpet.
Tributes also poured in for the late Carrie Fisher, who died last year after finishing work on the film.
It was the first time anyone outside of Disney and Lucasfilm has got a chance to see the film, and while formal reviews have been embargoed until later this week ahead of Friday’s general release, those who attended the premiere have been offering their thoughts on social media.
Overwhelmingly, the response has been positive, with many suggesting The Last Jedi could even take its place as the best Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back.
Gizmodo’s Germain Lussier tweeted: “Star Wars: The Last Jedi is everything. Intense, funny, emotional, exciting. It’s jam-packed with absolutely jaw dropping moments and I loved it so, so much. I’m still shaking.”
Joshus Yehl, editor of IGN Comics, said he “gasped, laughed, screamed and cried” adding Johnson had made “what might be the best Star Wars movie ever”.
The new film is “amazing,” says The Hollywood Reporter’s Ryan Parker, while Erik Davis of the film blog Fandango called it “absolutely fantastic – gripping, touching, funny and powerful”.
Film critic Scott Mantz was slightly less effusive, claiming The Last Jedi was “a little too long and dragged in the middle”, but said it was still a “worthy Episode VIII” - and that Mark Hammill as Luke Skywalker was “awesome”.
Los Angeles Times critic Jen Yamato wrote: “The Last Jedi is so beautifully human, populist, funny, and surprising”.
io9’s Julie Muncy also picked up on this as recurring theme of the initial Twitter reviews saying “the most exciting part for me is the number of people saying they were surprised by The Last Jedi” especially after The Force Awakens which, while still hailed as a worthy addition to the Star Wars canon, was criticised for being too faithful to the original material.
The Last Jedi reunites the protagonists from Star Wars 7, the reformed stormtrooper Finn, Jedi-in-training Rey, their adversary Kylo Ren and Luke Skywalker. They are joined by several new characters to the Star Wars universe, including Resistance fighters played by Kelly Marie Tran and Laura Dern, as well as an as-yet-unnamed villain played by Benicio Del Toro.
Star Wars 8: The Last Jedi opens worldwide on Friday
Star Wars 8: film critics protest Disney ban by threatening boycott
Disney has been forced into a rare and humiliating climbdown after a growing number of film journalists threatened to boycott advance screenings of Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
It followed the highly contentious decision by the studio to block critics from the Los Angeles Times from seeing an early release of the film following an unfavourable report into Disney’s business practices.
The investigative piece, by LA Times reporter Daniel Miller, alleges that despite soaring profits, Disney has continued to demand and secure, subsidies, incentives, rebates and protections from future taxes in Anaheim, where Disneyland is based, that would be worth a total of more than $1bn.
It reveals the city’s “complicated and increasingly tense relationship with its biggest and most powerful corporate citizen”, and how Disney has negotiated these pacts with “a carrot-and-stick approach — one that has often included the company’s threat of directing its investment dollars elsewhere”.
News of the ban quickly spread throughout Hollywood, prompting the Washington Post’s pop culture writer Alyssa Rosenberg to start a boycott, which she extended to include future Disney movies. Writing in her column, she said: “As long as Disney is blocking the critics from the Los Angeles Times from press screenings, I can’t in good conscience attend similar showings or write reviews in advance.”
Members of the National Society of film critics, the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the New York Film Critics Circle all issued statements condemning the press ban, while other influential critics also joined the boycott, including the AV Club’s A.A. Dowd, Flavorwire’s Jason Bailey and CNN’s Jake Tapper.
The result, says The Independent, is that “Disney’s tantrum has turned into a PR disaster”, forcing the studio to perform an embarrassing U-turn.
In a statement released yesterday evening, Disney announced that after “productive discussions with the newly installed leadership at the Los Angeles Times regarding our specific concerns, we’ve agreed to restore access to advance screenings for their film critics”.
However, the row could still be hugely damaging, given the power film critics have over the success or failure of a film - even in a franchise with as big and devoted a following as Star Wars. Disney must now be hoping their petty act will not cost them dearly when the first reviews come out next month.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is released in the UK on 14 December.
Star Wars 8: The Last Jedi - will Rey turn to the Dark Side?
The first full trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi arrived last night, giving a whole new meaning to the word teaser.
The clip hints at “galaxy-rattling plot lines while leaving you unsure about whether what you think will happen is what is actually going to happen”, the BBC says, and features dramatic battle scenes and adorable new creatures.
It also features shots of Carrie Fisher in her role as General Leia, filmed only months before her death late last year.
But what have we learned from this new trailer, and what might happen in the film? Well, as director Rian Johnson says, if you want to avoid spoilers, look away now.
Rey may be turning to the Dark Side
As The Guardian notes, there appears to be a suggestion that Rey may go over to the Dark Side.
The Last Jedi follows on from 2015’s The Force Awakens, which saw new baddie Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) attempt to recruit Rey (Daisy Ridley), before battling her.
At the end of the film, Rey finally comes face-to-face with Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker.
This new trailer sees the young hero brandishing a lightsaber as she trains with Skywalker, telling him: “Something inside of me has always been there, but now it’s awake and I need help.”
“I’ve seen this raw streak only once before. It didn’t scare me enough then – it does now,” Skywalker replies.
But later in the trailer, Rey is seen again, this time with Kylo extending his hand to her as she says: “I need someone to show me my place in all this.”
Will Kylo Ren kill General Leia?
“Let the past die. Kill it. If you have to.”
Those are the words spoken in the trailer by Kylo “as we see him hurtling through a space battle in his new TIE silencer [spaceship]”, says the BBC.
The trailer then abruptly cuts to a shot of General Leia, Kylo’s mother. “He dispatched his dad, Han Solo, in the last film. Will Leia meet the same fate?” the BBC adds.
It seems possible, with Kylo continuing: “That’s the only way to become what you're meant to be.”
The trailer then strongly hints that something ominous is about to befall Leia, though what exactly this is remains to be seen.
Finn appears in a First Order uniform
Finn, portrayed by John Boyega, takes a back seat to Kylo and Rey in the newest trailer.
However, keen-eyed fans have noticed that when he does eventually appear, he appears to be wearing a uniform of the First Order while battling Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie).
Fans have speculated that he may have gone undercover, but again, this remains to be seen.
Star Wars 8: When is the new trailer released?
With news that Star Wars: The Last Jedi is finally complete and a new trailer imminent, fans forums have gone into overdrive ahead of the December release date.
That’s a wrap
Last week, the film’s director Rian Johnson announced that post-production on Episode VIII had wrapped, commending his team for their efforts in bringing the Disney and Lucasfilm product to life.
With more than two months to go to release, the fact that Johnson and his team have completed all the special effects work, editing and everything in between “is extraordinary since J.J. Abrams was working on The Force Awakens up until the last minute in 2015”, says GameZone.
The fan website also revealed that the new film will be the longest yet in the Star Wars franchise, clocking in at just over two-and-a-half hours, 15 minutes more than The Force Awakens.
As well as releasing a batch of new images featuring characters Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega) and new character Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) Johnson also hinted that a new trailer could be released within the next few weeks.
When will the new trailer be released?
With the film’s release date just two months away, there has been precious little plot detail revealed or leaked so far. The last official teaser trailer was released almost six months ago and this has left many fans with burning questions unanswered:
Will Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) really renounce the way of the Jedi? Will Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and Snoke (Andy Serkis) strike back against the Resistance? And what is Finn’s (John Boyega) secret mission inside the First Order?
However, “it seems that fan’s prayers may soon be answered, as rumour has it that a new trailer for The Last Jedi will be unveiled very soon – specifically 9 October”, reports Radio Times.
It follows comments made by Hamill that Disney would use an upcoming NFL game next Monday to broadcast the new trailer.
Radio Times said that “none of this is close to an official announcement”, however, “given the months since the last trailer and our current proximity to The Last Jedi’s December release date, around now would seem to be the right time for such a trailer to emerge, and Hamill’s denials are unconvincing enough to (ironically) convince us of the reports’ authenticity”.
For UK fans this means setting your alarm as, due to the six hour time difference with Chicago, the game won’t start until 1.30am BST.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi will be released in the UK on 14 December 2017.
Star Wars 8: The Last Jedi - will major character be revealed as LGBT?
Star Wars could be about to get its first openly LGBT character, after a new spin-off novel alluded to the sexuality of a major character in the upcoming film The Last Jedi.
Fan forums have gone into overdrive over the new authorised novel Leia: Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray, in which Leia and Vice Admiral Holdo (played in the film by Laura Dern) allude to the latter's sexual preferences.
Discussing their preferred types of partner Holdo calls Leia's heterosexuality "limiting" before joking about the possibility of interspecies relationships.
"It’s a brief moment, of course - and there’s every possibility that the subject won’t even come up at all on-screen in Episode VIII", says the Daily Express "but even so, just this very vague allusion towards an LGBT character is a big step for the long-running franchise".
"Diversity and representation is a hot button topic in the film industry these days, and Lucasfilm has been at the forefront of promoting it in big budget tentpoles", says ScreenRant.
Since taking over the franchise, both Star Wars films released by Disney have featured female protagonists in the lead as well as promoting a diverse cast of actors including John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Donnie Yen and Lupita Nyong'o.
Yet despite The Force Awakens helmsman JJ Abrams previously expressing an interest in seeing an LGBT figure in Star Wars, one area where the franchise has so far come up short is in its depiction of sexuality.
Now if the rumours are true this could be about to change and would follow hot on the heels of the first openly gay Disney character in the live action remake of Beauty and the Beast which was hailed as a breakthrough moment for LGBT representation in Hollywood.
Sending to a galaxy far, far away...
In other Star Wars news, the Royal Mail has unveiled a special edition line of stamps to mark the upcoming film, "intended to celebrate the British talent that helps develop the franchise, which is largely shot at the 007 Stage at Pinewood Studios" says The Drum.
On sale from 12 October, the designs have been created by British artist Malcolm Tween and feature Maz Kanata, Porgs, Wookies, Snoke, BB-8, R2-D2, C-3PO and K-2SO.
Set to become major collector's items says The Sun, the most sought-after are likely to be four special 'droid' stamps which include a nuance that will see them only become visible under UV light.
Perfect for any fan wanting to send a parcel or letter to a galaxy far, far away.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is out in cinemas on 15 December
Star Wars: The Last Jedi - New images offer tantalising plot clues
A batch of new photos from Star Wars: The Last Jedi have been released - and, for fans of the franchise, they are very interesting indeed.
The stills, published by Entertainment Weekly, offer a tantalising taste of what's in store for Rey, Finn and their Resistance comrades, as well as their First Order foes.
At the end of the last film, Rey journeyed to a remote hilltop in search of Luke Skywalker and finally tracked him down near the ruins of the first Jedi temple just before the credits rolled.
But if she was looking for an eager mentor, she is in for a disappointment, says EW. Instead of the heroic jedi of legend, she finds a jaded Luke, "overpowered by regret, eager to close the book on his past while living out the rest of his days on an isolated island".
While Luke might be living a hermit-like existence, he isn't entirely alone - Ahch-To is teeming with wildlife, including furry critters called porgs, which EW describes as "cute, cuddly, and vexing to Wookiees".
The island is also home to the Caretakers, a mysterious nun-like order of reptilian aliens, who act as the temple's guardians.
Eagle-eyed fans on Reddit clocked a snap of Finn strapped into a cockpit and a still which appears to show a speed racer making a bumpy landing - and quickly put two and two together.
"I bet this is Finn making the hard 'landing'," one wrote, while another added that the photo suggests the ex-Stormtrooper "isn't the most experienced pilot, but he's definitely learning".
Finn's story will see him cross paths with rebel mechanic Rose Tico, played by franchise newcomer Kelly Marie Tran.
The pair's adventures will take them to the dazzling lights of Canto Bight, a casino city described by Rian Johnson as a "Star Wars Monte Carlo-type environment".
It's not all cute critters and galactic roulette, however. The First Order is still around, and more determined than ever to crush the Resistance. One of the new images shows a brooding Kylo Ren, his face now permanently scarred from his battle with Rey.
Supreme Leader Snoke, who so far has only been glimpsed as a hologram, will make his first in-the-flesh appearance in The Last Jedi. The evil overlord will be flanked by Praetorian Guards, a samurai-like cohort with distinctive crimson armour.
"With their sharp angles, severe coloring, and full-face visors, they should serve to amplify Snoke's menacing presence when he appears to threaten our heroes in the Resistance," says Looper.
The new photos also include some behind the scenes snaps - at least one of which will be bittersweet to fans, as it shows Carrie Fisher preparing to shoot a scene as Leia Organa, shortly before her unexpected death in December last year.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi arrives in cinemas 15 December.
Star Wars 8: The Last Jedi: How will Leia die?
In the wake of Carrie Fisher's death, fans are speculating about how Star Wars will plot her life in the forthcoming instalment of the long-running space opera, out in cinemas at the end of the year.
The star's character, General Leia, was due to appear in all three of the new trilogy of films. But after the actress's unexpected death in December last year a rewrite is thought to have been necessary.
Right now, Star Wars fans are speculating about how a satisfying end might be found for Fisher's much-loved character.
In an extended post on Reddit, Star Wars enthusiast Ringer7 says that it seems unlikely the character will die off-screen.
"I think we can all agree that an off-screen death, especially one that happens between films and is mentioned in the opening crawl, would be a jarring and unsatisfactory end for such a major character. By the same token, we know that CGI will not be used to recreate the character."
The best solution, Ringer7 says, would be for Leia to perish in some kind of starship battle. "Leia will be on one of the ships, shown from behind perhaps (I don't think a body double shown from behind is out of the question), and we will hear her giving orders. The Resistance will get into a dire situation, and she will heroically command her ship to give itself up to save the rest of the fleet."
Other commenters believe Leia might be brought back to life with CGI, as she was in last year's Star Wars spin-off film, Rogue One. Others think that the role will be recast and the film series will continue as originally intended.
All will be revealed when Star Wars 8: The Last Jedi is released in UK cinemas on 15 December.
Star Wars 8 – The Last Jedi: Is Luke mourning Han Solo?
Star Wars fans have been spent many hours analysing every last scene of the long-running space opera, but one detail from 2015's Star Wars 7: The Force Awakens so far relatively unscrutinised is Luke Skywalker's expression when he meets new young hero Rey at the end of the film.
Most fans interpreted the Jedi knight's weary expression as an indication of the inner turmoil he is experiencing at meeting his long-lost daughter – the prevailing but as-yet-unproven theory about the pair's relationship.
But a new theory suggests Luke's look may indicate he knows something has happened to his old friend Han Solo.
"However big the mystery may be, the answer to it is pretty simple and is revealed quite simply in the movie itself," says Reddit user Clancento.
According to the fan, "The Millennium Falcon is a really big ship and it's really hard to miss especially when someone is standing on the top of a cliff. It's not only infamous in the galaxy but Luke has spent so much time on that ship and certainly cannot mistake it for any other… When he sees the ship, he is definitely expecting to meet Han solo, his best friend."
When Rey emerges instead of Han, Luke realises his friend is dead, Calcento says.
The character of Han Solo originally becomes acquainted with Luke in the original trilogy of films and they form a bond through their daring adventures fighting the evil Galactic Empire.
But Han meets his end midway through the last film, at the pointy end of his confused son Kylo Ren's lightsaber.
So is Luke in mourning at the end of The Force Awakens? All will be revealed when the sequel, The Last Jedi, is released in December.
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