The red carpet was rolled out last night at London's Royal Albert Hall, as the cast and crew of Star Wars: The Last Jedi descended on the capital for the film's European premiere. Such was the magnitude of the occasion that even British royalty got involved, with Princes William and Harry in attendance at the star-studded event.
The buzz around Rian Johnson's Star Wars movie has reached fever pitch with the lifting of the reviews embargo. The critics have cast their verdict, so are we looking at another series masterpiece in the making?
Writes Todd McCarthy in The Hollywood Reporter: "Loaded with action and satisfying in the ways its loyal audience wants it to be... generally pleasing even as it sometimes strains to find useful and/or interesting things for some of its characters to do."
"Rolling up with the kind of intergalactic swagger that gives us a cosmically infuriating phone prank within the first five minutes, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a work of supreme confidence: witty, wild and free to roam unexplored territory," raves Joshua Rothkopf in Time Out. "If J.J. Abrams’s franchise-rebooting The Force Awakens (2015) was the creation of a boy who lovingly dusted off old toys and put them through their expected poses, its superior sequel is made by a more inventive kid—maybe one with a sideline as his block’s most inspired D&D Dungeon Master—who asks: Why can’t a Rebel fleet be commanded by Laura Dern in a purple wig? Why can’t we have planets of blood-red sand, herds of rampaging alien cattle or adorable puffin-esque porgs invading the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon like wanna-be copilots?"
Enthuses Sara Stewart in The New York Post: "Director Rian Johnson (Looper) has fashioned a grand and heartfelt epic with something for everyone, whether you’re here for the new heroes such as Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega), or the old ones (welcome back, Mark Hamill!), or just for the X-wing dogfights; whether you’re in need of some rousing inspiration, or longing for one last visit with Carrie Fisher, the series’ beloved Princess Leia, who died last year."
Writing for Slate, Sam Adams praises Johnson's efforts in both honouring the legacy of the franchise while also moving the mythology forward: "Johnson brings to The Last Jedi a cinephile’s erudition as well as a geek’s devotion, and he’s made a film that connects to Star Wars at the root—not just the first movie, but the ones that inspired it. There’s Kurosawa in it, both the rowdy fabulism of The Hidden Fortress and the impressionist choreography of Ran, a sword fight in a scarlet throne room that draws on Powell and Pressburger’s Tales of Hoffman, even an overt nod to Sam Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch. Abrams’ The Force Awakens was a canny feat of fan service, introducing a new slate of characters while sticking close enough to the original film’s elements that you could practically see its skeleton under the skin. But The Last Jedi isn’t content to revive past glories or re-establish a valuable piece of intellectual property’s commercial viability. There are moments in it that feel genuinely new, not just for the world of Star Wars but the universe of movies as a whole."
Time critic Stephanie Zacharek says the movie finds its emotional centrepiece in the form of the late, lamented Carrie Fisher: "There’s wonderful stuff here, like a gang of friendly crystal foxes who skitter across an icy landscape on dainty tapered paws... But it’s Johnson’s handling of Leia’s character that says the most about his approach to the material. Because Fisher is now gone, you’d assume that Johnson would have written Leia out of the story with a grand, melodramatic flourish. That’s what almost any other filmmaker would have done, and it would have been fine. Instead, Johnson gives us something at once more delicate and more satisfying. We’ve already had to say goodbye to Fisher in real life. In The Last Jedi, Johnson gives her an alternate ending, refusing to milk tears from us and instead allowing us to revel in all that was great about her, her sandpaper-velvet voice and her decisive way around a wisecrack. No matter how much money has been poured into a movie, it’s emotional generosity that matters, and Johnson gives without squandering. His great gift is that he knows when to stop.
And in its four star review, Empire concurs regarding the sensitivity of Fisher's role. The website says it's intrinsic to Johnson's understanding of the Star Wars universe: "His action is thrilling but elegant (there is the most nonchalant lightsaber kill yet). He is not afraid to embrace the cornball, but never goes too cute: the Porgs (not as adorable as you hoped, nor as irritating as you feared) are the butt of the film’s darkest gag. Hell, even the art of comedy 'Imperial' officers has returned. But you know he really gets Star Wars in the respect he affords Leia (Fisher, dignified but still with that unmistakable twinkle), or the way he understands the emotional weight of golden dice passed between characters."
Criticisms? Writing in Entertainment Weekly, Chris Nashawaty says the movie suffers due to its length: "Johnson toggles back and forth between these three narrative yarns well enough as the stakes grow more desperate. But after the first third of the film, when the table is set, the second act gets a little bloated and unwieldy. There’s a lengthy diversion to the casino planet of Canto Bight (a ritzy Monaco for the galaxy’s one percent that’s like Mos Eisley with tuxedos and baccarat) that feels pointless and tacked on just for the sake of giving us a cool new corner of the galaxy to feast our eyes on. Meanwhile Driver’s Kylo Ren and Ridley’s Rey have formed a telepathic connection that plays out like a slightly cheesy sci-fi version of Ghost. Each in their own way is trying to woo the other to their side. Is it romantic? A manipulative power play? Maybe both? Either way, Isaac and Boyega seem to be sidelined or stuck in idle for long stretches."
And in Variety, Peter Debruge argues the movie is stymied by having to stick to the tried and tested formula: "As it turns out, although The Last Jedi meets a relatively high standard for franchise filmmaking, Johnson’s effort is ultimately a disappointment. If anything, it demonstrates just how effective supervising producer Kathleen Kennedy and the forces that oversee this now Disney-owned property are at moulding their individual directors’ visions into supporting a unified corporate aesthetic — a process that chewed up and spat out helmers such as Colin Trevorrow, Gareth Edwards, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. But Johnson was either strong enough or weak enough to adapt to such pressures, and the result is the longest and least essential chapter in the series."
Remember, there's just one day left until you get to cast your own verdict. Click here to book your tickets for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and tweet us your immediate responses @Cineworld.