After months of speculation, rumours and unequalled levels of excitement, the second instalment in the new Star Wars trilogy is finally here, and fans can breathe a sigh of relief for it is everything anyone could have wished for and more.
Written and directed by Rian Johnson, Star Wars:The Last Jedi not only stars the brilliant and eternally missed Carrie Fisher in one of her last ever roles, but also reconciles the faithful with an old friend, much to the delight of those of us who have waited decades to see this happen.
Slightly darker in tone than its predecessor, The Last Jedi is also much more dense in its content, and far more action packed than The Force Awakens.
At 152 minutes, one would have also been forgiven for feeling a little apprehensive about its ability to keep audiences hooked till the very end, but fans can rest assured that this takes nothing away from the feeling of familiarity and general goodwill felt towards the story and its characters.
Picking up the action from where we left it at the end of the last instalment, the rebel fleet with General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) at its command, is locked into a deadly battle with the forces of Supreme Leader Snoke (portrayed via motion capture by Andy Serkis.) Snoke's field commander is General Hux, a comedy baddie played with a commendably knowing nous by Domhnall Gleeson. After a successful raid on enemy forces, the rebels are tracked down by Hux and his fleet who make it their mission to destroy what’s left of the Rebel Alliance.
Elsewhere, fresh from defeating Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), Rey (Daisy Ridley) is on a quest for the elusive Jedi master Luke Skywalker, brought back to the screen with a degree of playfulness by Mark Hamill, whom she hopes will help her control the force in order to defeat Snoke.
Also back is John Boyega in the role of reformed Stormtrooper Finn, while newcomer Kelly Marie Tran puts in an instantly likeable turn as his new sidekick Rose. Reprising his role as trouble-making fighter pilot Poe Dameron, Oscar Isaac is yet again a joy to watch. His character’s charismatic air and rebellious demeanour more than make up for the absence of Han Solo.
Other notable appearances come in the shape of Laura Dern who brings complexity and gravitas to the role of Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo, Benicio Del Toro as loveable rogue DJ, and a great performance from Carrie Fisher's daughter Billie Lourd who reprises her role of Lieutenant Connix from The Force Awakens.
Fisher not only plays Leia with a huge amount of tenderness and a degree of sadness for the losses incurred by her character in the last instalment, but she also manages to convey a sense of resolve and grace in the face of what’s to come.
Dedicating the film to her also goes a long way into cementing her memory in the minds of those of us who have rooted for Leia, cheered when she defeated her enemies and cried when the woman who played her sadly left us almost a year ago.
On the whole, Star Wars: The Last Jedi manages to cram a huge amount of action into one storyline, but at no point suffers from feeling too overcrowded or needlessly complicated. Instead, we are only too happy to spend as much time as possible with the characters we have grown to love and cherish over the years.
With a narrative which more than mirrors the turbulent times we live in, Johnson should be commended for staying faithful to the original source material all the while adding his own personal touch to the story. A genuinely gripping, deeply moving and all around satisfying episode in this glorious franchise.