For anyone wondering why Paddington 2 missed the festive season need look no further. Pitching a film against the Star Wars franchise is a gazelle holding back an elephant stampede.  This is something the Sorcerer, William Friedkin’s follow up to the massively successful The French Connection and The Exorcist, will never forget, as it was bounced out of cinemas in 1977 by some low budget unheard-of Episode 4 – A New Hope.

Star Wars is becoming as synonymous with Christmas as James Bond and bouncing credit cards. It’s a relationship that’s certainly improved since the 1978 Christmas TV special Star Wars spin off that George Lucas wishes was destroyed in the Death Star, as opposed to being habitually used as benchmark for profound loss of quality control.

The Last Jedi is the sequel to JJ Abrams The Force Awakens, in which Kylo Ren inadvisably took off his chilling Vader-citing mask and goes from uber-villain to Vidal Sassoon in less par-secs than it takes the Millennium Falcon to reach light speed. So, what does the latest film have in store, beyond the flightless Porgs; cute creatures with one bulbous eye on dividing opinion, the other on mechanise?  I hope, like George Lucas, they’ve opted for a percentage of toy royalties in lieu of appearance payments.

Of course nothing will ever compete with the experience of a ten-year old in the late 1970s encountering the first film’s title crawl, ducking as the gigantic Star Destroyer slides ominously overhead. The 1970s was a decade of trade unions and a country adjusting to globalisation, so the worn-out universe of battered droids and spaceships was instantly recognisable, making it even more seductive.

As the Star Wars universe expands it’s becoming increasingly difficult to accurately place Ewoks: Caravan of Courage in the cannon, while memories of the prequels – exploring the intricacies of tax and trade federations – wake me when Darth Maul arrives  – thankfully fade by the day. The problem with the prequels (and CGI in general) is that it makes films look busier than Jon Bon Jovi’s pants. These days less is definitely now more, as spectacle outstrips script. So, in this competitive blockbuster filmic world Star Wars was pivotal in creating, how does its latest instalment fare?

Review (Spoilers) – 

Initial reviews look promising, and after all, all a Star Wars film needs to do is not feature Jar Jar Binks and people are happy. However, The Last Jedi is hard to place. It’s as though the director Rian Johnson has never seen a Star Wars movie. It’s also impossible to review without spoilers. We certainly meet Luke, who has an extensive library of four Jedi books on his island, which are inexplicably stored in some weird Lord of the Rings-type tree. It’s busy pointless detail. His island was deserted in the Force Awakens, but presumably the Porgs, fish nuns (!) whose purpose in life appears to be doing Luke’s laundry, (and not very well in light of his appearance) and an obese lactating creature which is frankly too much info, were camera shy.

Perhaps that’s the best tag line for this movie: it explains too much. Meanwhile Supreme Leader Snoke, who is an arguably better villain than the Emperor, is killed. I know! What a waste. It’s a shock that the film struggles to recover from, despite the First Order achieving something the Empire failed to do; genuinely threaten and decimate any resistance. The film has more in common with Rogue One, and by the end of the film the entire Resistance has been reduced to a similar rag band of rebels – although who would have bet on Nien Nunb surviving? When your entire army can fit in the Millennium Falcon you know things have gone tits up.

There are a series of stunning set pieces, particularly the space fights, as ponderous bombers struggle to take out the new Dreadnaught class of Star Destroyer, but at times it’s so hard to keep up that I suspect even the script writers were lost. The half-baked casino scene could be lost entirely, as could the stupid horses that are able to run up a cliff simply because CGI can. It’s far less swashbuckling than even the recent films, unless you count BB-8 somehow operating an AT-ST without any explanation as to how he was able to climb 30 feet.

There’s a great twist with Luke (who’s turned into Oliver Reed) at the end, although why this finishes him off it needless. He certainly deserved a good lie down, but dying seems to have needlessly amputated a future story line. Perhaps in its effort to kill characters as indiscriminately as Game of Thrones, this goes too far. And as to the last Jedi, well, it’s clearly plural. Two remain.

It was entertaining, although while the most appealing feature of the Star Wars universe is how worn out it is, you’d prefer this not to extend to its script.

My novel, The Life Assistance Agency – selected by WHSmith Fresh Talent 2017 –  is available to alleviate that Sunday feeling here –

and here,thomas-hocknell-9781911129035

and on ebook here –