WE are all in a row at City Screen, York waiting for Star Wars: The Last Jedi to begin. I won’t give any plot spoilers here, although you need to understand a plot to spoil it. And the stories in these reborn sci-fi classics fly over my head like bits of spinning space debris.
Not spoiling things is important, though. I know this because my little boy (aged 29) told me so, and no doubt his little brother (aged 26) would agree, once he gets back from dashing out to find his missing grandparents. As well might their sister (24), but she is in Australia and so is missing out on the traditional trans-generational visit to the latest Star Wars film.
Also present is my wife (58) and – now located – her parents (81 apiece) and this ledge-inhabiting man who finds himself leading a this-and-that life at the age of 61 (or so rumour and the calendar maintain).
The film starts and is the usual Star Wars mixture of hope and anxiety, vague spiritualism, goodies and baddies and villains who might not be as bad as they seem – or then again, might; explosions and thrills, and spacecraft that move so fast, there are clearly no speed cameras in distant galaxies. Or if there are, they are only for show.
The new film – episode eight in the classic franchise – has a fantastic central role for Daisy Ridley as Rey, who is shaping up to be a kickass feminist icon here. As the film starts, Rey is handing over a lightsabre to Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill, given more to do than last time round). They are on the Irish island of Skellig Michael, which is off the Kerry coast, or it is in real non-Star Wars life.
Hamill told Graham Norton that he hated all the steps on the island, as he needed to rest every 15 minutes. Looking at him, you can well believe it. But never underestimate a Jedi, even one who looks like he’s just slept on an interplanetary park bench after a heavy night.
Anyway, as I don’t want to spoil that plot, I will just say that the film looks utterly fantastic, it races along and is a genuine thrill ride, although one that lasts a little too long, at around two-and-a-half hours.
The fluid villain is Kylo Ren, as superbly played by Adam Driver, his face a study of indecision, sometimes steadfastly evil, sometimes painfully humane. The unresolved tension between him and Rey is likely to drive the next film. John Boyega is given less to do as Finn, but he does it well, and has great support from Kellie Marie Tran as Rose.
The late Carrie Fisher has a parting turn as Princess Leia, and her presence is commanding in more ways than one – poignant, too, in suggesting that while dynasties continue, those who pilot them die out soon enough. Her character, though, lives on for now, even if she does not.
Less engaging are the winsome cutie critters, some apparently a cross-species experiment between penguins and guinea pigs, and quite possibly inserted at the behest of Disney to sell big-eyed toys.
It’s well worth going to see though and very enjoyable. Even if I do have to say that or else my little boys won’t talk to me.