Long-awaited Star Wars sequel The Last Jedi has finally arrived and it seems fair to say it’s been a bit of a smash, with fans and critics almost completely united in praise for director Rian Johnson’s new chapter of the Skywalker saga (we gave the film a five-star review).
Still, in all the coverage we felt one voice was missing. In a film that delves deeper than ever into the Jedi Order, their place in the galaxy, their connection to the Force and even their general relevance, how could we not ask the opinion of a real Jedi – namely 31-year-old Welshman Daniel Jones, who founded a religion based on the Jedi some years ago and now heads up one of several Star Wars-based faiths around the world?
And given his occupation in the Church of Jediism, it’s fair to say that the ominous title of The Last Jedi had been giving him a bad feeling for a long while…
“I was being hounded by media asking ‘Oh my God, are the Jedi gonna die?’” Jones recalls now with a laugh. “Is this the end of all Jedi? Is somebody turning into a Sith?’
“So going into the cinema, I was super apprehensive. I was like ‘Oh my God, what’s gonna happen?’”
So, what was his verdict?
“I went in there, sat down – and it was awesome,” Jones told us, citing two “epic lightsaber battles” and exciting callbacks to the original trilogy (which we won’t reveal here) as some of his highlights from the new movie.
“It’s constant edge-of-your-seat excitement. You just couldn’t relax. You know in The Phantom Menace they would go to Tatooine and just bugger about? There was never any of that.
“In one bit, Finn and Rose go to a casino on this casino-type planet thing. And you think OK, this is gonna be one of those slower scenes. But it’s not – it’s epic.”
And the production design and nods to the older films were also a big hit with Jones.
“It introduced a lot of new kind of ships, especially from the Imperial side – some Mega Star Destroyers, which were just crazy big and awesome,” he said. “And it was nice they showed the inside workings of a B-Wing bomber.
Church of Jediism founder Daniel Jones
“That was really cool. It was nice to see Carrie Fisher again, and Chewbacca was back obviously, and the droids were there. So that was all nice.
“I love that it reminds me of The Force Awakens, and I love that The Force Awakens reminds me of the first three movies. You’ve got the classic characters that everyone knows and loves, and you’ve also got the real, actual robots – they’ve built these things, and there’s actual people dressed in costumes, it’s not all CGI like the three rubbish prequels were.
“All the sets were set in real places – they went to the actual desert. I love that.”
And, most crucially of all, Jones found The Last Jedi perfectly continued an old Star Wars tradition.
“In typical Star Wars fashion, they were able to have you emotionally connected to the characters all the way through the movie,” he said.
“This is super difficult when you’re dealing with science fiction, because you’re saying ‘Oh look, this guy is a great big huge talking monster thing. How are we gonna relate emotionally to this?’ Star Wars does this brilliantly, and I think that’s what the beauty of the films are, and why everyone loves them.
“You have that sense of relationship with the characters and you want them to survive, you want them to get there and get out the other end, regardless of what they are.
“You follow along like ‘Oh, that poor Porg! Scared to death sitting on the Millennium Falcon.’ People fall in love with these characters, and Star Wars does that epically well. Always has done, with the Ewoks and some of Jabba’s lot – Salacious B Crumb, who’s sitting on Jabba in Return of the Jedi.
“Those bits make Star Wars so interesting, and they did it again in this movie. I loved it.”
Still, Jones’ reaction to Episode VIII wasn’t entirely positive, finding the comedic tone sometimes at odds with the plot and questioning some of the film’s more daring, divisive story choices.
“One thing I didn’t like was that the slapstick jokes are a bit too much like Guardians of the Galaxy,” he explained. “And I didn’t think that was very Star Wars-y. Still, I know they’re trying to appeal to kids, and then again Jar Jar Binks wasn’t very Star Wars-y so, you know.
“And some scenes were too light-heartened. In one bit they’re facing imminent death, they’re up against this massive Star Destroyer in a tiny little X-Wing, and [the pilot’s] being cocky. It just wouldn’t happen, and the [First Order officer] wouldn’t play along with it.
“I know it’s science-fiction,” he qualified, “but within that you have to get it as close to reality as possible for people to believe that it’s something that could happen, or so that you could follow the storyline.
“I also think Luke Skywalker’s really weird in it. And there’s a bizarre twist at one point.”
And one offbeat scene left Jones feeling rather salty altogether…
“One thing I found strangely odd, was that when in the scene right at the end, where [The Resistance] and [The First Order] have the battle, it’s kind of a bit Hoth-y, isn’t it, because it’s white, with all salt on the ground,” Jones said.
“But they’re in this desert, and somebody steps out onto the plain, one of the soldiers passes his finger over the ground and tastes his finger and says ‘Oh, it’s salt.’ What was the point in that? What was that relevant for? I still have no idea. Is it an Easter Egg? I don’t understand what that’s for.
“I thought salt – are they gonna use salt to jam the machines?” he went on. “Sodium chloride is gonna break down this weapon – how’s it gonna work? But I didn’t know what that was for. I found it quite strange.”
So, final verdict time – how does The Last Jedi stack up?
“Overall, the movie, I’d give it 9 out of 10,” Jones said. “And the reason it doesn’t get a 10 out of 10 is because I think the jokes are not Star Wars-esque.
“I would say that Return of the Jedi is still the best – that’s my favourite movie. And then I would say A New Hope, and then I would say Empire Strikes Back.
“But below the original trilogy I would say The Force Awakens right at the top, and then The Last Jedi underneath the Force Awakens, and then Rogue One. So in that order, really.”
He added: “The other three that came out, we’ll just put them together and say that they’re there.”
And Jones believes that whatever else, The Last Jedi will seriously alter how his Jedi religion continues going forward.
“I definitely think it will influence what we talk about, how we teach it, what we study and how we learn more about it in the Star Wars universe,” he told us.
“One of the things I found interesting was that it was one of the first times anyone called it a religion. Luke said “it’s time for that Jedi religion to end’ – and he SAID that, he said Jedi religion, and that’s weird, because they’ve never really said it before.
“But yeah, I think it’ll definitely influence how we do things,” he concluded. “I was thinking about that when I watched it. I thought ‘Wow – there’s a whole world we now have to look into.’
“I feel like they tried to answer some of the questions fans have had about the Jedi and the Force, and how they do their thing. What is the Dark Side like? Why do they just turn evil? It explained it quite well.”
So it sounds like one way or another the Jedi will live on long after Episode VIII, whether Luke Skywalker approves or not. Good news for hooded robe manufacturers everywhere.