This review contains NO spoilers.
The Last Jedi blasts out of the starting gates like a First Order ventral cannon with a KICK-ARSE space battle setting the scene, tone, energy and spirit of this new chapter to perfection.
We immediately catch up with the main protagonists - our rebels Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), Leia (the late Carrie Fisher), Threepio (Anthony Daniels), BB-8 and Finn (John Boyega) facing off against the First Order, complete with the baddest red-head in the Galaxy, General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) in command.
We know instantly that this chapter is going to be an astronomically gargantuan amount of fun, as director Rian Johnson weaves a thread of humour through his entire narrative, leaving very little of the much-loved franchise folklore untouched.
In the final moments of 2015's The Force Awakens we followed Rey (Daisy Ridley) as she finds the lost Jedi, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), living a rather monastic hermitic life on a barren rocky island on planet Ahch-To. We're reunited with them both quickly into the new chapter, but again, Johnson plays with the franchise's more stereotypically serious tone as Rey and Luke make their acquaintance.
To offset the battle of wits we have some new cast members to watch out for, including the much-discussed new cuddlys, the Porgs - a breed of fluffy island sea birds. Thankfully they're NOT the Ewok or Jar Jar of previous instalments, their ridiculous cuteness is used sparingly and cleverly for maximum LOLs.
From here we are back-and-forth between the rebel resistance's race for survival as they are relentlessly pursued by First Order battle ships, and Rey's desperate mission to bring an unravelled, despairing, disconsolate Luke back into the fray.
Of course, lurking in the dark shadows of the galaxy and in the inner recesses of Rey's growing Jedi consciousness, is Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Unmasked, unhinged and untrustworthy, his own inner conflict is a big part of this story and the connection between these two is key.
Once again, so refreshingly, the Force is strong among the female characters. Along with Leia and Rey, two new key players emerge; rebellion soldier Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) and Laura Derns's Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo. Both their trajectories engage from the get-go, Rose in particular a total highlight for me.
So that's it from me, the rest of this space opera and its company will reveal itself, for now you know enough to book your seat. And I don't mean to sound like a Star Wars lifer (which I am), but even at 152 minutes - the longest Star Wars yet - there isn't one single moment here I could have lived without. It cracks along at an urgent and potent pace, laced with laughter and never once disengaging.
And the late, the great, Carrie Fisher? This film does her proud.
- Prince William, Prince Harry greet BB-8 on Last Jedi red carpet
- Star Wars concert heading to Wellington
So, where exactly does The Last Jedi sit in this universe? Is this the best Star Wars since Star Wars? Is it as good as The Empire Strikes Back? Is it better than The Force Awakens?
If you call yourself a fan, you can form your own opinion based on your own opinions. The Force Awakens did exactly that for me, awakened me, and the magnitude of how JJ Abrams reignited the Force in us all for these stories will take some beating. And like The Force Awakens, there were a few tiny niggles here and there, but to nit-pick the trivial amidst the rich tapestry of the entire enterprise would make fools of us all.
The Last Jedi makes its own way confidently and invigoratingly through the galaxy, delivering all the drama, the suspense, the wonder, the spectacle, the novelty and the heart I need from my Star Wars fix.
Note: It's available in 3D - should you fork out the extra? My answer is if you can, then I would. It's a deeply immersive experience.
* Star Wars: The Last Jedi is in cinemas now.