Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)
Release Date: December 15th, 2017 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Rian Johnson Actors: Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, Domhnall Gleeson, Carrie Fisher, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Laura Dern, Benicio Del Toro, Kelly Marie Tran, Peter Mayhew
upreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) and his First Order minions, commanded by General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), continue to take military control over more and more planets. Their only real opposition is the Resistance, led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), who faces dwindling numbers of soldiers and ships, as well as nonstop confrontations against an enemy of vastly superior strength. As Hux’s fleet steadily closes in on its prey, Resistance heroes Finn (John Boyega) and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), along with newcomer Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), devise a precarious plot to evade their First Order pursuers.
Meanwhile, Rey (Daisy Ridley), a strong-willed orphan powerful in the Force, locates long-missing Jedi Master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), hoping to persuade him to both train her and aid in the Resistance’s plight. But after his previous failure with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), a former student who turned to the Dark Side, the reclusive tutor becomes insistent on not repeating his mistakes with Rey. When the rebellious young girl discovers an unnerving connection to the Dark Jedi, she determines to face Ren once again, even if it means surrendering to Snoke himself.
“The Last Jedi” begins like “The Empire Strikes Back,” before quickly turning into “Return of the Jedi.” It’s surely purposeful for this latest chapter to pay homage to its predecessors, but there’s a limit to the nods, which shouldn’t be surpassed, for fear that it succumbs to the main criticism of “The Force Awakens”: that it’s essentially a remake. But writer/director Rian Johnson doesn’t seem too concerned. In order to fuel the nostalgia factor to an extreme degree, the film opts to recreate many familiar storylines and scenarios from the original trilogy, forgetting that the world is so expansive that it wouldn’t take much to concoct something entirely new. Instead, a disgruntled Luke exists in seclusion on his own equivalent to Dagobah, and must train a fresh apprentice as if to become a less mischievous version of Yoda; a rebel base is evacuated as enemy ships prepare to wipe it out (a sequence that boasts substantial comedy, which feels unnatural); elephant-shaped tanks slowly saunter across a bleached battlefield; and yet another iteration of Mos Eisley’s tavern of decadence furnishes strange creatures and odder aliens.
The first two-thirds of “The Last Jedi” focuses heavily on old routines. Trivial side missions are derived spontaneously to give certain sets of characters extra adventures – and to draw out an already long running time. In fact, one of the major components of the film is a slow-speed chase, which is so lengthy that it allows numerous other mini-stories to play out to their conclusions (including a hunt for a codebreaker, preparations for abandoning the fleet, and Rey’s Jedi training) – all before a dreadnaught warship finally catches up to the cruiser it was pursuing.
Much of this picture involves space battles, which, while exciting in the moment, have very little lasting power. They also contribute to an overwhelming number of close-calls – ones designed to drag battles out to the last second, where tensions can build with ample manipulation. When plot lines choose to follow this course, they generate a sense of blind luck; most of the rebels are unable to accomplish their tasks, perhaps due to poor planning or trusting in the wrong allies, but they rarely perish in logical ways. Martyrdom tends to save them all, even when luck falters.
“There’s still conflict in him!” Numerous lines are delivered with strained sincerity, especially as a subplot to find the remaining strands of good left in Ben Solo – and to turn him to the Light Side – begins to resemble “Return of the Jedi” a bit too much. Adding to that comparison is Snoke, an elderly, robed, wrinkled, lightning-spewing, inexplicably evil entity. Who exactly is he supposed to be? Zero answers were given in “The Force Awakens,” and this follow-up remains comparably tightlipped – pointlessly. His involvement and storyline are indicative of too many creative visions continually altering or revising key concepts.
But despite the vagaries and vagueness and repetition, the visuals are stunning: new spaceship designs are appropriately menacing; special royal guards in shiny red armor wield lightsaber-like weaponry; and a mining facility sits on crimson dirt, blanketed by glowing white salt. Countless other sequences, brimming with explosions and action and computer-animated monstrosities, will remind viewers that the “Star Wars” franchise has few limitations when it comes to visual effects. At the end of it all, “The Last Jedi” is still a middle chapter (which means that it doesn’t tell a complete story and leaves many questions unanswered), but a few major surprises and some jaw-dropping showdowns are thoroughly entertaining – especially for audiences who aren’t too caught up in the series’ insistence on revisiting so many recognizable themes and ideas.
– The Massie Twins