Star Wars: The Last Jedi


Star Wars: The Last Jedi  (2017)    Disney/Sci-Fi-Action-Adventure    RT: 152 minutes    Rated PG-13 (sequences of sci-fi action and violence)    Director: Rian Johnson    Screenplay: Rian Johnson    Music: John Williams    Cinematography: Steve Yedlin    Release date: December 15, 2017 (US)    Cast: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Benicio del Toro, Joonas Suotamo, Frank Oz.



NOTE TO READERS: I hereby resolve NOT to divulge any spoilers in this review. I will only reveal as much of the plot as I deem necessary. However, if you’re still hesitant to read further, let me just tell you that it’s AWESOME! At this point, you can either stop reading or continue. The choice is yours.

 Even though I turned 50 earlier this month, I still felt of sense of child-like anticipation as the release date for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the eighth chapter of the sci-fi saga started 40 years ago by a young filmmaker named George Lucas, drew closer. Fans of all ages will tell you how much of a thrill it is to see the words “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far way...” followed by the Star Wars logo and opening crawl while John Williams’ iconic score booms on the soundtrack. This is especially true when seeing a new entry for the first time. The downside to this is that the final result rarely measures up to such high expectations (e.g. The Phantom Menace). That, I’m happy to say, is NOT the case with The Last Jedi. If you’ll permit me to revert to the vernacular of 10-year-old Movie Guy, it’s neat!

last jedi Here’s what you need to know. The First Order has all but wiped out the Resistance. Only a few hundred, including leader General Leia Organa (the sublime Ms. Fisher in her final role), remain. Director Rian Johnson (Looper) shifts back-and-forth between three narratives. The rebels have evacuated their main base just ahead of an attack by the First Order led by black leather-clad bad boy General Hux (Gleeson, Ex Machina). They manage to outrun their evil opponents by jumping into hyperspace. That turns out to be a mistake as the First Order has come up with a way to track the rebels’ ships when they use light speed. They have only a few hours before their fuel runs out and makes them vulnerable to a final attack. Having been demoted by Leia for reckless behavior, hot-shot fighter pilot Poe Dameron (Isaac, Ex Machina) devises a secret plan to infiltrate Supreme Leader Snoke’s (Serkis aka Gollum from the LOTR trilogy) vessel and disable the tracking device. His cohorts are former Stormtrooper turned “rebel scum” Finn (Boyega, Attack the Block), maintenance worker Rose Tico (newcomer Tran) and, of course, roly-poly droid BB-8.

 Rey’s (Ridley, Murder on the Orient Express) story picks up right where it left off in The Force Awakens. She’s located the long-missing Luke Skywalker (Hamill) living in exile on the oceanic planet Ahch-To. She wants him to train her in the ways of the Jedi but he refuses, believing that it’s time for the Jedi Order to come to an end. As you may recall from the previous installment, Ben Solo aka Kylo Ren (Driver, Midnight Special) received his Jedi training from Luke. It was during this training that something happened that made Luke denounce the Jedi and turned the son of Han Solo and Leia to the Dark Side. Rey tries to convince Luke to come out of exile and aid the Resistance in their fight against the First Order. Okay, that’s all I’ll say about the plot.

 There are three new characters in The Last Jedi. I already told you about Rose. Laura Dern (the recent Twin Peaks revival) plays Holdo, a tough Vice Admiral at odds with Poe over what course of action to take with the First Order. Benicio Del Toro (Traffic) plays DJ, a criminal recruited to aid Finn and Rose in their mission. All three are welcome additions to the new and expanding Star Wars family. Of course, it’s great to catch up with friends both old and new. It’s the older characters that provide the film’s most poignant moments. Since we know this will be the last time we see Leia, every one of her scenes are precious and tinged with sadness. Hamill, who never was a particularly good actor, has his moments too. His scene with R2-D2 is both touching and funny.

 It should be said that The Last Jedi is a passing of the light saber so to speak. It’s time for a new generation of young heroes to take up the fight. This second movie in the new trilogy affirms what we saw in The Force Awakens. The new heroes- Rey, Finn and Poe- are worthy successors to the ones that came before them. They’re not just cardboard cut-outs either. Their characters are given depth. Rey, who’s strong with the Force, still agonizes over the parents who abandoned her as a child. In The Last Jedi, she’s tempted by the Dark Side. And just as there is a bit of darkness in her, there may be a shimmer of light in Kylo Ren. Driver has a tendency to overact but he’s still good as the villain still conflicted over killing his father in the last movie. I like the interplay between Boyega and Isaac; the actors (and characters) work very well together. Newbie Tran more than holds her among the Star Wars vets. Of course, no review of a Star Wars movie would be complete without a shout-out to Chewbacca, C-3PO and R2-D2.

 The Star Wars movies have always been known for their awesome special effects and The Last Jedi is no exception. The effects are very impressive. The space battles are exciting and epic in scope. There’s no shortage of action here either. The final 45 minutes, which includes a stand-off on a salt-covered planet, is amazing. The scenes of ancient speeders kicking up red velvet dust are an incredible sight. We also get treated to a few new alien creatures- e.g. little bird-like critters (Porgs), crystal foxes (Vulptices) and space horses (Fathiers)- destined to fly off the shelves at Toys R Us (well, the Porgs anyway). The whole look of The Last Jedi is incredible. The score by John Williams is as effective and thrilling as ever. Who doesn’t like it? The screenplay is well-written. There’s a lot going on but it never gets convoluted. It has great individual scenes too. Even when The Last Jedi occasionally veers into silliness- e.g. a visit to a casino for the galaxy’s 1%, think the Cantina with tuxes and gambling- it’s still great. It retains its momentum throughout. It runs a hair over two-and-a-half hours but it never feels dragged out. It retains the fun spirit of the original trilogy. I absolutely loved and enjoyed The Last Jedi. This latest trilogy is now two-for-two; let’s see if they can make a trifecta when Episode IX hits theaters two years from now (December 20, 2019).

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