OK, let’s get the big question out of the way. “The Last Jedi” is not as good as “The Empire Strikes Back”(‘80), and it’s light years better than “The Force Awakens”(’15). “Empire” set the bar for other Star Wars movies. So it goes without saying, everything else falls short.
However, “The Last Jedi” strives to be as dark as “Empire,” and in many respects, it achieves that end. Baddie Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), is determined to fill Darth Vader’s shoes, er… make that helmet, and doesn’t care who gets in his way for galactic conquest. Needless to say, a lot of victims meet the business end of Kylo Ren’s light saber, Jedi’s, Siths, Storm Troopers – he makes no distinction. He’s a bad mutha clucka,’ but he’s also conflicted, which is his weakness – a problem that Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) senses.
“Last Jedi” picks up where “Awakens” leaves off, with Rey (Daisy Ridley) finding “Luke Skywalker” (Mark Hamill) on a planet deep in the regions of space. You might recall cheering toward the end of “Awakens,” as Rey hands Luke a lightsaber. The anticipation during the past two years is, Luke will pick up the lightsaber and once again lead the fight against the forces of evil.
But whoa! Hold your phasers…I mean blasters. It is not to be. Taking a page out of “A New Hope” (’77), Luke is now an old man who wants to live out his days in self-imposed exile. He wants nothing to do with lightsabers, Jedi’s or the Dark Side. Like a young Luke Skywalker, Rey wants the reluctant Luke to train her in the ways of the Jedi, so they both can join the resistance and fight the New Order.
But, ah, there’s the rub. At the same time Rey is trying desperately to recruit Luke, Kylo Ren is using the Dark Side to seduce her to the New Order.
Director Rian Johnson does a terrific job directing the traffic through “Jedi’s” three storylines that seamlessly come together during the film’s third act. There are twist and turns that the casual Star Wars fan might not see coming. At least I didn’t.
It is a nice surprise that the late Carrie Fisher received a lot of screen time, as Director Johnson must have shot a lot of footage, or completed primary filming before her untimely death. To the film’s credit, and to the anticipation of fans, “The Last Jedi” checks all the boxes from Imperial Walkers to Star Destroyers. Chewy is back, ex-storm trooper Finn (John Boyega) and his new found love interest, mechanic Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) visit a Star Wars bar punctuated with a host of interesting extraterrestrials, and of course each planet has cute a cuddly creatures. But unlike “Return of the Jedi” (‘83), thankfully we don’t get an overdose on those damn Muppets. “The Last Jedi” also has the distinction of being the longest running Star Wars movie 152 minutes. So you might want to hit the potty before the film starts. In the end, “The Last Jedi” is a pretty good movie that could have been edited by 30 minutes for the sake of time and plot development. But it’s a good movie nonetheless.
A word of caution: Marvel films have us programed to wait for an after credit scenes in these blockbuster films. Since this is a Disney film, don’t bother.
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