CAPSULE: As we left the "Star Wars" story two years and two chapters ago, Rey has found the missing Luke Skywalker. But Skywalker now lives and looks like a monk. He refuses to bring Rey into the Jedi order. Meanwhile the First Order is preparing an insidious attack against the Rebellion. The Jedi have not gone out of the universe yet, but the story structure of a beginning, a middle, and an end has. Rian Johnson writes and directs. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
It is early December, the new standard release time for a new "Star Wars" film. Last year it was STAR WARS: ROGUE ONE and the year before it was STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS. Back when the major series would release in December it would be a chapter of an existing book like from the "Harry Potter" or Tolkein "Middle Earth" series. The viewer had some guarantee that the film was based on a book that had an ending. We were assured that the story had an end coming in a year or two. But now "Star Wars" films were never based on a book. The "Star Wars" series is "sustainable" in the worst sense of "sustainable." As long as the writers keep on writing the series may never come to an end. We may be seeing a high-tech "General Hospital". Certainly this latest chapter has a lot of soap-opera-style plot twists to keep the viewer coming back. The writers love leaving misleading clues to what is going to happen and then something else happens instead. Little in the film is highly predictable. Speaking of the writing, I think people were disappointed when Disney got ownership of the series. "Star Wars" films would be coming from the people who made films like THE LION KING. But I am not hearing a lot of complaints that the writing has suffered since the ownership has changed. The writing now is better appreciated than that of the prequel trilogy.
A few days after seeing the film I think the most common complaint I have heard about STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI is that the film is just too big. It is more than 150 minutes long. It has too many plot twists and too much fighting and too many characters. If you want to claim the acting is bad there are scenes with fairly good acting. But if you say the acting is good you can pick out scenes that are not. The script has a large number of stories developed and many of them get twists. Battle scenes are no longer one X- wing being chased by two enemy TIE fighters down a trench. Instead, the film shows the viewer one huge tapestry of fighting with action in six or seven parts of the screen. The excitement comes from a sort of sensory overload. And it is more than just two or three battle set pieces. There is a lot of loud and action- filled fighting.
You know your fantasy may be getting a little florid when--as in Russian novels--characters have two different names. Ben Solo is also Kylo Ren and Adam Driver plays him. I have not seen a lot of Driver and have liked him in previous films, but he certainly has an unusual acting style. He bears watching. And much more experienced but always bearing watching is Laura Dern as Vice Admiral Holdo. Mark Hamill has a fair amount of screen time but gives a performance that is only adequate. In addition to Luke Skywalker, he plays a character named Dobbu Scay in the casino scene. I guess I did not notice. Carrie Fisher plays an aging Princess Leia Organa for the last time.
If you are going to another galaxy you might as well pick a beautiful place to visit. The cinematography and the art direction are as usual first rate.
One more thing is worth noting. Until now the series has been about a conflict that is essentially a feud within a single family. That is just a bit claustrophobic. At least the new film is trying to broaden the character base. That means the most interesting people are no longer related to Darth Vader. I rate STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2527336/combined
What others are saying: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/star_wars_the_last_jedi
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2017 Mark R. Leeper