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Movie Review: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

"Thank you, Star Wars factory."

Things are once again fraught in that galaxy far, far away—but have they ever been otherwise? As in the last Star Wars movie, they're fraught in a familiar way. Like the Rebel Alliance of 40 years ago, the new good-guys collective called The Resistance, led by General Leia Organa (onetime princess Carrie Fisher), is being heavily oppressed by the First Order, a league of space barbarians in no way unlike the Galactic Empire of old, apart from being commanded by a desiccated potato head called Supreme Leader Snoke (a mo-capped Andy Serkis). Can the rebels disrupt the Order's evil scheme of, you know, conquering the entire galaxy? It's not much of a question, but let's say, Who knows?

Writer-director Rian Johnson, new to the Star Wars factory, kicks things up more than a notch from J.J. Abrams's welcome-back series reboot, The Force Awakens. Abrams's movie was essentially a reprise—and a pretty good one—of Star Wars' greatest hits. Director Johnson is a more irreverent guy (see his 2012 time-travel movie Looper), and his sequel—"Episode VIII," for those keeping count—is quite a bit wittier. We get a lot of the series' trademark swoosh-boom space action, but it doesn't feel like a haphazard CGI dump—now it has some structure, and for the most part it's smartly staged. There are also a few beautiful scenes—on a remote water planet, in Snoke's gleaming black-and-crimson lair. And Johnson has worked up some amusing dialogue as well (a commodity on which Star Wars creator George Lucas was famously short). He gets a couple of out-loud laughs—especially at the expense of Domhnall Gleeson's operatically snotty Snoke subordinate General Hux—but he's careful about it: no one wants to turn the Star Wars franchise into a joke, least of all its Disney overlords.

Back from the last film are the series' four new stars: hard-scrabble orphan Rey (Daisy Ridley), in whom The Force is strong; reformed enemy trooper Finn (John Boyega), who has overcome a previous courage deficit; wild-man pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), stepping into the wisecracker slot left empty by the death of Harrison Ford's Han Solo in the previous film; and brooding Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), Han's son and killer, still resident on the Dark Side but deeply conflicted about it.

There are also some newbies on hand: Benicio Del Toro as an interstellar codebreaker called DJ; Laura Dern as Amilyn Holdo, Leia's right-hand starship officer; and a tough little mechanic named Rose Tico (TV veteran Kelly Marie Tran). There are also quite a few new creatures, among them various icicle dogs, turtle-face monks, and some impossibly cute thingies called Porgs, which look as if they nest in gift shops at night.

The plot isn't exactly full of surprises (there are only so many liberties you can take in blockbuster land), but there's a lot of it. Leia and her shrinking band of rebels are desperately searching for Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), the last Jedi Knight—they need his help in summoning the Force to defeat their First Order enemies. Luke has proved hard to find, however—until the resolute Rey tracks him to a remote planet called Ahch-To, where he's living alone with his grizzled beard and his tiny library of ancient Jedi texts. Luke has no interest in helping the rebels, but he's eventually persuaded to train Rey in the Knightly arts. (Cue lightsaber.)

Meanwhile, Finn and Rose and the swivel-headed droid BB-8 are off to some sort of Vegas-y casino planet (where BB-8 gets mistaken for a slot machine); and Kylo Ren has taken command of the Order's assault on Leia (his mom!) and her fellow rebels.

Johnson has sorted all of this material into an elaborate roundelay that feels endless (the movie is way too long at two and a half hours). Surely sections of the film could have been trimmed—maybe the Laura Dern scenes, which cry out for compression, or the training sequences with Luke and Rey (in which he says things like "Reach out with your feelings").

On the other hand, it's illuminating to see an actor like Kelly Marie Tran, whose parents are Vietnamese refugees, playing a key role in such a big-bucks movie. (Her presence seems so…natural.) And it's great to see Carrie Fisher, as warm and unmannered as ever, in her final film performance. Fisher died last year, after the movie wrapped, and although she'd been scheduled to appear in the next sequel, the filmmakers have announced that she won't be digitally exhumed for that purpose, in the creepy way that Peter Cushing was for last year's Rogue One.

Thank you, Star Wars factory.

Photo Credit: Walt Disney Studios

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  • Jay Dubya||

    Meh.

  • Old Mexican's Speedos||

    I find your lack of faith disturbing.

  • Roger the Shrubber||

    This is not the movie you are looking for.

  • JoeB||

    The cynicism is strong in this one.

  • marlina||

    Watch Now Stars Wars http://bit.ly/2Bc2Mc9

  • gaoxiaen||

    Boring.

  • marlina||

    Watch Now Stars Wars http://bit.ly/2Bc2Mc9

  • Domestic Dissident||

    I really do miss the Friday Funnies.

  • Brandybuck||

    I'm missing the labels

  • marlina||

    Watch Now Stars Wars http://bit.ly/2Bc2Mc9

  • Alan Vanneman||

    Carrie won't be digitally exhumed. She'll be literally exhumed. They can do that now.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    Spoiler alert: When Rey arrives at Snoke's lair, we hear the voice we've all been dreading, but knew was inevitable:

    "MEESA BEEN WAITING FOR YOU LINGLY LONG TIME!"

  • JuanQPublic||

    "It's so dense."

  • Karen24||

    There is nothing on Earth as pointless as reviewing a Star Wars movie. Everyone on the planet is going to go see it regardless of the reviews.

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    False. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, you can't fool me again.

    The last crap fest was one too many.

  • reardensteel||

    Which movie fooled you?

    I felt like the series had completely tanked after Episodes I-III.
    Well, except for Hayden Christensen, E-III was okay.
    I haven't even seen Force Awakens yet.

    However... I thought Rogue One was really good.
    It was edgy and serious.
    Sort of like the Bond films with Daniel Craig.
    And even with minimal light sabre action (the salient feature of the Star Wars universe), it was still great.
    So that gave me a new hope, if you will.

  • generalisimo14||

    The Last Jedi was good. Give it a chance. It is darker and more ominous, with little cause for celebration except that hope is not extinguished (barley) similar to R1.

  • JoeBlow123||

    I too am boycotting until a good movie is made. These last two were trash.

  • Cloudbuster||

    a tough little mechanic named Rose Tico (TV veteran Kelly Marie Tran)

    Calling Tran a "TV veteran" is pretty generous given her pretty mall 6-year CV.

    From pictures I see from searching her on the web I have misgivings about her portraying a "tough" anything. She looks like the love child of Mulan and Kung Fu Panda.

  • Cloudbuster||

    ^"pretty small"

  • Brandybuck||

    Short Round?

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    Small Asian women are always tough, just like old black men are always wise. Have you been to the movies?

  • TGoodchild||

    I wish Kurt was more prolific; his reviews are highlights of Reason.com.

  • Ron||

    Just because the first movie was good does not mean it should run forever. I'll be glad when the star wars franchise has run its course, hopefully soon it will be replaced with something new and creative and not a rehash of everything else ever created.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Stat wars has not aged well. I'm a bit disappointed that my younger self saw it 17 times in the theater.

    Rogue One was fantastic. Empire was good. The rest? At least the matrix wasn't ruined by awful sequels.

  • BYODB||

    Err...Rogue One was a steaming pile of trash and told a story literally no one cared about whatsoever but you are obviously free to have your opinion on it.

    It had a lot of potential that was, unfortunately, not realized in my opinion.

    It was their first effort to do something 'different' with Star Wars, and that I can applaud, but the final product was almost the definition of mediocrity. The plot had more holes than a marvel film, which is about the only exceptional thing about the movie.

  • Marcus Aurelius||

    What we really need is a remake of Top Gun at the Xwing academy.

  • BYODB||

    That would have actually been more interesting than Rogue One.

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Let me guess, you have a jar jar plushie. Rogue one was the only star wars movie where the empire was actually a real threat; where stormtroopers could hit their targets; where a star destroyer was something more menacing than a practice target.

    Everything else in star wars is recycled pablum. Lucas is basically ed wood with a bigger effects budget and better source material to steal from.

  • LynchPin1477||

    I was also a big fan of Rogue One. I would have liked more character development so that everyone dying was more of a gut punch, but I still thought it was a lot of fun. Plus, I'm a sucker for the "everyone dies but still manage to win" thing.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    Lucas is basically ed wood with a bigger effects budget and better source material to steal from.

    Well, considering Star Wars is a trope-for-trope remake of "Hero With A Thousand Faces," yeah, he did have some pretty good material to work with.

    Rogue One's saving grace is that it blessedly had its hilariously pandering Rainbow Coalition killed off, and their fundamental weaknesses shine through every time the main Empire figures show up on the screen. It's not a good sign when Peter Cushing's CGI avatar has more screen presence than any of the living characters save for Darth Vader or Mads Mikkelsen. There's a reason that movie had to go through a bunch of re-shoots.

  • damikesc||

    Yeah, Rogue One was steaming garbage. Up there with Attack of the Clones in the annals of tedium.

    I thought Last Jedi was fine. It was decent. Kinda gutted the heroes, made Rey insanely powerful, and made Ren more of a puss...but it wasn't bad. The story of a retreat isn't fertile ground for an epic and it seemed they were trying so hard for the "downer" ending of Empire Strikes Back, ignoring that we barely SAW Poe in Force Awakens, so he's not going to cut the mustard and Finn is portrayed as a complete damned moron.

    My biggest beef is HOW IN THE FUCK DO YOU DROP BOMBS IN FUCKING OUTER SPACE?

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    I'm willing to give it credit for some of the action scenes.

    But taken as a whole, the movie is absolute shit on multiple levels, from the stupid #ShePersisted pandering, to the almost complete lack of plot AND character development, to the pointless story padding that served no useful purpose to the overall narrative other than masturbatory SOSHUL JUZTIZZ themes. It actually makes Eps 1-3 look like master-crafted storytelling, and single-handedly pulled Jar-Jar out of the basement as the series' most annoying character.

    Going over its weaknesses would take too much time, but its fundamental problem is Disney has transformed it from a pulpy space western that took on mature themes of personal growth and redemption, with the fall of the Roman Republic as its historical parallel, to one that's simply looking to sell merchandising. It's "Spaceballs," but less funny and less self-aware. Moments of humor are injected in serious moments that completely drain the scene of any emotion. Rey appears to have mastered the Force in a matter of less than two months--and that's it's most glaring weakness, amongst a slew of strong candidates. She's clearly supposed to be paralleling Luke's journey to being a jedi, but instead of the lessons of humility, sacrifice, and self-control that Luke spent years learning, she swings a lightsaber around for a few minutes, dives in a pool, and is suddenly the most powerful Force user in the galaxy.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    In short, Rey's a Mary Sue with whom it's impossible to relate to any sort of emotional level at all. And then there are WTF moments like the Carrie Poppins flight.

    Another great example of how badly Disney fucked this up is Finn's arc. He's clearly there mostly for comedy relief, and it's impossible to believe that this is supposed to be a combat-trained warrior even when he's in a fight. So what does Disney do when his character has a chance to actually demonstrate a level of growth that up till then has been non-existent? It does a last second save before he can sacrifice himself, just to make people think the chemistry-free interactions he had with Rose up to that point are going to go somewhere.

    Just a horrible movie all around. I suspect the only reason Disney gave Rian Johnson a shot at doing a trilogy is because they think he's going to be utterly compliant for the chance at becoming a BigBux director and producer, instead of someone with an understanding of mature themes that can transcend the series' movie-serial roots.

  • Myshkin78||

    "My biggest beef is HOW IN THE FUCK DO YOU DROP BOMBS IN FUCKING OUTER SPACE?"

    I suppose the artificial gravity in the bomber gave them sufficient initial propulsion to reach the target.

  • JoeB||

    Nice one about Matrix. Those sequels were horrific.

  • UnrepentantCurmudgeon||

    The franchise has run its course. The studios just won't admit it and keep churning out new dreck because there is a fan base that will buy into literally anything (viz replacing Darth Vader with that sniveling, tantruming boy Kylo Ren). I'd much rather watch Guardians of the Galaxy.

  • Cynical Asshole||

    no one wants to turn the Star Wars franchise into a joke

    Paging Jar Jar Binks...

  • LynchPin1477||

    I'll see it because I liked Rogue One and Force Awakens was good enough, but I really wish they would have made this First Order group more of an upstart than throwing them straight into the role of big baddies. The Rebels overthrew the empire decades ago - why are they still Rebels? Why are they still losing so badly?

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    When you're a one trick pony...

    On a different topic, how does one calculate the energy radiated in a gravitational wave? I suspect it is similar to bremmstralung but haven't looked into it further.

  • JuanQPublic||

    I thought the characters in Rogue One were lifeless, and the entire film felt like fan service for people who were more interested in AT AT walkers than developed characters to relate to. It was essentially a fan film.

  • mkreitler||

    I can't understand the critical love for this movie. It was awful: lazy writing, terrible characterization, ham-fisted "diversity" messaging everywhere, and -- worst of all -- neither an original story, nor a classic story told in an original way.

    It's a mess. You have been warned.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    I agree. It would have been a fun, pulpy action movie if they had cut out the casino planet sequence entirely. Unless DJ has a meatier, critical role in the next movie it was utterly pointless to bring him in. The fact that Disney is beating the audience over the head with its Whedon-tard "STRONK ACKSHUN GRRRRRRRRRRL" misandry isn't helping matters. A movie where every male character is either emotionally retarded, feckless, and/or incompetent? Real subtle there, guys.

  • damikesc||

    I dunno about that. Luke discussing the impact of the Jedi was the first time the Jedis weren't viewed as being basically Gods. Luke coming to grips with what all he had done and what the Jedi order had done was interesting.

    And while the actress who plays Rey is friendly enough...when she is doing shit with almost no training that Luke would have difficulty doing as a "master", it strains credulity.

  • BlueCollarCritic||

    @Kurt Loder - Way to avoid any mention of the films toxic political correctness that often borders on making the film more frustration then entertainment.

    Spoiler free warnings - Every man in the film that is on the light side (Rebels) is portrayed as either a bumbling fool, a man child in need of a lesson from a superior female, selfish or a combination of these. Every Female is strong, smart and empowered as well as in a leadership role. AT one point in the movie when their is a change of command and you see the leadership together most are women and that is simply not even close to being reality.

    The issue isn't a woman being in charge its the implication that only women can do the right thing and so the men have to be the grunts on the front lines.

  • Joe Blowski||

    I am pretty sure the issue is women. don't be scared. i am sure you can compete on your own if you work at it.

  • JoeB||

    I think Cushing, as an old horror movie star, would have enjoyed being exhumed as creepily as possible.

  • JoeB||

    Sorry, "having been a horror movie star in his younger days..". There, fixed it for me.

  • SchillMcGuffin||

    +1

    And contrary to some of the complaints about his CGI resurrection, I think it worked pretty well, helped by the fact that role of Tarkin was intentionally kind of stiff and less-than-lively in the first place.

  • Joe Blowski||

    She is a member of the Rebel Alliance and a traitor. Take her away.

  • blitzstrasse||

    Upon reflection, I can't tell if our Dark Lord of Critique liked the film or not. This amuses me, because after seeing it this morning, I can't tell if I liked it or not.

    Member berries: proof of concept successful.

  • I'm Not Sure||

    I'd prefer a Buckaroo Bonzai sequel, but that's just me.

  • sparkstable||

    Spoilers ahead

    While the diversity was apparent, at no point did they have giant neon signs saying "Look how woke we are!" It was refreshing. All white males can be boring (and I'm a very proud white male). But I will say that the characterizations of the male roles above aren't too far off. But it also made them more believable (they were human, faults and all... And it allowed them to grow like Poe learning restraint or Finn learning courage. Only Rey had any sense of growth for the female roles making them somewhat cardboard).

    The Casino planet was a not-quite-upside-the-head class war trope mixed with subtle animal rights. It was the weakest part of the film. But if you paid attention, DJ reveals a truth bomb to Finn that destroys the "rich evil / poor good" message when he points out that the businessmen are selling arms to BOTH sides. Even the good guys need someone who is productive and able to harness capital goods and provide customer services. It was a single statement at the very end of the scene, but it was a big one. Later, DJ makes a comment essentially saying the two-party system isn't good for the individual. You have to look out for yourself.

    To be continued...

  • sparkstable||

    Kylo seems to indicate (along with Luke) that the way things are, Empire vs Rebel, is simply destroying everything and that a third way is needed in which the relics of the old two parties are allowed to die off (Or for Kylo... killed off). Luke points out (and this is confirmed at the end when the boy uses the force to grab a broom) that the Jedi party isn't required for the force... that power in us all. If the Jedi go away, the goodness of the world would still exist and the elites wouldn't be necessary (although, because it is Star Wars the Jedi are requiered so they don't actually go away, but the idea is still put forth).

    You add these things up and when Kylo asks Rey to join him you start to think maybe he (and by extension grumpy Luke) are right. Maybe Rey should join him and they can leave everyone alone. Had she joined him, his spite may have receded allowing him to live in peace. Instead, her insistence in keeping the old power structures in place drives him to resentment at a world that rejected the escape he offered it from the last 60 or so years of civil war. Only at this point does spite take over and end the internal struggle making him truly dark.

    In other words... the world needs a third party.

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    The first movie was essentially a "call to adventure" archetype with the structure of a movie western, but set in space. I don't think Lucas anticipated it would become as nearly as big as it did, but after Empire took things to a different level of storytelling maturity, I think he failed to effectively grapple with the epic that it was growing into. It would have made a lot more sense for Anakin to turn on the Jedi as a uniquely gifted idealist who became disillusioned by the compromises the order made to try and win a civil war, and increasingly sickened by what he believed to be growing corruption and death of millions or even billions as a result. Instead, Lucas made it about Anakin's mommy issues, which made what should be a tragic downfall seem petty and small, and rendering his eventual redemption much less significant. So I think there's something to your thesis about Kylo Ren simply wanting to end the war (with him in charge, of course), but the writers cocked it up and took away what would actually be a compelling argument. Frankly, I think the last movie would be a lot more interesting if Kylo and Rey joined forces, with an internal conflict over the right way to end the war.

  • sparkstable||

    This is why the scene after Snoke's death was intriguing. Both my wife and I thought for a brief moment that maybe Rey should/would join him. She, understandably, couldn't live with the kill them off option of Kylo (especially since she couldn't get on board with Luke's plan of simple attrition).

  • Red Rocks White Privilege||

    I'll say this, Kylo Ren's the only character in the movie that was given any depth or meaning. I feel bad for Adam Driver, because he's so goony-looking that it's hard to take him seriously as menacing presence, but he clearly out-acted everyone else in the film hands-down. Luke got schooled by a fucking puppet and Mark Hamill clearly hasn't learned a damn thing about acting outside of a cartoon in the last 30 years.

  • ||

    SPOILERS AHEAD

    This movie was so bad I almost thought it was lampooning Star Wars. Why is it everything the Empire builds is modeled after a slug? I mean half the plot was about how the Rebels were able to escape because the Empire was simply too slow. Too slow to move. To slow to react. I mean, why the hell did General Hux even care what the Rebels might have to say? Or why setup other Rebels for a symbolic kill while half your forces stand around watching. For fuck's sake, just SHOOT already! It's like it's more important for the Empire to put on a show then actually do anything.

  • Fooseven||

    Big gubmint is slow?

  • Dave99||

    Worst Star Wars movie ever made.

    Laughed out loud in the theater at several points. It was that bad.

    Other people around me also laughed and even said, "ugh."

  • Kristian H.||

    Bombers in space.
    Making level run passes at near 0 relative velocity in space.
    Using gravity bombs in space.
    Targeting ships going 10,000+ MPH in space.

    And then it got silly.

  • khairyayman||

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