Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) written and directed by Rian Johnson
The Skywalker saga continues as The Resistance, led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), flees from the First Order, who are trying to deal the death blow. The Resistance barely escapes one planet only to discover that the First Order has some way to track their jumps, forcing them to run away at normal speeds. While the leadership plots what to do next before their fuel runs out (which is extremely imminent), a handful of rebels sneak off to try a desperate move to end the predicament.
Meanwhile, Rey (Daisy Ridley) is in for some rude awakenings as she seeks Jedi training from old man Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Not only does she find out what drove Luke into hiding, she also discovers a telepathic link with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), who tries to manipulate her into going to the Dark Side. Luke doesn't see their link but does see the great power of the Force in Rey. He thinks she isn't ready to handle a challenge from the Dark Side. Will she be corrupted as so many others have?
I went into this movie really wanting to love it. The opening space battle where The Resistance escapes is great fun and exciting, promising greatness to come. But then that story shifts into a slow and boring chase with a lot of petty squabbling among The Resistance and a completely unnecessary side quest where Benicio Del Toro shows up as a random side character. While this was going on I was sitting in the theater thinking up better ways for either The Resistance to escape or the First Order to pin down and finish off the rebels. There have been dumb moments in previous Star Wars films, but this is the first time I was ever bored by a Star Wars film.
On the other hand, the Luke/Rey/Kylo Ren storyline was a lot more interesting. I know a lot of people have complained about the shift in Luke's character, but I didn't mind since they provided a reasonable (if not fully satisfactory) explanation for his attitude. The telepathic link was a bit too contrived but it did generate more drama. The filmmakers tried to inject some comedy which fell mostly flat (Chewbacca's snack was cute and funny until they dragged it out too long; Rey's slapstick bits also didn't work). But dramatically, I liked it.
The two story lines come together at the end of the film with mixed results. Some moments were cool, some were dumb. The ending is hardly as hopeful as the characters (and filmmakers) make it out to be. I hope they will right the ship in the next episode but they have to do a lot of credulity straining to pull it off.
Recommended for Star Wars completists, but be warned--this movie is much closer to the prequels than the originals on the Star Wars spectrum.
Bonus! My Star Wars movie rankings, from best to worst (four and five on my list are so incredibly close that they change positions sometimes; six and seven might switch on further consideration):
- The Empire Strikes Back
- A New Hope
- Rogue One
- The Force Awakens
- Return of the Jedi
- The Last Jedi
- Revenge of the Sith
- Attack of the Clones
- The Phantom Menace