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Star Wars: The Last Jedi (PG-13)




Star Wars: The Last Jedi (PG-13)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

12/21/17
By Amy Diaz adiaz@hippopress.com



Star Wars: The Last Jedi (PG-13)

The First Order is on the verge of wiping out the Resistance in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, a wholly enjoyable entry in this saga.
Not perfect but wholly enjoyable, even in its shaggier moments. (A warning: this review won’t reveal the name of Kylo Ren’s childhood sled or anything but it’s not entirely spoiler free.)
As The Force Awakens left off, Rey (Daisy Ridley) finds reclusive Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and hands him his old lightsaber, which he promptly tosses. He is, as another reluctant hero might have said, not interested in your rebellion, sweetheart. But Rey, with an assist from Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), sticks around to try to convince Luke to serve as inspiration for the beleaguered forces of the Resistance.
Meanwhile, those beleaguered forces (this new triology’s version of the Rebellion from the original movies) are abandoning their current base as the First Order (an updated riff on the evil Empire) closes in. Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), Resistance fighter we first met in The Force Awakens, leads an attack on a massive ship threatening the rebel forces. He has a victory but at a heavy cost. Poe spars with General Leia (Carrie Fisher) over the choices he made in battle. Also, for the first time I can remember in a Star Wars movie, the fleet has to worry about fuel. As the First Order chases them through the galaxy, the rebels have to balance the fuel cost of running versus waiting until they can contact allies for help.
The injured Finn (John Boyega) wakes up to find the Resistance in this precarious state. He realizes he can give the rebels a chance to make a clean escape. He befriends Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), a rebel engineer, and together they go searching for a code breaker who can get them on a First Order ship and disable a tracking device. 
Over with the First Order, Kylo Ren/mopey Ben Solo (Adam Driver) is still in turmoil over the death of his father. Though he still wants to be Supreme Leader Snoke’s (Andy Serkis) right hand man — and probably eventually rid himself of rival General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson, hilariously in a state of constant rage) — something else is pulling at him. We watch as Kylo finds himself less interested in out-Darthing Vader and more interested in telling all of his mentors to take a jump off one of those gangplanks over a bottomless chasm that seem to be built into everything. 
This movie isn’t perfect. There are some fundamental questions I have about the Resistance and the First Order and what, exactly, everybody’s purpose and motivations are. This movie also isn’t stingy about doling out the screen time. Does every scene need to go on as long as it does? There were a few moments when I thought “I get it, move on,” especially with so many characters in so many locales. 
But, that said, this movie does a lot of things right.
Somewhere in the middle of the final third of this movie I realized I really didn’t know where this movie was going. Anybody could die, anybody could swap to the Light or Dark side. And because it’s the end of the second of three movies, it doesn’t even need a happy or uplifting ending. There’s something kind of amazing about a 40-year-old franchise with eight movies (nine, if you include Rogue One) where you still can’t say “OK, this character definitely doesn’t die in this movie.” There were some real stakes and moments of actual tension. 
The Resistance here is also painted as representing not just some vague notion of Goodness but also the  socioeconomic-based desires of oppressed people to throw off their oppressors. There is some talk about the economy of this universe, which, has sort of always been floating on the edges of the saga. Here, there are rich people profiting off the First Order (and maybe off the rebellion too). There are people selling arms, people racing giant rabbity things at a casino Finn and Rose visit and small children tending those rabbity things and probably growing up with chips on their shoulders about the stupid First Order and their stupid business associates who come to the casino. More people are being worked in to this universe, helping expand the story.
There is also a nice balance of humor here, some of it creature-y silliness, but a lot of it genuinely funny and properly bubble-bursting of the “sacred Jedi” stuff. Who knew Bitter Luke would be such a great version of Luke? The humor feels very organic to this world, not Marvel-ness shoved in sidewise (cough, Justice League, cough). And, it doesn’t get in the way of other actual emotions: things like regret and loneliness and a need to belong and a need to believe in something because of actual reasons, not just some general sense that you want to be on Team Light over Team Dark. 
Human beings also get more humanity in this movie. After so much discussion about the dangers of fear and hate, this movie actually gives some practical examples of how giving in to revenge or hate is bad, tactically, and makes someone a weak leader. 
Overall, The Last Jedi does a good job with relationships between characters, something I don’t recall thinking about a lot with many Star Wars installments. Rose and Finn, Finn and Poe, Poe and Leia, Leia and Luke, Luke and Rey, Rey and Ben/Kylo, Kylo and Luke. Actually, Kylo/Ben’s relationship with anybody is great. The snotty interoffice rivalry between Kylo and Hux is super fun. They both vie for Snoke’s attentions and Hux actually seems to have the upper hand in the competency department but then again, Kylo can Force-choke people. The Kylo/Luke relationship is also good times. Full of self-loathing and other person loathing and a lot of irrational behavior on both sides (though mostly Kylo’s). 
I was surprised by the development of the Kylo/Rey relationship and how there is actual chemistry between them, chemistry that could develop in several different ways. There seems to be an appreciation for each other’s abilities and a sense that connection to the Force binds them together, even as opponents. 
And, here in this sci-fi universe, there are also scenes, not a lot of them or anything but at least two that I remember, where two women talk to each other. 
I know! 
Perhaps the biggest accomplishment of The Last Jedi is the way it pushes the story forward. Both Luke and Kylo, separately, talk about letting go of all the Sith/Jedi stuff (though, with widely different ideas about what comes next). I kind of feel like this is the movie transitioning us from the original trilogy characters and prequel mythology to whatever this saga will become, with some of the same themes but the chance to tell new stories. 
All this with fun action scenes — both army versus army battles and one-on-one fights — too! Star Wars: The Last Jedi isn’t the buoyant return to your youthful heroes that The Force Awakens was but it delivers on keeping this universe alive, energetic and full of potential. A-
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence, according to the MPAA. Directed by and with a screenplay by Rian Johnson, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is two hours and 32 minutes long and distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures. 





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