ReelBob: ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ ★★★½
By Bob Bloom
If “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” was partially a look back to help reignite the franchise, then “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” definitely advances the shape of this vaunted galaxy far, far away.
At the fadeout of “The Force Awakens,” Rey (Daisy Ridley) had found the legendary Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), wordlessly and reverently offering him his lightsaber.
Luke, though, has changed. His idealism is lost: his soul, consumed by cynicism, regret and — most of all — guilt.
Luke and Rey’s journey is just one of the numerous threads writer-director Rian Johnson has weaved for his many characters — some familiar, some old and some new.
Hot-headed and cocky fighter pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaacs) learns some bitter truths about war, while former storm trooper Finn (John Boyega), awakened from his coma, finds a new mission and a new friend in shy repair person Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran).
The most fascinating character, though, is Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren aka, Ben Solo, who was lured to the dark side of The Force by Supreme Leader Snoke, and, who killed his father, Han (Harrison Ford), in “The Force Awakens.”
Driver’s character is the most complex. He bears outer scars from his encounter with Rey and inner demons over his conflicted feelings about turning to the dark side.
Kylo Ren and Rey form a connection that is at the heart of “The Last Jedi.” Rey believes good still exists in Ben Solo and works to turn him back to the light — to the forces of good.
Kylo Ren wounds Rey mentally and emotionally, trying to weaken her resolve and seduce her to his cause simultaneously.
You know what? Forget about the story. It’s the movie’s themes of redemption and hope that make “The Last Jedi” a memorable entry in the “Star Wars” canon, nearly on par with “The Empire Strikes Back.”
The movie is a bit scattershot as it jumps from sequence to sequence, at a breathtaking pace that, at times, leaves you gasping.
The film contains moments of high drama, low comedy, spectacle and, most of all, heart and heartbreak.
Johnson allows us to say goodbye to some old characters and embrace a few new ones, the most appealing which is Rose.
The screen comes alive when Rose and her bubbly personality are in a scene. She is Johnson’s metaphor for the hope that seems to be diminishing as the rebel forces are continually assailed and outgunned by the massive might of the fascistic First Order.
Ridley adds maturity and a new sense of purpose and strength to Rey, who grows in confidence and skill as the film progresses.
Hamill transforms his once-unwavering farm boy into an old man who looks back on his life with disappointment and a feeling of failing all those he loved.
Johnson stages one memorable scene with Luke and a very old friend sitting on a rocky ledge on Luke’s island hideaway, and the screen drips with a mixture of nostalgia and melancholy.
And then there is the late Carrie Fisher. How her presence will be missed in the final episode of this trilogy. Fisher had transformed Leia from a feisty princess to a wise and war-weary general, mourning every soldier lost in battle, yet steeling herself to continue the fight until the bitter end.
As usual, the movie’s special effects are superb, offering new planets — desolate and gaudy — and creatures — the birdlike Porgs and a tribe of crystal-like dogs.
Plus, composer John Williams continues to create memorable scores and set pieces that introduce the new personnel.
Also, it is refreshing to see so many women on the screen. Not only in major and supporting roles such as Ridley, Tran and Gwendoline Christie’s Captain Phasma, but as pilots flying, rebel ships and manning consoles on rebel and First Order vessels.
Johnson’s finale may seem bleak. Yet he offers a sliver of hope — there’s that word again — as he assures us, when the screen fades to dark, that brighter days are ahead.
We just have to wait another two years to see what comes of it. Before that, you can see “The Last Jedi” a few times, and hope the calendar flies at light speed until December 2019.
That’s what I plan to do.
I am a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. My reviews appear at ReelBob (reelbob.com) and Rottentomatoes (www.rottentomatoes.com). I also review Blu-rays and DVDs. I can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Links to my reviews can be found on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and LinkedIn.
STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI
3½ stars out of 4
(PG-13), science fiction action and violence