Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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There’s good news and bad news about Episode VIII. The bad news is that it’s not as good as the last two Star Wars films. The good news is that it’s better than those prequels. Yet at 2 1/2 hours long, at least the fan boys camping outside the theaters will feel they got their money’s worth.

Writer/director Rian Johnson (he gave us the terrific indie film Brick, and that average sci-fi film Looper) did an okay job with this, despite some poor editing choices that had us jump in settings and action that usually didn’t work. He had a few too many dogfights, and one or two too many characters. In fact, the entire segment with Benicio del Toro playing a stuttering, low-life code breaker, could’ve been edited out. That would’ve shortened the film and made it a solid collection to the Star Wars cannon (it now ranks as the longest in the franchise).

A lot of the comedic moments worked, but some fell flat (“Get your head out of your cockpit!”). Most of the new characters worked. I especially liked San Diego native Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), who is a rebel that gets a crush going on Finn (John Boyega). She has a vulnerability that was touching.

Too much time is devoted to Rey (Daisy Ridley) begging Luke (Mark Hamill) to train her. He’s hanging out on a planet that looks like Ireland. We watch as he fishes, milks a weird creature, and ignores Rey. I suppose some of the animals were interesting to look at, but those cute birds (called porgs) got old quick. It almost felt like they tried too hard for cuteness (and perhaps, marketing merchandise).

Once Luke starts training Rey (come on, no spoiler was needed; you knew that he would), it gets interesting. It’s also nice to see the bearded Hamill take the Obi Wan part. I was also pleasantly surprised at how much Carrie Fisher was in this. Sure, there were moments were she looked and sounded awful, but most of what she did worked; certainly a lot better than in the last movie. Her scenes with Harrison Ford in that were painful to watch. Knowing this will be the last film she does, really does get you emotionally.

It took me awhile to warm up to an actor I love — Adam Driver — as Kylo Ren. I finally liked him in the role, yet I didn’t like the direction his character went in this episode.

Another actor I love — Domhnall Gleeson — was bugging me in this; although he totally pulled off a funny scene with Oscar Isaac (Poe). I did wonder about Isaac’s character. He plays this fly-boy with a trigger finger, that never seemed to worry about all the people that died on his risky missions. Every time Leia yells at him (or Laura Dern, another unnecessary character), it felt like Tom Cruise being disciplined in Top Gun.

Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis, of course) looked evil. He looked like Voldemort caught leprosy. His scenes were intense and creepy.

Of course, everyone will love seeing the usual suspects (no, that’s not a reference to Benicio again) — Chewbacca, C-3PO, R2-D2, etc. And of course, the incredible John Williams, Wagneresque score, is always a treat that adds excitement to the story.

A few times, I was bothered by how much they borrowed from Return of the Jedi and Empire Strikes Back, but they didn’t do it nearly as much as The Force Awakens, which was basically a reboot of the original.

Overall, this was not the movie I was looking for (see what I did there?). Both my wife and I felt the same on that. Yet the theatre of media types I saw this with all seemed to love it.

2 1/2 stars…one for each hour of the movie.