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22.12.17

For Your Consideration: 'The Last Jedi'


Daisy Ridley and Mark Hamill in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, directed by Rian Johnson

There is so much Disney profiteering on the Star Wars franchise, viewers going into the latest feature may be confused about what they are seeing. Your cheat sheet: this movie, The Last Jedi, is not a continuation of last year's Rogue One, the first in a series of spin-off films; this is Episode VIII of the main story line, taking up where The Force Awakens left off two years ago. Judging by the tepid attendance at a popular cineplex in the Virginia suburbs (perhaps the film did not need to open in quite that many theaters), most people do not need to be told to wait for this long, rather dull movie on Netflix. After all, even Mark Hamill didn't like it.

Rian Johnson has directed his own script, and where The Force Awakens mostly felt like it recycled the story line of Episode IV (the original Star Wars), The Last Jedi is a mix of reused motifs from The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. A young hopeful touched by The Force (this time, Daisy Ridley as the feisty young Rey) seeks out an elusive Jedi master on a distant planet (this time, Mark Hamill reprising his role as Luke Skywalker). After undergoing training and confronting the Dark Side in a spirit quest in a cave, she ignores the wise old master's advice and goes to confront her nemesis, Kylo Ren (a regrettably dull Adam Driver, who looks like he has been on steroids), hiding his anger and disfigurement behind a mask.


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There she faces Ren's all-powerful overlord, Supreme Leader Snoke (played by the omnipresent digital actor Andy Serkis), who has far greater power than she could have imagined. Indeed, everything that has transpired has done so according to his design. There is even an Ewok gambit in some cuddly residents of a distant planet that get in on the action, digital sheaths given to the puffins at the location, guaranteed to be under your Christmas tree soon. If this all sounds familiar, you know you are a Star Wars nerd. Other parallels abound, but in the interest of avoiding even worse spoilers, you will have to discover them yourself.

None of the hollow characters from The Force Awakens get much more interesting, as most of the powerful moments, such as they are, come from the old characters. Also like The Force Awakens the CGI effects and battle sequences are stunning, which is probably part of the problem. It is now all too easy to wow an audience with gorgeous planetscapes and massive explosions, and far more difficult, or so it seems, to craft a story and dialogue that will entertain.

One does question why the directing of this juggernaut fell to Rian Johnson, a director with a few television credits and thrillers (Looper, Brick) to his name. If you do like this installment of the franchise, you will be glad to know he is reportedly going to be writing a whole new Star Wars trilogy and directing at least one of them. This may be what we are to expect for a long time to come.

This movie is playing everywhere, around the clock.

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