“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is the 8th installment in the core “Star Wars” saga – directly following 2015’s juggernaut reboot “The Force Awakens”, which featured the return of Harrison Ford’s Han Solo. Ford added some energy and fun to this latest trilogy. But Han’s gone (and that certainly isn’t a spoiler by now), so it’s Luke and Leia who take center stage this time.
And this really brings the “Star Wars” franchise back to its roots. Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker and the late Carrie Fisher’s once Princess/now General Leia are at the core of “The Last Jedi”. Writer/director Rian Johnson (“Looper”) provides both of these iconic characters plenty of screen time – though they remain separated most of the way.
The structure of “Jedi” is classic “Star Wars”. There are three simultaneous stories, each revolving around one of the young heroes from “The Force Awakens”: Rey (Daisy Ridley), who’s found Luke on his hidden island and now needs his help to keep the Resistance alive; Hot-shot fighter pilot Poe (played by Oscar Isaac), who’s part of Leia‘s combat team; and Finn (John Boyega), who’s on his own side mission. Plus – Adam Driver’s Kylo Ren, heir-apparent to Darth Vader, is still dealing with an identity crisis.
But there are only so many ways to make this basic ‘Good vs. Evil’ storyline fresh and interesting every time.
Joining the star-studded “Jedi” ensemble are Benicio del Toro, Justin Theroux and Laura Dern, in a bold purple wig. Hey – that’s new! Visually “The Force Awakens” blew me away. The look of “The Last Jedi” isn’t as awe-inspiring, but technically it’s a well-made film.
However, there are some weak elements to the script. Following a nice action sequence to kick things off, “The Last Jedi” drags for at least the next hour. This isn’t a tight “Star Wars” movie by any means. Every element is stretched as far as it can possibly go, including a sequence at a casino that feels like it belongs in a “Harry Potter” or “Fantastic Beasts” film rather than a modern-day “Star Wars” chapter.
For younger viewers, BB-8 and the adorable Porgs will be hits. And there are two or three “wow” moments that will impress both diehards and ordinary fans of the franchise. But I can’t say “The Last Jedi” is a lot of fun. And even the climactic final act isn’t vintage “Star Wars”.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” gets a C+. For me, it’s not as good as “The Force Awakens”, but better than last year’s “Rogue One” spinoff. Following Ron Howard’s “Han Solo” origin movie coming-up in May, J.J. Abrams will be back to steer the series home in 2019 with what one can only hope is an epic “Episode IX”.
Running Time: 152 min.