A Safe, Spoiler-Free Review of the Safe, Underwhelming ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’

Star_Wars_The_Last_JediLike I started my “Force Awakens” review with, there’s not a review in the world that will stop you from seeing “The Last Jedi” but let’s give this a shot anyways.

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is the 8th Episode of the main series and the second film in the sequel trilogy. The plot picks up with the Resistance, headed by Poe, Finn and Rey (Oscar Isaac, John Boyega and Daisy Ridley) attempting to overthrow the First Order, led by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels and Gwendoline Christie reprise their roles while Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern and Benicio del Toro join the cast. Rian Johnson writes and directs.

I liked “The Force Awakens.” It has its flaws and certainly feels like a $250 million fan film at times but it has exciting action, complex characters and laid the groundwork for a great trilogy. So naturally I was looking forward to “The Last Jedi” with great anticipation. And how is it? I mean, like, it’s fine.

What worked best with “The Force Awakens” again works here and that is the characters. Rey and Kylo Ren have layers and are proving to be some of the most interesting characters of the entire saga. Daisy Ridley is as stunning to look at as she is at times heart-breaking to watch and is yet another name on the growing list of female action heroes (next up: Alicia Vikander in “Tomb Raider”). Some of her spunk and charm is gone from the first film but they are replaced with her burning desire for answers and clarity of her purpose. Oscar Isaac’s Poe is again the rugged cool guy but this time around he comes off as the wrong kind of cocky at times and seems to be going against authority just for the sake of it.

The one new addition I loved was Benicio del Toro’s thief character, a twitching and fast-talking guy who is only motivated by money. Del Toro is oozing with energy and I hope he is included in the next film.

Adam Driver once again steals the show as the film’s villain, Kylo Ren. The internet has made plenty of jokes about Kylo being a mopey emo goth kid, and how he doesn’t need his mask and is just a Darth Vader wannabe; and one of the things I liked about “The Last Jedi” is it acknowledges these jokes. He quickly loses the mask and once again has his uneven temper but that is part of his brilliant character. He is torn between the Dark Side and the Light and every time he seems to be being pulled one way something will happen that makes him question his actions; there is pain in his eyes and we feel it. If “The Force Awakens” left Kylo Ren emotionally conflicted and battle-scarred then “The Last Jedi” only doubles-down on it and I can’t wait to see just how far they will have him go in this series’ finale.

Some of the action here is the best we’ve had in the “Star Wars” films. There is one sequence where we get some sweet lightsaber action and another that was so gorgeous to look at that upon its climax it had the theater silent before the guy sitting next to me let out a quiet “wow.”

The problem with “The Last Jedi” is it has a lot going on but not all of it feels necessary. In fact there are entire subplots (in this 152 minute film) that feel entirely pointless and end up not affecting the plot at all. I won’t spoil anything but this could have been trimmed and I would be more forgiving of the long main plotlines that do work. The film takes some risks but at the same time feels incredibly safe and calculated.

There are also some moments of complete cheese and/or eye-rolling silliness, like one character flying through space like Iron Man and having it never explained (my brother and I slowly turned to look at each other with a “what the hell just happened?” look on our faces). Some of the comedy works and some falls flat, but all too often the laughs that do land are in moments that should be serious, so it creates awkward tonal shifts (kind of like “Justice League” and lesser Marvel films).

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is not a bad film but it is a disappointing one. It just feels like a checklist of things that you expect to see in a “Star Wars” film and there is no gut-punch moment like we’ve had in previous installments. Much like the prequels there is arguably too much CGI and cute creatures, and it never feels like the second film of a trilogy. Maybe down the road I will think that this is a masterpiece (people were mixed about “Empire Strikes Back” and loved “Phantom Menace” upon their initial releases) but as it stands right now, “The Last Jedi” is only OK and that is a crushing thing to type.

Critics Rating: 6/10

Walt Disney

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