Director: Rian Johnson
Rating: 3 Stars (out of 4)
Star Wars: The Last Jedi unspools like a one-movie binge watch, a lively if overlong and busily plotted second chapter to the latest Star Wars trilogy that advances the story and deepens its characters with a combination of irreverent humor and worshipful love for the original text.
Written and directed by Rian Johnson (Looper), this installment picks up literally where 2015's The Force Awakens left off. Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) is still bringing the heat. His comrade - and reformed Stormtrooper - Finn (John Boyega) is recuperating from a punishing last battle with the proto-fascist First Order. And a courageous orphan named Rey (Daisy Ridley) has finally tracked down Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) after vanquishing the maybe-evil, maybe-just-mixed-up Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) in a lightsaber duel.
After getting things started with a well-choreographed battle scene (featuring a deliciously supercilious Domhnall Gleeson as the fatuous First Order leader General Hux), Johnson adroitly maneuvers his characters through a story that, admittedly, often feels more convoluted than canonically necessary, with extravagantly reckless tactical gambits, nail-biting tick-tocks and ludicrously protracted standoffs providing excuses for action and incident more than narrative drive. Still, The Last Jedi honors the franchise's chief values of idealism, loyalty and self-sacrifice that made the original Star Wars so beloved, with a similarly appealing ragtag team of hotheads and cockeyed optimists to root for as they try to save their galaxy from totalitarian domination.
That moment is guaranteed to bring a lump to Star Wars skeptics and superfans alike, as will frequent callbacks to the original films - including a particular whopper - that feel like Johnson offering a reassuring "I got you" to a core audience that's been burned too often in the past. Some of his creations feel rote or shamelessly manipulative: a sequence set at a casino feels like a pale retread from the Mos Eisley cantina scene in A New Hope." And the wide-eyed, owl-like porgs that populate Luke's island seem reverse-engineered to elicit immediate puppy love in the audience. Yet Johnson clearly understands a franchise that depends as much on improbable schemes and subplots as Oedipal rage and symbolic sibling rivalry for its energy and psychological pull.
Luckily for Rey, there's a third movie in her future. And it's lucky for viewers, too. There's no way for the latest trilogy of Star Wars films to capture the novelty and sheer exhilaration of the original films, but Johnson and producer J.J. Abrams understand the spirit and emotion of the thing. When the feelings come in The Last Jedi, and they do come, they're deep and they're real.
Go ahead and try to watch the penultimate scene without crying, or pretending not to. And may the Force be with you.
Three stars. Rated PG-13. Contains sequences of sci-fi action and violence. 151 minutes.
Ratings Guide: Four stars masterpiece, three stars very good, two stars OK, one star poor, no stars waste of time.
(c) 2017, The Washington Post
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)