It appears critics are falling all over themselves to sing the praises of the latest “Star Wars” film.
So I guess it falls to me to play the role of cranky old Jedi master.
Is it really the greatest “Star Wars” film since “The Empire Strikes Back” ? Maybe, but that’s not a high bar if you think about it. You’ve got “Empire,” then you’ve got the original, then the one with the Ewoks, then the prequels (less said about them the better), then the previous installment (I’m not counting “Rogue 1” or that “Clone Wars” cartoon).
Personally, I’d rate it third behind “Empire” and “Star Wars,” but then I’m not really into ranking things.
Should we start with the good or the bad? Let’s get the bad out of the way and end on a high note.
It’s too damn long. 2.5 hours seems to have become the standard for blockbusters and that’s a shame because this could’ve been a great movie if it weren’t so bloated. Part of the problem is you’ve got too many characters — the originals, the newbies, more newbies — and they’re all fighting for attention.
Trying to give everyone something meaningful to do results in some of them not doing anything meaningful at all. I’m looking at you, Finn. There’s a whole subplot involving Finn (John Boyega) and his new bestie (Kelly Marie Tran) going to a casino and freeing alien horse-things while searching for the keymaster — err, codebreaker. It is pretty pointless when all is said and done. It’s also a waste of the great Benicio del Toro.
Oh wait, now I remember. They need the codebreaker so they can — because we have to do this in every “Star Wars” movie — disguise themselves and sneak onto an Imperial ship to turn off the tracking device/tractor beam/force shield and save the day.
Which brings us to our other problem — there appear to be no original ideas in the “Star Wars” universe. Let’s just keep borrowing from the original trilogy and tweak things here and there.
This time they’re taking mainly from “Return of the Jedi.” Rey (Daisy Ridley) decides that there’s still good in Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and goes to confront him. He turns her over to the Emperor — I mean Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) — who can’t stop gloating because the resistance is about to be wiped out, and surely Kylo would never turn on him.
At least they didn’t come up with an excuse to bring back the Death Star.
So what is it that makes “The Last Jedi” overcome these flaws and take its place among the cream of the “Star Wars” crop? Luke Skywalker. Finally out of the shadow of Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill is able to fully take the stage and make this movie his own.
Hamill’s portrayal of a broken down, emotionally drained Jedi master is fascinating and compelling. It’s worth sitting through the two hours of preliminaries just to get to the main event when Luke faces down the forces of evil.
As for the rest, well, you know — it’s “Star Wars.” The special effects are first-rate, the action is intense, the cast — old and new — is fine. Carrie Fisher gets plenty to do despite her untimely death. She also gets the best moment in the film that doesn’t involve Luke.