After a lively space battle at the opening to get us warmed up, the latest from the franchise
picks up right where The Force Awakens left off.
Scavenger-turned-warrior Rey (Daisy Ridley) has caught up with Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), now a recluse on a windswept island on some distant planet.
She’s been sent by his sister Leia (Carrie Fisher) to fetch him back into the struggle between The Resistance and the brutal “First Order.”
While she pleads with Luke to get back in the game, Rey is also in psychic touch with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), Leia and Han Solo’s wayward son who is still in the service of the dreadful First Order overlord Snoke (Andy Serkis).
Elsewhere in that galaxy far, far away, the last ragged remnant of the Resistance is trying to elude the First Order’s ships, with the help of a desperate plan by former stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega), his new friend Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), hotheaded space ace Poe (Oscar Isaac) and others.
This involves a detour to a Monte-Carlo-like casino planet, and then sneaking aboard the First Order’s warship, none of which goes smoothly.
As with The Force Awakens, much of the pleasure in The Last Jedi comes from the attractively non-generic actors, saddled with cringe-inducing dialogue but at least allowed some welcome freedom to be funny at times.
Through the character of the commoner heroine Rey, the story also takes a mild stab at
acknowledging the dynastic bias that has been such a persistent part of the Star Wars series, and the attitudes on class that it would seem to imply.
These movies are more fixated on the inherent importance of bloodlines than a documentary on the Royal Family, and the treatment of the revelations about Rey’s lineage would have seemed quaint in the ’30s.
But much amusement also comes, as with all Star Wars movies, from the marginal verisimilitud—- such casually observed fauna as the elephant-seal/dinosaur-like creatures which provide Luke with sustenance, and the toad-like maintenance workers that keep up his domicile.
The obligatory adorable creatures this time, by the way, are the porgs, beakless, wide-eyed seabirds with nesting-doll-shaped bodies.
I liked all of this, and I thoroughly enjoyed The Last Jedi. But as so often with big blockbuster movies it seemed too long to me.
Since this is such a perennial cranky complaint from me, I was relieved to hear others saying the same as I left the screening.
It isn’t just a question of a tired backside; director Rian Johnson, to whom the script is solely credited, puts together one of those big climatic finales typical of the series, crosscutting between several strands of action and building to a noble act of self-sacrifice, and then…it turns out it’s not the end at all.
There’s another whole act still to go, and another big climactic confrontation.
And a very good confrontation it is, but by then we’ve had our emotional release. And also, our backsides are tired.
Despite the Gotterdammerung title, The Last Jedi is not slated to be the last of this Star Wars trilogy.
It was, alas, the final film of Carrie Fisher, who has an imperturbably majestic mien here, and whose absence will be sorely felt in the series.
Even so, the best thing about the movie is Hamill.
As Luke in the original films, he was sweet and likable but callow to the point of insubstantial; it was like Richie Cunningham at the center of a space opera.
In The Last Jedi, with his scraggly hair and graying beard, his raspy voice and haunted, haggard eyes, he has a bearing that can fairly be called Shakespearean.