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"STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI"
(2017) (Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill) (PG-13)


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QUICK TAKE:
Sci-Fi: A young woman tries to convince a reclusive Jedi master to teach her the ways of the Force so that she can help a rebel resistance survive an all-out attack by an inter-galactic military dictatorship.
PLOT:
In this eighth installment of the original "Star Wars" film series, Rey (DAISY RIDLEY) -- a young woman who went from being a scavenger to helping the rebel resistance take on an intergalactic military dictatorship known as the First Order -- has arrived on a remote island on a remote planet accompanied by the only surviving pilot of the Millennium Falcon, Chewbacca (PETER MAYHEW). She hopes to convince reclusive Jedi master Luke Skywalker (MARK HAMILL) to teach her the ways of the Force and thus help the rebellion. He's initially reluctant and becomes worried upon seeing how powerful her connection is with the Force, something he last witnessed in Kylo Ren (ADAM DRIVER).

That man now serves the evil ruler of the First Order, Supreme Leader Snoke (ANDY SERKIS), and alongside General Hux (DOMHNALL GLEESON) is determined to wipe out the rebels. They're led by General Leia Organa (CARRIE FISHER) and Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo (LAURA DERN) who've just ordered an evacuation of a rebel base and are fleeing in space from the First Order's armada of warships. That doesn't sit well with impulsive fighter pilot Poe Dameron (OSCAR ISAAC), but like everyone else, he's concerned that Hux's fleet has managed to track them through hyperspace and once again started their assault on the rebel fleet.

Learning that, former stormtrooper turned resistance fighter Finn (JOHN BOYEGA) and brilliant maintenance worker Rose Tico (KELLY MARIE TRAN) come up with a plan that might allow the rebels to escape. But they'll need the expertise of codebreaker DJ (BENICIO DEL TORO) to help them deactivate the tracking device the First Order is using. As they attempt that and the assault on the rebel fleet continues, Rey tries to learn everything she can from Luke, all while hoping he'll return to action to help them take on the villainous regime.

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10
Arriving in an era when women are becoming more powerful in the world and men who abuse their power are being called out and diminished or outright defeated in one way or another, "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" feels like it was made for these times.

Back when the original "Star Wars" came out in 1977, there was only one major female character and despite being a princess, she pretty much took a backseat to the male characters who dominated the proceedings.

While this eighth installment in the long-running film series starts out and ends with a bang (or two or three) that feature men in action (in some spectacular sequences), it's the ladies who otherwise stand out. The aforementioned Princess Leia (the late Carrie Fisher) runs the rebellion against the First Order that was introduced in "The Force Awakens."

When she's temporarily unable to command, she's replaced by another female authority figure (Laura Dern, new to the "SW" fold), with both of them having to contend with an impulsive, Han Solo type character, Poe (Oscar Isaac) who wants control and briefly gets it (believing his way of thinking is the only correct solution), only to have the ladies reassert their command.

The last film's heroine, Rey (Daisy Ridley), is now arguably the strongest possessor of "the Force" and holds her own against men (most notably Adam Driver returning as the Vader wannabe Kylo Ren). And helping out with a key subplot necessary to save the day is yet another woman, Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), who doesn't play second fiddle to her cohort (John Boyega).

I have no idea if this is the continuing Disney-izing of the "Star Wars" franchise, but if there's anything the famed Mouse House knows, it's that getting females young and old excited about a film (see "Frozen" or "Beauty and the Beast") not only is good for creating the right sort of stereotypes to empower girls and women, but it also generates beaucoup box office bucks.

That, of course, doesn't remotely mean boys and men of all ages won't like what's offered, and diehard fans of either gender will appreciate the continuation of mixing old and new "SW" characters and storylines together and the handing of the torch from the older, original generation to this newer one.

And that's best represented by the scenes -- introduced at the very end of the last film -- where Rey seeks out the help of none other than Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill, looking every bit four decades or so older) and, after some reluctance on his part, he decides to teach her a thing or two about the Force.

At this point, I was a bit concerned that this film -- written and directed by Rian Johnson -- was going to follow its predecessor too closely in terms of aping its counterpart from way back when. After all, "TFA" lifted a lot of elements from "A New Hope" (the original film for those not deeply wrapped up in this universe) and with this one starting off somewhat similarly (including a tracking device telling the bad guys where the good "guys" are located) and then segueing into something feeling a lot like Luke learning from Yoda, I figured Finn or especially Poe was going to end up frozen in some carbonite.

Thankfully that doesn't happen and despite the purposeful or incidental similarities (and a running time of 152 or so minutes that easily could have been tightened down quite a bit), enough of this newer pic stands out that it doesn't feel as much of a copy as did "TFA" did.

The action and related special effects are terrific, the acting is good, John Williams' score delivers like always, some decent emotional moments are present, and there's an okay amount of sporadic comedic elements thrown into the mix (although Domhnall Gleeson's portrayal of First Order's General Hux sometimes seems incongruous with a character of that rank as well as the rest of the film in general).

Simply put, if you love or even just enjoy the "SW" universe and its various trappings, you're going to, at a minimum, find this one to your liking. "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" rates as a 6.5 out of 10.




Reviewed December 11, 2017 / Posted December 15, 2017


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