Light and dark sides

Latest Star Wars flick torn between good and bad forces

Starring Daisy Ridley, Mark Hamill, Adam Driver, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac and Carrie Fisher. Directed by Rian Johnson. Cinemark 14, Feather River Cinemas and Paradise Cinema 7. Rated PG-13.
Rated 3.0

In Star Wars: The Last Jedi, we get our older Luke and Leia movie. Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher get to do what Harrison Ford did in The Force Awakens by having a little more time (in the case of Hamill, a lot more time) in their iconic roles.

Both stars shine in their opportunity to play in the Star Wars sandbox 40 years after the original’s release. When this film focuses on the saga of Luke and the young scavenger-turned-warrior Rey (Daisy Ridley), it is nothing short of epic. When the camera is fixed on the late Fisher, who gets more quality screen time than her glorified cameo in The Force Awakens, it’s heartwarming and, yes, sad. (The Leia stuff gets a little kooky at times, but I’m trying to make this a spoiler-free zone.)

When writer-director Rian Johnson takes the action to the characters of Poe (Oscar Isaac), Finn (John Boyega) and a new character named Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), the film falters. Poe, the X-wing pilot who was so engaging in The Force Awakens, seems underdeveloped here. While the Resistance fights an oddly prolonged and bizarre space battle against the First Order, Poe just whines a lot, to the point where you are actually happy when Leia smacks him across his face.

The film picks up where The Force Awakens left off, with Rey and Luke in a stare down. Rey is looking for tutelage, but Luke is in full hermit mode, wants nothing to do with that Jedi stuff anymore, and desires to be left alone with his alien milk. While on Luke’s secret island, Rey starts having some sort of psychic Force conversations with Kylo Ren, aka Ben Solo (Adam Driver). Will Luke train Rey? Will Rey find out who her parents are?

What I will tell you is that there’s too much going on in The Last Jedi, and a lot of it feels like filler. Besides the aforementioned stalled-out space battle, there’s a clunky sequence in a casino that goes on far too long, a lot of distracting cameos, and new characters inhabited by Laura Dern and Benicio Del Toro, who bring close to nothing to the proceedings.

Am I overthinking this? Yeah, of course I am, but I’m a dude who has spent the last 40 years worshiping Star Wars. Anything you put up on the screen within a Star Wars production is going to have the likes of me (admittedly, somewhat of a loser) picking that shit apart. I’m saying some of this movie seems a little half-baked, and also overstuffed. If there’s any kind of movie I want to be more than 2 1/2 hours long, it’s a Star Wars movie. But at that length, it needs to be a really good Star Wars movie, not a so-so one. The Last Jedi is part Best Star Wars Movie Ever (Luke, Leia, Rey, Ben Solo) and part Worst Star Wars Movie Ever (Poe, Finn, the girl with the flip hair, and just about any time Domhnall Gleeson’s character speaks).

I’m recommending it for its best parts, including Ridley’s continued greatness as Rey and some inspired moments of fun and humor. But, be forewarned, it does goes into “Jar Jar bad” territory at times.

So, as Yoda might say, “A great Star Wars this is not. Like it just fine, I did, but there is a tremor of overindulgence in the Force. Be mindful of this for future times in edit bay, you must.”

One final note: Porgs are awesome.