Movie review: Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

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Just a hair shy of halfway through The Last Jedi, I thought it had lost me for good. Rey (Daisy Ridley) was dicking around with Luke Skywalker on some godforsaken island that is just one big cliff. Meanwhile, in another star system, there was some stupid humor. Knowing there was still a long way to go, I resigned myself to being bored. I might have glanced at my watch had I not forgotten it at home.

But somehow, the starship was righted. I ended up liking it a lot. If the characters are never going to end up as iconic as the ones in the original trilogy, they are better than the characters in the prequels, including the characters in the prequels playing characters in the original trilogy. And it did manage to capture a good bit of that spirit of high adventure that made those first ones so much fun.

The Last Jedi did have its share of problems. It was too long, and the humor was not Phantom Menace low, but more Return of the Jedi level, which is better but still not great.

The chief problem, though, has its origins in a mistake baked into the cake in The Force Awakens. In the original trilogy, Luke had to train for ages to get close to his potential, and he was descended from the most powerful Jedi in the galaxy–just loaded with midi-chlorians (sorry). In The Force Awakens, Rey’s got all kinds of powers that she can use just because someone told her that the force was strong in her–she’s ordering stormtroopers around and flying ships like a barnstormer without any practice or training to speak of. Non-Jedi (or is he?) Finn is the same way. Even though stormtroopers use blasters instead of swords, he wields a pretty mean lightsaber against Kylo Ren. Finn has never used one before, Kylo Ren has been training on Jedi stuff his entire life.

So Rey gets even more powerful after three whole lessons from Luke, whereas dumb old Luke had to train on Dagobah for months and months. She even managed to learn Wookie in seemingly a matter of weeks. Don’t these current Star Wars people know that audiences love training montages where the character slowly improves, despite sometimes wanting to give up in despair, until, through grit and determination, that edge is achieved? Not here. Rey’s just got it, baby.

But, despite all that, one of the better Star Wars movies. Slightly after the half, I realized I was no longer bored, and a little later, I realized I was really enjoying myself. And I dug the ending a lot. That made up for a lot of weaknesses, both its own and the ones drug in from the previous film. I was fearing the worst, and it turned out better than I expected. I’m actually looking forward to the next one. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to say that after watching a Star Wars film.

three-half-stars