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Reviews for December 15th, 2017

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Directed by Rian Johnson

      Resistance fighters Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac), and Rey (Daisy Ridley) battle against the pernicious First Order and Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis). Rey must locate Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) on the planet Ahch-To and persuade him to join her the Resistance's fight. Poe (Oscar Isaac) defies the orders of Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo (Laura Dern), the new leader of the Resistance while Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) lays comatose. Finn teams up with Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), a maintenance worker, to try to find the film's MacGuffin: a codebreaker that would disable the First Order's security system. There are more subplots, but none of them will be revealed here to avoid spoiling the surprises.

      The latest entry in the Star Wars franchise suffers from a strong beginning, a weak middle and mediocre ending that leaves you more exhausted than exhilarated. The plot covers a lot of ground without enough time to stop to get to know any of its characters. Unless you're a gung-ho Star Wars fan who's familiar with every character like the back of your hand, you won't have much a reason to care about anyone onscreen. Moreover, writer/director Rian Johnson's screenplay awkwardly blend action and drama with comedy and little bit of tacked-on romance. One particular scene involving an image that's not what it initially appears to be comes out of nowhere and feels like it belongs in a parody of Star Wars even though it does generate laughter.

      Too many tonal shifts make the film uneven. The way that Johnson incorporates exposition is rather contrived and nearly grinds the film's momentum to a halt at times. To be fair, exposition is a tricky part of screenwriting, so it takes a skilled writer to know how to include it organically. Unfortunately, the pedestrian screenplay fails to be emotionally engrossing enough. Any slight amount of emotional depth comes from the performances, not the screenplay. If someone saying "May the force be with you!" is enough to make you shed a tear, then perhaps you'll find the film to be more poignant than I did.

      The action scenes look and sound great----you can clearly see where the film's budget went----but that's not nearly enough to hold your attention through the boring and bland second act. Yes, the visuals are dazzling with impressive CGI, but excessive visual spectacle becomes increasingly tedious and, eventually, tiresome as well. It's no help that the third act has at least 4 false endings much like the third Lord of the Rings had, so just when you think that the film is over, it keeps going and going and going while your patience wears thin, unless you're a steadfast Star Wars fan who's easily pleased and can watch the film with an uncritical mind. At a running time of 2 hours and 32 minutes, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is sporadically thrilling, but overlong, exhausting, tonally uneven, and often dull.

Number of times I checked my watch: 4
Released by Walt Disney Pictures.
Opens nationwide.
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