The ninth “Star Wars” film boasts not only one of the largest casts in the franchise’s history but also the longest running time (152 minutes). Fanboy director Rian Johnson (“Looper”) takes the reins from J.J. Abrams, delivering an entry that is categorically for the die-hard fan. The story picks up right where 2015’s “The Force Awakens” left off, more casual viewers might even be fuzzy on what specific events occurred in the last film. I found “Rogue One” in 2016 to be an exciting entry that allowed those unfamiliar with the details of the ongoing saga, to simply enjoy a riveting piece of science-fiction. “The Last Jedi” brings back almost every character from the last two decades, introduces a slew of new characters, and interweaves multiple storylines into a comprehensible movie, resulting in an exhausting experience.
Rey (Daisy Ridley) seeks out Jedi Master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), and begs him to train her in the ways of the Jedi. The resistance, led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), struggles for their survival as The First Order develops new technology allowing them to follow the dwindling heroes into any corner of space. Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) continues to battle his demons within, as he struggles to remain loyal to the dark side. Poe (Oscar Isaac), Finn (John Boyega) and ship technician Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) disobey orders and formulate a plan that might save the resistance from the most dangerous odds they have ever faced. With so much going against them, every person in the resistance is needed in the fight for survival.
Ridley (“Murder on the Orient Express”) and Driver (“Patterson”) continue as the greatest assets of the next generation of “Star Wars.” Driver especially elevates the bar on performance with each of his scenes. However, the imbalance between good and bad acting in this film is quite substantial. Hamill is “David Hasselhoff-level” bad in his delivery of each and every line. Some of the story developments in the plot really work well, most of them in the final act. Some of the plot developments concerning Leia and Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo (Laura Dern) seem more like fragments of writer indecision. For fans of the series, the nostalgic elements will satisfy their every craving, for those just checking it out for the first time, this is a near dreadful slog.
“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” will sell merchandise and please fans who already gave the movie a thumbs up before they even entered the theater. The plots behind these films are a never-ending space opera that becomes more repetitive with each installment. The editing for this particular film felt more episodic in nature than anything previous. So much of the film is a replay of previous battles, conversations, characters arcs, it’s often difficult to appreciate the arresting visual work like the last battle in the salt lands. So many of the details require a “Star Wars” expert to decipher that the story becomes ultimately inaccessible to the average moviegoer. A “Star Wars” premiere used to be an iconic event. Now that Lucasfilm (and Marvel) is part of the Disney assembly line, these formerly spectacular occurrences happen so often (the Han Solo prequel is due out next Spring) that they are really nothing special.
Final thought — A debilitating, bloated franchise sequel designed for selling merchandise, lacking in cinematic originality.