Note: Minor spoilers follow, but we totally don't get into anything major. Promise.
It's mid-December, which apparently will be Star Wars time for the rest of our lives (though filmmakers could probably take a cue from the gaming industry wherein annualized franchises tire fans and have an adverse affect on the work), and the far, far away galaxy from long ago continues to face turmoil that somehow mirrors its past turmoils with preposterous levels of coincidence. For example:
-Rey (Daisy Ridley), who fully awakened to The Force last time, is in a faraway land seeking training from a reluctant retired Jedi.
-Finn (John Boyega), who found his heart, moral center and stylish jacket after not much caring about anything, is making his way through the intricacies of intergalactic rebellion.
-Poe (Oscar Isaac) is fighting the good fight, even if it gets pretty much everyone around him killed almost always.
The resistance at large is in disarray and the New Order—literally just The Empire led by yet another deformed magic-wielding geriatric named Snoke (Andy Serkis is all his mo-cap glory)—has seemingly regrouped from previous defeats, though their new Darth Vader, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver, who is the best part of this movie), is at odds with himself, having done some fairly ghastly things the last time he left the house.
Last Jedi is mostly a whole lot of obvious setup for the next numbered entry and a so-very-thinly-veiled allegory-lite about the power of love, but even with Leia Organa herself (Carrie Fisher, RIP) and Luke Skywalker (the delightful Mark Hamill) back in the mix, it drags with misplaced exposition, a few too many characters and an overemphasis on grand set pieces rather than character development. Who is Snoke, anyway? Why does he do these things? We may never know. Why do powerful women like Leia and Rey continually balk at their better judgement and allow men to make all the (often poorly considered) decisions? Perhaps it's something to do with a rushed production schedule and Disney knowing we'll all line up for tickets no matter what but, regardless, Last Jedi feels like a stumble.
With The Force Awakens, there was almost an unspoken agreement that we'd all do our best to like it because, hey, it was Star Wars coming back for the first time in ages. The newest installment, however, fails to reach the reckless fun of last year's offshoot, Rogue One, and advances the overarching story incrementally in barely meaningful ways. BB-8 is amazing, though, and it's always fun to catch up with Chewie and Ar-Too. Of course Last Jedi is a jaunty romp through space-splosions and soap opera-caliber drama; just don't think about any of it too hard or try to convince yourself it's anything but.
+Inherently fun and nostalgic
-Mansplaining; forced feeling of plot advancement
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Directed by Rian Johnson
With Ridley, Boyega, Issac, Fisher and Hamill
Regal, Violet Crown, PG-13, 152 min.