Star Wars: The Last Jedi

B +

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Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence
Profanity: Mild language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Alcohol
Violence/ Scariness: Extended sci-fi peril and violence, characters injured and killed
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: December 15, 2017
Copyright 2017 Disney

Within the first 15 minutes, I cried and laughed, and then did so again a few times, with some gasps in between. Writer/director Rian Johnson (“Brick,” “Looper”) has brought his considerable skill and obvious deep affection for the “Star Wars” universe to this latest chapter. I won’t make the obvious Force reference; I’ll just say that he has produced a film that longtime fans will find very satisfying, with a stunning black, white, and red color pallette, thrilling adventure, appealing new characters and worthy developments for old friends, including characters from the first movie (fourth chapter), and a cause to root for.

After the now-traditional opening crawl (basically: the rebellion is not doing very well against the First Order), we have the traditional beginning, right in the middle of the action. As with “The Force Awakens,” we see the I-even-rebel-against-rebels Poe Dameron (dashing Oscar Isaac) in his tiny X-Wing, taking on First Order General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) with not much by way of firepower, but enormous skill and endless amounts pure pleasure in messing with him. Hux spouts off pompous, pretentious threats about how many different ways he is going to destroy the rebellion, and Poe just trolls him while the rebels gear up for their traditional-but-never-old trick of being quick and cunning instead of enormous and cumbersome.

And we’re off — in three different directions, as Johnson weaves back and forth, with gorgeously cinematic segues recalling “Lawrence of Arabia’s” match flame to the desert. Finn (John Boyega) and a new character, Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) go off in search of a code-breaker who, according to Maz (voiced by Lupita Nyong’o) is the only one who can help them get on board the place they have to go to turn off the tracking device (callback to Episode 4, where if the old man didn’t get the tractor beam out of commission it was going to be a real short trip).

Meanwhile, as we saw in the last shot of the previous chapter, Rey (Daisy Ridley) has found Luke Skywalker (a majestic Mark Hamill, evoking both the farm boy turned Jedi he was in episodes IV-VI and his mentors Obi-wan Kenobi and Yoda as well). Like Leia (Carrie Fisher) in the first film, she tells him she needs his help (R2-D2 tells him, too). But he does not want to be involved any more, as fighter or teacher. And she is being contacted by a sort of Force version of Skype, by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). In the last film, they fought with lightsabers in the snow. In this chapter, their conflict is more subtle, more personal.

And the rebel forces led by General Leia are being pushed back, with many casualties. This is a movie where more than one character makes the ultimate sacrifice. And more than one gets a last-minute rescue.

The settings are captivating, including a pleasure planet with an elaborate casino for the galaxy’s one percenters and some important lessons about both sides-ism and Balzac’s notion that behind every great fortune is a crime. And there is a salt-based planet with animals that look like foxes made from shards of glass. Chewie makes a heart-meltingly cute new friend. Refreshingly, female and non-white characters play dominant roles on both sides. And, there is a possibility of another New Hope. The rebel forces — and the Star Wars stories — are in good hands.

Parents should know that this is a sci-fi action film with extended peril and violence and some disturbing images. Characters are injured and killed, there is some mild language, some alcohol, and a kiss.

Family discussion: Why did Ben go to the dark side? What did Finn learn from the casino planet? Why did Luke change his mind?

If you like this, try: the other “Star Wars” films and Johnson’s “Brick” and “Looper”

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Action/Adventure movie review Movies Movies Science-Fiction Series/Sequel

3 Replies to “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

  1. I know it’s difficult to catch and identify the profanity in films that you like, but do ypu recall if they took the Lord’s name in vain, blurted out “bit__”, G_d d___”, “hell” (used in wrong context) or any other words that offend families who will be expecting Disney to keep this clean for all? I’ve heard other reviews where they spelled out some of the profanity that I mentioned and there’s some backlash from families whose parents don’t want their children to hear that junk.

  2. I appreciate the thought-full critique, Nell.
    There is an acute shortage of ‘voices of reason’ in this sound-bite age of ours.
    Kudos to you for your contemplative approach.

    I am, quite frankly, astounded at the number of diehard Star Wars fans who have roundly denounced Rian Johnson’s vision of the Star Wars universe.
    The same knee-jerk reactionaries who were clamouring for George Lucas’ head on a platter after the release of the prequel trilogy (Episodes I, II, & III) are now wailing “George! Come back! All is forgiven!”
    And why?
    Because Johnson had the audacity to tinker with their expectations of their beloved characters’ story arcs.

    Many an irate Star Wars aficionado has wagged an accusatory finger at Rian Johnson, angrily declaring, for instance, “the Luke Skywalker I know and love would NEVER toss his priceless light saber over his shoulder!” or words to that effect.
    Here’s a news flash, folks: This writer/director dares to assert that the cumulative effects of deep wounds and dark nights of the soul do indeed exact a toll, even on Jedi knights.

    The magic of this film lay in the unexpected plot twists and surprises lurking around each corner.
    Who could have guessed, one film ago, that the very same protagonists that fought each other with such white-hot intensity (Kylo Ren and Rey) would fight side by side in one of the most spectacularly choreographed light saber battles ever?
    Think of the irony:
    In ‘The Force Awakens,’ Rey fights Kylo Ren to a standstill.
    In ‘The Last Jedi’, Rey tosses Kylo Ren her light saber in a desperate (and successful) effort to save his life…..
    Only to bear witness to further darkness descending upon him.
    As you so astutely pointed out, Nell: “In this chapter, their conflict is more subtle, more personal.”
    And might I add: More complex, more three-dimensional.

    It is obvious that Rian Johnson wanted to do more than present a 21st-century ‘wagon train to the stars.’
    Three cheers to this audacious writer/director for leaving the safety of the shore behind and venturing out into unchartered waters…..
    Where there is uncertainty…..
    Genuine jeopardy amongst the characters, both classic and new…..
    A surefire chance of failure…..
    And most of all: DEPTH.

    PhiL {‘•_•’}

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