December 23, 2019 – As I sat through this long movie (it seemed like three hours, but it was a bit less than two and a half hours) at the theater, I definitely got the feeling that I have gotten burned out on Star Wars movies.
Oh, it is a good movie, with plenty of action, good acting and a plot straight out of the Star Wars cookbook, but I have seen this all before, and it was better when it was fresh and fun.
I still remember seeing it for the first time in 1977 at a theater in Boston. I was wowed by it. I remember thinking, “finally, somebody made a movie for me,” after all that depressing, self-indulgent auteur-obsessed, art-film stuff that permeated the 1970s. The Star Wars movies and the Indiana Jones movies were like breathing fresh air again, after all that stuffy, pretentious art house fare. With Spielberg and Lucas making blockbusters, it was fun to go to the movies again.
What was new and different back then has become common, now. We live in an age of cinematic superheroes with a flood of comic book heroes from the Marvel and D.C. comics cinematic universes on TV and in the theaters. Star Wars fits into that mold. There is little difference between a powerful Jedi like Rey (played by Daisy Ridley) and Captain Marvel (played by Brie Larson). They are playing the same heroic tune.
The key to making an enjoyable superhero movie is not to make it too serious. It is, after all, composed of fluff, silliness and fantasy, not real science fiction, like “Ad Astra” or “Interstellar.” This sort of movie is at its best when the humor and carefree escapism are indulged. That is, commercial entertainment. This movie is too heavy on the heroic suffering theme.
We find Rey continuing her Jedi training under the direction of General Leia Organa (played by the late Carrie Fisher, seen here in footage reportedly shot for earlier Star Wars films). She seems to be farther along than Luke Skywalker was at this point in his training. Then word comes of the New Order (the revamped Evil Empire) readying a new battle fleet armed with planet killing weapons on the old Sith home world of Exegol.
Rey and the rebellion need to find the hidden world of Exegol and stop the deadly battle fleet before it launches, or the rebellion, and millions of lives will be lost. Finding Exegol requires a planet-hopping quest in Han Solo's old ship, The Millenium Falcon, with Solo's old crew mate Chewbacca (played by Joonas Suotamo) along with Rey, Finn (John Boyega) Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) C-3PO (Anthony Daniels) and the droid BB-8.
During this quest to find a wayfinder device, the mission is in constant jeopardy because the evil Kylo Ren keeps making psychic contact with Rey and finding out where she is. Then he pursues her and the two have several duels. Ren, the son of Leia and Solo, wants to become the top Sith lord and take over what is being called “The Final Order.” There is a strange psychic bond between Ren and Rey. When the two combine their powers, they form something stronger, called a “Force Dyad.”
Things come to a head when the entire rebel alliance arrives at Exegol to do battle with an enormous battle fleet, and an old enemy rises from the grave to do battle with Rey. Among the dead who appear as fairly substantial ghosts in this movie are Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Han Solo (Harrison Ford).
Also back from Star Wars movies from the 1980s is Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams). There are also cameos by Andy Serkis (as Supreme Leader Snoke) and James Earl Jones (as Darth Vader). This movie features just about all the famous Star Wars characters.
It's big, it's loud, it's long and it is overstuffed with plot points, and revelations about unlikely family relationships and bad guys who do good things. The revelations are new, but they feel old, because these kinds of revelations go back to the beginnings of this franchise.
One of the Star Wars themes I don't like is the idea of royalty, not just the princesses (there have been a few of those) but the whole idea of power, and heroism being a family trait, inherited rather than earned through study, training, character and wisdom. This idea goes back to the old notion of the divine right of kings. It is terribly unAmerican.
The other, similar idea is that truth and discovery comes not from science, not from logic or experiment, but from the past. It is found in old ruins, dug up from ancient dust. The key to the future is always found in the past. The present is worse than the past and the future will be worse than the present. It is entropy gone wild.
There is plenty of action in this film and the actors do a good job. Most of the actors playing the lead characters in this film have played these same roles before. The story is similar to other Star Wars stories. There are some plot twists, but nothing terribly unexpected. Since the plot is heavy on fantasy, just about anything goes. In the absence of reality, surprises lose their punch. This film rates a B.
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