January 4, 2018 – This new Star Wars movie follows the template of previous films in the series like “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Rogue One” in that the forces of evil have the upper hand and things don't look good for the rebels. I personally like films that are more upbeat, but this episode has the advantage of having some less predictable plot twists.
The character of Kylo Ren (played by Adam Driver, reprising this role) gets a little more interesting in this film, being a bit less one-dimensional than he was. Mark Hamill returns as Luke Skywalker, and his relationship to Kylo Ren is backfilled, adding texture to both characters. Leia Organa (played by the late Carrie Fisher) returns, more than once defying expectations. Even Yoda returns (still voiced by Frank Oz). Anthony Daniels is still doing the voice of C-3PO. Chewbacca, R2D2 and other characters from the 20th Century return as well.
In this episode, the evil empire (now called The First Order) all but wiped out in previous episodes, has somehow gotten the upper hand on the rebels and is now on the verge of destroying the rebellion, and they don't even need a Death Star to do it this time.
Picking up where the last film left off, newly minted Jedi Padawan Rey (Daisy Ridley, reprising her role) has located Skywalker and offers him his old light saber back. What he does with it is funny. Skywalker is extremely reluctant to train Rey in the ways of The Force for reasons that have to do with his experience with Kylo Ren.
While this drama and back story are unfolding, we have another story in another galaxy far, far away, where the rebels are under attack by forces led by the evil Snoke, Kylo Ren and General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson reprising his role). Ace fighter pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac reprising his role) leads a daring attack on a First Order dreadnought, against the orders of Leia. Weakened, the rebels must retreat under close pursuit by the First Order fleet.
Finn (John Boyega reprising his role) wakes up and immediately gets into trouble after several desperate plans cooked up by him, Rose Tico (new character! played by Kelly Marie Tran of “XOXO”) are attempted. Another interesting new character is DJ (played by Benicio Del Toro of “Sicario”) a devious hacker and thief. Laura Dern of “Downsizing” puts in a memorable performance as heroic fleet admiral Holdo.Although the two halves of this story are light years apart, connections are made between the two by pseudoscientific means, like telepathy and astral projection. Some characters seem able to be in two places at once. This shattering of the laws of spacetime and relativity plays a key role in the climax of this story.
This description makes this movie sound like a mess, but the story is compelling and there are some solid characters to follow on this journey through many twists and turns. The acting is solid, and of course, the visual effects are top notch. This is an impressive effort by writer-director Rian Johnson (“Looper”). This film rates a B.
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