Incredible! What else can I say, in 9 films the creative juices are fresher than ever. The fact that they dare to take chances and have different creative teams on each film helps to keep the series fresh. They aren’t just re-treading what went on before. There’s interesting new characters as well as creatures that we’ve never seen before. There’s the obligatory scroll which is always fun and then we jump directly into the action. We’re not told how the alliance made such a quick comeback after chapter VII, we simply accept that it has. Star Wars has never been real big on long exposition, thank God. I’m trying not to do spoilers here, suffice to say that certain characters will rise in rank and certain others will be demoted. Other characters will learn about their abilities and grow up a little bit. Interestingly there is a gap between the critics and the audience likes on Rotten Tomatoes. the critics give the film, as of this writing, 93% approval but only 66% of the fan base liked it. (slight spoiler) Perhaps making a Star Wars film with the original cast but without Han Solo and only someone we’ve never seen before as a supposed friend was a mistake? Want some advice Disney? Bring back Han and Luke (unfortunately they can’t bring back Lea.) We never saw them together in episodes VII or VIII and I want to see them in action one more time.
The story, as such, is incredibly fun and like I said It hits all the beats of a Star Wars movie. The action scenes and special effects are some of the most impressive ever filmed. Kylo Ren (Driver) now has some competition for the favor of the supreme leader in Gen. Hux (Gleeson) I must admit right now that I’m not that big of a fan of Adam Driver (here comes the hate mail) but I just don’t think his Kylo Ren is a worthy successor to Darth Vader, even though Vader is technically his grandpa. He seems more whiney than threatening to me. It doesn’t affect my liking of the film at all, in fact the supreme leader also chastises him as someone who couldn’t beat a young girl who had never picked up a light sabre in her life, which I found very amusing and dead on to his villainous abilities. If he hadn’t killed off his father (in a cheap move reminiscent of what might be the light sabre version of a sucker punch.) in # VII, one of the most popular characters in the franchises history, there would be very little about him to hate.
There is an interesting scene which makes me like him a little bit more this time around. When he comes up to general Lea’s ship, he goes to put his hand on the trigger and hesitates. It does show a slight human side to him and compassion for his mother, which he had none for his father. However the strong points of the film are his mental connection with Rey, the Finn and Rose story is kind of uneven for the most part, they have a certain chemistry but it’s wasted by that subplots outcome. The film could shave off 20 minutes and we wouldn’t have missed much and it would have made a tighter, more enjoyable experience as it drags slightly in the middle.
The film’s climax relies on a new kind of weapon and it’s seemingly hopeless for the rebels. Will they make it out this time or will the Alliance prevail? I’m not gonna tell you, you will have to watch the film to find out. All I will say is that when they begin to deploy that weapon it reminds me of the original Star Trek episode The Doomsday Machine. Mark Hamill turns in his best performance ever as the reluctant Jedi that doesn’t want to return to the fold and his reasoning is sound. Watching Rey try to convince him to return without quite knowing how is a good part of the fun in this film. ***1/2 (8.6 rating.)
Production: Lucasfilm Ltd.
Cast: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Benicio Del Toro
Director: Rian Johnson
Screenwriter: Rian Johnson
Producers: Kathleen Kennedy, Ram Bergman
Executive producers: J.J. Abrams, Tom Karnowski, Jason D. McGatlin
Director of photography: Steve Yedlin
Production designer: Rick Heinrichs
Costume designer: Michael Kaplan
Editor: Bob Ducsay
Music: John Williams
Casting: Nina Gold, Milivoj Mestrovic, Mary Vernieu
PG-13 rating, 162 minutes