Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB. USA, 2017. Lucasfilm, Ram Bergman Productions, Walt Disney Pictures. Screenplay by Rian Johnson, based on characters created by George Lucas. Cinematography by Steve Yedlin. Produced by Ram Bergman, Kathleen Kennedy. Music by John Williams. Production Design by Rick Heinrichs. Costume Design by Michael Kaplan. Film Editing by Bob Ducsay. Academy Awards 2017.
We last left our heroine Rey (Daisy Ridley) on a verdant island where she ended the last film coming into contact with legendary Jedi Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), having gone there to request help for her pals who are, as usual, trying to keep their rebellion together against the evil First Order. He’s crusty and disappointed and enjoys being on his own, Batman-style, but eventually gives in to her plucky optimism and provides a Empire Strikes Back–esque training sequence while, elsewhere in the galaxy, the battle between good and evil continues. General Organa (the once and future Carrie Fisher) is trying to keep her beloved rebels safe but is finding it difficult to get away from a massive fleet of First Order ships surrounding them. Finn (John Boyega), Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and new friend Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) embark upon a highly complicated quest to block a tractor beam, which actually takes up far more story time than is necessary, while the evil but conflicted Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) develops a connection with Rey that takes them to an emotional climax of their own. Much has been made in the press and social media atmosphere about the new directions taken in this weighty eighth chapter of the phenomenally successful franchise (celebrating its fortieth anniversary), and most of it is, like most reactions to a Star Wars movie, blown far too much out of proportion: while a lot of character motivations have been given more gray area than audiences might be used to, everything still eventually boils down to a light-sabre duel between good and evil, and the main underpinning of every situation (the good rebels vs. the evil empire) remains the same (and the evil empire still maintains far more impressive decorating taste, all that gleaming black chrome and those bright red lights look as gorgeous as ever). The movie is chock full of great effects and exciting moments, but it’s weighed down by too many narrative tangents that keep it from feeling like the fun ride that most of its predecessors are. It’s not ruined by the kind of self-importance that make The Avengers such a slog to get through, but it does have about five climaxes more than it should, and writer-director Rian Johnson thinks that sarcastic dialogue and a few cute animal characters are enough to make up for the fact that this movie has plenty of jokes but no humour. Laura Dern plays a military leader brought in to take over rebel maneuvers, and, despite being an accomplished actor in any genre, looks beyond her depth in every shot.