Plot: The resistance has held firm, but the First Order has superior numbers, supplies, and weapons, so things do look a little bleak. Supreme Leader Snoke seems to be in a position of nearly infinite advantage, with his fleet and of course, his ruthless apprentice Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). Ren is dealing with some strange fluctuations in the force, ones that seem to link him with Rey (Daisy Ridley), who has finally finished her search for Jedi Master Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). Meanwhile, Leia (Carrie Fisher) tends to her small, but devoted resistance militia, even as General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) lurks with destructive intentions. As time passes, hope continues to diminish for the resistance, but perhaps a certain spark could turn things around.
Entertainment Value: The Last Jedi is a masterful trainwreck of cinema, an almost all out spoof of Star Wars that never fails to entertain, though often for all the wrong kind of reasons. This movie tries so hard, so desperately to subvert expectations, but it is about as subversive as a Hot Topic cashier. Rian Johnson telegraphs every “surprise” from a mile out, giving you a twinkle of hope that something wild or cool will happen, only to smash those hopes with just what you’d expect to happen. I loved how important threads from The Force Awakens were urinated on with great passion, essentially negating that entire movie in a few swift strokes. Johnson twists the lore to fit whatever he needs at a given moment, then disregards his previous changes, allowing whim to distort this franchise’s cannon at a moment’s notice. I know some will dislike this slapdash style, but I found it to be hilarious. I hated the movie at first, but as Johnson’s vision of doing a Sherman’s March type of slow, torching of the Star Wars world became clear, I was on board. Need a well established character to act in a way we all know would never happen? Johnson just makes it happen, then hopes amnesia will wash over the crowd and he doubles back on those decisions. Again, some will dislike how he has such little regard for narrative consistency, but I loved how much nonsense was present and how stupid the whole thing is.
Mark Hamill made it known he didn’t agree with how Luke Skywalker was handled here and that makes sense, as Johnson pushes him into such weird situations and asks him to go against the ingrained traits of the role. Luke, who saw a sliver of good in even lord of darkness Darth Vader, is now an impulsive optimist who has no patience and throws tantrums. Hamill turns in a fine performance, but the script fails him on all fronts, so it is just kind of hard to watch him flounder. But it is a pleasure to watch the wooden, stilted performance of Adam Driver, who is barely awake and seems to have little to no interest in his performance. Aside from a couple of emo outbursts, Driver is on cruise control and his lifeless effort is a source of frequent unintentional humor. Even Carrie Fisher is made to look foolish, in a ridiculous, laugh out loud sequence where she turns into Jesus Christ and defies the laws of time and space. But in the middle of all these awful, wooden turns is Benicio Del Toro, who turns in an effective, memorable performance, despite being in a smaller role. One brief, unremarkable lightsaber battle unfolds, but most of the action is unconvincing CGI space shootouts. I did appreciate the visuals of the salt world fight, but the rest of the ship to ship combat was rather bland. And of course, those stupid porgs are shown like clockwork, but never do much aside from remind kids to ask their parents for merchandise. This is a terrible movie, without question, but it is also hilarious and one moment of cringe after another. As a fan of so bad, they’re good movies, I had a blast with this flaming mess.