(director/writer: Rian Johnson; screenwriter: George Lucas characters; cinematographer: Steve Yedlin; editor: Bob Ducsay; music: John Williams; cast: Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Carrie Fisher (Leia Organa), Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn), Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron), Andy Serkis (Snoke), Lupita Nyong’o (Maz Kanata), Domhnall Gleeson (General Hux), Anthony Daniels (C-3PO), Gwendoline Christie (Captain Phasma), Kelly Marie Tran (Rose Tico), Laura Dern (Vice Admiral Holdo), Frank Oz (Voice of Yoda), Benicio Del Toro (DJ); Runtime: 152; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Kathleen Kennedy, Ram Bergman; Walt Disney; 2017)

Its nostalgia works well. Mark Hamill returns as Luke Skywalker and the late Carrie Fisher is again in her signature role of Leia Organa.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The talented indie writer-director Rian Johnson (“Looper”/”Brick”) does an adequate job with this soap opera epic adventure story in space, in this 8th version of the Star Wars franchise. It should appeal to loyal Star Wars fans as it seeks their approval in all its calculated plot moves.

I’m no fan and found it to be only passable entertainment with superb visuals and an interesting reference to mind control made at one point of its story. But I was hindered by clunky dialogue, lack of dazzle and it being so rigidly programmed that it made the excellent cast seem stiffly led around as puppets for Lucas’s mythic agenda. Also its feel-good message of hope for the world in these dark times left me hardly feeling rosy about the future, that is, except for the future of the franchise. For what it’s worth, its nostalgia works well. Mark Hamill returns as Luke Skywalker and the late Carrie Fisher is again in her signature role of Leia Organa. Both give fine performances. There are also two new welcomed additions: the feisty rebel fighter Rose Tico played by Kelly Marie Tran and the CGI big-eyed gremlin-like figures called porgs. The main plot has the weakened Resistance fighters trying to survive and escape the powerful First Order baddies so they can fight another day. The First Order is led by its evil Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) and its haughty Field General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), who are trying to destroy a damaged Resistance group headed by General Leia Organa. Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) is the reckless but dashing flyboy going it alone after Hux’s forces, when called back by General Leia for doing more harm than good. When Leia is injured command is turned over to the robotic Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo (Laura Dern), whose decision-making is challenged by the volatile Poe. Meanwhile at a remote rocky island, the site of where the Jedi legacy began, at a secret hideout, the self-exiled Luke Skywalker is recruited by the female fighter Rey (Daisy Ridley), trying to harness her new Jedi powers as one of the new generation’s fighters. She calls on the recluse to come to the aid of Leia’s forces (the sequence of multiple Reys is innovative and is the most cherished moment of the film for me). Luke is still depressed in how he failed in his training with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and is still sulking over his miscalculations with him. Ren is the son of Han and Leia, Ben Solo, who killed his father. The conflicted baddie has changed his name and has sworn obedience to the Supreme Leader, as he tries his Darth Vader impression. When the dazed engineer Rose encounters the ex-Stormtrooper now proud rebel fighter, Finn (John Boyega), they join forces to find the code to break the tracker device used by the enemy to locate where the Resistance forces are located. To help them break the code they must rely on the unreliable genius thief DJ (Benicio del Toro), who is a master codebreaker. After some twists, it all leads to a lightsaber duel at the climax between Luke and Ren. The George Lucas space genre film started 40 years ago. This one is darker and more allegorical than the others, and matches up well with its better episodes. This bodes well for a franchise that shows no signs of dying now that it got back on track after its last success and overcoming the prior trio of bombs directed by Lucas.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”