Star Wars: The Last Jedi unspools like a one-movie binge watch, a lively if overlong and busily plotted second chapter to the latest Star Wars trilogy that advances the story and deepens its characters with a combination of irreverent humor and worshipful love for the original text.
Written and directed by Rian Johnson (Looper), this installment picks up literally where 2015’s The Force Awakens left off. Resistance pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) is still bringing the heat. His comrade – and reformed Stormtrooper – Finn (John Boyega) is recuperating from a punishing last battle with the proto-fascist First Order. And a courageous orphan named Rey (Daisy Ridley) has finally tracked down Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) after vanquishing the maybe-evil, maybe-just-mixed-up Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) in a lightsaber duel.
The moment in The Force Awakens when Luke, standing on an isolated island cliff, turns to see Rey for the first time was electrifying. Johnson punctuates it with a surprisingly cheeky gesture that sets the tone for a movie whose easygoing jocularity fits right in with the original movies’ jaunty pastiche of Eastern mysticism, cheesy B-movie adventure, messianic theology and rusty, dusty retro-futurism.
For the most part, the ensemble still works: Isaac and his droid BB-8 still enjoy bro-ing out and, to quote Poe, jumping in an X-wing and blowing something up; Boyega, now separated from Rey, finds common cause with a plucky engineer named Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) and, eventually, a sleepy-eyed mercenary named DJ (played with a stutter and strong dash of cynicism by Benicio Del Toro). The late, great Carrie Fisher delivers a magnificent and wryly funny final turn as Gen. Leia Organa, who shares one of “The Last Jedi’s” finest scenes with Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo, portrayed in lavender-haired splendor by Laura Dern.
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