If “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (2015) was a nerdy, beat-for-beat reboot of the original “Star Wars” (1977), “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is a reboot of “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back,” (1980), except “The Last Jedi” is longer, of course, and the music, once again by John Williams, is louder.
Following that famous pan down from a screen scrawl to a planet’s surface, we see an evacuation of a rebel base, and the First Order, which is not a boy band, closing in. Black-clad, ginger-haired General Hux (Irishman Domhnall Gleeson, dripping with superiority) finds his gigantic First Order cruiser with its accompanying heavily-armed dreadnought being challenged by a Fiat-sized Resistance X-fighter piloted by Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and his rolling robo-buddy, BB-8.
This encounter, which involves rebel leader Gen. Leia Organa (a bittersweet turn by the late Carrie Fisher), will set the pattern and tone for this acceptable, if uninspired, installment, officially Episode VIII, written and directed by Rian Johnson (“Looper”).
This formula mixes physical and verbal humor in a very dark visual palette, outer space dogfights and chases, some of them gripping, some of them monotonous, the themes of hope and rebelliousness, and talented actors making the most of uneven material.
Back on Planet Count of Monte Cristo, Rey (ready for her close-up Daisy Ridley) tries to get Luke Skywalker (a reinvigorated Mark Hamill) to become her Jedi mentor. Meanwhile, gourd-faced Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis, playing a digital character), plays with the mind of Kylo Ren, aka Ben Solo (a very tall Adam Driver), who thinks he wants to be the “heir to Lord Vader,” but maybe not because he has this weird Jedi walkie-talkie mind-thing going on with faraway lonely Rey back on Skywalker’s Chateau d’If-like island hangout, complete with birds that answer the question, “What if Ewoks and Pikachus had children, one of which Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew and Joonass Suotamo), default pilot of the Millennium Falcon, plucks and barbecues?”
Is there any chance the “original Jedi texts” Luke keeps in a tree will become available on Abebooks? Will Finn (John Boyega) and savant maintenance worker Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) disable the First Order tracker and elude towering stormtrooper Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie of “Game of Thrones”)?
Will Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o’s Maz Kanata ever get decent lines or screen time? Snoke’s…