It's been two years since we met Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Finn (John Boyega), and Han Solo met his demise in "Star Wars: The Force Awakens". The Resistance is being heavily challenged by The First Order, while Rey has been tasked with bringing Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) back into the fray. "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" reminds us all over again why this franchise is so beloved.


I, myself, am so enamored with these films --- David, not so much. He enjoys them, but he's not obsessed. I love the writing and Rian Johnson's screenplay here is exceptional, as well as his directing. Most of the "Star Wars" films are known for their deft humor and creative scripts, but the story of "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" goes much deeper, with the exploration of Rey's and Kylo Ren's (Adam Driver) burgeoning relationship.


What did go wrong --- why did Kylo Ren turn to the dark side? And more importantly --- can he be turned back? Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) is obviously distraught over the fate of her son, but she is pragmatic, realizing that Luke's participation is paramount to The Resistance, despite the loss of Kylo Ren's Jedi training.


"Star Wars: The Last Jedi" will not disappoint anyone. Many have feared that it will be a less-than-thrilling sort of remake of "The Empire Strikes Back" --- but it is not. This episode is completely entertaining on its own, with a compelling narrative that illuminates much more than just the light side and the dark side.


It is heartbreaking, however, to watch Fisher and know she is no longer with us. The film is dedicated to her, obviously, but it is so very touching nonetheless. She is totally awesome --- funny as ever, with a screen presence that has grown ever more commanding over the years.


Hamill, too, is exceptional. No longer the darling youthful man, the object of many crushes, he carries his craggy looks like a badge of honor --- and indeed they are. It's a meaty role and his portrayal is masterful.


Ridley, Boyega and Driver have settled into their characters nicely. None act as if they are the center of this universe, which  is so important in keeping to the storyline, and not making any of them stand out more than the others.


The controversial new creatures, the "porgs", are not so bad. I found them kind of appealing --- cute, even. And when Chewie --- everyone's favorite sidekick --- bats them around, it's hilarious.


As always, the special effects in "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" are astonishing. As we saw at the end of "The Force Awakens", Ahch-To is unbelievably breathtaking. I kept wondering, while watching Ridley and Hamill navigate its beautiful but dangerous terrain, how much fun that must have been. At least, they made it appear enjoyable.


The best fight scene takes place on the planet of red dust, which is the most spectacular look of all. One has to marvel at the creativity of Johnson and his mammoth crew. Film after film in this series manages to outdo the previous in the arena of special effects, and "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" is no exception.


And we get to experience all of this while being surrounded by the fabulous score by John Williams. Nothing is more exciting than his rousing, recurring "Luke's Theme", which transports the audience back to the original "Star Wars" in 1977 and all of the episodes since. Bring on "Star Wars Episode IX"!


Opinion:  See It Now!




The screening publicist who introduced this latest edition of the "Star Wars" saga (now in its 40th year) advised the audience that there were a lot of secrets and surprises, and to not give anything away. She was right. of course. I counted multiple turns of event, so a detailed synopsis of "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" is virtually impossible, even for Jeanne.


I can say that the film is visually spectacular, with another superb soundtrack from John Williams, and mostly well cast. I'm not sure about Laura Dern as Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo, though. She's a bit unconvincing as a stern leader.


As usual, the movie contains a fair amount of humor. The little puffin-like creatures called "porgs" provide most of the laughs --- they are irresistibly cute. "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" again boasts some nasty characters, led by Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) and General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson), although the latter morphs into a doofus after his opening scenes.


Mark Hamill gets top billing as Luke Skywalker, rightly so given his central role. Those of us who remember Hamill from the 1977 original "Star Wars" are reminded of how much time has passed when we look at the actor. Daisy Ridley returns as Rey, fresh off her dramatically different appearance in "Murder on the Orient Express", and Oscar Isaac emotes just a bit as the gung-ho "flyboy" Poe Dameron who just wants to blow everything up.

Adam Driver is effective reprising his role as Kylo Ren, as does John Boyega as Finn, whose performance I found a bit flat. And because he probably wanted to be part of the project, Tom Hardy plays a Stormtrooper (uncredited). Last and certainly not least, Carrie Fisher, in a posthumous performance as Princess Leia, brings us back to 1977, albeit with a new hairdo.


At 152 minutes, "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" is too long, and could have been trimmed by at least 10-15 minutes. Familiarity is rampant in this film --- not necessarily a bad thing as diehard fans of the franchise seem to crave it. From creatures to human characters, many of our old friends are present.


Opinion:  See It Now!