The Bock’s Office: Good or bad, ‘Last Jedi’ makes lasting impression
For those who relish saying, “they don’t make ‘em like they used to,” good news! With the release of “The Last Jedi,” you can still indulge in every moment of the thing you claim to love and complain about it endlessly!
Despite recent victories, the Resistance is still hugely outnumbered by the First Order, and the group of freedom fighters continues to see their ranks dwindling more and more.
General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) and pilot Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) are at odds over how best to make a move against the evil forces that overwhelm them, but there’s little time to argue when the First Order has them on the run.
Meanwhile, reformed stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) heads out on a mission with the help of a Resistance mechanic (Kelly Marie Tran) to strike a blow against the opposition that will at least slow the Order’s progress in dominating the galaxy.
Still, what the Resistance truly needs is the return of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), whose absence has been felt.
After a long search, their comrade Rey (Daisy Ridley) has finally found the reclusive Jedi Master only to learn that he has no intention of ever coming back to their aid, determined to live out the rest of his life in exile.
Rey is likewise unwilling to allow him let down such an important cause, but the more she learns of Luke’s past and his history with the First Order’s Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) the less she is sure who she can trust.
Since we’re not counting those two minutes of stunned silence in 2015, the true return of Hamill to the role that made him a worldwide name has both its light and dark sides.
No, not that dark side.
The formerly fresh-faced farm boy is now a craggy, sullen, bitter old man who hasn’t exactly renounced the ways of the Force, yet he predicts he’d do more harm than good in trying to battle the First Order.
And, hearing him dismissively refer to a lightsaber as a “laser sword” hurts just as bad as if Harry Potter had called his wand a “magic stick.”
Ridley picks up the slack in terms of optimism, Rey refusing to believe that the guy who saved the universe several times over could be so jaded when the call of duty is upon them. You won’t find many answers to the multitude of questions you may have had about the lonely orphan who conveniently has midichlorians to spare, but you will have some new queries about how powerful she could be.
Not the least of which is the sudden mental tethering she has with Kylo Ren, as she and Driver telepathically communicate with countless planets between them. And the kid whose true name is Ben Solo is no more mature than he was when we first met him, smashing his notorious helmet in a fit of rage.
Ever a simmering pot of anger, Driver still makes a better villain than Domhnall Gleeson as the humorless General Hux — victim of a Poe Dameron prank call — or Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke, who is unceremoniously revealed in his entirety to be about the same in person as he is in hologram form — a head that looks like a tumor with eyes and a mouth.
As for the good guys, Isaac is still fun as Dameron, headstrong as ever, and somehow more dependent on drone BB-8, who should be getting overtime for filling in as everything from a co-pilot to a slot machine.
Boyega also makes a welcome return as Finn, more sure of himself but still finding himself — as much as you can find yourself when you spent most of your life as a serial number — though Tran outdoes him as Rose, a hopeful underling seeking to finish the job of her sister (Veronica Ngô), who perishes in an early assault against a First Order stronghold.
Then there’s Laura Dern sporting purple tresses as Leia’s second in command, Amilyn Holdo, trying to hold their troops together after a devastating attack.
Well, we’ve seen weirder hairdos before.
The movie that unfortunately became Fisher’s swan song is one that treats the late actress with dignity up to and including the dedication in the credits, but it’s also an entry in the series that won’t sit well with every fan of a galaxy far, far away.
Now 40 years removed from the first “Star Wars” film, audiences’ expectations continue to be on the rise, and just as some approached “The Empire Strikes Back” with hesitance, so too will Rian Johnson’s turn in the director’s chair be sure to met with some boos.
What’s more, his script is one that manages to subvert tradition and rely on it all at once.
If you didn’t mind the template story of “The Force Awakens” being lifted from “A New Hope,” it won’t bug you here, with elements of both “Empire” and “Return of the Jedi” impossible to ignore.
You know, start with a big shootout, move on to an awkward meeting with a reluctant teacher, put all your faith into a scoundrel you barely know, have a showdown with a near-omnipotent bastion of evil…
However, even though so many plot points go exactly as you’d expect, there are surprises galore to be had in this installment, not all pleasant, to be sure, but let’s be clear — the tyranny of “Star Wars” fans is a far greater threat than anything Snoke, Palpatine or Darth Vader could ever do.
Essentially, we are Luke, forever wondering if it’s really worth it to keep up the effort.
And, yes, it is, but it shouldn’t be this hard to be convinced of it.
While “The Last Jedi” proves that nothing to come out of Disney will ever exceed the period between 1977 and 1983 — with the possible exception of “Rogue One — it’s also a fitting crux at this point in the “Star Wars” saga, a typically flashy adventure that not only acknowledges its own weaknesses but also demands to move forward.
And, as long as there are no more Porg sitting on the dashboard of the Millennium Falcon, steady as she goes…