Grade: A-
Entire family: No
2017, 152 min., Color
LucasFilm/Disney
Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence
Aspect ratio: 2.39:1
Featured audio: DTS-HDMA 7.1
Bonus features: B+
Includes: Blu-ray, Bonus Disc, Digital Copy
Trailer
Amazon link

Fans at IMBD.com liked Star Wars: The Force Awakens considerably better than Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and I’ve heard it said that it’s because they thought the humor in it was more contemporary than campy.

I think that assessment is a little harsh, as there are only a few instances where the humor seems peculiar to our galaxy. For me, the last two installments in the Star Wars franchise were equally accomplished fun popcorn movies that had all the things that made the original trilogy (Episodes IV-VI) successful: humor, adventure, action, great characters, a complex-yet-decipherable storyline, and mind-boggling special and visual effects. I’m not alone in thinking them comparable. At Rottentomatoes.com, Tomatometer critics gave The Force Awakens a 93 percent fresh rating and The Last Jedi a 91 percent. Our family liked them equally well.

For me, there was but one jarring moment when I thought, really? And that was when General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher), having been jettisoned into space and floating unconscious like a piece of space junk, suddenly is awakened by the Force and then stretches out one hand and takes off like Mary Poppins extending her umbrella arm and flying off.

If you throw out that moment and a casino scene that seems a little too Bond-like, everything else is tensely (well, except for occasional comic relief) believable within the realm of logic that drives this fantasy world of George Lucas’s. Yet, like The Force Awakens, it’s not as dark and traumatizing as the second trilogy (Episodes I-III). In fact, I’d have to say that The Last Jedi is lighter and less traumatic than The Force Awakens.

In this installment, the real stars are the special and visual effects artists. Effects dominate our first impression of the film, with a battle waged that’s so enormous and evocative of the last bombing run in A New Hope that you can’t help thinking back and realizing, appreciatively, how far the effects have come since 1977 or even years later when Lucas added footage and cleaned up his initial trilogy to make it more compatible with the second.

While the headstrong, hotheaded “flyboy” Poe (Oscar Isaac) is leading the air battle against a First Order fleet intent on wiping out the last remnants of the rebellion, ex-stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) awakens from his coma ready to fight again, while Rey (Daisy Ridley) is far away, searching for Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and tasked with somehow convincing him to return from his self-imposed exile and help the rebels survive. That rolling robot BB-8 returns, and Chewbacca and Yoda’s ghost also make relatively brief appearances. The other main characters on the rebel side are Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), whose sister sacrificed her life for the cause; DJ (Benicio del Toro), an underworld codebreaker, and Laura Dern as Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo.

Heading up the opposition is Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis), who, unlike the Emperor of older installments, doesn’t even try to hide the misshapen ugliness that feels every bit the outward symbol of his inner evil. His Darth Vader is Kylo Ren, the love child of Han Solo and Princess Leia, and Domhnall Gleeson plays General Hux, who has the unenviable job of trying to head up the First Order forces.

For a plot that’s so familiar—the “Empire” tries to eradicate the last group of rebels in the galaxy while the rebels look to escape, send out messages for intergalactic sympathizers to join them, and hold out until the “cavalry” can come—fresh characters and the infusion of humor we’ve seen in the Star Wars sagas since Disney bought LucasFilm in 2012 really make the films come alive in a new way. The original three—Star Wars: A New Hope, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi—are still the best for younger children, but after those three I’d have to say that The Last Jedi is the most acceptable for a broader family audience. It feels like a fun theme park ride, and I think even those who stand on tiptoes or pad their heels with foam to clear the minimum height gauge ought to be okay watching this one.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is family entertainment at its best.

Language: A handful of minor swearwords like “bastard” and “ass” and “damn”
Sex: n/a
Violence: Plenty of sci-fi action with light-saber battles and people sliced up and run through with laser blades; we see blood from a man’s mouth as he’s being dragged; people are shot
Adult situations: That casino scene and pretty much all the action
Takeaways: Disney may well be the best thing to happen to LucasFilm and Marvel Entertainment, and the new set of Star Wars characters really grow on you this installment

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