More porgs, please!
Those adorable porgs - the pint-sized sea birds who inhabit the planet on which an exiled Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) resides in Star Wars: The Last Jedi - sure are irresistible and there's a lot to like in filmmaker Rian Johnson's contribution to the franchise, even if it rarely reaches the heights of the legendary first three films.
While, in many respects, this is a bolder, more ambitious effort than the series' last entry, J.J. Abrams' fine but workmanlike The Force Awakens, it is also structurally haphazard, often bouncing among its subplots in frantic manner that renders the proceedings somewhat uninvolving.
The Last Jedi opens on the Resistance, led by General Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher, in her final film appearance), evacuating their base upon the arrival of a First Order fleet. Leia's son, the painfully conflicted Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), has the opportunity to blow the Resistance ship to bits but hesitates, deep down harboring feelings for his mother. Nonetheless, the First Order pursues them via a tracking device, which Resistance fighters Poe (Oscar Isaac) and Finn (John Boyega) are determined to disable.
Meanwhile, Rey (Daisy Ridley), alongside Chewbecca and R2-D2, has interrupted Luke's isolated existence, determined to recruit him back to the Resistance. Luke initially resists, viewing the Jedi as plagued with failure, but eventually relents, willing to educate Rey in the ways of the force. Matters get messy, however, when Rey and Kylo begin telepathically communicating and Kylo, who had been trained by Luke, paints his former master in a not-so-flattering light.
With Hamill in career-best form and Ridley a sterling screen presence, their scenes are among The Last Jedi's best and most absorbing - and just wait 'til a franchise favorite shows up for marvelous surprise cameo alongside Luke. It's the rest of the picture that's rather erratic.
The cast isn't to blame. Fisher (who has more to do here than in The Force Awakens), Driver, Boyega and Isaac are all terrific, as is Kelly Marie Tran as Rose, a mechanic along for the fight. (Laura Dern, sadly, doesn't have much meat to chew on.) The thing is, for every sequence that crackles, like Finn and Rose's journey to an elaborate casino city, there are one or two that either don't quite pay off or just fall completely flat. Also, at more than two and a half hours, the proceedings left me awfully restless...with about half an hour still go.
As admittedly not the most ardent of Star Wars fans - oddly enough, my favorite in the series is Return of the Jedi...and that's mostly because I'm that one person who loves Ewoks - I'm hardly dumbfounded that The Last Jedi didn't leave me head over heels. Still, I can recognize that vitality and movie magic in the original trilogy of Star Wars pictures and it's pleasure that's only intermittently present in this film and The Force Awakens.
That said...I'm totally down for some more porgs.