Star Wars “The Last Jedi” (2017)

Star Wars “The Last Jedi” (2017) is a study in contrasts, some extreme. It’s also an interesting study in aging.

In a previous interview with Charlie Rose, George Lucas, the creator of Star Wars, famously rolled his eyes and opined that the series had been worked as hard as it possibly could and there wasn’t much if any room for fresh material. The original three Star Wars films are among the most entertaining movies ever made. What followed held up the sagging premise with increasing CGI (Computer Generated Imagery) to maintain the interest of the faithful. In the end, he was happy to sell the franchise to Disney (for something like 40 billion$). So on it marched with a different director for each one.

The previous version: “Rogue One” (2016) made amends with the tired plot and mediocre performance art, got OK reviews but most of the top watchers said the same thing, that the war should have been won by the evil alliance many episodes ago.  Luke, Han, and Leia were originally interesting characters in an interesting plot, but subsequent characters couldn’t hold up a sagging, seemingly perpetual story line. Subsequent iterations of Star Ward could be accused of being an assembly line product slickly produced to generate a LOT of money.

Now we come to the latest product, “The Last Jedi” featuring the same tired story line about the seemingly endless war between the vastly outnumbered rebels against the infinite evil empire, now headed by a facially damaged skeletor and an upgrade to Darth Vader (Adam Driver) who makes a pretty convincing bad guy as he has a fundamentally convincing malevolent aura about him even in real life. The Last Jedi is the last film of Carrie Fisher who definitely appears her age and has little to do but offer up stern glares. Laura Dern’s performance, such as it was, should probably be forgotten as quickly as possible. The other major characters would be quite at home in the current blitz of comic book movies.

What’s quite remarkable is Mark Hamill at age 66. Last we saw him he was age 26 and although not getting stellar notices for his acting ability, he did fit beautifully in the original three episodes because he integrated so well with Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford. I think he looks damned good for his age but he wasn’t given a lot of room for performance art, relegated instead to variations on the theme of moodiness.

This is a film that hangs its hat on CGI pure and simple. There are explosions and other variances of violence pretty much continuously, and they’re all state of the art. So if you like computer generated effects, this is really as good as it gets. Some very striking as the instant appearance on screen of huge battle ships, presumably coming out of light speed.

However, if you come to see this film expecting stimulating dialog and masterful performance art, it simply isn’t there. The aging originals aren’t given any meaningful dialog or discourse. They’re there as a nod to the past and that’s about all it was. The new, young actors are one dimensional, plying variations on the themes of the tired fight against an omnipotent enemy just like they did it in 1977. And of course, a hint of a new young Jedi or something similar at the end for the inevitable episode 9.

I was watching the news and they noted long lines to get into theaters to see this film, many moviegoers dressed in various themes of Star Wars attire. At the small, local theater where we saw this film, there were no lines and the theater was about 80% filled, but there were authentic characters wandering around the lobby, including a very convincing R2D2 (Photos). I vividly remember when I saw the original Star Wars film in 1977. I was a resident at NYU and the film was playing downtown at one of the big theaters but no one thought it would be what it turned out to be, a quantum change in moviemaking. My then girlfriend and I stood in a moderate line but got OK seats. I (and a lot of other people) were just blown away by this film. The actors worked, the plot worked, the cinematography worked. It was a masterpiece and I’ll always remember it as such.

This 2017 iteration? I’ll give it split reviews:

* If you like continuous CGI visuals, I give it a solid 5 deep space mega-explosions. The computer effects are not matched anywhere.

* If you like performance art……Mmmmm…..this film gets a weak, sagging 3 Mark Hamill sad faces for characterizations and plot development.

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