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‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’: What the critics are saying

UPDATED: Fri., Dec. 15, 2017

Mark Hamill returns as Luke Skywalker in "Star Wars: The Last Jedi." (John Wilson / Lucasfilm)
Mark Hamill returns as Luke Skywalker in "Star Wars: The Last Jedi." (John Wilson / Lucasfilm)

Reviews are starting to roll in for “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” the followup to 2015 series rebooting “The Force Awakens.” With a “93 percent fresh” rating on rottentomatoes.com, the film is earning mostly praise from the nation’s film critics. And their complaint has been nearly universal – a middle act that’s confusing and bloated. Also a nearly unanimous view? That director Rian Johnson pulls the film out of the doldrums and for a final act that is simply exhilarating. Here’s a sampling what what the critics are saying so far.

Katie Walsh, Tribune News Service: “(Rian) Johnson leaves it all on the screen – everything you could want and more from a “Star Wars” film can be found in “The Last Jedi.” There are cute and mysterious creatures (don’t try to resist the porgs, the porgs will rule us all), gripping action sequences and fight choreography, a wacky party scene, spiritual discussions of the Force and what it means to be a Jedi, and most importantly, a group of heroes who know they will persevere if they save what they love, not destroy what they hate.”

David Betancourt, Washington Post: “Johnson has been handed the “Star Wars” ball and played a beautiful game (before passing back to Abrams for episode IX). “The Last Jedi” is exactly the type of “new” “Star Wars” film fans expected when Disney announced there would be more “episodes.” This film plays on the power of the past with the promise that things will only get more exciting in the future.

Jake Coyle, Associated Press: “ It’s (Rose Tico, played by Kelly Marie Tran) who voices the film’s abiding message, one that – as the first “Star Wars” film of the Trump era – has affecting resonance. The Resistance will win, she says, “not fighting what we hate” but “saving what we love.” In a pop culture juggernaut as imposing as Star Wars, these moments carry more meaning than they would elsewhere. After long skating around anything political, “The Last Jedi” – whether it’s meant to be or not – has the tenor of a rallying cry. Johnson has fully internalized a single line of dialogue from “The Return of the Jedi” – “You rebel scum,” said with disdain by a Nazi-like lieutenant – and turned it into a badge of pride.

Manohla Dargis, New York Times: “Yes, the latest “Star Wars” installment is here, and, lo, it is a satisfying, at times transporting entertainment. Remarkably, it has visual wit and a human touch, no small achievement for a seemingly indestructible machine that revved up 40 years ago and shows no signs of sputtering out (ever).”

Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly: “Despite the flabby midsection of the film and its menagerie of new alien creatures that are a mixed bag (Yay, Porgs with their squat guinea pig bodies and sad Anime saucer eyes; boo to the others that look like exiles from ‘The Neverending Story’), Johnson really delivers with the third and final act. The climactic last 45 minutes of the film is as thrilling and spectacular as anything ‘Star Wars’ has ever given us. There are cool, mythic hand-to-hand battles, breathtaking aerial sequences, and one mano a mano showdown that’s as epic as anything Sergio Leone ever dreamed up. And again, the film ends on a note that feels … just… right.”

Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times: “Written and directed by Rian Johnson, (‘The Last Jedi’ is) the series’ eighth official episode and easily its most exciting iteration in decades — the first flat-out terrific “Star Wars” movie since 1980’s ‘The Empire Strikes Back.’ It seizes upon Lucas’ original dream of finding a pop vessel for his obsessions — Akira Kurosawa epics, John Ford Westerns, science-fiction serials — and fulfills it with a verve and imagination all its own.

Richard Brody, the New Yorker: “Throughout ‘The Last Jedi,’ twist after twist, touch after touch, line after line has the feel of the compulsory, of homework done elaborately, with extreme labor. Johnson’s sense of fun flicks out only in a few moments when heroic feats come off with a quick gleam and a quiet awe, when a tossed-off line of dialogue tweaks a tense situation with only mildly forced humor.”

Brian Truitt, USA Today: “ ‘The Last Jedi’ is (Adam) Driver’s to rule as much as ‘Force Awakens’ was (Daisy) Ridley’s, and he’s awesome in it – Kylo is blockbuster cinema’s most magnetic and unpredictable antagonist since Heath Ledger’s ‘Dark Knight’ Joker. Just as good is the original ‘Star Wars’ hero: Hamill lends gravitas, warmth, power and even humility to old Luke in a memorable performance.”

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