I heeded the warnings from people that weren’t gainfully employed movie critics working for mainstream outlets, and went into this little bugger with the lowest of low expectations. As a kid I had a recorded version of the original Star Wars (A New Hope) off of a local CBS affiliate in 1985. I’ve been following the franchise ever since. I, like so many others, felt the prequels basically sucked monkey balls for a multitude of reasons. And then there was ‘The Last Jedi.’

But where to begin? The opening five minutes of the film had me legitimately wondering if this was a ‘Spaceballs’ parody or an actual honest to goodness (and overall serious) Star Wars film. The humor was painfully shoehorned into what could have made for a much more tense and high stakes poker game between the “Resistance” and “The First Order.” Bottom line? The humor deflated any edge of your seat excitement right out of the opening gates of this film. Add to it, there were numerous other examples of using an egregious amount of jokes that didn’t need to be so consistent throughout writer/director Rian Johnson’s take on the Star Wars franchise. It also had me wondering, if trying to make this movie so funny was OK from executive producer Kathleen Kennedy’s point of view, then why did she fire the original directors of the upcoming Han Solo film? Interesting. Most interesting. Regardless, all of this resulted in the sequel to ‘The Force Awakens’  that felt like an outright parody of itself.

There were other chances for this film to redeem itself as far as getting to see characters do heroic deeds and again, it became derailed from senseless actions of other characters. Case in point, Finn (John Boyega) had a moment where just when you think he’s about to save the universe, in comes his buddy, Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), to interrupt said proceedings in the most obnoxious way possible. I sat there with quite the apoplectic look on my face and probably felt just like that one Twitter user who claimed, during another screening, that one fan exclaimed “this is ridiculous” at a key point in this film. And speaking of Rose, that was quite an inordinate amount of screen time devoted to a brand new character. Between Poe Dameron ( Oscar Issac), Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), I sincerely felt the previous film laid enough of a foundation to explore much more of their continued development without force feeding in another new face. And less we forget, this was supposed to be Luke Skywalker’s movie.

This leads me into some positive territory. Mark Hamill was very good in his return to the role of Skywalker, however, it would have been nice to get to see him truly lay out a can of whip ass, for old times’ sake, and have a little more to do in the beginning and middle of the film. Yes it’s true, the second act is a meandering disaster. So when we reach the end and Luke does get to have his moment in the sun, it really made me think most fans would have been open to more Luke. More specifically, there’s one key point towards the latter part of the second act, just as I was coming back from the bathroom, and had missed a classic character’s appearance like a dumbass, where it could have been tailor made for Luke to show up and cause problems for Snoke and Kylo Ren. But, this was indeed a film of missed opportunities. Hell, even Admiral Ackbar could have had a grandiose send off, but instead, as I like to call her, “purple haired lady,” played by Laura Dern, we got another new character that we had no reason to give a rat’s behind about, who was given quite an epic moment for herself over the former Return of the Jedi Admiral. Sad but true.

As for some more good, listen, Adam Driver seriously personifies excellence as Kylo Ren. I’ve read in other circles that if he was around for the prequel trilogy then he’d have most certainly made a phenomenal Anakin Skywalker. It’s hard not to agree with that sentiment. That being said, his arc in this film doesn’t seem to change much from the previous one. He’s still annoyed that nobody takes him seriously, and although by the end he does have more power, eh, I’m not sure it feels as epic as it should because the rest of the film brings everything else down as a whole. And for some more positives, General Leia (the late Carrie Fisher), had a lot of screen time, and to a certain degree it was very cool to finally see her use the force, but by in large, her arc didn’t save this jumbled mess.

Last but not least, getting the answers to the questions that were set up in ‘The Force Awakens’ will be akin to getting handed a present at Christmas, opening it up as a kid, only to realize someone wrapped you a pair of socks. Yes, it was just that lame.

Bottom line, for kids and families alike, this will be an enjoyable time at the movies. If you can turn your brain off fully and not be incredibly annoyed by some of the writing decisions seen here, really, it shouldn’t be too bad to digest. But for those of us who like our Star Wars raw and real, be ready for a major let down. ‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’ was above and beyond a better Star Wars film then this new entry– it had a consistent tone throughout and much better character moments towards the climax of that film. Moving forward, for episode IX, bring back Lando for Pete’s sake. Nuff said.

2  out of 4 stars

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