Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi ★★★½

68/100

DISCLAIMER 1: Rian is a friend.

DISCLAIMER 2: Despite having grown up with the original trilogy (saw them in first-run at ages 9, 12 and 15, respectively), I am thoroughly sick of Star Wars and would be quite content to see it go away forever.

Those probably more or less cancel each other out. In any case, having gone into The Last Jedi much more stoked for the latest Johnson Joint than for Episode VIII, I thoroughly enjoyed everything that has the nerds gnashing their teeth—especially Rian's shrewd decision to ignore, undermine and/or dismantle all of the mysteries that Abrams teed up for him. What some perceive as contempt for franchise "lore" (just that word makes me break out in hives) is really an almost pathological need to subvert expectations; this is a guy who once named a minor character Beatrice specifically to misdirect viewers who'd previously seen a time-scar message beginning with the instruction "BE AT." Either you dig that sorta thing on overdrive or you don't, and I generally do. Even if it had been contempt, though, I wouldn't be complaining. Didn't we get sufficient reverence last time? The red walls and samurai-influenced design of Snoke's chamber and guards register more strongly than any labored fan-service "backstory" could have, and I'm happy to trade yet another lightsaber battle for this film's brief, counterintuitive moment of complete silence, which prompted the loudest gasps I've heard since McCain went thumbs down on skinny repeal. Might have been more interesting had Rey been seduced by Kylo and crossed over, as their ForceTime sequences tease, but that was surely too predictable a Han-in-carbonite analogue for Rian's taste. Anyway, while I can't honestly say that I'm thrilled by his choice to stick around this universe for a while (and am still mourning the Agatha Christie-style mystery project he once told me he was kicking around), I can at least feel fairly confident that he won't be wholly ground up by the Disney/Lucasfilm machine.