Many things move quickly in writer-director Rian Johnson’s entry into the famous story from a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away: ships zipping through hyperspace, wild horselike critters rampaging through a casino, the droid BB-8 rolling to seemingly anywhere he wants to go. But the film itself lumbers like an AT-AT walker, the sort that once threatened the rebel outpost on the ice planet Hoth — or the sort that here threatens the rebel outpost on the salt planet Crait. As in The Force Awakens, the Star Wars recombinator is in full effect, serving up rejiggered elements aplenty from the original trilogy. The devoted will no doubt be delighted; for the rest, a resigned acceptance may be the safest path to enjoyment. What’s new here is that the Force is female — or at least, it’s women who shape the story. Bold pilot Poe wants to fight and save the rebellion’s last remnant, to the point where he needs regal Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo to show him what true leadership means. Legendary Jedi Luke wants to avoid another mistake like wayward pupil Kylo Ren, to the point where he needs earnest prodigy Rey to remind him who he is and what he means. Former stormtrooper Finn wants to protect Rey, to the point where he needs spunky maintenance worker Rose Tico to remind him where his duty lies. And over and above all, the gentle guiding governance of Carrie Fisher’s Leia Organa. Maybe Kylo Ren’s real problem is that Mom wasn’t around when he was little? It might help to explain the tantrums and the sulking, and the general desire to imagine himself as the start of something wholly new, unbeholden to what’s come before. When the salt settles, we are left with neither triumph nor tragedy; instead, it’s one more chapter in the continuing saga, punctuated by a few moments of genuine awe. (2017) — Matthew Lickona
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