• by Wes Singleton

Star Wars: The Last Jedi, B

Rated PG-13, 152 minutes

Hope is one of the best four letter words to have, and something you want on your side if you're fighting the forces of evil. That's the premise of the latest chapter in the "Star Wars" franchise, "The Last Jedi," a familiar yet rollicking, exciting entry (though not as good as the first one in this new series, "The Force Awakens") and shouldn't disappoint its legion of fans: those die-hards or those of us who have trouble knowing the difference between the Resistance and the First Order (here's a start: Resistance good, First Order bad).

Having taken her first steps into the Jedi world, Rey (Daisy Ridley) joins Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) on an adventure with Leia (the late Carrie Fisher), Finn (John Boyega) and Poe (Oscar Isaac) that unlocks mysteries of the Force and secrets of the past as a new war with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) emerges.

Directed and written by "Looper's" Rian Johnson, the thrilling "The Last Jedi" pulls few surprises and goes on a little too long, but it still does the job well, and provides a satisfying chapter in this beloved and still ever-growing franchise. This has a larger role for Luke Skywalker, who's back to help Rey find her way and provide some much-needed training as she seeks to move from entry-level Jedi to advanced level to fight the evil forces of the First Order; most of her training is on the job, which helps her much more than Skywalker, who tends to give her a solid base and little else.

Rey has a lot of help along the way this time too, even with Han Solo out of the picture. Finn teams up with another spunky resistance fighter named Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) to help bring down the sinister Snoke (Andy Serkis, good as ever here), who has his own apprentice, that evil spoiled brat, Kylo Ren (Driver), who if you happen to remember the the first film, is the bad seed child of Han and Leia. The ambitious Ren has high hopes to take over the whole universe, and with added help from the vile General Hux (Domnhall Gleeson, preening here).

Johnson does a good job in finding the serious tone here, and he peppers it with some outstanding visuals and solid action set pieces throughout, not to mention a few nice twists and turns in the last act, including some help from Oscar-nominated actress Laura Dern ("Big Little Lies"), who plays a key supporting role here. It's bittersweet seeing Fisher as Leia; she's as warm and stoic as ever as Leia, though it will be interesting to see what they do with her character in future installments.

"Star Wars" favorites Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew), CP30 (Anthony Daniels), R2D2 (Jimmy McVee) and even the Millennium Falcon all make appearances here too, along with an energetic score from John Williams, and you're likely to get goosebumps in seeing that yellow scroll at the first. At nearly 2 1/2 hours, it's a little lengthy, and Johnson could've tightened up a few sections, but it still manages to entertain. While Driver is a terrific actor, I'm not a huge fan of his Kylo Ren, which comes across as less sinister and more of a bratty and spoiled rich kid not getting his way.

Technically, this Episode VIII, and while I won't give away any spoilers, there will be another major character missing after this installment, though you'll pleased at how the exit was handled. The force continues to be with this franchise, and while there are few surprises in this galactic good-versus-evil outing, "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" comes up a winner.

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