Legend can be a daunting thing for a filmmaker. One must pay homage to beloved (and/or hated) characters yet avoid the pitfalls of nostalgia and formula. But writer/director Rian Johnson is fully up to the challenge and has produced something here that will satisfy fans of everyone’s favorite modern mythology while at the same time dancing to its own beat.

The middle film of a trilogy is usually the weakest, but the advantages are that the backstories are done and the loose ends don’t need to be tied up until the third installment.

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So Jedi hits the ground running, picking up just where The Force Awakens left off, with the appearance of a disillusioned, melancholy middle-aged Luke Skywalker. But then it courageously veers off in new and unfamiliar directions. It advances the story by building on, but never betraying, the Star Wars ethos.

Okay it’s a bit busy. But this is a film of genuine beauty with almost non-stop action and intrigue, supported by surreal set design and fluid choreography.

It’s wise, witty, energetic, deep, irreverent, funny, stunning and visually charming, not to mention full of surprises. But what makes this emotionally generous film two and a half hours of Why We Go To The Movies is the fact that all the state-of-the-art CG and blowing stuff up is rooted in humanity, and the film overall maintains an almost operatic, classical vibe.

The new Resistance heroes (Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Kelly Marie Tran) are worthy additions to veterans Mark Hamill and the late Carrie Fisher. But I have to say that Adam Driver as Darth Vader’s heir apparent brought down the energy level with every appearance. The man can act (see Paterson), but menacing he is not. (152 min)

Lightsaber

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