The Force Awakens was mostly well received, but criticized for being so similar to A New Hope that it bordered on rehashing. Thus, the challenge for The Last Jedi was to avoid being a copycat of The Empire Strikes Back while still delivering a solid Act 2 for the new trilogy. I can safely tell you that this movie is not a ripoff of The Empire Strikes Back, but I almost wish it was.

Let me say that this is not a bad movie. It’s actually a fairly good one. But it doesn’t reach the high bar that we should hold Star Wars movies to. It’s one of the most acclaimed franchises in the history of filmmaking – we should expect better.

3.5 out of 5 stars.     It’s simply above average, nothing more.

The high points of the movie are immediately obvious. The visuals are fantastic, as should be expected from a studio of this caliber – both practical and digital effects look great, and the musical score is inspired. The characters do a good job with their acting. It’s obvious a lot of work was put into the film. If you pick out any individual scene, the directing is good – but when you put the whole movie together, I can’t understand what the director Rian Johnson was going for.

The writing is so full of plot holes that I almost expected Jar Jar Binks to pop up at any second. It’s nearly nonsensical when you think hard enough about what’s actually going on and what the characters could be doing instead and how they got into this or that situation. Johnson was not only the director, but was also the movie’s only writer. Perhaps he should have had a committee of experienced writers to double check his work. The Force Awakens was written by a group, and it turned out fine.

If you can turn your brain off and appreciate laser swords and laser guns and characters making terrible jokes in serious situations and doing silly things, this movie’s definitely worth the money. But I can’t recommend it to anyone looking for a coherent plot that fits with the last movie and sets up the next. 3.5 out of 5 stars. It’s simply above average, nothing more.

Now for the SPOILERS section. If you intend to see this movie, TURN BACK NOW.

This movie adheres to nothing – not science, not good writing, not even its own mythology. Why do the lasers curve? The bad guy “lasers” come out of cannons on their spaceships that are angled upward, and when they fire they go up and then arc downwards onto the targets. This was ripped straight from a World War 2 naval battle and is contrary to both how every other Star Wars movie has handled laser weaponry and how projectiles in space work in real life.

The suicide hyperspace attack scene was amazingly crafted, the visuals and music were just fantastic. But if someone can destroy a fleet in seconds with a hyperspace engine and no conventional weapons, then why didn’t the rebellion just do that against the Death Star? It completely invalidates all the events of the last four movies if everything they worked to fight against could have been destroyed in a few seconds with no effort. It’s as if Rian Johnson has never seen the original Star Wars films.

Supreme Leader Snoke in The Force Awakens

Moving on: bad writing surrounding the characters. Perhaps the most glaring is the surprise death of Supreme Leader Snoke halfway through the movie. I was nearly laughing during the whole fight scene after his death – I kept expecting him to get up and reattach his legs to his torso. I don’t have a problem with the guy’s actual death. Kylo Ren was a much more interesting villain. Unfortunately, we still don’t know where Snoke came from, he might as well have appeared out of nowhere. How did he become this incredibly powerful Force user that can read minds and connect two people’s thoughts across light-years? It’s painfully obvious that Johnson realized that Snoke had zero backstory and he had no ideas where to take the character, so he killed Snoke off.

Leia’s “death” scene is perhaps the largest contradiction of both science and established plot I’ve ever seen. The bridge on their flagship gets blown up and exposed to space (why is the bridge not buried in the center of the ship?) and Leia is thrown out into space by the escaping air. People can survive up to thirty seconds without any oxygen, but in space without a spacesuit you freeze to death and get fried by radiation within ten seconds. She then proceeds to Force pull herself back into the ship. Even disregarding the issue of certain death, Leia’s never shown any Force powers beyond a mental connection with her brother. How is it she suddenly knows how to use them? This movie takes a big dump over the idea that you need to train hard in order to use the Force. The writers seem to believe anyone can do it with enough bad writing. Not to mention that Carrie Fisher’s dead in real life now, so it would have actually been helpful to the next movie’s production to kill Leia.

You’re in a galaxy of trillions of beings, with untold industrial might, yet all this galaxy can muster to oppose a conquering regime is a dozen small spaceships and about a thousand people? Maybe this galaxy deserves to be conquered.

Half the events in the movie could have been avoided if Vice Admiral purple hair lady had told Poe about her surprisingly decent plan to save them all, even when Poe is conducting mutiny, and has her at literal gunpoint. As a result, Poe putting into motion his own plan leads to the failure of her plan, thus basically dooming the Resistance to death. Sure, all the core heroes and 10-20 throwaway troopers escape at the end, but Leia’s last line, “all we need is here,” is nonsensical: you’re in a galaxy of trillions of beings, with untold industrial might, yet all this galaxy can muster to oppose a conquering regime is a dozen small spaceships and about a thousand people? Maybe this galaxy deserves to be conquered.

After watching The Last Jedi, I can’t tell you what the message is. Failure is how we learn? Sure, that applies to personal lessons, but not when you lose your entire irreplaceable space-fleet. Wipe away the old, it’s time for the new? Snoke and Luke died, but the whole Darkside- Lightside struggle is still going on, so you didn’t really change anything. This movie is outstanding in some areas and terrible in others, it’s remarkable. If you like flashy special effects and an uncomplicated plot that barely works if you don’t think about it, consider going to see this movie. If you’re like me and it’s hard for you to turn your brain off and appreciate stupidity, don’t bother.