The middle chapter of any trilogy has an uphill battle to climb. By the very nature that it is a bridge between a larger tale's introduction and climax, it is destined to lack a finite beginning and ending. Without a clear vision and individual purpose, such intermediate films run the risk of feeling as if they are merely biding their time for the true payoff of a third and final installment. By a large measure, 1980's "Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back" has become emblematic of how to do things right, a thrilling, rapturous, finally haunting first sequel which improved upon its blockbuster predecessor by expanding its scope, finding a newfound maturity in its storytelling, and culminating in a revelatory third act which perfectly and irrevocably set up 1983's finale, "Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi."
In tackling his own respective interlocked entry, writer-director Rian Johnson (2012's "Looper") has been faced with these very challenges, along with another: not only does he have to live up to J.J. Abrams' outstanding trilogy-starter, 2015's "Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens" (one of the highlights of the entire cinematic "Star Wars" saga), but he also must satisfy a rabid fanbase who still remember all too well what a game-changer "The Empire Strikes Back" was some thirty-seven years ago. Johnson is a talented filmmaker, expertly mounting grand action set-pieces while juggling a daunting number of moving parts. What he is unable to do is fully escape the perils of the dreaded middle film. "Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi" is a worthy continuation and may well work better in the context of what is yet to come in 2019's "Episode IX." Judged on its own, however, the picture struggles to find its way, at times playing things too safely and at other times seeming unsure of what to do with its characters and their personal trajectories. If "The Force Awakens" held a resounding emotional impact by its end, "The Last Jedi" is more plodding and less surprising, most of the central players on both sides of the fight concluding the film in the same places they were one movie ago.
See Dustin Putman, TheFilmFile.com. for full review