I'll be the first to admit that I went into The Last Jedi with a modicum of dread. After the mess of The Force Awakens, I didn't want to get my hopes up for something better, even though all the reviews were pretty positive. So, here I am, sitting in the theater, munching on popcorn, and waiting for the scroll and the fanfare. They come, I get excited. Then we pan down onto a familiar scene: spaceships chasing other spaceships in empty space. It was gorgeous and thrilling, as I had expected it to be. From the first spoken words of the movie, however, I knew we were in trouble. General Hux, speaking to the bridge crew of his star destroyer: "We're going to finally destroy the rebel scum, just as Supreme Leader Snoke has ordered me to do." (This is a paraphrase, but it's pretty close.) ... This is your first line? The first spoken words in a movie that will try to carry the hopes and dreams of millions of fans around the world? Let me just say that these words perfectly set the tone for the movie, and perfectly bring me to my first problem with it: It was contrived as hell. Just about everything in the movie felt forced - or more specifically, it felt like I was watching someone play a poorly designed video game that had constant time gating and badly scripted fetch quests. The writers threw ridiculous and pointless hurdles in the way of our heroes over and over, and none of them had any impact on the plot or the overall story. They felt forced, unnatural, out of place, like time wasters. Now, this wouldn't have been so bad if it weren't for my second qualm with the film: Nothing mattered. Really, I should say very little mattered, but by the end of the two-and-a-half-hour adventure, it felt like nothing mattered. Only three things changed by the end: Snoke, a character who had 5 minutes of screen time, died; Luke became one with the Force (this was actually a pretty cool thing, but I'll get to that later); a whole ton of nameless, faceless Rebels died. Oh, and the one Rebel general that we're introduced to, had 2 minutes of scene, and then gloriously sacrificed herself for the cause (about 100 hours too late). This really seems to define the movie for me: Introduce a character just so we can kill them off. They have so little impact on the film or the characters that they seem to be comprised more of empty space, and you know so little about them that you can't find it in your heart to give them more than a cursory "aww, she died," before promptly forgetting their names. The last thing that bothered me was that the script seemed to want to directly answer fan problems with The Force Awakens. Take, for instance, the first scene with Kylo Ren. He walks into Snoke's chamber, his helmet on, all ready to face his master, and the first thing Snoke says is "Take that ridiculous thing off." One he leaves the chamber he goes into Emo-Rage Mode and smashes his helmet into the elevator wall a thousand times. This kind of thing happened so often that I think they may have been literally pandering to the crowd. There were definitely times I felt that they had picked up on the Very Lonely Luke twitter account and incorporated him into the script. That all said, The Last Jedi had some things going for it, and it definitely stands a little further above The Force Awakens. Rey and Luke's interactions on the island felt real and were mostly interesting. The movie managed to do two things that were quite surprising and fulfilling that no movie has really done well before: describe the Force (without midichlorians, ugh), and show a bit more of the pull of the Dark Side and the insidious ways it theoretically works. The internal battles in both Rey and Ren kept the movie interesting and ultimately somewhat fulfilling. The one new character that I really enjoyed - and one of the few characters who actually developed and changed - was Rose, the mechanic. She was a glorious light in the murky sea of contrivance. Overall, it was a fairly fun and entertaining adventure/action flick, with a few little laughs (sometimes they tried too hard and ruined the jokes), and the porgs were awesome. Unfortunately, those few good things don't quite overcome the fact that this entire movie felt like a set piece, and not a real story. In the end, very little changes in the universe at all, and for all the action and talk of the 152 minutes, I can't give it much more than a "meh." Perhaps, as Leia so poignantly notes towards the end, "they've all lost hope." Perhaps, if you gave a reason to hope, showed us what to hope for, we wouldn't have lost it.