As a Star Wars fan, it’s difficult to “review” a new Star Wars movie. Firstly, it’s Star Wars and there really isn’t a bad one if you’re a big Star Wars fan. And then there’s the euphoria that falls over people immediately after seeing a new Star Wars movie, which is what causes all of the “Best since Empire!” reactions. But I can safely say, after a night of reflecting on it, that The Last Jedi is one of the best Star Wars movies. To me, Revenge of the Sith was my favorite since Empire, so I’m not going to say that The Last Jedi is the “Best since Empire!” like others are, but it is definitely the best since 2005. It’s my new favorite Star Wars film.
My problem with The Force Awakens was that it felt like Abrams was going down a nostalgia checklist, filling in the boxes to make sure people saw recognizable “Star Wars” things at the expense of cool new ships and ideas. I remember when Empire and Jedi came out, and my favorite thing about those new Star Wars movies is how each one introduced new ships and vehicles, and of course that meant cool new toys. The Last Jedi really feels like a New Star Wars movie, and not one that relies on nostalgia just to win people over. This is the Return of the Jedi sequel I wanted The Force Awakens to be.
I really don’t want to spoil anything in this review, it’s important to go into the movie as clean as possible to really enjoy it, and believe me it’s a ride you will enjoy. But I will say that you do get to see Luke do amazing things, how great Carrie is as Leia will break your heart because she won’t be back in IX, and the movie seriously opens up some fantastic new avenues for Star Wars to go. It also shatters almost every fan theory over the last to years and leaves them in a pile of rubble.
The story basically alternates between what’s happening with the Resistance fleeing The First Order and Luke and Rey on Ahch-to. Eventually Finn and Rose go on a secret mission to the casino city of Canto Bight to help the Resistance’s chances, and then everything comes together in the end as you’d expect in a Star Wars movie. What you don’t expect is some of the character choices they made, especially with Luke, but Rian Johnson makes it work spectacularly. Reading one-sentence spoilers on the internet does not adequately explain how great all the decisions are, which some hyperbolic fans are claiming “destroys Star Wars forever”. Just about every spoiler plot point people are melting down over on the internet are actually some of the best parts of the movie.
As a Star Wars fan who was alive for the Original Trilogy, lived through the “Dark Times”, the Prequels, and now; this movie is a rollercoaster of emotions. You go from having a lump in your throat and tears in your eyes to John Williams soaring you through the sky with hope and optimism of where Star Wars is going. If this is how Rian Johnson’s trilogy is going to be, Star Wars fans are going to be in for an amazing decade of movies coming up. Like no one except for maybe a young George Lucas, Rian Johnson gets it. He is absolutely worthy of carrying the torch for the next generation of Star Wars fans.
And that’s something very important that the movie speaks to. The Last Jedi is a Star Wars film, and while George always intended Star Wars to be for kids there’s a very big element to the story of this film about growing up. Even though I don’t know if it was intentional by Rian Johnson, it speaks to Star Wars fandom. For a long time there’s been an aging group of Star Wars fans who are so afraid of new people coming into Star Wars that they’ve been gatekeeping and trying to shoo new fans away for one reason or another. The Last Jedi shows that even when you get old, there will be people to carry the flame and it’s OK to let go and embrace that. Detailing it any further would be major spoilers, but it’s definitely there.
I do have to mention John Williams’ score as there has been a surprising lack of talk about it. He brings back all of the great themes from The Force Awakens, including a reprise of Jedi Steps, but also weaves in Original Trilogy themes and there’s even a very slight hint at the Prequels in a scene where the past Jedi are discussed (including a Prequel character name-drop by someone fans won’t expect to hear saying the name). And Rose’s theme is fantastic. It’s the biggest new theme in the soundtrack, and it’s obviously played during Rose’s scenes with Finn. It’s very strong on Canto Bight and then later in a scene between the two of them.
When driving home from our screening my friend asked if there was anything that disappointed me in it, and I can honestly say there wasn’t. It would’ve been nice to have more Artoo, but the one scene he’s in is one of the highlights of the movie and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. It’s the longest Star Wars movie, but that gives all of the key storylines time to play out to an immensely satisfying ending. Looking back at the whole thing, I can’t say I was upset about anything done. Perhaps that’s because I didn’t get invested in any head canon theories over the past two years. I had theories, but it wasn’t the end of the world to me if they weren’t correct.
Rian Johnson has raised the bar to a level JJ Abrams may never be able to reach. The Last Jedi is a Star Wars film that I will watch over and over, for decades to come. It may be a very long time before one tops this.