Star Wars: The Last Jedi has been certified fresh, according to Rotten Tomatoes, and met universal acclaim as per Metacritic. Our own review of the movie also praised it, and described it as a "brave episode". Now that the film is out in theatres, I'm happy to report that it's not just the critics who like the movie, but fans too will have a lot of fun with this film. It's fun, it has plenty of lighthearted moments, a lot of tension, dramatic reversals, and good old-fashioned over the top space battles. In short, everything I was hoping for from a Star Wars movie.
Before its release, I was worried that Star Wars: The Last Jedi would hew too closely to Empire Strikes Back, the second film in the original trilogy. Hints dropped before the release raised that concern, and director Rian Johnson also talked about how the original films worked a groove into the brain. The good news is that although the film as enough echoes and call-backs that any Star Wars fan will recognise, it finds its own path.
There are mild spoilers for Star Wars: The Last Jedi beyond this point. I'm not going to give away any specific plot points or even any important specifics, but if you want to be completely unspoiled, you should probably stop reading here.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi quickly takes us almost exactly where The Force Awakens left off, and much like how Yoda was at first reluctant to train Luke in Empire Strikes Back, we see a battered old Luke being unwilling to teach Rey about the Force. Meanwhile, the Resistance is getting shot to pieces by the evil First Order, and ace pilot Poe Dameron isn't going to be able to singlehandedly save the day at this point.
It still feels too familiar, much like Star Wars: The Force Awakens did. The problem, particularly for many of us older viewers, is that this is a world we've spent too much time exploring. The characters are too familiar, and thanks to the decision to bring back the original cast leads in supporting roles, we're never really allowed to get away from the earlier films.
Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker is honestly one of the best parts of this film, even more so than Carrie Fisher's Leia Organa, or Harrison Ford's Han Solo were in Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
But despite a number of standout moments, you can clearly tell that this movie is the work of a company that's playing it safe. Disney knows that Star Wars is going to be one of its big moneymakers for years to come and it is clearly not taking too many chances.
Even as the film breaks away from the beats of Empire Strikes Back, the movie we get takes out time to show familiar faces as well as make in-jokes and callbacks to keep the fans happy. When R2-D2 has to convince Luke to do something, it accomplishes this by showing Luke the original holo-recording from Star Wars that kickstarted this whole crazy adventure - Leia saying, "Help me Obi Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope".
The film brings in new characters, new worlds, and does a great job of breaking away from Empire Strikes Back while still clearly loving the films that came before. As a fan, that was great to watch. But at the same time, it feels like a missed opportunity; it feels as if the ultimate reaction to Star Wars: The Last Jedi will be similar to Star Wars: The Force Awakens - a film that was massively loved when it released, but one that people were willing to admit had its share of issues, after the euphoria had faded.
We went from thinking that no one can make a good Star Wars movie again to having one hell of a wild ride. After that we were worried that no one can top that with a sequel that steps the game up, and this film does accomplish that. Perhaps for this reason we're willing to ignore a lot of shortcomings too, and agree to universally acclaim the film. I'm going to give it a little time and go back for repeat viewings before I make up my mind.
All in all though, there are definitely things to nitpick about in this film. It's possible to really enjoy a film, and still recognise its flaws, and after having spent over two and a half hours in the theatre, the first thing to ask is why the movie was so long. There is no shortage of scenes that will wow you - the film really delivers powerful emotional moments. Getting there however, you'll watch what's clearly padding mixed in with narrative cuts that make little sense.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi was a hugely enjoyable romp that was well worth the money, but don't go by only the early reviews, and keep your hype in check.
Is Star Wars: The Last Jedi the best movie in the series? We discussed that on Transition, Gadgets 360's pop culture podcast. The first 23 minutes are spoiler-free, and we dive into spoilers after that with multiple warnings. You can listen to it via Apple Podcasts or RSS or just listen to this episode by hitting the play button below.