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– by Joseph Jammer Medina

Note: This review contains NO spoilers for the film.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi has a tall, and near impossible, order to fulfill. Not only must it follow-up J.J. Abrams’ crowd-pleasing Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but it must elevate the stakes in a similar way that The Empire Strikes Back did for the original Star Wars; and herein is where its biggest challenge lies.

With it needing to fulfill some of the same key aspects of storytelling that The Empire Strikes Back trail-blazed back in 1980, anything that Star Wars: The Last Jedi does will likely feel like a bit of a retread. In fact, going into the movie, that was perhaps my biggest concern. Based on all the marketing, it felt like it would very much fall in line with expectations set by The Empire Strikes Back. Our heroes would get found by the First Order before splitting off into their own adventures, and coming back at the end in some way, right?

Well, don’t worry, I’m not going to spoil you by getting into any specifics. However, I will say that within the first 20 minutes or so of the movie, it was very clear that this was no Empire Strikes Back clone. Don’t let those TV spots fool you. This is a very different experience.

But is it a good one?

After having nearly a full day to digest the movie, I think I can confidently say that Star Wars: The Last Jedi is my favorite Star Wars movie to date. I know, it’s a bold claim, and one that will likely be ridiculed for being too caught up in having just seen the thing, but even if I look objectively on it from a storytelling perspective, I can’t help but come to the same conclusion. Let’s delve into why (without spoiling, of course).

Let’s start with the story. While I won’t get into any specifics, this is the first Star Wars movie that is largely built around a ticking clock. For the first time, our heroes are in a nerve-wracking race against time — and man, is it tense! It also helps that the stakes of this one as are high as ever. Ironically enough, while the stakes are as high as ever, the scope is smaller than ever, and I think one could argue that it’s because of this character focus that these stakes matter so much.

More than anything, this film is focused on a select few heroes (as every movie is), but it does such an amazing job that the impact of their personal stories can be felt throughout the entire war. Never before have I felt like absolutely everything was on the line, and it gave a real weight to the story that’s never been present in this franchise before.

And then there are the characters. Again, like the story, I worried that each of the characters would fall comfortably into specific slots predesignated by The Empire Strikes Back. After watching this film, it’s very clear that the likes of Rey, Finn, Poe, Kylo Ren, and the rest are very much their own characters with their own journeys and goals. Sure, there may be some parallels here and there that fans can point to, but by and large, the similarities fall away very quickly.

These characters are not only different, but they also come with very powerful arcs in this movie. Yes, this film is the second in a new trilogy of a much larger series (and you’ll feel that), but writer-director Rian Johnson was clearly very dedicated to making sure that it was as emotionally satisfying as possible. Yes, certain plot points are dependent on you somewhat understanding the other films, and overall, it’ll have a lot more impact if you’re aware of the film franchise’s history, but I think the story itself is such a strong, self-contained entity that the emotional journey these characters all go through will resonate well with new viewers as well.

There is one last aspect that I can speak of without spoiling anything, and that has to do with the risks it takes. Too often in big franchises do we get the impression that the filmmakers are holding off for future films. This is the second part of a story, so we have to leave plenty of questions for the next film, right? Yes, the film does leave us with some questions, but never in it did it feel like they were holding back on answers for the sake of leaving them for a future film. This movie is very interested in giving audiences what they want now, and it’s a thrill to experience.

On the whole, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a tense and rewarding ride that fans will undoubtedly be pleased with. Like Star Wars: The Force Awakens before it, it builds off the legacy that came before it, but unlike The Force Awakens, it doesn’t feel like it’s retreading the same ground as previous installments. Instead, it’s confident enough to go off in its own bold new direction, and it’s because of this bold direction that fans will be discussing this one to death for the next two years until Star Wars: Episode IX comes out (and likely even long past that).

Like The Empire Strikes Back, I think Star Wars: The Last Jedi will stand up as one of the most beloved films in the franchise yet.

Grade: A+

Are you excited to check out Star Wars: The Last Jedi? Let us know your thoughts down below!

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  • Lenin1959

    I won’t read it. I WON’T! I will wait for Saturday and read it then. Got our tickets for Friday evening and I hope, I BEG for a better movie than TFA.

    • Jammer does a good job here. It’s spoiler free.

      I’m so jealous of him 😆

      • Wild Dreams

        Have you seen it as well ? If so do you agree ? A+ ???

        • No that’s why I’m jealous. I don’t see it till Thursday.

        • I have now and…..No. But I’m not ready to rate it yet either.

          • Wild Dreams

            No ? Uh oh lol…..I’ll be seeing it myself in less than 24hrs.

    • Nix The Wonder Bear

      Sorry to say but…save the cash and wait for it to come out on iTunes. Then rent it. Don’t buy it. Just rent it.

      Seriously.

      • Lenin1959

        I did watch it… Oh my…

  • Wild Dreams

    A+ !!!!???? So that definitely means no Jar Jar cameo right ?

  • axebox

    Wow. A+…

  • Moby85

    What I’m worried here is how inconsistent the 12+ reviews I’ve read are. The bad reviews really, really see the film as a tragic, derivative mistake, that while not copying “The Empire Strikes Back” copies many previous Star Wars tropes.

    The only thing I did have spoiled for me (**minor spoilers** warning)

    **minor spoilers**

    Jammer, given the “ticking clock” of this movie how did you not see that plot point ripped straight out of that Season 1 episode of Battlestar Galactica (2004) called “33”? It’s way too similar to see as just a coincidence. I’m hoping other characters and plot points are not similar derivative.

    • Joseph Jammer Medina

      In regards to the criticism from those critics you read, I don’t agree that this film copies previous Star Wars tropes. As far as the ticking clock thing, I can’t say, because Battlestar Galactica is a show I never got into. I’ll have to look into that.

  • Gig Patta

    As another staff member who saw this film (and I know of one more), I believe Joseph Medina likes everything. The movie is not perfect. I give it an A- and it’s boosted for not introducing another Death Star, Jar Jar Binks or Ewoks (spoiler alert).

    • I’m just out and still processing

      I am as conflicted as Kylo Ren

      I think I need a second viewing. Unexpected, but also for me still not a patch on Empire. However I rate Empire as my number one movie off all time. So…… it’s not fair for me to measure it against a film I’ve seen well over 400 times in my life.

  • Yerko Vidal Cvitanic

    OMG!
    SAW THE MOVIE YESTERDAY!
    There was no way you could predict what was going to happen.
    Give me episode 10 now!

  • Jack Napier

    This movie is OK, B+ at the most. All of Finn’s subplot is horrendous, Benicio Del Toro included. The two biggest questions (who’s Snoke? Who are Rey’s parents) are handled In a lackluster way, and this film has the lamest ending for any of the Star Wars movies to date, including the prequels, yikes!

  • FeixPunk

    Too many throwbacks to Empire, but less than TFA had to ANH. Great surprises, seriously how did they keep that one (you know the one) a secret. Some things unbelievable even for a sci-fantasy film. Over all it ranks above TFA (which loses flair with every viewing) but behind 4, 5, and Rogue One.

  • Rad4Cap

    It was “Meh”.

    The plot was all over the place (ie not unified in any sense of the term). The ‘ticking clock’ was completely out of whack (to the point of having to be non-linear). The humor was of the cowardly ‘don’t take these ideas too seriously’ undercutting type. The connective tissue to the rest of the saga was intentionally mangled, where it wasn’t completely ignored.

    I can’t even recommend watching it in the theaters. Unlike the BladeRunner sequel, this film isn’t one that requires a big screen to appreciate.

    From an ‘objective storytelling perspective’ this film is a muddy mess, not even CLOSE to an A+

  • Brafdorf

    it’s the first new Star Wars movie that can stand with the originals.

    You can’t say it’s better than the originals because there’s no recreating that magic again. It happened and now we have to enjoy this one for what it was.

    I can see why they’re giving Rian more films because this was masterful.
    I’m reaaaaaaaally conflicted about Abrams coming back now. This guy outclassed him in every way

  • IT WAS FUCKING GARBAGE.

    Riann Johnson severely mis-understood what makes Star Wars great on a deeply fundamental level. The Last Jedi was worse than all of the Prequels. It was horrible. Everything from the cowardly, mis-used, poorly written, piece of shit, Dr. Strange Luke, to Super Leia, last daughter of Krypton. The film was crap. Utter and complete crap. Riann Johnson took this franchise and defecated all over it.

    JJ through him a beautiful pass and instead of slam dunking it, he pulled out a fuckin rocket launcher and disintegrated the entire court, taking the ball, basket and arena with him in the process. FUCK Riann Johnson, FUCK, Disney and FUCK The Last Jedi, right in it’s ass.

  • Nix The Wonder Bear

    So there I was, in the theatre in 1977 watching Star Wars for the very first time. It was fun, it was action packed, and it was released at the beginning of what would later be remembered as a great summer and the beginning of a great era in movie going. It wasn’t a very good movie exactly, just fun and eminently watchable. It had a great cast of unknowns who were charming, perfectly cast, and they created something like movie magic. As I say, the beginning of a great movie going era. Certainly nothing like it has been or will be seen since. Fan reaction was very much like mass hysteria and it wouldn’t be until Princess Diana’s death 20 years on that we saw something akin to the same type of mass hysteria again.

    The main problem of course is that you can only see Star Wars for the first time once then you have to either expand on the story – if you plan on keeping it going – or just let it go altogether. George Lucas was able to expand on the Skywalker story and expand the universe with Empire Strikes Back – critically panned at the time but since then the darling of the original series. Not trilogy: there never was a trilogy precisely, there was Star Wars and then two subsequent movies based on Star Wars that in later misguided efforts would be cobbled together into a “trilogy” of sorts, but still re properly a movie series.

    You can only see Star Wars for the first time once, like you can only ever be shocked and horrified in a good way when you see the alien burst out of John Hurt’s chest only once. After that it’s kind of ho-hum stuff UNLESS you can expand on the story line and expand the universe.

    JJ Abrams and Rian Johnson have utterly failed to do either, their movies are sh!t remakes of the original series. Period. End of story. No argument. Give it up you f**king hacks. If this is the crap they’re going to make going forward then I wish George Lucas had never sold his company to begin with. Not only should Kathleen Kennedy be fired and banned from the lot for life, but JJ Abrams, Rian Johnson, and everyone associated with this abortion should be put to death immediately.

    • Kindofabigdeal

      How did people know that Princess Di didn’t have dandruff?
      They found her head and shoulders in her glove box.

Joseph Jammer Medina is an author, podcaster, and editor-in-chief of LRM. A graduate of Chapman University's Dodge College of Film and Television, Jammer's always had a craving for stories. From movies, television, and web content to books, anime, and manga, he's always been something of a story junkie.