Yesterday at 7 p.m., theaters nationwide lit up with the Lucasfilm logo as the highly anticipated Star Wars: The Last Jedi debuted. Fans dressed up as their favorite characters, ranging from Obi Wan Kenobi to Kylo Ren. Lightsabers were held aloft as the first notes of John Williams’ score blasted through theater speakers. Packed theaters cheered the next chapter’s arrival before falling into a reverent silence.
Does The Last Jedi Deliver? A Spoiler-Free Review
Successful Star Wars films have a formula that includes space battles, lightsaber fights, a bit of humor and a lot of heart. There’s also a fine line between telling a backstory and boring the audience, as Star Wars: The Phantom Menace infamously proved.
Anyone who is worried about whether this film is closer to the prequels or the original trilogy can relax. The formula is definitely in place, making The Last Jedi feel like a hybrid between the original films and The Force Awakens.
There’s a lot of heart in this movie, and fans would be well-advised to take a tissue or two with them for some of the more heartbreaking scenes. There’s also a bigger emphasis on humor than usual – who knew Luke Skywalker could be so funny? – but this doesn’t hurt the movie’s pacing or pull people out of the experience.
There are a few moments that don’t work, including a pivotal scene in space. Although the end result of that scene is a fan pleaser, the path director Rian Johnson chose to get there is a bit groan-inducing. There’s also the inclusion of the cloyingly cute Porgs. Unlike Ewoks, this species does little more than provide some comedic relief and set up the merchandising department.
The first half of The Last Jedi is a lot of fun and full of action, but it wasn’t overly memorable. Fortunately, the movie more than redeems itself in the second half, as evidenced by repeated audience cheers. No, the movie isn’t perfect, and yes, it could have been shorter than its 152-minute runtime. Once Episode VIII picks up, though, it’s a non-stop thrill ride that should bring a smile to the face of even the most jaded Star Wars fan.
As an added bonus, the penultimate entry in the latest trilogy deviates from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back in many ways while still making several nods to the beloved film. Film fans have several other nods, or Easter eggs, to uncover. One of the best refers to star Laura Dern’s 1993 film Jurassic Park.
Ultimately, The Last Jedi earns all the critical accolades that have been heaped upon it.
Stellar Box-Office Performance
Fans went into the first public screenings with the knowledge that critics absolutely adored this latest entry in the Star Wars universe. Rotten Tomatoes certified it as fresh with a 93 percent score, and Metacritic’s compilation of reviews has it sitting at a robust 86.
This level of buzz, combined with the strong draw of any Star Wars movie, brought audiences out in droves. In fact, the $45 million The Last Jedi raked in was enough to enter box-office history. The only movie to date that had enjoyed a bigger Thursday preview was the film’s predecessor, Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Despite big-box office and critical praise, some moviegoers are panning The Last Jedi. IMDb currently has the fan rating at a respectable 8.1 out of 10, but the film hasn’t fared so well on Rotten Tomatoes where 41 percent of viewers panned it. There was some controversy about the level of diversity in this film, but it’s hard to pinpoint whether these poor reviews are the result of another racially-motivated boycott. Either way, Star Wars: The Last Jedi appears well-poised to be a smash hit.