Unlike many of you curmudgeons, I loved Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I loved the eighth installment of this beloved franchise the way a mother accepts her child unconditionally, in a true, tender and uncomplicated way.
You know the timeline by now, but let’s review. We have the original films from the 1970s, where they sprawled out in our hearts and minds unencumbered for decades. The original creator, George Lucas, came along in the ’90s and mucked them up with CGI and we were mostly furious, but still rapturous with excitement at the idea of three new films. Everyone with taste agrees that the prequels are dreadful, but it’s cathartic and beautiful how we’ve all come together on this point. So strong is our collective ire at Jar Jar Binks that it transforms into a kind of love for one another. More than that, Episodes 1-3 instructed a whole generation on the merits of film criticism, that there’s a difference between a good movie and a bad one.
JJ Abrams got the ball rolling again in 2015 in a solid return to form with The Force Awakens. For me, it doesn’t get better than the opening battle scene filled with chaos and real explosions, and then a storm trooper takes off his helmet in a moment of existential crisis—are you kidding us! If anything, viewers complained that Abrams played it too safe, with frequent nods to the fans and its structure so parallel to A New Hope, as it were.
In fact, Abrams gave us the gentle re-introduction we needed, and it paved the way for writer and director Rian Johnson to take the story in strange new directions.
What audacity to build up the preciousness of the Jedi institution only to burn it brazenly to the ground. Were you not invigorated by the future possibilities of the erotic gray matter between Rey and Kylo Ren’s union? How did you feel the moment Kylo Ren split the supreme leader in half? Did you not think of Carrie Fisher and weep when Leia Organa floated frozen through space, or when a damn-near enlightened Luke Skywalker tells his sister no one ever really leaves us, or when Rose reminds Finn and the audience that rebels will win not by fighting against what we hate, but rather saving what we love?
If I had any complaints (which I don’t!) they would have to do with pacing. At two and a half hours, this is the longest Star Wars picture to date, and I wondered if they’d tried to pack too much in. But don’t forget, we’re meant to watch these films over and over. What seems overwhelming on a first viewing will pay dividends later.
Most of the time I favor depraved, adult pictures that I write about in lonely isolation, but this is different. I love Star Wars because you love Star Wars. It’s a cinematic experience we all have in common. I saw The Last Jedi on opening night in a sold-out theater at a 10 p.m. showing, regrettable only because it meant an audience full of mostly adults who clapped tepidly at the ending, as if they wanted to check in with their PR person first to confirm that their warm feelings had merit. In one thrilling moment, Luke disappears and reappears again and a little kid in the theater let out a weird, excited squawk. This is the way you watch Star Wars, people! Stretch out with your feelings!
Star Wars: The Last Jedi continues at the AMC 12.