One of the most anticipated films of the last two years---ever since that final scene at the end of THE FORCE AWAKENS where a determined and emotional Rey was left holding out her arm hoping for the aged and mysterious Luke to take the lightsaber from her---the continuation of the saga, STAR WARS EPISODE VIII: THE LAST JEDI is finally here, thrilling many fans and most critics, but angering many fans as well. It is proving to be probably the most divisive Star Wars movie ever so far----unlike the prequels, which were almost universally criticized and disliked. THE LAST JEDI is that rarest of occurrences: a movie more enthusiastically received by critics than it is by fans. Personally, I quite enjoyed it and have gone to see it twice already. 


So what makes THE LAST JEDI so controversial? Well, for one thing the movie squashes most fan theories that have formed since 2015's THE FORCE AWAKENS. Let's not forget that some fans have been actively and frequently debating such issues as Rey's parentage, what Luke's reaction will be to Rey wanting to be trained, who Snoke actually is, etc., etc.. This movie answers the above questions and more, but they may not be the answers that fans want.


The movie is undeniably visually beautiful: from the sweeping vistas on Luke's island on Ahch-To, to breathtaking space battles, to the red dusts on white background of the mineral planet Crait. And despite what some are saying, the film doesn't forego all sentimentality and nostalgia. While it's true that one of the overarching messages in THE LAST JEDI is to let go of the past ("kill it if you have to") and look to the future, it still includes plenty of nice little sentimental moments to awaken our nostalgia, such as Luke's obvious pleasure at seeing R2-D2 again, Luke being taught a new life lesson by Yoda's force ghost and being called "Young Skywalker", Luke's reunion (sort of) with Leia, Luke looking at twin setting suns again while that famous Luke's Theme plays, etc., etc.


But ultimately, this movie is its own thing. THE FORCE AWAKENS was criticized for its plot having too many similarities with A NEW HOPE, but THE LAST JEDI cannot be accused of this: It truly takes chances and charts new territory, and I think will be fondly remembered over time. The passage of time has a way of making things appear in a new light. Let's not forget that even THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK---now almost universally lauded as the gold standard---was criticized by some critics and fans back in the day at first: for being too dark and deprived of the happy-go-lucky spirit of fun of the original film. I've noticed that many criticisms against THE LAST JEDI can also be easily disproved. For example some fans that are angry that Luke said that it's time for the Jedi to end seem to forget that after his talk with Yoda he later says to Kylo Ren "I won't be the last Jedi". He now realizes that Rey will carry on the legacy of the Jedi order and perhaps eventually train new people. Likewise, some fans are angered that Luke (or rather Yoda, ultimately) burns down the tree containing the ancient Jedi texts, apparently not having noticed that brief glimpse of the Jedi texts in Rey's drawer on the Millennium Falcon towards the end of the movie: Rey had taken the books with her prior to Yoda burning down the tree, and Yoda of course knows this, which is why he's giggling with mirth as the tree burns down. That much-criticized side plot in Canto Bight on Planet Cantonica, which some fans consider to be a useless storyline since Finn and Rose ultimately fail in their mission, is actually possibly the most important storyline of all---their encounter with the slave children in that barn may have inspired some of them to become Resistance members. At least one of those children is even Force-sensitive: a possible new generation of Jedi!


At two and-a-half hours long, there's a lot going on in this movie, and a lot of information to process. What we feel about this movie right now may change greatly as time goes by: this often happens with many films. And some are already calling THE LAST JEDI a masterpiece. Personally, I don't think it could ever replace THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK as my all-time favorite Star Wars movie, but I do think it's a terrific film, and that it will be more widely appreciated over time. THREE TRIBBLES-AND-A-HALF out of four.


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