It has been almost 24 hours since I saw The Last Jedi. In many ways, I still haven’t decided what I think about it. Was it good? Yes. In the end, I have to say it was a good movie, and that is what most people will want to know. What fans will also want to know is, “Was it a good Star Wars movie?” That question is a little more difficult to answer. This isn’t a review…this is my reaction and reflection about the movie, an immediate perspective.
When Star Wars first hit the theaters in 1977, it was unlike anything anyone had seen or expected. It changed everything, from the way movies are made and marketed, to the way fans created a subculture/community surrounding the franchise. Forty years later, multiple generations have grown up in a world where Star Wars exists, and the Force is embedded in our lives.
Through the years, Star Wars has had a strong history of delivering the unexpected. The “prequel trilogy” is a classic example. Fans who grew up with the original trilogy were, for the most part, greatly disappointed with the prequels. For many, Anakin’s story misfired in it’s delivery, and the actor choices, abundance of computer effects, and spotty dialogue lacked the charm they fell in love with decades prior.
Then as time moved on, something strange happened. A new generation embraced Star Wars – a generation that hadn’t grown up on the original trilogy. The new generation who grew up with the prequels loved it. They identified with it it was their Star Wars trilogy! A good portion of them even felt that for them, it was better than the original trilogy. The truth is that it is, and it isn’t. The prequels grew from the acclaimed foundation built by the original trilogy, and would never have existed if it wasn’t for the success and story decisions made by creator George Lucas. And who knows, if the original trilogy was not formulated by Lucas until the late-nineties, perhaps it would have been made with a similar slick digitized gloss the prequels had. It’s fun to speculate, but ultimately we need to accept the films from the era in which they were created.
Flash-forward, we have a new trilogy and a new installment in that trilogy. The Force Awakens blasted onto screens a full decade after the end of the prequel trilogy, over 30 years after the close of the original trilogy. It has been lauded and condemned as everything from a cheap remake to the franchise reviving juggernaut we had all hoped for. It was Star Wars, it was in theaters on the big screen, and became a massive box office and critical success. When the credits rolled, the fans had questions, and in the two years since, from those questions came expectations.
The prequels carried their own expectations, that all derived from quality, and knowing how Lucas would execute the end-game which we all knew already. Palpatine would rise as Emperor, Anakin would fall to the dark side, the Jedi would be hunted down to near extinction, and Kenobi would slip into seclusion as a hermit. We knew what would happen on the grand scale, but the devil was in the details. Macro yes, micro no. Remember those words.
Expectations carry over to the sequel trilogy, but instead of expectations on telling a story we had mapped out, we had expectations on where this new story would go in The Last Jedi. As the middle installment of the sequel trilogy, we looked to the other two middle children, The Empire Strikes Back and Attack of the Clones, as some sense of guides as to what we could expect. We were looking for a darker episode, one that challenged our heroes, thrusting them into the darkest situations. We were looking for the characters to grow, and discover more about themselves.
This built up expectation in all of heads has culminated to this one moment, where my friends and I, and hundreds of others sat waiting with anticipation in a darkening theater, to watch the latest installment in the Star Wars saga…
The screen came to life – “Lucasfilm” glistened.
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….
STAR WARS – the orchestral horns blaring at us in that comforting familiarity, and it was time! The opening crawl… Episode VIII, The Last Jedi. Regardless of my expectations, what I was about to see was our new reality.
Two and a half hours later, I sat stunned in my seat. I had done my best to stay “spoiler free”, and for the most part I had. Two of my friends in Australia had seen it earlier, and I had asked them only, “Okay, no spoilers…but did it go the way we thought it would?” Their answer was perfect, telling me everything and nothing. “Macro yes. Micro no.” That was the first thing I thought about when the credits rolled, and I can’t think of a better way to describe what I had just seen. It was Star Wars, every second of every scene, and it was everything I had hoped for, but nothing I expected.
So this is my spoiler free reflection/reaction more than a review, in which I haven’t talked a bit about The Last Jedi itself. I’ve told you nothing about the movie, but instead a review of how I felt about it. That is the best way to review this movie to me. To quote Luke Skywalker himself, “This is not going to go the way you think!” It answered all my questions and left me with so many more. It was bold. It was beautiful. It was Star Wars.
Stay tuned for our spoiler review next week and also another article delving deeper into The Last Jedi.