It is here. After two years of fevered speculation about everything from the lineage of its characters to the meaning of its title, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is now playing in theaters. OK, it isn't playing for the general public — that's a few days away. But as tireless members of the press, a number of SYFY WIRE staffers and contributors were able to screen the movie ahead of time, and in our continuing effort to provide fans with the most up-to-date news and opinions about the Star Wars universe, we're sharing our initial, capsulized thoughts about the film with you, our faithful readers.
Don't worry — each and every word below has been carefully scanned for spoilers. We would never spoil the fact that a chosen porg is The Last Jedi.
Alexis Loinaz, News Editor:
The movie is called The Last Jedi, and the rabid hype leading up to this Star Wars sequel's debut has focused on who, exactly, that might be. But really, it's beside the point. The movie's spiritual center is Carrie Fisher, whose tragic death transformed The Last Jedi — to paraphrase a famous sage — into something more powerful than anyone could have possibly imagined: an incredibly emotional Star Wars film that serves as a chronicle, a tribute, and a requiem. Fisher's presence binds a film that's as thrilling as it is poignant, filled with white-knuckle set pieces, crackling duels, and rousing twists.
Is the film a home run? Far from it: Its crowd-pleasing comedic punches can sometimes feel too contrived, too strained (Kylo Ren, please save your quips for a Saturday Night Live hosting gig), and those needling Porgs skew more Ewok than BB-8. But none of that matters, really. From moments grand to intimate, dark to light, The Last Jedi pulses with a vigorous, melancholy gravitas that hits you with full Force.
Jordan Zakarin, Features Editor:
If you didn't grow up seeing the original trilogy in theaters, Star Wars has never presented many surprises — you already knew Darth Vader was Luke and Leia's father, that Anakin was going to become Darth Vader, and that Han and Leia would get together. Star Wars was the textbook example of the Hero's Journey, and for all its thrills and charms, the franchise's modern quasi-reboot, 2015's The Force Awakens, restarted that cycle. So what struck me most about The Last Jedi was just how many twists and turns and unexpected decisions writer/director Rian Johnson was able to fit into such an incalculably valuable movie, which I expected to serve as a fun-but-predictable two-hour cog in a multibillion-dollar machine.
I was continually surprised by the decisions made by characters old and new, which, teamed with a surprising number of effective comedic beats, made for a great time at the movies. This is what it must have felt like to have seen The Empire Strikes Back in the theater, minus the years of unavoidable wall-to-wall speculation. I'm not sure how I will feel while watching it for the second time, now that I know all the twists; I may concentrate on the plenty of sequences that could have been cut. But the experience of seeing The Last Jedi for the first time does not disappoint, and for Star Wars fans, there is plenty to chew on.
Cher Martinetti, Fangrrrls Managing Editor:
This movie is very much a new Star Wars movie. There's honestly no fan service, and it's new yet familiar without being an Empire rip-off.
Mike Avila, Contributing Editor:
The Last Jedi is an emotionally draining film. There are a handful of scenes that are incredibly moving, and a particular few that will have you gasping in surprise and sadness. I'll leave you to experience those moments wholly unspoiled, but it's these moments where writer-director Rian Johnson really shines.
Despite the delicate tightrope act of juggling new and legacy characters, he gives our old favorites and the New Guard their proper moments to shine, often in unexpected
fashion. The callbacks to previous films in the franchise are nicely done; sometimes they're wordless, with just a wink and a lingering camera shot to deliver the message. There are definite parallels to The Empire Strikes Back. But make no mistake, The Last Jedi stands on its own as a superb movie, period, not just a great Star Wars film. It's also the franchise's longest to date, and once you see it, you'll wish it was a half-hour longer. At least, that's how I felt.
Heather Mason, Contributing Editor:
The Last Jedi is the Star Wars movie we need in the world we find ourselves living in. It's a story of hope, leadership, sacrifice, and selflessness in the face of evil. A reminder to never give up. Also, Laura Dern is a perfect human being.
Adam Pockross, Contributing Editor:
Is The Last Jedi enjoyable popcorn entertainment, with some super-cool stuff to gawk at? Absolutely. Is it the end-all-be-all best Star Wars film ever? Not even close. There's just too many tired, retread plot devices, gaping story holes you could fit a Star Destroyer through, and disruptive, take-you-out-of-the-zone goofiness pervasive throughout. That said, my 6- and 10-year-old nephews will love it.
Tara Bennett, Contributing Editor:
It's not often that a filmmaker makes good on their promises, especially considering the myriad of outside factors impacting their final movie, but Rian Johnson does just that and more with Star Wars: The Last Jedi. He assured fans that he was crafting a film that was about character first and would propel the classic beloved characters like Luke Skywalker and Leia forward, as well as deepen and motivate new characters like Rey, Finn, Poe, and even Kylo Ren.
All of that is achieved with purpose and grace, without forsaking thrilling action sequences and the humor we love. Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher got wonderful moments that grow their characters. Plus, their reunion scene, and what they say to each other, undid me and everyone around me. I also loved that Chewie and Leia got their screen time to mourn Han, whose presence is very much felt in this film, as it should be.
Aaron Sagers, Contributing Editor:
How is it that, 40 years into this saga, Director Rian Johnson may have delivered the most “Star Wars” Star Wars movie yet? While I need to see The Last Jedi again (and again), my initial reaction was that it was the story we’ve experienced in this world. Filled to the brim with heart, and a surprising amount of humor that works without detracting, The Last Jedi captures the wonder of a galaxy far, far away, and taps into the souls of the characters we love (seriously, please nominate Mark Hamill for something). It evokes beats from previous movies, without becoming overly nostalgic. Instead, this expands the universe and establishes a rich tapestry of new worlds and characters. The Last Jedi is certainly the greatest Star Wars chapter since Return of the Jedi, and perhaps the greatest. Full stop. The Last Jedi brings balance to the saga, and a few tears to my eyes.
Rebecca Pahle, Contributing Editor:
Rian Johnson does brilliant things with the mythology of the Star Wars universe. He deepens it, expands it — makes the GFFA feel more expansive and vital than ever before. Maybe not my favorite Star Wars movie — Empire forever — but it's definitely up there, and it's definitely the smartest.
Kristy Puchko, Contributing Editor:
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is an absolute blast. I laughed, I cried. I screamed and cheered 'til my throat was raw.
Don Kaye, Contributing Editor:
The Last Jedi gets a lot of things right, primarily in the main storyline involving Rey, Luke Skywalker, and Kylo Ren. Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, and Mark Hamill are all excellent, and it's so great to see Hamill back in action as Luke, and with a meaty, crucial role in the proceedings.
I was less impressed with the film's other storylines and some key sequences — the former felt a bit undercooked while the latter remix some of the original trilogy's greatest hits. This is a good movie with some real character depth to it (I including the superb newcomer Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico in that), but there were also stretches where it felt like writer/director Rian Johnson was killing time ... a tricky thing to do in a two-and-a-half-hour movie.
Swapna Krishna, Contributing Editor:
"This is not going to go the way you think" — Luke's impassioned line from The Last Jedi sums up my reaction to the movie. Everything was unexpected, and Johnson really changed what a Star Wars movie is and what it could be. I was all in, from the very first scene, and I couldn't have asked for a better experience.
Matthew Jackson, Contributing Editor:
The Last Jedi walks a fascinating line. It's a film that is at once intensely loyal to its predecessors and tremendously determined to tread new ground. Every time you think It's headed to familiar territory, it swerves, and it swerves in an astounding way. Rian Johnson is a filmmaker with an intense understanding of this franchise. As such, he has found ways to somehow be faithful to it and subvert it at the same time. The Force Awakens was often criticized for its reliance on our own familiarity with the galaxy. The Last Jedi wields that as a weapon. It takes the familiar and constantly transforms it, from character motivations to action sequences to plot twists.
There's a level of audacity in what Rian Johnson's done that no filmmaker aside from George Lucas has ever attempted. You watch this film and think over and over, "That's allowed!? They can do that?!" It's a daring, audacious movie that questions everything we thought we knew about a 40-year-old franchise. Johnson has torn down and rebuilt the galaxy, and he's done it in a fun and engaging way. Star Wars will never be the same again, and that's actually a good thing.
Ernie Estrella, Contributing Editor:
One of the strengths of The Last Jedi was its familiar characters doing different things, making different choices and not falling into the same circular storytelling cycle that George Lucas laid out. Characters you root for now make mistakes, have flaws, and see repercussions, and face consequences for fiery and ill-considered decisions. It was freeing to see characters not be prisoners to their archetype, to evolve and learn. Characters came off as more relatable in that way because you never want to be complacent or rigid in life, no matter successful in life you think you are. I think those are valuable changes in the Star Wars formula and lessons for the characters that inhabit the Skywalker saga. The Last Jedi gave me hope for Rian Johnson’s just-announced new Star Wars trilogy, I just wished he was writing and directing Episode 9 now.