What critics are saying about Star Wars: The Last Jedi

In just a few days, it'll be as if millions of voices suddenly cry out in joy. Two years after Star Wars: The Force Awakens put a thoroughly postmodern spin on the classic Skywalker saga, Rian Johnson's The Last Jedi will pick up precisely where we left off. Although Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) only appeared in the final shot of The Force Awakens and didn't say a word, he's undoubtedly at the heart of The Last Jedi. But there are also plenty other storylines to pick up: Rey (Daisy Ridley) is struggling to understand who she truly is, Finn (John Boyega) goes on a mission to the casino city of Canto Bight, and Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) isn't sure about new Resistance leader Vice-Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern).

The early reviews are in, and critics almost universally agree The Last Jedi is unlike any Star Wars movie we've ever seen. But is that a good thing? Here's what they're saying.

This is not going to go the way you think

Even if you spent six entire weeks analyzing every detail of the trailers and formulating elaborate theories about what you think will happen, you probably have no idea what Rian Johnson has in store for you. As Nicholas Barber of the BBC points out, The Last Jedi has "the most whiplashing twists of any Star Wars film." 

But the most unexpected aspect of the film is the way it veers away from the standard and sometimes clinical tone of a traditional Star Wars movie and completely demolishes preconceived notions. "Johnson's demystifying exercise is radical and subversive," Barber wrote. "Its use of flashbacks, voiceovers and montages counts as a leap into the avant-garde when set against the series' usual Saturday-matinee classicism."

It doesn't just feel different than the original trilogy and the prequels, either. The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw said it's also worlds away from what J.J. Abrams did with 2015's The Force Awakens. "What Luke says and does first at the beginning of this film is startlingly unexpected: an upending of the tonal apple cart, that signals writer-director Rian Johnson's determination to wrest the lightsaber away from J.J. Abrams and put his own mark on the project."

This is the Luke Skywalker you've been looking for

It's official: Luke Skywalker is far more interesting when he's broken. In the original 1977 flick, Luke was a naive and wide-eyed farm boy from the desert planet of Tatooine. He took a dark turn in The Empire Strikes back and watched his dad (Darth Vader) die in The Return of the Jedi, but he learned he has a sister in Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) and eventually had a touching get-together with the ghosts of all his mentors. However, life hasn't been all fun and Ewoks since then. 

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone said the cynical and weary Skywalker is everything we've been waiting to see. "The Last Jedi belongs to Hamill in a portrayal that cuts to the core of what Star Wars means to a generation of dreamers looking to the heavens. In the 40 years since the actor first played Luke Skywalker, we've followed him from callow youth to Jedi master. But it's here that Hamill gives the performance of his career, nailing every nuance of an iconic role and rewarding the emotional investment we've made in him."

GQ's Scott Meslow wrote that The Last Jedi also features an amazing performance from the late Carrie Fisher, who died shortly after wrapping production last year. "Both performances contain recognizable elements of their work in the original Star Wars trilogy—but much has happened since Return of the Jedi, and The Last Jedi also accounts for how much those years might have changed them. Both Hamill and Fisher are given the opportunity to explore unexpected and compelling new sides of Luke and Leia, and both of them rise to the occasion."

It's all about moving forward

As Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) says in the trailer, it's time to "let the past die," and that's definitely the underlying theme of The Last Jedi. Whereas The Force Awakens brought back beloved characters for what was a healthy mix of nostalgia and reinvention, The Last Jedi is about moving the plot away from what we know about Star Wars and preparing us for something new. 

As Matt Goldberg of Collider puts it, "Johnson feels eager to subvert our expectations, challenge the archetypes the series was founded on, and take bold steps to establishing a new concept of what a Star Wars movie can be while still feeling very much in line with previous films in the franchise… If The Force Awakens was a matter of giving fans what they wanted, then The Last Jedi is giving them what they need, which is more complex characters and themes that break free of the traditional archetypes and mythic tropes the franchise was founded upon."

That long runtime might be pushing it

The Last Jedi is the longest Star Wars movie ever, and it apparently feels like it. Clocking in at just over 150 minutes, it's about 20 minutes longer than The Force Awakens and a half-hour longer than the original Star Wars. Despite plenty of action and dazzling special effects, there's also a decent amount of pensive staring and other distractions. 

"The film simply drags too much in the middle," wrote Chris Nashawaty of Entertainment Weekly. "Somewhere in the film's 152-minute running time is an amazing 90-minute movie. But after the first third of the film, when the table is set, the second act gets a little bloated and unwieldy." In fact, he said the entire subplot with Finn and Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) traveling to Canto Bight isn't all that necessary. "[It] feels pointless and tacked on just for the sake of giving us a cool new corner of the galaxy to feast our eyes on."

Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter said there are simply too many characters jammed into the film and they don't always have much to do. "Maybe the film is a tad too long," he wrote. "Most of the new characters could use more heft, purpose and edge to their personalities, and they have a tendency to turn up hither and yon without much of a clue how they got there; drawing a geographical map of their movements would create an impenetrable network of lines."

Prepare to laugh, even with the bad guys

Every Star Wars movie uses at least a little humor to ease the tension. Even the relatively bleak Rogue One: A Star Wars Story includes some great one-liners from K-2SO. But it sounds like The Last Jedi takes the comedy into hyperspace without becoming invasive. "The Last Jedi might be, scene for scene, the Star Wars movie that attempts the most jokes," wrote Susana Polo of Polygon. "But it never dispels tension when a scene needs tension or undercuts gravitas when a scene needs gravitas."

Tasha Robinson of The Verge isn't so sure everyone will enjoy the more playful side of the characters. She said Johnson occasionally delves "into a loopy sense of humor that's 100 percent guaranteed to deeply offend some viewers," mostly because of how it extends to the villains. "Johnson's only radical step here is to extend that humor past the heroes, and let it briefly disrupt the villains' solemnity as well. For a series that's so often treated its primary antagonists as towering, intimidating bastions of evil, that feels radical, but it also punctures their balloons and makes them a little more ridiculously human."

As for the adorable Porgs, which some love and others preemptively hate, most critics agree they aren't annoying at all. Chris Taylor of Mashable said even "Porg haters" will "beg" for more of them.

It might be the best Star Wars film ever

It probably depends on how committed you are to the original trilogy (the prequels are dead to lots of fans), but The Last Jedi could instantly become your favorite Star Wars movie. Scott Mendelson of Forbes called it "the Dark Knight of the Star Wars saga" and said it's a perfect next step in the series. "The Last Jedi is exactly what the franchise needed. It's a top-flight action fantasy that views the Star Wars brand as a responsibility rather than a luxury or a shortcut. It doesn't rest on its laurels or depend on nostalgia and reasserts itself as a franchise of value even in a world of weekly 'event movies' and big-budget fantasy tentpoles."

Justin Chang of The Los Angeles Times wrote that The Last Jedi pays tribute to the same things that inspired George Lucas, but it does so in a completely fresh way. "It's the series' eighth official episode and easily its most exciting iteration in decades—the first flat-out terrific Star Wars movie since 1980's The Empire Strikes Back. It seizes upon Lucas' original dream of finding a pop vessel for his obsessions—Akira Kurosawa epics, John Ford westerns, science-fiction serials—and fulfills it with a verve and imagination all its own."

But not everyone is a fan

While the general consensus is that The Last Jedi is definitely worth watching, some critics would argue with that. Variety's Peter Debruge said the movie has "reverence for the galaxy Lucas created," but it does so while "barely advancing the narrative." He wrote, "Audiences could presumably skip this film and show up for Episode IX without experiencing the slightest confusion as to what happened in the interim. It's as if Johnson's assignment was to extend the franchise without changing anything fundamental, which is closer to the way classic television and vintage James Bond movies operate than anything George Lucas ever served up."

Brian Lowry of CNN was even less kind. He said The Last Jedi "represents a creative step back, not a leap forward… the film feels like a significant letdown, one that does far less than its predecessor to stoke enthusiasm for the next leg in the trilogy."

Avoid the Dark Side (a.k.a. spoilers)

About four months ago, back when the Lucasfilm marketing machine started churning out hints and clues on a daily basis, director Rian Johnson warned that true fans should stay away from any potential spoilers. "I fully endorse avoiding everything you can from now till December!," he tweeted. Mark Hamill followed that up with this: "I fully endorse this Rian Johnson endorsement." Now that critics have seen the film, they understand why. 

Without getting into specifics for obvious reasons, Rachel Heine of Nerdist called the movie "bonkers" and said, "It's jam packed and full of surprises. Avoid spoilers at all costs!" IGN's Terri Schwartz tweeted something similar. "Don't let yourself be spoiled! It's better not knowing."

Considering that The Last Jedi is projected (via Deadline) to bring in up to $440 million worldwide during its opening weekend, that means a lot of people will be talking about it very soon. It would probably be better to see it sooner than later, and you can make that happen when it hits theaters Dec. 15.