review roundup

Critics Call The Last Jedi the Best Star Wars Movie Since The Empire Strikes Back

Mark Hamill in The Last Jedi Photo: John Wilson/Lucasfilm

Reviews for Star Wars: The Last Jedi hit the internet this afternoon, and many critics have showered the film with praise. Justin Chang of the L.A. Times writes that it is “the first flat-out terrific ‘Star Wars’ movie since 1980’s ‘The Empire Strikes Back,’” and Ira Madison III of the Daily Beast echoed the sentiment, calling it “the best ‘Star Wars’ movie in decades.” The Last Jedi comes out in cinemas this Thursday, but in the meantime, you can read our roundup of reviews below:

“The first post-acquisition movie, J.J. Abrams’ “The Force Awakens,” took some stabs at creating a more vital and singular vision, but it achieved that goal largely through unapologetic homage and refashioning the original formula. Now we have Rian Johnson’s “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” — and finally, we can see the future. Under the fastidious guidance of writer-director Johnson, “The Last Jedi” turns the commercial restrictions of this behemoth into a Trojan horse for rapid-fire filmmaking trickery and narrative finesse. The result is the most satisfying entry in this bumpy franchise since “The Empire Strikes Back” in 1980.” —Eric Kohn, IndieWire

“After a crowd-pleasing but derivative franchise restarter that introduced interesting new characters but tied them down to previously established templates and an ambitious prequel/spin-off that sold its soul for a crowdpleasing third act, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is the real deal. It is one of the best Star Wars movies we’ve seen thus far, standing alongside The Empire Strikes Back and Revenge of the Sith as a visually dazzling and character-driven spectacle which sets itself apart from the blockbuster pack. It is a long, sprawling and sometimes messy movie about messy conflicts and moral ambiguity in a time of relative immorality.” —Scott Mendelson, Forbes

“It’s a lot of movie, in a good way. Writer-director Rian Johnson, in his fourth feature and the first of what will be, for him, at least four “Star Wars” outings, has whipped up 152 minutes’ worth of pursuit, evasion, mayhem, team-building, explosions, nostalgia and, yes, wit (spoiler alert: actual wit). This is the longest movie in the franchise. It just doesn’t feel that way. I haven’t been this into a ‘Star Wars’ picture since the Empire struck back in ‘The Empire Strikes Back.’” —Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

“Written and directed by Rian Johnson, 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.” – Justin Chang, L.A. Times

“Not since George Lucas’ original trilogy has a Star Wars film felt like a dime store paperback, loaded with pulp and space operatics. Perhaps it’s because A New Hope had no idea it was meant to set off a trilogy, let alone decades of story and enduring fandom, but the first three films still feel scrappy and at times messy in their quest to simply entertain audiences with characters they fell in love with in 1977. The Force Awakens sought to replicate that, to diminishing returns, but The Last Jedi harkens back to what made Star Wars so important in the first place — it’s fun, it’s kind of all over the place, but it’s dripping with emotion and pathos and, most importantly, it tells a hell of a story.” —Ira Madison III, the Daily Beast

“Mr. Johnson has picked up the baton — notably the myth of a female Jedi — that was handed to Mr. Abrams when he signed on to revive the series with ‘The Force Awakens.’ Mr. Johnson doesn’t have to make the important introductions; for the most part, the principals were in place, as was an overarching mythology that during some arid periods has seemed more sustained by fan faith than anything else. Even so, he has to convince you that these searching, burgeoning heroes and villains fit together emotionally, not simply on a Lucasfilm whiteboard, and that they have the requisite lightness and heaviness, the ineffable spirit and grandeur to reinvigorate a pop-cultural juggernaut. That he’s made a good movie in doing so isn’t icing; it’s the whole cake.” – Manohla Dargis, the New York Times

“Throughout, there are beats from The Empire Strikes Back playbook — a version of the Dark Side cave, walkers and speeders battling across a glacial plain — but this is not The Dark Middle Act, it’s a multicoloured adventure that juggles different moods and tones. Johnson even bravely channels Return Of The Jedi, to the extent that Episode VIII wraps up leaving Episode IX with almost a clean slate. And that, for an Act II, is no mean feat.” —Ian Freer, Empire

“Rian Johnson’s film certainly feels like Star Wars: it even has a supporting cast made up of British character actors and gorgeously CG-augmented rubber creatures, including porgs, a kind of hyper-marketable cross between a puffin and a young Justin Bieber. But it’s not a Star Wars you’re entirely sure Lucas would or could have ever made himself. Rather than playing the hits, as JJ Abrams’s franchise-reviving The Force Awakens did two Christmases ago, it flexes its fingers before riffing over old chord progressions in ways that will leave fans beaming with surprise.” —Robbie Collin, The Telegraph

“The Last Jedi gives you an explosive sugar rush of spectacle. It’s a film that buzzes with belief in itself and its own mythic universe – a euphoric certainty that I think no other movie franchise has. And there is no provisional hesitation or energy dip of the sort that might have been expected between episodes seven and nine. What there is, admittedly, is an anticlimactic narrative muddle in the military story, but this is not much of a flaw considering the tidal wave of energy and emotion that crashes out of the screen in the final five minutes. It’s impossible not to be swept away.” —Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian

The Last Jedi is a triumph with flaws. But through those flaws, it leaves us with a message as old as time. Our heroes don’t live forever. Death is inevitable. But their battle, if passed down to the right hands, will continue along with their memories. Both in front of and behind the camera, Star Wars has been passed to the right hands. The Force will live on. In these troubled, angry, and divisive times, that message of resistance isn’t just the stuff of innocuous tentpole diversions, it’s the closest thing we have to A New Hope.” —Chris Nashawty, Entertainment Weekly

“Johnson nails the crucial moments in his script, creating a sense of slack-jawed wonderment not seen in this series since James Earl Jones uttered the immortal words: ‘I am your father.’ He combines these with a healthy dose of intergalactic weirdness, including the Ewok-esque Porgs, which serve as a convenient merchandising point and source of light slapstick humour. One of the things that has always set Star Wars apart from similar sci-fi blockbusters is its total earnestness. It invites us to believe in a human struggle taking place in a fantastic setting. The Last Jedi is no exception, transporting us to distant reaches of a galaxy where anything is possible. Where anything has to be possible.” —Hannah Woodhead, Little White Lies

“At one point in the movie, a character issues a warning: ‘This is not going to go the way you think.’ It’s a line that could have been included in Last Jedi’s opening crawl, and one that also sums up the film’s many unexpected pleasures. It’s a movie that lures you in with the familiar and the beloved, only to instead turn into something wiser, deeper, and more true than you could have ever guessed. It’s a trap, and a near-perfect one at that.” —Brian Raftery, Wired

What Critics Are Saying About Star Wars: The Last Jedi