Star Wars: The Last Jedi debuted this past weekend and was received with the second-biggest box office weekend in history, trailing only its trilogy predecessor, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Reviews for the hotly-anticipated installment of the beloved franchise have been widely positive from critics but the film seems to have split the die-hard Star Wars fan base.
Many of our writers here at No Coast Bias were part of the millions that saw it in theaters this past weekend. Here are our takeaways.
(WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS SPOILERS)
Walking out of the theater, what were your initial reactions?
Rob Cowles: When I walked out of the theater on opening night of The Force Awakens in 2015, my mood could only be described as euphoric. I did not get that same feeling walking out of The Last Jedi. Instead, I felt slightly confused and overwhelmed. The Last Jedi challenged me, which is incredible because a Star Wars movie hasn’t done that since The Empire Strikes Back. It took me awhile to wrap my mind around it, but when I did I thought it was terrific.
Brian Hall: Having gone in with a mixed response and confused expectations, as I sat in the theater while the credits rolled, I kept thinking of how different The Last Jedi was. As good as The Force Awakens was, it didn’t feel like it had done anything to expand on the Star Wars universe hardly at all. The Last Jedi could not have been more different, in that respect.
Franco Bosco: Walking out of the theater, I was shook. The Last Jedi is a lot to take in, but never overwhelming. However, I was still extremely happy with the film I got. I had so many emotions throughout the film. From pure excitement to tension-filled dread, this was a film that constantly subverted expectations and kept me truly on the edge of my seat.
Daniel Soden: I went into the movie being told that it tried too hard to be Guardians of the Galaxy, so when I left the theater I was trying to figure out just how that person came to that. I also thought Snoke was going to end up being Luke for the big swerve, so ever since that ended up being untrue I’ve been trying to figure out what the big swerve is going to be.
Drew Wendt: I was mostly just thankful The Last Jedi was so bold and forward-looking. The Force Awakens and Rogue One were solid, but reminiscent of the original trilogy to a fault. You could almost feel Disney reverse-engineering those movies to ensure success. The Last Jedi actually took us somewhere new and unexpected, and, despite its flaws, that’s what I appreciated most about it.
Andrew Rainaldi: Honestly, I loved it. I walked out of the theater feeling like I just had to catch my breath because after a certain point in the movie things just keep getting exponentially more exciting, and by the end, I was just trying to process everything I had just seen. It was phenomenal.
Did it live up to the hype?
RC: Yes. 100%. It completely met expectations by defying all expectations of what you would expect from a Star Wars movie. Just as Luke promised in the trailer, it didn’t go the way we thought it would.
BH: I guess it really depends on what your expectations were. If you were going in wanting a safe, normal Star Wars movie, then you were probably disappointed. If you were expecting this to be akin to The Empire Strikes Back, then you were definitely disappointed. But if you went in wanting a fresh, new take on a franchise that was starting to feel a tiny bit stale, then it absolutely was.
FB: The Last Jedi blew my expectations out of the water. I expected a good movie since I’m a big fan of Rian Johnson, but nothing like this. To say this movie lived up to the hype would be a serious understatement. Hats off to Johnson.
DS: I tried to go into this movie with low expectations. It seemed to be getting a mixed reaction, so I thought instead of reading the reviews I’d go in blind and just live in the now. I’d say that way of thinking paid off because it delivered in areas I didn’t expect it to.
DW: Rian Johnson is a fascinating filmmaker (I’d highly recommend his 2005 debut Brick, btw), so I was probably too hyped going in. And then I saw the almost universally positive critics reviews. Somehow, I’d say it still lived up to expectations.
AR: I had worried that this movie was going to be exactly like Empire Strikes Back, in the same way, that the Force Awakens was extremely similar to A New Hope. Instead, I was delighted because the movie completely flipped all my expectations and kept me guessing. After about halfway through the movie, I was strapped in. It was clear that this movie wasn’t going to be exactly what any of us expected.
Where does it rank in the Star Wars Franchise?
RC: Top three, easily. Behind only The Empire Strikes Back and the original Star Wars (I refuse to call it “A New Hope”). It bumps The Force Awakens down to four, Rogue One to five, Return of the Jedi to six, and who cares about the rest.
BH: Top four, for sure. I can’t decide if this should be slotted before or behind The Force Awakens. I suppose which one I prefer will depend on the day. But this is definitely better than Return of the Jedi, the prequels, and the Christmas Special.
FB: I still need a second viewing to cement my power ranking, but as it stands now, I’d put Last Jedi in at #3. It’s right behind Empire Strikes Back at #1 and New Hope at #2. As much as I love Force Awakens, I had to knock it down to #4 as well.
DS: I’d like to preface this with the fact that I’ve yet to see Rogue One. Given that factor, I’m willing to place this inside my top four. I need another viewing before I say for sure it’s my third favorite but for now it limbos between three and four.
DW: It’s the best non-original trilogy entry, hands down. I’m tempted to put it all the way up at #2 behind Empire, but I’m sure when I watch A New Hope and Return of the Jedi again, I will rethink that.
AR: Ahead of Return of the Jedi, right behind A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back.
Who is your MVP of The Last Jedi?
RC: As we look back on this movie in the upcoming years, I’m confident most will see it as Kylo Ren’s movie. He’s easily the most compelling and interesting character as he struggles with the light and good in him (as much as I love Rey, my wife, her character, and motivations are pretty straightforward). We learn more about his origin story, his relationship with Luke and we come to understand his justifiable motivations. Also, he’s clearly been hitting the weight room and got to show off those pecs.
BH: Adam Driver’s pecs. What a deceptively large man!
FB: Kylo Ren was the big standout of the movie, without a doubt. However, in the case of MVP? That honor has to go to Mark Hamill returning as the legendary Luke Skywalker. This movie would not work without Mark Hamill as Luke and this man came to play with his A-game. We all know Hamill is a fantastic voice actor in his own right, (i.e. Joker) but the emotion and weight he brought back to the live action role that made his career was fantastic.
DS: Seems like everyone is in agreement that Kylo Ren is the MVP of this movie. Adam Driver absolutely kills it. So I’m going to give you my Sixth Man of the Movie, the man who came in and went lights out from the three, none other than Yoda. He may have only rocked the screen for one scene, but man that one scene reminded me of why I like this franchise. Also, he’s one of the shortest guys out there dropping knowledge and slinging ass kickings.
DW: Rian Johnson. Remember, he wrote and directed this, the only person other than George Lucas to be given that much ownership over a Star Wars movie. The dude had all the pressure in the world on his shoulders and he created something thrilling, funny, and surprising, not to mention the most visually awe-inspiring Star Wars flick since at least Return of the Jedi. This was blockbuster filmmaking of the highest degree. Who cares what the fanboys and their 56% Rotten Tomatoes audience score think?
AR: I think that from a performance standpoint, it’s hard to argue with Mark Hamill who gets to show off a brooding, isolated Luke. But as far as the plot is concerned, my nominee for MVP would probably be Laura Dern’s character General Holdo who hyperspace flies right into certain death making for one of the most amazing moments in the movie.
RC: When Luke is handed his father’s lightsaber from Rey, and we finally see the conclusion to the greatest cliffhanger in Star Wars history. Endless hours have been spent discussing thousands of theories about how this would go. And Luke… just chucks it and walks away. AMAZING. A perfect tone-setter by director Rian Johnson to show that his movie doesn’t give a shit about your heroic moments.
BH: Well, when Kylo sliced Snoke in half and then Rey force grabbed the lightsaber out of the air, that gave me goosebumps. However, I’ll actually go with when General Holdo warps into lightspeed with the First Order flagship directly in her path. The scene was brilliantly shot and engineered for maximum impact, and it worked beautifully.
FB: Looking back on the film now, there were so many moments that had me in awe. But, if there was one “let’s freakin’ go” moment, it would have to go to Rey and Kylo joining forces to take down Snoke’s goons. The light and the dark come together to become a tag team for a brief, but awesome moment. Not to mention, delivering one of the most emotionally fueled, beautifully captured, lightsaber showdowns in Star Wars history.
DS: I’m going to have to go with a tie here. When Rey hands over the lightsaber to Luke following one of the greatest cliffhangers, only for him to chuck it and walk away. If that isn’t in the top five all-time movie troll jobs, then I don’t know what is. People have been breaking down that ending for almost two years and Rian Johnson just laughs in your face…absolutely brilliant.
The other scene at the top my list is when General Holdo goes kamikaze and takes down the First Order ship. The scene was stunning to watch and had my entire theater in awe, the kid next to me needed both parents to help him pick his jaw up from the dirty theater floor.
DW: The scene in Snoke’s throne room was sublime. Kylo Ren slicing Snoke in half (he was kind of a garbage villain anyway), leading to a stunning lightsaber battle between Rey, Kylo, and those dudes immaculately dressed in all red. That scene is why we get so hyped for these movies.
AR: Luke’s illusion – to have the entire First Order army fire on him, and to show him standing, completely unscathed – that really blew me away. I also really loved the revelation that Rey’s parents were really nobody. Most of the guesses for who her parents were seemed too farfetched, and having her be nobody of significance sets up the end of the film – where anyone has the potential to use the force.
Least favorite moment?
RC: In lieu of saying the entire subplot involving Finn, I’ll pinpoint one moment and say their escape on the horse-looking animal things. That was…yeesh. Probably was more fun for the younger fans, so that’s alright.
BH: Not really a specific “moment”, but I’m very sad that Rey and Finn aren’t going to end up together (so it seems). I really enjoy their chemistry together, and it’s a shame we only get them together for about 30 seconds total in this movie. Not to say Rose is a bad character, but the Finnrey ship has long since left the harbor.
FB: There was never a moment where I thought something was bad by any means. However, the “Vegas-like” planet and the casino setting did feel a bit out of place. I got “prequel” vibes from the addition. Also, Finn and Rose’s side quest, while solid, didn’t quite have the same investment like the rest of the story.
DS: Finn & Rose’s whole subplot is probably my least favorite part of the movie. It was rather obvious from the jump that DJ was going to drop a dime on them. Also, like Franco said, the whole Vegas island reeked of prequels. Also, what the hell happened with Finn & Rey?
DW: Benicio Del Toro’s character (DJ) didn’t quite do it for me. I respect him trying something a little out there with the verbal stutter and the shifty physicality, but it felt more like an actor showing off than a real character.
AR: A lot of people were saying that they didn’t like DJ, and I didn’t have too much of a problem with him, but I didn’t entirely like how they encountered him – namely, in prison. Finn and Rose getting locked in the jail seemed like an unnecessary setback that they immediately got out of. From the instant they were put in jail, it seemed like a contrived obstacle.
What surprised you the most?
RC: Seeing the return of Yoda was surprising in itself, but the return of original-puppet Yoda? That was downright shocking. I loved it.
BH: Honestly, there are a lot of surprising moments in this movie. It’s constantly baiting you into thinking something is going to happen a certain way, and then flips the situation on its head entirely. However, the ending scene surprised me in a bad way. Everything in this movie (mostly) made sense, but a small child force grabbing a broom and starting to sweep felt entirely out of place.
FB: I have to agree with Robby on this one, the return of Yoda was incredible. God bless Frank Oz for bringing this character to life. Obviously, Yoda was CGI into the film, but he looked just like he did in Empire! That puppet appearance is still so real to me. Plus, Yoda still has jokes. “Pageturners, they are not.”
DS: Frank Oz & crew helping Yoda make the return we all deserved in classic form had to be one of the biggest surprises across the board. But personally, the biggest surprise to me is that Rey’s big parental reveal was that her parents are just some drunks. It still feels like they are building this to be a big swerve in the next film, but if this ends up being it I’ll be surprised.
DW: That Luke briefly considered murdering his nephew! It was kind of shocking to me that The Last Jedi was willing to go this dark. In the context of a movie that explored what heroism is and isn’t, that revelation added some moral complexity that other Star Wars films haven’t handled nearly as well.
Porgs: good or bad?
RC: Good. They weren’t integral to the plot like the Ewoks in Return of the Jedi and provided nice comic relief and necessary cuteness.
BH: The Porgs are fine.
FB: I want a Porg. That being said, good!
DS: With Han Solo out of the picture, Chewbacca really needed someone to play off of and I think these little guys were perfect in that role.
DW: I’m extremely pro-Porg, but I was relieved that they didn’t give one of those little guys a name and try to make us care about it. Chewie attempting to eat one while they watched in horror was hysterical.
What do you want to see for Episode IX?
RC: I just hope J.J. Abrams, the director for Episode IX, takes the lead of Rian Johnson here and makes a Star Wars movie with a viewpoint that challenges its fans. As far as the story is concerned, I’m already sweating thinking about the inevitable final lightsaber battle between Kylo Ren and my beloved Rey.
BH: Some sort of resolution, please! I’m totally fine with creating a weird, different Star Wars movie with some mystical elements and open-ended plot points, but we need at least some things to be resolved. With Daisy Ridley coming out and saying she won’t be re-appearing as Rey after episode IX (which is almost certainly not true), I’m hoping they bring some sort of closure to this trilogy. If you want to open up the universe, fine, but at least bring this specific story to a close.
FB: As long as J.J. Abrams can continue to build upon Johnson’s story in Last Jedi, as in raising the stakes, continuing developing its characters, and wrapping up this trilogy in a strong bowtie, that’s all I want to see. For me personally, if Abrams sticks this landing with Episode IX, we could be talking about one of the best trilogies in film history. Say what you will about Force Awakens, but it did put in a great deal of work into reintroducing us to this world, along with the addition of new, well-defined characters with a purpose to match. Without TFA, we don’t get TLJ and I need both.
DS: Honestly as long as we get an epic battle between Kylo & Rey that rivals Peter Griffin vs The Giant Chicken then I’ll be happy. Also if they could give Carrie Fisher a proper send-off that’d be great.
DW: I have faith that Abrams and co. will give us a (mostly) satisfying finish, but I’m concerned they will add too many new characters and not leave enough time for the existing ones to get a proper resolution. I’m praying Abrams gives Poe Dameron the screen time he deserves, or at least more than he got in The Force Awakens. This trilogy has some uber-charismatic actors (Oscar Isaac, John Boyega, Daisy Ridley), you just gotta give them the rock, J.J.
AR: I’m hesitant to make any predictions after most of mine for Last Jedi were wrong. It’s particularly hard to predict what it will be like given the passing of Carrie Fischer – how do you account for a character who might have had a highly significant role in the franchise no longer being available? That being said, I’m looking forward to a new universe of force users, indicated by the last moments of this movie. As long as it’s not like the prequels, (particularly the colosseum scene in Attack of the Clones) where there are so many Jedi with so many lightsabers where it’s so overwhelming and you don’t really care about any of them.