The Last Jedi: The movie GenX fans of the original trilogy have been waiting for
[Note: There will be no spoilers. Unless you haven't seen episodes 1-7.]
Before you hear what I think of Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi, it's important for you to know three things:
I was 11 when "New Hope" came out. Which is, I think, the perfect age to have seen that movie. I was a big fantasy and sci-fi reader, and this film gave a boost to both my personal and our cultural interest in sci-fi.
I describe myself as a "big, normal fan" of the original trilogy (4-6). That means that I saw the movies multiple times in the theaters, owned them all on various media, have played the video games and built the Lego sets. I have not, however, read any of the books, written fan-fic, authored or edited Wookipedia pages. I cannot recite canon that isn't in the movies or even name a lot of the minor characters or planets. I love those movies the way I love most of my favorite movies; as a great franchise that meant a lot to me as a young person, but not as a hobby or lifestyle.
I am not a fan of the prequels (1-3). I camped out for the midnight showing of Episode 1 and fell asleep part way through. I saw the others and enjoyed parts of them. But my rant about what's wrong with 1-3 runs to about 45 minutes of real life shouting. As a writer and storyteller myself, there are simply a great many things wrong with these movies. It's not a "Star Wars" thing. The problems I have are at very basic, plot-and-character levels that could have been fixed by almost any decent college writing professor without requiring major changes to main plot arcs.
I had great hope for Episode 7 and was... almost impressed. Again, too many storytelling problems. Too many things that didn't need to be there and too many things that just made me go, "Why bother?"
Rogue One was a pleasant surprise. But as a side-story, it felt like any positives I got from it would be, just that: great additional content, but not an improvement on the main product. Like a good dessert, it can improve a decent main course, but not save a disastrous one.
I waited a couple weeks to see Last Jedi. I had no interest in getting hyped up for something that I was 92% sure would disappoint me. None of the trailers gave me hope. Episode 1's trailer was magnificent... and, as I said, I hated the film. When I said I was finally going, a friend asked, "Why? If you're so sure you'll hate it?"
"Hope springs eternal. And I need to see it because I was 11 for New Hope and because Lucas told us there'd never be a third trilogy so fuck him and because I need to be able to discuss how and why I hate it eloquently."
So I went to see it with my son, a couple nephews and my bro-in-law. And I loved it. Not just "liked a lot." But love. Love love love. I kept waiting for a major disappointment. There was none.
Some minor stuff -- I do not like Adam Driver, full stop. I can get over that. It helps that I like Daisy (Jazz Isobel) Ridley so much.
But there was no major, "Oh, sweet fancy Moses... why did they introduce that concept? Totally unneeded." Or, "Are we really going to watch the destruction of the Death Star for a FOURTH FUCKING TIME?" They did nothing wrong. They kept the conflicts simple and pure. No political crap. No economics. No side quests that end up having nothing to do with the main plot. Just dialogue about the nature of good/evil, space battles, lightsaber fights, quips and a few fuzzy things that will end up as toys. It reminded me of New Hope so much I almost cried.
And I mean that in a GOOD way. Some people (I hear, I don't read reviews before seeing a movie) think it was too derivative. Some think it's too new.
I don't care. It just didn't do anything wrong from a storytelling and character perspective. It made me like the heroes and hate the villains and cheer for the good things and there were a few set-piece moments that made me go "Ooh!"
If I was 11 again, I would have loved this. The 11 year old in me did, too.
We can leave the "why" for the differences between good and bad storytelling for another day. For today it's just enough that for this GenX, original trilogy fan... THIS was the sequel I've been waiting for since 1983.