It's been out for less than a week, but Star Wars: The Last Jedi has already generated a storm of wildly diverging reactions from both fans, critics, and everyone in between, with Rian Johnson's ambitious sequel quickly on its way to becoming the most divisive Star Wars film yet.
Some believe The Last Jedi to be a historic watershed moment for the 40-year-old franchise, while others are angered by Johnson's subversive direction compared to the fan servicing comfort food that was The Force Awakens.
Amidst all the kneejerk reactions and collective clamouring, though, there have been some remarkably shrewd and salient perspectives from a variety of critics online, all tapping into pertinent discussion points surrounding the movie, even though many of them disagree with each other.
Here are some of the best we've read so far, which - taken together - paint a clearer picture of why audiences are both loving and hating The Last Jedi in equal measure. If you've not yet seen the film, don't dare to read this until you have, as there's major spoilers beyond this point.
The Last Jedi shows no respect for The Force Awakens - Trusted Reviews
“I didn’t enjoy Star Wars: The Last Jedi. It didn’t resonate with me on an emotional level, it didn’t make me laugh and it wasn’t the white-knuckle adrenaline rush I’d anticipated. I left the midnight showing this week feeling nothing. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t like it. Am I dead inside?
Indeed, so many of the questions we had heading into the movie were handled in a way that showed a lack of reverence for The Force Awakens. Was there a dramatic change of plan? Perhaps I’m wrong, but I struggle to believe the idea all along was for Rey’s parents to be “no-one.” At least they avoided going with the super obvious – for which I’m grateful.
Overall, it feels like Rian Johnson, Disney and Lucasfilm or a (combination of all three) have decided to clean the slate.”
The Last Jedi’s lack of fan service is its greatest strength - Slash Film
"When Lucas conceived Star Wars, it was as fresh and radical as anything else made in the American New Wave of the ’70s. But by Return of the Jedi, the ragtag Rebel alliance felt safer and the Force more of a superpower than a mystical way of life. An already simple premise was made simpler, an undesirable turn after The Empire Strikes Back doubled down on Lucas’ original concepts. It’s telling that The Force Awakens feels like a cinematic adaptation of our nostalgic feelings about Star Wars instead of a Star Wars movie as conceived by George Lucas.
Perhaps that’s why The Last Jedi is such a jarring experience, one that feels specifically built to make audiences work through their feelings about this universe. Rian Johnson is unabashedly political and unafraid to slaughter the sacred cows."
Why Episode 9 is now in trouble - Polygon
“The Last Jedi was written like a season or even a series finale, leaving no loose ends except Rey and Kylo Ren’s rivalry, and even there I’m not sure what the next step is for either.
Rey’s alignment is effectively decided. Snoke is dead, so the bad guy who could manipulate or crush her will, is gone. And not only was Snoke the more powerful bad guy, he was the most powerful bad guy. Rey and Kylo Ren have already duked it out to a stalemate twice. They are mortal enemies. Not only would she no longer, plausibly, listen to any appeal to join the Dark Side, I don’t understand why Kylo Ren would want to make one now. Besides, his offer was more to run the galaxy than join a group of spooky Force-users.”
A chance at redemption for the prequels - Motherboard
"One of the many reasons I love Star Wars: The Last Jedi is that it redeems the prequels. I loved the world of the prequels because they were movies about prophecy gone wrong. Anakin is a messiah who’s actually an antichrist. Worse, the Jedi aren’t the noble knights of legend, but a lazy priest class that lets Anakin become Vader. The Last Jedi knows this. Luke Skywalker knows this and he makes damn sure that Rey and the audience learn from the mistakes of the past. It recontextualizes the prequels and reinforces what I loved about them”
Dissecting The Last Jedi’s sexual undertones - Vanity Fair
"There’s plenty of sexual innuendo in The Last Jedi before Rey leaves Ahch-To to seek out her darker half. Kylo’s gleaming bare chest aside, you can go ahead and consult your friendly neighborhood Freudian to analyze the imagery of swinging lightsabers, the rivulets of water on Kylo’s black leather-gloved fist, or the dark, seaweed-slick cavern Rey finds herself irresistibly drawn into as she tries to grapple with the powerful thing that was woken inside her.
The tension that is already ratcheted way up—thanks to a lush, close shot of Rey and Kylo’s bare, outstretched fingers—boils over during the fight in Snoke’s throne room. Move over, Christian Grey; this is the Red Room we’ve all been waiting for."
The Last Jedi is storytelling by committee, where artistry takes a back seat - The New Yorker
“Despite a few stunning decorative touches (most of which involve the color red) and that brief central sequence of multiple Reys, the movie comes off as a work that’s ironed out, flattened down, appallingly purified. Above all, it delivers a terrifyingly calculated consensus storytelling, an artificial universality that is achieved, in part, through express religious references.
I desperately miss the pseudo-Shakespearean dialectical wrangles and the exhilarating sense of C.G.I. discoveries that mark George Lucas’s last forays into the franchise—their sense of renewed personal investment in a cinematic universe that seemed to be growing ever more complex before its creator’s eyes, their sense that its creator was personally wrestling with a world that was escaping his own control and taking on a life of its own.”
Cinema's harshest condemnation of mansplaining in 2017 - Vanity Fair
“The Last Jedi dished up a vital 2017 lesson about sexual politics in the workplace… The Poe-Leia relationship may be somewhat fraught, but The Last Jedi writer-director Rian Johnson really doubles down on this theme when Leia goes into a coma and is replaced by Vice Admiral Holdo). Poe, clearly hoping to be tapped to stand in for Leia, immediately criticizes his new superior. “That’s Admiral Holdo?” he asks a fellow resistance fighter while taking in his new boss’s gown, purple hair, and jewelry. “Not what I was expecting,” he almost sneers.
That Holdo is kind yet dismissive of Poe only enrages him further. She urges him, for the safety of all concerned, to “stick to your post and follow my orders.” He doesn’t; as a result, many rebels die. Speaking about her character’s stylish-yet-firm leadership, Dern told Vanity Fair: “[Rian is] saying something that’s been a true challenge in feminism. Are we going to lead and be who we are as women in our femininity? Or are we going to dress up in a boy’s clothes to do the boy’s job? I think we’re waking up to what we want feminism to look like.”
A question of comedy - Variety
“Revealed as a bearded and cloaked recluse at the end of “The Force Awakens,” Luke is funnier than we’ve ever seen him — a personality change that betrays how “Star Wars” has been influenced by industry trends. Though the series has always been self-aware enough to crack jokes, it now gives in to the same winking self-parody that is poisoning other franchises of late, from the Marvel movies to “Pirates of the Caribbean.” But it begs the question: If movies can’t take themselves seriously, why should audiences?
Although “The Last Jedi” meets a relatively high standard for franchise filmmaking, Johnson’s effort is ultimately a disappointment. If anything, it demonstrates just how effective supervising producer Kathleen Kennedy and the forces that oversee this now Disney-owned property are at molding their individual directors’ visions into supporting a unified corporate aesthetic — a process that chewed up and spat out helmers such as Colin Trevorrow, Gareth Edwards, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. But Johnson was either strong enough or weak enough to adapt to such pressures, and the result is the longest and least essential chapter in the series.”
The importance of THAT milk scene - Gizmodo
"I think about what it must have been like to watch A New Hope [in 1977]. I think about how weird and dissociative it must have been. I think about Mos Eisley and the Cantina. I think about a giant bipedal dog called Chewbacca and hitting bulls-eyes on womp rats on my T-16 back home. I understand and empathise with Harrison Ford and Alec Guinness who must have read these words on paper and thought, "what in the living f*** have I signed myself up for".
They couldn't possibly have known that entire generations would be inspired by this weirdness, that this weirdness would become normalised and - ultimately - taken for granted and fetishised. They also couldn't have known that a seismic shift that was about to occur - cinematic universes, the homogenisation of the movie experience. Fandom.
The need to cater to that fandom, surprise them, piss them off, keep them happy. Crushing annual schedules and a need for all dots to be connected: who are Rey's parents, who is Snoke. Who gives a f***. No, Star Wars needed to be weird again. It really needed that."
Embracing the untapped power of the prequels - GamesRadar+
"In the context of today’s political climate, this is exactly how Star Wars should be representing itself. Regardless of your views, the notion of seeing something as purely good or evil, right or wrong, isn’t a useful stance to take in the modern world. There should absolutely be personal conflict in between these extremes, and while the prequels attempted to show that, it’s only now with The Last Jedi that Star Wars has been mature enough to tackle the issue."
What The Last Jedi’s divisiveness says about ourselves - Digitiser
"Nevertheless, our reaction to it - our personal, individual, reactions - have every right to exist too. You're not going to convince someone that they're wrong to feel whatever they feel about The Last Jedi. Let people feel it, and don't try and deny them, or beat those feelings out of them by insisting they're wrong; it's a visceral, gut reaction. It might even change over time. But you're not going to change someone's feelings by forcing them to change.
Feelings are undeniable. They are never "wrong". They are an emotional reaction, rather than a logical one. You are never at fault to feel what you feel, because feelings are the unique product of any given individual.
Likewise, Rian Johnson is not wrong to make his Star Wars film his way; because only he can do that. We might think his choices are wrong, in relation to who we are, but his choices were not wrong for him - any more than your feelings are wrong for you."