Star Wars: The Last Jedi ★★★★★

On a fall day in 2012 I remember sitting in one of my first college classes waiting for class to begin when I heard from a classmate that Disney had purchased the rights to Lucasfilm and was also going to be making new Star Wars films. Having grown up watching the original trilogy and the prequels (the Star Wars prequels were a big part of my childhood) I was instantly against this. To this day, I consider Star Wars to be one of the greatest treasures of cinema as well as one of the greatest stories ever told. I also consider the first six Star Wars films to be one of the greatest stories of all time and because the saga ended so greatly with Return of the Jedi I could not imagine what could be told next if Star Wars were to ever continue again (though I had some ideas of my own) and always thought a new live action Star Wars film would ever be made.

Cut to five years later as I sit wearing IMAX 3D glasses while my jaw drops multiple times as I watch Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I'll admit as much as I wish the Star Wars series was only the first 6 films, there is plenty of good with these first two Star Wars sequel films. While I do not think any Star Wars film will overshadow the quality of the original trilogy, I found The Last Jedi to be as closest to the quality of the original trilogy.

While the film is incredibly long at two and a half hours, Rian Johnson's screenplay is full of so much story that keeps the entertainment coming. There are times where it feels like the film is about to end but then we get more story and more action and it feels like the film is never going to end. Yet Johnson shows us why he was the right person to helm this latest chapter as he fills the two and a half hours with lot's of awesome action, great characters, clever humor, and visuals that make me go "wow!" (and make me want to spend extra money for The Art of Star Wars: The Last Jedi book.

Although I have issues with The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi is a major improvement. Not only did the film amaze me like I was when I watched the films growing up but it also threw in some great surprises. The performances of the returning cast members are exceptional especially Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher. I was also impressed with the performances of new cast members primarily with Laura Dern, of whom I thought was perfectly cast as Amilyn Holdo as she continues to amaze me this year (thank you Big Little Lies and Twin Peaks: The Return). I'm very happy to see a lot more practical effects being used in this film as opposed to CGI and even the music is another quality that makes me happy that John Williams continues to score these films.

When I first Read that Rian Johnson would be writing and directing Episode VIII I thought he was a good choice considering he proved why he could do really good visual effects and storytelling with Looper while I also love the Breaking Bad episodes he directed which featured fantastic storytelling and strong performances. In The Last Jedi, Johnson uses both of those strengths as the film is a great return to one of the most beloved stories in cinema history. Like J.J. Abrams, Johnson utilizes IMAX and 3D to make the film feel like a ride and for two and a half hours I got my money's worth of big screen entertainment experience. While I've been against the decision for the Star Wars franchise to continue, The Last Jedi is the rare kind of fun at the movies where I got to have fun watching it with my dad and my brothers like we did when we saw the previous Star Wars films at the theater as we enjoyed our return to a galaxy far far away.