Note: There are no spoilers in this article beyond what has already been shown or referenced in trailers, ads, and merchandise. (There are spoilers for previous Star Wars films, but not this one.)
In the unlikely event that you haven’t decided whether or not you’re going to see Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, let me just say: See this movie. I’m a Star Wars fan from way back, was brought up on the original trilogy and had my hopes cruelly dashed by the prequels, and The Last Jedi is in serious contention for the top spot on my list of the movies with The Empire Strikes Back.
Now, of course, you need to decide whether or not to bring your kids, and what to expect if you do. For that, please read on…
1. How does it compare to The Force Awakens?
I liked it more. This is probably due in part to TFA having to establish new characters and the changes to the movies’ universe since Return of the Jedi. The Last Jedi has two main plots: one that centers around the Resistance and its fight against The First Order, and one that centers around Luke and Rey on the island from the end of TFA. The latter picks up exactly where the previous film ended, and the former a nonspecific but short time after. Poe plays a much larger part in TLJ, and not just because he isn’t thought to be dead by the main characters for half the film.
The Last Jedi stands apart from TFA most importantly by not relying on an identical plot to a previous movie. While I enjoyed TFA, even the most casual of observers must note that its plot is virtually the same as that of the original Star Wars film (aka Episode IV: A New Hope), with only the players changed a bit. There are references in TLJ to the original trilogy (apart from Luke, Leia, and the droids, that is), but they’re more on the side of homage than mimicry. There are some slower parts of the film, but they only really stand out because the rest of it moves very quickly. The fight scenes, both character-on-character or space-based, are brilliant and very nearly literally had me on the edge of my seat.
There’s so much more I’d love to tell you, but I can’t without breaking my promise not to spoil anything. I will just add: Episode VIII could have accurately been subtitled “Women Get Things Done.”
2. Will my kids like it?
The plot gets a bit convoluted at times, and some of the battles move quickly, but I think most kids will at least understand the crucial points. Anyone who could handle TFA should be able to handle The Last Jedi. Fortunately, from a character perspective, it’s not that difficult to follow, as there are only two (or three, depending on your point of view) new major characters.
It’s rated PG-13, and there is a lot of violence, although as usual not very much blood. There are some intense scenes that may cause some emotional trauma, but nothing more intense than Han’s death in TFA.
The film is 2 hours, 32 minutes long, making it the longest Star Wars film thus far, and it definitely feels long. I thought it was going to end several times before it did.
3. When’s a good time for a bathroom break?
Given the movie’s length, this is likely going to be an issue for a lot of people. The middle of the movie is a bit on the slower side, fortunately. Almost any of the scenes of Rey and Luke on the island would be good for a break, or the scenes of Resistance ships trying to escape the First Order fleet.
4. What’s it like to see new scenes with Carrie Fisher after her death?
I can’t deny that I got a bit choked up the first several times General Leia appeared on screen. She’s a much more important character in this film than in TFA, so it does get a bit easier after a while (again, I could say much more, but there’s that spoiler-free promise).
5. Do I have to stay to the end of the credits for a bonus scene?
No. I recommend staying through the start of the end credits, just because the music is so good, but once the roll starts, there’s nothing more to see. I will note, though, that the credits are not without interesting parts: I particularly liked seeing Peter Mayhew listed as “Chewbacca Consultant.”
6. How about the Porgs? Are they the new Ewoks?
They are definitely not the new Ewoks, in that they’re not particularly important to the plot, and they never get a chance to pelt stormtroopers with rocks. They are a bit annoying, and more than likely were added only to provide a merchandise opportunity. Interestingly (to me, anyway), they do share one thing with the Ewoks, in that the name of the species is never actually spoken during the movie.
I will note that there is another newly-introduced alien animal that I wouldn’t mind owning a plush version of. I won’t say more than that it’s sparkly and appears near the end of the film, and that you’ll know it when you see it. I would also like to note that the various models of the evil BB-8, aka BB-9E, are really unjustified, as the droid itself is barely in the movie.
7. Is it worth paying more to see the movie in 3D? How about IMAX?
The preview screening I attended was in 2D, regular-size, and I enjoyed it tremendously. I’m seeing it in 3D (still non-IMAX) shortly, so I’ll be able to compare, but apart from a few scenes where I expect the 3D to add to the literal awesomeness, I don’t expect it to be that different. If you can afford 3D and it doesn’t give you a headache, I say go for it; but if you see it in 2D don’t be afraid that you’re missing something. ADDED Dec. 15: Having now seen it in 3D as well, I say save your money and see it in 2D. The 3D was mostly not even noticeable, and when it was it didn’t add much.
As for IMAX, I think it would be pretty cool to see it that way, just because a lot of it takes place in space, and the special effects are myriad. Also, the scene from the trailer with the ships crossing the open white field creating red streaks as they go was gorgeous as I saw it, and I have to think would be even more so in IMAX.
8. Do I need to make sure my kids (and I) have seen Episodes I-VII recently before I take them to see The Last Jedi?
I recommend watching Episode VII: The Force Awakens again before seeing The Last Jedi if it’s been a while, because (as you would rightly expect) most of what happens follows directly from its predecessor. It’s important to have seen the original trilogy (IV-VI), but familiarity with their events is probably good enough. As for the prequel trilogy (I-III), I will change what I said about TFA two years ago, and say that it couldn’t hurt to watch at least Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, because a character actually does make a significant reference to something that (mostly) happens in that film.
9. What won’t I like about the film?
It’s a bit goofy. More than a bit, really, and not always in places where it fits. The opening of the film in particular stands out, with a goofiness, predicated on familiarity with 21st-century Earth, that takes the viewer out of the film only moments after having been brought in. There’s a much later moment when a character uses a slang term from modern English that is intended to be entertaining, but which (to me, at least) seemed a bit jarring, particularly considering who it is who says it. And there are lots of goofy moments in between – not all of which were bad, mind you, and many of which made me laugh and fit well into the story, but I think a cut of the movie with about half as many would be better, and not-undesirably shorter.
If there’s any specific spoiler-y question about the movie that you’d like answered because it will help you make your decision on whether or not to bring your kids, please feel free to email me and I’ll be glad to answer as soon as I’m able to.
Disclosure: I was invited to a free press screening of the movie. All opinions expressed here are my own.