I'm not sure any film in recent memory has hooked me quite as heavily as The Last Jedi. It isn't just another instant-favourite that has left me wanting to rewatch it immediately (though that is part of it), there's something more at work. Honestly, I think it might just be the controversy surrounding the film; to say The Last Jedi has been divisive is a massive understatement.
Part of that I understand. The film isn't exactly kind to the collective expectations of the fan base but, whilst that can be deeply irritating, in this instance it is massively redeeming. I love the constant plot twists, most of which are only twists because I, like so many others, went into the cinema thinking I knew what was going to happen.
Much of that predicted plot involved revelations I actively hoped wouldn't happen, and in that sense TLJ delivered in spades. I was uncomfortable with the concept that Rey had to be a Skywalker or Kenobi as the Force has always been more mystical then genetic to me (midichlorians aside). I felt like Snoke was an interesting character but one which opened a can of worms; either he was the Emperor or he was someone more powerful than the Emperor, but both options undermined the original trilogy to a certain degree so I was wary of how he would be developed. More than anything, though, I didn't want to see Luke Skywalker turned into a living god! Watching Yoda flip around in the prequels was borderline too far, but Luke had never received military Jedi training and whilst he was a powerful Jedi by the end of RotJ he was still far from all-powerful. In fact, even in the prequels no Jedi had been portrayed as immensely powerful on their own, but the fans were clamouring for Luke to save the galaxy single-handed, which would just feel ridiculous to watch. Instead, TLJ subverts even that trope, giving us a genuinely epic final showdown with one of the most beautiful twists in the franchise.
On top of which, the film itself is stunning and I feel like we finally get a Star Wars movie that gets some genuinely good acting out of its cast. The salt planet, with the incredible red lines, is a little contrived, but it looked beautiful so I forgive them anything and everything else about it. And that doesn't even vaguely compare with the hyperdrive suicide moment. The flash of light and then... silence. It was one of those moments I won't forget in a long time.
Now does the film have some negatives? Absolutely. There are moments where it feels like its being contrary just for the sake of it, we've got several new characters who aren't developed sufficiently and feel a little tacked on as a result, and honestly Poe should just be written out. I thought he was largely superfluous in TFA but here he's just obnoxious. Finally, whilst I really enjoyed seeing the gambling planet and the chase sequence on the backs of the alien racehorses, that whole pointless side quest just felt a bit unnecessary. It had a point to make about corruption and class systems, which is valid and a nice place for the franchise to go, but it didn't fit the rest of the narrative and I feel the time would have been better served fleshing out some of the additional characters.
But I'm happy to put those negatives to one side. We got a great arc for both Rey and Ben, the film wildly diverged from just retreading the same boring ground of the original trilogy that the sequels looked worryingly like attempting, and for the first time since I saw Empire the whole Star Wars universe actually feels expansive again. Broom boy is getting a lot of stick online (heh), but if Star Wars is going to succeed in the long run we need the Force to become something magical and unexpected again, not simply tethered into a handful of weirdly interconnected families and cultures. TLJ gave us that possibility, and for that I will be eternally grateful.