When Disney and Lucasfilm brought Star Wars back to cinemas in 2015 with Episode VII, The Force Awakens, they did so amidst a fanbase that was both hungry for and troubled by the release of a new film in the immortal space-opera series. George Lucas’ largely atrocious prequel trilogy had burned many a loyal fan and it was hard to believe that handing the reigns over to one of the biggest studios on the planet would somehow restore the integrity of a franchise that had captured the imaginations of millions since the original Star Wars released in 1977. Fortunately, The Force Awakens mostly lived up to the hype, with director J.J. Abrams delivering a rousing, though at times derivative, new chapter that would go on to become the third highest-grossing movie of all time and give Disney the green light to start pumping out new Star Wars films on a yearly basis. Now two years later, Star Wars is taking something of a different gamble on hiring Rian Johnson, whose biggest prior directing credit was the well-received 2012 time-travel flick Looper, to oversee The Last Jedi. Abrams could be excused somewhat for playing it safe with The Force Awakens, given how much was riding on its success, but Johnson is under a different kind of pressure to not only produce a better sequel but one that represents the middle chapter in a trilogy, which is never an easy thing to tackle from a story perspective.
It’s a good thing then that The Last Jedi not only improves upon The Force Awakens in every conceivable way but is so good that it ranks among the best things the Star Wars franchise has ever produced. Yes, it’s Empire Strikes Back good.