Star Wars: The Last Jedi premiered nationwide December 15 to favorable critical praise and is expected to make over $200 million in it’s opening weekend. Despite the positive critical buzz and staggering box office, the latest installment of the Star Wars franchise has been met with a mixed reaction from audiences. As AiPT!’s David Brooke points out, the film is far from perfect. But is it good? Here is a quick and easy guide to what makes a good Star Wars movie.
Strong characters are essential to a Star Wars movie. Darth Vader, Han Solo, and Kylo Ren have all become fan favorites over the years based on their depth. Everything they do and say has meaning to it. At it’s heart, the franchise is little more than a story about the struggle between good and evil. It’s the characters that make this story interesting. The audience wants to see whether Vader, Han, and Kylo can overcome their internal conflicts or whether Rey will find her place in everything. We want to see what happens to Luke, Yoda, and Obi-Wan. The original trilogy is filled with memorable quotes from a myriad of colorful characters. What happens when a Star Wars movie has no one interesting?
As mentioned earlier, the Star Wars franchise is a story about the battle between the forces of good and evil. However, each individual movie has its own story to tell. A New Hope not only introduces the heroes, but is also a story about redemption, growth, and overcoming insurmountable odds. There’s even a princess that needs to be rescued! The Empire Strikes Back is a chase story mixed with Luke learning to control his new powers. These unique plot points are what turns an average movie about light versus dark into an all-time classic people have continued to talk about decades after it’s initial release. Revenge of the Sith is arguably the best movie of the prequels, but never truly rises above it’s good against evil paradigm. Anakin is conflicted and turns to the Dark Side due to a misplaced act of love, which is about as deep as the movie gets. Revenge of the Sith stands out among the prequels but is well below the original trilogy and The Force Awakens.
When explaining my love of the franchise to non-fans, I always try to get across just how fun they are. Without a doubt, the most important element in a good Star Wars film is the fun factor. From Luke shooting down TIE fighters to Finn and Rey’s first encounter with Han and Chewbacca, the films are filled with moments that are exciting and fun to watch. The dogfights in space and daring escapes can be found in the lesser films, but they lack entertainment. This goes back to the lack of compelling characters or an interesting story. In Return of the Jedi, the audience wants to be in the cockpit with Lando as he leads the attack on the Death Star. Attack of the Clones may be the worst film in the entire franchise and centers around trade negotiations.
Bonus: Great Lightsaber Duels Do NOT Guarantee a Good Movie
It can be argued that the lightsaber duel between Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi against Darth Maul is the best in the entire series. The same cannot be said about The Phantom Menace as a film overall.
Star Wars films can be judged based on its characters, story, and how much fun they are. Of course everyone’s tastes differ and discussions about which movies are good usually become shouting matches filled with name calling. As for The Last Jedi? It was definitely flawed, but I enjoyed it and think it was a great addition to the franchise.