I think the critical consensus is that all of us –steeled for disappointment after the travesty of the prequel trilogy –were perhaps just a little overly celebratory of The Force Awakens, a film that exceeded our expectations mostly by meeting them. That’s not to say it wasn’t a great film to watch, and a visual feast, but in retrospect the reason it all seemed so reassuringly familiar was because it was familiar, all the old tropes and imagery of the original breathed back into life, notwithstanding the even-bigger variation on the good old ball of death we’d already seen blown apart in not just one, but two previous movies.
I have a feeling The Last Jedi will hold up quite a bit better, because of the clever way the director, Rian Johnson (who first came to fame with his witty and elegant suburban high-school film noir, Brick) chose to deal with the issue of building something new in the most iconic alternate reality of our times, the ninth(!) overall movie (counting Rogue One) in a saga stretched out over the course of forty years of realtime.
If JJ Abrams gave us all the old set pieces, cleaned up from the tarnish of the prequels, and lovingly restored, Rian Johnson has audaciously trotted every single one of them out again, and then cheerfully subverted, repudiated or contradicted them all. Every time you think you know exactly where things are going, the movie throws you a curve ball. In this way, it takes full advantage of what might have otherwise been an insurmountable obstacle, the full weight of the history of the series, and the ubiquitous familiarity of its images and themes. I probably don’t have to tell you this, but get out there and see it!
Note on the title: Luke may not feel like a pimp during the majority of the movie, but in a climatic scene he does in fact –SPOILER ALERT — get that dirt off his shoulders.