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The Last Jedi Family

(This post is spoiler free and does not discuss the plot of The Last Jedi.)

Last Thursday at 9:30 p.m., a time when most kids are winding down and preparing for bed, ours were with us at Penn Square Mall, waiting for the 10 p.m. showing of Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi to begin. Roughly 30 minutes of trailers, combined with a run time of 152 minutes (the longest Star Wars film to date), put us back in the parking lot around 1 a.m., and back home half an hour after that. On a school night.

Except for the original (I was three-years-old at the time), I’ve seen every Star Wars film opening day. I remember standing in line at Almonte 6 with my dad in 1983, waiting to see Return of the Jedi. I remember seeing 1999’s The Phantom Menace on opening day — twice. Two years ago we were in Hollywood at El Capitan across the street from Grauman’s Chinese Theater, attending the premiere of The Force Awakens. Last Thursday, sitting in reclining leather seats, the four of us watched The Last Jedi together.

If it weren’t for my interest in the films, I doubt anyone in this house would watch another Star Wars film again, old or new. When Mason was little, I bought him a tub full of action figures and a complete set of Star Wars collectibles from McDonald’s. A few months later, he gave them back to me. Morgan was born after the prequels were released. It’s just not their thing. Susan once dressed up as Queen Amidala for Halloween. Then again, yesterday while taking her to the doctor to have her knee examined, I held her purse. My guess is, if I gave everyone else in this house the choice between tickets to the next Star Wars film or a free ice cream cone, a lot of people in this house would have sticky fingers.

But, they humor me, and so we went. Susan and the kids said they enjoyed it, although none of them have mentioned the film since leaving the theater. As for me, there were parts I liked and some fundamental choices I didn’t care for. This year the Star Wars universe turned 40-years-old, so certain things — like how the Force works — have been long established. Changing and bending the rules now may seem edgy and risky for a new Star Wars film, but those decisions may alienate your long standing fan base. Rotten Tomatoes currently has a 93% approval rating from critics for the film and just over 50% from audience members, which I think reflects those choices.

In The Last Jedi, even more so than The Force Awakens, it is apparent that the proverbial torch is being passed. Old characters like Luke Skywalker and (now General) Leia Organa mostly sit around, worry, and fret, while the trilogy’s new heroes — Finn, Rey, Poe, and newcomer Rose — run around the galaxy, attempting to save it. Likewise, our old friends R2-D2 and C-3P0 mostly stand by and watch while BB-8 goes on mission after mission. As the old characters are pushed aside so are the old fans. While Star Wars will always be near and dear to my heart, The Last Jedi makes its point — that a changing of the guard, both in terms of characters and fans, has officially taken place.

May the Force be with them.

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