“Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi” will make its debut on December 15, and critics are already giving it multiple thumbs up. Some have called it the best “Star Wars” movie since “The Empire Strikes Back,” which was made way back in 1980. “The Last Jedi” is the sequel to 2015’s “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens” that had introduced characters like Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) to fans of the series. The ninth and final installment is expected to premiere in 2019.

“The Last Jedi” will pick up where “The Force Awakens” left off with Rey meeting Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill). It will introduce new characters like Admiral Holdo (Laura Den), Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), and DJ (Benicio del Toro). It will also serve as the swan song for the late Carrie Fisher’s General Leia Organa. Rian Johnson took over the directing duties from J.J. Abrams, and he also did the writing.

Now that the filmmakers have lifted their embargo, the first reviews have been posted online. Most of the few complaints have to do with the film’s pacing with the middle feeling particularly busy. The critics praise the film’s special effects and action set pieces, and most were pleased by “Last Jedi’s” homages to earlier installments in the series. Kristy Puchko of “CBR” appreciated Fisher’s performance as Leia, describing her as “fiery as ever, yet regal, and all around glorious.” She was similarly impressed with Hamill.

Joshua Yehl, writing for “IGN,” calls “The Last Jedi ”the “quintessential Star Wars movie.” While he does complain about some of the pacing, he gives the movie props for having a satisfying ending – which is no mean feat for the next-to-last film in a series. All signs indicate that “Last Jedi” will do very well, both critically and commercially. When Abrams returns to direct “Star Wars: Episode IX,” he could have a lot to live up to.