I checked out the 9:25 PM showing of the latest Star Wars movie last night, and was pleased with what I saw! Similar to Episode VII, the movie opens with a scene involving Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) and BB-8, although it's under completely different circumstances. This opener sets up not only the main arc of the film but establishes several other side stories that take place during the next two and a half hours as well.

'The Last Jedi' has strong character moments and even cooler space battles

Whether it's familiar faces like Leia or Luke, or our cast of newbies like Rey, Finn, and Poe, there are a lot of strong scenes with each of our characters (at least two or three scenes for each of them).

One of the things I like more about Episode VIII, in contrast to Episode VII, is that they show the evolution without really having to tell about it. It's not overstated, but you can see it for yourself.

Also, the battles in this movie are epic. From the beginning battle with Poe to various other battles on planets or in space, you'll be amazed, as usual, by the special effects. Although, for those who don't like the overuse of CGI, you may be turned off by some scenes more than others. There is one space fight in particular, toward the end of the movie, that is absolutely stunning (you will know it when you see it).

Is 'Episode VIII' better than 'Episode VII'?

While I personally enjoyed both movies, I have to say that Episode VII is still the stronger of the two.

The character interactions and dynamics that made Episode VII so strong are barely present in the sequel, and I do believe the movie takes a hit because of it. The character growth that the cast experiences, on their own separate journeys, is a wonderful sight to see, but it does feel different seeing them all split up. Regardless, Leia proves to be the heart of the film, and a lot of her scenes pack an even more emotional punch due to the fact that this was Fisher's last film.

There are some scenes I believe we would've been better off seeing more of, and other scenes where I believe the opposite. A few of the storylines will be something that the audience will likely be able to predict as they continue to reach their conclusion, but it doesn't take away from the viewing experience (plus, there are still a few things I guarantee will surprise most people).

The new characters that are introduced in this installment are a mixed bag. There is one, in particular, that has pretty good chemistry with one of our previously established characters. There's another one that could've used more development, but ultimately provides a few surprises that propel the story forward.

All in all, this is two and a half hours of pure excitement that will be the perfect choice to escape from your daily routine for a little while. According to Deadline, this Star Wars film has already made an impressive $45 million at the box office, becoming the second biggest box office preview in North America's history (behind Episode VII and ahead of Rogue One). Another report from Deadline projects the movie to earn over $200 million during its opening weekend. "The Last Jedi" is out today. Enjoy!