After a few weeks of avoiding spoilers and muting literally every Star Wars related word on Twitter I finally got around to seeing Last Jedi.
This movie was okay. I would call it uneven. There were parts I really liked and then there were parts I didn’t. I’m not sure how to really feel about that but I think there are two camps I can break it into. In this world of shit movies, good old Star Wars is a reliable intellectual property you can make a good old movie about. Compared to whatever the christ DC put out this quarter this movie is all right. But. I know it is a product. It is a safe reliable property.
I think people are either going to come down on the side of “in a world of shit this movie was pretty good” or they’re going to say “this movie has no teeth and no surprises and is the problem with movies these days.” Do you say, this movie is fine and that’s good enough? Or do you say, this movie is disappointing because it’s just fine?
The parts of this movie I thought were excellent were the parts with Rey, Luke, and Kylo Ren. Kylo Ren is the character George Lucas wished he wrote during the prequels. Those actors do a fantastic job and they bring the best parts of this movie. Luke’s world weariness, Kylo Ren’s angst, and Rey’s optimism are well worth the price of admission. If I have one critique of their portion of the story it’s that I wish this movie explained where the hell Snoke came from. He is a powerful dark side force user, seems very old, and turned Ben Solo to the dark side while he was still in training. Star Wars has always had this problem of from whence came evil. They introduce Palpatine, Darth Sidious, and he precipitates a crisis to put himself in charge of the Republic and then takes over and wipes out the Jedi. Presumably he came from a well to do family on Naboo? Did he learn how to use the force there? Is the secret base of the Sith on Naboo all along? It actually doesn’t matter and it doesn’t get explained here. Snoke is just the bad guy doing bad stuff.
The downside of this movie, Finn and his new buddy Rose. I could not make myself give a shit about them. I was checking out during their parts of the movie. In Force Awakens I called Finn likeable, but incompetent. He feels like a filler protagonist. Like in Force Awakens he was kind of just there to get us to Rey. And Rose, a gearhead who works for the good guys. I like her character I just don’t think she’s useful in this movie. I would love to see her and Rey team up and leave these fucking chuckeheads Finn and Poe behind.
Onto the movie’s plot. This movie is kind of a bottle episode. It picks up immediately after Force Awakens. The Republic…
*Brief tangent, I can’t bring myself to call them The Resistance or The Rebellion. This movie really really wants to hit the reset button and have a plucky group of underdogs fighting the big bad empire. Guys, they won the war. The Republic took some bad losses last time but they won the war. The First Order and Republic armies are both down to like 15 people by the end of this movie. That is pretty bad for the Republic but it has to be downright catastrophic for the First Order. The movie continuously wants me to think that the First Order has an infinite amount of resources and I just don’t buy it.*
So bottle episode. The Republic fleet cleared out of their base they used to attack Starkiller Base last time. The First Order shows up and starts chasing their spaceships. Except they have some new Macguffin that is allowing them to track the Republic ship through hyperspace. That means oh shit the Republic can’t get away and they don’t have enough people to fight. And the spaceship is running out of gas because The Writers of this movie don’t seem to realize that in space you use gas to get up to max speed and then you don’t need to use gas anymore for propulsion. Whatever. Do you want to see a Star Wars movie or not.
So Finn and new character Rose zip off in a shuttle to find someone who can help them sneak onto the imperial flagship and disable the tracking macguffin. This is unnecessary because the secret plan that Poe, Finn, and Rose don’t know about is that they are going to pass a hidden rebel base and sneak away because apparently no one in the First Order is looking out their fucking windows for 30 goddamn transport ships. “They’re not scanning for small ships.” WHY THE CHRIST ARE THEY NOT? This is the “Why didn’t they shoot the empty escape pod in New Hope” question. Do you want to see a Star Wars movie or not?
So Finn and Rose find someone to break them onto the flagship. They disable the Macguffin. Except they get caught. Then the guy that helped them sells out the Republic and says hey maybe if you scan the area you’ll see thirty goddamn transport craft trying to sneak off to that small base over there.
EVERYONE WHO DIES AFTER THIS POINT IS ALL POE, FINN, AND ROSE’S FAULT.
Meanwhile, Rey goes back to Kylo Ren to turn him back to the light side. She doesn’t succeed but he’s still not willing to kill her. She teleports from the Imperial Flagship to the Millennium Falcon where they show up in the nick of time like Big Damn Heroes and get the fifteen remaining Republic soldiers to safety. From here they can get to safety to raise allies and defeat the First Order in the third movie.
Meanwhile, on another planet, children are playing with toys and telling the tales of Luke Skywalker. They are the future of the Rebellion. Child Soldiers! The key to any guerrilla movment.
I said that Force Awakens was JJ Abrams resume. He showed us that he could totally be trusted to make a Star Wars movie. Next time he could maybe try to do something more original. This isn’t a remake of Empire Strikes Back but it stays very predictable and safe, like any major franchise movie you would expect to see. And I think we all have to decide for ourselves how much that bothers you. It’s a fine movie but I can’t help but feel disappointed. I liked Rogue One a lot more than this. I know people shit on Rogue One but it felt like it had some bite to it.
It’s a C. It passed. But it sure as hell doesn’t make me look forward to Episode IX.
- Poe came off a little sexist towards Laura Dern and his speech feels too modern. I think this is the first time anyone’s ever said “ass” in Star Wars. He doesn’t talk like a character in Star Wars.
- I’m currently wallowing in spoiler heavy Star Wars review. Cinema Snob’s Brad and Dave were really kind to this. Spoony came out of his self-imposed exile on an island to review discuss every detail of the movie for two hours and give an opinion. I find myself agreeing with Red Letter Media the most on this one, like anyone gives a shit what I think. I think they hit the nail on the head when they said this movie felt like it was spinning its wheels. That’s sort of what I meant when I said this felt like a bottle episode and took no chances. The story is very contained, the rebels (fuck it) are trying to escape. The movie is just their ship trying to get away.
- Were the dudes in Red Armor supposed to be the Knights of Ren? They were mentioned in the last movie, I had just assumed that this was them.
- I said Rose and Finn were kind of useless in this movie. If anything Rose actively preventing Finn from sacrificing himself risked both their lives to no purpose. April from Spoony’s site pointed out that she did this because it was the right thing to do, regardless of the consequences. Again, I gotta say I really like her character. She feels like a Star Wars fan. With her grieving and striving having lost her sister early in the movie she injects some of the “real war” consequences I liked from Rogue One.
- Why was Captain Phasma worried about getting shot in Force Awakens since this movie shows her armor is blaster proof? Maybe she was more worried about getting the fuck beat out of her by a Wookie or that the bowcaster has armor piercing ammo.
- Rawrist made an amazing point, the part where Laura Dern sacrifices herself to save everyone? Shoulda been Ackbar.
- I could probably double the length of this review with stuff Spoony and RLM reminded me of but that would just be rehashing their points which is why I try to write these before checking out spoiler heavy reviews. Just go watch their videos.
- After a couple days to chew on the movie one point that Red Letter Media made is really resonating with me. It is the way this movie really takes the piss out of the mythbuilding that Force Awakens did. Who is Rey? Just a force sensitive girl from a backwater planet. Who is Snoke? Generic McBadguy with the Budget to Actually Use The Force. It makes me think of Jon Snow and how R+L=J is such accepted canon. The show has done everything but tell us R+L=J. I doubt the show is clever enough to make that not true but what if the books are different? What if Jon Snow is the child of a fisherman’s daughter from the Fingers? It would be very in keeping with the themes of the book to have Jon be a true bastard Stark rather than some hidden Targaryen. I don’t know though. And I hate debating hypotheticals like this.
- Boy this review keeps getting longer and longer. This movie has a weakness that carries over from Force Awakens that I don’t think anyone’s touched on. Maybe it is only important. And that is the question of The Big Why. Why is Kylo Ren doing this? He succumbs to the Dark Side of the Force because Snoke tempted him. Why? For Snoke the stakes seem clear. Every supporter he gets is someone the Republic doesn’t get. But I’m not clear on what is at stake for Kylo Ren. Does he want to rule the galaxy because he believes he is qualified to do so? The example I gave in my Force Awakens review used the Timothy Zahn Thrawn novels to make my point. Why does Thrawn not just pull up to Coruscant and ask Mon Mothma and Leia for a job? Because he believes democracy is a flawed system of government? The First Order/Imperial Remnant from the books I get. The book remnant seemed to be petty warlords squabbling and doing the only thing they knew how to do. The First Order is the Nazi SS. They’re still fighting the war they lost for no reason. They would have been children during the Battle of Endor and they’ve been indoctrinated their whole lives. In the novels, Grand Admiral Thrawn was different. He was an exile from his own people. I can’t see his motive to fight the new Republic without an Emperor to do it for. And I can’t see what is in this for Kylo Ren.
At this point my update notes have basically doubled the length of this review like I feared. My position hasn’t changed. I liked the Luke, Rey, and Kylo Show. I wasn’t really a fan of the rest. Rose is a good addition to the cast but that doesn’t make me like her plotline in this movie. Just cut Casino World and have them space-jump to the Imperial Ship like in Into Darkness you save a half-hour and remove the weakest part of the movie. The one thing I will push back on that I’m hearing from people is that the movie took chances. How? It ends where it started, the good guys are on the run from the bad guys. Some characters are dead but the status isn’t really different. Then again, were things really that different at the end of Empire? Not really, characters got added, Han was captured to get freed in the first act of Jedi from a bunch of muppets. Rey and Kylo are going to fight again, the same way Vader and Luke were going to fight again. Nothing is really revealed about the characters. The closest it comes to that is when Kylo Ren hints that Luke tried to murder him and Luke immediately explains it as a misunderstanding.
I think I’m done now.