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2. January 2018 11:56
by jedi1
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Star Wars The Last Jedi Review (Contains Spoilers)

2. January 2018 11:56 by jedi1 | 0 Comments

First, let me say that I really enjoyed The Last Jedi. I left the theater feeling very happy, and my kids (both girls) were all pumped up about it, they wanted to talk about the film to try and keep the magical feeling alive for just a little longer. Before I get into specifics, I should point out that this review does contain spoilers, so if you haven't seen the film yet and you want to see it spoiler free, then stop reading now and come back after you've seen the film.

My earlier review of the first trailer for the film now seems a little harsh, but my conclusions were based only on what they showed in the preview. It looked to me like there was going to be an 80's style training montage on the island with Luke, which of course there wasn't, and Luke's line about it being "time for the Jedi to end" just seemed like a cool line that made no real sense. Now I get it, and I'm glad the film was much better than the trailer suggested it might be.

It's certainly not a perfect film, but the fact that they wrote, filmed, edited, scored and created all these very high quality visual effects in time to release a new episode only two years after the last one is really quite astounding.

If I'm honest, the backbone of the plot is rather dumb: For most of the film, the rebel fleet is on the run from the First Order. Low on fuel they can't jump to lightspeed and escape, but as luck would have it they are able to stay just ahead of the Star Destroyers chasing them - at least for a little while - because the rebel ships are "faster and lighter". Does it really matter that they are lighter in the vacuum of space where gravity isn't an issue? And surely, if they are faster, the First Order won't be able to keep up and will eventually have to jump back to lightspeed to catch up again? As we see later on, Chewie is able to come out of hyperspace with some precision - very close to the Imperial fleet in order to drop Rey off in her little pod, and then he immediately jumps back into Hyperspace - which was very cool, by the way, but it also suggests that the imperial fleet could send one or more of their ships through hyperspace to a point a little closer or even a couple of miles ahead of the rebels, and wait for them to arrive, and then simply blow them away.

The same thing happens again when the bad guys land on the planet with the rebel base (perhaps that's Dantooine?). That slow, heavy cannon that can open the doors is rather stupidly landed 10 miles away and has to be dragged slowly forwards across a completely empty landscape until it is in range, giving the Rebels, sorry, "Resistance", time to come up with a plan to escape. Why not land the cannon closer in the first place?

This is of course something many films are guilty of. In the theater you can get so caught up in the moment that you don't often question what's happening, but when you get home and start to replay some of the events in your mind if you apply some simple logic and ask yourself why things happened this way, or what series of events had to happen for this to be possible and the whole thing can come tumbling down.

Overall I thought the performances were really good. As an older gentleman, Hamil's Luke is more than just a grumpy old man, he has a refreshing a sense of humour and really kicks ass at the end there without going all rubbery with CGI or an obvious stunt double in the way Christopher Lee's Count Dooku did in the Prequels.

However it was Benicio Del Toro who really showed them all up. He lit up the screen with such charisma that it made the young actors with him (John Boyega's Finn and Kelly Marie Tran's Rose) seem very dull indeed. And I felt this way in spite of the fact that I didn't really like his little electronic stutter, or the whole storyline he was involved in. Somehow he just stood out as a professional actor among amateurs. But what the heck was he doing in that jail cell anyway? Clearly he could have broken out at anytime, so why was he still there? Just needed a nap before he broke himself out I guess.

I thought Carrie Fisher did better here than in The Force Awakens, but what the heck was that Mary-Poppins-in-space flying scene all about?! This was the low point of the film for me. At first I thought Leia was being killed off, and it looked to be a touching tribute to both the character and to the Late Ms Fisher, but then she twitched her hand and did something between a bad Superman impression and a Disney Fairy Godmother. This was the only part of the film that really took me out of the movie and put me back into my seat at the Theater. I like that they were trying to show us both how strong with the Force she had become (without resorting to handing her a lightsaber) and showing us new things about the Force that we hadn't seen before, but the reality is that she then spends most of the rest of the movie off screen in a coma. There was really no need for it to be her bashing down the door to stun Poe - Laura Dern's Vice Adminral Holdo could have done that just as well.

Overall I thought the film was a little too long - we didn't really need to learn where the "blue milk" came from, and that whole scene with Rey falling into the dark pit on the island was anti-climactic - we expected the Harry Potter seeing his parents in the mirror scene and actually got: nothing. Waste of time. Talking of Harry Potter, I bet I'm not the only one to mutter "oh - so she was a Muggle born" when we learn about her parents.

The whole side show with Finn and Rose also proved to be a complete waste of screen time. They didn't get the right code breaker (in spite of Maz telling them that there were only 2 people in the universe who could do it and this guy wasn't on that list), and we didn't even get to find out if he could do it or not - they got caught as soon as they got to the gadget they needed to disable. In fact this whole story line - of Finn and Rose going to the casino planet and then to the Destroyer could be completely cut from the film because it has absolutely no affect at all on the outcome. It only seems to exist because they needed to give Finn something to do. They made him "a big deal" in the first movie so they had to give him something, but the truth is I never liked his character to begin with - not because he used to be a stormtrooper - that could have been interesting, but sadly it wasn't.

He was a stormtrooper janitor! Really?! I don't think there is such a thing. It's hard to imagine needing all that body armour to mop the floors. It was a lame joke that was supposed to pay off in the Force Awakens when they send Captain Phasma to the Trash Compactor, but there's no way they'd be sending janitors into battle or dressing them in stromtrooper armour. Don't they use droids for that janitorial work? All of which undermines Finn's character. An elite fighting stormtrooper would have been a great asset to the rebellion, but a cowardly (non stormtrooper) janitor who finds his courage and makes a big difference to the universe sounds like a good idea too. It's a shame Finn turned out to be Mr Bland from Blandsville, but I can't tell if that's due to Boyega's portrayal of him, poor direction, or poor screenwriting. Probably all three.

Poor Gwendoline Christie. She returned for what 5 minutes of screentime? So much potential, so little pay off. And why did they hire motion capture expert Andy Serkis to play Snoke - and then have him sit in a chair and do nothing? Some people lament the fact that Snoke was killed before we really got to know him, but I won't miss him, and really don't care who he was or where he came from. I just thought of him as "discount Palpatine".

When Luke dies, his body disappears, his robe flies away, but what happened to his metal hand? Shouldn't that fall onto the rock with a clang?

Holdo's heroic sacrifice was awesome, but I felt that she didn't really earn it. We weren't let in on her plan until it happened and there didn't seem to be a good reason this. If we had been told that there was a First Order mole among the resistance - and that's how they were able to track them through Hyperspace - then not only can you let Finn run away in the escape pod, never to be seen again, and skip the whole Casino planet subplot, but it would also explain why Holdo couldn't tell everyone about her plan.

Chewbacca's performance in the movie was great - but why is his Disney Era mask so awful? There's just something about the eye sockets that is all wrong. The image below is obviously from The Force Awakens, but it looked like to me like the same mask was used again in The Last Jedi. It's like he stopped by the makeup counter at the Mall for some eyeliner on his way to work.

Chewbacca 1977 vs 2015

And please: either find something for C3P0 to do, or stop putting him in the films - his cameo's are so irritating. At least R2D2 got to talk to Luke this time.

Ok, enough about what I didn't like, let's talk about what I did like.

I like the new Force abilities. The bridging of the minds is taken further here than in Return of the Jedi, where Luke and Vader could only sense each other when they were nearby, and that whole hologram (for the want of a better term) thing with Luke at the end was awesome, even if it did exhaust him so much that he became one with the Force. Some people were upset that Luke died, but just because he died doesn't mean that Hamil can't come back in future films - Ben Kenobi died in the first film and we saw him in the next two as well, and Yoda came back too - not just at the end of Jedi but also here in The Last Jedi where he too had new abilities - appearing not just as a shimmering ghost but solid enough to knock Luke with his stick, so I'm hopeful that we haven't seen the last of Luke Skywalker. I also liked the fact that our last image of Luke is very much like one of our earliest memories of him - staring into the sunset.

The end if the film, where the boy is telling his mates the new legend of Luke Skywalker, shows that Luke did more then just save the 20 people in that cave. His sacrifice will inspire hope and perhaps spark a new rebellion against the First Order. Also, in an extremely subtle, blink and you'll miss it moment, that little boy uses the force to make his broomstick jump into his hand. The last Jedi, but certainly not the last person to be born strong with the force. 

The Last Jedi includes several nods to The Empire Strikes Back - Kylo Ren basically invites Rey to join him so that together they could rule the galaxy as... well, person and person. The attack on the rebel base looks a lot like the battle of Hoth, Yoda returns to poke Luke with his stick, and Rey is compelled to go to a place that is strong with the dark side. Somehow, Johnson manages to pull off these echos from the past much better than Abrams did in The Force Awakens. Perhaps because it wasn't the plot of the film that was doing all the borrowing. 

I enjoyed the way we saw Luke's recollection of what happened with Ben Solo, contrasted with Ben's own memory of that night. Clearly both versions are the truth "from a certain point of view". I couldn't decide if I wanted him to find redemption with Rey or not, but I think it works better with him remaining evil.

Clearly there is (or at least was) still some conflict within Kylo Ren when he couldn't bring himself to kill his mother, but I got the impression that by the end of the film he had finally made his choice, and that there would be no redemption of Ben Solo. Of course, that could all be overturned in Episode IX.

Another thing that I've seen some fans complain about is that our heroine, Rey, is "muggle born" and not from one of the "pure blood" Jedi families like the Skywalkers or the Kenobis. Personally I think it's time we moved on to other parts of the galaxy - there are plenty more stories to tell in the Star Wars universe, and they shouldn't all overlap with the Skywalker Dynasty. Clearly The Force, like the magical abilities in Harry Potter, can be hereditary, but don't have to be. Let's just accept that and move on - in the long run it allows for much greater flexibility in story telling, without forcing the writers to patiently explain how this new hero with Force abilities is Luke's Mother's sister's cousin's former room mate, which would grow tiresome real fast.

Perhaps it is because we are so familiar with these characters that we don't always agree with the way they are being treated or portrayed in the new films. We have so many preconceived ideas about what happened after return of the Jedi - perhaps from reading the novels, and comic books or just in our own imaginations, that when these ideas and those on screen don't match up, it leads to the kind of divisiveness we are seeing among the fans. If that is the case then moving the franchise away from what we know and showing us more about what we don't know might be enough to reunite at least some of the fan base.

It's pretty obvious that one of the major themes of the whole film is 'embracing new ideas and leaving the past behind'. Luke believes it is "time for the Jedi to end", and I think he's right. Their stubborn refusal to accept that everyone has a balance of the light and the dark side in them did them no favors. I suspect that by pretending that everything is either black or white with no room for grey, they forced those tempted by the dark side to keep quiet about it, rather than discussing it openly, which might have led them down a different path. Yoda sees it too, happy to burn the sacred Jedi tree to the ground and start over. Nobody was more eloquent about this than Kylo Ren:

"It's time to let old things die. Snoke, Skywalker, The Sith, The Jedi, The Rebels. Let it all die."

Han is gone, Luke is gone, Leia will be gone in Episode IX. For the Star Wars franchise to have a future it needs to expand beyond these characters, and beyond what's known. Johnson and Disney are more than willing to lose fans of the original trilogy - mostly over 40 now anyway, and already starting to drop out of the mighty 18-49 demographic, and they also seem willing to lose those younger fans who grew up watching the prequels first, or reading the Expanded Universe novels. The future will be about embracing both sides of the Force, and finding a balance. It's a new era, and right now my biggest concern is that there could suddenly be too much Star Wars. A new installment every year, when we used to have to wait at least three years? The market could become as saturated with Star Wars films as it is with comic book superheroes. Disney - please try to strive for quality over quantity. 

Conclusion

Given how much I enjoyed The Last Jedi, I find myself in the peculiar position of actually looking forward to the next installment. An unexpected development, but a welcome one. I encourage you all to let go of your hatred, your fear and your anger. Star Wars as we knew it may be dead, but long live Star Wars.

The Last Jedi is flawed certainly, but it is still awesomely entertaining and fun. B+

 
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