A Step Back for Disneys New Trilogy (Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review)

Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Director: Rian Johnson
Screenplay: Rian Johnson
Music composed by: John Williams
Producers: Kathleen Kennedy, Ram Bergman, Lawrence Kasdan, Simon Kinberg

 

 

 

Before I begin I want to say that this was a movie with very high expectations,being the sequel to the well received return to the franchise Star Wars: The Force Awakens, an great marketing campaign, the teased return of Luke Skywalker and the fact that it’s STAR WARS! all combined to make this one of the most anticipated movies of the century. But the question is did it live up to the hype? Lets find out! I’m going to do two reviews, one spoiler free that and another with all the juicy details.

 

SPOILER FREE REVIEW

So did it live up to the hype? The short answer is no it did not. After the traditional opening crawl we get a joke heavy opening scene which included Star Wars first ever “your mom” joke which felt very out of place, and from there we were off on a roller coaster ride of a movie which featured some of the best scenes in the Star Wars saga, but also some of the worst.

The parts of the movie with Rey (Daisy Ridley), Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) is good with some fantastic scenes and great acting from everybody but in particular Adam Driver who steals the movie as Kylo Ren.  Luke may not be the same as you remember him and Director and Writer Rian Johnson’s characterization of him has polarized much of the Star Wars community. It tries to go beyond the traditional Jedi/Sith dynamic of past Star Wars movies and brings some fresh ideas into the franchise, and mostly succeeds with some of the best scenes in the sage coming from this part of the movie. But while this part shines the rest of the movie struggles with side plots that contribute little to the main story, pacing issues and a lack of direction.  Finn (John Boyega), Poe (Oscar Isaac) and newcomer Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) meander in side plots don’t really go anywhere or affect the main plot. If the three of them were cut out of the movie completely, the rest of the movie wouldn’t have been effected at all, with the longest running time of any Star Wars movie at just over 2 and a half hours, sometimes you wonder why they weren’t. Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) is solid as always as the leader of the Resistance, but she is in one scene that some people loved, some people hated, but to me felt very out of place in the movie.

Newcomers DJ (Benicio Del Toro) and Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) aren’t given much time to shine, though Holdo does have one of the most gorgeous scenes in the movie, and in Dj’s case it feels more like they’re just laying the groundwork to bring him back in the sequel. I felt The First Order in the movie were never really a credible threat, with Snokes (Andy Serkis) backstory not really filled in, General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson) made into mostly a bumbling incompetent who ends up the butt of a the joke and Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) with such a brief appearance you wonder why they even bother to put her in the cast list. You don’t really feel the scale of their power compared with the empire and as you watch Poe Dameron fly circles around them you’ll wonder how these guys manage to control anything.

The scale ties into what is probably my biggest problem with this movie which was the sense of scale. Never once in the movie did I feel like the whole galaxy was at stake, with little effort being given to how the conflict ties into the rest of the galaxy. In past Star Wars movies the conflicts felt like they had consequences beyond what we saw, while here it feels like nobody outside the system they’re in are going to be effected by what happens.Gone is the grand sense of a Galaxy spanning epic conflict, which wouldn’t be a problem if this was an anthology movie like Rouge One, but it’s supposed to be part of a their New Trilogy, and you would expect movies in the main saga to continue the feeling of an epic conflict for who controls the galaxy.

It also has issues because it’s the middle movie of a trilogy.  Usually these movies answer some of the questions from the first movie, push the characters along and help lead into the conclusion of the third movie.  The Last Jedi subverts this by answering all those questions you had after the Force Awakens with “It doesn’t matter” and it feels more like the final movie in a trilogy in that it doesn’t leave any obvious direction to head in for the last movie. “Let the past die” seemed to be a big theme of the movie, but wiping the slate clean during the second movie in a trilogy, while unexpected, doesn’t really make much sense from a storytelling point of view.

So if you haven’t seen the movie yet, go see it because nothing any reviewer can tell you should help make up your mind if you haven’t seen it yet. Also stop reading here because from here on the rest of the review will be full of spoilers.

 

FULL SPOILER FILLED REVIEW

Alright so if you’ve seen the movie already you probably know how polarizing it has been for the Star Wars fanbase. Some love it, some hate it, and both sides are flinging wild insults at the people on the other side. “Disney ruined the franchise!”, “Star Wars fans are just impossible to please!”, “Only 15 year olds who have never seen Star Wars would like this!”, “Everyone just hates it because it didn’t conform to their fan theories!”.  I’ve seen variations of all of these flung all over the internet the last few days, and with a fan base that is as passionate as the Star Wars one that is bound to happen. I want to say right off the bat that it’s fine if you hate the movie, and it’s fine if you loved it. You aren’t less or more of a Star Wars fan because you liked or didn’t like the newest movie. I don’t like all the people who hated it calling everyone who like it stupid and I don’t like everyone who liked it implying that people only hated it because it didn’t confirm to what they expected. I didn’t t think it was a horrible movie, or the worst Star Wars ever made, but I also don’t think it was a great movie and it is definitely at the bottom end of the Star Wars movies rankings.  There are some very legitimate criticisms of this movie, but I also think there is a lot of nitpicking too. Being a highly anticipated Star Wars movie, that will happen. What I’m going to try to do is separate the following into what was good about the movie, the genuine problems with it and then the problems with it in regards to how it connects with the rest of the Star Wars lore.

The Good

The best part of the movie by far, was the story between Kylo and Ren.  The force connection they had was unique, the conversations they had while connected were compelling and the climax of their confrontation with Snoke was one of the best scenes in the series.  Snoke being done in by his own hubris/apprentice was classic Sith and I thought it was well done. The fight that follows between the imperial guards and Kylo and Ren is incredible, dramatic and ALMOST makes up for the fact that there is no lightsaber fight in the entire movie. I also loved how Rey’s parents ended up being nobodies. I think she works better as character being a nobody trying to find her own way then if she found out she was related to an already established character and tried to follow in their footsteps.

The cinematography was another thing that was fantastic throughout the movie, It was visually stunning.  The scene of the speeders on Crait kicking up red dust as they sped along, and the hyperspace suicide strike (though you’ll see I have issues with that scene below) looking absolutely gorgeous. The scene where the Resistance leaders on the bridge are all blown into space was almost up there with those, as Leia was floating through space seemingly dead the entire theater dead silent holding their breath….until she lifts and hand and starts floating through space like superman, then there were a laughs and scoffs all around.

General Issues

No lightsaber fights…yeah I know we got that badass scene of Rey and Kylo beating on those Imperial Guards, but there wasn’t a single scene where a lightsaber hit another lightsaber. Now that may be fine for an anthology movie, but for one that is part of the main saga, very disappointing.

Now my biggest issue with the plot of the movie is how Finn, Poe, Rose and to some extent Leia and Vice Admiral Holdo are handled.  As I said above, Finn, Poe and Rose could have been completely cut out of the movie, and it wouldn’t have changed the main story at all. Rey and Kylos’s story still would have been exactly the same, and all the rebels and imperials would have ended up on Crait for the big showdown no matter that they did. Nothing really comes of their plot at all except setting up DJ for the next movie (if he’s in it, if not it was an even bigger waste of time), there isn’t really any character development as the Finn that started the movie wasn’t very different from the Finn who ended it.

The mutiny subplot was INCREDIBLY stupid, because if Leia or Holdo had just told Poe what was going on at any point during the movie it wouldn’t have happened. This works great in 80’s sitcoms, but seeing it being used to push the plot forward in a Star Wars movie was a little disappointing.  Especially because of how cold and secretive Holdo is to Poe when they first meet, that is usually how a villain is introduced in a movie, but then it turns out its all just a misunderstanding!  But for leading an active mutiny while the Resistance is on the verge of being wiped out Poe is given the horrible punishment of….nothing. No wonder the resistance is being wiped out, no military discipline at all!  It also seemed strange to introduce a new character just to give them a heroic sacrifice when there was a fan favorite admiral who was given nothing to do except die in a throwaway line.

Now those are just general gripes with the movie that somebody who hasn’t seen a Star Wars movie could have.  But looking at the movie as a Star Wars fan, it is clear there are problems with how this movie fits into the Sage and the general theme of the Star Wars movie.

Issues as a Star Wars movie

I want to start with the characterization of Luke and really all the characters from the original trilogy and how they’re portrayed in the new trilogy. The big reveal for Luke is that he sensed the darkside in Kylo and went to strike him down while he slept, failed and his new Jedi order was destroyed.  The same Luke who thought Darth Vader could be redeemed to the light after all he had done and refused to strike him down even if it meant his death, was ready to sneak into a tent and murder his sleeping nephew because he sense the dark side in him…. While I understand that they were trying to go in a new direction and subvert fans expectations, it should be pretty clear why people are mad about this.  People say this happened because the theme of the movie is failure. Well a movie about the failure of all the main characters of one of the most popular trilogies of all time is not going to make fans of that trilogy happy.

Luke’s fakeout force ghost thing also didn’t really work for me. They go through all of this effort for the big reveal that Luke was just force projecting the whole time, so he wasn’t actually going to die…and then he dies less than a minute later. Why would you introduce a new force power and fake everybody out rather than just have actually him fly the X-wing it showed under the water and die like Obi-Wan did? Just for the purposes of faking out the audience? The end result is exactly the same.

Lets look at where the characters were at the end of Return of the Jedi and what happened to them by the end of this movie and see if we can find why people are upset.

Luke at the end of Return of the Jedi- He just turned Vader back to the light side when nobody else thought it was possible, learned Leia was his sister and is ready to rebuild the Jedi order with the help of Obi-Wan, Yoda and Anakin’s force ghosts.

Luke at the end of The Last Jedi- Tried to kill his nephew in his sleep because he sensed he might one day go to the darkside, resulting in his new Jedi order being destroyed, so he becomes a hermit and lets evil take over the galaxy, then he dies.

Han Solo at the end of Return of the Jedi- Realized that joining a cause is better than looking out for yourself all the time. Gives up his loner smuggling ways to help Leia rebuild the republic and start a family.

Han Solo at the end of The Last Jedi – Died estranged from Leia and his son after going back to his old smuggling ways and losing the falcon and everything else he loves in the process.

Leia at the end of Return of the Jedi- Finally overthew the evil empire with the help of her brother and the man she loves Han Solo. Going to rebuild the Republic to be better than it was.

Leia at the end of The Last Jedi- The evil empire she overthrew is back with a new coat of paint, her brother and Han left her and died, the Republic she tried to bring back is already dead, and she has so few allies that NOBODY responded to her distress beacon. Like in between Return of the Jedi and The Last Jedi she fucked things up so badly that there is nobody in the entire fucking galaxy that will respond to her distress call? She has not a single ally left and the entire Resistance she started can fit on the Millennium Falcon.

Going back and watching the end of Return of the Jedi now will have you saying “what do they have to celebrate?” The big victory your favorite childhood heroes had you now know is hollow and will fall to pieces the second the credits roll. Well Mark Hamill says it best, a quote from a Vanity Fair interview.

“I at one point had to say to Rian, ‘I pretty much fundamentally disagree with every choice you’ve made for this character. Now, having said that, I have gotten it off my chest, and my job now is to take what you’ve created and do my best to realize your vision.’ ”

I couldn’t agree more Mark.

The hyperspace suicide ship, while visually spectacular, also opens up a lot a plot holes in this and all the other Star Wars movies. Why haven’t they been doing this all along? They could have done this with the two smaller ships after they evacuated them. If this was possible all along why didn’t they do this to take out the death star? In Rouge One they lose like 4 of those ships just trying to get the death star plans, when they could have suicide striked one into it.

Nerd Nitpicks

Now this last bit is going to get a little nit picky, but the whole chase scene just made absolutely no sense. They couldn’t catch the ship? Really? They send Kylo with two other fighters, which absolutely devastate the ship, then pull them back because…why? I think they said something about we can’t support our fighters out there, but then they have no problem getting down to the surface of Crait and fighting there after the hyperspace suicide run. Not to mention if Poe can jump out of the system, then jump back in right next to Snokes ship, why couldn’t one of the pursuit ships jumped out of the system then jump back in next to the resistance ship? Adding to that lasers arcing like they are physical projectiles with weight? WHY!? But all Star Wars movies have things like this, and if the rest of the movie had shone I wouldn’t be talking about them, but had to get them off my chest.

 

 

 

 

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Shoot The Breeze Staff Writer

Shoot The Breeze Staff Writer

Summary
A decent movie that doesn't live up to the impossible hype that was placed upon it. Strong performances by Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley and Mark Hamill make up for weak side plots. While it brings something new to the Star Wars universe, it loses the "Star Wars" feel and sense of scale at times. The Force Awakens set a high standard and The Last Jedi didn't quite live up to it.
Good
  • Kylo Ren
  • Rey and Luke
  • Beautiful Cinematography
  • Brings interesting new ideas about the force into the Saga
Bad
  • Side plot is weak
  • Pacing
  • Lacks the grand sense of scale as previous Star Wars movies
6
Fair

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