Thoughts on The Last Jedi



I saw the new Star Wars film last night.

Quick warning: SPOILERS AHEAD. I am going to simply, casually offer my take on a number of topics, including major plot points and what happens to main characters. There are definitely going to be spoilers in this post. If you want to avoid spoilers, then do not read this post.

###

Overall impression — I enjoyed the flick. I enjoyed sitting in the theater and watching. For me, part of my enjoyment was as simple as thinking “There wasn’t another Death Star, and I got to see a dude get stabbed in the face with a lightsaber.” Check and check!

I’m not sure if it was a good movie. Even strictly as a Star Wars film, there were definitely (obviously?) some radical departures/bold choices for the franchise that are going to stir backlash. But considering the themes of Last Jedi, like how we place legends on too high of a pedestal and maybe we need to let go of the past, I can dig a lot of it. Many people will scoff at me for this take, and that’s fine. There’s definitely stuff about it I didn’t like, too, which I’ll get to below. It’s just kinda funny that the big criticism of Force Awakens that resonates with me is how utterly desperate it was to be ‘safe’ and copy New Hope so nakedly.

With Last Jedi, we certainly don’t get that. I chuckled at the guy who explains that the surface of the planet is salt, because it’s just a line to say “no, it’s not another ice planet.”

What we get instead, however, at least for me, was watching the credits roll and… not really understanding, anymore, where the series is going. Is this just the Kylo and Rey show now, or am I supposed to take some sort of deep-rooted interest in the general fight against the First Order? I told my friend that, while I enjoyed the act of watching the cool scenes play out one-by-one, as a whole it felt like walking out of a bathroom without flushing the toilet. Something was missing, unfinished.

I like the weird places it went with moral gray areas and ambiguity. Yes, the Resistance uses machines of warfare too. Poe and Admiral what’s-her-face go through some twisty back-and-forth. Kylo takes us through some intrigue.

My main criticism of the movie might be how much it emphasized animals?! I can embrace one new cutesy species, and I can buy into some cheesy lines, but asking me to care about the racehorses so much that I’m supposed to take the “now it’s worth it” line seriously when they set them free was whack. That was bogus. It’s Star Wars, so there are going to be some hokey lines, but that whole sequence was a bit much. I was even okay with the crystal creatures having a hand in how things went, but I could’ve done entirely without the “set the racehorses free” subplot. Ick.

I laughed, several times. I think I probably liked the humor in this one more than some people will, heh. The whole style of “throw all the jokes at the wall and see what sticks” is similar to my own — did every joke land? No. But I’m glad it tried. Personally, I don’t feel like any of the jokes ever got as bad as the poop jokes in Episode 1, so, whatever.

I even liked the milk scene. Was it weird? Yeah. For sure. But it was also definitely a great callback.

And, for the record, I really like the idea that Rey’s parents are nobodies. I hope they stick to that. They may not, but I hope they do. Part of my Overarching Discontentment With Most Modern Films In General is the over-reliance on two tropes:

1) Rooting for the wealthy (hello, superhero material — get Iron Fist and Green Arrow outta here, yuck)

2) The idea that the most important thing in your life is knowing who your real parents are

Maybe you haven’t noticed that second one, but it’s very prevalent (hopefully less and less so now), and very eye-rollingly obnoxious and annoying and insulting and shallow every time. I despise it. I hate the idea that merely being the biological father makes you a hero character in the general movieverse, I hate the idea that adoptive parents in the world are basically told “you suck and don’t matter,” I hate the idea that a supposedly dynamic, self-sufficient human being should ever sit around with “find out the identity of my birth parents, even if they clearly have awful character” as some sort of goal for their life. [ Now if you, personally, in your real life, want to find out who your birth parents are, and that’s important to you — I fully respect it. My distinction here is that I really don’t like movies/television/general media acting like it’s important to everyone. It is a simple, stone-cold, widespread truth in this world that many biological parents are awful, often straight-up abusive, and really shouldn’t be lionized just because they share a bloodline with someone, yet this is what often happens in our entertainment media. I’m tired of it, if you can’t tell! ]

Anything we can do to get away from that second trope is delightful in my book, so I am very happy and willing to get behind the idea that, y’know what? You kinda need to get over the idea that knowing who Rey’s parents are should be some sort of important revelation.

I really hope they stick to that. I really do.

Favorite moments — Luke casually tossing the lightsaber over his shoulder. The hyperspace ship collision. The line, “They hate that ship!” The Kylo/Rey/Snoke confrontation and subsequent fight. Rey’s encounter at the cave.

Luke’s appearance at the final battle; I, for one, really didn’t see it coming, how that was going to go down. It worked, for me. There was a real payoff. Typically, when I’m watching a movie and I’m wondering why the ol’ gunslinger isn’t fighting back, I get frustrated, and it’s the violence I want to see. This was a rare time where, moments later, I got to kinda sit back and just be like, okay, wow, yeah.

Yoda! Just, Yoda. Me and both the guys I saw the movie with were utterly delighted with everything about Yoda. They made him the old puppety, prankster figure again, and for an old fan of the original trilogy, it was so great. If there’s any silly, ultimately meaningless, insubstantial hill I’ll die on, I’ll always defend The Last Jedi for how it handled Yoda. C’mon. Laughing at Luke? Sending down a lightning strike? Sitting by his former pupil and remarking on how the true burden of a master is watching those who pass us? So good. All of it. The moment he appeared on-screen I just kinda gasped and smiled.

Going into the theater, I told my friend I wanted to see two things: Kylo have a whiny crybaby hissy fit, and a lightsaber fight. I got these!

Luke talking about the Force, with the clips of the plants growing and such, that worked for me. I liked it. I felt like there was a ton of pressure, on their shoulders, to do that scene well and explain the Force in a way that would satisfy decades of myth-making. I think they really did as well as they could, and it was satisfying enough for me. Maybe it wasn’t as big of a deal to other people, but I’m glad that scene went well. Me and my friend agreed, at the very least, that it went down a whole lot better than anything about midichlorians ever did.

Even the way it was filmed was so different from anything else in Star Wars, which is something hardcore fans may frown at, but I dug it, along with other instances (the hyperspeed collision, Rey’s encounter at the cave) where unique framings and shots were offered. There were other little fun visual cues, too. One that struck me particularly was shooting Rey facing the background, with the waterfall, then cutting to Kylo from behind with his own waterfall made of sparks. My friend didn’t catch it, but I get the feeling that there’s likely other small visual treats for viewers that will likely enhance rewatchings.

In that opening space battle scene, where Poe cuts his engines and turns the X-Wing in mid-flight? That was great.

I liked Broomstick Kid. Some might see that bit and think, “corny.” I see that bit and think, “this is part of the overall theme of Last Jedi, to prepare you for the idea that in order to satisfy the profit motive of the military-industrial complex/Disney empire, you’re going to have to accept that your heroes are going to fade and new figures will rise in their place. Every new generation of children will have a Star War to participate in. You may not like it, you may not be comfortable with all of it, it may make you squirm in your seat and mutter under your breath, but it is an inevitable truth you will have to confront sooner or later.”

I liked how they retread classic lines but changed them. Luke saying “If you strike me down…” was a solid moment. And then there was Snoke’s twisting of a Bible verse (“well done, my good and faithful apprentice”). That caught my attention for sure, and it goes on my list of little things I liked about Last Jedi that are not likely shared by most.

The line where Leia tells Threepio to wipe that smile off his face, that landed for me well. That was funny.

Stuff I didn’t like — Did Captain Phasma grab the crown for most pointless character who did the least to live up to any hype whatsoever? I mean, okay, her and Finn had a slight rivalry thing, but her appearance here was contrived and her departure was weak. I don’t think there’s any way to spin The Last Jedi’s handling of Phasma’s character in a positive way. Unless she comes back, I guess. I’d be okay with her returning. I’m almost hoping for that.

Speaking of things that might be impossible to defend; uh, Snoke? Like, okay, I’m okay with how he died, and I’m okay with Rey being a nobody, but… not a Sith Lord-type character. I have to really, really frown upon this idea that the strongest Dark Side figure in the universe, a character literally referred to as Supreme Leader by the most dominant faction in the galaxy, is a dude that… we… don’t know. At all. Whatsoever. With Rey, thematically, it makes sense. With Snoke, it just doesn’t, and really feels like a glaring hole, and head-scratchingly so. How much gravity did they really expect us to feel with his demise? The whole way that was handled, I don’t get it. I’d love to hear the thinking behind it, and not because I expect to be satisfied with any possible explanation. Snoke being a vague cypher is the other Big Flaw of the movie for me (with the odd animal worship being the other).

Kylo being shirtless for a scene is going be ridiculed for decades to come, and rightfully so. Personally, I honestly don’t think it takes away a whole lot from the film, and I even (call me crazy, but) think it can be defended to some extent as part of his characterization, but… at face value, it’s simply unnecessary, and I think it takes away more than it adds. Star Wars has always handled sensuality in clumsy ways, though, too, so it’s sorta just sticking to tradition as well. But it was one of those moments that was just distracting, and I can’t see how it was a good kind of distracting.

… honest question, something I may have merely missed, but: Did we ever hear what the third Lesson was from Luke to Rey? I caught the first two. I mean, like, they were covered in dialogue. Did she just… ditch out before the third one? What happened there? Was that a thing?

Also: Was there no “bad feeling” line or did I just miss it?

And, okay, yeah… that, uh, spacewalk scene, with Leia? There’s no way you can pull that off without feeling really goofy. I’m not sure what else to say about it.

In fact, let’s talk about Leia, because ultimately, that might be the biggest distraction in the film, and the one hinge the whole thing has to rotate around: The entire time, I was bracing myself for Leia’s death. It was the one topic we talked about on the ride to the theater. It was the one element I was waiting to check off my mental checklist and move past, and… we never got to that point.

I’m not entirely okay with how Luke went out (I kinda get it, I can be persuaded, but thematically I just think he should’ve been around for episode IX), but the bigger hurdle to being able to enjoy Last Jedi fully was seeing Leia survive everything on-screen. To say it was surprising doesn’t quite cover it, and what made it more disorienting was two separate occasions where she could have had a meaningful send-off but… didn’t. I mean, really, I think it’s a case where Fisher’s death cast an unfortunate shadow on the whole proceedings. It makes it hard to fully immerse yourself; at least, I felt like this. I’m the sort of person who wants my escapism to be full; I don’t like talking during movies, I think the ideal way to watch a movie is to watch it alone, and I’m very rarely the type to notice/care about who the actors are (though seeing Del Toro show up brought a pang of this), but The Last Jedi provides its audience with an inescapable obstacle. The one subject in a lot of moviegoing minds, I bet, is the question of “What will they do with Leia?” And… we simply don’t get as satisfying of an end to that as I think we could have.

###

Star Wars, like any bit of true fantasy, has always struggled to straddle the line between fan service and critical quality, between fanciful and serious. Much like a Marvel superhero film, you don’t go into this product with any Oscar expectations. The whole effort is judged on a very different curve. In a way, it can’t ‘win.’

I kinda think Last Jedi is going to age better than Force Awakens, and I don’t think Force Awakens was bad. Maybe let me put it this way instead: When I imagine sitting down with my children, to go through the Star Wars series of films… the conversation around The Force Awakens is largely just going to be, “yeah, neat, we’re in the new trilogy now, isn’t Rey cool? How many ways do you see it echoing episode IV?” But with Last Jedi, it’ll be a burst of “Heh, what’d you think of THAT?” By subverting a few choice expectations, it’s managed to plant itself in this bold place of probably knowing it’s going to be hated by many but beloved by some as well.

I get this distinct sensation that, both now and years from now, I am going to keep a soft spot for Last Jedi. It’s a weird movie, both as a self-contained movie and as a Star Wars movie; as a weirdo myself, maybe I just feel some sort of kindred connection.

Seriously: I am prepared to respect those who dislike it, and there is plenty (plenty!) of room for criticism I will see as perfectly valid. But… I still liked it. Even though I walked out of the theater feeling disoriented and not entirely fulfilled. After sleeping on it, I almost appreciate how… strange, that takeaway is, for a Star Wars film. I feel a little frowning defensiveness over it, after logging online and seeing that there’s apparently a bit of backlash to it (because it didn’t match predictions entirely? because it didn’t make all the shippers happy?). It’s a flawed film, but my experience in the movie-theater seat was positive.

Yeah, I dunno. I hope it’s a movie that gets appreciated more with the passage of time, even fully knowing it’s nowhere near a masterpiece, because I think it does some stuff it should get some credit for, in the movieverse scheme of things. I tip my hat to an experience that pushed buttons. The whole thing is going to be a great exercise in seeing how a series deals with shattering fan expectations and whether or not it was the ‘right’ time to move in certain new directions. I admit, part of me is a little sad to have less of a heartfelt interest in the game of predictions and conjecture around episode IX, yes. There’s definitely something there. But it’s also a little exciting to have less of an idea of where Star Wars is going now. Does that make me a sucker for Disney’s plan to iterate this franchise into oblivion? Maybe for the moment, but I also do think the magic will wear off, eventually. Personally, I’m all in for IX, and I’ll see where I stand after that.

The Last Jedi. It’s a hard one to summarize! I look forward to how it places a lens on the toxicity of Fandom, and how it’s good to unplug from the Discourse and just enjoy yourself sometimes. I saw it with two other people, and although I enjoyed it, the two of them seemed to enjoy The Last Jedi even more than I did. One of them hated the Porgs. One of them thought Poe’s foot falling through the bottom of the rickety old speeder was the funniest part of the movie. I disagreed with both of them, yet we all managed to have a great time. There’s something to be said there, and what we want out of a movie.

To address one specific point of backlash I’m seeing on the web: I… just… don’t view the treatment of Luke Skywalker as being dastardly or heretical? It was surprising, sure, but it never left a bad taste in my mouth. Like, not to hit this note again, but it’s another specific thing where me and my friend agreed “yeah, wow, didn’t expect that, but I’m okay with it, lot of cool points on the journey there too” so it’s a little odd to see that The Internet doesn’t like it. Meh. In Force Awakens, Han was the character to gain a little complexity, in being portrayed as a broken-down shell of a man still trying to cling to former glory. In Last Jedi, we see Luke as a legend who has taken failure bitterly and struggles to reconcile with his grand place in a grand scheme.

I could probably keep going, about all sorts of things, but I have to end this post somewhere.

I probably won’t see Last Jedi at the theater again, if only for the realistic limitations on a busy life, but I definitely look forward to watching it again at home with my wife.

I am a simple man: I like seeing lightsabers and starships.

5 Responses to “ Thoughts on The Last Jedi ”

  1. Hey bud –

    I can answer the “I’ve got a bad feeling…” question.

    BB-8 said it.

    https://screenrant.com/star-wars-8-bad-feeling-line-bb-8/

    Good read, good thoughts, man! Merry Christmas!

  2. vgdadplays , on December 20th, 2017 at 9:48 am Said:

    Overall I really enjoyed reading your take on this! Ultimately I agree: I liked it, it was flawed and open to criticism, but the good for me far outweighs the bad.

    Specifically to your point about Luke, I agree that it wasn’t blasphemous. Luke was flawed and impetuous, just like Vader. Luke never was a bastion of light. We see him get tempted by the dark side in Return of the Jedi. He is already a broken man at that point, so seeing the humanity, seeing him gripped by fear, seeing him outright reject the Jedi code, seeing him nearly succumb to darkness *again*, and it ultimately costing him the relationship with Kylo, it worked really well with his character.

  3. Ok here are a few thoughts & questions I have.

    – Did Broomstick Kid pull said broomstick to himself via the Force in the final scene, or did he kick it?

    – I disliked the Rey cave scene. I thought visually is was very cool, but it seemed like they were trying to make a Very Good Pointâ„¢ and whiffed on it. Also, this is the most glaring non-Star Wars shot for me, where her voiceover was her explaining to Luke, but we didn’t know that at the time.

    – The hyperspace silence left me absolutely awestruck. VERY non-Star Wars, yet absolutely beautiful and terrifying and perfect.

    – I agree with you on Snoke and his ambiguity. People will argue that Palpatine is the same way, but we at least got that backstory eventually.

    – Phasma is such a dumb character. She’s literally the South Park Kenny of Star Wars now.

    – The “Bad Feeling” line was delivered by BB-8 in the opening battle. Confirmed by Rian.

    – I’m 100% in the same boat when it comes to Leia. I had prepared for her death, and when her hand twitched I thought “ok she’s calling to Luke and he’ll train Rey and things will happen and WHAT THE HELL IS THIS SPACEWALK?!?!?” IMO, Leia has now exhibited the most powerful ability out of ALL Jedi in ALL of the films. Astral Projection? Fine. Coming back when dead? Masters get to do this, which AFAIK Leia is not. Force Lightning? Evil, but now has been done by at least 3 Sith (Dooku, Palp, Snoke). Throwing platforms all around the Senate? Redonk, but still confined to “reality”. Getting sucked out of a spaceship, apparently dying, but nope not really let’s float back in and go into a super light coma thing? What the crap.

    – The Mary Sue characterization many have of Rey is easily solved with one word: “balance”. In the prequel trilogy, you had hundreds of Jedi on the side of the light, with Palp and his slew of minions on the dark. He turns Anakin, the “Chosen One”, and decimates the Jedi via Order 66 and Anivader hunting the remainder down. Obi-wan and Yoda go into exile, removing themselves from the Force, leaving an imbalance. Luke is born, Obi-wan dies, Yoda dies, Vader and Palp die. Luke is strong, but alone. Luke then builds up a new Jedi order, leading to an imbalance, leading to Snoke (some postulate he was just a crotchety old dude who was suddenly imbued with power, leading to his complete lack of creativity and “well I’ll just do what the last guy did, that kinda worked”). Luke & Kylo happens, Luke shuts himself off, leading to Rey becoming “unlocked” and supremely strong, to counter-balance Snoke and Kylo.

    And alllllllll of that leads me to my speculation about Ep. 9: Rey (chaotic good) and Kylo (lawful evil) will NOT kill each other, but instead will kinda coexist as a way to maintain the balance. Also, Rey is gonna get a cool (probably purple) double-bladed lightsaber.

    My initial impression was “Meh. That sucked.” 5/10. The more I think about it, the better the film is getting. There are qualms, but there are always qualms, and presumably the final film will soothe most of them. I’m now sitting at a 7/10, and like you, I’m hoping that time will age this film and make it one of the great ones.

  4. So the way I saw Snoke’s death is linked to the way that heroes are shown to be only human and imperfect in the film.

    Snoke represents the old villains, the super-powerful Sith like the Emperor etc. so when Kylo Ren kills him all of a sudden, this shows that these guys are completely out of touch by this point and this new threat, an unpredictable bad tempered kid who just wants everything to burn, is something even they can’t control/understand. Snoke underestimated Kylo and his intimidating reign was cut short… as was he đŸ˜›

    Kylo Ren wanted to be Vader, the First Order wanted to be The Empire with a Death Star and everything but this is backfiring little by little and I think a completely different “Second Order” is on its way so I’m excited to see what happens next with that.

    It’s a shame that we never got to know who Snoke really was but I’m not entirely sure we’ll never get that answer some time in the future. It’s Star Wars and that series loooooooves unnecessary prequels.

    I agree with you about mostly everything. I did like the Leia spacewalk though because it was ridiculous but kind of badass. Yeah the racehorses thing was forced and more Phasma would have been cool but I’m not 100% sure she’s really gone, we’ll see. She might end up just being another Boba Fett and become this cult figure that wasn’t actually interesting but looked cool enough to warrant some praise later on. Or she’ll come back way angrier with lots of burns all over her face…

    What did you think of Rose? I thought she was a good addition to the team but I’m hoping she gets more significant stuff to do in the next one.

    Anyway I really liked this movie and… I’m gonna stop ranting under your rant now!

  5. Definitely not a spider , on December 21st, 2017 at 1:30 pm Said:

    I actually really loved Snoke’s death, to put it in game terms it felt like Kefka killing the Emperor from FF6 (which perhaps not entirely coincidently is my favorite Final Fantasy game)

Leave a Reply

Nintendo logo, other properties all rights reserved Nintendo of America, Inc.