Thursday, January 4, 2018

Review: The Last Jedi

The reviews on The Last Jedi range from "IT'S THE BEST THING EVA!!!" To "IT"S WORSE THAN THE PREQUELS!!"
Yeah... no.

My first real problem with The Last Jedi was when I heard that The Force Awakens had to have its ending redone and cut short (Didn't you wonder why Mark Hamill had no lines?) because it conflicted with the opening of The Last Jedi.

Yes, you read that right, the endings conflicted. Because one follows hot on the heels of The Force Awakens. No time passes. At all. Did anyone even read the script for the first movie before making the next?

I think the answer is... no. Major threads that came up in the midst of The Force Awakens are cut abruptly, characters that have been built up with backstory (and even a whole novel in one case) are obliterated.

I blame writer and director Rian Johnson, the director of Looper, which is a different piece of crap movie.

Another interview with Daisy Ridley had her express surprise that JJ Abrams was coming back to direct Episode 9, even though he only wanted to restart the franchise. So, as of a few months ago, Abrams saw that this one had large sections of being fucked up.

Now, for the record, I went into the movie with everything spoiled. And I mean everything. I don't think I really missed all that much.

So, about five minutes after Rey finds Luke, the First Order is apparently taking over the entire galaxy. I don't see how that happens, since the galaxy is a big freaking place, and the First Order leadership is hot on the heels of the Resistance. We get a nice looking space battle (as dumb as most of the Star Wars battles, but looks good) as well as an interesting comedy routine that is very standard fighter pilot. The fleet is tracked through hyperspace, and a slow motion, sublight space chase happens... this would work in almost any other military SF, but not in Star Wars, sorry. This is not the time to apply logistics and physics.

Luckily for everyone Finn wakes up. Yes, remember the former storm trooper left in a coma at the end of the last film? He woke up a few minutes into this one. There was no real reason to have him in a coma in the first place. Seriously, did Johnson look at the last movie? Script notes? Story arc notes? Or did he just film his own movie and flip everyone else the bird?

Anyway, after an attack on the bridge that wipes out the entire Resistance leadership and puts Leia into a coma (yes, a coma. This would have been a great time to kill Leia and be done with it, but NOOOO, someone couldn't have done some editing and a month of reshoots to work around it), the fleet is handed off to Admiral Holdo, played by Laura Dern.

Now, one of the big things about the marketing around this movie is that Laura Dern was going to play.. gasp!... a Lesbian!!!  If that's seriously and honestly how Dern played Holdover, then she must be homophobic, because Admiral Holdover was one of the creepier characters in films that I've seen outside of Silence of the Lambs. She reminds me more of Harry Potter's Dolores Umbrage than any Star Wars character.

Every time star fighter Poe asks Admiral Holdover what her plan is... she's passive-aggressive dismissive, like a deranged Mary Poppins. This forces Poe to come up with a plan of his own--originally suggested by Finn!--to get on board the lead First Order ship, disable the lightspeed tracking device, and enable the fleet to escape before it runs out of fuel (Funny, I don't recall fuel ever being a problem in all of Star Wars before). This leads to a space casino, pseudo-social commentary (it makes no sense by even SJW standards), and a Benicio del Toro cameo.

This entire subplot/s (could be one or two subplots, depending on how you slice them) is idiot, stupid, a waste of time, and could have been cut from the film without any problem. More on this later.

This subplot also includes a new character named Rose. The actress' career is toast. She is unlikable, annoying, and adds nothing to the story.

This is where I will disagree with Brian Niemeier in that this is a feminist telling of Star Wars, designed to make men look stupid. Why? Because Laura Dern looks like a total moron, got people killed, and needed to be throttled. If Brian was right, they should look super-competent. They don't. Sorry, Brian, this isn't about a feminist agenda. You know why? Because if they were doing that, perhaps more than ONE WOMAN IN THIS ENTIRE FILM WOULD BE COMPETENT.  Leia? Out cold. Phasma? Idiot. General Purple hair? Idiot. Rose? Annoying. They don't even disguise it other than anything but ineptitude. Holdover is such a creepy little s**t that if they had a scene of her molesting Finn or Leia while in a coma, I wouldn't have been surprised.

Then again, Brian is basing his conclusions off of someone else's review.

Meanwhile, in another end of the galaxy...

This is where the story actually gets good. Yes, really. Luke Skywalker has become a crankier Obi-Wan. He is every idealistic young man who encountered reality, reality kicked his ass, and decided to hide. He's looked at the history of the Jedi and noticed that the Jedi aren't very effective in large groups. That part I have no problem with. It happens. Hell, it happens to me, frequently.

However, Luke also states that he had decided to slink off into isolation and die... Blink. I'm sorry, then what was the point of leaving people a map to find your sorry ass, Luke? (Thank you, Mr. Johnson, for not paying attention to The Force Awakens)

Anyway, the story goes on with a Rey-Luke-Kylo Ren story where we see massive improvements in both acting and storytelling. The film is almost entirely carried by their acting. I'm fairly shocked. We see what happened to Luke, and to the Jedi Academy he tried to establish. Rey actually gets some training-- and they point out that yes, she trains with melee combat. I wish they spelled that out some more, but oy.

The usual complaint here is "OMG! They're burning down my mythology"... Ahem. Guys, most of the mythology was rewritten and delivered by a British Catholic because Alec Guiness couldn't choke down the crap dialogue Lucas had given him. It's a lot of Eastern spiritualism thrown into a blender. All of the actual nihilism is espoused by ... the bad guys. So is most of the moral equivalency (after all, everything Obi-Wan said was true, from a certain point of view). Kylo Ren wants to burn everything down. Del Toro's con artist monologues on how everyone sucks... a speech I usually find given to bad guys.

The Rey arc ends with an epic battle that doesn't go exactly how you think it will. You'll find some elements copy and pasted from Return of the Jedi, though not not many.

Luke's arc ends in an epic little showdown that's Luke versus an army. Then Luke dueling Kylo Ren. It was awesome.

If I were to rate The Last Jedi, it's a problem. The Luke-Rey-Kylo stuff was fun. Even Snoke (whose CGI and makeup have improved massively) addresses some complaints of the last film, like referring to General Hux as a rabid dog, but he has his uses.

My major problem with The Force Awakens was that both Finn and Rey were not really mature. Considering that Rey grew up on her own, responsible for herself since the beginning, you'd think she'd be a little less school girl -- see the scene after they got away from Tatootine lite. when Finn and Rose are gushing.  I'm sorry, Luke was supposed to be 16 or 18, and he was more mature. And it's not the actress, because I saw her in Murder on the Orient ExpressThe Last Jedi actually has Finn and Rey act like adults. How nice.

But when this movie is stupid, this movie is stupid. The slow motion space chase was unnecessary, so was Admiral Holdover, "Rose," or any of the stupidity with Leia.

The Last Jedi is two and a half hours long. Two hours of it is actually not too bad. When it's bad, it's terrible. When it's good, it's terrific.

It is not worse than the prequels-- there was no Jar Jar, the graphics were solid, and the acting from the main characters was actually good. Laura Dern and the actress playing Rose can't act, but if they were cut from the film, it might rate a 7/10.

It is not the best Star Wars film, since there are more plot holes than usual for a Star Wars film.

If a 5/10 was an average film, give this a high 6/10, bordering on 7, but doesn't quite make it.  Better than anything in the prequel trilogy, better than The Force Awakens. Probably better than Ant-Man.

Spoiler Section

The following are mostly reasons why this film sucked, and you'll note that they are overwhelmingly a matter of problems with the annoying subplot mentioned above.
  • Remember when I talked about threads that were taken and dropped by Rian Johnson? These include 
    • Rey's parents are ... no one interesting. Sorry. Yeah, that great big build up in the first one? Total let down. Was anyone paying attention to that dangling thread? At all?
    • Phasma .... you know, Phasma was so overhyped, it was painful. "Oh, a female storm trooper commander!!!!!!!" Because someone had to, I guess. ' She had a very nice chrome storm trooper armor. She had a book dedicated to her back story and origins. They sold her helmet. There is such buildup.... for nothing. She wasn't interesting or stand out in the first film, and she was killed off after a few minutes of screen time in this film. She didn't even take her helmet off in either. It boils down to a great big: what's the point? Apparently, they even had a good actress for her. But no, she's dead. That's why I know that this wasn't written by a committee-- a committee would have been driven by the profit margins of having more Phasma material.
    • The Force Awakens ended with Snoke wanting to train Ben Solo further. What happened to Kylo's further training? Doesn't happen.
  • When the bridge crew is attacked, and the Resistance leadership is blown out into space... Leia goes flying in space. Even Rey can't lift rocks without training, but Leia pulls herself back in with the force? Are you stupid, Rian Johnson? Brain damaged?
  • What was the point of Finn being in a coma if he's just going to wake up again?
  • If I understand this correctly, Rey won the lightsaber fight because .... Kylo Ren was conflicted. Really? That's how they want to play that? How about "Kylo had a hole in his guts and was bleeding to death"? Isn't that a good reason?
  • Laura Dern's Vice Admiral Holdo told no one her plan to ensure everyone's survival, so everyone came up with a plan without her. When Holdover blows off Poe's plan to get them through, she blows him off. He then mutinies. And you know what? No one gives a flying F*** about a FULL-SCALE MUTINY. Literally, no one cared that Poe had Holdover held at gunpoint. Apparently, she alienated everyone else. This is why you tell people what the hell goes on. God this subplot was stupid.
  • As I said above, the entire Rose-Finn-Poe subplot was a waste of time. You know what was accomplished? Nothing. Rian Johnson clearly thought that there would have been a great big lull in the middle of the movie if they had just stuck with the drama and tension of Rey-Luke-Kylo, so he decided to have movement happen with Finn's visit to the casino planet. But it is a hamster going full speed on his wheel. Finn and Rose fail to disable the light speed tracking, they get captured, and what was the point again? This enables Finn to have a hand in killing Phasma, but that's it. It was a 30 minute subplot for 2 minutes of something interesting happening.
  • Finn could have stayed in a coma without the plot being effected
  • Rose and Holdo could have never existed, and they plot wouldn't have been effected.
  • Oh, yeah, and they killed Admiral Akbar. For no reason.
  • One of the main conflict's of Luke's arc is that he has the sacred Jedi texts from "a thousand generations ago."  The main complaint is that he wants to destroy them because too much of the Jedi were stuck in the past ... Um, Guys? The Catholic church has a council every few hundred years or so, and the Jedi are running on texts from TWENTY-FIVE THOUSAND YEARS AGO? And they're still in existence, despite being the Shakers, who bred themselves out of existence by... not breeding? Yeah. No. Heck, people, the Expanded Universe moved the Jedi forward by having Luke marry Mara Jade. So, what's the complaint?

As for my list of things they needed to do (in a seriously low threshold to make me happy)
  • The First Order and the Resistance is still not explained within this film. We didn't need any for the Empire, but we were shown in the films that the Empire was done, defeated, kaput. WTF? And no, I'm not reading 10 Star Wars books to fill in the new cannon. I'm only reading Timothy Zahn. Period.
  • Will someone explain who Snoke is or where he came from? Anyone? 
  • They at least TRIED to explain why Rey is a competent fighter.
  • Why didn't anyone at least try to highlight how Rey became force aware? They did it in the lousy novelization.
If you prefer a satire review, try the one below... but please realize that there is foul language.

For the record, the following scenes with Luke tossing his lighsaber and Leia flying? Perfectly accurate. Yes, really.

However, they insist that Holdover was trying to teach Finn a lesson -- something several reviews have said. That would have made sense, but no, that didn't happen. Try again.

This review is a little more forgiving than I am.

4 comments:

  1. Just thinking that they almost gave this guy a trilogy of his own really makes it clear that the folks at Disney really have no idea what they're doing. They saw none of these problems and still don't understand the audience backlash.

    Doesn't bode well for the future of this franchise, at all.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sadly, the biggest of the plot dickery (Planet Casino) could've been skipped with just a few lines of dialogue form Admiral Tumblr, instead of her looking like she didn't have a plan and was just winging it. Something to the effect of "yes, I have a plan, but given that they're tracking us through hyperspace there may be a security breach on this ship, so I'm not going to discuss it in the open" would've at least suggested to Poe that she hadn't just been given her admiralship from a certificate found in a box of Cracker Jacks.

    And on another note, no comment about that stupid "die slowly" thing from Phasma after Finn and Rose were captured? Never mind that a beheading with a laser axe is probably not very painful or slow, that's pure "mustache twirling cartoon villain" material. Just execute them (and be entirely within their right, even ignoring the Empire and FO not exactly being obsessed with any Space Geneva Convention that may exist) and be done with it. They're dead either way, and the sooner they're executed the sooner they can get back to business with the Resistance.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That very last "they" referring to Phasma and her infantry, in case it wasn't clear.

      Previews can't save a post if the writer has an idiot moment. :P

      Delete
    2. Heh. I was thinking the "kill them slowly" part was a tribute to "sharks with laser beams" in Austin Powers :D I guess Phasma is yet another character who was supposed to be a "Strong Womyn" but was forced to act stupidly by the script.

      Delete

Please, by all means, leave a message below. I welcome any and all comments. However, language that could not make it to network television will result in your comment being deleted. I don';t like saying it, but prior events have shown me that I need to. Thanks.