I am not calling this a review, because I need to see the movie again before I can actually review it. Part of that is I need to actually see the movie for what it is, without comparing it to the movie in my head. But, needless to say, there will be spoilers.
I am going to let you in on a secret. The secret was first discovered by Rich Evans of Red Letter Media fame. Star Wars is a small, and limited, universe. (Cut to the 10:00 minute mark.)
See, the Star Wars universe, here’s the dirty little secret. It’s very small and very limited. Whenever Star Wars tries to expand out of Tie Fighters, X-Wings, Storm Troopers, and Light Sabers, it’s bad. It’s limited. It’s a small, little universe that they can’t do much with.
I think Rich Evans may have a point.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I intend to see it again. And I hate to be too harsh on it because I know that I am also judging the film against the movie that I made in my head. And that is despite the fact that I went into the movie almost entirely spoiled. ( I deliberately watched spoiler videos on YouTube before watching.) I want to watch the film again and make sure I am judging the film on its own merits.
Still, I found the movie disappointing for a reason vastly different than most fans. I heard so many fans saying how many risks it took and how different it was. It did definitely take risks and make unexpected choices. And I want to give the film credit for that.
First of all, they made Luke an asshole. Thank you! I am actually glad with this change. I know most fans are disappointed, but I am glad that he was bitter, jaded, and even weak. I even like the fact that he was weak enough to think about killing his own nephew, his sister’s son.
Second of all, I also appreciate the fact that they killed Snoke. I completely expected him to survive until the end of episode 9, and I did not expect him to go in this movie. I think that was a bold choice, but it definitely presents them with problems going into the final chapter.
Third of all, I liked most of the new Force powers. I have mixed feelings on Leia floating in space, but I was glad to see her using the Force. I was far more impressed with the Force bilocation by Luke and, of course, the Force Bond between Rey and Kylo Ren. I know some people didn’t like the changes in what Force users could do, but there were limits to what they could do in the original trilogy because they didn’t have CGI. This is why Kylo Ren is able to stop a blaster bolt in The Force Awakens, but no one minded that.
Fourth, I did not expect to like the new creatures, but I enjoyed the porgs and I loved the crystal foxes. They were gorgeous.
Fifth, I loved Rose’s discussion about how she was hurt by the First Order. They rarely, if ever, show the victims of the oppressive regimes. They are bad because they are bad. Rose’s backstory makes it clear that the First Order has destroyed lives. It also makes her a good match for Finn. Finn was taken at birth and raised as a child soldier, so the First Order has also destroyed his life as well. For these two, the fight against the First Order is deeply personal.
Sixth, I appreciated Poe’s character arc. He had no arc in The Force Awakens, so any arc is an improvement. He starts out as a cocksure hero who sacrifices a fleet of bombers to take out one ship, for which he is demoted. At the end of the film, he understands the importance of a tactical retreat. Moreover, he has emerged as a leader of the Resistance.
However, it is still disappointing to me that the Star Wars films still have so much fan service. I rolled my eyes when R2-D2 played the recording of Princess Leia asking for Obi-Wan’s help. I didn’t mind the landscape of Crait, but why did they need to have AT-AT walkers? Why not create new weapons? Has technology stagnated in the Star Was galaxy for the past 30 years? Why do we have to have Emperor Snoke show Rey the First Order fleet attempting to destroy the Resistance? Hey, remember the Return of the Jedi? Remember Yoda?
I know many people didn’t like the casino scene, and I was ambivalent about it. It was at that moment that I realized that Rich Evans had a great point about how limited the Star Wars universe is. They tried to do something different, and it didn’t entirely work.
I applaud Rian Johnson for taking the risks that he did, and I know that he is getting a lot of shit right now for taking those risks. But I am the rare person who wished that they had taken more risks. (Sorry Rian. Can’t please everyone.)
At this point in the series, I find fan service annoying and lazy. Mike Stoklasa summed it up well in the Rogue One review when he described what it was like to see Rogue One in the theater.
It was like being in the theater with a bunch of perverts watching porn. “Oh fuck, yeah! Oh fuck, yeah! It’s Darth Vader!” When Darth Vader’s light saber came out, I heard so many cum shots. It was disgusting.
I don’t mind references to the original trilogy. There have to be references because it’s a series. But I mind fan service that is simply in the movies so that fan boys can jerk off to it.
For me, the exciting moments in these kinds of movies are the different scenes. For example, I really liked the scene in Rogue One where we see Darth Vader immersed in some kind of healing tank. That was very powerful and we had never seen Darth Vader that way before. When I saw the live action Beauty and the Beast, my favorite scenes were the ones where they deviated from the animated version. I loved “Days in the Sun” and the scene where she and the Beast go to Paris and she finds out the truth about her mother.
I also was, sadly, a little disappointing with the way the Force Bond played out. We went from Rey and Kylo Ren having confrontations through the Force Bond to this incredible intimacy between the two of them. She is telling Kylo Ren about how she went over to the Dark Side cave to try to see her parents and she cries as she talks. She is so vulnerable at that moment. Then they slowly extend hands and touch. The camera zooms in so close I could actually see the ridges on their fingertips. (Rian Johnson really wants you to think about what they are doing.) It is incredibly intimate. It is a sex scene without the sex. (Sorry fanboys.) But it doesn’t feel earned. Why does she trust him to this extent? I feel like we missed a few extra scenes. I would have rather cut out the Luke milking scene and see extra Force Bond scenes. I also don’t sense enough conflict in Kylo in those scenes to justify Rey’s comfort with him.
Collider Videos thinks that Kylo Ren is going to be the “Big Bad” in the film now that Snoke is dead. But that actually makes no sense. First of all, Rey has already beaten Kylo Ren, with very little effort, so there is no threat. Compare this to the Original Trilogy. Luke Skywalker does not face Darth Vader until the end of Empire Strikes Back, and he is easily overpowered. Darth Vader fights with one hand for most of the confrontation. He is toying with Luke. When we see Return of the Jedi, we immediately question how Luke’s final battle with Darth Vader will go. We have no such mystery about episode 9. As some random comment on YouTube said, “There’s no threat.” He’s right. Kylo Ren can be defeated by Rey. He has already been defeated by Rey. Plus, he isn’t much of a leader or military strategist, since he allows Rey’s rejection of his proposal (ahem) to overwhelm him with rage and he cannot make any rational decisions. He makes terrible, terrible choices that allow the Resistance to survive and escape. He’s not an effective villain. If Collider Video is right, the 9th movie is not going to be that great, because they no longer have any time to make himself one.
My main prediction for episode 9 is that Rey will emerge as a leader of the Resistance and embrace adulthood. When she starts at the beginning of the movie, she is still seeking a father figure, a hero. She has lost Han, so now she seeks out Luke. When Luke disappoints her, she decides that a redeemed Ben Solo must be the last hope of the Resistance. He refuses to be redeemed and she is forced to confront the truth about her parents. I think that, now that Rey has been disappointed by all of them, she will learn the lesson that Maz was trying to teach her in the first movie. She cannot seek belonging by looking to the past. She must look to the future. I think we will finally see Rey becoming a heroine, rather than looking for a hero. And that’s a good thing.
My next post about The Last Jedi will be all about mourning the Star Wars films we will never see.