Notes on ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’

the last jedi

1. Everybody who has even the slightest interest in seeing this movie is going to see this movie, so what good is it to write a “review”, or pretend like anyone will want to hear whether or not I think this is a good movie? Instead, I’ve written down a number of thoughts that occurred to me immediately before, during, or in the hours between watching The Last Jedi and writing this. Needless to say, this will be full of spoilers. You have been warned.

2. I know I literally just said I wouldn’t go on too much on whether I think the movie is any good, but let’s get it out of the way for the curious among you (of which I’m sure there are practically none). In short: I’m feeling like a real Kylo Ren about this movie. There are many things I loved. Many moments that seem more ambitious and daring than anything we’ve seen from Star Wars… well, ever. And then there’s a lot of bullshit. You can say I’m being pulled between the light and dark sides of the force or whatever.

3. Speaking of which, I think Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) was my favorite character in this movie. Well, at least the most interesting. An angry fanboy who idolizes Darth Vader and struggles to get in touch with his feelings is definitely the appropriate villain for out time. I wonder how the toxic Star Wars fans (of which we know there are many) are going to react to him. I thought he was great. He definitely gets top prize out of the characters who were introduced in The Force Awakens. 

4. My favorite character in Force Awakens was obviously Rey (Daisy Ridley), who does not get as much attention here as she did in the last movie. Part of this is because, unlike the previous movie, this one isn’t structured as a traditional “hero’s journey.” The whole thing about Rey and Kylo Ren sharing a connection, however, that was all great. And the way it comes together in the throne room sequence makes for the best moment in the movie.

5. Next on my ranking is Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), who gets his own story-line after a relatively small role in the last movie. I also loved this part of the plot. His arc is basically a hot-headed guy who must learn not to mansplain all the fucking time (I also wonder how the toxic fans will react to this part of the plot). His relationship with General Leia is really touching, as is his love for BB-8.

6. Speaking of BB-8, I am sad to report that after being absolutely in love with the droid in the last movie, I was a little taken aback by how many crazy wacky things BB-8 gets to do in this one. Some of it is still great (like the opening bit with the sockets), but then he pilots an AT-ST Walker and it was just too much. It reminded me of the crazy fighting they had R2 do in Revenge of the Sith. 

7. Part of the disappointment with BB-8 comes from the fact that he is stranded for much of the movie on what is clearly the weakest plot. Finn (John Boyega) and a new character called Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) go off in search of some McGuffin to help the Resistance and end up in this Casino planet where they liberate a bunch of animals… I didn’t like practically anything about this whole thing. You could easily have cut the whole thing from the movie, except Finn needed something to do.

8. Let’s take a minute to address the themes of the movie, since we’ve laid out basically the three main plots. I have issues with the execution (more on that later), but I think it’s in its themes that The Last Jedi truly excels. Its first order of business regarding theme is to introduce a little bit of moral complexity to the good-vs-evil world of Star WarsWe see Kylo Ren do good things, we see Poe make mistakes, it adds a level of complexity that I didn’t know Star Wars was capably of addressing (kudos to writer-director Rian Johnson on that).

9. The Casino plot also serves moral complexity by showing us the people who profit from this endless war, and there’s also the bit with them selling arms to both the good guys and the bad guys. It’s kind of weird to see such an overtly political message about overthrowing the oligarchy in the middle of a Star Wars movie produced by Disney, which makes the decision at least interesting. I ultimately think it doesn’t really add that much to that part of the movie. Or there could have been other ways to get at those points that didn’t involve the bit with those deer-horse creatures (I really hated everything to do with those animals).

10. The casino plot does introduce us to the little kids that close the movie, which brings me to the second big theme of the movie, which is all about actually passing the torch to a new generation of heroes. I’ve thought this is where Star Wars was going for a while, but I didn’t expect it to happen so quickly. By the end of this movie, Luke, Han, and Leia have all pretty much excited the picture. And that’s kind of interesting, wondering where things will go from here. It’s also quite hopeful, touching, inspiring, all of those things. And it speaks, again, meta-textually to the fandom.

11. Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher do lovely work in this movie, by the way.

12. As far as new characters go, my favorite is Laura Dern (duh!), who provides the second best moment in the whole movie. My second favorite are the little chicken-like creatures called Porgs, they’re cute and funny. Third comes Rose, who is a perfectly good character except she is stranded on the stupid casino plot. Last, is whoever Benicio Del Toro was playing, because that guy fucking sucked.

13. I am deeply saddened that we will never get a Star Wars movie centered on the lovely relationship between General Leia and Laura Dern’s characters, a character study of two good friends sharing stories about how hard it is to be a tough lady in a warn-torn galaxy.

14. The Force seems to go to unexpected places in this one, huh? Like I said, I loved the connection between Rey and Kylo Ren. I’m on the fence about Luke projecting himself to the battle scene, especially since he ends up dying anyway (I said spoilers!). I don’t think I liked the Leia in space moment, though, in large part because I don’t think it adds much to the movie. It shows Leia is powerful with the force, I guess, but otherwise feels like a fake-out death and… I don’t know, it’s just another thing to add to this movie.

15. And this is the thing. This is A LOT of movie. There’s way too much plot, too many things happen. When the movie was over, I go exhausted at just the thought of thinking about the movie. This is part of the problem with banking on these franchises to be as huge as they are. It’s the pressure to always go bigger. It’s a shame, because most of the best moments in the movie are all small character beats.

16. Speaking of character beats, Kylo Ren killing Snoke? How cool was that? I was especially happy that we didn’t have to see Snoke in another movie, since he is a terrible piece of CG animation crap.

17. The editing. The Force Awakens benefitted so much from the relentless pace of its editing. That movie is always moving forward, and so fast that you don’t even realize its weaknesses until the movie is over. It makes it incredibly watchable. I don’t know if I could even sit through The Last Jedi a second time (at least for a while), it’s just so overstuffed and long and exhausting… For a lot of the movie we’re just cutting from one storyline to another with very little forward momentum or thematic sense. It’s very inelegant.

18. That Maz Kanata (Lupita Nyong’o) cameo was an atrocity.

19. The Yoda cameo, though, that was pretty sweet. Especially because he was a puppet.

20. Let’s leave all the “fanboy” stuff behind and get into the nitty gritty, though. Watching the movie, characters were talking about this war, and how people profit from it, and how it will never end and I was thinking… isn’t that what this is? This Star Wars machine is being fed to us over and over again, and who profits? It’s an ironic statement to find in the middle of a Star Wars movie, especially if you watched it (like me) on the day Disney bought 20th Century Fox. Someone on Twitter (I forget who) said something to the effect of “corporations have made brands the focus of culture instead of artists, and thus fans are happy for a merger of two gigantic conglomerates.” I am not saying that liking Star Wars is wrong, it’s just something I’m dealing with as I get older.

21. And that’s basically it. My main takeaway from The Last Jedi, outside of the things I liked, and the things I didn’t like, was that I might be getting too old for shit.


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