Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (Movie, 2017)
Science Fiction | Space Opera
Lead Cast: Daisy Ridley (Rey), Adam Driver (Kylo Ren), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Carrie Fischer (Princess Leia), Oscar Isaac (Po Dameron), John Boyega (Finn)
Blurb: Rey develops her newly discovered abilities with the guidance of Luke Skywalker, who is unsettled by the strength of her powers. Meanwhile, the Resistance prepares to do battle with the First Order. -IMDB
pooled ink Review:
It’s the end of opening weekend so by now most of the die-hards will probably have seen this movie but on the off chance that you haven’t I’ll warn you that this review is split into a general review with no spoilers and following that is a much longer review that contains some minor spoilers. I’ve already seen this movie twice (and plan to see it a third time because it’s tradition for me to see it with my brother so that has to happen) and just want to drop a few of my thoughts down.
(If your opinion differs from mine or anyone else’s then that’s totally cool. If you agree with the critics and think that this just might be the movie of 2017 then that’s awesome. I, however, don’t but…ya know, oh well.)
Spoiler Free Review
This was a fun movie to watch with all our new favorite characters and that theme song that is the battle cry of nerds around the world. But as cool as it was, and although Luke Skywalker finally gets some real screen time, it felt as if the writers/director’s one and only goal was to “be different” from any other Star Wars film. We wanted different but we also wanted good. The Last Jedi had no focus, ran far too long, had a thousand and one simultaneous plot lines that served little purpose, went round and round and round until finally concluding with absolutely minimum-to-no change in either character development or plot development since we left off in Episode VII: The Force Awakens.
The chaotic and crushed together presentation left little time for any emotional connections to form or thrill to build. When certain characters died or almost died I felt nothing. When “surprise” plot twists were thrown at us I felt unsurprised and unamused. In fact the second time I went to see this film I almost fell asleep but didn’t not only because I wanted a second viewing to reanalyze my initial thoughts of the movie but also because movie tickets are too expensive to waste like that.
In short this movie tried too hard. It’s good fun if you’re easily entertained or want the comforting sounds of laser-fire to sing you to sleep for a much-needed afternoon nap, but disappointing if one actually pays attention or prefers movies that have structure and a clear goal. To be honest you can read a brief synopsis of this movie, skip the hefty ticket price and 2.5 hour long showing, and go straight to Episode IX which we all hope will return to us that exhilarating hope we had when presented with The Force Awakens. The Last Jedi however was an unnecessary blunder with no rhyme and little reason.
Top 3 Moments:
– Scene where Rey and Kylo Ren fight side by side
– Luke Skywalker battling Kylo Ren
– Rey using the Force to free the Rebels
So those were my favorite parts of this movie and now I think I’m going to divide this ranting review up into my three biggest issues (yes, that’s right, I said issues). A lot of people are claiming that the audience uproar is due to fickleness in that they simply don’t like how this movie completely breaks from the typical Star Wars “formula” but for me that’s really not my problem. At all. I’m all about trying new things, stretching, changing, etc. In fact I looked forward to seeing what new direction this rebooted series would take, but this movie, uh, well it was a mess. I’m not upset that this movie tried to be different. I’m upset that it failed to be anything at all.
Critics are almost always completely out of sync with the audience (which is both baffling and ridiculous) and in this case we are at complete odds.
First of all let me go ahead and say that I’m a huge Star Wars fan. I watched the original trilogy on VHS tapes with my brother and my dad, I grew up with the Prequels (so yes, despite some issues, I love them #IHateSand), and I’ve been totally psyched (albeit hesitant) about this reboot of the series.
The first installment of this reboot, The Force Awakens, was spectacular and everything I’d hoped for. Some people moaned and groaned about it being a rip-off of Episode IV but I didn’t see it that way at all. I mean yes there were many similarities and I’m sure they were playing it safe as it was the first movie of the reboot but this was a whole new time with all new characters, so of course they had to take the time to do some world-building, etc. which is exactly what Episode IV did because originally it was just “Star Wars” and not Episode anything. It was safe, it was familiar, and yet I loved it as a jumping off point for what new direction the rest of the series would go! So despite any glaring similarities I thought it was great.
Then came Rogue One, an amazing stand-alone in the series, which I loved. When I heard Disney planned to make spin-off movies to fill in the gaps between the main series movie releases I was uneasy. Spin-offs are very hit or miss. But Rogue One proved me wrong. Although that being said the idea of a Han Solo movie, an Obi Wan Kenobi movie, etc. well I think it’s a potentially terrible idea because no one can be Han Solo besides Harrison Ford and unfortunately he’s, well, a bit advanced in years…
I mean if they wanted to do a movie on Boba Fett then heck yeah that could be cool! I think the key here is choosing aspects of the Star Wars universe that are less known or exploited. Rogue One for instance unravels a plot that plays a massive part in kicking off Episode IV but it’s a mission we never knew much about, only knowing that somehow Rebels got the Death Star plans, woo-hoo. It was totally its own thing, yet quintessentially Star Wars, and that’s what made it great.
Anyway, I digress…
I say all of this to make a point that I’ve been a fan of these new movies and the direction Disney has been taking them thus far. And then Episode VIII happened.
I mean, don’t get me wrong. It was a cool movie, but I think that’s mostly because I love Star Wars and the graphics and effects were for the most part amazing. Otherwise it left a lot to be desired, which is both surprising and disappointing (especially since this is the one movie with Mark Hamill’s long awaited return as Luke Skywalker).
1. Plot Cohesion
When I saw the trailer for Episode VIII I felt so excited and yet I couldn’t figure out what exactly I was excited for. The trailer succeeded in stirring excitement in me but when I thought about it I realized it revealed no real inkling of what the heck the movie was actually about. Well, after seeing the movie twice I still have no clue.
The movie had so much it wanted to include that you end up with nothing except an unwarranted runtime that will have children and adults alike disturbing your viewing experience to pee because they just can’t hold that giant American-sized soda in their bladder a minute longer. It kept going round and round and back and forth and in the end you ended up nowhere. Have they ever heard the wise phrase “Kill your darlings”??? The movie kept flipping back and forth between the Rebels blowing stuff up only to lose every time against the First Order, and Rey failing to get any form of actual training or help from Luke other than that one moment where he helps her meditate and feel the Force. Like, what??? So you went through all of that in Episode VII to find Luke for basically nothing??? He teaches her almost nothing she hadn’t already figured out for herself! I mean he did try and lecture her about the light and the dark, and maybe he did teach her some more stuff but we sure wouldn’t know because we were too busy being tossed around between twenty different plot lines, one of which is the never-ending drama that is Ben Solo.
There’s something to be said for simplicity. Maybe they should keep that in mind for the future…
I also got the vague impression that somewhere in all this the director/writers were trying to be profound and yet that might be their precise problem. They tried too hard with this movie.
I could go on for ages about all this. The plot was a mess. There was no focus, no point, no purpose, and no strong central plotline. Instead, a thousand and one parallel and sub-plots drowned whatever may have been intended as the central plotline or main objective. There was so much going on that there was no time for thought-out depth for anything. By the end of this movie characters I liked or highly anticipated from The Force Awakens have completely lost my support. It was a mess. Sorry.
I mean, what was the main objective of this film??
Episode VII was all about finding Luke. Cool.
Rogue One was all about getting the Death Star plans. Awesome.
Episode VIII was about Kylo Ren being a jilted emo teen and Snoke being a vague unexplained dude with major powers who dies way too easily and Rey getting nowhere and somewhere all at once and the Rebel army being almost completely snuffed out yet again and Poe running around disobeying orders to be a hero but failing and Finn being an annoyingly gung-ho man on a mission and some rando mechanic who shows up out of nowhere to suddenly have a major role except not at all and Leia defying the laws of the universe and not dying and Luke doing nothing until the last minute and some random dark pit being a physical actualization of the dark side which makes zero sense and the entire Jedi religion being analyzed and generalized simultaneously only to be lit on fire and scattered on the winds of the past to be suddenly called irrelevant and of no importance.
I sat through this 2.5-hour movie, twice, only to be unable to summarize what happened. And I’m not the only one.
2. Character Development
The characters suffered a similar fate as the plot, but perhaps not as bad? In this movie there is no good and no bad, no light and no dark, there is only gray and the constantly flip-flopping moral ambiguity of every character with a name. With literally every major character they constantly wanted you to wonder if they’re good or bad, right or wrong, and instead of being a complex reflection of humanity that keeps you on your toes it was just vague, non-commital, and annoying. They tried to give everyone a plot twist but it’s not a plot twist if it’s predictable and unimpactful.
Rey goes back and forth with what to do about everything, Kylo Ren is having a serious identity crisis who just wants a buddy, Luke is a failed Master unsure of what is right or wrong anymore, Poe is a trigger-happy pride-driven irritant, a master code breaker plays both sides because that’s the harsh truth of reality (he might be my favorite character in this movie), all the big baddies die in a blink, and the list goes on.
Truly, instead of any actual meaningful character development we just watch these major characters spin round and round with their identity crises and by the end of the movie NOTHING IS RESOLVED EVEN REMOTELY. They go through an entire movie of internal struggles just to end up exactly where they began! Rey has chosen the Rebels but still believes Kylo Ren can be saved, Kylo Ren has chosen the First Order but still wants to not be alone, Luke just goes away again after a brief but epic fight, Poe is…I dunno, he’s Poe (although I actually sort of liked Vice Admiral Holdo because she put him in his place), Finn is suddenly in a love-triangle?? Of the most vaguest variety?? Maybe?? I honestly have NO CLUE. And then Snoke was built up so dramatically in Episode VII that I’m stunned by his hilariously simple defeat that totally rips off the defeat of Darth Sidious. (Although Rey and Kylo Ren fighting side by side was AWESOME). And the same with Phasma! What was with all the action figures and toys and promos when you see maybe five minutes of her total in the series and she too is snuffed out with annoying ease. What. The. Heck.
Like I said earlier, this movie tried to fit in too much, it tried to be too much, and everything suffered for it. It was like a brainstorm of writers threw up in a fit of ambitious excitement with their one and only goal being to “be different” and called it ground breaking. What they may have thought passed for “exciting” and “clever” and “plot twists” and “emotional” and “complexity” and “ingeniously sly social commentary” was really just a jumbled, unfocused mess that any English teacher would sigh at if handed in as an essay (I would know, I always tend to try and include far too much in my essays causing them to, wait for it, lose focus).
This being said I am interested to find out what will happen with Rey and Kylo Ren because we certainly didn’t find out in this one.
I think the connection explored and developed between them in this movie would have been far more profound if it hadn’t been squished in between losing battles and casinos and stupid bird-like creatures.
Also I think that if Rey and Ben teamed up they could change the universe. Technically Ben didn’t ask Rey to join him on the dark side, he just wanted someone to help him rebuild from the mess left in the universe. It’s when Rey chose the Rebels that he felt abandoned yet again and fell back on the waiting arms of the dark side. Ugh. Same ol’ same ol’.
(Random comment but I totally called who Rey’s parents were and I think it was a good choice both for her character development and plot development. I actually really liked that scene between Rey and Kylo Ren. But ha, the most debated and theorized mystery amongst fans and I was a Negative Nancy/Skeptical Sally who turned out to be right. LOL.)
3. Other Nonsense
a) Space Kills: When Leia is blasted from the command floor of her ship and sucked into space she should have died. And while yes science fiction likes to play around with the laws of physics, space is space. You can’t change space. Space kills. End of story. Bye. But no instead somehow Leia suddenly has a major flux of power from the Force that keeps her totally unprotected body from instantly freezing or rupturing her lungs and instead flies her back to the ship to her surviving crew like some tacky superhero and survives. That was nonsense. Absolute nonsense! And then it’s not even mentioned again??? She pulls a crazy never before been done seen or heard of stunt like that in front of witnesses and it’s never addressed again?? No. Space is space. You can bend a lot of rules but you can’t negate the laws of outer space. YOUR REQUEST IS DENIED.
b) Forced Comedy: Star Wars has always had its funny moments and its memorable quotes but first and foremost it’s a science fiction series with action and heart as its heavyweight, not pandering comedy. The key to comedy is being funny without trying to be funny. It has to come across as natural and unfortunately half the comedic lines written into the script felt forced. Oh some of them were direct hits, but some were just…awkward.
c) The Porgs: Look, I get it. Star Wars prides itself in having a multi-generational fan base. They have the original actors/font/theme song for the original fans, they have the special effects and social commentary for the adults, they have the cool characters and action for the teens, and they need something cute for the kids because funny droids just aren’t enough apparently. I am happy to report that the Porgs didn’t annoy me nearly as much as I’d feared but I also don’t think they needed to be in there at all. Like, at all. Not only was the CGI cartoonish but it felt like such a clear forced add-in just for the kids. And that annoys me. (The ice foxes or whatever were cool though and do ya wanna know why? Because they looked believable and were seamlessly inconspicuously integrated into the setting).
My overall consensus is that this movie was expectedly cool but far from great. It’s definitely not as good as Episode VII or Rogue One to the point that it’s, well, pointless (it’s certainly not worth being associated with the classic original trilogy no matter the artistic level of its special effects). So Disney had better tighten up, step up, and deliver one hell of an Episode IX. I’m always happy to see a new Star Wars film but I’m not going to scream praise just because I’m a fan and it’s Star Wars. It’s because I’m a fan that I hold this franchise to a higher standard.
I might be ostracized for this post (especially since Net Neutrality has been obliterated – hopefully just a temporary blunder) but hey, whatevs. I love Star Wars, and yeah this movie disappointed me, but that doesn’t mean I’m angry or severing my loyalty. Never! I love this series and I honestly look forward to seeing what they come up with next.