The Last Jedi: Spoiler Free Review

December 19th, 2017 | Posted in General

I saw “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” last Thursday while on vacation in Orlando. I must say I am surprised by some of the vitriol a few people are spewing about it online. There’s even an online petition for Disney to get the movie stricken from the “official canon”. Good Grief, people. It’s a MOVIE, not your life’s work. You sit on your ass and watch it… that’s the extent of your involvement. SMH. Personally, despite some disappointing elements, I thought it was a pretty good addition to the Star Wars series, better than any of the prequels, and I thought as good as “The Force Awakens”, and a lot more daring.  No spoilers here, if you care to continue.

One of the big complaints I keep hearing is that writer-director Rian Johnson‘s script and handling of the cast showed no understanding of these beloved Star Wars characters, especially Luke Skywalker, and it blurs the Star Wars staple of a hard distinction between good and evil. If anything the opposite is true. TLJ brings some real evolution to the characters, giving us a hint of what must have happened over the 30 plus years since the events of The Return of the Jedi (RotJ). No one is the same person after thirty years of life, especially in the midst of war and the struggle for survival and freedom. Bringing some doubt, conflict and imperfections to a character isn’t “not understanding them”, it’s taking them past a cardboard cutout and humanizing them. Johnson does this with a surprising number of the main characters, fleshing them out in a way that the prequels and The Force Awakens (TFA) did not. As for the lack of a hard distinction between good and evil, that was a CENTRAL THEME to the entire first trilogy! RotJ ends with conflict between the dark and light sides of the Force coming to a head! That’s not new. This is not a gritty darkening of Star Wars just for the sake of being gritty and dark. It’s getting a little deeper and more sophisticated than the standard space soap opera genre. What’s wrong with that???

The film itself delivers some genuine surprises and plot development, which earns it points for some bravery IMO. So many sequels play it safe and just continue the ride without taking any major new directions. I think this movie did take some interesting turns and took some chances. The Rey/Kylo/Luke interactions are by far the best moments of the film, and the final confrontation went from “you’ve got to be kidding me” to “WOW!” in one stroke. The light saber action scenes were particularly great… we’ve come a long way from the Darth Vader/Obi-Wan Kenobi… ah… “duel”… in “A New Hope”.

One of my biggest complaints about TFA was the poor showing it gave Leia. I was unsure if this was just lack of lines and screen time, or if Carrie Fischer was too Botox-ed up to give us any sort of nuanced performance. She knocked it out of the park here, and I felt like the old Leia was back… that makes her passing all the more sad.

So, complaints? I have a few… this was no “The Empire Strikes Back”.

First off… too long. There was so much room to trim off unnecessary and in some cases detrimental parts of the story. The entire Finn/Rose side plot seemed forced, like they had to give Finn something to do. And I’m sorry, I found the character of Rose to be just dumb. Does anyone associated with these films understand that it would probably takes years of training to become a competent pilot for even a simple craft, and that a lowly maintenance worker is not going to just jump into the cockpit and go to war? I guess not. Probably useless to point this out to the same people who think “bombers” are functional in the gravity-free environment of space.

Second, and this does relate to not understanding the source material, since when has Jedi powers become seemingly without limit? Remember when levitating a sunken X-Wing fighter slowly out of a swamp and onto dry land was the height of Jedi-mastery? That’s a parlor trick these days I guess, even for a completely untrained novice. Either Yoda was a second rate wanna be Jedi master or he was sandbagging it. You are not allowed to change the rules just to make things more exciting. But I guess we’ve been dealing with that since R2-D2 mysteriously found he could fly around in the prequels when that sure would have come in useful in the original trilogy. Oh, and C-3PO’s amnesia concerning Obi-Wan, and midichlorians, and… oh forget it.

Finally, while I thought most of the humorous touches in this film were well timed, a few were out of place and there were too many. It’s okay to let some moments have a little gravitas without inserting a one-liner. I didn’t mind the Porgs, even if there were obviously inserted for comedic relief… and toy sales.

It’s pretty hard to live up to that kind of hype. “The Last Jedi” yielded mixed results for me, but overall I liked the film and where the Star Wars universe is going.

Comments

  1. Malcolm B says:

    Nice Review Tom !!
    Though I really enjoyed most of the second part of the film (the Kylo/Ren/Snoke scene to the end of the film was great), I was more disappointed by the first half of the movie that kind of made it too long and full of nonsence. All that trip to the casino seeking a hacker was a joke, they could have just sneaked in a few rebels and dropped them off safely in that Montecarlo planet. Riding those horse like creatures “Fathiers”? two guys that never saw one in their entire life, just hopped on and raced through the city in a stampede and didn’t fall off. Not to mention Leia flying through space as a fairy godmother. Those things were a let down to me.
    I kind of liked more TFA, though it had its flaws (and it ‘s more a remake of the original SW), to me it was a movie with a better storyline.
    My score is a 6,5 / 10 for this movie. (or a 7/10, can’t decide hehe)
    Salutes !!!

  2. jailerjoe says:

    Thanks, Tom…I’ll have to check it out this weekend.

  3. Lunzerland says:

    I thought it was a good movie. These are certainly well-crafted films. However, it is far from my favorite in the series and I much preferred The Force Awakens by a wide margin. More than anything, I believe these films really suffer when they don’t have Han Solo in them – or maybe even the charisma and star-power of Harrison Ford? I also missed the talent of screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan, there is no denying what his skills bring to these feature films. I cared more for the new main characters in TFA then here.

    As far as criticisms go, yes it was too long. There were times I did think it dragged. Most of the “liberties” that people felt director Rain Johnson took are not what bothered me. I welcomed the complexity, although I do think these movies seem to be coming too self-referential (maybe they always have been). The things that I found fault with are as follows:
    *SPOILER ALERT*
    What was the whole point of the Laura Dern character? To me her part could have easily have been rewritten for General Ackbar. Instead of this main character being written off as having died offscreen, Ackbar could easily have been given a heroic send-off if he was given Dern’s role to play. BB-8 driving the AT-ST seemed ridiculous to me and a cheat in the story. And finally, I was a little disappointed that so much of what JJ Abrahams set-up was so quickly discarded. Rey’s parents? – no big deal. General Snook? – not that big a threat. And why so easily get rid of Kylo Ren’s mask? It looked menacing, and he could have taken it off from time to time when needed -as he did in TFA. But stormtroopers have helmets, Captain Phasma has a helmet – it helped Kylo Ren look more menacing and villainous to were his helmet/mask.

    To recap, complaints aside, I still viewed it as solid entertainment. I’d simply place the original trilogy and The Force Awakens as personally more enjoyable.

  4. James Thomas says:

    I loved the movie. I’ll go see it again, and then I’ll buy the DVD and watch the third time.

    I give it five out of five stars!

    I think all of the stuff people are complaining about can be easily explained.

    Luke is the most powerful Jedi ever. He’s more powerful than Yoda ever was,

    Leia also has force powers, although she’s never been trained.

    The force can wake up inside anyone and give them the intuition to do things they didn’t realize they could.

    I’m not surprised about complainers, because a lot of people get their significance now days by being contrarian.

    I thought the movie was fantastic. Everyone who was in the theater with me thought the same thing, they were cheering and clapping at the top of their lungs like we were at the Super Bowl.

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