Monday, December 18, 2017

A Personal Review of The Last Jedi

Fan reaction to The Last Jedi is all over the place. Some are sorely disappointed, even feeling betrayed, while others think it's the best Star Wars film ever. I saw The Last Jedi Saturday night, and liked it. I have some thoughts about it, and predictions about where the story will go from here, in case you are interested. I've put it on a second page, because it's full of spoilers, so don't continue reading unless you've already seen The Last Jedi. You've been warned.

Rey held her own well. She's not perfect, but no one is, and no character is portrayed as perfect in this movie. Rey is still very deserving of the lead role in whatever this story turns out to be. She's not immune to temptation, and just brave enough to dabble with things she knows she really shouldn't. That part where she takes off in the middle of the night on a long journey to meet some guy she's been Skyping was super cliché, but at least she learned her lesson. The bit about lifting rocks was awesome.

I love the advancement of Kylo Ren in this movie. He's just as evil as ever, but he's leaving that emo kid behind to become the angry adult villain. We only had two temper tantrums here, at the beginning, and when he lobbed all the ammunition at Luke. And he ditched that "stupid helmet." Good. Then he killed Snoke. So Kylo is now rid of all three father figure influences: Han, Vader, and Snoke. He's free to be the all-powerful despot of the New Order. (Let's be honest, seizing control upon the death of Snoke should not be that simple, but after the boring political explanations of the prequels, we can let that slide.) However, Kylo is not completely free of his better emotions. It would have been easy to do, but he couldn't bring himself to kill Leia. And he couldn't bring himself to kill Rey. The changes we see in The Last Jedi make Kylo a much better villain. At least we are no longer laughing at him. Or not much, anyway.

People are obsessed with "shipping" Star Wars characters. That started back with the first film, when there were two heroes and a woman. Who gets the girl? Lucas let us know in the second film, and justified the decision in the third. It's very possible that Luke and Leia are siblings only to make us feel okay with Han getting the girl. In the new trilogy, these kind of discussions are rampant, because there's actually more than one woman, and God forbid we have a female lead who doesn't find love somewhere. The Last Jedi had way more sexual tension than any Star Wars movie should, and it was ramped up because it involved the villain. That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it, but it will go nowhere. Rey is completely over Kylo by the end. Still, I wouldn't rule out the next movie revisiting the connection they seem to have since Kylo still has a thing for Rey, which may be more complicated than we know now. Rey and Kylo could well be blood relatives, which would be another callback to the original trilogy. You may have noticed that kisses between Luke and Leia were never mentioned in The Return of the Jedi, or ever again. Besides, Kylo is doomed, and was doomed the minute he killed Han. Yeah, he might come around like Vader did, but it will be right before he dies.

No, in this series, Rey will find love elsewhere. Until now, we assumed that she and Finn were destined, but The Last Jedi engineers a new love interest for Finn in Rose Tico. Their adventure together was a complete MacGuffin which establishes their relationship and opens the door for Rey to hook up with Poe. Really. When Rey and Poe shook hands in The Last Jedi, it was like, "Oh, they never even met in the last movie! I didn't realize that." This is all speculation, but who goes together better than the only existing Jedi warrior and Leia's pick for the new leader of the Resistance?

Fans are talking about how Rey is a "nobody" as if that point is now settled. I think Rey's parentage is still in play. Kylo is a bad guy, he can tell lies. What I noticed was how Luke said that when Kylo destroyed his Jedi dojo, he took some students and killed the others. This is new information- we were led to believe that Kylo killed all of Luke's students. That's why I think Kylo Ren was the one who abandoned the young padawan Rey on Jakku. Maybe he even wiped her memory when he did it. It's obvious that Kylo is fascinated, even obsessed, with Rey, and I think he knows much more about her than he's letting on.

Luke, on the other hand, had no reason to recognize anything about Rey's story, even if he is her father or uncle or whatever. He did recognize her tremendous power and potential that was matched only by Kylo's. Why wasn't he more curious about their connection? Because of his depression about old age and his failures. The only reason he interacted with Rey at all was to keep her from going to the dark side, and the only reason he made that last heroic appearance was because Leia needed him. It was enough to give him a good send off. 

Poe's dismissal of Holdo as a leader set him up as a misogynist who learns his lesson in the end. That subplot was a bit heavy-handed, but in a movie with this much stuff going on, I'm glad they didn't drag it out further for the sake of subtlety. It's a good lesson to learn before he met Rey. Poe will need a lot of respect for women to keep up with Rey.

Finn was shortchanged by The Last Jedi. The most interesting character in The Force Awakens, he was relegated to a side plot that didn't even work out in this movie. Sure, it was fun in places, but he should have been more important to the main plot. If Finn had been successful in his suicide mission near the end, his character would have gone down in history, but we would miss him terribly for the third installment of the story arc. I am hoping, but not predicting, that Finn will get to save the day in episode IX.

Some fans are upset that neither Snoke nor Captain Phasma nor DJ got the proper amount of screen time or backstory. That's okay with me. Not every character needs to be fleshed out, and the movie was long as it was. I'm not complaining about the film length, but any more exposition would have dragged it down.

The porgs weren't nearly as annoying as they could have been since they didn't take up a lot of time. They were mainly window dressing, a smidgeon of comic relief, and definitely cute. That said, Chewbacca should have gone ahead and eaten what he'd cooked. 

The entire theme of the film was letting go of the past. I'm on board with that at this late stage in the series. Yes, there were plenty of callbacks to the original trilogy, but that's just part of the game when it comes to Star Wars. In The Last Jedi, Leia gave up on Kylo. Kylo got beyond Vader and Snoke. Yoda burned down the Jedi mythology. Rey might move beyond yearning for her parents. Luke let go of his doubts, regrets, and status, and then his life. And sadly, the audience has to give up on Leia. It's a pity that the scripts killed off two of the three main characters from the original trilogy, then fate stepped in to eliminate the last one. Rest in peace, Carrie, and may the Force be with Leia always. We still have Kylo and the New Order vs. the Resistance for episode IX. And you know what? We still have that tracking technology to disable.

Update 12/23/17 Now that I've seen The Last Jedi a second time, and participated in many discussions, I like the idea that Rey's parents are nobodies. After all, Anakin Skywalker was the son of a slave mother and no father (as far as we know). Whether JJ Abrams will stick with that or go for some connection to the family is anyone's guess. My hypothesis is that still she is known to Kylo Ren from earlier, because she was the youngest and most talented of Luke's students, and he took her to Jakku because her potential was a threat, but he still thought enough of her to not kill her. Recall that Ren said that her parents "sold her." To who? How did Rey then achieve her freedom? Maybe Luke purchased her because he saw her potential, just like Qui-Gon Jinn bought the young slave Anakin. And Kylo Ren wouldn't need any special insight to know that.

There are complaints that Rey is too good with a lightsaber for someone with no training. Yeah, like Luke Skywalker was in the first film. But Rey has spent her whole life fighting for survival on Jakku. Her skills didn't just come from nowhere, like Luke's did. Sure, she mastered the Force quickly, just the same way she grabbed onto every possible resource in her life so far.

I don't want to add too many random thoughts here, but I love that someone somewhere pointed out that if Adam Driver had been available to play Anakin Skywalker instead of Hayden Christensen, the prequels would have been watchable. And the funniest thing I've encountered is this:

I must admit that I loved every scene Hux was in. Nazis should always be used for comic relief.

The fanboys that complain that every new Star Wars movie is not perfect seem to forget that none of them are perfect, or ever were. If you can't enjoy them for what they are, why are you a fan at all? 

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