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I admit that THE LAST JEDI left me a little chilled, if not cold, with some of the choices made by the singular writer/director. And my ...

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

LAST JEDI a second (and third) look

I have now seen STAR WARS THE LAST JEDI 3 times. After a tepid take on the first viewing and several off-base moments that felt decidedly un-Star Wars, I found the film much more enjoyable the second time, and I was able to find a deeper emotional core on the third viewing.

Now, as I said before, it should not take multiple viewings to "get" a Star Wars film, but there it is.

In the plus column:

Daisy Ridley is an amazing actresses, and she gives this film (much like The Force Awakens) its emotional foundation. This is her story, and her journey to becoming a powerful Jedi  (well, unless JJ Abrams does the same degree of about facing that Rian Johnson did to him. More on that later).

Mark Hamill gives a great performance as the hermit Luke who is more like Yoda in Empire than Obi Wan, which is actually great. He's cranky, and likes to have some fun at the expense of his young apprentice. His final scenes in the film are among the best for him among all the films.

Carrie Fisher gets some nice moments and nice send off, despite a horrible FU to fans who are still morning her death.

The hyperdrive scene with Holdo taking down the First Order ships is awesome!

Resistance Bomber run sequence was among one of the best, most tense in all of Star Wars.

Rey stealing the Jedi books and hiding them on the Falcon is great. Or did Luke put them there when he went on board? Either way, the hidden Jedi books was a nice little moment. Personally, I think Rey stole them.

Throne room fight was among the best of the entire saga. Breaking the lightsaber was a great bit of symbolism. It calls to Rey, but Kylo wants it and has legitimate bloodline connections to it. Still, it seems to be more hers than his. Perhaps because of the light side balance that she represents over his dark.

Kylo killing Snoke was a cool move (but I could have done without the overly telegraphed way it was filmed. It would have been more of a surprise for the audience to have not seen it coming).

I'll get on board with the Force linking that Rey and Kylo do. Seems like a natural extension to the Force. Much like how Obi Wan or Yoda have appeared previously and in this movie (Yoda).

Yoda's appearance and look were nice to see, and gave some nice closure to the old Jedi Order.

Luke's stand off with Kylo was every bit as badass as it needed to be, and perhaps even more so because Luke held true to his promise to not leave Ack To, while still being there to save the day. I have a feeling we'll see Luke again, in Force Ghost glory. And wouldn't it be nice to see Rey being visited by Luke, Obi Wan, Yoda, Qui Gon and even Anakin. Perhaps when they reveal to her the real truth of who she is.

Still in the minus column:

I heard someone relate the moments of Luke chucking the lightsaber over his shoulder, and the Poe and Hux "phone" call scene in the beginning, as being too much like sketches on the MTV Movie Awards show than a Star Wars film. I have to agree. Though I liken those two moments in particular to those Billy Crystal sketches at the top of the Oscars when he hosted. Also, flying Leia feels like that too, only more ridiculous.

Speaking of which: It was a solid gut punch to see Leia being blown out into space, not at the hands of her son, who debates but chickens out. Rather, his wingman does the deed. This was a devastating moment for the audience, and should have been for Kylo.

Therein lies the problem. Kylo had a moment of horror, then he seems to forget about it. As well, there's no way that he could ever know that she survived, nor does he ever acknowledge it again. Shame.

Having Leia survive that moment is even more unforgivable, if only for having "killed" her off in that way to start with. Why orchestrate such a moment, then take it back. Especially after Carrie Fisher's real death last year? The emotional weight of taking her away like that - and the pitch perfect look on her face as she greeted death - made this the most powerful way to send her out. (And motivation for Luke to get off his ass and back in the fight).

It just feels wrong and cheap to have her survive in such a way, with the whole audience knowing that she is really dead and won't be in Episode 9. Fisher's real death gave Johnson a chance to really give weight to that moment (which was obviously filmed previously - which seems insane too).

So casually killing of Admiral Ackbar felt wrong too.

And what happened to Snaps Wexley? He survived Force Awakens. Doe he only work with JJ?

Flying Leia, Lightsaber chucking Luke and "I'll hold" Poe were the 3 things that I felt were the most wrong in the film.

I could have done without the whole Canto Bight diversion. Why couldn't Finn and Rose do the sabotage job without having to leave the slow speed chase, go half way across the galaxy and back to the slow speed chase? The DJ character was fun, and Benicio Del Torro was great in it, but that whole sequence felt like too much for the film. Poe could have gone with them, and BB-8 could have been the code breaker role. Especially since we see a BB unit working for the First Order.

Yes, we needed a Lando stand in moment to mirror EMPIRE (which Johnson did, even if people are applauding him for not).

Having Poe tag along on the mission and striking the whole Holdo/mutiny plot line would have been a much better way to go. Poe had precious little to do in the film other than be a pain in the ass to command, and seeing him in action helping Finn and Rose would have been very satisfying.

If we had to go to Canto Bight (to meet the kids for the coda moment) why not have Lando thrown in there in a cameo. Maybe with Lobot still as his pal. Maybe Lobot wearing the pin that indicated the master code breaker. Lando and Lobot as high rollers would have been fun, and could have been a mere moment that would have excited the entire fan base.

Did we have to meet those kids to still make the final moment work? I don't think so. And while I agree with Rian Johnson's clear politics on display in that sequence, I still think it needlessly bloated the film.

I think Rose should have died saving Finn in the end. If they weren't going to let Finn sacrifice himself (which would have been amazing!) then having Rose die to save him would have been a great new character wrinkle for him. (I won't even quibble over the fact that Johnson healed Finn and ignored a major injury that could have also altered Finn's character.)

I also think that it felt too much like Rian Johnson was simply being defiant to JJ Abrams and The Force Awakens. It was as if he was giving JJ the finger by doing things like ignoring the story of Snoke, Rey's parents, and even destroying Kylo's helmet.

It IS important who Snoke is. How did he gain such power to reunite the Empire into the First Order over 30 years? Is he a powerful Sith Lord? Is he a fallen Jedi? He clearly has Force powers that rival The Emperor, Yoda and Luke. That makes who he is pretty important. To ignore it was an FU to JJ and the fans.

It IS important who Rey is. She has such incredible Force ability that both Luke and Snoke recognize that she is a game changer. Kylo certainly could have lied to her about her parents. He lied to Hux about Snoke's death. He is in it for his own gain, and will lie to achieve that.

I think Rey could be a manifestation of the Force, like Anakin. She was created by the Force to bring back balance after the birth of Ben Solo established a threat to that balance.

On that front: was Snoke partly responsible for Ben Solo being bad? Did he manipulate the Force while Ben was in the womb to make sure he could control Ben and turn him once he came of age? (A mirror of Palpatine when he meets young Anakin in PHANTOM MENACE?)

I enjoyed the film. It was entertaining. But I feel that Rian Johnson was not serving a master plan for the trilogy, but rather being a dick to JJ Abrams for all he established and handed off to Johnson to further or resolve. In a way it was also a dick move toward fans who were strongly invested in the questions of who Snoke and Rey are and how they fit into the grand tapestry.

Again, those two things in particular ARE important details.

I have high hopes that Abrams course corrects a few of those details upon his return.

It was a mistake to not have the full trilogy planned out before going in. The round robin approach feeling is what did not sit well with fans who took issue with Last Jedi. Sure, sure, Lucas may not have had a master plan in the original trilogy. Otherwise we need to get him help for making Luke and Leia kiss. But that was back when there were only a few stories in existence. Now there's 40 years of legacy that has to be kept in mind. You can't just change the way the Force works or alter major established dogma on such a whimsical way.

Again, I enjoyed the movie much more on the second and third viewing.

I'm not signing any petitions to strike the film from canon. Though I think it would be awesome to start a petition to ban all the "fans" who signed that petition from being allowed to see any future Star Wars movies. Wouldn't that be fun?

Fandom has become bitchdom on almost all fronts. We've seen the DC comic movies get the brunt of this, and now Disney is getting some of the sting back that they are used to chortling about as it falls on others.

I am typically an unabashed apologist for these types of movies. I may be less so with Star Wars because it hits closer to home for me. I did make excuses for the prequel trilogy, which is nowhere near as bad as some would lead you to believe (again, bitchdom). Phantom Menace suffers many problems just like Last Jedi. Last Jedi is infinitely more entertaining though. Attack of The Clones is not a bad movie, and Revenge of The Sith is actually as excellent film with a lot of amazing stuff happening in it. I defy anyone to decry the opera house scene with Ian McDiarmid winning Anakin over. McDiarmid was the MVP of the prequels.

I fully expect JJ Abrams to "fix" the flaws left behind by Rian Johnson, and Episode 9 to be a spectacular conclusion. I also wonder if Lucasfilm have second thoughts about the Johnson trilogy that they previously announced. I can see him working on some stand alone films, but I don't know about a full trilogy. In fact, if they do a 10, 11 and 12, I think they need to have it plotted and planned before they start. This on-the-fly thing is part of what created the pushback on this film.

More than my two cents. This was my roll of pennies worth of opinion.

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