December 24, 2017
The Last Jedi. This is not a post about The Last Jedi. But The Last Jedi. I really liked it. It’s much better the second time because the hype is gone and you can just sit back and be entertained. The visuals are just stunning. So many amazing shots. Plenty of all-time great shots. Lots of great moments for all the characters. No lacking in action and intrigue. Fastest 2.5 hours in movies.
But extremely controversial. Polarizing. Most people who I interact with, follow, read and listen to enjoyed the movie. But there is a very vocal minority who has serious problems with the movie. I’m not talking about anyone who didn’t like the movie and professed their disappointed, and then went about their lives. That’s fair. I’ve been disappointed before so I know the feeling. I’m talking about the people who are on a crusade to let the whole world know exactly how they feel, in every nook and cranny of social media. I mean, DAMN if the passion among a minority of fans isn’t a bit over the top!!
I love when a new Star Wars movie comes out because all kind of discussion, debate and analysis takes place and for the most part, it’s enjoyable and all in good fun. But this time the debate has a much different tone. It’s nasty. And I’m trying to figure out why. On Twitter and Facebook alone I’ve been discussing the movie with random people – the general populace – about how people liked the movie, about Kelly Marie Tran’s character, about how the male characters are portrayed, and how they fail, and are sometimes put down or bested by the female characters. Overall I’ve been sharing my experience that watching The Last Jedi was in fact a very enjoyable experience, but during these discussions there have been some strong dissenting opinions and it’s amusing and almost comical to note that during these debates I have been accused of being:
1. A fake fan
2. A big baby
3. A little baby
4. A nerd
6. A snowflake
7. A moron
8. A crackhead
10. A little bitch
11. A simpleton
12. A fan for not long enough
13. In need of a safe space
14. A cuck
15. A bro
16. Extremely retarded
Now….I partly amused by how quickly and easily these insults are tossed my way. But I’m also a bit concerned. This has nothing to do with the movie at this point. These insults are ALL coming from the same demographic: younger white males or people I would classify as “bros.” Not a single female has used any of these insults, and no one under the age of about 20, or older than 40. And the whole thing (forget about the movie) just makes me wonder – what the hell is going on with the young men of America?
December 16, 2017
I loved this movie. Sure, there were a few issues and a few plot holes, but overall I was very happy with the themes, Luke/Rey/Kylo’s story lines and of course visually it was just stunning. First, what I loved:
- Luke Skywalker. He was mesmerizing from start to finish and I kept wanting the story to return to him. He was really the thing I cared about most in the movie and I loved seeing him back in action. I had been hoping (since they announced his return for The Force Awakens) that we would see him #IgnitetheGreen lightsaber during this new trilogy and live up to the legend he was portrayed to be. He did both, but neither in a way I expected. Yes, he igited his green lightsaber, but not in a moment of swashbuckling ass-kicking, but during possibly the darkest moment of his life. And he certainly lived up to the legend through a very surprising and immensely satisfying use of Force projection. His final moment on the island, where he watched the sunset made me think of a similar scene in the first Star Wars. But now, decades later as Luke looked back on that sunset I wondered if he was thinking of his days on Tatooine as a farmboy, and if his need for adventure and excitement was worth the cost. Would it have been better to remain a simple farmboy and not get involved, living a quiet life oblivious to the Force and the greater struggle of good vs. evil? Of course, destiny made that impossible for Luke, but he had a few moment of “what if?” before passing peacefully and become one with the Force. I was a bit worried about how they’d handle his death but I thought it was a perfect way for him to go: as a Jedi Master, at peace, on his own terms, after one last fight. Easily Mark Hamill’s best performance of the saga. And I laughed when he uttered two words I never thought I would hear him say “Darth Sidious.” I bet prequel fans were very happy with that. I thought it was cool that they had Luke tie together the history of the previous trilogies like that. But his last battle with Kylo Ren at the end was Luke Skywalker as the Jedi Master we have been wanting to see. The legend. He taught Kylo Ren a few lessons about the Force, without doing further damage to his former student.
- Poe Dameron. I felt the first movie gave us a taste of Poe and his early scenes in TFA with Finn were electric. There was great chemistry between them before Poe suddenly disappeared for most of the movie, and I always felt a bit deprived of his character. But in The Last Jedi we get a lot more Poe. Poe with attitude. Poe not always being right. Poe being humbled – and SHOT by Leia!! That was a huge surprise but I loved seeing Poe do something other than fly an X-Wing. And by the end of the movie, Leia had all but conceded all that was left of the Resistance to him. Leia passed the torch to him, it took the entire movie to do so, and it couldn’t have happened without the lessons Poe learned along the way. Leia served as his teacher and mentor throughout the film without being a teacher. He learned from his mistakes and as Leia saw that growth, she became more confident about him taking over – which is probably what she wanted all along.
- Leia. Ok, I hated the part where she was in space and floated back to the ship. I loved that she used the Force to do it but visually it just wasn’t working for me. It was too far a distance for her to travel. I would have liked it better if she had done that right after the explosion, where she was close and the act was more immediate and desperate. That was the one moment of the movie that made me think, “I have a bad feeling about this” but that feeling was quickly washed away by all the action and spectacle. Anyway, back to Leia. She didn’t really do much in TFA other than be present, give a few directions, and provide backstory on Kylo and Luke. I was happy that she played a bigger part in driving the story here and how great was it to see her finally reunite with Luke. Sure, they didn’t REALLY reunite but through the Force, Luke came out of hiding and revealed himself to her and for a few moments, it was as real as it needed to be. One of the biggest “warm fuzzy” moments of the movie for me.
- Rey and Kylo. I loved where they took this relationship and other than Luke’s arc, it was my favorite part of the movie. I loved that the story teased an alliance between them, which we had for a few moments during a kickass confrontation with Snoke, but it never crossed the line and they maintained their sides of light vs. dark. But the way they communicated through the Force was another unexpected twist. We’ve seen characters communicate through the Force before (Leia hearing Luke’s call in ESB, Luke and Vader “talking” to each other through the Force) so that was nothing new. But it was the closeness of that communication. Being able to see each other’s surroundings, being able to touch each other was an interested take and it brought them closer and closer together, to the point where they were actually together – so close I was ready to cringe if they had kissed – and thankfully they didn’t! But their dual projection made Luke’s projection at the end possible and inevitable. Because if he had just projected at the end without any setup it wouldn’t have been as believable. Which makes me wonder, and almost certain, that this form of connection will continue into Episode 9.
- The confrontation with Snoke. This was the single best sequence in the movie and was filled with so many surprises. A Return of the Jedi type of setup immediately made me think we’re about to see either a turn by Rey or the redemption of Kylo. I was happy we had neither. Snoke’s death was a HUGE surprise, especially the way it happened, but it cemented Kylo’s place in Dark Side History, establishing him as leader of the First Order, and showed he was ready to kill his past and every father figure he’s ever had – Luke being next on the list. Then when it went into brief slo-mo and Rey and Kylo fought back to back against those red dudes I about lost my shit. Dark and Light working together for mutual advantage. A short term partnership meant to last only long enough for them to remove the immediate threat, only to see them turn on each other again. It was a great fight scene with terrific emotional payoff. And didn’t you love when Snoke made the lightsaber fly around the room and bonk Rey in the head? That was a metaphor for how director Rian Johnson treated the audience. You think it’s going to go one way but it zings around and smacks you in the back of the head. Loved it!
- The Force. Specifically Luke’s interpretation. He had been pondering it and studying it while alone on that island. Figuring it all out, and not to share with his disciples, but for himself. One of his standout lines was something like “The Force doesn’t belong to us.” It doesn’t belong to the Jedi, or the Sith. It serves a larger purpose and has been misunderstood. He points Rey in a direction where she will hopefully understand it the way he does. And that it’s not just about moving things and picking up rocks. She picks up rocks because she needs to, but understands there is a greater purpose. Still a student, she has a lot to learn, but won’t be bogged down by the strict dogma made famous by the Jedi Council. There are no rules and no constraints to the Force and we see this being accepted when Luke and Yoda watch the tree burn, thinking the sacred texts are inside (they’re already on the Falcon, I think). It’s okay to let them burn. Let the past die. Because look what trouble it caused. It is time for the Jedi to end. It’s time for a new interpretation of the Force and I can’t wait to see where Rey takes it because it’s all in her hands now (with possible guidance from a Luke Skywalker Force ghost? One can only hope)!
- Hux. I loved Hux since the first moment I saw him in TFA. I love how much Domhnall Gleeson gets into playing the character with an almost ridiculously stiff ruthlessness. He’s clearly having so much fun playing the part and he’s a joy to have on screen. By the end of the movie, when Kylo Ren is pushing him around and just generally being an awful dick, I actually felt a bit of sympathy for Hux. I love when he reached for his blaster and almost finished off Kylo Ren so I’m very much looking forward to where this rivalry goes in Episode 9. As Gandalf would have said: My heart tells me that Hux has some part to play yet, for good for ill, before this is over.
Now for the issues I had with the movie, mostly in the storytelling.
- Finn and Rose’s storyline. I liked both of these characters and I liked the material they explored. How the galactic war in financed is something that has been barely explored in Star Wars. We see a bit of it in the prequels and the Clone Wars series, but it’s clear there is a lot of rich directions they can go here. But their story didn’t quite line up with the desperate attempt of the Resistance to flee the First Order. That whole setup with the ships in space was basically a slow chase scene that lasted the entire movie, with hints of the Battlestar Galactica “33” episode where every jump is an exhausting and seemingly endless act of desperation that can only end in certain death. And Finn and Rose’s mission to infiltrate the First Order ships didn’t have the right tone of desperation and urgency. It was a fun adventure and I liked seeing the casino world but it’s ONLY this one code breaker, who will MOST CERTAINLY be gambling at the high stakes table in a city filled with casinos, who will be CONVINCED by two nobodies who approach him with a life-threatening and nearly impossible proposition….when they have no money to offer and he’d be walking away from a life of riches? I don’t see it. It didn’t line up with everything else we were seeing. I loved BB-8 though, and that final moment of Phasma’s life, where you see her eye before she falls into the abyss was satisfying and unexpected. And I realize this story line was about passing on hope to the younger generation who will be the spark that will eventually take the First Order down. Thematically it worked but as far as plotting and storytelling, it just didn’t really fit into the larger puzzle as well as it could. But I totally want Rose’s Rebel Alliance ring.
- Porgs. Actually I loved the porgs. I thought they were funny but they were kind of pointless. Cute creatures meant to sell toys and make the kids happy. Hey, that’s part of what Star Wars in all about so I’ll go with it. But those crystal foxes actually tied into the story and guided the characters to an eventual rescue, while the porgs were just sort of there. Fun, but pointless.
- The Leia scene in space. I already talked about it but I’m mentioning it again. The only part of the movie that made me cringe.
- The overall plot – for the Resistance to escape the First Order and find a place to hide. That’s basically all there was to the overall guiding structure of the movie. Just a slow-chase in space that will certainly end in a climactic battle we all know is coming. It served as the spine for the rest of the storylines but I had so many questions. This is ALL that’s left of the Resistance? Where is the rest of the galaxy in this? What good was the civil war in the OT if it just leads to 10 or 12 people left on the Falcon at the end of the movie? I get it, they are the spark that is keeping everything alive. And I get that a big commentary of Star Wars makes on our world is that we have always been at war with each other, and will always be at war with each other. It is called Star WARS after all, but in both TFA and TLJ it feels like we’re only getting a small slice of that war. If all that’s left of the Resistance is a few ships and a couple allies who refuse to join the fight, then why does the First Order care? I realize they need to pinch the spark for good but it seems like they would have bigger priorities, like figuring out how to rule the galaxy after their super-weapon was destroyed in TFA, and not chasing 15 people into a cave.
- No blue ghosted Ewan McGregor in 60-year old Obi-Wan makeup showing up to guide Luke? Well, we got Yoda instead so I’ll take what I can get. At least there was no Hayden.
Overall I give The Last Jedi a rating of “Best Movie Ever” even though it wasn’t and I won’t know where I rank it in the Star Wars films until I’ve seen it a few times and have had a close listen to the soundtrack (which feels like recycled TFA music). That one Finn/Rose theme sounds like something from Jurassic Park or ET, yet I find myself whistling it to myself. And I was literally SINGING ALONG with the OT fighter music while Chewie was flying the Falcon through the caves. I definitely rank TLJ high among Star Wars films. Not “better than Empire” but possibly “best since Empire.” It was pretty damn good. Definitely in the top 4 (can you believe there are now 9 Star Wars movies? I never thought we’d have more than 6 and there are 6 more on the way!!) I enjoyed seeing it, I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s responses, and I’m looking forward to a few decades debating the thing (hey, it’s been almost 20 years and people are STILL talking about The Phantom Menace). It’s a great movie experience that will provide countless hours of enjoyment outside of the film and that’s what it’s all about.
There’s something intangible about Star Wars. That feeling. Aside from what you see on screen aside from the debates and discussions and the music and merchandise. There’s that feeling. How you felt when watching the movies as a kid. As a child of the Original Trilogy, I didn’t have that feeling very much during the prequels. I felt it in certain moments during The Force Awakens: when Rey slides down the giant sand hill, when Han Solo and Chewie first enter the Falcon, when Rey pulls the lightsaber out of the snow and ignites it, when we finally see Luke Skywalker atop the steps on Ahch-To. There was an awakening, and I felt it, but for only a few moments. After The Force Awakens, the feeling I had was of relief. That the movie didn’t suck. That J.J. Abrams had brought Star Wars back into positive territory. But the Last Jedi gave me that other feeling, and I felt it throughout. The Last Jedi is great* because it made me feel like a kid again.
Mark McGinty‘s work has appeared in Maybourne Magazine, Montage Magazine, Minneapolis Running and Yahoo! Entertainment. His novel The Cigar Maker won a Bronze Medal at the 2011 Independent Publisher Book Awards and was named Finalist at both the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards and the 2011 National Indie Excellence Awards. Mark lives in Minneapolis with his wife and daughter.