*Since Star Wars is effectively a non-entity and a bit of a joke at this point, I thought I would drag my original post on this film out from the ether, update it a bit but not much, and send it back out into a cruel world. Plus, I had just rewatched the Red Letter Media review of this film and I highly recommend that you see those gents chat about it. But looking back, golly, how innocent we were back in that winter of 2017…
Do I really want to do this? I mean really? There ought to be law against the amount of bandwidth allowed for yet another review of an entry in the Star Wars saga. Sooner or later the internet will just get full, which means…no more room for cat videos. And the horror of that is just too horrifically horrible to even contemplate.
Besides this is already a new year, which of course means, well…nothing. But it should mean something, and I don’t see how another take on Star Wars will give 2022 a tinker’s cuss of a chance to be different than 2021 was. Or 2018. Or hell, any year that followed 1977 now that I think of it, but that doesn’t mean that I should add to the pollution out there already! I mean, I’m trying to be a smidge greener nowadays. Sure, I still don’t sort out recycling at all really, but I’m starting to feel a touch of a moment of passing fleeting guilt about it occasionally.
I suppose it isn’t worth fighting anymore. Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi was released waaaay back in the halcyon plagueless days of December 2017. Despite some hallowed websites that compiled critical reviews saying otherwise, the public spoke and frankly, they just didn’t shut up about this movie. Some thought it was the best entry ever in the series. Others ranked it amongst the original trilogy. Still others placed it somewhere between the Ewoks cartoon series and the Droids cartoon series.
Before I saw this episode in the theater, I wanted to come in completely clean, so I read every single plot reveal that I could. I know this goes against the rules of the road, but I am a maverick in the Cruisian sense of the word. Personally, I believe that already knowing the so-called spoilers made the movie a bit more palatable to me, especially compared to the vehement fanlads and fanlasses who went in sight unseen. In the intervening years after The Force Awakens, they had constructed elaborate theories ad nauseum. Concurrently, I had just wondered why the McRib isn’t a regular menu item. (I mean, c’mon, McDonald’s! Give us the fake ribs pressed into barbecue laden patty goodness all the time already!)
But I deliciously digress. So, I went in with full spoilers, hoping that would keep reviews off my back. Over the New Year’s weekend of 2017, I went to an actual theater to see The Last Jedi. My overarching goal was to locate a theater with a full-blown bistro attached. After all, even if the movie blew wamprats, I would be assured some crispy chicken tenders and an icy Dutch brew. Oh, and perhaps some lovely funnel cake sticks as well? Well, why not? (I realize that funnel cake sticks sound decadent, but I can assure you: they were.)
When the movie was over, I didn’t know what to think. All I knew was that I was drenching in the remnants of various dipping sauces that came from attempting to devour savory and sweet treats in the dark. But where to go from there, aside from trying to shout out caramel and ranch with subpar theater napkins? Since the movie was supposedly about balance, I shall recall some random points in no order whatsoever. My only process is that I shall endeavor to place a negative point after a positive one for as long as it is feasible.
By the way, you little fanperson snowflakes, I plan on spoiling the absolute snot out of this so don’t come crying to me. I mean, the damn movie has been out for over four years now. Besides, as I hate even having to warn about spoilers in the first place, I guess I am mellowing in my ever-increasing age. Here, I’ll tell you what, don’t even start reading this until you’ve seen the movie. I’ll wait. No, go ahead, I’ll be right here.
Okay, are we good now? Fine, I can get started. Oh, you’ve got a little chocolate on your chin. Wasn’t I right about those funnel cake sticks? What an absolute treat indeed! Totally worth the experience. Anyway, what were we talking about? Oh, yeah, the movie. Hooray. Here we go!
- Let’s start with something positive…hmmm… Yeah, this is an easy one, but it bears mentioning. John Williams’ score is a treat and, pun intended, hits all the right notes. Even when he evokes a passage from Return of the Jedi near the end, I was smiling after I reflexively genuflected. Williams is an absolute treasure for this series. This is the man that made the prequels tolerable with hours of amazing music. Your patience in dealing with this sequel trilogy nonsense should garner you more accolades than your shelves could ever handle. Bless you, Mr. Williams, sir. Bless you.
- This movie could have certainly been edited a bit tighter. There is some true fat that needed trimming (and not because of the funnel cake sticks, am I right? Whoooo! That’s a good one!) No, really, it isn’t like this plot demanded 2.5 hours in the first place. Take out at least half an hour and I think the movie would pick up considerably. (I know, I know…given the length of what follows, I’m the last guy to talk about editing. “Nice brief article! Are you Rian Johnson or something?!“)
- All the characters introduced in Episode VII are back and acquit themselves nicely, given the limitations in the script. Truly any beefs I have with this movie are not the result of any of the performances from the returning Force Awakens cast. Seeing as how VIII takes place about 3 minutes after the end of VII, allowing for practically no worthwhile growth and development, I am amazed that they come off as well as they do. Well, except for Captain Phasma, who lasts in the movie about as long as a sparkler burns. (Wow, the negativity even swells up in the positive comments, eh? I’ll try to be even more balanced going forward. Well…after the next comment of course.)
- Prior to this film, I never knew that war was bad, and some people profit in wartime. Golly, thank you VIII! Now, I understand and that’s due to the subtle way you hammered your points into my skull. Look, I wanna watch lightsaber fights and thrill to space battles in my space operas, not sit through real-life discourse handled in such a ham-fisted and bludgeoning manner, thank you very much.
- Mark Hamill is a godsend in this movie. Granted, this is kinda Luke Skywalker, not the Luke Skywalker, but he certainly doesn’t embarrass himself. (Well, if you don’t count that whole drinking milk scene. The less said about that, the better. Although, I hope that I will live to see the day that a LEGO set of that moment is available on store shelves.) Hamill does the best he can with what he was given, and his scenes make the movie, plain and simple.
- Let’s take a quick pause while I bring up this pop quiz: can you name any significant new male characters that were introduced in this movie? I’ll wait. No, take your time. It’s only been more than four years now. Give up? Okay, okay! It was a trick question. There were no significant new male characters introduced in this movie! Hah, gotcha! (Yeah, I know Benicio shows up for a glorified cameo just long enough to be a sleazeball, then he vanishes, taking with him the hope that he’ll be an interesting addition to the cast.) Apparently, the male Resistance staffers all died after VII and if they weren’t killed then, they were blown away in the first 30 minutes of VIII. (I know Admiral Ackbar might not be in the first round of the Star Wars Hall of Fame with the general populace, but the man certainly deserved a better death than he was handed in this entry.)
- Porgs! Fine, they were cute enough without overstaying their welcome. Props to Chewie for how he initially regarded them too. Again…LEGO set? Please?
- Bruce Dern is one of the greatest character actors of all time. Hitchcock used him twice. He is the glue that holds The ‘Burbs together. He shot John Wayne in the damn back like the damn coward he damn well was. Bruce Dern is awesome. So why would his daughter not be awesome in this movie? Sub-Vice-Admiral-Not-Leia Holdo is a waste of a character. She withholds information from Oscar Isaac for no reason other than she can. The First Order can somehow track Resistance ships in hyperspace. And I could see her being hesitant to share the escape plan if there was suspicion that someone turned traitor and was feeding the bad guys information. But…no. That would be far too explainable and would add some justified plot tension. Instead she is there to make Isaac look like a buffoon and then she makes everything better by sacrificing herself? I guess what I’m saying is that her character moments could have instead been handled by Leia…or Ackbar…or most of all…Bruce Dern. Yes, that would have been great!
- Never before has a puppet been more welcome than when Yoda shows up! Just to hear Frank Oz’s voice coming from a non-CGI, non-always-grim-prequel Yoda was terrific. I could have watched Mark Hamill and that puppet for an hour. Actually, just fill the rest of the movie with the Falcon blowing stuff up for another hour and I’d be good. Although this brings up a story point: why not have Yoda interact at some point with Rey on the island? Wouldn’t she benefit from some training/insight from him too? And to go a bit further, why not have a different Force ghost show up to talk to Luke? Why not the ghost of…Anakin Skywalker? After all, Ben Solo is Anakin’s grandson, so he’d have a vested interest to be sure. Plus, Anakin could talk about how one can use the Force to pull oneself out of the cold dead reaches of space and fly like the last son of Krypton onto the heavily damaged bridge of the ship that you were blown out of in the first place. Nevermind! That’d be too ridiculous, right?
- Oh man, the negativity is flowing now. All right fine, I’ll say it: why couldn’t Luke sacrifice himself in person rather than somehow expiring after projecting himself across the galaxy? Not that I wanted to see Luke die anyway, but as the powers that be were all hell bent on killing off the Original Trilogy cast members with the sequel trilogy, why not give Luke a blaze of glory moment? Wouldn’t it have been awesome to watch him raise that X-Wing out of the water to get his rear to Salt Flat Planet? Even have Yoda there, nodding approval, and saying, “Fail you do not this time, young Skywalker!”
- I’m supposed to believe that children throughout the galaxy are inspired to retell this movie’s story?! What about the Resistance recently blowing up Starkiller Base in VII? Wasn’t that a bigger splash of recent hope? Instead won’t those kids just reply, “So waitaminute! Girls are smart and boys are dumb and a hologram shows up and the First Order shoots at it long enough so that 9 people can escape onto the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy? Huh. Yeah, can we get back to that wonderful game where we just stare at a wall in silence because your story sucks?”
- And since no one else will go there, VIII had a chance for a wonderful ending. When the Resistance distress signal goes out, would it have been too much to show a communications console flickering elsewhere? And when someone wearing a cape answers it, maybe reveal that the console is perhaps located in…a city…in the clouds…? (While at least I’m glad that Lando didn’t get whacked in Episode IX, his taking the call would have been such a better way to end VIII.)
- Still no Wedge? What the hell? Like for reals here people. Again, I’m glad he wasn’t introduced just to get blowed up next to whomever was wearing Ackbar’s make-up on the bridge, but c’mon. Wedge blew up Death Star II. The man is an accomplished legend, unlike other cult Star Wars figures like Boba Fett, for instance. (Yeah! Sick burn there, right? Whooooo! Suck it, Fett!)
Whoa. This doesn’t really show much balance now that I look at it. I can readily understand why some fans left the theater with their teeth clenched and their blood pressure rising beyond measure. (Again, another wonderful reason to experience this movie with delightful distracting funnel cake sticks!)
At the end of the day, time hasn’t been the kindest to Episode VIII. While it does have some amazing visual moments, they are constantly snuffed out by the plot and character inconsistencies. I can appreciate the need to try something different, defying expectations along the way, but not when that means having a compromised script. Even the newer characters are given a disservice this way, which is sad.
Just when the movie picks up, it goes down, only to come back up again, to go down again. And not in a “roller coaster of incredible plotting kind of way” but rather in a “why the hell would they do that kind of way”. I love Chewie blowing TIE fighters out of the sky and in the caves, but I think the irrelevant sidequest to Planet Vegas is a preachy drag. I think the Snoke and Kylo Ren interactions were great, but then that ended rather suddenly and unsatisfactorily.
Hm. That appears to be balanced though now that I look at it. Each good point is counteracted by a bad point. I guess I have achieved what Master Luke was talking about. Balance… Feel the power of the Force flowing over you now… Ahhhh… I can even forget about how VIII never showed Luke reacting to the news about Han being killed by Kylo. Ahh…I’m sure it was nothing…
Although…now that I mention it in a way that I completely planned…
Yeah, the whole lack of a Luke reaction thing was weird wasn’t it? You would think that seeing Luke’s dramatic response after hearing how his good friend Han was run through with a lightsaber by his own son would be quite the moment. After all, Luke risked everything in Empire Strikes Back, even abandoning his Jedi training with Yoda in trying to save Han and Leia on Bespin, but I’m sure that was just a fleeting rash moment, right?
Then again, Luke did partake in the ultimate sidequest at the beginning of Return of the Jedi just to save Han from Jabba the Hutt. Think about it: Luke put battling the Empire, continuing his training, and confronting Vader on the backburner just so he could whip back to Tatooine to get that scruffy looking, flash frozen smuggler back. Hm. So why not show Luke’s reacting to Han’s death then? Both Luke and Han were good friends, right? Han even became part of the family when he paired up with Leia. There must have been a very good reason to not show Luke’s reaction.
Well, there is a reason and not necessarily a good one. Under the parameters of this particular script, if you show Luke reacting, you get immediately stuck for two reasons:
- Either Luke continues to play the uninvolved curmudgeon even after hearing about Han which makes you intensely dislike Luke for his frustratingly maddening attitude and position, or…
- Luke is going to join the fray right away, firing up his green lightsaber. And since he’ll need some back-up, Luke can then run Rey through some accelerated training with help from Force ghosts Yoda, Obi-Wan, and Anakin. He can then rocket off to confront his powerful nephew and Snoke in an amazing finale that takes a bite out of the First Order and shines as a beacon of hope for the galaxy. (But of course, this reaction is the one that the script deliberately went out of its way to avoid having. If only Luke was a woman because then the producers would have certainly used this kick-ass storyline without hesitation. Ooooh…I’m controversial! Hah!)
Instead we got Luke as a lame duck Force projection and Rey moves some rocks. Okay, I have to walk away now. Balance, schmalance. Man, I wish I was more of a Star Wars fan so I could justify the length of this piece. That’s it, I’m going to go back to the theater because that Oreo Chocolate Volcano dessert looked amazing! Mmmm…Oreo cookies… Now that’s balance!