A lot has been (and certainly will be) said about The Last Jedi. I’m not going to really get into it that much. But I have had a few thoughts about it that I thought I’d write down… Here are the non-spoilery bits:
It is a well crafted, good movie. With a notable exception or two, the characters have actual (mostly meaningful) story arcs. It manages to have quite a bit of fan service thrown in, but not too much. And it has very strong visual storytelling that is allowed to pull its own weight.
I really enjoyed it. For years now (okay, decades) I’ve wanted a talented storyteller to put effort into a Star Wars movie. One finally did, and I absolutely love it for that. There were rough parts, to be sure. But you know, there are no perfect movies.
My recommendation is that you check your fantitlement at the theatre door and enjoy it for the big event kid’s movie it is. (Big kid’s event movie?)
Now for some spoilery bits…
Spoilers ahead, ye be warned... (click to show)
If you haven’t watched it yet,
you aren’t a real Star Wars fan, don’t read any further.
So I said most characters had story arcs. There were a couple that notably didn’t. Snoke is the primary one. I actually like what they did though. It basically makes him a strawman. An evil placeholder. Just keeping the seat warm for Kylo Ren.
One character arc was far too extreme for my taste (and it’s probably not the one you’re thinking). Poe Dameron. He went from a hotshot pilot to mutineer (!) to wise leader. That’s a bit much for one movie’s subplot. I honestly can’t get past the mutiny. When he pulled the gun on the command staff, they should have shot him dead. At the very least he should have been stunned and woken up in the brig.
The Last Jedi certainly didn’t fix the Rey “Mary Sue” problem either. Although I love that (according to Kylo Ren) her parents are “nobodies,” that kind of makes her abilities and knowledge more of a glaring issue. (She’s a crack mechanic, knows lots of alien languages like Wookie – I didn’t see many Wookies on Jakku – flies the Falcon better than Han, learns advanced force traits with no training, all while growing up alone on a desert planet with no family! Wow!) I know a lot of people say that Luke was a “Gary Stu.” And, perhaps he was – a little bit. However, A New Hope really showed that the only thing he was truly, naturally, talented at was complaining. Speaking of Luke…
I like the Luke storyline – Given what Rian Johnson was handed (a long-time absent Jedi), it made sense. If you don’t like it I ask you how could it have been handled without making Luke completely irresponsible? As soon as J.J. and Co. put him in exile, he had to be either evil or broken.
Ultimately I think most of problems were actually created by The Force Awakens. J.J. Abrams repeatedly makes fundamental mistakes in storytelling. Also, he focuses far too much on something entirely irrelevant to good stories: That mystery box/macguffin. (“What’s in the box?!”) It’s a lazy crutch, and it ruins the films he makes.
Ok, back to Fantitlement…
In this section of the post you should imagine Luke Skywalker singing “You Don’t Own Me” by Lesley Gore.
Fantitlement; I can think of no franchise so afflicted with this scourge than Star Wars. Now I know, it makes sense really. It’s probably the biggest franchise in the world. Most of us were indoctrinated into it at a young age. Loving it when we were young, and having fond memories of it are great. But we need to, well frankly, grow the hell up. If you didn’t like the movie then that’s fine. But that doesn’t mean it “raped/destroyed/otherwise-harmed your childhood.” (I swear, if someone actually said that to my face, I think I might smack them upside the head.)
Yes, you’ve imagined yourself in that story/universe for decades, and those imaginings are your stories. But that’s not what Disney paid $4,000,000,000 to Lucas for. (Look at all those zeroes.)
Look at it this way: Are you an eight to thirteen year old child? No? Then this movie isn’t meant for you. Okay? That makes your (our) opinion the same as a fart in the wind.
At the very least, you need to temper your expectations. You will absolutely never duplicate those childhood feelings watching a new Star Wars movie. It just won’t happen. So don’t try. Accept that the original (or god help you the prequel) trilogy is your story. This trilogy is for the next generation of Star Wars fans. At this point, your fantitlement is merely victimizing your potential enjoyment of an event movie.
Wow. This turned into a bit of a rant, didn’t it?
As long as we’re talking about it… The Star Wars brain trust are in a bit of a pickle regarding the last movie of this trilogy, aren’t they? I’m not even going to get into the fact that it’s going to be handled by J.J. and the Batman vs Superman writer… Well, I guess I already said this (the last paragraph):
Mini review: Rian Johnson just schooled JJ & Co. in good film making. Solid visual storytelling, characters had story arcs, nuance, and still had humor to boot. Well done.— Matthew McCray (@matthew_mccray) December 15, 2017
Unfortunately, SW IX is going to be handled by JJ and the BvS writer. Ugh. Is Rey's mother's name "Martha?"
Clearly this third movie was going to be Leia’s send off. But now they’ll have to handle it some other way. Allegedly they won’t CGify Carrie Fisher for the last movie. Which is good, we don’t need to go through all that with someone so recently departed.
If it was me, the first scene of the movie would be Leia’s funeral.
On that note, I hope y’all enjoy your respective winter solstice celebrations! (We should all celebrate the returning of the sun, after all.)