Spoiler-Free Observations on The Last Jedi

Some thoughts on The Last Jedi, after I’ve had a night to chew on it. These thoughts are spoiler-free, because I am not a dick.

1. I enjoyed it and it was a solid entry into the canon, which means that Disney has now made three solid Star Wars films in a row (The Force Awakens, Rogue One, The Last Jedi) which is a thing George Lucas never managed to do. Disney puts a premium on entertaining you, and it shows.

2. But I think the reviews I’ve seen for the film might be generally a smidgen overhyped, possibly because reviewers simply still aren’t used to Star Wars films being consistently solid, and possibly because The Last Jedi is getting extra credit for not being just a rehash of any one particular Star Wars movie, like The Force Awakens was clearly Star Wars (I continue my cranky old person refusal to call it A New Hope) right down to a Death Star trench run. Extra credit as in, “Hey, look! It’s not The Empire Strikes Back Again Once More! Three thumbs up!” The Last Jedi is a good and enjoyable film, but I think people should be wary of expecting the best Star Wars film ever. It’s not that. Which is fine! “Good and enjoyable” means it’s well worth watching if you’re a Star Wars fan, a term which encompasses most of humanity at this point.

(Also, don’t confuse “not exactly Empire” with “there are no obvious callbacks to the original trilogy,” because there are — whoa baby there are — just not tied so specifically to a single film like TFA was with Star Wars.)

3. I’ve noted before that the way I intellectually handle the egregious science and logic fails of Star Wars is to think of the films as mythology, i.e., stories presented through such a deep filter of time and oral tradition that to expect logic is almost aside the point. You don’t expect logic from Star Wars any more than you expect it out of, say, Jason and the Argonauts. With regard to The Last Jedi, let me just say it’s a very good thing that I already have this as part of my world view. Because, whoo boy, it is, shall we say, super-mythy. There were a couple of scenes where I was all “Wait, what? That thing happened, and we’re all just going to… be okay with that?” And apparently the answer was, why, yes, we are, both the characters in the story and the audience in the theater.

4. What it does share in common with Empire, and what I think is not surprising given we know it’s a middle film in a trilogy, is that the film is more low-stakes than the previous installment — no Death Star to blow up, just the rebels desperate and on the run, as they so often are. So we spend more time with the developing characters emotionally, which works to a greater or lesser extent depending on the character. Interestingly, the character I think has the most complete character arc, or at least, most obviously shows it, is Poe Dameron. His through-line, not Rey or Finn’s, feels like the spine of the movie to me. This is kind of… odd, given the general concerns of the film and the title, but I’ll take it.

5. The Last Jedi is the longest Star Wars film, and director Rian Johnson packs it full of story, so you’re unlikely to be bored, and even the laggy parts move along. With that said, there’s so much going on in the story and we’re keeping track of so many characters (Luke and Leia and Rey and Kylo and Poe and Finn and Chewie and BB-8 and R2D2 and C-3PO and Hux and Snoke and Phasma and oh look there are new characters too and what the hell are these porg things anyway?) that it can feel thin, and some bits are clearly contrived simply to give beloved characters things to do and/or give us new merchandising yes Porgs I am looking at you (I bought a porg stuffed animal at the show last night so, uh, I fell for it). I think I would have been happier with a sharper focus on fewer characters, and also I’m worried that Episode IX will be three and a half hours long and have five different endings, a la The Return of the King.

6. One thing that is notable about The Last Jedi is that to me it’s the first Star Wars main sequence film that feels cinematically divergent from the others. The first six films in the Skywalker family sequence are of a piece because of the presence of George Lucas, who directed and/or wrote and/or produced and/or was hovering about in the editing room for each of them. The Force Awakens was handed over to J.J. Abrams, who appears to specialize in mimicking the cinematic feel of particular 70s-era directors (See: Super 8, with Abrams in Spielberg mode) and who Lucas’d up TFA like he was supposed to — and, to be clear, in a way I think was necessary to assure fans that the new Disney version of Star Wars was going to give them that certain Star Wars feeling.

But now comes Rian Johnson, who wrote, directed and brings in his own backend crew, and the vibe is different. The story structure is a little off from previous episode. The design is of a piece but certain set pieces are handled differently (one scene in particular reminded me of nothing so much as a Star Trek original series fight scene, done on the stage of an MGM technicolor musical). The editing of the film feels very different to me. The emotional beats don’t land in the same places they would in previous films. The humor in particular is very different; these are not Lawrence Kasdan jokes, they are Rian Johnson jokes.

The Last Jedi is definitely a Star Wars film — but it’s a Star Wars film that’s definitively moving away from the Lucas model and sensibility. I think it helps that Rogue One, the first non-sequence, non-Lucas Star Wars film, came out last year and got audiences used to films in the universe with different beats and approaches than Lucas or Lucas pastiche (and indeed Rogue One was marketed as being a step away from the usual, despite the appearance yet again of the friggin’ Death Star).

I don’t want to oversell this divergence, for two reasons. One, there’s only so much “innovation” the Star Wars universe will take — note that Lucasfilm head Kathleen Kennedy is happy to fire directors she feels are lost in the weeds or are not giving the films enough of a Star Wars feeling, and that pastiche master (this is not an insult) JJ Abrams will be back for Episode IX. But the divergence is there, and its worth noting that Lucasfilm and Disney approve of it enough that they’re letting Johnson scope out a whole new trilogy of Star Wars films. The Lucas mode of Star Wars seems to be coming to an end (probably with Episode IX) and the Johnson mode of Star Wars may — may — be on the way. And that’s very interesting.

7. What about Luke? I will say this: I don’t think I’ve seen Mark Hamill ever give a better onscreen performance than he does here (he’s been a great voice actor for a while now), and no, that’s not damning with faint praise. Hamill’s a solid actor when he has a good director and a good part, and he’s got both in this film. Luke is older and tired and cranky and has had his fill of being a legend, and Hamill nails all of that. Ironically for an actor whose career was for a very long time overshadowed by the character of Luke, this iteration of the character is one I think could finally show to casting directors that Hamill has the chops for non-genre roles. I’d be happy to see Hamill get a career bump from this.

8. And Leia? Well, we’re all going to miss Carrie Fisher, and that’s all I’m going to say about that.

9. Others have noted that this film continues the new (and welcome) Star Wars tradition of diversifying roles in the universe; the new important characters are all not white dudes, and the background characters are also suitably all over the place. I’m gonna be honest and note I didn’t give this any sort of thought while I was watching the film, which I think is the one of the points of diverse casting. I will note that I don’t hear the outraged wailing of infantile white dudes about it as much this year, but then 2017 has not been a great year, culturally, for wailing infantile white dudes. Which I don’t mind at all.

(Update: Turns out they are indeed whining about it, and I had just missed it. Oh, well.)

10. In terms of ranking The Last Jedi, I’d tie it with Rogue One, which puts it above Return of the Jedi and every one of the prequel films. It’s, again, solid, fun and points toward a new direction for the Star Wars universe. I enjoyed it! And I want to find out what happens next — in the story, and in the real world development of the Star Wars films.

(Comment thread open. Warning: I’m going to allow discussion there to include spoilers. Avoid the comments if spoilers are not a thing you want.)

52 thoughts on “Spoiler-Free Observations on The Last Jedi

  1. REMINDER: Comments might have spoilers in them. Avoid if you want to avoid spoilers.

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  2. “(one scene in particular reminded me of nothing so much as a Star Trek original series fight scene, done on the stage of an MGM technicolor musical)”

    YES! During that whole scene I was trying to figure out what it reminded me of, and you nailed it. I thought that set was one of the worst parts of the movie, actually. It looked more like a stage play than a Star Wars scene. Still really enjoyed the movie, though. And I want a porg.

  3. I really enjoyed the movie. A part of me want to criticize it because Finn’s arch has zero importance to the story overall (unless I’m missing something); but everything was ridiculously fun, so I think that is as good as it needs to be.

  4. I loved it. The movie has it’s missteps and missed opportunities, but it’s otherwise solid and the performances were fantastic.

    I know I differ from conventional wisdom in that I think the film wanted and deserved to be longer. Maybe it’s because I’ve been spoiled by binge watching GoT and Stranger Things that I don’t mind a well told intricate and complex story.

    I thought the twin stars setting at the end was really poetic. That one scene – you know the one – was amazzzzzzing in 3d.

    8.5/10

  5. I enjoyed the false finishes, the teased turns, and the unceremoniously quashed fan theory. All sorts of energy given in trying to figure out certain characters and, boom, doesn’t matter now. It’s like Agents of SHIELD hyping Lucy Lawless joining the cast all Summer only to kill her character off in the first 5 minutes of the season premiere. I appreciate stories that keep me thinking about this felt line a fun roller coaster to me. I also adore Rose.

  6. My favourite bit, which I only realized his morning, was that almost every male character in he movie in the movie is an idiot who makes bad decisions. They are only redeemed/saved if they listen to the advice of the much smarter or wiser women. Which I loved. Laughed out loud when I realized it.

    Also, the First Order isn’t exactly run by rocket scientists right now, is it?

  7. I saw it in 3D yesterday morning here in the UK. I liked it (but my bladder didn’t. There is no good point in the film for a comfort break so be warned if you like your giant cup of soda with your popcorn). Most of the comment I’ve seen on the forums I help moderate have been complimentary but a few folks didn’t like it. I liked the porgs as well and the ice wolves/foxes. Loved Admiral Holdo’s final action – my jaw dropped.

  8. This movie struck me as the writer’s room had a bunch of ideas that seemed really cool at first blush, framed the plot around all these cool ideas and then never thought through the ramifications of any of the cool ideas.

    Most irritating: WHY BOTHER WITH DEATH STARS IF YOU CAN RAN AT HYPERSPEED

  9. I’m undecided. I thought it was too long, and parts did lag because of that. The Finn trip to find the codebreaker was a big misstep for me. But some of it was pure magic. Every scene with Luke in, for a start. I’d put Rogue One ahead of The Last Jedi, though.

  10. Seeing it tomorrow. Tomato rating from the audience is in the 60 percentile, which doesnt sound good. Or maybe its white dudes complaining about diversity. Which i would be fine with.

    Now back to spoiler avoidance mode.

  11. I still can’t figure out why Chewie couldn’t eat the porgs. He had already killed, plucked, gutted and roasted two of them, they should have given him a pass. Two, and no more please…

  12. The whole codebreaker thing needed to be cut. I would have been fine with it if it was Lando, but it was completely unnecessary as it stood, just a half-hour of film that didn’t advance the plot or Finn & Rose as characters. Just send them over on a stealth ship and have them still be unsuccessful. The only thing that would have needed changing would have been the kid in the last scene and really, it’s not like we knew him well anyway. Could have been the first time he’d appeared, and it would have been fine. Or use some kids from Jakku, a nice tie in with Ep7. And give us more Luke & Artoo instead.

  13. The Lord of the Rings did not have five different endings! The five scenes to which you refer were sequential plot points and a way for the filmmaker, Peter Jackson, to compress the ending into a few minutes rather than another hour. In the book Tolkien carried the story all the way back to the shire after the climatic point of the destruction of the ring and further even to the Grey Haven’s and Frodo’s and Bilbo’s departure from Middle Earth. That said, I think I missed Rouge One. Do I need to see it to see this new film? Just asking. More a Trekkie fan here than Star Wars.

  14. cgirten, re: the kid at the end…did you notice that he used the force to grab the broom? That implied (to me) that The Force has many people who can use it. Not just the Skywalkers and not just kids from Jakku.

  15. I, also, disliked the codebreaker diversion and thought it should have been cut. I wasn’t impressed with Finn and Rose’s accomplishments during the action on the casino planet; they failed to find the person they needed, made a huge mess of things, and ended up being rescued and having their problem solved for them by a character who came out of nowhere and probably shouldn’t still have been sitting in that holding cell by the time they got there.

    (I also don’t understand how several days seem to have passed between their leaving the rebel fleet and arriving there, judging by the passage of time in Rey’s story, but they got back after finding their codebreaker after the rebels were down to less than 6 hours of fuel. I’d have to watch it again to be sure of the timeline, but it didn’t seem right.)

    I have to say, though, I did a complete re-watch of the entire series before this movie came out, and I’d put this one ahead of pretty much every movie except Episode 4 for overall goodness, and ahead of every movie except the OT and Rogue One for Star Wars-iness. It was refreshing.

  16. Poe violated orders twice, was demoted, and caused 90%+ of the Rebellion to be killed due to leaking the plan to take transports to the planet, and every plan Poe comes up with goes badly and needs a woman to save the day:
    – Bombing run (entire squadron killed, only succeeded due to Rose’s sister)
    – Hacking plan (they didn’t deactivate the tracker, was unnecessary anyway because Holdo never planned to hyperspace jump again)
    – Escaping by following the foxes (the route was blocked, Rey had to free them)

    (via https://fanfare.metafilter.com/10441/Star-Wars-The-Last-Jedi#166747)

    Also, Film Crit Hulks nails how much of a repudiation JJ’s mystery boxing was tossed over the cliff by Rian. Will be interesting to see how to hand-off back to JJ works for IX

    https://filmcrithulk.blog/2017/12/15/the-force-belongs-to-us-the-last-jedis-beautiful-refocusing-of-star-wars/

  17. I just saw it this morning, and I’m left with mixed emotions. The whole Finn/Rose subplot was unnecessary, although I really like both characters. It also feels like they’re setting up a “Finn’s torn between two women even though he doesn’t understand Rey’s motivations at all” subplot for the future.

    John, you are so, so right about Mark Hamill, he was brilliant. As far as Carrie Fisher…this grandmotherly Leia never did feel right to me, which probably wasn’t her fault.

    The economics and weapons design (guns platforms on long spindly legs. REALLY?) of the Empire/First Order have always given me a headache. I try not to think about it.

  18. Whoa… all this time I’d just thought that Jason was just a random name that They Might Be Giants threw into a song with some argonauts. I guess I’ll have to read the plot summary of that film.

    Anyway, I liked The Last Jedi a lot, probably more than the other recent ones. It was also fairly easy to follow even though I haven’t seen the other movies as many times as a lot of fans probably have.

  19. Am I imagining things…or did I see the Boring Ancient Jedi Books on the Falcon? At the end, when Finn picked up a blanket to cover Rose? I thought of Leia as Leia, not “Carrie acting the part of Leia” so I was fine with her lack of range. What are the odds of Grandpa Anakin showing up as a force ghost to chide Kylo Ren about his behaviour? (I am taking for granted Luke puts in an appearance visiting Rey or Kylo or both.)

    If you want to know more about Canto Bight, read the book, I think knowing more of the background adds depth.
    https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/566723/canto-bight-star-wars-by-saladin-ahmed-rae-carson-mira-grant-john-jackson-miller/9781524799533/

  20. So here’s the thing. Poe done goofed. Badly. He sent Finn and Rose out on that unnecessary sub-plot, which not only failed to accomplish their goals, but actually got a ton of Resistance fighters killed. I’m not sure he actually realised the magnitude of his “cocky fighter jock attitude” error either.

    Don’t get me wrong, I liked Finn and Rose interacting, but it was definitely the weak part of the film.

    I like that the film was very funny, yet equally it was not a comedy. I especially liked the way they dealt with the Snoke identity and Rey’s parentage.

    That fight with the Praetorian Guard? Hells yes. Better than any fight in the prequels.

    But the biggest thing I took away from this? Forget Solo and Kenobi, I want a Maz Kanata solo film!!

  21. Just saw it with the wife at a non 3D IMAX noon screening. During the preview they put up the “Please put your 3D glasses on” card, and the nearly packed theatre went nuts. Everyone started bitching loudly about how 3D sucks, and people started streaming for the exits. Some poor 16 year old kid had to come out and yell out that it would NOT be in shown in 3D. Everyone cheered. I don’t really like 3D movies, but I had no idea there was such a large group of 3D haters out there!

    As for the movie itself, I was pretty conflicted for the first half for the same reasons people have already said. Finn/Rose’s gambling adventure was a total waste of much needed screen time for the other (better) plotlines.

    However, the second half was very, very good. Maybe it’s just me, but this seems opposite to most films. Usually they start out interesting and then fall to pieces, but this actually got much better as it went along.

    I love that the force is democratized. Rey is not part of some magic bloodline, and the kid at the end who force powers a broom into his hand is just a random kid.

    The psychic interaction between Rey and Kylo was excellent. I could have watched a whole (much quieter) movie of Rey “training” with Luke and having psychic chats with Kylo and been very happy.

    I also really like the idea of clearing away all the Jedi/Sith junk. They only took a half step in this direction, but it makes me very optimistic for the non Skywalker Rian Johnson films.

    Overall, I put it roughly on par with Empire and Rogue One. Given it has the good guys falling back and losing for 2.5 hours it’s not exactly a surprise the audience reaction is mixed. It’s most definitely a better film than The Force Awakens, but not nearly as much of a crowd pleaser.

  22. Excellent review, sir. Son & husband will be seeing it in the next few days, but it may be a while before I do, so I don’t hold out a lot of hope for getting to see it without something unspoiled. (Yes, I did get a big spoiler on The Force Awakens, but at least it was something I could totally see coming in both the context of the scene itself and my knowledge of dramatic arcs, so that wasn’t too bad.)

  23. Overall, I liked it a lot. But watching it felt like 3 different movies were crammed into one, and I think the overall flow of the movie suffered for it. I was really impressed with the fleshing out of Kylo’s character and backstory, and can’t help but wonder how great the movie would have been had it focused more deeply on the developing connection between Rey + Kylo and the competing influences of Luke and Snoke over their growth in the Force. For example, we hardly know anything about Snoke. Onscreen, Snoke basically channels Emperor Palpatine in “Robot Chicken” as the mob boss exasperated by the incompetence of his underlings–entertaining, but not high-stakes emotionally. Same goes for Captain Phasma.

    As for the First Order’s military prowess, I’ll say this. Stormtroopers in previous films never shot straight, but at least they got their shots off without having to first count to 10 and ask “Mother May I’. Hux and Kylo Ren are basically Bond villains in this movie: “I have you trapped and can kill you this very moment, but first let me pause for no good reason so that you can miraculously escape while my attention is diverted.” That was entertaining the first time it happened in the movie, but by the end I wanted to force choke them all for incompetence.

  24. Am I the last person on Earth who doesn’t like SW movies? I was in high school when the original came out and I was as amazed and immersed as everyone else. But somewhere along the line how it just completely flaunts the laws of physics (jets banking in space?) just turns me off. On top of that, it’s just one big car chase movie in space. I’ve taken my son and fallen asleep the past two installments. If you want a good car chase movie, see Baby Driver. a thoroughly underrated movie.

    “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.”

    Give me a smart SF movie like Arrival any time!!!

  25. 3 things that annoyed me:
    1)Bombing run WW2 style…
    I mean, why do they need to be soooo slow? Why having to open the bomb Bay doors by hand?
    Why all the scene…. But it’s nice to watch if you ignore all the cliches.
    2) Disney chicken… I mean, a chicken over a camp fire can’t look that perfect. Unless Chewei is a Michelin Chef on his spare time… hummmmm
    3) The Flash, sorry, the Finn. He might not have the force but can he run…
    The casino scene is fine, useless but fine and it helps set the “oppressed” children setting and helps develop Finn and Rose relationship

  26. I don’t buy Rey’s parents being nobodies. She has a connection to the Skywalker family. That Rey/Kylo psychic connection was still there after Snoke was dead.

    I didn’t mind Rey & Kylo’s Sith battle on the MGM sound stage. It was a different look for Star Wars, but that’s not bad in and of itself. It’s always fun to see previous foes team up in a fight.

    And, @ron, I was in junior high when the first movie came out. I have no problem reverting to my youth to enjoy Star Wars and enjoying smart SF movies too. They aren’t mutually exclusive.

  27. No Ron, you’re not the only one to not be enamoured of Star Wars movies. I cannot join with “most of humanity” on this one.

    I saw the first one when I was already an adult, out of high school, with a half dozen other people. It had been hyped; we went to a midnight preview. We walked out buzzing, and talking of how the ray guns were Stirling submachine guns, but we didn’t feel any greatness to the show.

    As for me, I told people next day that it was old hat, because I had a good childhood. I had seen it all before. I especially thought of the Edgar Rice Burroughs stories that started out with a focus on just Tarzan and ended with entire armies engaged.

  28. I believe the porgs are a stand in for the puffins that kept ruining shots on the island…since they are protected they couldn’t do much to shoo them so they alienined them.

  29. Scalzi,
    If you feel so inclined, check out Mark Hamill in Brixby Bear. It’s a small part but he’s quite good.

  30. The showing I was at had a lot of spontaneous applause. Also a couple of kids with lightsabers and one dressed as BB-8. Since my earliest SW memory is wondering why a couple of people in line were dressed so weird, I was glad to see them.

    I’d rank it below Rouge One personally, because, like TFA, it just didn’t feel quite Star Warsy to me. It’s not the lack of Lucas that’s bugging me, but I can’t quite figure out what is. Maybe it’s the focus on a larger cast. Still a good movie with several twists I didn’t see coming well in advance.

    What I really want, when the next movie comes out, is a novelization of how the story would have gone if we hadn’t lost Carrie Fisher. (Probably not going to happen, but I can hope.)

  31. I have yet to see this film (for me, “Darkest Hour” will come first – tomorrow), but the multiple comments about an unnecessary subplot is fascinating because I literally just finished spending a very interesting 20 minutes watching a video discussion of the editing of the original (now Episode IV) “Star Wars”.

    It is at:

    https://www.talkemount.com/threads/how-star-wars-was-saved-in-the-edit.17635/#post-141580

    and is well worth the time, IMO.

    – Tom –

  32. About the only negative I can cite is that the movie fell prey to what I call “Harry Potter Syndrome”. That is, if the characters would just TALK TO EACH OTHER, many problems could be avoided. If General Laura Dern would have told Poe that the planet Crait was nearby and that’s where they were heading. If Poe would have told her they have a plan to take out the hyperspace tracking MacGuffin. If Rey would have told Luke she was having Kylo Ren Force back-alley meetups… There’s probably more, but DANG, just COMMUNICATE!

  33. 2 things that bugged me the most:
    Continuity flaws in the movie… SO MANY!

    The reveal and death of snoke. What a waste. Who or what was snoke?!?

    The movie feels like fairy floss to me… sweet and yummy but digested very quickly and I feel bad for having enjoyed it cause I know it was just shit.

  34. I appreciate on a style guide level that you refer to the original film as “Star Wars”, as one should, and not as “A New Hope”.

  35. On his Facebook wall, Kurt Busiek commented that Disney keeps making the third-best Star Wars movie. So he seems to be much of your opinion.

  36. Internet porg-nography. It’s gonna be a thing. A BIG thing. Too many degenerate nerds out there for it not to be. Remember where you heard it first ;-)

  37. I haven’t read through all the comments so not sure if I am the only one to say this… but I am not part of the vast swath of humanity that is a Star Wars Fan. Having said this – enjoyed the review and I may actually make the effort to see the movie before it hits DVD or streaming or whatever the kids are offering up these days as the not overpriced cinema experience. Thanks John. :-)

  38. Loved it. Loved cranky old man Luke: I think the Rotten Tomatoes haters must be much younger than me, because I can totally imagine Luke dealing with his pain and failure this way. He was so human here! And loved Poe’s arc and how he screwed up royally every time because he couldn’t do his job and follow orders—from more clever women! Loved it. If Admiral Holdo had told Poe more he’d have just blabbed it—which in fact he did!

    I was sorry not to learn more about MacGuffin Snoke—though New Evil Emperor Zurg was a great plot twist, as foretold quite accurately by Luke, explaining more about why he was tempted to commit nephewcide—morally reprehensible but tactically correct. Sorry that Carrie Fisher‘s acting wasn’t better, but let’s be real: her acting was never all that good. Mark Hamill was great though! And Finn got a lot of screen time for little payoff, but it was fun nonetheless. Shit don’t go according to plan!

    Loved Evil Sniveling Weasley. Loved the small dose of Maz. Loved Ghost Yoda, though clearly he could have rendered aid elsewhere: Ghost motivations are so opaque. Loved the Rey parentage reveal because it made so much more sense and was beautifully heartbreaking, even if it could easily be retconned. Luke’s end, perfect vs. other ways for it to go down and so in keeping with Yoda and Obi Wan if you think about how they really died. And the kid with the broom reminding us that yeah, the Force is everywhere, and the Skywalkers were just a family, not gods.

  39. I think a lot of people watch Star Wars with a ton of preconceived ideas (I know I do… and it really seems like, reading reactions, others do too). That’s probably why the movie didn’t try to show, not tell. Instead it showed, and told, over and over, and it seems like viewers still missed it.

    Here’s hoping that those of us who are Star Wars fans will re-watch this enough times that most of us will pick up on what we missed the first time out of having so many preconceived ideas. That spark of hope – it isn’t dead yet.

    What I liked about the movie – characterization, plotting, explaining what was going on. None of it bored me. The mirror-image callbacks to all sorts of things in earlier Star Wars stories. The way the characters constantly telling you the theme — and their battle plans — would help younger viewers keep up. How every character had believable strong motives and was driven by them and how all the conflict in the plot was driven by those characters and their strong motives.

  40. Disney does know the formula for how to make a thing worth watching. IMO “Frozen” was a great watch the first time but was the same as all other Disney movies for kids. Sure, Bambi’s momma wasn’t in? But same story.
    And.
    The 4 YO loved “Frozen” more than I consider possible, and I think* she wore out the DVD of, and they had to buy a new one.
    .
    * They did buy a new one. Not clear on if the old one wore out or was murdered by siblings/parents, sat on or what.

  41. I concur with your assessment and even made many of the same points in my non-spoiler review. Good to see we’re thinking alike on this one. I am worried that, with Abrams at the helm of IX, we’re going to lose the divergence and get more retread plot lines again though.

  42. Craig: “My favourite bit, which I only realized his morning, was that almost every male character in he movie in the movie is an idiot who makes bad decisions. They are only redeemed/saved if they listen to the advice of the much smarter or wiser women. Which I loved. Laughed out loud when I realized it.”

    I noticed it immediately and found it really fcking shtty writing. Han Solo was cocky, made bad decisions, and it almost always worked out in the end, and redeemed himself in the end without the “wisdom of a woman”. Lando betrayed his friends to vader and redeemed himself in the end without the “wisdom of a woman”.

    Most importantly, they did this without being incompetent. You want people to stop liking a character? Make them incompetent.

    Poe was incompetent. He disobeyed good orders and got all their bombers shot down and crews killed. He committed mutiny for a risky plan that failed and got more people killed.

    Finn was incompetent. He keeps trying to take the coward’s way out and bailing on his friends. He failed his mission to disable the tracking device. He failed to take out the battering ram thingy. His entire presence in the movie can be boiled down to “Indiana Jones Effect”: Keeps showing up, but does nothing whatsoever to stop the bad guys from their plans.

    Finn and Poe together cause Holdo’s plan to be revealed to the bad guys so they found the stealthed cargo ships and got a bunch more people killed.

    And then at the end, Holdo says to Leia something like “that is one cocky pilot. I like him” and Leia says “me too”. Really? You’re telling me about potential, but showing me these guys are dangerous idiots. Make up your gddm minds, writers. Show me, don’t tell me. Which is it?

    Also, the entire plot, at several points during the various turns of the plot, relies entirely on people not saying critically important information to the people who need that information. The worst offender being Admiral Holdo not telling anyone about the actual plan, which was required to explain Poe’s mutiny. But why keep it secret? To keep someone from revealing it to the bad guys? As if they could reveal it while on the frigate but not while on the transports? What. The. Hell. Then Poe figured out they were transferring fuel to teh transports so he figured out the plan, and Holdo confirms it, but even then, insists on remaining dead-fking silent on the critical piece of information, the nearby planet with an old rebel base with heavy defenses??? Really? so the basic plan is no longer secret, but with the missing piece of informaiton, it just sounds like a suicide mission, get in unarmed, unsheilded transport ships and scatter? And the “wise woman” leader just assumed her people should just shut up and obey orders even if it looks like those orders lead to a pointless death?

    People will follow a leader into the mouth of hell if they think there is some sort of payoff. The pilots who flew as part of Jimmy Dolittle’s raid knew they were on a one-way mission, and the odds were slim, but they also knew the payoff was hitting Tokyo for the first time after Pearl Harbor. To them, the payoff was worth the risk. Holdo offered no payoff. But demanded people follow her into the mouth of hell. Apparently for no reason other than to obey orders and die. And yet the movie portrays her as the “wise woman leader” who has to put up with incompetent men?

    Luke was the runner up in the “I will not tell you that which you need to know” award. Rey shows up asking for help and Luke dodges her the entire time she’s on the planet? We watch Luck milk a cow, catch a fish, and do all sorts of things to avoid having a rehash of Luke on Degobah getting training from Yoda, scenes, but with Rey getting the training from Luke. So instead, Luke plays hard to get and we watch him fish? And milk a brontosaurus? Then later, what’s left of the resistance limps its way to an old rebel base and the first order shows up and it look like they’re doomed. Then Luke shows up and faces off against the attackers? He doesn’t say, hey, don’t worry about me, I’m not actually here, but I can buy you some time while you figure a way out the back. No. He doesn’t say any of that. He astrally projects himself in front of the first order and Finn is worried about him because no one realizes Luke is an astral projection. So finn thinks Luke is physically standing in front of the attacking army and is worried about him and wants to help. But Poe figures out that Luke wants them to sneak out the back door while he buys them a little bit of time? Jeebus, Luke. you were only going to be able to delay them for a couple minutes at the most. Maybe make the most of that time by telling everyone, hey, now is your chance to sneek out the back.

    And Rey is still some kind of weird Mary Sue. Still no training of any kind with the force, because Luke is too busy milking brontosauruses, and she’s Kylo Ren’s equal? She defeats several imperial guards. Kylo Ren, master of the knights of Ren, I assume that means some level of advanced training. I assume that means practice and training and advancing up a hierarchy and becoming a “master” of the knights of ren, whatever that means. And Rey shows up, zero force training, the child of scavengers sold into slavery? In Force Awakens, Rey’s flashback when touching Luke’s lightsaber could have indicated she was one of Luke’s pupils and therefore had some training. But that, apparently, was not a flashback, and she was seeing visions of past events that she herself had not seen in person. I thought Luke would recognize her in this movie, as one of his students who he helped escape and left hidden on Jakku. But he didn’t know who she was and he kept asking her “who are you?”. So she is nobody with absolutely zero training and is besting multiple royal guards and matching a master of the knights of ren?

    Meanwhile, third place for Not Going to Tell You This Really Important Thing is…. drumroll… Rey. Rey is having telepathic conversations with Kylo Ren. And she doesn’t bother to mention it to Luke? Really? Luke asks her why she’s here. She says she wants answers. But then she fails to mention, hey, I”m having these weird, inexplicable, telepathic conversations with the second more evil person in the galaxy , and I cant explain it. Maybe it’s important and maybe you could give me a few lessons in the defense against the dark arts or something? Had Luke known, he probably could have monitored Rey the next time it happened, and told her some really important information, like, oh, I don’t know, the most evil man in the galaxy is causing you and Kylo to psychically connect and he’s probably setting a trap for you.

    All the women are mysterious and wise. They’re like the Sphinx from Mystery Men. So mysterious. So wise. And all the men are incompetent. Either they wipe out a quarter of their own military force, or they take a whole lot of time and action and energy and accomplish nothing. But gosh, they’re so cocky, I think I’ll keep them around.

    And Rose Tico? Kissing Finn at the end? What? Where the hell did that come from? She kissed him, and even Finn was like, where did that come from? It was like Harry Potter spending all this emotional energy with Hermione, and then somehow ends up with Ginny Weasley? They’re setting up Finn and Rey to be Harry/Hermione.

    And last but not leastly, how the HELL does space work in Star Wars? This small band of rebel ships could outrun a first order fleet for, like, many, many hours, on impulse power (or whatever it is they call not-hyperspace)? Say what? Why didn’t the First Order just warp in front of them? Or why not call another few ships to warp in front of them? It wasn’t like they didn’t know exactly where they were and have the time to call for reinforcements. The First Order, as far as I can tell, has an insane-level annual budget. There is no way they could explain this as “they’re the only ship in the quadrant” kind of thing.

    And how the hell was Holdo the only one to know there was a planet nearby? That had an abandoned rebel base on it? That had sheilds to hold off an ariel bombardment and would force the First Order to make a surface attack? In an aircraft carrier fleet, there are a few guys whose only job is to look at the map of where they are and write up an intel report about any significant enemy military hardware in the neighborhood.

    Overall I’d say it was far better than any of the Prequels (ep 1-3), because no one ever said anything as assinine as “I don’t like sand”, but probably below Return of the Jedi, because, goddamn, porgs are worse than Ewoks.

  43. I still don’t understand why people keep trying to apply real-world logic to Star Wars action sequences. Lucas decided space battles were a pastiche of a couple of WWII movies, and that’s what Star Wars is. How else do you have a galaxy-spanning civilization that’s mastered FTL travel and has AI that can express emotions and complex concepts in millions of languages, repair complex systems, and make tactical decisions, and yet nothing like a guided missile exists. Any explosive device in Star Wars has to be either thrown or dropped directly on its target! That’s just an inherent silliness of the setting you have to accept as a viewer.

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