Spoilericious Notes On THE LAST JEDI

Spoilericious Notes On THE LAST JEDI

That’s good…
Luke Skywalker, Kylo Ren, and Yoda (hey, I said this would be spoilericious!) are all in agreement that humanity (because humanity represents about 90% of the Star Wars universe; there’s a whole side issue on human privilege that could be explored but we won’t) has grossly misunderstood what The Force is all about, attributing moral / ethical values it lacks (The Force simply…is), and as such creating a huge mess with the whole Jedi / Sith dichotomy and so should be (literally) burned to the ground and something new built from the ashes.

That’s bad…
Based on the amount of training Rey goes through to get to avalanche lifting levels of Force mastery, Rocky Balboa would be an omnipotent god if he could just get into the Star Wars universe.  Y’know how in Hong Kong action films and Japanese anime the characters say, “We need special training,” and they spend thirty seconds to a minute in a montage and come out ready to kick Bruce Lee’s ass?  Not as much training as that.

That’s good…
For the first time the Star Wars universe acknowledges the dreadful compromise and complexity of any large scale society, in particular how the wealth of the Star Wars universe is generated through arms sales and as such there is absolutely no reason for anyone to stop fighting.

That’s bad…
In his climactic showdown with Kylo Ren, Luke Skywalker (dammit, read the title of this post; I said there would be spoilers) promises him and the fans that ”the war is just beginning”Question: Are Disney and the filmmakers even aware that they are criticizing their own business model?  I mean, in a certain sense they’re trapped; by the very name Star WARS they are compelled to tell stories about a grandiose interstellar conflict, unlike Star Trek which is just about a long trip that visits distant planets (or at least used to be…).  But this means that despite the title of Episode IV, there is no hope! and the Star Wars universe is condemned to an eternity of horrific conflict and violent death.

That’s good…
Everybody has agreed to forget all about that silly midi-chlorian nonsense.

That’s bad…
After presenting a consistently godless universe in ten theatrical features, two TV movies, six TV series, and lord knows how many books / comics / games, the concept of God has been dropped into Star Wars (hell as a concept was introduced back in Empire Strikes Back).  I’m absolutely not saying that God has no place in popular entertainment, just that the universe of Star Wars -- both in concept and execution -- consistently portrayed a culture where the very idea of God had never been introduced (but this may be attributable to bad scripting; see below…).

That’s good…
Snoke’s throne room is like something out of a 1950s MGM musical, and I mean that in a good sense:  It looks genuinely futuristic and other worldly.  There are some small edits and cutaway shots in the film that look like nothing else in the Star Wars universe (and not big special effects scenes but rather subtle little moments).  Now and then there are specific call outs to earlier films, in particular Luke Skywalker dying (Fnck you!  I told you there would be spoilers!) under twin suns echoing the moment in the original Star Wars when he stared off into the twin sunset of Tatooine and realized destiny was calling him elsewhere.  And the salt-encrusted mineral world of Crait is the closest thing to a genuinely alien world that we’ve ever seen in Star Wars.

That’s bad…
As my son-in-law Bobby Dragulescu observed, the Star Wars universe is only visually consistent:  In no shape / fashion / form does it portray a uniform worldview (or rather, galactic-view) of a society that could actually function.  The political systems are a hot mess, and for all the endless talk about trade alliances in the prequels, there’s virtually no signs of actual large scale interstellar trade or commerce (with the possible exception of the bio-factory on Kamino cranking out endless copies of Temuera Morrison in Attack Of The Clones).  Mind you, virtually all space operas suffer from this flaw (Star Trek The Original Series hid it better than most by taking place so waaay far out there that commerce had not yet completely caught up with the Enterprise).  Star Wars looks pretty but makes no damn sense, and this problem only gets worse with each additional installment, building towers of cards on foundations of sand.

That’s good…
Poe’s brief exchange with General Hux was Monty Python / Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy level hilarity, shockingly unexpected in a funny (not offensive) manner, and an absolute delight harkening back to the cheekiest lines in the original Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back.

That’s bad…
The rest of the film has the worst dialog heard in a Star Wars movie written by anybody other than George Lucas.

That’s good…
More (human) diversity in the roles, with females and non-whites / non-Europeans filling in a lot of supporting roles.

That’s bad…
As much as I hate agreeing on anything with the fragile alt-right critics who decry said diversity, to this specifically limited degree they have a point:  The appearance of such characters was often shot / staged / edited in a way that instead of appearing naturalistic called undo attention to the casting.  “Hey, look!  We’ve got an Asian female doing stuff!”

That’s good…
Gimme a moment…

That’s bad…
I almost typed “There isn’t a single good performance in this film” but realized that isn’t true; there are several good performances but the bad ones are so bad they suck all memory of the good into a black hole of mediocrity.  Daisy Ridley as Rey does a good job, Domhnall Gleeson as General Hux and Benicio del Toro as DJ both chew scenery with great gusto, Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico struggles mightily to make a silk purse out of her sow’s ear and ends up with a nice imitation leather wallet, Andy Serkis draws ahead of Doug Jones in the best-actor-you-never-actually-see-onscreen race, but much to my delight Adam Driver as Kylo Ren goes so far over the emo top that I am capable of forgiving the film of all its grievous flaws.  That being said, The Last Jedi does Carrie Fisher no favors in her final portrayal of Leia Organa (flying through space like a Marvel superhero doesn’t help, either), Laura Dern is woefully miscast and seems to think she’s just doing a table read, and although serviceable as Luke Skywalker, Mark Hamil proves himself to be the least compelling performer to play a Jedi or Sith.  (He does shine as the voice of Dobbu Scay, a trollish alien who insists on shoving coins up BB-8’s nether regions.)

That’s good…
...lemme think…

That’s bad…
When it’s good (see themes up above) the script is very good, but when it’s bad (50%+ of the remaining film) it sucks wet farts out of dead porgs.  Finn, Rose, and DJ have an incredibly convoluted / overly complicated hour long sub-plot that contributes absolutely nothing to the story’s final resolution.  They visit a gambling casino world that looks like a crappy swipe from a James Bond movie (tho the Gerry Anderson Supermarionation-looking alien was a nice touch), feature an alien critter race that’s a lift from Syd Mead, and chat incessantly via com-links while traveling through hyperspace despite the fact that tracking ships through hyperspace is repeatedly presented as a radical leap in technology!  And while it’s revealed the First Order has planted a homing device on Leia’s ship (something Darth Vader did in the original Star Wars with the Millennium Falcon) and has an agent on board, nothing is ever done with these ideas.

That’s good…
Oh!  Snoke tells Kylo Ren to “get rid of that silly mask”.  That’s nice.

That’s bad…
The Last Jedi drops the ball on several plot points in addition to the hyperspace tracking mentioned above.  Luke promises to teach Rey three lessons about the force, but only gets through two and the third one is never alluded to again.  They make a big deal about Rey’s parents being despicable drug addicts who sold her as an infant, completely lacking in Force pedigree which means (a) they are belaboring a non-crucial story point or (b) -- and we’ll give ‘em a benefit of a doubt here -- they’re planting a red herring in order to set up a big reveal for the next movie.  Snoke is demonstrated to be omniscient and capable of planning so far ahead and in so much detail that he can create a fake future in Kylo Ren’s mind for Rey to read, but conveniently leaves a live / fully charged light saber on the arm of his throne to get sliced in half by (and if he’s such a hot snot re Force abilities, why would getting whacked in half ala Darth Maul even slow him down?). 

That’s good…
...I got nuthin’…

That’s bad…
Using a starship as a kamikaze by revving up to hyperjump speed and ramming it into the baddies’ ship is a cool idea but makes one wonder why didn’t anybody use it before in the Star Wars universe (c’mon, space torpedoes) and why did they wait to the very last minute to do so -- losing most of the supporting cast in the process -- instead of turning one of the other, smaller ships against Snoke’s flagship?  And nobody in the Star Wars universe has figured out that putting a sharp hairpin turn and/or baffles in an exhaust vent will keep people from dropping bombs / flying spaceships through it.

That’s good…
Hey, no Death Star.  Finally.

 

© Buzz Dixon

 

Non-Spoilericious Notes On THE LAST JEDI

Non-Spoilericious Notes On THE LAST JEDI

happy holidays

happy holidays