Star Wars. It’s been conjuring up hopes and dreams and thrills and controversy for the last 40 years, since the heady disco era in the 70s.
And, thanks to Disney’s acquisition of Lucasfilm not so long ago, devoted fans, vehement detractors and everyone in between will continue to be so blessed (or cursed) for at least another generation. Possibly two. Maybe more.
The viable longevity of Star Wars is unknown. But there is one constant that abounds within the franchise: Controversy. And it will stick around, there’s little doubt of that. What the fans of Star Wars want (or at least what they want as written inside their minds) and what they actually get are two very different things.
Deep down, it’s what drives the passions of the people who submit themselves to the world of a galaxy far, far away. And really – would you want it any other way? The answer to that is a resounding “No!” In the grand scheme of things, the Star Wars masses are happy additional episodes continue to be cranked out, be they direct ties to the original trilogy (A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back and Return Of The Jedi) or the new one-off series of films (the successful Rogue One and the upcoming Han Solo project).
And that includes me, a life-long Star Wars fan. I was fortunate enough to be there on opening day when the original film debuted in 1977 and I have happily (often giddily) looked forward to everything born of the franchise.
Understand, that doesn’t mean I’ve liked everything that’s come out under the Star Wars banner. As example, the prequels were atrocious. But they came infused with many good points, ideas and situations (not to mention some pretty nifty characters) in their mish mosh of chaotic storytelling. Still, for all the terrific imagery, quality music and revelations, they were countered with the likes of a Jar Jar Binks, midi-chlorians and groan-worthy and godawful dialog. (Not to mention Lucas’ love affair with film technology.)
But I’m here to riff on the latest Star Wars installment, The Last Jedi.
I enjoyed it immensely, more so than its predecessor The Force Awakens. And yeah, I dive into each new film expecting to do some critical dissection. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to be manic about it to the point of rejecting outright the “flawed” visions offered in consideration of my “better” suggestions on how it should be done. I can critique all I want at the end of the day but the fact remains I’m just one voice in a giant ocean of opinions.
There was dandiness throughout The Last Jedi‘s lengthy two and a half hours. But there were problems with it as well. A myriad of problems. I’m going to touch on a few that annoyed me … and yes, spoilers will abound. (If you haven’t seen the film yet, you may want to nip reading this any further.)
Personally, I think Rian Johnson did a hell of a job putting The Last Jedi together. As promised, he gave us a Star Wars film unlike any other with a ton of jaw-dropping moments, many akin to Vader’s revelation as Luke’s father in The Empire Strikes Back. Of the highlights I thought noteworthy (and in no particular order) …
- Luke’s rejection of his lightsaber handed back to him by Rey on their initial meeting on Ahch-to.
- Luke’s explanation of The Force to Rey, harkening back to the spirituality of it, offering it up as a more mysterious, bewildering and all-encompassing faith rather than some magical hocus pocus act.
- Yoda’s disclosure to Luke that “The legacy of the Jedi is failure.”
- Kylo Ren’s inability to kill his mother. The dude continues to be conflicted throughout the film.
- The several subtle call outs and foreshadowings, possibly intended, regarding Carrie Fisher’s passing.
- Rey’s revelation about her parents.
- Snoke’s demise … without ever learning who he was, how he came to such power or any backstory about him.
- The mystery surrounding DJ’s character (Benicio Del Toro). He’s a manifestation of Lando Calrissian … only more unpredictable.
- Poe Dameron’s ultimate realization in the wisdom of turning and fleeing an overwhelming attack for the betterment of The Resistance rather than standing one’s ground and fighting.
- The full circle of Luke’s life beginning with the onset of his journey on Tatooine right up to his “death,” both instances bookended with his viewing of the twin suns at those two moments.
These highlights pleased me about The Last Jedi. Going into the film I had no real inkling of these points nor that there would be so many surprises, so many twists. As the film progressed, there were other intriguing items that cropped up: Would Luke acquiesce to Rey’s bidding? Would Rey turn to the Dark Side? Would Kylo Ren turn to the Light? How would Snoke play out? Was Leia’s death imminent? I hadn’t a clue. And then I remembered what my son said after seeing the film Thursday: “Everything you are expecting won’t happen … and everything you aren’t will.” Pretty damned good assessment.
The editing of this film was a kick. Writer/director Rian Johnson framed it that way with intent; cutting away as he did from scene to scene with such frequency kept things engaging. There was no dilly dallying about, no danger of the audience being lulled into boredom. If you weren’t paying attention, you missed something. I liked that. And I was further contented with the fact there was need for multiple viewings of the film in order to catch things I know I missed, things I know were important to the story. That’s the kind of stuff that draws me in and turns my crank.
But then, there was …
… and there was plenty of it to be certain.
It started with the film crawl.
The Spark Of Hope: In part the crawl read “Only General Leia Organa’s band of RESISTANCE fighters stand against the rising tyranny, certain that Jedi Master Luke Skywalker will return and restore a spark of hope to the fight.”
In and of itself, I didn’t have a problem with that line. But reference to that “spark of hope” kept surfacing to be shoved down my throat time and again. And maddeningly so.
I’m not an idiot. I can hold a concept in my mind without needing to be continuously reminded of it, especially when that’s all the Resistance was trying to do throughout the film – work that spark into something feasible, usable to continue on. Instead, it got coughed up half a dozen times. In the crawl. With Vice Admiral Holdo’s entrance. In Leia’s final concession on Crait. (There were more instances, too. Okay … so maybe there weren’t half a dozen examples. But it sure felt like it.)
The Comedy: Yes, the Star Wars saga is rife with comedy, both acted and spoken. But the majority of it in The Last Jedi failed spectacularly. It was often cheesy or hokey. And while Luke was the worst offender (“See you around, kid” were his parting words to Kylo Ren after their “battle”), he wasn’t the only one. There were too many cutesy quips, too many Porg interjections inserted for laughs, too many Earth-centric commonalities with nary a chance of them being used in a galaxy far, far away. (Finn’s “Chrome Dome” exclamation at Captain Phasma, anyone? How about Poe’s reference to the Resistance stronghold’s “big ass door” … ?) The only thing chuckle-worthy of those often forced moments was when that AT-AT pilot acknowledged Kylo Ren during the First Order’s attack on the Resistance on Crait, right after Ren coldcocked Hux.
Speaking of Hux, riddle me this: What was the purpose of him stating something to the effect of “I have the approval of Supreme Leader Snoke to attack the Rebel Alliance” to his crew before doing just that? He’s an admiral for Pete’s sake. He doesn’t need to justify his actions to the crew. There’s some unintentional comedy right there that worked.
Leia’s Use Of The Force. Question: When did Leia become such a master Force user? Because the only abilities she’s been able to exhibit (up until her extraordinary self-rescue from the void of space when the Raddus was attacked) were some minor mental cognizance instances. Yet, all of a sudden, she can wrap herself in a Force bubble for protection and actively propel herself through the void of space and back into the safety of a normal atmosphere?
Yeah … I call complete bullshit on that little stunt. Talk about your suspension of belief, that one’s a doozy. Sorry, not on board with it in the least. Someone out there, anyone … throw me a bone: Talk me through some plausible theory on how Leia could possibly survive that situation let alone save herself. I’ll wait right here for the explanation.
Seeing red. Worse than Leia’s shenanigans, however, was the biggest continuity flub in the entire film.
Toward the end, Luke comes out the Crait Resistance stronghold to confront Kylo Ren’s forces. Ren signals his regiment to rain death and destruction on his former mentor.
Now … remember the attention to detail about Crait’s surface? That it’s covered with salt? That salt is white with the red ground beneath it. Take a look at the aftermath of Ren’s attack on Luke the next time you see that scene. The ground is obliterated of salt; there’s only the red ground all about Luke.
Yet when Ren goes to meet him for his little tête-à-tête, amazingly the white salt surface has returned. Wow. Talk about a huge continuity error right there.
Now, this might seem like a small concern to most, but consider this: When you’ve gone to the trouble of resurrecting the littlest physical detail such as a pair of dice hanging above the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon (clearly seen as far back as the first film, A New Hope) and later call them out several times for symbolic effect throughout the film yet you flub an obvious one like the surface of Crait, well … you just have to wonder. What Johnson was thinking. (Or was he even thinking?) Was his continuity guy at lunch? How about the rest of the crew? The other editors helping to oversee the dailies? *sigh*
Those were some of the really noticeable things that detracted from the film. There were others. I’m not going to get into the filler and time waster that was Finn and Rose’s Canto Bight excursion. (But, since I’ve mentioned it, answer this: Why are there so many die hard Star Wars fans willing to give a useless plot point such as that jaunt to Canto Bight a pass and yet yell and scream about not getting any closure on Snoke? The answer is you don’t need to know everything. Enjoy it for what it is! Knowing Star Wars and its various properties, Snoke’s origin/rise to power/abilities/etc. will come about somewhere down the line. What the “need to know right now” contingent actually needs is a little patience.)
The bottom line is this: Whether it’s an old school admirer of the saga like me who’s been around long enough to have experienced the first story projected on the big screen in all its wondrous glory or new fans just discovering Star Wars for the first time with its more recent offerings, Lucas has fueled a rich world of passion for his creations. And, love’em or hate’em, the films are what they are.
Given the fact there can be and will be unevenness in the series, I still wouldn’t want it any other way.
Want to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi and judge for yourself? Click on the image below to buy your tickets now, and be sure to come back and tell us what you thought!
Star Wars: The Last Jedi has a run time of 2 hours 32 minutes and is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action and violence.