So. The Last Jedi, huh?
I saw this movie basically the second it opened, but I haven’t had the opportunity to write about it until now–although, of course, I’ve read everyone else on the internet analyze it to death. Per usual, my commentary is belated and possibly unnecessary at this point, but that’s we at My Geek Blasphemy strive for: somewhat thoughtful, somewhat snarky, and late AF.
Also, for the most part? I really enjoyed the film.
There will be no blatant spoilers for this film until the SPOILER SECTION. All bets are off, though, for any other movie in the franchise.
After the events of The Force Awakens, Rey tries to get cranky old Luke Skywalker to come back and help the Resistance. Meanwhile, said Resistance is basically just trying to survive the First Order’s onslaught, which leads to long-shot secret missions and friction between allies.
1. As an ongoing series of science fiction stories that have spanned literal decades, I find Star Wars fascinating and can easily talk about it until I’m blue in the face. Still, my enjoyment of these movies has never been anywhere near reverence, and I’m definitely not going to win any Ultimate Star Wars Nerd contests out there. So, when The Last Jedi shakes up the status quo by flipping a lot of typical Star Wars tropes on their heads, that worked for me; in fact, it’s what I like most about the film. That’s obviously not true for everyone out there, something we’ll talk about in much more detail in the Spoiler Section.
It’s also true that, despite not being Queen Nerd, I apparently still get really excited (and maybe a wee bit emotional) when the opening scroll starts up. So, I’m not saying I don’t have any skin in the game.
2. The last couple of years, I’ve spent a fair bit of time bemoaning Hollywood’s trend towards action movies that run over two hours. That being said, I must say that The Last Jedi is 2 hours and 35 minutes long, and never once felt slow to me. The movie has a lot to accomplish, and for the most part, I feel it used its minutes well. Which is not to say I won’t be critiquing some subplots because, dudes, me. But generally speaking, I feel the movie was pretty decently paced, with a good bit of time spent on each character.
Well, okay. Chewy didn’t get much to do. Or Phasma. Damn it, people. Stop casting the excellent Gwendoline Christie in your movie and then giving her nothing to do! This is madness.
3. I’ve been trying to figure out how to formulate this review–there’s so much to talk about, and so much I can’t say without spoilers. Maybe if I try to break up the cast into pairs and address them as such?
Luke & Leia
Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher
One of the best surprises for me about this movie is just how much I like Luke. Like, yeah, Luke Skywalker was always okay, but he was never exactly a favorite. I certainly never found him to be a particularly compelling hero. And come on, that whine. Look, I get the whine was intentional and all, but when I mock annoying people in my head, I’m usually picturing them saying, “But I was going over to Tosche Station to pick up some power convertors!”
In The Last Jedi, though, Luke gets to be something that I never thought I’d actually see him be: a motherfucking badass. Honestly, it was kind of neat. And Mark Hamill gives an incredible performance in this movie; I know there’s been a lot of press about how he and Rian Johnson didn’t initially see eye to eye on Luke’s character development, but one way or another, Hamill put the work in here.
Meanwhile, Carrie Fisher’s last performance as Leia is both lovely and, not unexpectedly, a little depressing to watch. Everything I want to say about Leia includes spoilers, but what I will throw out is that The One Scene which is pissing off a bunch of fanboys? They’re wrong. I swear, when it comes to The Last Jedi and the Great Fandom Schism that’s occurred, I honestly hope to provide a much more thoughtful and balanced analysis of the various viewpoints, but in this one scene I cannot even pretend vague objectivity. It is the best, and I will defend it to my dying day.
Kylo & Rey
Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley
Another pleasant surprise: the dynamic between these two characters works really well for me. One of my biggest disappointments with the Star Wars universe has always been the lack of screen time given to telepathy and Force bonds and the like, and I really, really enjoyed how all that is handled here. Rey continues to be awesome; meanwhile, I actually do garner a small amount of . . . oh, I don’t know if sympathy is quite the right word, but . . . I find Kylo to be a vastly more interesting character in this movie than he was in The Force Awakens. (I mean, I didn’t mind him in The Force Awakens, but only because I saw him as an intentionally whiny and entitled little shit. If I was supposed to see him as a more fully developed, sympathetic baddie, then the movie utterly failed for me in that regard.)
Prior to seeing The Last Jedi, I definitely wasn’t looking forward to Rey and Kylo’s interactions. (Which I assumed would go like this: Kylo: “Come to the Dark Side!” Rey: “No, but wait, I’m so strangely tempted for no apparent reason, but no, no!” Kylo: “But THE POWER!” Rinse, repeat.) Strangely enough, however, their interactions actually turned out to be one of the film’s highlights for me.
That all being said, a lot of people apparently came out of this movie shipping Rey and Kylo, and . . . like, I try not to be the person who’s shitty about other people’s ships, but God, this one makes me cringe. Like, fanfic writers, you do you, but if these two become a canon ship in the third movie, just, you know, prepare yourselves, people. Because I will be screaming, and not in the good way.
Poe & Holdo
Unfortunately, here’s where I start running into some problems. Not, like, movie-breaking problems, but definitely stuff that I would’ve changed, if I was in the fabulous position to do so.
Here’s my thing: this whole subplot is so, so close to working for me. Holdo is a potentially interesting new character in a command position. I adore Poe, and the emotional journey he goes on in this movie (like what makes a hero a hero, when is a sacrifice necessary, etc.) really works for me. These two characters don’t see eye to eye, and that works pretty well for me, too . . . except for when it doesn’t.
Obviously, I’ll discuss specifics later. For now, here’s what I’ll say: one of these characters makes a choice in this movie that I simply do not buy, and because so much of the plot is predicated on that choice, I have Writer Problems.
Rose and Finn
Kelly Marie Tran and John Boyega
I really like both Finn and Rose, but I also have some problems with their storyline. Unfortunately, I’ve had more difficulty trying to identify exactly what isn’t working for me and how I would like to fix it. I feel like the Poe and Holdo subplot could be fixed to my satisfaction with basically, like, one line. Finn and Rose are harder.
On the plus side, Rose is pretty neat. Part of that is simply because Kelly Marie Tran is the most adorable person alive, but it’s also because I find Rose really interesting, at least initially. She’s a different character than we’ve seen in the Rebellion/Resistance thus far; like, she’s not a princess, an admiral, a Jedi, or a fighter pilot. She’s a mechanic, and her work is a day-to-day grind, all behind the scenes. Rose also suffers a great personal loss early in the film–it’s actually how we’re introduced to her–and it’s this grief that really informs her first interactions with Finn. It’s excellent stuff, and sold me on Rose pretty much immediately.
I do feel that as the film goes on, however, Rose’s own emotional journey kind of just stops in lieu of Finn’s emotional journey. Which, hey: I like Finn’s emotional arc, especially when taking the events of The Force Awakens into consideration. But it does seem to me that Rose loses out a bit here, and while I’m mostly okay with it, I’d really like to see Rose have a great fucking arc in Star Wars X.
4. This all leads us to one of the film’s universally least liked segments: Canto Bright.
See, this is the part of the movie I don’t quite know how to fix. You can’t just cut it. It’s vitally important, not just plot wise but also thematically. And I like the moral lessons that are learned here, although I will admit they can be a touch heavy handed. (Then again, it’s not like subtlety has ever been this franchise’s strong suit, right?) You absolutely need Canto Bright. And some of it I actively enjoy!
I really feel part of the problem here is DJ (Benicio Del Toro), a hacker who comes to Rose and Finn’s aid. He just . . . never quite works for me. I also suspect that Canto Bright might just go on a bit too long, like, maybe we cut or at least seriously minimize this one chase scene? It’s not the pod racing scene from The Phantom Menace or anything, but you know. It feels a bit drawn out and unnecessary.
5. Of course, I know what you all really want to know: Carlie, where do you fall on porgs?
They’re adorable. I’m not a monster.
Seriously, I do like the porgs. They’re cute. I have no problem with cute alien creatures in Star Wars; what doesn’t work for me are cute alien creatures that take up too much of the plot, or otherwise cause significant plot problems. The Ewoks, for instance: as a kid, I loved them, but as an adult, I want to paint FILLER on their adorable little faces. They just take up too much time, time I really needed to be spent on other things, like, oh, I don’t know, the bullshit redemption arc of Darth Vader. (No, people, I’m never getting over this.)
The porgs, meanwhile, are deeply not plot relevant, and no one pretends they are. They’re just around for a few cute, comic relief scenes. That totally works for me. (Though I suspect I wouldn’t want to actually own one, for the same reasons I don’t want to keep any birds as pets: they’re probably loud as shit. I’d totally take one of those crystal foxes, though.)
6. Finally, a few awesome things about the movie before we get into Spoilers:
6A. Oh my God, the women. Before we had Leia and Rey (and briefly, Maz); now, we still have Leia and Rey, PLUS Rose and Holdo. (Maz, too, technically, but her role is so small I’m not counting it for the purposes of this note.) That’s four significant female characters with, like, names and dialogue and honest-to-God agency. They’re not even all white! (I mean, okay. They’re still mostly white. Still, Rose is progress–if insanely overdue progress–so I’m going to take it as a win.)
I’m kind of annoyed that I’m so fired up about a movie having four whole roles for women, but in this franchise? People. That’s a goddamn jackpot.
6B. The humor, generally. I know there were a few jokes that didn’t land for me. (Finn saying, “Let’s go, chrome dome,” for instance.) But for the most part, I really liked all the comedy, partially because I like to laugh, but mostly because I really think you need it as a counterbalance for some of the dark shit in this movie. Cause, honestly. There’s some dark shit in this movie.
6C. Seriously, the trope-flipping. The movie would start going in one direction, and I’d be like, Oh no, please don’t do this . . . and then they didn’t do it! That actually happened more than once, and while I know a lot of fans feel betrayed by these choices, to me, they’re not merely interesting; they’re also necessary. In fact, I personally feel that Rian Johnson makes some decisions here that, while unusual in a Star Wars story, actually fit the Moral of the Franchise so much better than anything we’ve seen in the past.
But that’s about the best I can do without spoilers. So, let’s just get down to it, shall we?
Okay, so let’s basically repeat everything I just said, but with a lot more specific detail:
An Incomplete List of Big Twists, Subverted Tropes, and/or Flipped Expectations in The Last Jedi
Kylo abruptly murders Snoke (our supposed Big Bad), like, halfway through the movie.
Kylo doesn’t get redeemed.
Rey’s parents were garbage people of absolutely no importance.
Finn and Rose’s long shot mission to save the day totally fails and arguably makes everything much worse.
Leia survives getting spaced by awesome Force powers and basically floats her ass back to safety.
Luke Skywalker never actually leaves his secret hideout and astral projects his ass to fight Kylo. (Also, expelling this much energy ultimately kills Luke.)
Okay, that’s a lot. Let’s take each of those one by one.
Kylo abruptly murders Snoke (our supposed Big Bad), like, halfway through the movie
Initially, I both loved and despised this moment. Despised because I was very frustrated with Kylo’s redemption arc (we’ll get to that in a minute). Loved for . . . well, multiple reasons, actually. Absolutely despising Snoke, though, was definitely one of them.
So, look: I can see how some fans were upset about this. I can absolutely think of movies and TV shows that killed off characters prematurely, at least IMO. One of the most recent examples is Star Trek: Discovery, and no, it’s probably not the character you’re thinking of. (Though that definitely pissed me off, too, just for different reasons.) No, this person was a minor character who, I assumed, was a major player. I didn’t like them, exactly, but I assumed they were a vital part of upcoming Big Plot Shenanigans and, at the very least, I thought they had significant potential to become interesting. Instead, their death was sudden and senseless and just ridiculously dumb, and I was very frustrated by it.
So, sure, theoretically, I could see how Snoke’s death might have felt the same to other people.
For me, though, Snoke’s death was pretty much perfect. For one, I never could take that guy seriously; I was laughing my ass off at him during The Force Awakens. Like, THIS guy? THIS guy I’m supposed to be scared of? But it’s not all design. The thing about Snoke is that, to me, he comes off as a really poor retread of Emperor Palpatine. There’s nothing new or interesting about this guy. He’s, like, Evil, capital E and that’s it. And the thing is, that’s boring. I guess it’s possible that discovering his secret origin story might have made him more interesting, but nothing in either The Force Awakens or The Last Jedi really supports that idea. So, killing him off quickly and making Second Banana Kylo Ren the Big Bad instead? I found that much more fascinating.
Kylo doesn’t get redeemed
This was a big one for me.
I’m not 100% against the idea of redemption arcs; I do, however, feel that the bigger the crime(s), the stronger that redemptive arc really needs to be, and Kylo’s arc wasn’t nearly good enough for me. Yes, we saw that Luke Skywalker was (seemingly) about to kill him*, and yeah, that’s some traumatic shit, but that’s also when you leave Jedi Camp and say, “Fuck off, Jedi Assholes and all family reunions ever! I’m out!” It’s NOT why you murder a bunch of Jedi kids and join up with a galactic force that engages in slavery, mass genocide, general tyranny, etc. (Or, for that matter, murder your father/one-of-the-most-popular-characters-in-this-entire-franchise.) Like, I get it, Snoke already had his hooks in Kylo, blah blah. I don’t care. Accountability is still a thing, folks.
Kylo’s connection to Rey is super interesting–like, I have LONG since wanted more Force communication/mind-meldy shit–and allows him to showcase a bit more vulnerability.(Which is a bit stronger than just random people saying shit like, “I still sense Light in you.”) I really like how these scenes are shot, and I find Rey and Kylo’s dynamic fascinating. Still, I just don’t see anything here that would instigate such a gigantic turning point; there’s nothing big enough to make Kylo realize he’s been on the wrong side all along, kill his Dark Master for the greater good, and go join the Light.
But Kylo killing Snoke so that he can say, “Fuck the Light Side, the Dark Side, my parents, tradition, my current master who treats me like shit, and my old master/uncle who once tried to kill me? I’m going to burn it all down and rule motherfucking EVERYTHING.” That I believe. That completely fits everything we’ve seen from Kylo, and what’s more, it’s interesting; it is a new, more complex motivation than we’ve seen from any Star Wars villain thus far. So, yeah, I was all for it.
*This generally works for me cause, like, people aren’t perfect and I don’t expect Luke Skywalker to be, either. But I do think just one or two short flashbacks to Young Kylo, steadily growing darker and darker, wouldn’t have gone amiss. Cause, like, Luke was the guy who thought Darth Vader still had a Light Side to bring to the table. Watching him plan to murder his nephew, even for just a second . . . I feel like we missed a step.
Rey’s parents were garbage people of absolutely no importance
YES. THIS. SO MUCH THIS.
I could have taken a certain amount of backstory. Like, if Rey had been one of the Jedi kids who actually survived Kylo Ren’s slaughter fest or something, sure. But I never wanted Rey to have Super Important Parents, and I absolutely didn’t want her to be one of the Skywalker line. So, obviously, this was just all my dreams come true.
Here’s my thing: I’ve discussed again and again how family and/or genetics have always been desperately weird in the Star Wars universe, but when you think about it, does it really make sense for our heroes to all descend from some ultra-powerful bloodline? One of the primary complaints about The Last Jedi is that it betrays core components of the franchise, and theoretically, I totally understand that; I like a lot of Quentin Tarantino movies, but I still can’t help but feel that everything he brings to the table isn’t what I come to Star Trek for. And while I’m perfectly happy with multiple flavors of Batman, the kind who flat out murders people or prepares to assassinate dudes based on the 1% chance that they might be evil? Fuck that bullshit flavor. That’s not my Batman and never will be.
The important distinction here, though, is that while a powerful bloodline has been historically significant to the Star Wars franchise, I don’t think excising it from the movies takes anything away from the fundamental message of these stories. For starters, we haven’t even done that: we’re just back to the villain coming from the all-powerful Force bloodline, not the primary hero.
But more importantly . . . what Star Wars has always fundamentally been about, to me, is the common goal of rebellion, of resistance, of little guys all over the galaxy stepping up to fight back against seemingly unstoppable tyranny. It’s fighter pilots in their tiny ass planes taking on Death Stars. It’s smugglers realizing that there’s a cause so much bigger than their own self interest. It’s about people coming together to beat unspeakable odds, and in that case . . . doesn’t it actually make more sense to have a heroine who doesn’t come from some magical bloodline, who isn’t some secret space princess or Famous Jedi’s Daughter, but instead comes from nothing, who was thrown away and made herself into a hero? Should the Force really be some kind of weird royal birthright, or should it be something that even a girl from nowhere can tap into to affect change for the better?
Personally, I think that’s a far more compelling story. More than that, I think it’s the Star Wars story that deserves to be told.
Finn and Rose’s long shot mission to save the day totally fails and arguably makes everything much worse.
So, here’s my thing about this: I actually think it’s great that the mission utterly fails. My problem here is two-fold. Let’s deal with the Poe and Holdo aspect first.
See, after Leia is temporarily knocked out of commission (more on that in a while), Holdo becomes the new commander. Unfortunately, the fleet is being tracked by the First Order through lightspeed, and it’s all the Resistance can do just to keep out of range of the big guns. Holdo doesn’t appear to have much of a plan, other than just ‘go forward and hope for the best.’ Poe (quite rightly) thinks this is a bullshit plan, but he’s also (quite rightly) in the doghouse because he disobeyed orders and made a pretty huge tactical error, destroying a big target but losing way too many people to do it. So, he disobeys orders again and sends Finn and Rose off on a secret mission that ultimately fails. Meanwhile, Holdo had a secret self-sacrificing plan all along to try and secure the fleet, but the secret mission ends up seriously putting that plan in jeopardy.
My problem is this: a lot, a LOT, of the plot rests on Holdo’s decision to keep her plan a secret from Poe, and ultimately, I just don’t buy it. There are multiple reasons for this, but probably the biggest one? I honestly don’t understand why her plan was a secret at all. Like, from anyone. Yes, Poe just got demoted, I get it. Poe done fucked up. And sure, this is a militarized resistance, and the military leaders don’t have to explain shit to their soldiers, but . . . come on. Why not reassure your troops that you have a plan? Why not tell it to them ahead of time so everyone could, I don’t know, prepare for it? Evacuate to the life pods faster, that kind of thing? And if your plan on first glance looks like it’s going to meet certain, inevitable doom, why not briefly explain what’s really going on instead of waiting for a perfectly timed dramatic reveal? It all just feels too cheap to me.
Presumably, Holdo doesn’t trust Poe because she knows very little about him, maybe just that he’s pilot and was demoted for insubordination. But if you don’t trust a guy enough to tell him the plan, seriously, what are you just letting him walk around for? Again, this is a stupid secret to keep, especially from the dude who is obviously likely to take matters into his own hands. Either keep him clued in to keep him in line, or don’t tell him anything and confine his ass to quarters.
Also, this: Holdo mistrusts this dude so much that she won’t tell Poe even the most basic information . . . but then later says she likes the little shitstarter and fondly ruffles his hair after he basically starts a mutiny against her? (Okay, I can’t remember if the hair-ruffling actually happened or not, but you know what I mean.) No. No, people, you can’t have this both ways. Holdo can’t mistrust Poe so much that she won’t tell him the plan, demand that he follow her orders without question, and then think of him as a mischievous little scamp. That shit don’t fly.
The thing is, there’s a pretty easy way to fix all of this: introduce a traitor on board, someone who made it possible for the First Order to track the Resistance through lightspeed. I don’t care who the traitor is; hell, I don’t care if there actually is one, or if Holdo and Poe are both just wrong. But if Holdo thinks there’s a traitor in the fleet, of course she won’t tell anyone her secret plan, certainly not Poe, who could very well be the traitor. (After all, he did just make a decision that wiped out half their pilots.) And if Poe–and presumably the audience–suspects it’s Holdo (who, after all, doesn’t even look like she’s trying to save her people), that works too. Everybody wins!
Well. Not Holdo, really, because she dies. Everyone else, though.
Meanwhile, back to Finn and Rose’s actual mission: I think the biggest problem for me here is DJ, the hacker they end up with after they totally fail to retrieve the actual hacker they came for.
On one hand, having to settle for Hacker #2 is totally in line with the Failure Mode that runs rampant in this film. On the other hand, DJ just hanging out in their prison cell feels way too convenient, and there’s something about Del Toro’s whole performance that just doesn’t do much for me. It feels, IDK, contrived? The weird, not terribly consistent stutter thing probably doesn’t help.
And while I really like that DJ completely screws them over (like, that’s huge, both for the plot and for Finn’s whole emotional arc), I can’t help but feel this might have been stronger if I actually liked DJ, or at least gave a damn about him. Theoretically, he’s a compelling character. Like, he’s basically Han Solo if Han never came back to help the Rebellion take out the Death Star . . . and yet . . . he just doesn’t feel right to me. He doesn’t quite feel like an actual character yet, somehow.
Leia survives getting spaced by awesome Force powers and basically floats her ass back to safety.
You already know how I feel about this. This is the best.
When Leia was first blown out to space, I was pretty upset. I knew there was a possibility that she would die, of course, but I wasn’t expecting it anywhere near this early, and I was Not Happy. So when Leia started to, like, open her eyes and spacewalk or whatever, I was like YAAAAASSSS.
I’ve seen some people upset over this new power, but I gotta be honest: I just don’t have much time for that. Seriously, it’s about time Leia actually got to do something interesting with the Force. And it was so badass and unexpected. I adored it.
I’m also pretty happy they didn’t kill Leia off in this movie. I’d be okay, I guess, if Part X picked up with her funeral or something, but I’d personally be much happier if we just got a line about her heading up the Resistance from some planet base, maybe a CGI shot of her reflection in a window or something, and that’s it. Focus on the new kids and let Leia live on, as we wish Carrie Fisher could have.
Luke Skywalker never actually leaves his secret hideout and astral projects his ass to fight Kylo. (Also, expelling this much energy ultimately kills Luke.)
Again, some people have been unhappy about this new ability. (Although from what I’ve seen, FAR more people are angry about Leia’s power, something that surprises me not at all.) And look, if it breaks your suspension of disbelief, I guess I get that; I know I’ve had that problem with other stories too, like, just because this kind of magic has been established doesn’t mean I’ll accept that kind of magic without previous foundation.
Here, though . . . yeah, it just doesn’t bother me. I don’t think it’s weird that either Skywalker sibling might have learned a new ability after, like, 30 years.I certainly don’t think it’s weird that their abilities are Super Fucking Strong, considering their grandaddy is The Force itself, or whatever. And come on, the astral projection shit was awesome, like, that was another badass reveal that I totally wasn’t expecting. I loved pretty much all of it: when Kylo basically has his FIRE EVERYTHING moment, when Hux snidely mocks him for that overreaction, when Luke tells Kylo he isn’t there to save him, the reversal of the “every word you just said is wrong” line, and the spectacular “see you around, kid” exit. It all works really, really well for me.
Luke’s death is sad, but it doesn’t feel cheap to me like Obi-Wan’s always has. It also doesn’t depress me nearly as much as Han’s, partially because the first death is often the hardest, partially because I always liked Han more, and partially because this movie gave Luke Skywalker the chance to be so badass and compelling in a way he has never been before, at least not for me. (Whereas Han basically remained the same smuggler he’d always been, never really changed or grew, and eventually had an evil child who murdered him. Seriously, that is so DARK.) Sure, it sucks to think that Luke’s been a depressed, cranky old hermit for the past however many years, but . . . that’s pretty much what The Force Awakens set up, right? Like, tossing the lightsaber was funny, sure, but it also seemed to perfectly line up with my expectations; Luke clearly didn’t fly out to Jedi Rock, waiting for the Chosen One to come find him. He went there to hide until he died. If you’re not happy with how Luke’s life turned out, I absolutely get it, but I’m not sure The Last Jedi is the right movie to blame for that.
Also: I did cry after Luke died, but I’ll be honest: it was a little less about Luke than it was about Carrie Fisher. When Leia is saying her goodbye to Luke, and we’re saying goodbye to Carrie . . . ugh. Heart. Break.
Good God, I’m already at 5,000 words. Let’s ABC the rest of this shit, shall we?
A. Despite the brand new Jedi abilities that were introduced in this film, I feel like The Last Jedi’s general understanding of the Force is much more in line with the original trilogy, rather than, say, The Phantom Menace and the bullshit midi-chlorians ever were.
B. So, there are a lot of people saying things like The Last Jedi killed their childhood. Some of these people I think are being pretty silly. OTOH, I totally get fans of the original trilogy who are just completely bummed about how these new movies have literally killed off their childhood heroes. Again, The Last Jedi personally bothers me a lot less than The Force Awakens in this regard, but either way, that’s a totally valid viewpoint and is, in fact, why I was initially hoping that this new trilogy wouldn’t include the original heroes at all.
Killing off Luke Skywalker does not make The Last Jedi a bad movie, but if that means you personally don’t like the movie because, damn it, you wanted to be Luke Skywalker when you were a kid, and couldn’t they have just let him have his happily ever after? I mean, yeah. That seems totally fair to me.
C. As far as my Star Wars shipping goes:
C1. You can pry my Poe/Finn ship away from my cold, dead hands.
C2. People hating on Rose purely because they’re Poe/Finn shippers need to get their heads on straight.
C3. If Rose/Finn is endgame, that’s okay (I at least like it more than I like Finn/Rey, who I just see as total bros), but if I’m supposed to feel it by the end of this movie . . . like, eh? I could maybe see it on her end, but I didn’t really get any romance vibes from him at all. And as far as the kiss goes, honestly . . . I need to watch it again to make up my mind. I’ve seen some people argue it’s not really meant to be a romantic kiss, but if that’s the case, I’ve gotta say, having it right after Rose says “saving the people we love” was probably not the best call.
C4. If the next movie makes any kind of serious love triangle between Finn, Rose, and Rey, I will hurt people.
C5. So . . . Leia and Holdo had a thing once, right? Tell me I’m not the only one who sees it.
D. The movie never really goes into it, but I’d find it fascinating to see what Rose thinks of Poe. NOT as a potential rival of Finn’s affections, but as the commanding officer whose order ultimately got her sister killed. Honestly, I’m perfectly content for there not to be a bunch of rage/angst: after all, Paige Tico does make a choice, and Rose seems to totally understand it, even as she keeps Finn from making a similar choice at the end of the film. Still, I’m potentially interested in an on-screen acknowledgement of these choices.
E. Although . . . okay, I’m just going to say it. Much as I love the sentiment of Rose’s line at the end of the movie about how they’re going to win the war by saving the people they love, not destroying the things they hate . . . like . . . if Luke hadn’t shown up (sorta), the entire Resistance would indeed by toast right now, like, that’s it. Game’s over. We lost, kiddos. Everyone’s dead.
I mean, I’m okay with it. I actually like that Rose gets to make a choice here, and she chooses to save Finn. I’m just saying, this isn’t quite the same thing as, say, Paige sacrificing herself to destroy a valuable but ultimately unnecessary target. This is the fucking ballgame, folks. If ever there was a time for a “self-sacrifice for the greater good” mission, like, here it is.
F. I continue to like Finn’s character growth. In The Force Awakens, Finn’s journey includes a) choosing to leave the evil military force he was conscripted into, and b) sticking around to help Rey, rather than running away as far as he could. In The Last Jedi, Finn’s journey is about finding a purpose bigger than just Rey, like, he’s a good guy, but Finn doesn’t really become a member of the Resistance until the end of The Last Jedi, and I like that.
G. I don’t care about Kylo’s shirtless scene. At all. Get me a shirtless Poe scene, though, and I might wake up a little.
H. I really wish The Last Jedi could have made more use of Phasma.
She really is this trilogy’s Boba Fett . . . although her death, at least, is not quite so inglorious as his. (Instead, she gets a “fall into the flames of hell” death, such as this one in Sorority Row, or this one in Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle. SPOILERS for both of those films at the links.)
Oh, Gwendoline Christie. You deserve so much more.
I. You know whose death totally bummed me out? The female fighter pilot who blew up in the hangar bay. She was in it for like four seconds, and I have absolutely no idea what her name was. But I latched on to her immediately, perhaps simply because I’m still used to desperately searching for female faces in Star Wars movies.
J. Dude, they totally killed off Admiral Ackbar! Like, really nonchalantly. I didn’t even notice, at first.
Okay, this kind of bums me out, too.
K. The scene where Yoda comes along to blow up all the old Jedi stuff? I liked it. I guess I could see how some might feel like this is a betrayal, but honestly, Yoda was always a kooky ass little shit. It really doesn’t feel OOC to me. And I love seeing him and Luke share a scene together.
L. Also, I have to say that Hux is growing on me. Admittedly, he’s used primarily as an ineffectual villain/comic relief in this movie, but still. Domhnall Gleeson may be channeling Peter Cushing for the role, but he’s channeling him at, like, 112%. I appreciate the effort.
I also can’t help but wish Hux would be the one to kill Kylo in Star Wars X by just stabbing him in the back or something. I know it would never happen. But it appeals to me regardless.
M. The scene where Luke, like, really aggressively drinks green milk is so utterly bizarre, I honestly can’t tell if I like it yet or not. But it’s a Moment, all right.
N. Finally, it’s probably worth being said that everything I most loved about this movie–not redeeming Kylo Ren, not giving Rey significant Jedi parents, etc–could easily be overturned by JJ Abrams in the next movie. It totally shouldn’t be. But it’s possible, in which case it’ll be my turn to be utterly, bitterly disappointed.
Cause, okay. Rian Johnson absolutely makes some unexpected choices here, but, like, he didn’t reinvent the fucking wheel, either. Tropes were subverted, sure, but it’s not like this movie didn’t have tons of Star Wars callbacks and tie-ins. Nor, for that matter, was it some 2 1/2 hour David Lynch mindfuck. This is an unusual Star Wars movie, but it IS a Star Wars movie.
And yeah, I really liked it. I can see why some people didn’t. And I don’t want to sit here and tell those people that they’re wrong. Obviously, I enjoy discussing my opinions, but I don’t actually write these reviews to convince people that they’re obviously being idiots and, clearly, they should listen to me. I don’t really write these reviews to try and convince anyone of anything, except to describe where my head’s at when and after I watch something.
I do feel, though, that if JJ Abrams spends the entire next movie retconning everything that happened in this one, well. That would be pretty shitty. Obviously, he could. Rian Johnson clearly went in a different direction than Abrams would’ve taken this story. But to me, nothing Johnson did seemed to shit on The Force Awakens. Nothing made me think Johnson was secretly saying, “Fuck you and your Star Wars idolatry, Abrams. I’m going to tell a story that both makes your film obsolete and betrays the whole franchise.”
But if Abrams just completely erases all the shit that happens here, if he redeems Kylo or brings Snoke back to life or says that Luke was secretly Rey’s father all along? I’m really struggling to see how that won’t come off as a giant middle finger to The Last Jedi. And I really hope that isn’t the case because this movie moves the franchise forward to tell new kinds of stories without simultaneously destroying it.
And if Disney is going to keep releasing 1-2 Star Wars films for the foreseeable future? Then I think forward is the direction we need to go.
Yoda: “We are what they grow beyond.”
Kylo: “The Empire, your parents, the Resistance, the Sith, the Jedi . . . let the past die. Kill it, if you have to. That’s the only way to become what you are meant to be.”
Luke: “Where are you from?”
Luke: “No one is from nowhere.”
Luke: “Yeah, that’s pretty much nowhere.”
Luke: “See you around, kid.”
Kylo: “Did you come back to forgive me? To save my soul?”
Luke: “Amazing. Every word of what you just said is wrong.”
Poe: “This is Commander Poe Dameron of the Republic fleet, I have an urgent communique for General Hux.”
Hux: “This is General Hux of the First Order. The Republic is no more. Your fleet are Rebel scum and war criminals. Tell your precious princess there will be no terms, there will be no surrender.”
Poe: “Hi, I’m holding for General Hux.”
Hux: “This is Hux. You and your friends are doomed. We will wipe your filth from the galaxy.”
Poe: “Okay. I’ll hold.”
Poe: “Hello? Yup, I’m still here.”
Hux: “Can he hear me?
Comm Officer: “He can.”
Poe: “With an ‘H’? Skinny guy. Kinda pasty.”
Hux: “I can hear you. Can you hear me?”
Poe: “Look, I can’t hold forever. If you reach him, tell him Leia has an urgent message for him . . .”
Comm Officer: “I believe he’s tooling with you, sir.”
Poe: “. . . about his mother.”
Poe: “Permission to hop in an X-wing and blow something up?”
Leia: “Permission granted.”
Rose: “We’re not going to win this war by destroying what we hate, but by saving what we love.”
Rey: “I’m Rey.”
Poe: “I know.”
(Kylo has fired basically every weapon ever to blow up Luke Skywalker.)
Hux: “Do you think you got him?”
(R2-D2 plays Leia’s old message to Obi-Wan.)
Luke: “That was a cheap shot.”
Poe: “You must have a thousand questions.”
Finn: “Where’s Rey?”
Snoke (about Kylo’s mask): “Take that ridiculous thing off.”
Some disappointments, but overall I really enjoyed this addition to the franchise. It’s funny, moving, genuinely surprising, and steers the story in a new and mostly gratifying direction. I haven’t figured out where The Last Jedi fits in my Overall Star Wars Rating System yet, but it is my favorite movie of Rian Johnson’s since Brick.
As much as I’d love to give it to Carrie Fisher, who was fabulous as always, I think I’ve gotta go with Mark Hamill for this one. He’s pretty terrific.
Fight for what you love, not against what you hate.
You don’t have to come from somewhere to be somebody.
Boy, be quiet and listen to the women, okay? They got this.
8 thoughts on ““Let The Past Die. Kill It, If You Have To.””
Wow, incredible review! I just saw this yesterday afternoon and I loved it!
I don’t have a problem with giving Leia Force powers. I have a problem with the fact that they relegated her Force powers entirely to one scene that adds absolutely nothing to the plot.
I think that doesn’t bother me so much because it was just so nice to see Leia actually get to do SOMETHING with The Force, but sure, I can totally see wishing it was more plot-relevant. I do feel like Leia would have had much more in Episode IX, had Carrie Fisher not died. Ugh, that still makes me so sad.
I should start by saying that my feelings here aren’t directed at you, but have risen up around this film and discussion of it and that I’m replying because I think this is something important to consider and very relevant to your very last “moral”, “Boy, be quiet and listen to the women, okay? They got this.” I think it was obvious that the movie was trying to push some kind of objective to portray women as competent and men as shit who need to sit down and do as they’re told, but it’s a demagogic sentiment that falls apart at the seams in ways that you already admitted to in your analysis. I feel the film wants us to sympathize with Holdo, who was “right all along, if only they’d just listened/trusted her”, but Holdo’s decision to keep their escape plan a secret from the entire crew is really a flaw in her judgment and puts her responsible for all the losses incurred by her mutinous crew, which was not only made up of men, but some women too. Rose went around Holdo, and some other female members of the crew actively participated in the shakedown. In fact, if you want to look at who are really the conspirators, it’s pretty equally Finn and Rose. They started devising the plan before Poe was even involved. He latched onto it because duh, it’s Poe.
I think it goes along with what you said, in a life and death situation, can any person (regardless of gender) really reasonably be expected to just sit down and shut up and do nothing but wait and see if they die? The decisions regarding this scenario show a huge flaw in Holdo’s leadership that I feel is painted over to look “correct” by a heavy stroke of modern day gender politics, and this scenario, as much as a true do-or-die crisis as it is, is not really a very well-thought out scenario to explore gender roles, nor is it really one that has applicable takeaways for the viewer, since most people are rarely faced with such life-or-death scenarios. From the moment Holdo was introduced, she was a flat out asshole to Poe, adding insult to his injury of being demoted. Is this an appropriate way for leadership to react to a person who is asking you “what’s the plan” because he is obviously concerned that they’re all about to die and wants to be proactive and know how he can help prevent this? Poe trusted her, albeit briefly. He came to her first, respecting she was the one to call the shots. When her plan didn’t make a lick of sense, he took matters into his own hands, and like you said, who can blame him? For me, Holdo’s sacrifice feels cheapened by the bad decisions and tension portrayed here, and I honestly feel the film would’ve landed the true emotional punch it was looking for if they’d have given the sacrificial task to Leia or Ackbar. I know you mentioned not liking that Holdo double’s back and says “I like him” about Poe later. You’re right that it doesn’t make sense. To me, it came off as an attempt to portray men as needing women’s validation, and it gets under my skin.
I know there are many people who feel that portraying women as smart, competent, and capable, while portraying men as brash idiots who make mistakes and need to sit down, shut up, and listen is progress, but it’s really regressive. Children are watching these films, and so are bitter full-grown adults who are weary of the constant gender tug-of-war and ready to see real equality. We need to see stories where men and women work together equally to achieve goals, rather than be beaten over the head with a flip-flopped version of gender dominance. A role reversal doesn’t resolve gender conflicts, as cathartic as it must feel for female viewers of the film. If Finn had been the one to save Rose and then said “I saved you dummy.” and planted a kiss on her, imagine the outcry for how that scene treats women. I don’t think it’s okay to simply flip the roles and let men take the hit. I’m with Kylo on this one “Let the past die. Kill it if you have to.” It feels like directors like Rian Johnson think of audiences as a puppy who just peed on the carpet. There are definitely ways to explore gender conflicts and inequality, but to do so in such a heavy-handed way as The Last Jedi does is really a disservice to the cause . You end up with many men who are ready to reaffirm their own prejudices because they are shown no respect in how their gender is represented in the film. You get many men who are doing their best to be a part of the solution, but who are lumped into the “sit down and shut up” group because sexism demands that all men must feel guilty and be compared to the worst men and worst portrayals of men out there. It’s really alienating and doesn’t exactly scream “let’s get on board and solve this problem together.” Holdo’s initial reaction to Poe is pretty representative of the thorny mistreatments a lot of men get due to pushback and anger over gender inequality. She should have been a real leader, tempered her emotions, and with respect for Poe, herself, and her crew, simply given the orders and any explanation that could’ve helped them survive, not start off with “listen here, i’ve dealt with a lot of hot shot flyboys like you” while rubbing in Poe’s recent demotion in a sarcastic tone (not verbatim, but you get the point).
Am I trying to discourage women from being proud of the strong portrayals of women in The Last Jedi? No, not at all. Those are much-needed, but I am asking people to look at how men were portrayed, how gender-politics were handled, and whether it is helping to alleviate centuries of suffering or just putting more fuel on the fire. Inequality hurts everyone, whichever way you flip the roles.
I’m going to set aside the specifics of Poe and Holdo’s subplot for now, as we have *some* similar problems with how it was handled, and focus on what seems to be your primary problem with the film based on this comment: reverse sexism. That is, I feel, what you’re essentially arguing, that The Last Jedi is rampant with reverse sexism, which you feel is just as bad as, say, more standard sexism.
This is where we’re going to disagree, I’m afraid, mostly because I don’t really believe in reverse sexism. Can women be prejudiced against men? Sure. But sexism, much like racism, is an institutional thing; it’s an ingrained aspect of our culture and has been for basically ever. Give me, IDK, even 20 years of films where women are *consistently* painted as superior and/or having active agency over men, and maybe I’d agree, or at least consider . . . but that isn’t this world. And until it IS that world, until we live in a place where there is *actual* widespread gender equality (and not just in stories, but in day-to-day life), then this idea of “let the past die” when it comes to gender roles won’t work because it’s NOT THE PAST. It’s still right here. It’s a little insulting to pretend otherwise, or to suggest that women need to be kinder and/or more understanding of men’s concerns in order to get what they already deserve. You know, when men are pretty much never expected to do that.
And actually, I think that’s a primary value in making films where men are in considerably worse and weaker roles: it’s so, so common for women to play such parts themselves–parts where they need to be rescued, or have no agency of their own, or basically have no character except to be either a love interest for a man or provide dramatic angst for a man–that people (especially men, but not just men) don’t even blink. So, when men *do* end up in these roles, it’s so unusual that a lot of people fight against it, say it’s unfair or demoralizing. But, you know, that’s kind of the whole point.
Of course, I don’t want to see men *always* be the bad guys and/or “in the wrong” in a movie. But I don’t think that’s really likely to happen any time soon, and I definitely think that it can occasionally be worthwhile. So, while I did have some execution problems with The Last Jedi, the basic reversal of gender roles here was not one of them.
I couldn’t agree with you more, it’s quite ironic that whoever in Lucasfilms hell bent on gender politics and virtue signalling, thinks that this is a portrayal of a strong woman. Holdo displays all the negative qualities we’d associate with alpha males. Brash, abrasive, condescending, unwilling to acknowledge or listen to her subordinates, or explain her actions. If she were a man, I have no doubt her behaviour is the definition of ‘toxic masculinity’ which in essence is completely useless as a descriptor, as proven ‘toxic behaviour’ is not limited to one gender.
The problem with Hollywood ‘Gender Wars’ is it’s pandering to a subsection of the wide and differing movement you call feminism, which has never really had a unified stance on what the movement is. Unfortunately this extreme subgroup is more interested in gender dominance and victimhood, clearly stated when they redefine sexism as something only men can do to women. It speaks volumes when this subgroup is more interested in film portrayals of dominant women, rather than positive portrayals of women and men working together where their gender isn’t the issue. Swinging the pendulum to the other extreme doesn’t even things out, or put anything right.
Yeah TLDR… That quote was the Director saying “I hate Star Wars, I hate the fans, they can ALL die.”