Last Jedi - Review
This post is choc full of spoilers, so if you haven’t seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi yet and you want to stay unspoiled, go to my earlier post instead, which I wrote before seeing the movie.
Just to get this out of the way, before I start going into any detail, I want to say that this movie did not leave me disappointed. The original 1977 Star Wars is still the one with the fewest missteps in design and storytelling, but this one comes very close. So, let’s take a look at the movie, where there are porgs, and there is Finn, Phasma, Kylo, Leia, Snoke, Luke, and all kinds of good things.
Before I saw the movie, just from watching the trailer, I was pretty convinced that the new gorilla AT-ATs were dumb as hell, and they are, but these new gorillas, which are called AT-M6s, have been shot so that they do look good in the movie. Most of the time they are silhouetted against the sun, or otherwise back lit, or the camera only lingers on details like the head, so they don’t end up looking too bad. A close up of the head of one of the new gorilla variants actually looks pretty good. The shot of them outlined against the horizon is even better. With their bulky lower legs and spindly upper legs, they look pretty good, and certainly menacing.
The movie has a lot of Jedi training segments, and I’m a big fan of this element of the Star Wars movies. Before seeing the film I was intrigued to find out what Rey is all about, and the movie does not disappoint. Her training starts with Luke being reluctant to take her on but it is not her tenacity that changes his mind, as I was expecting, it is R2-D2 showing the recording Leia made right at the start of the first movie. And this is just one of the ways that Leia has been made central to this film.
The training was full of nice touches, like Luke telling her that the force isn’t just picking up rocks, but then picking up rocks is exactly what she has to do at the end of the movie to save the day. We also see her chop a rock in two, almost squashing some custodians down below.
I was hoping that the training would include visions, like the tree on Degobah where Luke saw Darth Vader. I found that enigmatic scene very intriguing and I was betting that Rey would have her own demons to confront. This turned out to be correct, and her insecurities played a pivotal role in the movie. Just like all the viewers, Rey is wondering who she is and how she fits into all these events. The visions she sees just reinforce that she is a new branch of the Jedi tree, unconnected to the Skywalkers, Kenobies or Solos. She is unsettled by this, and Ben Solo almost manages to use this to turn her to the dark side, or at least he thinks he does.
Princess Leia was criminally underused in The Force Awakens, and I was hoping we would see more of her this time. I wanted her contribution to be dignified and meaningful. She is a very famous and important figure in the Star Wars universe, and I wanted her appearance in the movie to reflect that. I have to say the movie did not disappoint.
The remains of the resistance hang on her every word, and she is one of the most important characters, with a bunch of screen time. It was great to see her being a leader of the resistance, and also using her force powers, too.
Then, when things look their worst, the rebels think it is a good idea to broadcast a message from the Princess, asking for help. They feel she is so important that people will come to rally round her. When Poe Dameron takes charge and starts to give orders, everyone looks to Leia for permission to follow them. It is a very leasing use of this very important character.
We don’t spend much time on alien worlds in the movie. There is really only one important planetary location, which consciously echos the ice and snow of Hoth. But then the white stuff turns out to be salt, which is a nice twist. Under this covering of salt there is a whole bunch of red crystal. It looks very beautiful, and I think it is an idea that suits the look of Star Wars very well.
I won’t lie, though, I had reservations after watching the trailer, fearing that there was something a little strange about the way this environment looked once the battle had started.
The surface is white, but just below is pure red. I was worried that it looked a bit weird when the red crystal is pulverized and thrown into the air with every impact of a blaster. It looks very nice and colorful, but somehow I didn’t think any planet would ever actually look like that. On seing the movie, by that point of the film when this planet is reached and the red dust starts to fly, I was having such a good time that I didn’t mind.
There is a lot of love for the porgs all over the Internet, but I was very worried about them before going in to see the film. I hate the ewoks, I’m not a fan of BB-8, and I was starting to take against the porgs. I don’t like anything that is specifically designed to be cute and move merch around Xmas time. If something ends up being cute by accident, like R2, that’s fine, but the porgs looked cynical to me.
Luckily, the characters pretty much ignore them, apart from one stupid scene where Chewbaccca cooks one but can’t bring himself to eat it because they are so cute. I would have much preferred for the wookiee to have taken a big bite.
Before I saw the movie, I looked at this beautiful image and I was worried that it doesn’t look like part of a movie. It looks more like concept art done with some kind of digital painting application. The problem is that there is too much CGI happening in the shot. The metal architecture looks like CGI, the fox looks like CGI, and the cliff with red crystal looks like CGI. I was fervently hoping, going in, that there there weren’t too many scenes where absolutely nothing real was going on.
Of course, it turns out that this is another CGI heavy blockbuster, and not all of the shots look convincing. There is a particularly bad bunch of CGI where horse-like animals stampede and trample land speeders underfoot. Each speeder explodes, without hurting or frightening the animals, and it does not look in the slightest real. There is some bad CGI in this movie, but that happens with every big movie. The computer effects people never get it completely right.
Before seeing the film, I was feeling a horribly enjoyable mix of trepidation and excitement. I had enjoyed The Force Awakens, despite its faults, in fact I gasped in delight when the Millennium Falcon was revealed, and I wanted this movie to be at least as good as that. So… the verdict…
I think this one is slightly better than Force Awakens, though not perfect. It is strongest when it is echoing the strengths of the movies that have gone before in the franchise, when Luke gazes at twin sons, when an X-Wing flies through a fireball, when the Millennium Falcon flies through small spaces. It is also strong when it is allowing the characters to just be together, like the moment when Rey glances at Fin pulling a blanket over the injured Rose Tico. There is a coplex web of relationships between these characters, and more time with them wouldn’t hurt. It is less good when it is relying on CGI, during the stampede of the weird, big-eared, yak horses, or the various standoffs in space where fleets of spaceships are parked just a few hundred yards from each other without shooting at each other.
In short, it’s a great film, and it is good Star Wars, too.
Galaxy Dog (Dark Galaxy) Start Reading the Dark Galaxy Trilogy
The first book in the Dark Galaxy Trilogy, always the best place to start, is Galaxy Dog. It’s a little more old-school and fun than a lot of the sci-fi that is around at the moment. It has spaceships, robots, battles, and brave warriors rebelling against an evil empire. Click the book cover and go to the storefront you prefer to buy it now, or follow this link.
This is a universal book link (UBL) and you will be greeted with a page displaying all the places the book is available online. Just select the storefront you prefer and, if you want, also make this your default bookseller. From then on, every time you click a UBL you will be taken directly to the book you are interested in, on the storefront you prefer. The UBL even allows you to go to the Amazon store that matches your region.