Star Wars: The Last Jedi  (2017)

Two years ago, I was caught up in the excitement and giddiness of a new Star Wars movie, and I admittedly went a bit overboard in gushing over "The Force Awakens." By no means have I started to think it was a bad movie, but as time has passed and I've taken in more viewings, it falls a few points. The consensus argument is that it is a barely-disguised cover version of "A New Hope" - I totally agree.

One year ago, I gushed over "Rogue One", but for different reasons. While still feeling familiar as a "Star Wars" movie, this one pushed boundaries, turned things darker, and just felt like more of a breath of fresh air into the series.

I saw "The Last Jedi" on opening night, but I avoided writing a review for a while because I wanted all the initial hype to lull a bit. The immediate reviews were varied, with the common refrain of "critics love it, fans hate it." I consider myself a mix of a critic and a fan, and I genuinely don't understand how anyone could really *hate* this movie. By no means is it perfect, there are plenty of things I would have changed, but overall, I loved it.

Without getting into spoilers (those will come later), I do have to say that the runtime of 152 minutes is way too long. "Captain America: Civil War" is 147 minutes, "Spider-Man: Homecoming" is 133 - it's just a trend to stretch these stories far too long. I guess it's better than the alternative of turning one four-hour movie into two two-hour movies and making me pay twice, but there were plenty of things I felt "The Last Jedi" could have left out without hurting the storyline, or even just condensed certain characters and actions, and still ended up with the same product.

The thing I keep looking at is how the new characters are mixing with the old. Would we rather re-watch the dynamic between Palpatine and Vader and Luke, or do we want Rey and Ren to stand out on their own? Can Finn and Poe grow as people, learn from their mistakes, or turn into one-note characters?

The main complaint about "The Force Awakens" has been that is was too similar to the original trilogy. A lot of the complaints I've read about "The Last Jedi" are that it was too different from the original trilogy. Fans are stupid, and will complain about things no matter what, but I for one loved the fact that Rian Johnson and TLJ weren't afraid to give Episodes 4-6 the finger.

As I did for "Rogue One", I'm hiding spoilers beneath the trailer, the score, the CH image, and a block of text. Scroll at your own risk.

[Celluloid Hero] gives "The Last Jedi" an 8 out of 10.

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Alright, I assume you're here on your own volition, so here we go.

- Leia. I know it's unfair to use real-life situations to criticize a movie, but Carrie Fisher's death loomed so large over this franchise, it just kept popping into my mind and breaking my suspension of disbelief. The explosion that left her floating in space would have been a fine ending, I hated the force-floaty thing, even just having her get back to the ship and being in a coma would have been fine. I get that keeping her alive at the end was a part of Luke's goodbye, but you could've still had the Resistance bringing coma-Leia to the mine, hoping to still bring her to safety, then Luke comes and gives her the kiss on the forehead, and then they expire together.

- Laura Dern. She didn't look like a Star Wars character. I know that's broad and unspecific, but like Forest Whitaker before her, there were just times it felt like "oh, it's Laura Dern yelling at Poe Dameron". I loved her character's choice to sacrifice herself, and the hyperspace explosion and the cinematography around it was an awesome moment. Alternate option: Leia is the one to pull that move, becoming a martyr for the Resistance and tidying up the real-world implications.

- Benicio Del Toro. I love Justin Theroux, so when I saw him pop up as the "master code-breaker", I was excited. After one line and ten seconds of screen time, I was let down. BDL somehow has more of a "Star Wars look" than Laura Dern, so it wasn't as distracting for me. Most importantly, I loved that he simply turned his back on the Resistance for a bigger payday. I'm praying they don't bring him back in Episode 9 and say "just kidding, it was a long-con, I'm here to blow up the bad guys woo!".

- Rey's parents. Go back to the original trilogy. The Force is not exclusive to the Skywalker family. Go back, dare I say, to the prequels. There are tons of padawans being trained in the ways of the Force, from species all across the galaxy. It was genuinely refreshing to shut down the implications that Rey had some Skywalker blood in her, and was just some rando who was in tune with the Force. Even after TFA, I refused to believe that Rey was somehow part of the family, because that would imply some really messed up stuff went down during her childhood. We know Luke & Leia were separated at birth, did anyone really think that Leia would have twins in Ben and Rey, then send one of them to some dirt planet and keep the other? Did anyone really think that Luke would have a love-child somewhere then just abandon her? There are theories that Kylo Ren lied to Rey, but I hope they just leave her as an orphan.

- Snoke. Another big F YOU to TFA. After building up the mystique of Snoke being this huge powerful villain (how did he rise to power? why is he disfigured? is he descended from Emperor Palpatine, is he Palpatine himself, is he Mace Windu, is he Jar Jar Binks, is he that Stormtrooper who hit his head in Episode 4?), they just said "Nah, he's just the boss" then killed him and moved on.

- Snoke's guards. BAD. ASS. Loved their silent intimidation, loved the kung-fu fluidity of their movements, loved the entire fight scene with them against Rey & Ren.

- Porgs. Fun! I'm at an awkward age where I like Ewoks because I was a kid when I was introduced to them, so I understand why older fans were annoyed at teddy bears designed to sell as toys being such a big part of "Return Of the Jedi". Porgs, however, weren't a fighting force, they were just cute creatures that happened to be part of the native ecosystem.

- Luke. I have one major issue with his projection: he was younger. Noticeably, at least to me. My first sarcastic thought was "What, did he stop for a haircut on the way to Crait? Did he dye his beard, what is going on?"  Now, my wife didn't really notice this, so I don't know how much of that is on me or how much is on the filmmakers...but it did make me immediately question what was going on, what was 'real' or if it was all some trick or hallucination or what. Other than that, I loved the final showdown. The entire planet was visually stunning, with the giant mine door, the updated AT-ATs, the massive artillery strike against Luke, it all just worked beautifully for me.

- The jokes. I've read a lot of complaints about the humor trying to be too much like the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I don't see that comparison, and while I do agree the jokes were mostly goofy, Star Wars has always been full of goofy humor. Leia calling Chewbacca a walking carpet, the nerfherder line, Han talking about Tauntaun smell, it's just quick comic relief. I laughed at the early "Can he hear me?" bit between Dameron and Hux, I laughed at the rest of the gags, and just enjoyed them for what they were.

 

 

 

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