2017, Movies

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017, Rian Johnson)

When this movie came out, I read in various places that it was perhaps the best Star Wars movie ever made. That would be a tall order, I guess, if I actually enjoyed Star Wars as an adult. The thing is, I don’t. I keep watching these movies and whatever it was that compelled me to really enjoy the first three while I was a kid, well, it seems to have died.

Very mild SPOILERS

I didn’t love The Force Awakens and I have trouble remembering it but I do feel like it was a relatively massive improvement on those dreaded prequels. (I did kind of enjoy the first prequel in my teens. I’m guilty!) I much preferred Rogue One to basically anything else that’s been made since Empire (keeping in mind that I loved Return of the Jedi as a kid because Ewoks) and I find myself thinking that the problems I had with The Force Awakens and the things I liked about Rogue One are very much part of how I felt about this film (keeping in mind I don’t really remember The Force Awakens, so I’m guessing here).

The other thing I heard about when I heard that this could be the best Star Wars movie ever was that it was too long. And, well, that is accurate. It’s hard imagine what the original, longer cut was like as this one drags. It drags in part because of a bizarre story-line that amounts to literally nothing. Now, maybe that story-line is trying to make some kind of narrative point; i.e. the stories of failure are sometimes just as interesting as the stories of success. (Or, to put it another way: shouldn’t we also tell the stories and enjoy the stories of missions that didn’t work out, in addition to the stories of missions that did work out?) But I’m not sure Star Wars – a universe that kind of lacks nuance – is the place to tell this kind of story. (I feel like I am generously giving the benefit of the doubt to the writers here.) Whatever the reason for this bizarre subplot, it adds a fair amount of time to the film and likely could have been excised completely.

Another thing that pisses me off is the eternal upping of the stakes. It’s as if the filmmakers have been watching too many Avengers movies because the apocalyptic nature of the struggle – which was already fairly apocalyptic – is getting kind of ridiculous and the odds are past the point of credulity. In every single Star Wars movie, the Empire (slash First Order) has  an endless supply of bad people to do its bidding. In the original movies, this was because of the Emperor himself. In the prequels it was because of the clones. In these movies, it’s because of whatever it was that made Finn a storm trooper (I can’t remember right now!). But the good guys have a limited number of people and this movie takes it so such a ridiculous extreme that by the end of this movie they can all fit on the Millennium Falcon! What? Isn’t there a whole galaxy out there? How are we supposed to believe these people can possibly win?

As a side note: there are numerous things in this film which, if you think about, are problematic. Sometimes with spectacles that’s okay because the spectacle is so good. but many times I found myself wondering “wait, what about…?” such as with the ship that got cut in half, what happened there? Why is that just dropped? Also, the arms dealer thing; why do arms dealers sell to both sides but only sell Tie Fighters to the First Order and X-Wings to the “rebels”? (Seriously, the arms dealer thing feels completely counter to everything I know about the Star Wars universe, if my old video games are anything to go by.)

As another side note: I really, really don’t understand the internet outrage over Luke’s arc. At least one of the good characters was a little less than good for a while. Sheesh.


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