The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly of The Last Jedi

Introduction

A little over 2 weeks ago, we went to see The Last Jedi.  I invited my father in law because he went to see The Force Awakens with us and seemed to have a good time.  Also, we enjoy our traditions in this family.  Counter to seemingly everyone else, I went in search of leaks and spoilers.  I have not been indoctrinated by pop culture to yearn for that “gotcha” moment to keep me entertained, so I don’t mind going in “spoiled”.  I found a reddit thread that seemed legit and sated my Star Wars fever for a few days.  I also stumbled on some hatred.  While not unusual for a Star Wars film, this felt different.  I will cover it more in the Ugly section.  I also waited to write this review because I had made plans to see it again this past weekend, but they never materialized.  So, before I forget any more details about the movie, on to the review.

The Good

At the risk of sounding cliche, the movie is good because it is Star Wars.  Hey, the only reason that sounds cliche around here is because that is my one hacky writer move that I repeat in every one of these reviews.  As usual, though, it is true.  All of the things that make a Star Wars movie great are present in this film.  Lightsaber battles, dog fights on planets and in space, family tension, mystery, cute stuffy type animals, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” (it’s hidden pretty well because I missed it), wonderful scenery, cool new aliens, and Princess/General Leia.

Although that last one isn’t going to be true anymore going forward. What, too soon?

After the near shot for shot remake of the original movie as The Force Awakens, I feared that we were in for a retelling of the original trilogy with new characters.  That simply wasn’t true for this movie.  Sure, there were tidbits that called back to the original movies, but this movie is exactly what it needed to be.

When talking with my friend that wanted to make plans to see it this weekend, that’s where I ended up on the movie.  He asked me what I thought, and I said, “I loved it.”  Then I started to walk that statement back a bit.  It’s not that I didn’t love it, it’s just that there’s been some push back to this movie.  I suppose that those complaints are valid in some form or fashion.  I mean, even Luke Skywalker himself has said that he didn’t like the direction of his character for the movie.  It’s just that I don’t agree with those criticisms.

So, I started with “I love it” and that is my true, unfiltered opinion of the movie.  He replied, “Really?”  I had no idea what that meant nor implied.  Perhaps he had heard some of the criticisms of the film and now I’d have to defend this thing that I love because that’s what we have to do now.  It’s not simply enough to say that you don’t like it.  You have to tear it down and make the person who does like it feel bad about themselves for liking it and force them to defend it even though you have no intention of listening to their defense or changing your mind.  It’s all very exhausting.

I have no idea if that’s what his “Really?” really meant or not.  So, instead of launching into a lengthy defense of the movie, I took a breath and simply said, “It is exactly what it needed to be.”  So, what does that mean?  It serves as a bridge, giving old fans what they need to say good bye to their old heroes and giving new fans heroes of their own that they will have to say good-bye to someday.  And, that’s where some of the normal Star Wars fan hatred is coming from.  Change is difficult and scary.  But, it is necessary so that things don’t become stagnant.  I thought that this movie did a great job of showing that change in as thoughtful a way as it could, but people still weren’t happy.  I was, though.  As soon as we walked out of the theater, I looked at Aiden and said, “Let’s sneak into that theater and watch it again.”  We didn’t, but I was completely serious.

The Bad

I’ve only seen it once and it was through the eyes of younger me as a fan and not as a critic at all.  Therefore, I don’t have a ton of negative things to say about the movie, but at least they are the kinds of things that we always say about these movies.  Hey, we Star Wars fans are nothing if not consistently inconsistent.

Actual quotes from Star Wars fans after every new movie.

Okay, so what do we always complain about?  First, Captain Phasma died in a Boba Fett fashion.  Second, cool characters like Maz and evil BB-8 were underutilized.  Third, porgs?  Seriously?  Like I said, ever since Ewoks, there have been the stuffy friendly characters to keep the kids entertained and I must have finally transitioned from kid Star Wars fan who loved the Ewoks to grumpy old man Star Wars fan who could have done without the porgs entirely.  I understand that they were inspired by the puffins or something native to the island.  I just wished they weren’t there.

Porgs. Like Ewoks, only useless.

One other thing, and this is a common complaint that I’ve heard.  The movie is a bit long.  I get that they both want to tell the whole story and also want to give people their money’s worth as movie ticket prices creep up to 15 dollars and higher in some cities.  However, not everything that was in the movie needed to be there, in my opinion.  A few scenes went on for too long and the entire sequence on the casino planet contributed almost nothing to the movie.  My cousin made the point that it will probably be more prominently featured in the next movie, which would make sense.  Otherwise, I have no idea why it was there.

Finally, and this might just be me.  Speaking of the casino planet, what the hell was up with that ending?  It felt like more of an epilogue than a “to be continued”.  I didn’t need a literal “to be continued” ending like The Force Awakens, but I had no idea what that kid has to do with the overall story.  Sure, he’s force sensitive, but we already knew that there were other force sensitive people out there.  Sure, he was one of the slaves that tasted a bit of freedom thanks to the rebels, but….oh.  Never mind.  I said earlier that this movie is serving as a bridge from old to new, but that bridge might be branching.  Daisy Ridley has already said that she doesn’t know if she’s going to be back after Episode IX, so yeah.  It makes sense.  Keep your options open.  Very shrewd, Disney.

The Ugly

I’ve complained about the movie a bit.  I’ve also hinted that I found some hate on the internet about the movie.  Again, that isn’t news.  Search long enough and you will find someone on the internet that hates whatever you like.  Also, I’ve made the joke a few times that only true Star Wars fans hate Star Wars.  I mean, these are the people who pushed the creator of the mythos, their God, out of the picture.

See those jerks over there? Tell them to “Go to Hell” in 65 million different languages.

But, and I said this before, this hate felt different.  There is a new malevolence out there.  Maybe it’s an old malevolence that has bubbled to the surface.  I’m not going to be reductive and blame it all on politics, but the climate has certainly made it more comfortable for these people to exist and let it be known that they exist.  It started a bit with The Force Awakens when people got upset that there was a black Stormtrooper and it has been ever present in the Marvel fandom ever since Marvel tried to reinvent some of its heroes.  Yes, in the case of the Marvel trolls, there are elements of racism and sexism that are troubling.

On that note, I’ve since heard that a group of internet trolls (some have said that they’re associated with the “alt right”, but I think that’s just a recent boogeyman catch all term to frighten people) that have made it their mission to make sure that these movies fail.  I laughed out loud when I heard that.  As I said to Chris, these guys might be able to pressure Marvel comics because the profit margin and margin for error are so low, but Star Wars doesn’t care if you’re mad.  It will make a billion dollars with or without you.  That theory has proven to be true as the movie just recently passed a billion dollars in about two weeks and I think I saw that it was the highest grossing movie of 2017 in only two weeks.

Still, like I said earlier, this kind of thing wears on you.  Instead of simply being able to enjoy what you enjoy for reasons that you enjoy it, you are constantly being berated by those who don’t like it and feel that it is their mission to either get you to hate it too or simply argue with you for no reason other than to get you mad.  They will stoop to racist, sexist, or just downright rude comments for no other reason that it will get a rise.  They claim that they are fighting for free speech, but they’re simply fighting for their right to be jerks.  It’s internet trolling taken to the extreme and I refuse to participate anymore.

The Verdict

I loved this movie.  Whenever anyone asks and I don’t think about it before answering, that’s my answer.  It is not a perfect movie.  It is not even a perfect Star Wars movie.  It is probably my second favorite of them all behind Empire Strikes Back.  As my friend said, everyone liked Empire best and he’s mostly right.  But, this one did exactly what it needed to, was a ton of fun to watch, and has left me just as excited to see Episode IX as I was to see this one after The Force Awakens.  If you haven’t seen it, see it.  If you have, see it again.

May the Force be with you.  Always.

 

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