Thursday, December 21, 2017

Thoughts on The Last Jedi

So I watched The Last Jedi a couple of days ago and I’ve had time to think about it and see some reviews.  My thoughts on the movie are … it was okay.  It isn’t the timeless classic of the original trilogy, but it’s not forgettable like Rogue One. 

When I think of the original trilogy, I think of them as joyous, fun, adventures.  To be honest, I don’t know how much of that is a result of it being simpler times and I was young and naïve.  And to be honest I don’t know how much my being more experienced and bitter shaped my reaction to The Last Jedi.  But instead of seeing a fun adventure, I saw more the manipulation of the movie business.

The most obvious manipulation being the porgs.  Let’s be honest, I’m sure Chewie has eaten cuter things while more of the cuter things watched.  When I first saw the porg in the trailer, I rolled my eyes seeing it as a blatant attempt to sell toys.  But when you’re dealing with such an unknown franchise, you have to explore other ways to make money in case the movie bombs.  I mean, the movie itself has made like half a billion in a week, but the $20 porgs will be what finances the next movie, if they decide it’s worth the risk.

But seriously, a more subtle manipulation was the deal with Rey’s parents.  I would bet that Rey’s parentage was determined before her name was.  I’ve heard that nothing was really settled when they started filming Episode VII, which almost horrifies/confuses me.  They spent billions on this property, and then they decide to just wing it?  Really?  But if we found out in The Force Awakens that Rey’s parents were just scavengers on Jakku, or Luke, or whoever, there wouldn’t have been two years of speculation on who her parents were.  And then there wouldn’t be two years of speculation over whether or not Kylo lied to her about her parents being nobodies.  I love that she – for now at least – is just a random nobody, but why couldn’t we have learned that in the last movie?  Or why couldn’t we see the graves of her parents and Rey lives with her grandmother, who is killed in the shootout when Rey and Finn are leaving Jakku, to keep the plot point in The Force Awakens where she wants to go back.  Or maybe only her dad died – so we don’t think her dad is Luke – and her mom went out for a pack of death sticks and just never came back.

These simple manipulations to get the audience to react a certain way are understandable, since that’s what movies are supposed to do.  I can more-or-less forgive them.  What I can’t forgive – and my biggest issue with The Last Jedi – are, I guess you can call them manipulations instead of plot.  For example, why didn’t Holdo just tell Poe her plan of going to Crait?  I mean, you’re going to have to tell everyone at some point so they can get the transports ready and loading personnel and gear takes some time.  The only reason not to make the plan widely known is if you fear there’s a spy who will inform the First Order.  But that doesn’t happen since instead of a spy the First Order has a technobabble solution to following the Resistance ships.  But if Holdo had revealed her plan, then that would negate the entire Poe/Finn/Rose storyline.  Poe and Finn need to do something, they can’t just be on the ship having a singalong to keep everyone’s spirits up. So we’ll manipulate things to manufacture this pointless side-trip to Canto Bight. 

Now I’ve heard some people explain the Canto Bight bit as an example of plans sometimes fail, and how because they went on this sidetrip, brought DJ to the First Order who sold them out, Poe, Finn, and Rose are now responsible for the deaths of hundreds of fellow Resistance members.  I hadn’t thought of that, in part because I don’t think any of the characters have thought of that.  I mean, I doubt there will be a scene in Episode IX where Rose is crying over these deaths and Finn has to comfort her.

But what could they have done?  How about this.  They know they are near an old Rebel base that has shields, communication, and say an ion canon.  The plan is to send a small team – Poe, Finn, BB-8, Rose, maybe some others – to the base to get it ready and send out a call to their allies.  Then in one hour, the fleet will jump to the base luring the First Order into a trap with an ion canon on the ground and more ships in space.  So Poe flies them to the base – perhaps taking damage on the way so they can’t leave – and they find that there was a cave in and the ion canon is destroyed.  But they send out the message and get the shields back on line.  The Resistance fleet arrives, and since they don’t expect their ships to last long being out of fuel, they send everyone down to the base in transports.  But there’s no ion canon and none of their allies show up.  So perhaps Holdo still has to sacrifice herself to save the last bit of the Resistance.  Their plan failed, and now most of the Resistance is dead.  They end up at the same point, it’s just now more streamlined without you questioning Holdo’s command style.

Speaking of Holdo’s command style, I’ve seen some people say that they hated Holdo at the beginning.  And that’s understandable because you were supposed to dislike her, thus making her later sacrifice seem all the greater.  Since people like Poe, but Poe didn’t like her, there must be something up with her.  Maybe she’s a spy, or just incompetent.  Of course, since she apparently doesn’t tell anyone her plan until the last second – which doesn’t make any sense – my lasting impression of her is that she is a tad incompetent as a leader.  Trying to manipulate the large shift from disliking her to respecting her left a bad impression for me.

Now let’s talk about Holdo’s end.  Like everyone my first thought was, “Damn!” But that was quickly followed by, “Why didn’t the other ships do that?” In desperate situations, it is logical that when the only weapon you have left is your ship you use it.  I can think of multiple occasions in Star Trek or Babylon 5 where they go with “Ramming speed.” But has that ever happened in Star Wars?  In the movies at least, I haven’t watched any of the shows.  Well, the reason the other ships just ran out of gas and got blowed up instead of ramming the First Order ships was so that it would be all the more dramatic when Holdo did it.  First you manipulate things so you dislike a character, then manipulate things so their end seems all the more heroic, instead of just having a good character people will hate to see go.

I’ve spent some time going over things I had problems with, but was there anything I liked in The Last Jedi?  Yeah.  One of the issues with the original trilogy – partly based on it being a simpler time – is that the good/evil light/dark thing is rather simplistic.  So I did like the far more gray approach they seem to be going in now.  I also enjoyed the idea of the student outgrowing the master, although I do wonder if they made it a bit more “This is less of a continuation of the trilogy you love so much and more of a new thing.”

I’ve said before that I think I’ve outgrown Star Wars.  I wasn’t excited to see The Last Jedi.  It was just a movie to see so I’d know what everyone was talking about and to maybe get a few blogs out of it.  I watched The Last Jedi trailer two or three times; I’ve seen the Infinity War trailer about ten times.  (Just writing about it made me go watch it again.) But Star Wars doesn’t really do it for me anymore.  I’ll see Episode IX so I know what everyone is talking about, but I’ll probably be more excited for whatever the next big MCU movie is.  I’m sure the owners of the MCU are happy to hear I like their movies more than Star Wars.  The owners of Star Wars, probably not so much.

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