Here’s a review of Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi I wrote for Crane’s Cabinet of Kinetographic Curiosities back around the time the movie was released. It’s extremely sarcastic (if you couldn’t tell), and addresses a number of issues I had with the film at the time–and still do to this day. Considering this is the eve of the release of Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, it seemed appropriate to revisit my thoughts on the last film (really, the entirety of Disney’s foray into Star Wars, as it’s all lackluster and pedestrian at best) for my Throwback Thursday post today.
As for what I personally expect from The Rise of Skywalker…? I don’t know, but so far, this is my favorite review:
Disney really should have had a plan.
Originally posted December 24, 2017.
I think we’ve found something to replace our division over the presidential election: Star Wars! Specifically, The Last Jedi! Almost half of the audience (according to Rotten Tomatoes, anyway) is split on whether the movie is good or bad. There are valid points on both sides, but in a one-sided sort of way, with each side outright dismissing the other side’s claims in displays of fan infighting not seen since Martin Luther made his infamous shitpost on the wall of Wittenburg Castle Church.
Against the pleas of my late grandmother (who occasionally appears as a ghost to call down lightning when I’m on a camping trip and need to light a fire but forgot my matches–just kidding, I don’t leave my house and thus don’t go camping), I’m going to throw my hat into the ring. As the former co-president of my high school’s Star Wars Club back in 2001 (true story), I feel that it is my obligation, my duty, possibly my sole purpose in this life to add yet another self-important nerd opinion to the pile. Also, I’d like to break ten views on my blog. It’s the little things in life.
What follows, then, is my brief review of The Last Jedi, which I have posted elsewhere but felt it was too good to not plagiarize here. I’m sure I will be receiving a letter from my attorney about this.
Reader be warned: What follows is extreme positivity. Truly the pros outweigh the cons when I think about this film, and my reasoning below is sound. I think it may even win over some haters to the light side (where you should accept things blindly like Poe Dameron should have…oh, wait, spoiler alert).
Without further ado, away we go!
For starters, I like how this sequel trilogy as a whole has taken the original 1977 trilogy characters and not only ignored their original arcs, but put them in worse positions than when we first met them in the original trilogy. Being a Star Wars fan, I was getting weary of thinking that Han, Leia, and Luke might have grown enough as characters by the end of Return of the Jedi that such growth would stick and allow for further progression in future stories, ala real life. Being informed otherwise was the best part of The Force Awakens, and I’m glad the character development boomerang was only reinforced in The Last Jedi. It was a clever way to package a remake/reboot, and I applaud J.J. Abrams, Rian Johnson, and Disney for doing something different from the norm by giving us something that resets the original trilogy and defies conventional narrative logic and coherent storytelling.
Speaking of resets, Star Wars fans (which I’d suspect are mostly children as I’m reminded time and again by fellow fans of this film that this is a franchise for kids) will no doubt love the bold new ways in which this sequel trilogy, like the prequel trilogy before it, attempts to rewrite the original 1977 trilogy (which most so-called fans boringly accept is a trilogy of solid blockbuster sci-fi fantasy films with tight storytelling and interesting characters–yawn) by straight-up telling you that your impressions of what the Force is and how it works (based on comments from Ben and Yoda in said original trilogy) are bigger lies than Anakin’s abilities as a pilot (see the prequels) or Obi-Wan’s respect for his former Padawan (also Anakin; also see the prequels).
As stated, I am told by other adult fans that The Last Jedi is primarily a kid’s movie, and I agree: It exhibits a lack of focus that should really resonate with creative children who are hyperactive. In fact, if I didn’t know better, I’d even say it was made by a hyperactive child. Kudos, Rian Johnson, for nailing Star Wars like a Roman centurion nailing a Galilean to a Golgothan tree.
And while we’re on the subject of kid’s movies, what is up with the usual lack of near-constant fatal failure in most children’s films? For those who have ever asked themselves that question (I’m looking at you, John Wayne Gacy), The Last Jedi answers it by breaking through the childish hope-wall like the Kool-Aid Man. Gen-X cynicism and nihilism is refreshing to see in a kid’s movie, and this overall sense of futility is obviously a bone thrown to adults who may be taking their kids to see this film during a season that’s often far too filled with cheer (the holiday season). Star Wars has, historically, had trouble keeping an adult audience, so this might help bring in the 30-something demographic which has avoided Star Wars movies like the plague for the last two decades. But whether the unrelenting misery finally brings in a flood of adult fans or not, the grim subject matter is sure to keep children glued to their seats for almost three hours. Move over, Despicable Me 3; The Last Jedi is in town!
As a movie itself, I found the lack of discernable direction and meandering plot threads to be the film’s strongest assets. When I had first heard in an interview with Rian Johnson that there is no unifying vision tying this sequel trilogy together, I became worried that he himself might try to create a unifying vision or narrative bridge by somehow tying this film thematically to The Force Awakens (the last entry, Episode VII), or to the next entry (Episode IX) by leaving the characters with room to grow. I’m glad to see my fears were not justified. The feeling of not knowing where this sequel trilogy is going or how it will get there is exhilarating, not unlike the rush one must have felt whilst rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
I like movies that make me think, so wondering what time it is, who these characters are, or why I should care about a majority of what is happening on screen is where this film really shines for me.
If that wasn’t enough to convince you that this is a great film–possibly the greatest, most differently-made film ever made, ever–how about a little comedy to lighten the dark atmosphere? The awkward and often misplaced humor made me laugh uproariously to myself, in silence, on the inside, every single time. And social commentary? Hold onto your butts, folks. Like every great film, it seems that an agenda to communicate to the audience was picked first, and the plot was written around it (as opposed to lesser films, where the plot is written first and any social commentary or agenda happens organically). The Last Jedi truly has it all.
I’ve gone through the pros, but what about the cons? Ignoring the ticket price and the overall experience that is The Last Jedi, the only con was the almost three hour running time, but that might just be because of the age gap–I’m sure kids can sit for much longer without getting fidgety.
FINAL SCORE: 10/2. It was shiny, new, and different, like a cinematic key dangling above my man-crib.