Blogger’s Note: I want to start my discussion about The Last Jedi with one of the very, very few lines that I like from the prequels.
“Only a Sith deals in absolutes.”
I’ve spoken at length about my dislike of “internet outrage”. I’ve also spoken about my disappointment in a general refusal by society to listen or discuss things with each other anymore. While my view has changed somewhat when it comes to Trump supporters, I still stand by my feelings in pretty much every other matter.
When The Force Awakens came out, I was still writing recaps for the “Picking Favorites” podcast. I had really loved TFA, so when Dave spent an entire episode talking about his issues with it, I decided to debate him a little, and so I wrote a response to each of his points. And sure, there were some things he didn’t like that I didn’t fully understand, but I’d like to think that we both respected each other’s views.
There will never be a Star Wars film that pleases everybody. Hell, I am downright IN LOVE with Rogue One, and there are people who thought it was too dark, too sad, too different, too boring. I don’t understand that, but hey: to each their own. Hell, for every person I’ve met that actually liked the prequels, my first question is always, “WHY??”-- not “GET THE FUCK OUT YOU MUST BE STUPID.”
The Last Jedi is turning out to be a DEEPLY divisive Star Wars movie. I have seen people absolutely crushed by their disappointment in it, and I have seen others claim it’s their favorite Star Wars movie yet. But more than anything else, I’ve seen people attacking each other for their opinions on it. This isn’t an issue specific to Star Wars, but since Star Wars is my EVERYTHING, it’s especially upsetting to me.
My point here is: let people have their opinions. If people are genuinely upset by TLJ, let them be. If they loved it, let them celebrate. Feelings are valid, whichever way they go. And guess what? If you’ve decided to be a part of social media, you are going to see people that HATED stuff that you loved about the movie. You are going to see people that LOVED stuff that you absolutely hated. Guess what? That’s what makes the world interesting: differences. Listen. Debate. Discuss. But for christ’s sake, do it respectfully. Be an adult. It’s not fucking hard.
We all use Star Wars as an escape for reality, PARTICULARLY now. Pulling our favorite galaxy into this never-ending circle of anger and hate is going to ruin that escape REALLY quickly. I get it-- you're passionate about your Star Wars. You want it done right. That part I get. As for the rest of it? Knock it off. Accept each other’s opinions. The end.
And now, for my thoughts.
I completely lost my shit during two specific scenes in The Last Jedi.
First, when Yoda tells Luke: “The greatest teacher, failure is.” For personal reasons. Obviously.
Second, when Luke and Leia reunite towards the end of the movie, and he tells her, “No one’s ever really gone.” I SOBBED.
Yeah, that one especially. I mean, I at least shed ONE tear whenever Leia was onscreen, really, but that one really got me.
But I suppose I should answer the main question, before I get into certain scenes: did I like it?
... Yes. My expectations for Star Wars movies are extremely high, mind you, at least since The Force Awakens. I was worried, going in, that Rogue One had actually ruined Star Wars expectations for me forever, since for that one, I went in with the lowest of expectations and came out with my soul basically in flames (in the good way).
I will, however, say that this is the first of the “Disney” Star Wars films that I didn’t leave thinking, “I need to see this again, as soon as possible.” It’s the first one I had some issues with. There was a moment in the middle where I panicked and wondered if I WAS going to like it. Right now, it ranks below Rogue One, TFA, and the entirety of the original trilogy for me. It’s FAR better than the prequels, obviously. But I was so over the moon about Rogue One, TFA, and the original trilogy that it still makes The Last Jedi a good movie, just not my favorite in the universe. I think it's very good, but a bit flawed.
Let’s talk about why. I’m not big on hating on things, but I seem to have different reasons for my non-enthusiasm, so I just want to go over them very quickly. Promise. Then we’ll move on to what I DID like (and there was a lot).
- Canto Bight. I didn’t like ANY of it. It didn’t resonate with me one bit. It was during the scenes there that I started to worry that I wasn’t going to like the movie. Don’t get me wrong-- I love Finn, I love Rose. But I didn’t care about DJ (and if he gets a spin-off movie before Cassian Andor does, I will CUT A BITCH). Like, I fully understand that we were being shown the apathetic part of war, the part that benefits from it. But it’s not like we haven’t had multiple (some more fleshed-out) characters that preferred to not take sides or play both for their benefit, OR seen the part of the galaxy that celebrates that apathy or benefit (Jabba and his audience at the palace, for one-- Jabba was definitely evil, but he wasn’t really pro-Empire, either). Even the end, with the child who displayed a Force sensitivity? Cool idea, but I was genuinely really annoyed that they didn’t make the choice to have the black kid be the one to display potential powers. Have we not had enough white dudes that can manipulate the Force? That was a chance to show a great and important moment, and they passed on it. I think I would’ve preferred if they just had Rose be really good at coding or whatever and they cut right to trying to get onboard the Star Destroyer. They still could've come into contacts with some children-- maybe training to be stormtroopers, which was revealed from Finn in TFA to basically be brainwashing. Think how powerful that would’ve been: Finn seeing a little boy that looks like him, has the same possible road ahead as he did. Rose still gives him her ring, and then he shows Force sensitivity? Yeah, give me that instead.
I had some Captain America: Civil War flashbacks when it came to Holdo and Poe. Like, YES, Poe needed to learn to not risk the entirety of the Resistance in every move to break the First Order. But I feel like you have to keep Poe’s past in mind. Poe’s parents, Shara Bey and Kes, were part of the Rebellion when “suicide missions” gave them their greatest victories: Battle of Scarif, Battle of Yavin, Battle of Endor. His parents spent most of his early life away from him, fighting the enemy so that their son could have a better world. That’s all he knows-- sacrifice for the greater good. Is that a problem? Yes. It’s one thing to risk your own skin, and quite another to risk your entire team. But sometimes, as we’ve seen, it’s necessary. Leia knows this, too. So while I totally agree with her giving Poe shit for disobeying orders, Holdo gets some serious side-eye from me for not simply telling him that she had a plan. Sure, she didn’t have to share the details, but when the best pilot you’ve got starts seriously questioning your trust to the point of calling you a traitor, AND you’re already on the losing side of the war? Maybe just make an executive decision to be like, “Hey guys, it’s okay, I’ve got this.” It’s like, the soldiers of the First Order are expected to follow blindly. The Resistance soldiers are VOLUNTEERS-- if you want their trust, you’ve got to earn it, title or not. TALK to your subordinates. She made a poor decision to play things close to her chest, and it cost lives (JUST like Poe, by the way). I ended up liking Holdo, but girl fucked up. Also, stuff like that just comes off as lazy writing to me. “Here’s some conflict, we’re going to just NOT talk to each other for some reason (that’s never revealed because there isn’t one)!” And yes, I’ve read the Vanity Fair article about how this is the Star Wars version of mansplaining/misogyny, reflected on Poe. But while his comments on her appearance make that true to a point, I’m more onboard with Leia’s tactics of dealing with our cocky flyboy than Holdo’s. But then, not everyone can be Leia.
Not on board AT ALL with the shirtless Kylo Ren scene. Keep your male/female gaze moments OUT of my Star Wars, thank you. Like, at least when it happened to Leia, she literally proceeded to murder the dude who did it to her. There was no purpose for Kylo’s.
Didn’t like the Porgs. Space rats, really.
I really wish Rose hadn’t kissed Finn. Like sure, she didn’t do ANYTHING that she did just because she had a crush, but nevertheless, it was unnecessary. There are enough possible love connections here. Speaking of Rose, I found her whole “we’re going to win this by living/saving each other” speech to Finn a LITTLE weird, being that her sister gave her life to help defeat the First Order/save the resistance. I mean, see my feelings about this further up re: Poe. I don’t think I can really include that as something that I didn’t like, but I definitely have some question marks about that.
Not too many, right? The biggest issue was Canto Bight, since they spent a good amount of time there. I don’t know, I’m just… I’m not used to having issues with Star Wars movies (prequels excluded). This is a strange time.
But let’s talk about what I DID like. There’s far more.
I just read that Carrie Fisher was responsible for most of Leia’s lines, and it SHOWS. I felt like Leia wasn’t quite snarky enough in The Force Awakens (my one complaint about TFA, really), but she totally made up for it in this one. And of COURSE Carrie is to blame. I miss her.
Speaking of Leia, I can’t say enough how much I loved EVERYTHING about her in this movie. We finally got her displaying her Force powers (SOMETHING I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR SINCE I WAS TWELVE). Her scene with Holdo at the end of the movie was perfection. Her scenes with Poe: perfection. As a Leia fan, this movie did her RIGHT, and I am so thankful for it. And yeah, that reunion with Luke was just… everything.
Luke’s story arc. Look, at the end of the day? Luke’s a Skywalker. Skywalkers are hot messes (except Leia. Leia is the perfect black sheep of the Skywalker clan). He was never painted as this “perfect Jedi”. He’s a hero and a legend, for sure, but he’s human. He barely had training, and only really survived against the Emperor because of his pops. I’m not selling him short, but this belief that Luke never would’ve become a hermit or had momentary lapses of judgment is painting him a bit too Christ-like, for me. I really liked grumpy old man Luke-- it reminded me a bit of Obi-Wan, and I was here for it.
Another character who was done perfectly? Rey. I LOVED that she completely ignored the old ways of suppressing/running from the Dark Side and confronted it head-fucking-on. It shows her strength-- she was put in a place of temptation far earlier than Luke, with far less training, and she never faltered. She knew how much power was inside of her and knew to not underestimate it. Also, I LOVE that her parents are no-one, really (no, I don’t think Kylo Ren was lying). It makes her even stronger, and an even better character. She is her own person.
Kylo Ren continues to be the Anakin that I so wish we had gotten in the prequels. Possible romantic future aside (personally, I don’t want a romance for Rey with ANYONE, but that’s me-- ship who you want, what do I care?), I found his inner conflict and connection with Rey endlessly intriguing. I think the last third of the movie is its best, and it starts with him killing Snoke. I know a lot of people see him how I see Anakin (i.e. “OH MY GOD, HE’S THE WOOOOORST”), but I understand his conflict far more than Anakin’s. I’m not excusing him killing Han by any means, but here’s this kid with incredible power that spent some of the most important formative years of his life being played by two sides, and both betrayed him in the end (or so he believes). Is he innocent? Of course not. And no, OF COURSE he’s nowhere near as awesome as Darth Vader was, but that’s the whole point! They’re showing how poor of a leader he is, how he has these pillars of greatness in his family and he can’t live up to any of them, good or bad. He’s weak and tormented where Rey is strong and solid, and it will be his demise unless he can learn to go fully one way or the other. Sorry, kids-- I dig his story. Just keep him clothed.
Since the Vulptex are me represented in the film, I think we can all agree that I saved the Resistance, right? (My wife, Karen, pointed out that I led them to a far too small exit, but like I told her: I was actually like, "OKAY GUYS JUST SIT RIGHT HERE FOR JUST A SECOND YOU ARE ABOUT TO SEE SOME BAD ASS JEDI SHIT HAPPEN". So... yeah. I saved the Resistance. If only Scarif had Vulptex..es. Vulp...ti. Vulp..tricycles.)
Chewie kicking down Luke’s door and yelling at him to stop being such a bitch was GREAT.
Holdo SPLITTING A STAR DESTROYER IN HALF. Holy SHIT! (I fully expect Katie to post something about how this trick has been done by the almighty Hera Syndulla before, and if she does, I will link to it here, because credit where credit is due.)
R2D2 (I could have used more of him, but like... that’s totally a personal thing and not something the movie did wrong) showing Leia’s old message WAS a low blow, but perfect. He’s a little shit, he always has been, and that’s why I love him.
Let’s talk Poe a bit more-- first of all, I could watch an entire movie of him flying around and blowing up the First Order, but I digress. Second, him meeting Rey made me really happy. Third, I feel like he’s gonna get some shit for this movie, but I’m not interested in that. Not all of our heroes are perfectly born to it. He had to learn, the hard way. Also, I very much appreciated that they showed him making an effort to know Rose’s name and like, ask her what she did and how they met. It’s a little thing, but I saw an article saying that Poe’s behavior was “toxic masculinity” and I couldn’t disagree more. Like, he fucked up. But our Poe? Toxic masculinity? No, sorry. Take one look at his greeting to BB-8 at the end of the movie and try and say that.
I think my appreciation of Rose was lessened a bit from not loving Canto Bight, but I did love her awe of Finn in the beginning, and her IMMEDIATELY having no issue stunning him. That was pretty wonderful. I want more from her, in the next movie (I've heard she and her sister are getting a comic series, and I am BUYING THAT SHIT).
As for Finn, I like that a lot of his biggest motivation is just continuing to be Rey. Like, it’s not that he doesn’t care about the Resistance at this point, but his number one concern is STILL the girl who “looked at him like no one ever had”. I need to know what he thinks about the whole situation between her and Kylo, like… right now. But that’s why it was important for him to have his adventure with Rose. He’s only really connected with Rey (yes, I know he has with Poe but they haven’t really had much time together, it’s still on a different level), so he NEEDED a reason to stay with the Resistance with Rey off being a Jedi, you know? I just wish it had been a different adventure, I think. Also, seeing him take down Phasma was REALLY satisfying. I will also say that I thought they were going to kill him off for a second and I was GOING TO RAGE FOR A THOUSAND YEARS. Thankfully, it didn’t happen. Phew. Thanks, Rose. Also, Rey’s reaction hugging Finn is how all of us would feel hugging either Finn or John Boyega, let’s just be honest.
YODA BURNED DOWN THE JEDI RULE BOOKS. I LOVE THIS. YOU GO, YODA. I also had a heart attack of a moment where I was like, “If they have Obi-Wan appear, too, I AM GOING TO CRY FOR A THOUSAND YEARS”.
MAZ. Maz has one-hundred percent gotten with the hottest men in the galaxy and I love her for it.
THAT LIGHTSABER FIGHT WITH REY AND KYLO. Man, that was like… prequel-level amazingness without having to deal with a whole bunch of awful before and after.
I’m sure there’s more I’m forgetting, but I want to end on this: what I DON’T like about a lot of the commentary I’m seeing defending The Last Jedi seems to bring down the brilliance of both The Force Awakens AND Rogue One. While I agree that TFA wasn’t that much of a risk-taker (this isn’t a bad thing-- they were killing off a beloved character in a heart-breaking and sudden way, I think it’s okay sometimes to walk before you run), it still rebooted Star Wars really successfully. It gave us characters that we cared about and told us what had happened to our heroes without being too eager to get to the new stuff. None of this was an easy task. Also, to call Rogue One a “crowd-pleaser” type of movie is the most laughably ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. THEY KILLED. THE WHOLE CAST. OFF. It was the first Star Wars movie that took family/kid-friendly out of the equation, and they had a lot of the same reaction that TLJ is getting now: “it’s not Star Wars”. It showed the “dark side” of the Rebellion, and featured a male lead that is NOTHING like the others before him. So like… defend your love of TLJ by all means, it’s fine to like it more than either TFA or Rogue One, but let’s not tear down the other truly great additions in the franchise, okay?
So in the end, I’m still here yelling about how under-appreciated Rogue One is (I keep seeing "TLJ GAVE ME SO MUCH HOPE" and wondering why I got this more from a movie where everyone died), I still love Leia, and I still love Star Wars. Onto the next.