[x]Blackmoor Vituperative

Sunday, 2017-12-24

Star Wars: The Lost Jedi

Filed under: Movies — bblackmoor @ 17:38

So… “Star Wars 9: Episode 8 The Last Jedi” (2017). I thought it was slow and dull and pointless. On the other hand, I don’t think it’s the abomination that some people seem to think it is. I’d put this movie about on par with “Star Wars 5: Episode 2 Attack Of The Clones” (2002): not “good”, by any measure, but middle of the road as far as Star Wars sequels go. Okay, it’s worse than average, but not as bad as “Star Wars 8: Rogue One” (2016), and quite a bit better than “Star Wars 4: Episode 1 The Phantom Menace” (1999). More than anything, it’s disappointing. “Star Wars 7: Episode 7 The Force Awakens” (2015) was so much fun, with great pacing and appealing characters, and then to follow it with this long, dull, pointless… thing.

To save myself the effort of having to type this up more than once, I will list here the various things I disliked about “Star Wars 9: Episode 8 The Last Jedi” (2017):

  1. Slapstick pratfalls and out-of-place comedy (I get it, comedy is hard).
  2. Endless stultifying exposition.
  3. Slow, awkward pacing: it’s like three or four slow, dull movies were shuffled together to make one longer, slower, duller movie.
  4. Pod racing — I mean space horse racing.
  5. Stuttering Benicio Del Toro.
  6. Super Leia flying through space (I was literally stifling laughter in the theater during the Super Leia scene: I didn’t want to laugh out loud, I’m not a jerk, but that was just ridiculous).
  7. Space hamsters.
  8. Space manatee breast milk.
  9. The Slowest Spaceship Chase In The UniverseTM.
  10. A completely unnecessary and pointless Rose Teacup subplot. Was she supposed to be a romantic interest for Finn? She just doesn’t fit into the movie at all. If this were fan-fiction, she’d be the obvious “Mary Sue” character. Perhaps she is.
  11. A completely unnecessary and pointless Laura Dern subplot. She was even more glaringly out of place than Rose Teacup.
  12. Abrupt and meaningless Snoke death, tossing into the trash any tension or interest built up about him.
  13. Abrupt and meaningless revelation about Rey’s parents, tossing into the trash any tension or interest built up about them.
  14. Everything the good guys tried to do during the movie … every. single. thing. … failed. They succeeded at nothing.

That final criticism is the most damning one. Rey’s trip to find Luke Skywalker? Pointless. The Slowest Spaceship Chase In The UniverseTM? Pointless. The entire side trip to Planet Vegas? Pointless. The entire “take out the sensor” caper? Pointless. The fight against the Imperial walkers on Red Salt Planet? Pointless. It’s a three hour movie in which nothing happens, and we have no reason to care about any of it or anyone in it.

Luke tells Rey to get out while she can

There is actually one character I care about: Rey. You can feel her frustration as she goes from scene to scene, trying to find a story arc or any purpose to this exercise, but never finding it. By the end of the movie, I felt great sympathy for her.

I suppose I should point out three things that I did not dislike.

  1. I do not mind that Luke Skywalker made a tragic error in judgement, and that his error became the motivation for Ben Solo becoming a villain. That was probably the most interesting thing in the movie. I think it was handled badly — Luke would not stand over Ben with a lit lightsaber, that’s just stupid. But the core idea is interesting
  2. I do not mind that the cast was a mixture of ethnicities and included both men and women. I have a hard time fathoming the mental state of someone who would object to that.
  3. I do not mind that Rey has miraculously become an Ultimate Force MasterTM without any real training. Yes, it contradicts pretty much the entirety of what we have seen and been told about the Force and the Jedi… but who cares? We didn’t know about laser swords and mind tricks before we met Ben Kenobi. There’s a first time for everything.

Incidentally, I think I may be the only person who doesn’t like Phasma (the chrome storm trooper). It irks me that we are supposed to think she’s interesting even though she does nothing interesting. She’s like the Boba Fett of this, dropped into scenes for no apparent reason. The difference, of course, is that Boba Fett was used because he had developed a fan following, while Phasma is just a “collectable chrome variant” storm trooper. Just having a name and a different outfit doesn’t make her interesting. There are at least a dozen nameless characters throughout the Star Wars films who say and do more interesting things than what Phasma has said and done. I also think there’s something wrong with Phasma’s armor itself. I’m not sure if it doesn’t fit right, or if the actor has weird posture, or what, but it just looks …. weirdly “off”, like a jacket that has been buttoned up wrong. As far as I can tell, the only reason the character exists is to sell an action figure.

P.S. Do you like that gif? I made it. 🙂

P.P.S. I think people are trying way too hard to reinterpret this terrible movie in a way that makes it laudable. Yes, it’s lovely that the cast is a mixture of ethnicities and men and women: it’s still a long, dull movie in which nothing happens, no one matters, and all the good will and story potential generated by “The Force Awakens” is wasted.

But wait, there’s more…

This won’t make a huge amount of sense to you unless you have seen the “The Last Jedi” video Jenny Nicholson made, but I spent a long time writing it, so I want to preserve it. (Also, if you aren’t her patron, you should be: she’s brilliant and funny.)

10) Snoke was wasted. That he died is not the problem: the problem is that the audience’s time and investment in the character was thrown away. It wasn’t a clever misdirection — it was bad filmmaking.

9) I don’t care much about Kylo Ren one way or the other. He’s underwhelming as an antagonist, but he’s got some depth as a character, so it balances out.

8) The movie was pointless because nothing was accomplished. Everything the protagonists attempted failed, utterly. In fact, the protagonists would be better off if Poe Dameron and Finn had slept through the movie.

7) Again, that Rey’s parents are no one special is not the problem: the problem is that the audience’s time and investment in the character’s backstory was thrown away. There are probably dozens of ways a competent filmmaker could have revealed that and made the revelation mean something to the audience — this was not one of them. It was bad filmmaking.

6) I have no problem with Luke making a catastrophic mistake that winds up creating the next Dark Lord. That was probably one of the more interesting things in the movie. The execution was handled badly (Luke standing over Ben Solo with a lit lightsaber is just stupid), but in comparison with the rest of the movie, it almost looks competent in comparison.

5) Super Leia was laughable. I literally laughed in the theater. Let’s ignore the fact that it made Carrie Fisher’s final appearance (as a living person — I wouldn’t be surprised if she shows up later as a grotesque CGI mannequin) into a joke (the filmmakers didn’t know she had months left to live, after all). It makes what should have been a tragic, character-building moment for the protagonists into a pointless digression. She should have been given the hero’s death that her character has earned over the past 40 years. Instead, that was given to the utterly superfluous Laura Dern character. Again, this is just bad filmmaking.

4) As for Holdo, the Laura Dern character … her existence and everything she does undermines the arc of the movie and the importance of the protagonists: that character shouldn’t have even been in the movie. Again, this is just bad filmmaking.

3) Broom kid is irrelevant. The entire pointless trip to Planet Vegas accomplished nothing for the story arc or the characters. Again, this is just bad filmmaking.

2) “The theme of ‘The Last Jedi’ was failure”. The theme of failure is part of a good movie if the characters return from that failure and then succeed. (There is a literary term for this, but it slips my mind at the moment.) The problem (again) is not that characters failed. The problem is that those failures were meaningless — there was no follow-up where the characters come back and succeed. They don’t even learn anything. What did Finn learn: to never take risks to help anyone else, because it’s doomed to failure and will, at best, get a lot of people killed who wouldn’t have otherwise been killed? What did Poe learn: to follow orders without question? What did Rey learn: that nothing matters, no one can be trusted, and even the people who ought to know better will just disappoint you, so why even try? They all just fail, the end. Whether that was intentional or not (I rather think it was), this is just bad filmmaking. I will direct you to Jenny Nicholson’s brilliant criticism of Rogue One, where she says that intentionally making a movie bad does not make it a good movie: it’s still bad.

1) The movie didn’t “challenge” me. It bored me. I started looking at my watch during the pod race — I mean space horse race. To be clear, I didn’t hate the movie. I thought it was marginally better than Rogue One (rather than caring nothing about the characters and what they were doing, I cared very little about the characters and what they were doing). But it’s no “Phantom Menace”. It’s not the worst Star Wars movie ever made (so far).

P.P.P.S. The Last Jedi is a Star Wars movie for people who don’t like Star Wars. Handful of individuals strike a decisive blow against a massive organization? Nope: the characters fail, utterly. Lightsaber fight? Nope: no lightsaber touches another lightsaber in the whole movie. Likeable characters? Nope: the movie goes out of its way to make the protagonists we loved in The Force Awakens into losers and incompetents. Dramatic death of a beloved character that ignites the resolve of the protagonists? Nope: Leia becomes a joke, a flying clown, an absurdity that will always be remembered as Carrie Fisher’s embarrassing final role. A character who made a tragic choice gets redemption? Nope: Luke betrays his student, does nothing useful, and then fades away.

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