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Kyle Langenbach

Review - "The Last Jedi"

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It was the best of times, and the worst of times. 

**** SPOILERS AHEAD!!!! ****

The Best of Times

Simply put, all the character stuff was the best part of the film.

Rian Johnson really hit all the right notes with the emotional aspects. He cashed in pretty much all of the remaining capital from the original trilogy, and did it very well. Three examples - the scene with Yoda showing up and berating “young Skywalker” like he did over 30 years ago in Empire was pitch perfect. Then the scene where Luke is resisting helping Rey and the rebellion, and R2 shows him the original video of Leia pleading for help from Obi Wan. “That was a cheap move.” Superb. But the capper was the scene with Luke and Leia in the end. Don’t think there was a dry eye in the house. 

As for the new character arcs, the interplay between Rey and Kylo was dynamic and complex. There was definitely the struggle of light vs dark, but in ways that weren’t so black and white. They both blurred the lines at various points and not until the fight scene did you really know which way it was going to go.

Rey and Luke was a great turn on the master/student we’ve seen in the other films, with a mix of familiar tones but with subtle twists. The humor was well done too.

The new mechanic Rose was a great addition to the cast and plays a role that hasn’t been present in SW films before and liked how she fit into the whole gang.

No need to talk about the music. John Williams. Enuff said. Hope he lives to 100 and does the next trilogy and beyond. He even wove in some classic riffs at just the right moments that still give the goose bumps.

Shout out to one of the coolest visual scenes when Admiral Holdu (Laura Dern) rams the First Order fleet at light speed. The choice to make is silent was masterful and really was an amazing shot.

And then of course, the Luke/Kylo fight. Brilliant. And when Luke takes his final look into the dual suns and then fades away, once again not a dry eye to be found.

The Worst of Times

And now for the head scratching bad stuff.

The opening scene with the first battle in space looked amazing. But this is one of those best/worst scenarios that was just really hard to swallow. The logistics/idea behind the battle were, simply put, STUPID.  

The idea that a First Order (heretofore FO) "Dreadnaught" - an insanely big and insanely cool mega starship - can get brought down by a single Xwing shooting all of the guns off the deck so that a group of "bombers" can literally "drop" bombs in space (which is zero gravity for those keeping score at home) on it is just so dumb on its face I can't for the life of me understand how that made it into the script. Right off the bat I was asked to swallow a gallon of stupid which was completely unnecessary. I get that there is unrealistic artificial gravity in the ships, but this is beyond the pale for no good reason. 

But even more unforgiving was what was used as the "ticking clock" mechanism to drive the tension for the rest of the film. So the rebel ships (all 3 of them) are flying just fast enough in front of the FO ships so that the FO ships can't overtake them, but they can still shoot at them. The FO won't send out their TIE fighters because they can't be "protected" by the FO star destroyers at that distance. So the 12 hour “chase” begins.

So much Swiss cheese with this it’s hard to know where to start. They have 10 massive ships, with likely 100s of fighters. Highly doubt they ultimately wouldn’t have taken out the 3 measly ships even without cover. OR…..ok, so the FO ships can’t overtake them at sub light speed…. why not have half of them jump to light speed, do a U-turn and pop back in in front of them? Just such a stupid concept. Might have let it go had it not be the central core of the plot.

The entire sub plot with Finn and Rose having to go to a gambling world to find a code cracker to get onto the emperor’s ship to deactivate some kind of light speed GPS was another fail. Overly complicated, nonsensical and well..BORING. And it didn’t even matter given they already had a plan to dump off to a planet by way of cloaked transports. And don’t get me started with Admiral Holdu saying she had to stay back and “pilot” the ship. It’s called autopilot. It just had to keep going straight. Yes, she did the kamikaze run, but that was unplanned. 

Poe had very little to do after the initial scene and the final scene except whine. To be honest he is my least favorite character and very two dimensional. Not overly crazy about Finn either, but at least has the “former traitor” trope which played well in TFA. But, also already kind of tired of it. IMO he should have died by flying into the portable Death Star. (side note - they just HAD to have a Death Star in it, even if not in the form of a death ball. 5 films and counting)

And then what I call the Keystone Cops effect. The First Order was largely full of useless, bumbling idiots. Yes that has been present in all the SW films, but Vader was so evil and deadly that he gave the Empire gravitas regardless. But Kylo doesn’t have that kind of presence. He’s been beaten more than once, he yells and loses control, people don’t cower from him, etc. That’s fine given Kylo’s arc, but I never took the FO seriously. That has the effect of making the threat to the rebels much, much weaker. Not to mention Hux is a whiny emo cream puff compared to Grand Moff Tarkin.

Finally, we got nothing on who Snoke was, and he went down way too easily. Maybe something in IX but not counting on it.

Overall Thoughts

The pacing just didn’t have any momentum. It stopped and started too many times, and was just not that compelling as a story. Rain did copy a bit too much from the OT with the obvious Hoth scene; the emperor scene (Snoke/Rey/Kylo = Emperor/Luke/Vader, and while the rebels are getting killed in the background); the cantina (although that’s forgiveable); Rey's dark forest scene (which fell completely flat compared to Luke seeing his face in Vader’s mask). But, unlike JJ Xerox Abrams, he at least tried to twist them a bit to make them more original. And the great individual scenes helped offset the uneven, silly story line to the point where I left feeling ok. Disappointed, but not pissed off like TFA. 

Expectations for IX are in the basement given it’s JJ, so here’s hoping Rian’s next trilogy charts new waters. I think we’ve seen enough “empire vs rebellion” stories and really want to see something different set in the SW universe we all know and love. (if they mention the death star in any way, I’m throwing popcorn) There's only so much you can do with the same trope after 8 (soon to be 9) films. (Although to be fair, 1-3, as bad as they were written/directed/acted, at least moved into different territory)

Grade: B-



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