Have you heard kids? Another Star Wars movie is upon us, and if you haven’t seen it then you failed at life and you shall be publicly shamed. There of course is that usual contingent of people who love to remind you they’ve never seen any Star Wars films, but for normal people things tend to stop and everyone needs to get on board before the masses spoil everything for everyone. If you are on the fence about whether or not to see Episode VIII and you’re looking to this here blog to make up your mind for you, stop now. I will spoil the holy hell out of this film for you unapologetically. So this is strictly for people who have already witnessed the now annual cinematic event, or people who give no shits about seeing it and just really love my prose.
So before I get into the film itself I need to get a little meta and start discussing Star Wars as a franchise, a money making property, and a cinematic universe. There was definitely a sense of relief when George Lucas mercifully handed off the keys to his extremely profitable kingdom to Disney. Knowing that episodes 7-9 wouldn’t be anything like the prequels was certainly cause for rejoicing. The problem with Disney handling this property is their scientific approach to going down the middle. I don’t see any scenario where any of these films live up to the original trilogy, but it also seems hard to imagine any of these films being as bad as the prequels. A similar comparison can be made with the MCU. By crowd pleasing and playing it mostly safe all the movies are enjoyable but none will ever reach the heights of The Dark Knight. However mercifully they won’t also reach the depths of Batman v. Superman, so I guess it’s still a win.
There is also a certain cautionary tale of being careful what you wish for. Star Wars films used to be released three years apart. They were a damn event, and although Force Awakens and The Last Jedi still seemed like events, they’re already starting to lose their impact. With this aggressive release schedule you also have very little margin for error during production. Directors have already been replaced on the Han Solo film no one asked for next year, and Disney will move heaven or earth to get their Christmas release. That’s the other problem I have, Star Wars comes out in May. After all May 4th is Star Wars day, and you can’t release six films in the same month, then suddenly start dumping these flicks on us for Christmas. Christmas is when critically acclaimed movies trying to win awards get released, I don’t need Star Wars occupying my viewing time, and taking up 3-4 screens at every theater that otherwise might have shown a worthwhile low budget indie film. It’s a dick move and it’s probably part of Disney’s subversive plot to snuff out anything that isn’t Disney.
So here we are with a new episode every odd year and a pointless film designed to “expand the Star Wars Universe” every even year. The more I think about Rogue One the more I want my time and money back. I’m sure despite my protestations I’ll probably be dragged to Baby Driver Han Solo, and I’m sure it’ll be entertaining in the way Thor: The Dark World was but you can’t make me like it. Am I becoming and old curmudgeon who takes these movies designed for kids and simpletons too seriously? Probably, but like millions of other people I grew up with these movies and still want them to matter. The over abundance of Star Wars movies is exhausting and largely unnecessary. There was always an expanded universe in comics, books, and video games which was perfectly set up for the super die hards who legitimately couldn’t get enough of this shit. For the rest of us, tone this shit down a bit, it’s making these films less special with each annual release.
On that note, there is another problem I’ve noticed about these films. I did see Force Awakens and Rogue One in theaters, and that’s it. I have felt no need to revisit either film since they were released. In the case of Rogue One I’ve actually become gradually repulsed by the idea of sitting through that again. Force Awakens was certainly tolerable and wasn’t a bad film, but it really did nothing for me beyond the surface level of telling a Star Wars story. There were so many similarities between that and the A New Hope that it mainly just made me want to watch the earlier film again. The prequels were awful for a way different reason, but none of those films were worth watching more than once except to possibly make fun of it for critical purposes. Compared to the compulsively re-watchable aspects of the original trilogy I just don’t feel like any of these hollow facsimiles will hold up that well in 30+ years regardless of how competent they may be.
Now let’s talk about Episode VIII, and to some extent Episode VII. After the first three episodes destroyed my faith in Star Wars, I promised I wouldn’t walk into these films with fanboy blinders on. I would try and look at them objectively as films, without focusing too much on how they rate against others in the franchise. Before I get too far into this I will freely admit that there are plenty of flaws in the original films we all love. There are plot holes, laughably fake effects, and head scratching moments aplenty, but they don’t bother me. Maybe I just grew up with it, but mostly it’s because the films themselves can overcome those flaws. You’re so immersed that those flaws either take a dozen or so viewings to even notice, or they’re just forgivable because everything else is so great. Unfortunately these new films don’t have that built up good will and are operating on a much smaller margin of error.
So before I sound like a grumpy old man shaking his first angrily at the sky saying “Not my Star Wars!” I want to mention a few of the things that I liked about The Last Jedi. Mercifully Poe was actually kind of awesome. He seemed so painfully thrust upon us in Force Awakens as some sort of Han Solo substitute that I instantly hated him and the corporate think tank that created him. For a minute it seems like his reckless nonsense would be passed off as cool, but his character seemed far less forced here and I found myself a half hour into the film thinking he wasn’t too bad. They definitely delayed him and Finn making out and officially becoming the first interracial gay couple in the galaxy but maybe Episode IX will give us that pay off.
|Emo Vader was actually one of the highlights|
Spoilers are going to start now, so this is the last warning. I really, really liked when Kylo Ren and Rey killed CGI space monster Snope and then fought side by side against surprisingly powerful Imperial guards. Emo Vader instantly redeemed himself and as he offered Rey a chance to kill everything and forge their own destiny I got really excited. Force Awakens painfully repeated the plot of A New Hope with some thinly veiled differences just to technically not plagiarize. For one brief moment I thought maybe we would be done with the First Order and the rebels and finally get an original story. Rey and Emo Vader using their powers of the force with no Sith or Jedi dogma just ruling the galaxy like the ultimate good cop-bad cop. Of course I knew this wasn’t to be, so I’ll have to contend to the inevitable fan fic for like minded people. I also liked the fact that Rey’s parents turned out to be piece of shit junkers who sold her for drinking money, instead of some cosmic lineage that would have seemed ridiculous.
Now for everything I had a problem with. For starters this movie was far too damn long. Regardless of the actual run time being 2 hours and 33 minutes, it felt too damn long. Towards the end I started thinking about Return of the King because every time I thought they could wrap up the film more stuff happened. I know many people have felt Star Wars movies could have been longer, but once again careful what you wish for. You could have easily cut 50 minutes out of this film and not missed a thing. Things pick up right where Force Awakens ends, and I’m not a huge fan of that. The other episodes generally had a few years between them, allowing us to feel that our characters grew and developed somewhat off screen. This is the whole reason for that iconic scrolling exposition, to catch us up on what happened since the last film. For that reason I didn’t even remember Finn was wearing a Jacuzzi suit.
Finn and his forced subplot was my biggest complaint plot wise. We get this convoluted subplot where he has to do a video game side quest to shut down the tracking device. There are plenty of subplots in Star Wars films, but with Rey having grumpy Luke Skywalker telling her to fuck off, Finn’s plot just seemed more like “we gotta give him something to do”. So they go to CGI Monte Carlo to find the only person in the galaxy who can break into the First Order’s security system only to get arrested for parking in a tow zone and settling for stuttering Benicio Del Toro who totally can do the same job after all. The fact that they go through all that nonsense, and ride space horses, and there’s stupid ass kids, only to get right to the tractor and Brienne of Tarth to catch ‘em felt like a waste. I don’t mind the fact that they failed but I did mind the fact that so much screen time was spent following their failed quest that I ultimately felt like all of that could have been done away with, and I cold have gotten out of the theater half an hour earlier.
Finn could have and should have been killed several times in this film. For starters Brienne should have just executed them, but you knew there would be some deux ex machina to save him because he hadn’t yet gotten his love scene with Poe. When he gets saved by the Star Destroyer they’re in getting blown up I just figured cool he’s going to escape. I definitely didn’t feel like the remaining storm troopers and Brienne would keep trying to kill them, as their ship got destroyed. Typically something like that makes you change your priorities to get the fuck out of there. Towards the end of the film Finn was about to go all Randy Quaid in Independence Day to save the rebellion from that magic laser battering ram. It seemed like a decent arch to his character, he sacrifices himself, everyone lives and escapes, but then random asian girl crashes into his ship which should have theoretically killed both of them to “save him”. Side note, how the hell did he drag her back to the base considering they spent like five minutes in ships flying out to meet the first order. No doubt he would have been captured, killed, or stomped by an AT-AT, but I digress.
|No one understands true love|
I liked Benicio’s pragmatic approach to the conflict and the fact that he certainly seemed to understand that there were some select people who profit regardless of whether the First Order or the Republic wins. I couldn’t help feel like this was a direct commentary on America’s foreign policy, which helps grey up some of the usual black and white politics of this cinematic universe. His character had it’s own quirks, but as a one film side character I did enjoy his brief moments.
Now there’s enough other stuff to fill another 50,000 words about my nitpicking but I’ll limit it to some bullet points
1. What the hell was with Princess Leia waking up in outer space and “forcing” her way back to the ship to save herself? That was ridiculous and silly, and wasted a perfect opportunity to kill a character that probably needed to die considering Carrie Fisher did die this past year. Also she proceeded to do nothing of note the rest of the film making her surviving pointless unnecessary.
2. Those Porg things were insufferable. I wanted Chewbacca to eat them all and I would have laughed hysterically. I try not to hate the cutesy nature of them, but my god they looked like super fake cartoons, at least Ewoks were little people in costumes.
3. How the hell is Rey a Jedi master instantly? This is more a complaint with Force Awakens. It took Luke years of training to do the simplest tasks, and she just has “raw Jedi power” or some shit?
4. Who the hell is Snope and why did he look like a shitty video game villain? He shows up in Force Awakens and just is the new emperor or something. I know Andy Serkis played him, but we couldn’t get some makeup instead of that fake looking cartoon video game boss? Also how damn powerful is he that he can force choke someone light years away and toss them around the room? Doesn’t matter he’s dead now, hurray.
5. Ghost Yoda can light shit on fire? I mean it’s awesome that Jedi ghosts can show up and talk, but I’ve never seen them physically do shit, minor complaint.
6. Too many stupid kids, and the end was garbage. I thought we all politely agreed after Phantom Menace that kids have no place in the galaxy.
|Sadly Carrie Fisher was completely useless in this film|
The last big complaint I had is the basic plot of the film. Every Star Wars film inevitably involves rebels running away from the empire, and that was nothing new. However two and a half hours of them running away and slowly getting picked off was just boring. Even if it was an exciting space chase it would have still gotten old after an hour. I also wonder why the hell Laura Dern didn’t tell Poe what the plan was which could have saved us that pointless Finn subplot. This film simply seemed to just say “here’s all your favorites and they’re doing stuff.” No one seemed to have anything necessary to do and it ultimately made this film feel like all surface.
I liked Emo Vader and his temperamental nature. I also laughed out loud when he ordered every single weapon to fire on Luke Skywalker. That could have been a very, very ridiculous scene but it did get explained somewhat to a satisfactory enough conclusion. Not sure if they’re going to just set this up so that he eventually goes good and everyone lives happily ever after, but there’s enough intrigue to make his character unpredictable and interesting to watch.
So yeah feel free to let me know how much I missed the mark and what a fucking idiot I am, or whether or not what I’m saying makes any sense. I’m still going to see Episode IX, let’s just hope it doesn’t waste all of our time.