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Episode VIII - In case you care what I thought!


I’m probably one of the world’s biggest Star Wars fans. Okay, maybe not the entire world….I don’t cosplay at conventions in stormtrooper outfits, religiously self-identify as Jedi, and do I don’t make annual pilgrimages to Star Wars Celebration. (Although I would love to have one of those cool green Force FX lightsabers.) But yeah, I’m a pretty big fan.

Those who know me best know that Star Wars is my fave pop-culture thing, even more than Harry Potter, James Bond and DC Comics. Like every movie that’s come out in the past, I get asked by my friends whether or not they should bother with the new movie.

THE LAST JEDI just came out last weekend, and there seems to be an insanely bizarre divide between what the critics thought and what a lot of fans thought.

Last I checked, it clocked in with an amazing 92% on Rotten Tomatoes…..but somehow, it barely cracking 50% with audience ratings. What…the hell?

Most people loved the movie. A great vocal portion of the audience did not. And since I’m trying to keep an active blog going, here is-----if you’re interested----my opinion of the latest chapter in the Star Wars saga.

HERE IS THE SPOILER FREE OPINION OF EPISODE EIGHT. (THE SPOILERS WILL COME A LITTLE LATER, BUT YOU’LL BE FAIRLY WARNED.)

Full disclosure here. Not only am I a fan of Star Wars, but I also like to think that I’m sophisticated enough to enjoy a film as long as it has enough merits. I happened to enjoy the prequel trilogies, for example. I don’t want to hear it. I never said I enjoyed every second of them. The acting was stiff, the romantic chemistry between Anakin and Padme was excruciating, and Jar Jar was just the pits. But the political scheming, Obi-Wan’s presence, the pod races, the lightsaber fights, the war…..there was a lot I loved. (I still smirk when I hear separatist droids say “Roger Roger.”) My point is, I enjoy the saga for what it is----fantasy escapism, from the jedi to the smugglers to the mysticism to the pirate scum.

THE LAST JEDI was a film I deeply enjoyed. It did not go in the direction that I thought it was going to go, but who wants predictability? People died that I did not expect to die, and people lived that I assumed would perish. There was a familiar face I was hoping to see, but I didn’t. And there was a familiar face that I never thought would pop up, but did.

It begins (after a brief but whiz-bang space battle) where we left off----with Rey offering Jedi Master Luke Skywalker the lightsaber he lost in The Empire Strikes Back. (His reaction, again, was not what I was expecting.) On the other side of the galaxy, what remains of the dangerously undermanned and underfunded Resistance are trying to escape the wrath of the First Order. These guys destroyed Starkiller Base, so they plan to strike back. And they do. Like a steel boot to the nards.

But that’s nearly the only similarity to Empire you’re gonna find here. The script is funny, and tense, and emotional. And while there’s no “I am your father”-worthy bombshell in this script, it’s still full of surprises.

There’s a few new characters making their appearances. Notably, a scrappy Resistance maintenance worker named Rose (a winning Kelly Marie Train); the purple-coifed Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) and Benicio Del Toro as a stuttering scoundrel. All of whom feel nicely at home in the galaxy far, far away.

It runs for 2 hours, 32 minutes…..easily the longest of the saga, so make sure you go to the bathroom first. It probably needed trimming, but I’m not sure where you would start----considering it was rumored to have a first draft of three hours long.

But in the end, it’s Star Wars. You either love this series, or you’re more or less ambivalent about it. But while I wished they would have gone in a different direction (as did Mark Hamill, apparently) I have no problems with this direction. But you may be scratching your head, as I am, in wondering where they’re going to go after this story.

HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOVIE YET? THIS IS WHERE YOU GO NO FURTHER! SPOILERS AHEAD! FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO WANT TO HEAR ABOUT WHAT I REALLY THOUGHT---OR YOU GUYS THAT JUST WANT TO HEAR ABOUT THE SURPRISES----COME A LITTLE BIT FURTHER.

I’m not kidding. I liked it, even though it was probably the slowest chase scene in movie history. Honestly. At one point in the movie, as the heroes aboard one the Resistance cruisers calmly discussed the state of the galaxy and their odds of survival, I had to turn to my wife and ask “They are still being chased, right?” “I think so,” she said carefully.

But that was how this movie stood out. It wasn’t about the heroes valiantly waging war on the evil enemy, it was about how a strategic retreat and escape can be its own victory. Resources, fuel and firepower----the Resistance is on fumes. Despite what Poe Dameron thought, escape was their best option. The whole movie’s depressing but realistic theme is about failure. From Luke’s years as a teacher, to the campaign against the First Order, and even in the disastrous side-adventure on the casino planet…..the movie is about failure. And how failure is the best teacher.

I went in expecting an action-packed movie. What I got was plenty of action, but also a thought provoking movie. “This is not going to end the way you think it will,” promised Luke. I couldn’t think of a more fitting quote to use in the trailers. I’m willing to bet that this is the prelude to a third chapter that will be set some years down the road, once the Resistance has a chance to regroup. And to rebuild. And to strike back. And possibly, just possibly, to redeem Kylo Ren’s soul. You know. Just before someone straight up decapitates Mr. Pretty Boy for stabbing his dad.

MY STRAY OBSERVATIONS AND OTHER THINGS THAT STUCK WITH ME:

  • Some folks have criticized the film for being “too jokey.” I’d agree, if the jokes fell flat. But that “can you hear me now” bit between Poe and General Hux was just priceless----especially when it was all an annoying tactic to stall for time.

  • Aw….Admiral Ackbar died? That kind of sucked…..

  • I didn’t expect Luke to dismissively toss the lightsaber over his shoulder. After two years of waiting to see what happened next, it was an effective moment. It left the audience just as baffled and surprised as Rey probably was.

  • Ewww! Well, I'm never gonna crave blue milk again!

  • I know everyone is complaining that Luke wouldn’t have just exiled himself to die on this island planet after his failure-----jedi’s don’t quit, right? It wasn’t happy to see him give up like that, but Luke didn’t have the benefit of having a jedi council to support him. He had always more or less gone down the path of a jedi alone, sadly. Maybe it was fitting. But at least they alluded that he had finally learned about the real truth about what happened in the Clone Wars.

  • The casino scenes might have been the slowest parts of the movie, but I really dug the imagination that went into it. And it gave a neat morality lesson about how sometimes, the people who support war aren’t taking sides. It’s the first time since Lando’s betrayal that they reminded us that not everything is perfectly black and white out there.

  • Captain Phasma is coming back. I’m gonna call it. If lasers can bounce off her shiny armor, a little fall through fire ain’t no thing. Hell, if War Machine survived his fall in Civil War, then Phasma will be back on her feet in no time.

  • Rose going to light speed, taking her cruiser directly through a star destroyer. Exits don’t get more dramatic than that. That was baller.

  • Of all the sad deaths in the movie, what about Luke / Anakin’s 50-year-old lightsaber? That sort of got me in the feels.

  • Luke dismissively called his weapon a “laser sword.” I kind of chuckled at that.

  • The part of me that really wanted Rey to be the granddaughter of Obi-Wan Kenobi was crushed to realize that her parents were nobodies. But as I keep thinking about it, there's a certain beauty to the notion that heroes can come from anywhere......such as broom-wielding child slaves at a casino. Besides, it's a huge galaxy. It's ridiculous to think everyone is related to everyone else. I'm okay with this. (And for all we know, maybe Kylo is lying. How the hell would he know who her parents are?)

  • Oh my GOD! SNOKE GOT CUT IN HALF?!! DID NOT SEE THAT COMING!!! (And after seeing Rian Johnson’s reasons in interviews, I do see his point. This is the story of Kylo Ren’s dark arc, and Snoke’s story isn’t as important as his.) But that was another of the directions that threw me. I was expecting to have him revealed as Darth Plageus. Realizing now that we’ll never know is one of those things that drove fans up the wall. But, hey, he did have his moments. Dressing down Hux in front of his officers at the beginning of the movie was a great arch moment.

  • I was disappointed not to see Obi-Wan appear. It was placated by having Yoda show up instead. Didn’t expect to see the little green guy (in puppet form, no less!) but I was thrilled that he popped up.

  • The only time I was starting to get angry at the movie was when Luke showed up. I was thrilled that he and Leia did have a scene together, because it would have been heartbreaking for them not to have reunite while Carrie Fisher was still alive. But it was derailed by the fact that my head was screaming, “How the hell did Luke get into that barricaded base? Weren’t there a gajillion AT-AT’s outside?” Obviously, I quickly got over that….

  • Luke brushing off the dust off his shoulder after the barrage of gunfire rained down on him is probably, absolutely, the most bad ass he’s ever been! THAT was the Luke I wanted to see!

  • When Kylo Ren’s lightsaber went through Luke, I actually started to think that he was a Force Ghost! I was seriously having a Sixth Sense flashback. “Oh my God, has he been dead this whole time?!”

  • No, it was an astral projection trick. Done from a half a galaxy away. So powerful that it fooled Leia, fooled the Resistance, fooled the First Order, fooled C-3P0 and all the bad guy’s computerized targeting weapons. Take all that in for a second. I don’t question the fact that he died from the strain at all.

  • Luke died. Sniff.

  • Leia lived? Did not see that coming. And on an off-note, Leia doesn’t deserve to die off-camera. There’s a movement to convince Meryl Street to perform what would have been Leia’s part in Episode 9. I’m totally on board with that. You can’t replace Carrie Fisher, but circumstances being what they are, I could live with someone as talented as Ms. Streep finishing her story.

  • Is the Force-using Broom Kid in the next movie, or is that just symbolic of all the jedis-to-be out there? And there’s a Quidditch joke in here somewhere, but it’s five a.m. and I’m just too tired to make one up.

  • I choked up seeing the sweet tribute to Carrie Fisher after the cast credits were finished rolling. It was fitting and beautiful.

So that’s my thoughts and musings on Episode 8. I’m sure there’s a few things I noticed but I forgot to mention here, but that was still a ton of words. But did anyone else see Snoke’s death or Luke’s trick coming? I’d love to hear from you. But for now, have a Merry Christmas everyone! Thanks for stopping by!

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