I went to see The Last Jedi over the weekend and I found myself, as I was watching it, thinking it was not a very good movie. Fan reaction has been mixed, and honestly what bugged me about it is not the typical complaints people have against it. Spoilers abound!
The Last Jedi is not as bad as any of the prequels. There are plenty of good things about it. The movie starts off with a bang with shit getting blown up all over the place and my reaction at the beginning was “this is Star Wars giving the fans some super Star Wars-y shit!” But then after the slam bang opening the movie slllllllllooooooooooowwwwwwwws way down to a bunch of emo talking, and that’s the part where I started to think maybe it wasn’t great.
Apparently a lot of the negative reaction to The Last Jedi centers around disliking Luke Skywalker’s plot line, how he’s a reclusive angry hermit and they wanted him to be more heroic. And in general it takes a lot of the Star Wars tropes and turns them on their head. Honestly, this doesn’t bother me. While I’m definitely a nerd in general, I’m not emotionally invested in Star Wars fandom and this didn’t irritate me. Most of my critique of The Last Jedi comes down to it not always being a good movie.
Let’s talk about Snoke for a minute. Throughout The Force Awakens, he’s teased as this mysterious big bad guy who talks through giant holograms and has some kind of unknown back story about how he turned Kylo Ren to the dark side. Why does he use such big holograms? Who knows. But there was a lot of work done to set him up.
What happens with him in The Last Jedi? Well, he’s a disfigured pontificating generic bad guy who sits around in a goofy throne room with a pointless red backdrop, wears gold Hugh Hefner pajamas, and walks around in herky jerky unrealistic CGI animation. I can’t find a good full-body picture of Snoke in the stupid pajamas, but seriously, all I could think about when I saw him was “evil mutant Hugh Hefner.”
No back story is revealed at all. He’s just the main bad guy who does bad guy things until he gets killed. All of the setup from The Force Awakens is waved away with no payoff. Taken on his own it’s no big deal that he’s yet another one-note bad guy character, but in the context of continuing on from The Force Awakens, it feels like a wasted opportunity.
Also, his goofy looking guards in his goofy looking throne room look like the terrible second season episode of Star Trek The Next Generation where Commander Riker and his dad work out their issues by bopping each other with giant Q-tips while dressed in hockey gear and spandex with vaguely Asian writing on it.
The Porgs got a lot of hype in the lead-up to the movie. Oh look, another cutesy Star Wars character! I’m ok with cutesy Star Wars characters if they aren’t too stupid, like Jar Jar Binks, and the Porgs didn’t bug me. They got some laughs out of me. But here’s what I want to know: why the hell did a Porg come along for the ride on the Millennium Falcon with Chewy, after he had killed one of them and roasted it over a campfire, right in front of the other Porgs?
That scene where the Porgs are all bugging Chewy while he’s eating one of their dead friends is played for laughs, but that’s some dark shit right there! I’m pretty sure the Porg who comes along with Chewy so he can get flung into the inside of the Millennium Falcon’s windshield for laughs is that same Porg! Why’d you get on a space ship with the giant hairy creature who killed your friend, little buddy?
Did anyone else feel like a lot of the acting in this movie was cheesy as fuck? Because seriously, some of these actors are just hamming shit up, even above the usual Star Wars hamminess, to the point where there’s no way to take their performances seriously. Yes I’m looking at you, General Wimpy British Version of Dennis Leary.
Also you, Laura Dern with purple hair. A lot of people liked this character and performance, maybe because of her heroic last stand against the bigass First Order ship, but her delivery of lines was just damn goofy to me.
Oh, and why is Laura Dern in charge? Because of that nonsense where the bridge of the ship where Leia was got blown up, and Leia got blown out into space, but she somehow magically survived long enough in the vacuum of space to wake up, be like, “OH HELL NO I’M NOT DYING OUT HERE FLOATING IN SPACE WITH NO SPACESUIT, IMMA USE THE FORCE UP OUT THIS BITCH” and floats her way back into an airlock!
(Watch this video quick before Disney has it taken down.)
My initial reaction to Leia floating in space was, “damn, they sure are being a little gratuitous with showing dead Leia just freezing out in space, that’s cold, why’d you have to do Leia like that?” Then when she went all Superman I just laughed. Because even in a franchise about mystical space knights and other improbabilities, that shit is just ridiculous.
But that’s not as ridiculous as the movie’s odd fixation on alien boobs. There’s that scene where Luke decides to milk a giant alien then drink its milk on the spot. There’s also the random big fat alien lady as the camera swoops through the casino and the camera zooms right in on her chest covered in orbs that I can only assume are also supposed to be the boobs of that particular alien. Seriously?
On another note of things involving nipples, there’s the random shirtless Kylo Ren sequence. Rey and Kylo are talking to each other through the Force, and all of a sudden, it’s like, “oh hey Kylo Ren, you’re in the bathroom or whatever this lair of yours is.”
The movie doesn’t take this sequence seriously, and even has Rey say something like, “uhhh maybe put on a shirt, dude?” but why the hell is this in the movie? I can only think it’s there because Adam Driver is lanky and tall and the Kylo costumes don’t really make him seem all that strong, and it’s like, “see look he has muscles you guys!” But he’s not intimidating at all.
Either that or they’re totally taking that Kylo Ren Undercover Boss SNL skit and running with it.
If that’s the case, then ok The Last Jedi, I’ll allow this.
The whole plot of The Last Jedi is basically the Resistance getting its ass kicked, repeatedly. I get that, but I feel like all of their tactical moves were written in a way that was basically, “let’s come up with really elaborate ways for the Resistance to both fuck itself and get its ass handed to it.” It’s a mix of the Resistance being foolish and disorganized, and just, I dunno, having to do something to get to the ending where the Resistance is down to nothing more than a ragtag bunch of survivors on the Millennium Falcon.
At the beginning with the overly difficult plan to take out the bigass First Order ship with slow “bombers” that require dropping a bunch of bombs on that one perfect spot on the giant Dreadnought ship, yeah it’s a callback to all the other times in Star Wars movies where the good guys had to do the same thing to the bad guys, but the difference here is while the Resistance does technically accomplish its goal of blowing up the bigass ship, they also fail spectacularly at following their plan and a whole bunch of them get killed.
This makes sense for a setup at the beginning of a movie, a setback that our heroes need to bounce back from. But it keeps happening! Every single time the Resistance goes up against the First Order, they get fucked. The First Order is like, “oh, you thought that was a bigass ship you blew up, huh? Well here’s a bigger-asser ship!”
The movie spends so much time on all the ways the Resistance is going to somehow turn the tide and come back, but they fail. Repeatedly. And the ways they manage to fail feel like really bad plans that have no chance of working out. The technical details of these plans don’t make a ton of sense. The Resistance ships are smaller and lighter than the bigger-asser First Order ship, so they can stay just out of its weapons range, but they can’t go to light speed because they don’t have enough fuel, and the First Order figured out a way to track them at light speed, and they need to go to the casino to get Benicio Del Toro to disable the light speed tracker, while letting ship after ship run out of fuel and get blown up by the bigger-asser First Order ship, and they go to evacuate their final ship in totally defenseless slow-ass transport ships, to the the old Rebel base planet that happens to have one Really Big Door to hide behind, and oh then Benicio Del Toro totally sells them out, and of course the First Order has a bigass cannon to shoot a hole in the bigass door.
On the one hand, I get it, the broad outline of the movie calls for the Resistance to get screwed. But it sure takes a long roundabout convoluted nonsensical path to how exactly they get screwed.
Mixed in with this is the plot with Poe Dameron learning after the first big battle where the Resistance gets its ass handed to it that maybe he should pay attention to people telling him to not go off on his dumbass plans, but then he totally goes along with Finn’s plan to go to the casino planet to get Benicio Del Toro, and then that plan goes totally south too. So much for learning your lesson! Then Finn continues on the dumbass plan action by trying to fly his little speedster into the giant First Order cannon which is going to do absolutely nothing to stop the cannon and luckily for him his mechanic buddy girl stops him from committing suicide by giant First Order cannon by crashing her speedster into him.
Overall, I can’t help but shake the feeling that all the big action setpieces and the nonsensical logic used to string them together was the result of the writers first deciding they wanted the Resistance to be decimated from an entire fleet down to a small group of survivors on the Millennium Falcon, and they worked back from that premise to achieve the desired result.
Can I also point out that there were times when this very expensive movie managed to look very, very cheap? All the sets of the ship interiors were totally devoid of texture or detail. It’s not like the sets in the original Star Wars movies were super detailed either, but being shot on film, before current “let’s make everything look perfect” cinematography, gave the look texture all on its own. With current camera technology it makes everything feel extra fake.
Some of the CGI interior backgrounds are nice and detailed...
But then you have extremely simplistic sets like Snoke’s throne room, and this:
There’s what, like 7 little flat lights on the control panel in that elevator? And when Kylo Ren smashes his helmet into that wall, it’s very obviously some thin plastic. All the ship interiors that weren’t large CGI hangar scenes felt like they were made out of plywood and plastic and all the time they were at light speed with the lights swirling outside a window, it seemed even cheaper. Oh, and these ancient Jedi books sure looked realistic.
One last little nitpick about production design. Did anyone else notice when Luke showed up (but not really) on the Rebel Base With A Bigass Door planet, that all of a sudden he had cut and dyed his hair and beard? Instead of the long hair and beard, all of a sudden he looks the same as in the flashback scene where he was going to kill Kylo Ren in his sleep, with shorter hair and no more gray!
Yeah, later it’s revealed that Luke wasn’t actually there and he was projecting himself to the Big Door planet with The Force, but it’s just like, “oh hey, I’m here to help you, yes I used some Just For Men before I came.”
And about that whole Force projection thing. That’s fine, I’ll live with it as a story beat. If anything it makes The Last Jedi that much more hopeless. Even with Luke doing his Force projection thing and buying time for the last like, 12 Resistance people left alive to escape the Big Door planet on the Millennium Falcon, that’s all he’s able to accomplish. He sacrificed himself for an extremely small victory.
That concept, on its own, is a downer, but it works. The problem is all the convoluted nonsense it took to arrive at this final downer note. It leaves the franchise in a weird place, man.
Even with all this nitpicking, I don’t think I can bring myself to feel like I dislike the movie, and I might try to re-watch it at some point to clarify how I feel about it.