The Last Jedi (3/3)

Thoughts While Watching

  • I’m feeling numb and empty by this point, praying that the slider bar on the video player will move faster so that this torture will end. This is actually mentally painful to watch. I did a strength workout this morning and I’d rather spend the next 50 minutes doing that same workout again than watching the last third of this movie.
  • Hux confronts the captured Finn and Rose and is like “Haha! My continual and abject failure has brought me inevitable victory, just as I foresaw! Now that I have been given the secret information about the highly visible transports that we recently saw depart the enemy flagship within clear visual range, I know to scan for the highly visible transports that we saw dock with the flagship earlier! Men! Scan for the highly visible transports!”
  • So . . . Holdo’s plan is a total failure? I’d like to give the writers credit for this being some clever subversion, but I’m pretty sure they think they’ve written her as competent.
  • Snoke throws Rey around a bit then tells Kylo to kill her. I assume this is where Kylo turns on Snoke.
  • Snoke: “I cannot be betrayed, I cannot be beaten.” Yeah, he’s about to be both.
  • Kylo kills Snoke. This is supposed to be a big payoff moment but it makes no sense. Kylo was willing to murder his father, was almost willing to murder his mother, but now he turns on Snoke because Rey tells him to? Why? Because he thinks Rey’s hot? (I was off in my estimate by 25 minutes, by the way.)
  • Finn yells at the criminal guy for being a “murdering bastard,” to which the guy replies “they blow you up today, you blow them up tomorrow.” It’s sad that this guy is probably the most insightful character in the film so far.
  • I think Snoke’s red guards are supposed to have special lightsaber weapons, but it’s hard to tell.
  • Man, this fight is taking a long time. They’re just guards, guys. The Sequel Trilogy has a bad habit of having these long spectacular fights after the bad guys have already lost.
  • So Kylo’s whole ideology is ‘let it all die’. Sure, I guess nihilism and hatred of tradition does explain his actions so far, more or less.
  • ”We can rule together and bring a new order to the galaxy!” I’ve heard this something like four times in Star Wars movies, and the answer is always no. If Rian Johnson really wanted to be original, he’d have Rey say yes.
  • Rey’s parents . . . were nobody. Who cares? Was it supposed to be a big mystery? I suppose a lot of viewers got sucked into the JJ Abrahms mystery box routine.
  • Finn and Rose’s ‘executions’ drag out.
  • Rey and Kylo fight over Luke’s lightsaber and break it.
  • Holdo goes to lightspeed and rams the SSD and destroys it.
  • And destroys the rest of the First Order fleet as well.
  • . . .
  • . . .
  • I think that is the stupidest thing I’ve seen in this film so far. It’s not actually the lowest point – Yoda’s line to Luke was more actively offensive – but for sheer stupid writing that breaks story and continuity, it wins the prize.
  • Finn and Rose are just fine, of course, because we couldn’t have the destruction of an entire enemy armada cost the life of more than one named character, that would just be silly.
  • Phasma or whatever her name is shows up, BB-8 blows up her stormtroopers from inside a walker. Even Finn gives a weird side-eye at that, as if to say “Seriously? Who’s writing this stuff?”
  • So Finn gets his big duel against Phasma. It’s set up to be this big dramatic confrontation, but . . . isn’t this the same person who Finn threw into a garbage chute last movie? She’s already a joke.
  • Phasma gets dropped into a pit. “Looks like Team Rocket is blasting off again!”
  • Lots of explosions, Kylo blames Snoke’s death on Rey and takes over.
  • I’m not sure why the movie is still going. There’s nothing interesting left to do with the story, why do we have to have a ground combat as well? Did they just feel like they needed to reprise the Battle of Hoth, only at the end of the movie instead of the beginning?
  • Poe’s affection for BB-8 is kind of cute. I mean, I can understand it, I like him more than I like the human members of the Resistance, too.
  • So this battle is being set up as some big desperate important fight where the Resistance has to survive, but again, there are no real stakes. In the big scheme of things, it doesn’t matter much whether there are 100 Resistance members left or 400 or 30 or 20 or 10. This is the problem with movies that don’t care about consistency or logic. We already know that the protagonists are going to succeed at everything whenever the plot demands it, because they always do, and we know that the number of NPC allies makes no difference, because it never does. A handful of Rebels destroyed Starkiller Base, Holdo wiped out the enemy fleet solo, Finn’s X-wing is an even match for an enemy dreadnought. The protagonists aren’t under threat from the First Order, because the First Order is a joke that’s had every ship and weapon and superweapon they own blown up in the same movie they appear in. So at this point we’re just watching explosions and battle scenes to mark time until the inevitable escape/victory.
  • ”This is the only way in or out.” Yeah, no reason to have a back door in a rebel base.
  • ”We gotta take out that cannon!” I guess since there’s only half an hour left we don’t get a full-sized superweapon, just a miniature one.
  • The battle visuals look really cool with the red salt trails, and for once the First Order guys actually seem to be trying. It’s a shame that it’s happening after such a trainwreck of a movie.
  • Poe gives the order to pull out because it’s a “suicide run”. Except by this point they’ve lost 75% of their number already. I think it’s supposed to show that Poe’s wiser now or something, but there’s really no way to know what the right decision is here. I mean, the attack on the dreadnought earlier was a suicide run too, and that worked out fine.
  • Finn is about to do his suicide run when that stupid bloody Rose character rams him. So . . . she’s a moron. And should have just killed both of them, given that they just crashed at full speed into the ground right in front of an enemy army. But of course they’ll both be fine.
  • ”That’s how we’re going to win. Not fighting what we hate, saving what we love.” That is . . . so . . . I hate this film. I hate Rose, I hate the writers. I’m not even going to bother to explain how delusionally stupid you have to be to believe something like that. What would be the point. I’m just pissed off. The one half-decent scene in this film and they’ve managed to wreck that as well.
  • ”Our distress signal’s been received at multiple points, but no-one’s coming.” So you dial up the Outer Rim, and you’re upset that it takes them more than fifteen minutes to scramble a defence force to get there. You’re all ****ing idiots. If the Resistance would be wiped out at this point it’s be a triumph for the galaxy, just for the increase to the Star Wars average IQ.
  • No, Luke! Don’t do it! Let evolution win!
  • Luke goes off to face Kylo. This could have been such a cool scene.
  • Luke survives a million blaster bolts, Kylo goes out to duel him.
  • ”We are the spark that’ll light the fire that’ll burn the First Order down! Derp!”
  • Poe leads the Resistance out. There are literally about 9 of them at this point.
  • Finn gets another friendzone hug.
  • So apparently Luke was a force hologram and was basically trolling Kylo.
  • Mercifully, Luke’s allowed to die.
  • Last shot of a bunch of kids talking about Luke Skywalker. And end credits.
  • ”Written and directed by Rian Johnson.” **** you, Rian Johnson.

Overall Thoughts

The Last Jedi is ****ing awful. It’s the worst film I’ve seen this year, worse than any film I saw last year, the worst Star Wars film I’ve ever seen, and one of the worst films I can remember. The two and a half hours I spent watching it today felt like seven.

I hate this movie, and I don’t use that word lightly. There are very, very few films I actually hate – in fact I can’t think of any off the top of my head, even the ones that it’s fashionable to dunk on. I don’t hate Twilight - hey, you want a romance fantasy about sexy vampires and werewolves, go you. I don’t hate cheesy stupid action movies like Street Fighter or Judge Dredd. I don’t even hate objectively awful movies like Battlefield Earth, because they’re fun to watch and laugh at. The Last Jedi isn’t fun. It’s like distilled anti-fun and anti-enjoyment. Whatever good movies give you, this is the opposite.

I think the reason The Last Jedi hit me so hard is because of how much I loved Star Wars as a kid. For such a long time I had this special place in my heart for Luke and Han and Leia, and on some level I thought of them as going on forever. The Last Jedi shatters that. We get to see the future of all three of them, and it’s awful. Han runs away from Leia to become an inept swindler racking up debts, who’s such a failure as a father that he gets literally murdered by his own son. Luke becomes a bitter, bad-tempered hermit who fails at his quest to rebuild the Jedi Order and just goes away and gives up, waiting to die. He sacrifices his life in an empty gesture to save about 8 or 9 people after 99% of the Resistance have been already wiped out. And Leia . . . the films try to build her up as much as they can, but they miss the fact that Leia was supposed to be a political leader, whose job was supposed to be to build a new Republic. All the hyping her up and the deferential “Generals” mask the fact that she’s failed at her really important task before the series even begins.

And this is the future of Star Wars now. Disney owns the IP, this is the story they’ve chosen to tell with it. We’ll never get all the good stuff from the EU, we get this garbage pile instead. This is how Leia, Luke, and Han will be remembered from now on. 

I can see how why some Star Wars fans hated TLJ so much. Right now I hate TLJ, hate the Sequel Trilogy as a whole, and hate Rian Johnson in particular. I even kind of hate the people who liked TLJ, even though I know that’s completely irrational, just because I’ve had to watch all the stuff I loved as a kid set on fire and some people are apparently happy about this.

Okay, don’t want to talk about this any more. Let’s get onto the less personal ways in which TLJ is bad.

Spoiler: It’s bad as an individual movie
The villains are incompetent and unthreatening. The plots make no sense. The story’s internal logic is inconsistent. Everything is done by ‘tell, don’t show’, because the audience have to be spoon-fed everything since there’s no way they can work anything out for themselves. The pacing is terrible – the supposed high-tension chase takes hours and gets interrupted by a casino trip. The dialogue is awful, characters spouting out platitudes which we’re expected to see as wisdom. The old characters aren’t taken in any interesting directions and the new ones (Rose and Holdo) are annoying. The overall plot is meandering and badly designed. There’s no effective work done to make us empathise with the protagonists. The film as a whole is plodding, slow, and a full hour longer than it needs to be, with huge amounts of time wasted on side material that leads nowhere. Worst of all, it’s boring. I spent most of the movie wishing it would just hurry up and end.

Spoiler: It’s bad as a second part of a trilogy
None of the material from Force Awakens is built on effectively. The big emotional hook of Rey’s parents is ignored – we never see them, never hear them, never find out anything more about Rey’s relationship with them, they’re just dismissed as ‘nobodies’. Finn’s background as a stormtrooper continues to be ignored, he just becomes Generic Resistance Guy #3 whose job is to yell “Rey!” and “Yeah!” from time to time. Poe gets a big character lesson where he’s taught to not do things that worked and instead to back down from risky decisions and blindly hope for deus ex machinas instead. The big event of TFA, the destruction of Starkiller Base, has no consequences whatsoever, instead a new fleet of ships show up out of nowhere, to be destroyed in turn, leaving no hook for Movie 3. The big villain from TFA is killed off like a chump. None of the questions about the Republic or the First Order or where all these fleets are coming from are answered, they’re just treated as boring background story that Rian Johnson has zero interest in explaining.

Spoiler: It’s bad as a piece of the wider Star Wars continuity
Huge parts of the ground rules of the Star Wars canon are ignored or explicitly contradicted. Capital ships have no anti-fighter defences – a single X-Wing can just blow a capital ship apart one piece at a time until it runs out of fuel or gets bored. Fighters can fly through shields and blow up capital ships from the inside (so what’s the point of capital ships?). Going to lightspeed is apparently a superweapon that can be used to nuke an entire armada for nothing but the cost of a single hyper-capable ship of your own, which makes the whole concept of a fleet battle meaningless. ‘Cloaking’ on a ship seems to be meaningless. The whole Jedi tradition is treated as a failed experiment to be burnt down and forgotten about, except when its a legend and so inspiring, except when being a legend is bad, except when being bad is good because it’s a failure, except when it’s not.

Spoiler: It’s bad as a vehicle for messaging
“Weapons dealers are bad!” . . . Except for all the ones who sold the Rebellion all those ships and guns, because that’s fine. “You shouldn’t do heroic suicide runs!” Except that Holdo and Luke do exactly that and it’s treated as a great victory both times. “We’ll win by saving what we love, not by fighting what we hate!” Pretty much no-one acts out of love at any point in the movie. They fight and kill First Order troops by the thousand, though. “You don’t need to read the core texts of the religion you claim to respect, you already know everything you need to!” Yeah, just . . . no. “Let the past die. Kill it if you have to.” Are we supposed to be following this advice? Because it comes from Kylo, but it sure seems to be what Rian Johnson believes.

Final Grade

E. It’s an awful movie, I hated watching it, and it may have singlehandedly killed my enthusiasm for Star Wars in general.