29 December 2017

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017), A Review

Spoilers ahead. You've been warned.

I enjoyed this latest episode in the Star Wars franchise. It told a story consistent with the Lucas universe while moving away from being a retread of an earlier film in the series ... yes SW:VII I'm looking at you.

First a couple of fun trivia points:
  • the "spaceship" that actually turns out to be a closeup shot of an iron is a nice nod to one of the earliest Star Wars fan spoofs "Hardware Wars" (1978). 
  • nobody utters the increasingly annoying and intrusive "I've got a bad feeling about this" (though the director has stated BB-8 "says" the line in his beeps, I'm not going to count that).
  • Yoda's force ghost appears and is portrayed by Frank Oz using a puppet, not CGI. 
  • the golden dice appearing in a single scene in "Star Wars" (1977 and later subtitled "A New Hope") make a reappearance in this movie and, by cracky, I want a pair! 
  • And now we know where blue milk comes from. Okay, fanon states blue milk is actually bantha milk, and this milk was more green than blue, but it was a fun scene anyway.

Many fans have strong feelings about how the Star Wars universe should play out on film. I'm not one of those folks, I just like watching Star Wars movies. If you're looking for a hardcore review? This isn't it. Now, on with it!

The Resistance is in trouble. Like the Rebellion in Episodes IV-V-VI they are underfunded, meagerly equipped, and on the run. Ace pilot Poe Dameron ignores his orders and needlessly squanders some Resistance assets and putting the remaining ships in peril. This places him at odds with his commanders and leadership.

Meanwhile, Luke casually ignores Rey's request for training and goes about his daily routine. Some good scenes here, though, with Luke reuniting with Chewie and stepping into the 'Falcon cockpit for the first time in long years.

And Finn goes on a covert mission with a new face (Rose) to find a hacker with the skill to get the Resistance out of its current tight spot. Did I say tight? The situation seems hopeless. The few remaining capital ships of the Resistance are being picked off one by one, and none of the sympathetic but uncommitted factions will come to their aid. Leia is injured and at the point of death, necessitating a Vice-Admiral (played by Laura Dern) to assume the role of leadership after Ackbar's death. Yes, things are grim.

Let me cut to the chase here: the Resistance survives. The struggle between the Resistance and the First Order are merely the backdrop for the struggle between Kylo Ren and Rey, with a side dish of Luke Skywalker being all "crazy hermit Jedi." Skywalker says the Jedi are all but gone and he is the last of the breed. Further, he believes this is what should happen. Rey sees her sole chance at real Jedi training pass her by. Ren shows signs of wavering in his desire to become Darth Vader II, and begins a dialog with Rey. They even join forces in a battle which sees the death of Snoke and a Class AAA butt-whoopin' of a bunch of elite palace guards.

But the shaky alliance does not endure. Rey resists Ren's overtures to rule the galaxy at his side and bringing order to the unwashed masses. It turns out Ren may have only wanted Snoke out of the way so he could take over his spot. Kylo Ren orders the remnants of the Resistance to be wiped out.

The movie ends with the Resistance all but wiped out, Luke Skywalker dead, and the First Order still in charge. Which leaves us with:

Will Kylo be an effective leader? Is he beyond redemption, or does he waver in his devotion to the Sith ideals?

Luke Skywalker has become one with the Force, but obviously he'll be back as Force Ghost in the next installment ... won't he?

What will happen with the Rey/Kylo dichotomy? Are they destined to found a new Order neither Jedi nor Sith? What role does Luke have yet to play in this aspect of the story?

Is Rey/Finn/Rose a clumsy and poorly written love triangle? I've always held the belief, only rarely proven wrong, sci-fi writers do a poor job with romance. Further, romance makes for poor drama unless handled very cleverly. What little we have seen on-screen is IMO neither convincing nor cleverly handled. 

The Rebellion is a small handful of folk on an junk freighter ... but there are sympathetic factions out there. Was Skywalker's sacrifice enough to ignite them into a unified New Rebellion?

How will SW-9 handle the lack of Carrie Fisher to fill Leia's role, since that character is one of the few "old hands" to survive?

Bottom Line: I enjoyed this movie a great deal and look forward to the concluding episode. All the things that made me love Star Wars are there, though a few are "stood on their head" (so to speak), and I had a great 2+ hours for my $8. See it in the theatre, it's worth a trip to your local cinema.

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