"Star Wars: The Last Jedi" is the eighth main film in the Star Wars series, and the ninth including the side story, Star Wars: Rogue One. It stars Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher (who died shortly after filming) as Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa, and Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac and Kelly Marie Tran as the "new" characters Rey, Finn, Poe Dameron and Rose Tico, and Adam Driver as villain Kylo Ren, and Benicio Del Toro in a small but important role. This review will contain minor spoilers.

First: I saw this movie today, and my impressions, while fresh and vivid, might also be biased with the excitement of seeing a Star Wars movie in its first week. The critical reception to this movie has been strongly favorable, but there has apparently been some objection to it among the fanbase, because it in some ways departs from tradition, and also because Star Wars fans are a hard lot to please, especially when changes disturb their precious nostalgia.

If "The Force Awakens" was a successor to "A New Hope", with the same type of adventure serial charm, "The Last Jedi" takes its cue from "The Empire Strikes Back", a darker and more dramatic movie. Not to say that this movie is a rehash of The Empire Strikes Back, because in many ways it makes a departure from what people expect of a Star Wars movie.

The movie follows three main, connecting stories. In one, Rey has found Luke Skywalker, living as a hermit, and attempts to get him to rejoin the resistance, or at least explain why he left. In the second, the tattered remains of the rebel fleet, commanded by Leia Organa, attempts to escape from the First Order. In the third, Finn and Rose attempt a farfetched ploy to throw the First Order off the rebels tail. This third plot has been criticized, and while it seems to distract from the story, I consider it thematically important. These three plots are resolved together, and the movie then goes into its climatic final act. Did I mention this movie is two and a half hours long? Because it is, and even as enthralled as I was, the ending did stretch a bit long.

I don't feel like giving a blow-by-blow explanation of the plot. There were lots of space explosions, lots of lightsaber battles, and many figurative and literal cliff hangers. Given the budget and expertise that goes into a Star Wars film, it is to be expected that they know how to make a spectacular action story. What interests me more about the story is how it answers some of the questions I have had about Star Wars, and which I mentioned in my review for "The Force Awakens". Simply put: how does Star Wars meld its mystical philosophy with its mechanized and seemingly remorseless violence? Yoda told us (and the characters) decades ago, that "Wars not make one great", and yet "Wars" are literally the name of the game. After a hero goes on his Hero's Journey, and understands the mystical connection to the universe, and fulfills his destiny, he gets a...glowing sword, and what else? Luke Skywalker clearly takes this belief and rejects it, saying that a force that ties together everything in existence is not the province solely of one group of people. The Jedi are not the owners of the truth, and their attempt to put the truth into a box is what led to their downfall.

This is also why the subplot with Finn and Rose, while seemingly extraneous, is an important part of the movie. Finn and Rose encounter the oppression and poverty that is normal in a galaxy ruled by The New Order, and their militaristic and fascist allies. Although the political nature of this point might have alienated some fans who would wish for Star Wars to be purely fantasy, it is hardly a departure for the series. If Star Wars has been a story about power and how it can corrupt, a brief glimpse of what that looks like for common people explains the Light and Dark side of the force much better than any number of hokey old monks reciting platitudes ever could. And for this reason, I consider this movie to have succeeded where other Star Wars movies have not.

I am reading Micheal Meade's The Genius Myth.

He says that the hero myth is dying, needs to die, because it is not one hero that will appear to save us from the world's present problems. He says that we are returning to the cultures that say every individual must develop their own spark of genius and that together we can deal with the deep problems in the world.

Spoilers.

My first response to Star Wars was "Well, Luke certainly checked out to sulk, didn't he?" So much for the hero. But it's the threads that run through it and the teamwork and the women that make me hopeful.

When the third of the original series came out, I was so hopeful. "There is another." Another WOMAN, I thought, a GIRL, not just a token female princess. And then I was grievously disappointed. Oh, it's Leia, it's the damned princess, so we only get one female in three bloody movies. It sucked. Fuck that. It's not an image of the world. It's a male hero fantasy and doesn't give a shit about women. We might as well not exist. In fact, we didn't, except for a princess.

This time, not two, not three, but four strong women. I don't care about the villain's back story. Did his Uncle traumatize him into evil? Or his parents' divorce? Or a working mother? Oh, get over yourself. Grow up and deal with your PTSD. Some people decide to do the hard work of healing. And some people don't.

And the thread is teamwork, communication and each person's talents and their genius. Rey, like Luke, does not obey her teacher. She reaches out to the dark side. Luke loses his hand finding out the horror of his parentage. But with Ray, it's her reaching out that destroys the villain. Do I care who her parents are? I'd like to think that we all have talents that can be developed: and all of my patients are smart. Some of them do stupid things, sometimes for years, but they all amaze me. Kylo Ren steps in to help and then decides to take the power mad psycho's place, and no, she's not into that. Stupid boy, falling back into the hero-power-greed mode. Don't we need less of that? Do we all want to be faceless armored fighters sent out to fight for our side?

The world is NOT black and white. It's time for the individual hero to die and good riddance. It's time for teamwork, not for power and greed and one up man ship and needing villains to make ourselves feel superior. We all have our dark side and our light side and our own genius. That force is in all of us.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi - An Angry Codger's Rant

Warning - spoilers abound here. Never mind what happens elsewhere in this node, I'm going to discuss the plot, scenes, decisions made, lines, etc.

I went to see this movie the opening night, like I have literally every other Star Wars movie save the original (and fuck you, it's not 'Episode 4: A New Hope' because when it was released none of that bullshit had been tacked onto it yet). That one I saw the day *after* it was released, because it took that long for a friend of mine to see it and then tell me that I had to get my parents to take me to see it, like, right now.

I saw it with my brother, and with a group of younger, serious Star Wars enthusiasts. We had to take the LIRR out into the sticks to find a place which had opening night tickets at a time we could reach.

I had fun. A lot of it. But that's not what this review is about.

This review is about the following days, where I thought about the movie I'd watched. And what I thought when I saw it again, a few days later - this time with some of the same friends I'd seen the originals with.

I like Star Wars. Quite a bit. It's a huge part of my formative years, and it's informed a lot of my opinions on sci-fi, fantasy, movies, and entertainment in general. I liked this movie when I first watched it. I was entertained; I felt it had a decent balance between action and plot with a few lighter moments, and the crowd was enthusiastic. It wasn't until I got out of the theater and started thinking it that I really began to get angry.

But first, what's good about it? Why did I enjoy it at first blush? I think a huge chunk of it was nostalgia, and just seeing Mark Hamill on screen in Star Wars again was a kick. Seeing a proper puppet version of Yoda, as opposed to jumping-spider-CGI version, was great. It was wonderful to see Carrie Fisher, one last time as a human actor. The one main 'whoa' special effect shot - the equivalent of the Death Star explosion in Star Wars, or the complex's destruction in Rogue One - was extremely well done.

There were comedy touches that were balanced. The porgs, specifically - they were kept to a limited visual gag, which made them work, and made them funny - and in fact were apparently a clever hack to cope with a real physical problem. Namely, the island of Skellig Michael - the real island where the Jedi retreat of Skywalker was filmed - is inhabited by a large number of puffins. These somewhat silly birds were impossible to physically keep out of the outdoor shots, and fully erasing them digitally in post-production was a bunch of work. So instead, most of the porgs you see in the movie are errant puffins, digitally modified.

But, really, what was wrong with it began to overwhelm what was right with it - because what was wrong with it mostly involved thought, and thus stuck with me, as opposed to what was right with it which was all tugging on in-the-moment responses.

Let's start with the easy, lighter stuff. There are some really, really, really cringe-inducing lines in this movie. I'm not sure if they're Disney-influenced, or just Rian Johnson really having no fucking idea what he was doing vis-a-vis the tone and characters, or the actors not being given enough guidance and riffing on things badly. But to hear Luke Skywalker use the term 'laser sword,' even in sarcasm - or to hear Finn call Captain Phasma 'chrome dome' - was jarringly out of place, and honestly terrible.

That's not the real source of my anger with this movie, however. The real source of my anger is the utter lack of care with which this film wastes, ignores, trashes or otherwise ruins a myriad of character and plot threads, some of which involve stories going far back in both the movie series and the internal universe history. Let me give you the one main example I give when people ask me to explain this in person.

The bridge of the Republic cruiser is destroyed. We will ignore, for now, the Leia-Superwomans-through-space bit, and instead concentrate on something the movie entirely fucking ignores, save for one later offhand remark.

Admiral Ackbar is killed.

Now, the fact that they killed him isn't a problem. He's a serving military officer, after all, and his fleet is being systematically destroyed. No, what bothers me is this: who the fuck is Admiral Holdo and why the fuck should I care? There are only two reasons that character is there - one, to give Laura Dern a role in the series, and two, to have a 'strong woman' character at the top who isn't Leia. Now both of those motives are perfectly fine. The problem is this - they utterly fucking waste Ackbar's death in order to do this. When Holdo kamikazes the cruiser, it had nearly zero emotional impact on me, because I'd just met her, I didn't really like her (by design), and I had no idea who she was or what she was supposed to have done. She was an utter puppet. She didn't matter to me as a character, at least not compared to Ackbar.

Who they had just killed. Without mentioning it. Despite the fact that he made so, so, SO much more sense as the kamikaze. I would have been fine if Holdo went with him (I wouldn't have cared). But think about it. This is a man (well, squid. Er, Mon Calamari) who we have watched give his life to the cause of the Rebellion and then the Republic. A man who had watched his fleet grow from a ragtag group of Rebel ships, to the fleets of the New Republic. A man who had then watched his force dwindle until nothing was left but the ship he stood on, and the few beings riding it. This is the perfect character to take that death ride. His death has meaning. His life arc is complete. He is already a hero of the Rebellion, and he'll be a legend of the New Republic (or New New Republic or whatever).

Why the fuck didn't Ackbar end up the kamikaze, versus dying with nary a goddamn mention?

...never mind the fact that the kamikaze does horrible damage to the Star Wars saga plot. I mean...if hyperdrive kamikazes are a thing, why was the Death Star a problem at all? Why couldn't you just build a big massive thing with a hyperdrive on it, and then kamikaze it? This is a problem along the same lines as 'visible hyperlight Starkiller weapons' or 'everything in Star Wars seems to be 10 minutes apart in hyperdrive.' While you can have fantastic things happen - this is, after all, a Space Fantasy movie - there needs to be internal consistency to your flights of fancy, otherwise your plot falls right apart. Like this one sort of has done.

That's one example. There are others. Mia Maz - a fascinating character, whose introduction in Star Wars: The Force Awakens gave us someone with a mysterious but clearly important past, connected intimately to the story we know and love. She knows Han and Chewie, clearly of old - enough to call Chewie (only partly in jest) her boyfriend. She has Anakin and Luke's lightsaber, for pete's sake! Just the story of how that item found its way from the depths of the Tibanna gas mine Cloud City, on Bespin, into her tavern's basement storage room, is a tale I really want to see. The fact that she could tell, looking at Rey when she touched it, that something special was happening - this is a mystic, and a power, and wise character. Also, clearly, a scoundrel. Which is amazing! The big problem with the Jedi? They're frigging boring. They're saccharine do-gooders. The Sith and their Imperial/First Order lackeys? Boring. One-dimensional evil. Mia Maz, now - this is someone like Han, someone who lives in the gray area - but who is nevertheless critical.

This movie uses her only for a shitty sight gag ex machina phone call, to provide expository lumps, and to set up the stupidest subplot of the film. We never even see her except through the damn holophone.

Waste.

Supreme leader Snoke. Who the hell is he? We don't know! Between the two recent films, much speculation was to be found on what his story was - almost as much, if not more, than on who the hell Rey is. Where did he come from? Did he possibly even predate Palpatine? Who was he? What is his Big Bad Plan, which clearly anchors the entire trilogy?

Nope. Just kidding. He'll die from a quick cheap trick, and worse, with no explanations whatsoever, in favor of basically a really annoying whiny nihilistic kid - in essence, every surly male teenager ever, but with powers.

This is what pissed me off. Not only is there no nuance, no gray area, but the two sides are utterly flat and there are huge quantities of the rich lore and universe that is Star Wars WASTED, storylines closed off, questions answered with careless bullshit trivia, never to be developed.

That's what makes me angry whenever I think about it.

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