In worldly matters my father held two things in utmost reverence: baseball, and Star Wars. He introduced me to the series, encouraged my love of it, and was ever there to listen to the ramblings-on of an over-imaginative and obsessive child.
He died early this year. (Cancer's a bastard, friends.) No real need to say that it puts everything else into a different perspective, but I'll say it anyway.
In watching The Last Jedi, I was able to put into words a fundamental disconnect between the Star Wars I know and the one that sits on the screen before us. If you were to ask me to distill Star Wars, I would tell you "well, it's the perfect space adventure setting" (I cut my tweenage teeth on the Essential Guides series, and still have most of them, so I know far, far too much background information), or I would tell you "It's about the relationship between a young man and his father."
That's they key there, the thing that made the whole myth click with me, because Star Wars was such a fundamental part of my relationship with my own dad. Luke has to come to terms with both his father's humanity and mortality by the end - and that's now something I have personal experience with.
And Star Wars without that connection feels hollow. A stranger. I felt it with the Prequels, I feel it now with Disney, and I have reached a point of peace with it. Mostly. It won't come back. I could be chasing the next fanboy high but I know it's never going to happen again, at least not in the way it did back then.
Spoilers below the break.
Things I Liked
The anticlimaxes were my favorite part of the movie
I loved both Snoke's death and the reveal of Rey's parentage. After The Force Awakens turned out to be so by-the-book, I was downright starving for something different (and Rogue One failed to satisfy in that regard). I didn't care about any of the answers, so the theorycrafting had no appeal for me. Troll them all, down to the last, I say. Be nourished on fanboy tears.
Rey is not nearly as bland as she was the first movie
She's making descisions and acting on her own, even if what she's doing is stupid (ie: giving Kylo even a moment of benefit of the doubt). I appreciated that.
I think I'm finally adjusted to spelling her name Rey and not Rei now
Get in the robot, Finn.
I liked Rose
She's the kind of Star Wars character I've wanted to see for a long while now - the ordinary person with the view on the ground. For a bit I was thinking "wow, she should have been Rey, instead of Rey."
Unfortunately, she isn't really able to go anywhere (since the casino arc was superfluous), and in pursuing the romance with Finn, (which is cute and all, I suppose) she actively sabotages his character arc.
A good character, but not used to her strengths. I still liked her.
I thought Leia in space was okay
It is a proven fact that the power of a practitioner of magic / kung-fu / magic kung-fu grows exponentially as the character grows older. Leia, being old, thus has incredibly powerful magic space kung-fu.
I really liked Snoke
Sometimes, all you need is Andy Serkis playing a jacked-up Nazi Space Wizard wearing golden pajamas. No extra backstory, no needless exposition, he was just there, did his job, oozed some pulp and sleaze and character into the scene, and went out memorably.
My god, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher
They stole the show. Excellent performances from both of them.
HOLY SHIT YODA
So much could have gone wrong with this scene, and none of it did. He was a tricksy little troll-muppet and that's all he needs to be to make me happy.
The hyperspace jump
Yeah, that was pretty cool.
Things I Did Not Like
This movie is a logistical nightmare
How big is the First Order supposed to be? How big is the Resistance? I thought it was a Nazis-in-South-America type situation, but now they can conquer the entire galaxy in weeks? I know the EU, fellas, not even those awful Yuuzhan Vong were able to do that.
Coruscant, Corellia, and Nal Hutta (ie: the three most politically important planets in the galaxy) are still around! Fondor and Kuat could start churning out new capital ships before the Starkiller dust has cooled down! They only managed to kill the central government, not the planetary leadership!
Can you tell what my middle school years were fixated on? One guess, no hints.
I wish either Rian Johnson knew more about space or I knew less
I don't look to Star Wars for realistic physics simulations, but I expect a pass of the smell test. The Last Jedi did not, and the entire conflict was undermined by that stupid chase. Stupid and easily solved.
Running out of fuel should not have been an issue for them, unless they planned on decellerating any time soon (and if they have gravity control they really don't even need that). Not to mention the thousands of other Resistance cells and allied systems that should be out there to lend aid.
The timer should have been running out of food, or being intercepted by a second fleet from the other direction. Make it days instead of hours. Throw in some line about how hyperspace travel doesn't work at such distances, so the Imperials can't catch up. Use a bit of actual science fiction in your space fantasy to make meaningful conflict and dramatic tension.
I like Snoke way more than I like Kylo
I liked Kylo's pathetic manchild act in The Force Awakens, but by midway through this movie I'd run out of patience. I don't even hate the character, I just want him gone. I don't care about his inner conflict, not one whit: he's a school shooter and a Space Nazi. The only way to make this case more cut and dry is to make him a child molester.
Adam Driver is a fantastic actor, but even then I feel like he can't salvage a character I have no investment in. Put a couple blaster bolts in him and toss him out the airlock.
It was too long
It's always a bad sign when I look at my watch and go "oh no, there's still 45 minutes to go..."
The timeline is super-truncated
I have no idea how long this movie takes but it can't be more than two or three days after the end of The Force Awakens. Too fast for the developments they start dealing out, certainly. Everything feels rushed and squashed together.
The casino sequence felt like a different movie
It could have been the basis to a pretty cool different movie, too, but ultimately it was padding. Finn and Rose go off on a mission to fill time, inspired by the nonsense chase, and the end result is a bit corny, a bit twee (not killing blows necessarily) but ultimately pointless.
I chuckled at some of the jokes and then later realized that they often didn't fit what all was going on
The lightsaber toss was okay for crazy old man Luke, but after the moment passed a lot of the humor really didn't work for me.
Finn was superfluous and should have died
He was just there. I could see some growth and change in Rey and Poe, but Finn ended up with no arc, no growth, and no change - confronting Phasma, who is a walking punchline, does not count as an arc. I fully expect her to return in Episode 9 as a repeated gag.
Now that Rose swooped in to save him / leave everyone else to die, he's got no closure and nowhere to go.
Can we please get some martial arts for the rock moving?
For a movie series about magical space samurai-monks, Star Wars is downright timid with applications of the Force. Hold out your hand, rocks start to float. And that's it. It's been prone to abuse in the Extended Universe, but we don't need Force Unleashed levels of bullshit here; just have some proper kinetic energy behind your rock moving. Give it some impact and momentum. Some force, if you will.
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Final ThoughtsMany great individual parts, put together into a bad movie. Not enough to save it.
No shame in calling it done when the old college try doesn't work out. This isn't my father's Star Wars, and it isn't mine, so there's no real loss. My emotional attachment is to something that's never going to happen again, or in some cases is just entirely in my own head, and you know? That's fine. Great, even. Keep the lightning in the bottle on the mantelpiece, it's still just as good.
No need to drag out the dead once the curtain's closed.