Wednesday, December 20, 2017

In Defense of the Last Jedi

So I went to see The Last Jedi.  I really enjoyed it.  Is it the best movie ever?  No.  Is it the best Star Wars movie ever?  Not really.  Is it the best Star Wars movie since Empire?  Nope.  I’d probably rank it as number 5 out of 10 (counting the Clone Wars movie).  It’s basically average, not extraordinarily good, not is it extraordinarily bad.  It’s solidly in the middle for me.  Empire first, obviously, A New Hope, The Force Awakens, Jedi, then The Last Jedi I think.  

So I checked out the internet to see what other people thought of it, and HOLY CRAP!!!  I mean, like, the sheer amount of hatred this movie is getting is kind of ridiculous.  People are saying that The Last Jedi is worse than the prequels.  Really?  When was the last time you watched the prequels?  Because I watched them last week while re-watching every Star Wars movie to hype myself up for the new one, and, well, it wasn’t anywhere near that awful.

Anyway, I watched a lot of youtube videos of angry fanboys complaining about the movie, and I found that, while some of them did have valid criticism for the movie, and I’ll get into some of that later in this post, most of them were complaining about things that were perfectly explained within the movie, and made perfect sense.  So I figured, as a sort of rebuttal, I would write out a post addressing every bit of criticism that I felt was incorrect about The Last Jedi, and why I feel that way.
Needless to say there will be spoilers for pretty much the entire movie.  So if you haven’t seen the movie, stop reading now.

So first off, let’s get the obvious one out of the way.  The Porgs.  Look, I get it.  If you’ve been steaming with rage over Star Wars merchandising for four decades, power to ya.  I don’t agree, but I respect your opinion.  But really?  Porgs are the last straw for you?  They have less than 3 minutes of screentime in the entire movie.  Yes, they exist for no other reason than to sell toys, but, I mean, are you honestly trying to tell me that none of the other movies had things in them solely for the purpose of merchandising?  If you are, you can shut the hell up, because Star Wars has been all about the merch since day one, forty years ago.  That was how George Lucas was PAID for directing the first movie, he put all of his pay as director into the special effects for the film, because Fox didn’t want to give him any more money for the movie, and so he asked for the merchandising rights as his payment for directing the film.  And do you want to know what?  When it came time to make Empire, George Lucas put up more than half of the budget for the film from his own pocket, because Fox refused to give him any more money for it.  So guess what?  The Empire Strikes Back exists, because George Lucas paid for it out of his own pocket, and where do you think he got that money?  FROM MERCHANDISING!!!!  If you’re honestly bothered by the blatant merchandising, I’m sorry, but don’t try to tell me it began in this movie, because it didn’t.

All right, lets start at the beginning and work our way through.  Next thing I’ve seen people complain about is the humor.  There is a lot of humor in this movie.  A lot of characters are cracking jokes at what seems like inappropriate times.  Luke is very cynical and openly mocks Rey once or twice is rather amusing ways.  Yoda pokes fun at Luke.  And there’s a whole lot more.  Here’s the thing, though.  I didn’t see it as a bad thing in the movie.  This is a very dark and very intense story.  The characters are under a whole lot of pressure, and many of them are fearing for their lives.  Haven’t you ever cracked a joke or two when you were nervous, on edge, or frightened?  I certainly have.  Look at the exchange between Poe and Hux at the beginning.  Poe goes on for some time dicking with the guy.  But it’s serving a purpose to the plot.  He’s buying time for the rebels to evacuate, and for his booster engine to charge up.  Also, look at the guy.  He’s a wreck.  He’s sweating.  He keeps taking deep, calming breaths.  He looks like he’s having the worst day of his life.  He’s trying to break the tension so he doesn’t screw up and get himself killed.

The next thing people complain about is Leia in space.  So, let me get this straight.  In a story about SPACE WIZARDS, you’re angry that a SPACE WIZARD uses her SPACE MAGIC to saver herself?  Really?  So, Luke, Rey, Snoke, Kylo Ren, and that slave boy at the end all use telekinesis in this film.  Are you complaining about all of them using the exact same ability?  No?  Why not?  They’re doing the exact same thing.  Or is it just Leia that can’t do it?  It’s been previously established or at least hinted at in three previous movies that Leia has the Force, why is it so objectionable to see her use it to save herself?  Does it look silly?  Yes.  It does look silly.  But, I mean, YOU’RE WATCHING A MOVIE ABOUT SPACE WIZARDS, some things are going to be silly.  There’s silly things in every one of the Star Wars movies before this one.  Also, in other sources, such as books and comics, Jedi are able to protect themselves from the vacuum of space with the Force for short periods of time.  Sure, none of those are cannon anymore, but guess what, it’s in the movie, so I guess it’s cannon again.

Why is Hux content to follow along after the fleeing Resistance?  Why doesn’t he do something else.  Well, that’s simple, because he doesn’t need to.  It’s clearly explained in the movie at the beginning that the rebel ships are faster than the First Order ships, but they’re low on fuel, and the can’t jump to hyperspace because that will basically be the end of them.  They can stay out of the effective range of the First Order guns, but they can’t get away.  Hux even says, “It’s only a matter of time, keep firing to let them know we’re still here.”  He doesn’t need to do anything fancy to catch up to the Resistance.  All he has to do is follow them until they run out of fuel, and then blast them to pieces.  He loses nothing but time.  None of his people or equipment are put in danger.  If you can win a fight without risking anything, and all you have to do is wait, you’re going to wait.  Furthermore, Hux is far too young to have gained his position as leader of the First Order military through skill or merit.  He’s a figurehead.  He’s a true believer behind a pretty face that can scream Nazi bullshit with a straight face.  Snoke didn’t choose him because he’s an excellent leader or tactician.  He quite literally says in the movie that Hux leads the military because he’s a rabid dog, and even rabid dogs can be useful.  So, I would put forward that, not only is simply following the Resistance and picking them off as the run out of gas the best plan for the situation, Hux probably wasn’t capable of coming up with anything better.  This is all stuff in these two movies that you can see if you’re paying attention.

Why didn’t Admiral Holdo tell Poe what the plan was?  Basically the first thing that Holdo says to him is that she doesn’t trust him.  Are you going to trust a subordinate who was recently demoted for insubordination with secret plans?  And why were those plans secret?  Because it is heavily implied within the film that Holdo believes there’s a traitor among them, telling the First Order where they are.  She does not find out that the First Order can track them through hyperspace until the end of the movie when Poe tells her about his plan with Finn and Rose.  This is something said IN THE MOVIE to have been thought impossible until recently, and it took Finn and Rose a bit to figure it out.  The technology is new enough that not everyone is going to know about it yet.

Why didn’t Poe tell Holdo about the hyperspace tracking?  Because she just publicly humiliated him.  Which is something military commanders are known to do from time to time.  Why would he?  Sure, a lot of problems in this movie could be solved if people would just communicate with each other, but here’s the thing.  People don’t always do what is right, or what is smart, especially when their pride has recently been wounded.  And, uh, he DID tell her, near the end.  Did you step out to use the restroom during that part?  I mean, I wouldn’t blame you if you had, it’s a pretty long movie.
What is up with Holdo’s hair/dress?  Okay, this is one that I completely agree with.  Holdo’s appearance is just plain awful.  And that isn’t a slight on Laura Dern.  It’s entirely the wardrobe and hair.  They went through several concept drawings for uniforms, but Rian Johnson wanted her to wear something more feminine.  Okay, here’s the thing.  You can wear something that is both feminine AND appropriate to your rank and station.  Wash the purple dye out of your hair, and put on something a little more respectable than a freaking evening gown there, Admiral.  Is it any wonder your subordinates don’t respect you?  Anyway, this is supposed to be me defending the movie, so, moving on.

The dice on the Millennium Falcon.  Okay, why are there dice there to begin with?  Um, have you not been paying attention?  Those dice have been there IN EVERY MOVIE IN WHICH THE SHIP APPEARS.  Why did Luke steal Han’s dice?  He just found out that his best friend was murdered.  He’s taking something to remember him by.  Have you never lost someone before?  It’s sort of something that you do as part of grieving, moving on, and remembering.

Matter transference through the Force.  Okay, this is a really tricky one, because it requires you to pay VERY close attention to the movie.  There are two instances where it appears as though objects have been transferred across great distance through the Force.  First is the rainwater Kylo Ren feels after talking to Rey, and the second is the dice that Luke gives to Leia at the end.  Here’s the thing, though, both of these things were just illusions.  They felt real, but they weren’t actually there.  Watch the water as it falls from Kylo Ren’s hand very closely.  The drops disappear in midair.  And the dice, that one is a lot more obvious.  After Kylo Ren storms the rebel base to find it empty, he kneels down and picks up the dice, which then disappear.  Aparently Force projections can feel solid, but once the one projecting them is no longer doing it, they fade away.

Leia uses the force to melt down the door to the bridge to get at Poe.  Okay, this is the one complaint I feel is absolutely stupid.  This one deserves all kinds of contempt.  Just the sheer stupidity that went into this one is monumental.  So, youtube vlogger who shall remain nameless, you are a complete idiot.  That is NOT what happened.  You think that maybe the two guys with her holding smoking weapons might, just maybe, HAVE CUT THE DOOR DOWN FOR HER?  Just, omg dude, you are an idiot.

What’s the deal with Snoke?  He was a really wasted character.  Okay, here’s the thing.  Let’s hop into the Wayback Machine here and go all the way back to 1983.  Return of the Jedi has just come out, and the prequels are barely a gleam in George Lucas’ eye right now.  What, exactly, do we know about the Emperor?  He was killed without a single bit of back story given.  He’s just the old evil master behind Darth Vader.  Well, guess what, so is Snoke.  He’s just the old evil master behind Kylo Ren.  We don’t NEED to know his back story, and in the case of the Emperor, it made him kind of less cool as a villain to know it.

Rey’s parents are no one?  I actually expected that to be the case after the first movie.  Why anyone wouldn’t is beyond me.  This reveal has two very powerful messages attached to it.  The first is that a nobody can still rise up to be a hero.  And the second is that Kylo Ren came from a family of heroes, and yet, he is the villain.  While Rey came from nothing, and is the hero.  The part with the dark side mirror has a pretty telling message in it.  Rey is searching for something.  She thinks it’s her parents, but the mirror shows her, what she’s really trying to find is herself, and how she fits into everything.  She says as much earlier in the movie.  It’s a pretty notorious line from the trailer also.  And I also see a lot of people saying that Kylo Ren is just lying to her, and it’ll be revealed that Rey’s parents really are important in the next movie.  But, um, watch that scene again.  It’s not Kylo Ren who tells Rey who her parents are.  She says it first.  They’re nobody.  But that doesn’t mean she has to be nobody.  She can rise up to be a hero.  It doesn’t really matter who her parents were, or weren’t.

Why did Rian Johnson take all of J.J. Abrams’ mysteries and just throw them all away like they meant nothing?  Hi, um, did you happen to notice whose name was attached to the executive producer credit?  Rian Johnson did not ruin all of the mysteries that J.J. Abrams set up.  J.J. Abrams was in charge of the film.  Every creative decision in the entire movie went through HIM first, and he approved of them before filming began.  The fact of the matter is that J.J. Abrams has a pretty long history of building up mystery that never has a satisfactory payoff.  Did you watch Lost?  He’s good at the mystery part, and he’s terrible at the reveal part.  He likes to build mystery around things that, frankly, aren’t all that mysterious, and so when they are revealed, you wonder why he even bothered to begin with.

A ship in hyperspace cannot collide with objects in real space.  Oh, really?  Which movie does it say that in?  Let’s head back to A New Hope, shall we, and I quote, “Traveling through hyperspace isn’t like dusting crops, boy.  Without precise calculations from the navicomputer we could bounce too close to a star or supernova and that’d end your trip real quick.”  That line suggests that it is possible to hit things in real space while in hyperspace.  Also in the book Tarkin, which is one of the new books and thus considered cannon, it is said that “a ship with a hyperdrive is the deadliest weapon in the galaxy.”  And if that still isn’t enough for you, Holdo wasn’t actually IN hyperspace when she hit the First Order fleet.  Did you see a tunnel of swirly blue and white light?  I sure didn’t.  All I saw were star lines.  She was accelerating toward hyperspace, but she had not yet entered it.  This is further proved to be the case at the very end as a boy on the ground watches a ship jump to hyperspace in the sky.  It visibly streaks across the sky before disappearing into hyperspace, therefore, objects remain in real space for a time of acceleration BEFORE entering hyperspace.

Why didn’t Kylo Ren notice that Luke wasn’t actually there at the end?  Um, you’re kidding right?  Did you happen to notice his state of mind at the time?  The dude was tripping all kinds of balls.  It’s basically the explanation of how Rey beat him in the first movie.  The dude had just murdered his own father, on top of having been shot in the belly with Chewie’s gun that, earlier in the movie, was throwing people into the air.  On top of Rey having been shown to be a competent fighter with melee weapons earlier in the movie.  How do you think she beat him?

What was up with Finn and Rose’s storyline?  Okay, you know what?  I totally agree.  And I’m a little bit annoyed too. Finn is my favorite character of the new trilogy.  He’s not a powerful Jedi, or an ace pilot.  He’s the guy that mops the floors.  And yet, when faced with a  choice, he decided to do the right thing.  I love that he’s an actual character instead of just the token black guy.  I found him to be very entertaining, and I felt that he had a very good story in the first movie.  But his story in this movie feels really out of place.  Every time it switches over to it feels like the movie grinds to a screeching halt.  It’s necessary to the plot, but man, it just doesn’t seem to fit into the movie well AT ALL.  I really like Finn, and Rose started growing on my too, but they just had nothing interesting to do in this movie until the end.

Phasma did nothing… again…  Yeah, all right, that one’s valid too.  If you’re going to get Gwendalyn Freaking Christie for your movie, FREAKING USE HER!!!  At least she got a fight scene this time.

Okay, now we get to the big one.  Luke.  Why did Luke have to die?  Because he was using a Force ability notorious for killing the one that uses it.  Even Kylo Ren says earlier in the movie that were Rey to do such a thing, the strain would kill her.  It’s called foreshadowing.  And, really, the movie is called THE LAST JEDI.  What did you think was going to happen at the end?  If there are two Jedi, neither can be the last.  One of them had to die, and, well, this is no longer Luke’s story.  Rey is the hero now, so Luke had to die.  His death also serves a greater purpose.  Did you even pay attention to the ending?  Luke has become a martyr.  He became a legend.  Again.  And this time, he’s a legend that can inspire hope in those oppressed by the First Order.  Something that he felt he could never live up to as a living man.  Why didn’t Luke just jump in his X-wing and fly there in person?  The thing has been submerged for years.  Do you really think it’s operational still?  Or that he has fuel?  Or that he could actually make it from the “most remote place in the galaxy” fast enough to make a difference?  Plus, his death scene was just gorgeous.  Him sitting there, watching the sunset, with his theme music playing, just like that scene in the original movie.  That was beautiful.  I felt that he had a very fitting death, and that the filmmakers treated it with the respect that it deserved.  I felt that he had a far better ending than Han did.  Why is Luke being such an old cynical asshole?  And why did he run away?  Well, think about it.  He set out to rebuild the Jedi order, and he took the son of his sister and his best friend, and he basically made him into Kylo Ren.  I love the part where Luke apologizes to him for that.  He looks so ashamed of himself.  Man, that was some really great acting on his part.  He couldn’t face them and tell them what he’d done, so he ran away, and as the years passed he grew bitter and cynical, and came to the conclusion that the Jedi were good for nothing, and that the galaxy was better without them.  It all seems like a very logical character progression to me.  It takes Rey to shock him out of it, and get him back into the fight where he sacrifices himself. 

Here’s the thing about all of the hatred Luke is getting in this movie.  I think that a lot of people are expecting him to be book Luke, rather than Last Jedi Luke.  But the thing about book Luke is that he is a WILDLY inconsistent character.  This comes from being written by literally dozens of different authors, each with their own vision of who he is as a character, and what he wants out of life.  Some authors don’t really care for him much, so he fades into the background while they focus on other characters.  Others romanticize him and his abilities to such a degree that you feel like maybe they have a really unhealthy relationship with a Luke Skywalker plushie.  But the thing is, that as more and more Star Wars books came out, he sort of stopped being a character, and devolved into a loose collection of vacant platitudes about the Force.  It started before the New Jedi Order, but that’s where it really became apparent.  It is as if the Star Wars authors collectively decided that he’d grown all that he could as a character and they just didn’t need to bother anymore, and he became something horrible, and boring, and soulless.  Is that really the Luke Skywalker you wanted to see in this movie?  Sure, he whips out his lightsaber and does some cool shit every once in a while, but he’s so bland, boring, and soulless.  I mean, the guy barely bats an eye when his nephew murders his wife.  I feel that the way Luke was portrayed in this movie was a very logical step, decades later from where we last saw him in Return of the Jedi.  All of his decisions and how he found his way there are laid out pretty plainly in the movie, and I felt that his character arc was interesting, and fulfilling.  He’s lost his faith in himself, and in the ability of heroes to live up to their reputations, and then he learns that it’s all right to fail.  It’s through failure that we learn.  Running away and hiding from failure helps no one, and so he returns to fight one last time.  I thought it was a great story for him.  And let me tell you, I grew up on Star Wars.  The first movie I can remember seeing in the theater is The Empire Strikes Back.  I’ve been a lifelong fan.  I was Luke Skywalker four years in a row for Halloween.  I had a Return of the Jedi lunch box I took to school with me every day for years.  Luke Skywalker was my hero.  I wanted to be just like him.  And I felt that this movie was the perfect end for him as a character.  It was emotional, beautiful, and fitting.  If you hated it, I’m sorry.  I really am.  But me, I felt that it was perfect.

And those are the things I’ve seen people complaining about with The Last Jedi.  Most of them can be explained by just watching the movie and paying attention to what people are saying and what people are doing.  To me, it seems like a lot of people hyped the movie up to such a degree that they imagined exactly what the whole movie was going to be in their heads, and when the movie that they got wasn’t the one they imagined, they got angry.  That’s the trap of too much hype.  If you let it grow too great, no movie is ever going to satisfy you.

No comments:

Post a Comment