Because I have this kind of time on my hands, and there are no real problems in America or the world, I thought I’d write up some useless thoughts on Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi.
After seeing the film and being somewhat letdown, my buddy Brad (and fellow Star Wars nerd) and I texted back-and-forth our mutual disappointment. Here’s what we came up with.
First off, the movie is neither as good nor as bad as many people are saying. Anyone who cries either ”OMG IT’S AWESOME” or “IT SUCKS” can both be dismissed.
The problem with the film is that it’s good, and everyone wanted great.
Hell, I wanted great. But we didn’t get great, we got “See it for a matinee price, not evening price.”
Which is fine, but oh well.
From little to the large, the flaws are many. Those flaws overrode what could have been a great film. In fact, I bet there is a great Last Jedi hiding somewhere inside the version we got. What’s needed is an overhaul.
Here are some of the (many) problems with Last Jedi (not in any order):
• “Where’s Han?” Look, Luke lives on an island. A small island. You’re telling me he didn’t notice the Millennium Falcon landing? Please. When Chewbacca bursts into his hut, Luke is surprised, which just doesn’t work.
• The milking of whatever creature that was on Jedi Island. My buddy summed it up nicely: “My exact thought process in real time: Does that thing have nipples? Why are we seeing it have nipples? Is Luke milking it? Please don’t milk it. Oh God, he’s not gonna drink it is he? Why? And why so sloppy it’s all over his beard?! Why is that creature looking at Rey as this happens? It’s like the creature is asking, ‘You want in on this?’“
• The Maz Kanata phone call. Why did it have to involve her flying around in the middle of a fight? It was distracting and silly, as if Rian decided viewers couldn’t handle a simple conversation, so he spiced the moment up with useless “action.”
• “Salt.” Really? You’re going to have a soldier taste the ground just so the audience knows it’s a salt planet? It’s a Sci-Fi movie; you don’t need to explain a foreign planet, we just accept that it’s a white surface with red underneath that makes for a great visual. Don’t over-explain it.
• Laura Dern, Benicio del Toro, and to a lesser degree, Justin Theroux. When Dern and Toro popped up on screen, I didn’t think, “Oh, an admiral and a criminal,” I thought, “Oh, it’s Laura Dern with purple hair, and Benicio del Toro” respectively. Both instances took me out of the movie for a moment. Going with unknown actors would have been the better move. It’s why in Rogue One, Orson Krennic was played by Ben Mendelsohn, not Charlie Sheen. (OK, there are many reasons Krennic was played by Mendelsohn and not Sheen, but the point is that they went with an unknown actor, not a name. And on that note, I didn’t recognize Justin, but my buddy said the same thing happened with him in that moment. “Oh, it’s Justin Theroux.”)
• Speaking of Benicio: His stutter. In The Accountant, Ben Affleck played what was described as “A superhero for the autistic crowd.” It was a great role, and the film itself was a great moment for people on the spectrum. It brought people with autism into the mainstream in a wonderfully representative way. To that end, Benicio’s stutter felt like an actor’s trick. He came into the public’s awareness with The Usual Suspects by taking a nothing character, mumbling his dialogue, and therefore creating something amazing. In Last Jedi, it felt like Benicio looked at a nothing character and decided to repeat his trickery. The stutter didn’t feel organic, or necessary. It was Benicio saying, “I’ll give my character a stutter in order to make him stand out!” It didn’t feel like he was raising awareness for anyone who happens to stutter or giving them someone to root for on the screen. He was just adding a quirk to his small-role character. (Which isn’t to say Benicio isn’t great, just not in this. Watch Sicario. That’s Benicio at his best.)
• Leia floating back to the ship. You have an incredibly emotional moment between Leia and Kylo, and it’s turned nonsensical within seconds. Moment. Ruined.
• The male idea of feminism. People with small penises and low IQs complained about The Force Awakens because of Daisy Ridley. “How dare they make a chick the lead in this film!” These people are not to be listened to for many reasons. Because of their small penises and low IQs, yes, but many other reasons. Look, Daisy/Rey is awesome. So this bullet point is not an attack on female characters, it’s an annoyance generated by the male perception of how women behave. I lemon-faced during the scene where Laura Dern and Carrie Fisher held hands and stared into one another’s eyes. These are military leaders. Battle-hardened military leaders. To me, that moment felt like a man trying to say, “Aren’t women amazing, and really in touch with their emotions?” It didn’t feel natural in the slightest.
Finally, there’s the big flaw in the movie: Casino World.
That’s where the film dragged, and went into Jar-Jar Binks territory.
Casino World should have been five minutes: Finn and Rose land, they get arrested, they meet Benicio, they escape. BB-8 being a slot machine? Unnecessary. BB-8 using casino coins as a weapon? Unnecessary. The CGI Tauntaun-lookalike chase through the city and field? Unnecessary. The political speech by Rose? Unnecessary. So very unnecessary.
That dialogue was jarring, like someone just read an article about the child slaves being forced to race camels in the Middle East and wanted to write about it. They couldn’t call out rich Sheiks, because they want the film to play worldwide, so they had to be “subversive” about it. The moment added nothing to the movie, and just added to the drag of time that was Casino World.
In fact, everything said on that balcony was handled much better by Benicio on the ship he steals. When he discussed dealers selling arms to both sides of the conflict, seeing the Tie Fighter and the X-Wing spoke volumes.
And that only took 30 seconds of screen time.
Casino World is the most damaging flaw, because after it ends the movie begins to redeem itself. In fact, by the end of the movie you’ve pretty much washed it from your memory. But then there’s the callback to Casino World at the very end of the film. In that moment, you’re thrown right back into the worst part of the movie, and you leave the theater on a sour note. It’s like Saving Private Ryan all over again.
I say Saving Private Ryan, because most people forget how awful that movie begins and ends. Think about it. Most people say, “What are you talking about?! That opening is amazing! D-Day!”
But it doesn’t open on D-Day.
Saving Private Ryan opens just horribly, in modern time, in a cemetery. You need D-Day to wash the stench of the ham-fisted scene out of your mouth. Then, when the whole movie is ending, and Tom Hanks is dying on the bridge, and you’re thinking you’ve just experienced something completely amazing, BAM! You’re back in the present, watching the Matt-Damon-as-grandpa fall to his knees and ruin everything that took you away from how awful the opening minutes were.
That’s Last Jedi in a nutshell.
By the time you leave Casino World, you’re tired. You’re almost checking your phone to see how much time is left in the film.
But that side-story is over, and you’re on to some incredible moments.
But when the movie ends, you’re back in the stables. A plucky little kid is using the Force and wearing a Rebel ring, and you’re rolling your eyes and everything good about the movie is tainted.
Again, the problem is in expectations. Knowing Rian Johnson was in charge, and having seen the amazing movies Brick and Looper, everyone wanted another Empire Strikes Back or Rogue One. What we got was another Return of the Jedi. No, it wasn’t as awful as any of the abominations known as the prequels, but it wasn’t knock-your-socks-off fantastic.
And that’s a damn shame.
My buddy Brad planned on seeing the movie 3x over opening weekend. I planned on seeing it multiple times. Neither of us wanted to see it a second time after walking out of opening night.
But I am looking forward to the Honest Trailer.