Saturday, December 23, 2017

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

I've seen it twice. Took the younger to it on Wednesday -- she thought it sucked. Took the elder to it yesterday -- she thought it rocked.

I enjoyed myself both times -- mostly because dad-time with the individual daughters-who-are-now-adults is a great privilege, especially when it involves watching Star Wars. But my pleasure was also the result of a bazillion movie people who worked incredibly hard to make an entertaining flick that people would care about -- and my daughters' love it/hate it/no real middle ground reactions are confirmation, to my eyes, that the Sausage Movie Factory pretty much got the mix exactly right. Love it or hate it, odds are you'll be engaged by Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Don't say I didn't warn you.
The younger hated it -- and brother, is there ever a steaming pile of oops! to hate about this movie. There are MASSIVE plot-holes and logical inconsistencies and convenient "We didn't know you could do that" miracles that keep the narrative chugging along. I'll gloss over the bulk of them and train my focus on two particularly glaring missteps:

Leia survives a skinny-dip in deep space. Nobody in the family liked this scene, so my question isn't "How?" but "Why?" This miracle adds nothing to the story, except perhaps to spritz the woman with a touch of gravitas that the actor (God rest) was unable to muster on her own.

And while we are on the matter of the late (and GREAT) Carrie Fisher, it seemed to my eyes that her CGI double was brought in to substitute for a couple of scenes -- her hospital-gown appearance at the breached bridge door is just one example. I disliked CGI Carrie in Rogue One, but I'm slowly coming around on that score. It's probably just another compromise nudged along by the increasingly diminishing standards a viewer must adopt in order to enjoy Star Wars Universe (SWU) story-telling.

The cruiser is completely out-of-gas, but nevertheless makes a Kamikaze light-speed jump through the enemy's biggest ship. Nothing to add, really -- there are other "wait-a-minnits" but this one is a personal peeve.

The elder loved the movie -- and, yes, there is indeed much to love about it. There are a couple of poignant character arcs, particularly with Poe and Finn. I initially thought the romance between Finn and Rose appeared out of nowhere, but the second viewing revealed a persuasive progression. Lessons get learned in a manner that has emotional depth and subtlety.

The action sequences walk the tightrope between adolescent "wow" and adult "yikes." The most emotionally charged fight is the choreographed chop-sockey extravaganza between the Imperial Guard and Rey and Ren. This occurs at the two-thirds mark of the movie, which leaves the final third of the movie feeling a bit slack, but oh well.

2D vs. 3D -- I hate to say it, but 3D wins. It brings out an articulation that heightens the sense of scale and drama.

The Politics -- Star Wars politics have always been of a piece with the story-telling, really: confused and contradictory and utterly vulnerable when exposed to the lightest scrutiny. I mean, in what universe is equating the Vietcong with stick-wielding teddy-bears considered a compliment? If the political statements supposedly* being made (as opposed to the narrative inconsistencies, etc.) are what prevent the viewer from having a good time, then maybe just perhaps we are all feeling a wee bit snow-flaky these days? Just sayin'.
  • A person could argue the films are an impassioned defence of nascent Republicanism, determinedly moored to founding ideals informed by religious devotion. I'm not gonna make that argument, but it would be an easier sell than claiming the SWU is any sort of sustained Neo-Liberal argument for a Marxist Utopia.
Final note: Kelly Marie Tran is officially THE most ADORABLE person associated with the SWU. Somebody please put her in touch with Tom and Rita to keep that approachability alive.


Joel Swagman said...

My thoughts:

On Space Flying Leia: I didn't particularly love it when I saw the movie. But I never anticipated it would get all the hate that it's gotten.
To my mind, the problem is not with this one scene. Rather, this one scene is part of an evolving problem with "The Force" as a concept in Star Wars. Namely, that no one has ever nailed down what it can and can't do, and subsequently it just gets more and more bizarre with each movie.
This is a problem that goes back all the way to the original trilogy. In the original Star Wars, the Force didn't really do that much. But by the time we got to The empire Strikes back, all of a sudden it could do all these amazing things. And then once we got to the Prequels, it really got ridiculous.
There's never been any indication before that the Force could help someone fly through space. But why not? It does all other sorts of ridiculous things. And it's been established tha the Force has a special connection to the Skywalker family so...meh.
Again, I didn't love it. But for me it was just one minor wrong note in an otherwise great movie. I don't understand why it's such a big deal to people.

Joel Swagman said...

Point 2: Correct me if I'm wrong, but they went through the trouble of re-iterating several times that the ship had enough juice in her left for one last jump to hyperspace, right? That part didn't bug me

>>The action sequences walk the tightrope between adolescent "wow" and adult "yikes." The most emotionally charged fight is the choreographed chop-sockey extravaganza between the Imperial Guard and Rey and Ren.

Agree. 100% agree.

This occurs at the two-thirds mark of the movie, which leaves the final third of the movie feeling a bit slack, but oh well..

Yes, agree with this as well. By the time we got to the last 20 minutes, I was too exhausted to care.

Also, agree about Kelly Tran. She is awesome.

Whisky Prajer said...

My impression regarding the fuel issue was, they had enough to make one more jump -- OR they could put the engines in drive and keep ahead of the Imperials until they finally ran out of gas. But hyperdrive is of a piece with the Force. You can say whatever fits the needs of the script -- once.

The last 30 minutes were quite fine, during the repeat viewing. The second viewing affirmed that the movie was actually a reasonably edited affair. Unfortunately it also highlighted some weaknesses that hadn't occurred to me the first time around. I gather Mark Hamill wasn't especially charged to play Luke as written, but treated it as a paying job and did as directed. If so, I have to say I admire his professionalism. Another actor with an in-demand role would have held out until he got a script he could live with. Just how desperately does the universe need Luke to be a suck his whole life long? (A case could be made this is a Millennial Revisionist Narrative of the Narcissistic Boomer Heroic Arc.)

Joel Swagman said...

If nothing else, these movies have at least redeemed Mark Hamill's reputation as a talented actor. (To be fair, he's been doing quality work for years, but people still mocked his Star Wars performance).
But I think even people who didn't like the direction the character went in agree that Mark Hamill did a great job as Luke.

I largely liked it. It was a complex, flawed character. But then, that made the film all the more interesting.

dpreimer said...

The primary concern seems to be how do we clear the first cast so we can generate greater interest in the new cast. Fair enough, I think.

Joel Swagamn said...

So, if I ruled the world, I would have made Episode 7 all about the old cast. Han, Lando, Luke, Leia, Chewie, R2D2, C3P0 would have all been aboard the Millennium Falcon together for one last great adventure.

I'm still a little gutted we didn't get that movie, to be honest. (I mean, they had all the old cast re-sign. They could have done it.)


it was perfectly obvious that that particular ship had sailed 2 years ago.
Once we introduced all the new characters in Episode 7, it was perfectly obvious that these new characters would now have to be developed in Episode 8. Disney wasn't going to go backwards in time by forgetting about the new characters they had rolled up for episode 7.
Plus we were getting reports about all the new new-characters that would be introduced in episode 8.

I fully expected that the old cast of Star Wars would (at most) get only half the screen time.
I was pleasantly surprised they got as much as they did, to be honest.
To me, it was the best outcome that could have been hoped for. I don't know why everyone is complaining that Disney is acting shocked and betrayed about how this new movie focused on the new characters--as if this was a shock at this point.

I wish they hadn't killed of Luke though. I would have liked to see him around in one final movie. (I'm sure he'll make a cameo as a Force ghost, but it won't be the same.)

dpreimer said...

Now that you mention it, I think they have been getting the ratio of screen time about right in these movies. I care about the new characters, but I also want to know what's going on with the old ones. It'll be interesting to see if the new characters can -- or are willing to -- carry the franchise now that the trio has been dispatched.

Cowtown Pattie said...

I always wanted a sequel to Gone With The dare Hollywood leave me hanging; left unknowing whether Scarlett Got Her Groove Back and Found True Happiness (much in the same way Heironymus Merkin did with Mercy Humppe)

Just to once again prove the great soothsayer, Mr. Jagger, had it totally correct in 1969: "You can't always get what you want...but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need."

Whisky Prajer said...

CP - I hereby declare myself ready for a sequel to Gone With The Wind starring Mick Jagger and ... Jennifer Lawrence(?).

Yahmdallah said...

"This miracle adds nothing to the story, except perhaps to spritz the woman with a touch of gravitas that the actor (God rest) was unable to muster on her own."

Thank you! I really like(d) Fisher, thought her own books had some great stuff in them, but she was interesting as Lea only in the original 1977 as far as I was concerned. I remember seeing the "I love you!" "I know." scene the first time (in Empire) and loving it, but recall thinking 'she seems really high, she can barely make a face' - only to have that confirmed years later. Thus, your comment is dead on. Pardon me, spot on.

Perhaps the reason that scene is so troublesome to many is when we realize we are holding on her supposed space corpse for something to happen, many formed an expectation in their heads whilst we waited. Mine was something like "are we gonna see a space bra around her neck?" given she wanted her real obit to read “I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.” I really did wonder for a second if they might do a tasteful joke around that.

I think since many of us have been conditioned by movies to think that a human body exposed to space will swell up and pop like a bag of red tapioca in the microwave, some were expecting that.

So when she flips around and flies like the statue of liberty back to the ship, it defied everyone's expectation. Personally, I enjoyed it.

I also dug the final joke about "lifting rocks" being a primary use of the force and Luke chucking his sacred lightsaber over his shoulder like the crust of a pizza.

It's my favorite SW since the original.

Whisky Prajer said...

"Favorite" -- your choice of words gets me thinking, but I do believe I'm with you on this call. The more I reflect on this movie the more I dig it, flaws and all. Last night I was mulling over how Ren and Luke sound like they are calling for the same thing -- "no more Jedi, no more Sith" -- but their behavior suggests very different, shall we say, "visions" of what they hope for.

That's just one example of the many thematic twists that have me cogitating. I suspect that's the dividing line for the love/hate groups. If you have a jones for thematic exploration, you'll love it; if consistent world-building is more your thing, this movie will make you crazy.

Whisky Prajer said...

BTW: "space bra" -- very good suggestion. Can't imagine how they'd, uh, pull that one off, however. ;)

Yahmdallah said...

"If you have a jones for thematic exploration, you'll love it; if consistent world-building is more your thing, this movie will make you crazy."

You have put your finger directly on the central issue, by george. That's it!

As for the space bra, to reference Monty, she's not dead yet!

Whisky Prajer said...

An extra on the Blu-Ray? Talk about a New Hope!

paul bowman said...

Oh, this got good.

paul bowman said...

How adorable, Mark Hamill?

Whisky Prajer said...

Awww! :)