How is everyone? I hope everybody’s year got off on the right foot and that you’re all buckling up and getting ready to get on in. And I know, too, that the cray will be strong with this year, and that, my friends, is why we need creative things to escape into.
As you all know, I’m a fangirl of many different things, including strong women, strong women and queer rep in media, and spec fic. I’m a Star Wars kid (though the second trilogy will not be spoken of here), and have thoroughly enjoyed the latest additions to the SW family.
During the Hootenanny, Star Wars: The Last Jedi dropped and I was right there on opening day (and the day after to see it again).
I’m in the “really enjoyed this film” camp (and it appears there are divisions in the fandom) so there’s my bias right out there for all to see. Did the film have some problems? Of course. But did it make me smile, laugh, and cry for all the right reasons? Yes.
I’m sure there are those among you who will jump into the comments and totally disagree with me (I know who you are; I saw your comments about the film on Facebook…muah ha ha), but that’s fine. No film can appeal to everybody all the time.
So let’s get to this.
WARNING. SOME SPOILERS AHEAD.
Last Jedi picks up about where 2015’s Force Awakens ends.
This is the extended trailer; about four-and-a-half minutes long.
Basically, shit is so real in TLJ. The First Order (like the Empire, only maybe even more douchey) is almost completely in power over the Resistance and General Organa (Leia) is on the run with a ragtag group of fellow Resistance fighters. They have to evacuate one base and they’re literally being chased down by a TFO fleet, including an immensely powerful Dreadnought ship, which is basically a giant floating armaments platform. I mean, this is bad straits up in here. In the midst of this, intrepid, impulsive but gifted fighter pilot Poe initiates a daring attack that buys them a little time, but it’s a Pyrrhic victory that comes with a huge cost of ships and lives. And General Leia makes this known (I cried so hard when she first appeared on screen; fucking miss Carrie Fisher so much).
Meanwhile, Rey has gone to an isolated island on an isolated planet (Ahch-To; this scene picks up where Force Awakens ended) in the Millennium Falcon with Chewbacca to…well, even she’s not entirely sure. She has brought Luke Skywalker’s light saber back to him, but he has sequestered himself on an astonishingly beautiful island and he lives off the land and does not seem to want to partake in any sort of communication with actual humans. In fact, after Rey hands him the light saber, he holds it for a bit then tosses it over his shoulder and strides away. Rey is completely befuddled by this reaction and she retrieves the light saber and follows Luke to his domicile and proceeds to attempt to convince him to come with her to inspire the Resistance against The First Order.
But Luke scoffs at this, and at her rather naive attempts to appeal to his Jedi side. Luke is now Skywalker McCrankyPants and doesn’t hold much stock in the Jedi, because they, too, are human and have big-ass flaws like the rest of us. Maybe it’s time for the Jedi to end, he says. Much to Rey’s horror. But while on the island, Luke realizes that Rey holds within her immense potential and power and he reluctantly agrees to give her a few lessons in harnessing it.
In the midst of the days she spends on the island, she somehow is able to communicate with Kylo Ren, the son of Han Solo and Leia who went to the dark side. She doesn’t understand how it is that they’re Force-bonding, and neither does he (don’t worry! You’ll find out how in the movie!), but they start having these telepathic conversations with each other and Rey thinks she’s totally getting through to him to leave the dark side and he, meanwhile, seems to be trying to win her over to his side.
Back on General Leia’s ship, Finn has come out of his injury-induced coma (from Force Awakens) and he is hellbent on leaving the ship to go find Rey. He is immensely loyal to Rey and doesn’t seem to really give a flip about the Resistance. If there were no Rey to think about, I’m guessing Finn would run off and join a circus somewhere as long as it had nothing to do with The First Order.
But when he tries to sneak off the ship he’s stopped by one of the ship’s mechanics, Rose, and these two end up helping the Resistance by going to find a specific codehacker at a place that is basically the Star Wars version of Monte Carlo. I’ll talk a bit more about that in a bit. Regardless, they need the codehacker to help them get aboard a First Order ship and disable a tracking device that allows The First Order to follow the Resistance through hyperspace.
All of these plotlines intertwine to a major showdown between Kylo Ren’s forces and the Resistance on a really fascinating mineral planet (Crait) whose surface is a crusty white layer of salt beneath which is red dirt. It’s quite beautiful to see the battle scenes from the air. This’ll give you a taste:
I’m not going to tell you much more of that because I don’t want to spoil some of the most excellent directions the plots take. So let’s move along.
Why I liked this film (in no particular order of importance):
1. Characters. Good GAWD I’m a Star Wars fangirl. A franchise like this wouldn’t have kept me interested this long if the characters weren’t like family to me. Meaning, they’re so well-drawn and so human that they seem like people I know. And that goes for the characters who were just introduced in this movie.
I really enjoyed Mark Hamill’s interpretation of how Luke Skywalker would act and react after all these years without human contact. He’s an irascible, irreverent, cranky old dude who nevertheless has a sly sense of humor. He’s a guy who has come to a place of acceptance about his flaws and it makes him even more endearing, I found.
Rey (Daisy Ridley) continues her journey of figuring out who she is and what The Force means. Clearly, she’s gifted, but she doesn’t know why because she doesn’t really know who her parents were, though Kylo Ren reveals something about them that may or may not be true (since he’s Kylo Ren and very good at manipulating people). I like Rey’s pragmatic approach to things, but also the spark of idealism within her. I’m gonna love seeing how her arc plays out, especially because within her is an immense amount of raw power — Luke himself recognizes it — and one of the questions that hangs over her character throughout this film is how she’s going to learn to harness it.
Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) is the mechanic who is thrown together with Finn and I absolutely loved her. She’s my new idealistic crush girl. She is absolutely committed to the Resistance, but she also gets the larger picture. I heard a lot of criticism about the trip she and Finn take to Canto Bight (aka Andi’s SW Monte Carlo and also a playground for rich douches) in search of the hacker. While in the casino, Finn is sucked in by the bright lights and decadence, but Rose schools him on what’s really important, and it sure as hell isn’t the layers of corruption, greed, and oppression that undergird everything about this place.
Some of the criticism about this scene is that it was too long/wasn’t necessary. I think, though, that it was, because we got to see where Rose is coming from — we got a bit of her backstory and we come to see why she and her sister are so dedicated to the Resistance. And she pushes Finn into a new development of his character. It’s the trip to Canto Bight, I would argue, that brings Finn on board with the Resistance, that makes him see why it’s a cause worth fighting for. Prior to Canto Bight, the only thing he cared about was making sure Rey was okay (a fine goal, but it misses the point of Rey’s decision to side with the Resistance). After Canto Bight, he has become himself part of the Resistance and will now fight not only for Rey (and Rose), but also the larger cause, and we see that subtle shift in him when he faces Captain Phasma.
So there’s some crucial character development in terms of Rose and Finn at Canto Bight, and you’ll see that there’s another element that’s important that comes out of Canto Bight but I won’t tell you what it is.
Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo (Laura Dern) takes over the Resistance forces after General Organa is indisposed (I won’t reveal why). I liked what I saw of Holdo, but in the cons department, I have a feeling that a large chunk of her backstory was edited out. Too bad, because the franchise squandered an opportunity here to have another really cool strong female character. At least for part of the film.
2. Nice pacing.
TLJ grabs you by the neck and away you go for a tense, pulse-pounding ride. Even in the quieter scenes and interactions between Luke and Rey before she leaves Ahch-To, there was tension because Rey wanted Luke to help her with her emerging Jedi powers and he was all done with that shit (or so he’d like us to think) and then she’s interacting with Kylo Ren telepathically and there’s bad juju between Ren and Luke, which leaves Rey wondering who to believe.
Point being, even in the quiet scenes, you’re still locked in for the ride because like any good story, the quiet scenes are designed to steer the characters to the action and suspense and to build conflict.
3. Stunning visuals.
Duh. It’s a Star Wars film. Of course there are amazing visuals. Check the videos above. It’s one of my fave things about this franchise, is the variety of settings and the imaginative takes on different worlds and beings.
4. GIRL POWER.
Rose, Rey, Leia, Amilyn, and the myriad female fighter pilots and leaders we see in the Resistance. It’s my understanding that all this girl power caused a ruckus among the more…um…shall we delicately say…sexist parts of the fandom (and among trolls/bots who played off it). Nothing new there. It’s completely predictable, actually, every time a film is released with strong female characters — especially a film in a long-running franchise like Star Wars — there’s a freakout about how the franchise is being hijacked by ladyparts and omg we’re all going to die from estrogen poisoning and oh noez won’t someone please remember the menz blah blah blah (and READ THIS). Whatever. About freaking time, says I. And how cool is it if a woman turns out to be a new incarnation of Jedi? Also, Leia demonstrated some mad Jedi skillz in TLJ. Oh, the potential missed there. Somebody please write some fanfic about Leia becoming a Jedi…(of course, it’s probably already out there. If you know of it, leave a link in the comments)
5. Diverse cast and characters.
I love it. And yes, there are elements of the fandom (and trolls) who are all, NOOO OMG THESE PEOPLES AREN’T WHITE N’ DUDELY AND OMG WE’RE BEING PUSHED OUT OF SW AND HELP US NOW WHY CAN’T EVERY STAR WARS FILM BE FULL OF WHITELY BROPEEPS and blah blah blah. Whatever. Again, about freaking time, says I.
6. Mostly solid storylines.
TLJ ties up some things from Force Awakens and advances those storylines in interesting ways, using the characters in interesting ways, too, to do it. Director Rian Johnson brought a different sensibility to this SW installment, and he made some intriguing choices that may leave you thinking he took an “out with the old and in with the new” approach (and you may hate them) and in a way, I think he did. As he was quoted as saying elsewhere in response to a question about the backlash posed on Twitter:
AND rumor is that Johnson has pitched a new SW trilogy, that will move away from the Skywalker-driven movies. Given that information, it seems that TLJ is sort of a bridge for that. I’m excited to see where it goes.
Okay, and now, some cons:
Captain Phasma. WTF, Star Wars? This is a GREAT character, this female villain who is a leader in The First Order. Why the hell isn’t she being used more? She’s ominous, driven, and we want to know more about her and what her arc’s going to be.
I mentioned it above, but Vice Admiral Holdo was, I thought, under-utilized, though that could’ve been a function of editing. Maybe there was much more to her but it got cut. It felt like that might have been the case. And yes, I totally shipped her with Leia as Holdo bids farewell to Leia prior to the battle at Crait in the movie. Anyway, if you read Claudia Gray’s young adult novel, Leia: Princess of Alderaan (released this past September), you’ll see the relationship between Leia and Holdo. The novel takes place when Leia was 16, before the very first Star Wars film we saw, A New Hope. The novel also hinted that Holdo may have been open to possibility in terms of relationships. I was kind of hoping we’d get that in TLJ, but no.
Also, when the hell will the Resistance ever get its damn battle strategies in order? I mean, they keep making the same damn mistakes. And WTF with Poe? He is not a good strategist so why the hell did Leia make him a Commander and let him loose like that? I admire his nerve and pilot skills, but jeeziz freaking gawd, man. It’s always a damn last stand with the Resistance. They clearly need better communications, better plans, and a better infrastructure to do this resistance stuff.
If you think about the original trilogy (again, that OTHER trilogy shall remain unspoken of), it’s similar issues. You don’t win long-term wars with one big, flashy battle. Taking out the Death Star doesn’t put an end to an Empire. Taking out one Dreadnought won’t put an end to The First Order. You need a multipronged strategy that involves more than just last stand tactics.
And yes, I know there are those among you who hated this film. And one of the issues, I believe, is because it doesn’t always adhere to canon. Look, canon’s a cool thing. But I’m also one of those people who understands that sometimes, it’s good to color outside the lines and see where else canon can take you. I’m not a purist about canon, so I’m not as hung up on it. But I understand its importance to the fandom, and to the stories. But by coloring outside the lines, if you will, aren’t you also creating new canon?
Just putting that out there. 😉
So. Overall, I really liked this film. But I’m not necessarily a SW purist, either, so maybe because of that I liked the idea of setting the stage for possibly creating new canon. We shall see. JJ Abrams has taken on Episode IX…
All right, friends. Happy Friday and may The Force be with you.