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The Last Jedi - Review/Discussion *Spoiler Warning*

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    Review The Last Jedi - Review/Discussion *Spoiler Warning*

    So I've been meaning to do a similar write up for The Last Jedi that I did for Valerian, but time and circumstances have delayed me for several weeks since the film came out. I think that's honestly been a blessing in disguise because there's been a lot of discussion over The Last Jedi and what it means for Star Wars, Fandom, and the future of the franchise in general. Its all been some pretty interesting stuff, and I think some fun discussions and debates could be had out of it. For what its worth as a TL;DR I loved the film and I think it bodes well for the ending of the trilogy, but it has a few narrative and structural flaws that I think are worth talking about.

    I was of the opinion once that, given the sheer amount of money and talent Disney could muster on these projects, that they would be mostly functional if somewhat safe an uninteresting flicks that would satisfy an itch but not have anything bold or new to do. The Force Awakens kind of solidified that feeling. It was directed by a filmmaker(J.J. Abrams) who's extremely good at emulating the styles and beats of other classic filmmakers, and had a plot and narrative designed to ease everyone back into the world of Star Wars. I loved it on first viewing, but subsequent viewings have made me feel that it relied a little too heavily on treading the same character beats as a New Hope and reveling in seeing old characters like Han back in the gig. It was a fine movie, it did what it set out to do, but it didn't exactly blow your socks off. Rogue One tipped me off that something might be different. Despite the rumors of reshoots and the obvious editing job done for the first half of the movie, the climax was an incredible modern realization of the Original Trilogy style, and bold enough to do something crazy like kill off the main characters. In post-release interviews the Director of Rogue One was originally working under the idea that Disney would not let this ending happen, but to surprise of most of the cast and crew, Disney was on board from the git-go. I guess I need to show more faith in the house of mouse. The Last Jedi, just by its placement in the trilogy arc, was destined to be at least a little provocative. It took that destiny however, and ran with it. Make no mistake, there was a lot of risks taken in this movie that I'm frankly baffled Disney signed off in. Some of the choices made in this narrative had to have the bean-counters laying awake at night.

    Lets start with the awesome bits. For once visuals triumphed my pedantic side and told it to sit down and shut up. Was the bombing run by space versions of B-17s silly? Yeah. But it was awesome. It was unique to look at, it added tension, and was something we hadn't seen in Star Wars before. The hyper-space ram had the entire theater speechless. If it was so devastating why didn't the rebels do it more often? I don't care, I just watched a cruiser cut a mega star-destroyer in half. There's a lot to be said for these big set piece moments as they can make or break your movie. Audiences will be a lot more forgiving of narrative and structural flaws if they are at least entertained, and on spectacle this movie delivers in spades. Speaking of Spectacle, the throne room fight scene is everything I wanted from a light saber battle. We get to see non-force users be an actual threat in melee combat with one trained force user and a skilled amateur. We get to see definitively that Kylo Ren, when he's not nursing a wound, is a skilled and trained fighter that far surpasses Rei. And we get to see that Rei, even with her raw talent, still has limits. The combat is also raw and visceral in a way that the prequels were not. For once it feels like someone with a fight saber is fighting for their life, and not just taking part in some elaborate dance. I personally feel that the "Rei is a Mary Sue" argument falls apart a bit here, but that's a concussion for later.

    Despite all its technical and visual accomplishments however, the movie does suffer from some pacing and structure flaws. Namely Fin and Rose's escapade to the Casino world. Look I think it raises a good point about class and the how the rest of the galaxy suffers while elites like the Jedi, Royalty, and the First Order are carrying on their battle. It shows definitively why people might support The Resistance when we have no idea what kind of Government they served or wanted to create, or how the First Order was going to go about governing the galaxy. Its an important moment of world and character building because it also shows why Finn chooses to stay besides some loyalty to Rei and Poe. Yet, it goes on too long. It doesn't resolve anything, and I don't think the movie needed another chase scene. It felt disconnected from the rest of the movie. I think you could have done all those things it was supposed to do either in another movie, or in a different way, but otherwise it doesn't really work. It doesn't help that the tonal shift is pretty extreme. Bleak, tense chase scene at the fleet, then back to the casino and poor orphans.

    There's also the issue of Poe's entire arc. I'm pretty forgiving on this front, but a lot of people aren't. I can understand the criticism. Admiral Holdo could have saved a lot of tension, angst, and trouble by simply explaining his plan when asked. Tension and plot conflict created by two characters simply not communication can be pretty frustrating. That being said, I do think Poe needed this conflict, and he needed to be put down a few pegs. For all the Mary Sue complaints that circle around Rei, I think Poe was the character most endanger of being a fantasy caricature after the first movie. So seeing him repeatedly make mistakes and get punished till he learnt his lesson is a GOOD thing for the character. Another angle is that the Resistance Navy is a military organization. I am not a soldier, sailor, airman, or a marine. But I'm pretty sure our members who served (@Rick_Canaan @Sodahkin) can attest that an Admiral has no obligation to explain themselves or their orders to their subordinates. There is a chain of command, and raw spunk and a strong attitude does not let you buck it. Holdo needed to establish herself as THE commander of the Resistance and to assert the chain of command on a hot shot pilot/officer who threatened (and later did) to undermine unit cohesion, so she took a hard stance. Its worth noting that in supplementary materials like the novelization, its pointed out that the Bomber Wings were under the command of Admiral Holdo until they met up with the rest of the Resistance Fleet. So not only was Poe challenging her authority, but his audacity and poor judgement had caused dozens of her pilots and crew members to die. I have issues with needing to go to supplementary materials to explain plot details that I will cover in a bit, but that does cast the entire situation in a better light.

    Speaking of character criticisms, I've been a little surprised by the backlash against Luke's character. I get that a lot of people were expecting jedi super-saiyan Luke from the EU, and instead we got bitter detached hermit Luke, but I think it makes for a better movie. Like it or not, the entire movie is an extended allegory for myth making and hero worship. Rei and the resistance have built a legend around Luke Skywalker that he can't possibly live up too, the weight of the expectations was too much and broke Luke, he heads off to be a hermit on a remote planet, and we see definitively the fact that he is Anakin's son. Remember, both Anakin and Luke made a major mistake that resulted in the end of their jedi careers. Anakin killed Windu, and Luke almost attacked Ben Solo. The difference is Luke was just self-aware enough to cut himself off from the force to keep from falling to the Dark side, where as Anakin in a swirl of manipulated self-loathing and hopelessness, decides he can't be redeemed and joins the Dark Side. Its a good parallel, and I think it fits Luke's character well. The movie isn't even subtle about it, the powerful dark side artifact he's living on top of is a mirror after all.

    Wow this post got big. I have more I want to talk about, but I think I'll leave it here to let others have the chance to hop in! What did you guys think of the movie? Love it? Hate it? In-different?
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