Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi

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I liked it more than I thought I was going to, and that is saying a lot my friends.

Look, we all know that Disney is a machine capable of churning out some real duds, just like any other studio.  Star Wars as a franchise USED TO BE sacred territory, meaning that nobody did a Star Wars movie / story unless it truly added to the whole.  That is a lot to consider when writing a story.  How to write a story while considering an entire universe and everything written about it already?  That’s a tall order for sure.

Then, along came “the Force Awakens” and the new era of Star Wars began.

Already there are 2 new movies in the works that has NOBODY excited.  Han Solo gets a backstory, and Obi-Wan is going to have some filler added to his amazing tale.  My beef with both of these projects is these characters are already dead, so where’s the motivation is telling this story?  Of course, my beef with “Rogue One” was the same exact thing.  Great story, but did we the fans really need to see it?  Everybody can get their panties in a twist now, but I honestly don’t care about Rogue One – and I already knew everyone in that film was dead even before the movie began.  (Did anyone NOT hear Mon Mothma saying “many Bothan spies died…”?)  My point being that adding a story about someone that you know is already dead in the story line currently going on leaves the viewer/listener with a sort of hollow feeling – and that just doesn’t get me excited.  How about you?

Okay, so now that’s out of the way.  I just explained that I’m, a little put out by this new era of Star Wars so far.  “Force Awakens” was good, but there were some big issues.  The thing I liked MOST about it was the new characters.  And that is what I wanted to see more of in this latest installment.  “Last Jedi” delivered and in an unexpected manner.  The more this film went on, the more it felt different than the rest of the saga – and that was a very good thing.  I didn’t want to feel like I was seeing “Empire Strikes Back” being re-told (ahem, “Force Awakens“) and I didn’t.  Sure, there are some similarities but overall it just wasn’t a typical Act II.  And I liked that!

Yes, there were some bad choices.  Mistakes, in my opinion, that should not have been made.  They are: 1) no milk monster (why was this even needed?), 2) who the Hell is Snoke (nobody ever addressed this and it bugs me to no end), 3) how did the First Order get all this cash (I get the war profiteers story line, but what about where is the money coming from?), and 4) Princess Leia gets blown out into space and uses the Force to stay alive (???).  I’m all for leaving some mystery in there for the bad guys but to show us the First Order being flush with cash and NOT address Snoke’s background are HUGE gaping plot holes.

Then, there was something that happened in the last 15 minutes of the film that felt a little baffling to me…and unnecessary.  SPOILER ALERT!!! Rose suddenly develops rather strong feelings for Finn almost completely out of nowhere.  And then Rey has this moment of jealousy while looking at Rose and Finn?  And then Poe comes out of nowhere with his awkwardly thrown-in introduction to Rey.  It felt a lot like somebody decided at the 11th hour to thrown in a love story angle into the whole thing – and man was it clunky!  (I’m all for a good love story, but this was forced to say the least.)

But let me talk about what was really good about the film now.  There were iconic cinematic moments, like the Millenium Falcon flying through those crystal caverns and the speeders racing towards the revised AT-ATs.  That looked a lot like the Star Wars I know and love.  Luke’s scene with Leia towards the very end?  Holy crap that was good!  (Made all the sadder by the reality of losing Carrie Fisher, but how great was it that they got that scene in there?)  The light saber duel in Snoke’s chamber (which was a gorgeous looking set) was great!

The biggest achievement though for “Last Jedi” was separating itself from the Legacy characters (Luke, Leia, Chewbacca, etc.)  Riann Johnson took the time to focus on Rey and Kylo Ren.  He may have dwelled a bit too long on that island (#SkelligMichaelisHeaven #BeenThere-ish #CantWaittoGoBack #ErinGoBragh) but overall it was meaningful and it helped get the focus on Rey.  Daisy Ridley turns in another solid performance as Rey, and she is just very likable in the role.  The Poe Dameron story arc about becoming a leader was nicely done as well.  I wish it could have been more of a focus but it’s still just fine the way it is (I’m nitpicking here).  And while I liked the Rose and Finn mission, it didn’t really do anything for me and that was disappointing to me.  Finn is a great character and there’s a lot of lost opportunity there.  Nice that he had a showdown with Captain Phasma but even that was unfulfilling.  The more that Johnson focused the story on the new characters the better the film was.  It felt like a new chapter in the saga and that was all it needed to be, truly.

SPOILER ALERT!!!  My favorite scene was Yoda – and that was Puppet Yoda voiced more more by the great Frank Oz! – showing up to talk to Luke about being a teacher and passing on what he has learned.  It was a great moment to have and it made the entire movie make sense – both in explaining why Luke is there in the first place (and why he thinks the way he does) and where the story is going as a whole.  That was a critical piece of the story and so great that it came from Yoda!  (Yes, I’m biased.)

SPOILER ALERT!!! The other killer scene was at the end with Kylo Ren facing off against Luke.  That was both funny and awesome at the same time!  And of course, Luke’s end with gazing out at the twin suns.  The circle was now complete.  It was a heart-wrenching moment and bittersweet, but so worth it!  Luke’s penultimate use of the Force is apparently giving the proverbial bird to the bad guys.  That was epic!

So, here’s hoping that Episode 9 will finally deliver of making Kylo Ren the villain of these 3 movies – because so far, we haven’t had one yet.  Maybe they will get around to answering questions about Snoke?  I’m hopeful for the next installment, but I’m not sold on this new era yet.  I’m really not.  The epic feel of it is starting to feel out of focus or something.  Something is missing for sure, and to me, I think that’s the villain.  I said it before ever they began Episodes 7-9: this entire thing will hang on the villain of the story.  I still believe that.

..and that’s it for this edition of THE REEL VOICE.


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