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After much deliberation, I have decided to post my feelings about The Last Jedi, after one viewing. Obviously it has garnered strong opinions on social media, to say the least. The level of abuse and hate that fans have been throwing at each other can get a bit much. The ones that really annoy me are when someone says they like the movie because of ‘this, this and this’, and then someone replies saying “What movie were you watching?! It didn’t have that, that or that!”. Erm, they were watching the same movie mate but they’re a different human being. The world would be pretty boring if we all liked the same things all the time. A few weeks ago I chose not to post my views on Thor: Ragnarok because I really didn’t enjoy it all that much and when I mentioned that on Twitter I just got shot down in flames. But there’s so much in my head about The Last Jedi that I just had to write it down.

By the way, for a very level-headed, sane look at how we don’t have to be angry with each other about new things in new Star Wars movies please do check out Shawn Robare’s latest podcast episode about Star Wars Then and Now. “If you hate it, great, hate on it. But don’t hate on each other. THAT is stupid.

And also there’s a great supplemental podcast episode by DiGio and Downs from The Atomic Geeks where they discuss The Last Jedi and make a heck of a lot of sense. Have a listen.

But because of this huge divide in opinions on The Last Jedi I thought I would indeed add my thoughts to the fray, but just try to do it in a slightly more balanced way. I was hoping to have watched the film twice before I wrote about it but I’m not going to be able to see it again until early January sadly. But I actually thought it might be interesting to get my initial thoughts down on paper just now and then I might write a secondary post about how my thoughts might evolve after seeing it a second time round.

As always, I’ve listed my good points and bad points in a bullet list below. But first of all here is my overall opinion. I basically thoroughly enjoyed it, but just with some stupid small things that slightly annoyed me. I came out of the film having enjoyed a very good, very well made action movie. And that’s what all the official movie critics saw too. And there were parts that I thought were amazing and very Star Wars. But conflicting slightly with that were my feelings that A) there were quite a few small things that I didn’t like and B) I was initially slightly surprised or confused by some of the big decisions in the film.

Let’s tackle ‘A’ first. You can see the list below of ‘bad points’. There weren’t hugely bad to be honest and were just things that if I had been a Producer on the film I might have spoken up about. To be honest they don’t really affect my overall opinion of the film but they are the bits I would improve if I could.

And in terms of ‘B’, I was just a bit surprised by the direction the film went in a couple of ways. But that’s not to say I didn’t like the direction. In fact after digesting it a bit more I’m totally fine with it. I think writer/director Rian Johnson did one thing really well which is that he kept everyone guessing. There were so many obvious routes he could have gone down, which were very well documented in fan theories online. Certain fans seem to be let down or disappointed that they didn’t get the Star Wars they hoped for or expected. But this IS Star Wars now. The movies are canon, so I for one am just going along with them. And I think the changes that Johnson made are better for the franchise as a whole and setup the next film a lot better.

I mentioned above that Rian Johnson kept us guessing, he really did do this well in the movie and left us with more/different questions in some places, or second guessing things that happened in this movie, which is very clever too. Was Kylo lying when he was telling Rey about her parents? Did Luke really ‘die’? What, if any, will Leia’s involvement or presence be in the next film? The Force Awakens was accused of being a blueprint of past Star Wars films. The Last Jedi was anything but. It was surprise after surprise. Rey’s parents are nobodies, Luke doesn’t become the Jedi teacher and join the Resistance fight, Snoke died earlier than expected, Luke died etc etc. It was relentless with its shocks. Many of us also expected Leia to die in this one because Carrie Fisher passed away in real life, but even that was a surprise as it looked like she died, and she was given her moment for us to grieve, but then the Force saved her and she survived the rest of the film. This was not at all the plot points that we were expecting. I’m sure that’s why some people are up in arms about it. But for me I think it was a very brave and clever move. Things are left open now for the next film to be exciting and not just a copy of Return of the Jedi.

Kylo and Rey
The trailers and posters cleverly kept us guessing about whether Kylo would turn to the light and Rey would turn to the dark. The obvious path was for that not to happen, but these posters and trailers kept us wondering if they would in fact turn, so we almost started to expect that, but I like how things in this trilogy are more grey than that. It’s not just black and white, dark and light. Kylo hesitates when about to shoot at Leia’s ship, and Rey apparently is called by the dark too easily on the island with Luke. But then, despite killing Snoke, which makes us thing he might join Rey, Kylo continues his dark path and Rey then resists it. I just thought this was all very cleverly done. It kept us guessing all the way. I can imagine it could have been done in a much more obvious way and fans being annoyed about that. But this way I thought was good.

Snoke
There were so many fan theories about who Snoke was. I didn’t read everything but I think I was hoping Snoke was going to be Palpatine’s former master, Darth Plagueis, as many people thought. But I guess it doesn’t really matter in the end who he was. They’re making Kylo Ren out to be the big baddie and if Snoke was still there in Ep 9 then it might end up just being about Kylo redeeming himself by killing Snoke and that would just seem like it was copying Return of the Jedi. Snoke was more of just a plot device to explain how Kylo had been turned to the dark. It was just slightly frustrating as Snoke was probably the most powerful Sith (or Force proponent) we have ever seen so it would have been cool to see more of him. I thought he was very well done and looked very cool, so I just wish we had seen a bit more of him out and about before he died. We only saw him in his red mancave wearing his Hugh Hefner robe. Like The Atomic Geeks said in their podcast, I wonder what sort of ointments he had tucked away in the back and what sort of parties he hosted there. I’ll certainly look out for some Snoke books or comics in the future.

Leia
I thought Leia was made out to be very cool in this movie. I loved how everyone holds her in such high esteem. Her presence was much greater in this one than in TFA I felt. I did find her space Mary Poppins bit ‘interesting’ though. I guess it can all be explained but it was still slightly eyebrow-raising at the time. She is obviously a Skywalker and has untrained Force ability and I guess it could bring itself to the fore in a time of stress like that. Perhaps just the way they made her fly back to the ship did make her look a bit like Superman or reminded me of the hilarious “I’m Mary Poppins y’all” line from Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2. But it kind of allowed us a farewell to Carrie Fisher which we didn’t get later as she didn’t actually die in this film, and I’m not sure we will get in Ep 9 if there isn’t specific footage of her that they can use. I was kind of expecting them to kill off Leia in this movie, but perhaps that would have been too much for the audience. A bit too direct. Perhaps it has to happen off screen in Ep 9. But the fact that Luke died and Leia lived was probably the biggest shock of this movie for me. And once again I think perhaps a clever move as people didn’t expect it. It’s really shaking things up and I have to say I quite like that, rather than just being predictable.

Luke
There’s a lot to say about Luke, but I’ll try to keep it simple. I did feel slightly cheated in the sense that he didn’t really get to turn back into the hero Luke that we know from the original trilogy. He was lost for a lot of the movie, and even when he did his sacrifice at the end it only really gave the rebels more time (via Poe’s clunky exposition). It wasn’t really a return to Luke’s character as we knew it. And when he actually died, or transcended, at the end I was very surprised, like “Was that it?”. It wasn’t quite clear why exactly he died. But I’m sure it’s not the end we’ll see of him. I’m sure in Ep 9 he will be a force ghost with the most screen time and hands on training of any force ghost that has been before. I’m still of two minds about whether Luke had to actually die though. I thought he might have made it to the end of the trilogy alive. But perhaps there is a better story to tell if he has transcended. Again I think it keeps things much more open for new things to happen in Ep 9 which is good. Otherwise again I think Ep 9 could have been too predictable.

Grey areas between Kylo and Luke
As mentioned above there were more grey areas than previously in Star Wars films and one good example of this is how Kylo’s perception of what happened on the Jedi island is different from Luke’s. Kylo thinks that Luke was just about to outright murder him, and that’s one of the things that fuels him to stay on the dark side. But Luke revealed that, yes, the amount of dark that he sensed in Ben Solo did lead him to a split second feeling of thinking he should destroy this threat, but that he stopped himself from giving into the fear and chose not to, but not before Ben woke up to see what Luke had been possibly about to do. That a lot of Kylo Ren’s hate stems from this confusion adds another layer to what is a fascinating character. There’s so much greyness in this movie.

New Force powers
One other thing that I know will get Stars Wars fans heckles raised is just how much that Rian Johnson evolved the Force. Adding one or maybe two things is fine, but he really did add quite a bit. Let’s take a look at some of the main ones…

  • Force manipulating someone (Snoke face planting General Hux) remotely
  • Letting two people communicate verbally, visually (and physically a bit) across great distances
    Force ghosts summoning lightning
  • Untrained Jedi staying alive in space and flying through space
  • Astral projecting a totally lifelike, representation of you across the galaxy, complete with astral projected dice

That’s a lot to add to the canon. Again, adding one or two is fine but adding this many is sure to raise a few eyebrows. I was ok with it, although I do think they risk turning these into X-Men films. They have to be careful about having too many ‘mutant super powers’.

General Hux
I really didn’t like General Hux in The Force Awakens. I thought he was very poorly cast. I have nothing at all against Domnhall Gleeson but I felt he looked too young and that the character was played for laughs, which was not right for a First Order leader. In this film I felt that he looked older, which was good, but again he was played for laughs. The role was too comedic. A part of me really wants to like General Hux and would like him in something else like maybe a spin-off movie, but it was just written or played too campy or comedic for me. It’s probably one of my biggest gripes with the new trilogy to be honest. But some people absolutely love him, so that’s cool. I’m happy to accept him.

Jokes
I get it. Star Wars is fun, but I just thought there were too many ‘jokes’ in this movie. Too many ‘gags’. They pulled me out of the movie because they seemed gratuitous in places. They seemed forced in to affect the overall tone of the movie rather than cleverly added for certain characters. I felt this even more with Thor: Ragnarok, how certain characters lost their identities because there was a level of gags sprinkled across everything which didn’t suit some characters. An example of a great way to do this is in Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2. There were some laugh out loud moments for me with Drax or Michael Rooker’s character which weren’t fluffy or slapstick, but gave depth to the characters and fitted in well with other serious moments. This is my main other criticism about The Last Jedi. Too many gags, like the way that Luke threw his lightsaber away. It was done in a comedy way, rather than with gravitas. When Rey is having her training moment and cuts the rock, we don’t get a proper payoff shot of her or Luke, we cut to those annoying little island nurses for too long for a visual gag. The phone call joke between Poe and Hux comes from a funny place (a bit like Han’s ‘We’re all fine, how are you’ conversation over a microphone in the detention block), but it’s just played too comedically by Hux and it goes on for too long. I just wished they had reined it back in a bit. But hopefully it’s not going to stop me enjoying watching it again. I can hopefully mentally tune out those bits, so I’m not too bothered.

Ok, that’s all the main bits to cover so here are my lists of smaller points and summary points.

GOOD POINTS

  • I liked the different versions of Kylo and Luke’s stories from the island, when Kylo thought Luke was trying to kill him. There was a lot of showing the struggles between Light and Dark in this film.
  • I really liked how well it kept us guessing about Kylo and Rey’s paths
  • So many parts of the film were shot beautifully. The opening battle, Snoke’s chambers, the lightspeed ramming, the ice battle on Crait etc.
  • John Williams’ score kicked in very well, as expected, at all the right bits
  • I thought the audio design was great, such as when the sound disappeared when Rey and Kylo had their connections and also I think when the rebel ship went to hyperspace through the First Order ship and it all went quiet
  • Kylo Ren/Adam Driver – I think the character of Kylo Ren is extremely interesting. I like how he’s more complex than Darth Vader and has a greater fight between the light and dark. And I think he is played very well by Adam Driver. I kind of didn’t like him as much in The Force Awakens as I just wanted a straight up bad guy and didn’t like how he was this angry young man, but in The Last Jedi they really embrace that side of him and it makes sense now.
  • Ade Edmondson. I thought I recognised one of the First Order officers on my first viewing but I wasn’t quite sure. Turns out it was the legend that is Ade Edmondson. I love that he’s in it.
  • I loved the fight that Kylo and Rey had with the red guards after Kylo kills Snoke (although I do always wonder why they couldn’t just use the Force to throw the guards about). Especially the bit at the end when Rey throws the lightsaber to Kylo and he just switches it on and off momentarily to get the guy in the eye. Nice.
  • Benicio Del Toro was very good too. Although as a stutterer myself, I’m not sure if I liked the fact that they gave him the stutter or not. It certainly wasn’t made into a joke, so I guess I’m not too fussed about it.

BAD POINTS

  • Too many jokes. I just felt there a few too many irreverent jokes. The way Luke threw away the lightsaber. The bit when Rey’s chopped rock lands in the path of the island keepers. Poe and Hux’s voicemail joke. Etc. Chewbacca’s Porg barbecue joke was quite nicely done though, although also pretty horrifying and sad at the same time!
  • Speaking of Porgs, I did like them but I felt there was slightly too much of them overall.
  • I didn’t like the island keepers. They looked too much like nurses or nuns, and I thought the actual design of their rubber suits wasn’t great.
  • The bit with Luke’s daily routine were a bit cheesy/campy, and the creature that he takes the milk from? Jeez, that was weird. If it was more cow-like then fine but the way we got a close up of the creature almost winking too camera or giving us it’s sex-face? A little uncomfortable. But hey, it’s fine to have it in the film.
  • General Hux – as mentioned above I don’t really like him and find that he’s played for laughs too much.
  • The whole film seems to happen in about one or two days? That kind of made this film feel slightly small. The main story was really just one big long slow space chase. Perhaps they were going for a sort of Mad Max: Fury Road vibe, but I just found it slightly too pedestrian.
  • It was good to see Yoda, but he looked weird, didn’t he? I just couldn’t get over him looking a bit weird.
  • Gareth Edwards gratuitous cameo. I think it was too obvious and it pulled me out of the film at quite a crucial part of the climax.
  • Maz – surprised she was ok so soon after her 1,000 yr old temple being destroyed in the last film
  • Why didn’t vice Admiral Holdo not tell Poe or anyone else the plan?
  • The Casino – could have been so much better
  • The animal welfare bit – they seemed to be more worried about the animals than about getting the codebreaker?
  • Rose – not her but her story. She didn’t seem too bothered at the casino when they weren’t going to get the codebreaker to save all the Resistance. She seemed more bothered about saving a few animals. But also later she stops Finn’s brave sacrifice, just because she likes him, even though his actions could have saved the whole Resistance. And then the kiss comes out of the blue. I liked her but her actions made me kind of get a bit annoyed by her later.
  • I was a bit confused about how Kylo and Rey’s Skype connection stayed up after Snoke died. Could they do it anyway, a bit like Luke and Leia used to be able to ‘feel’ each other remotely? Did Snoke just start it up and then it will always work from then on?
  • BB-8 is awesome but he arguably, maybe did a bit too much? Is there anything he can’t do?

PREDICTIONS FOR EPISODE 9

  • It’s quite hard to predict because so much of the typical Star Wars blueprint has been thrown out, which makes it very exciting.
  • I think Rian Johnson was frustrated that he had to make The Last Jedi start immediately after The Force Awakens because JJ Abrams had left it on a cliffhanger. So I think the next one will have a few years gap perhaps.
  • It will probably contain Leia’s funeral or some memorial service or grave recognising her. I’m not sure if they will use any existing footage of her. I hope they don’t try to CGI her.
  • Kylo is obviously the big baddie and I think he will go on the rampage with the Knights of Ren, which could be extremely cool. Hopefully with a new helmet too (so they can make new toys of course)
  • All the greyness that was in the Last Jedi could lead to ‘Grey Jedis’ that I’ve heard so much about. Has the Jedi Code and library been destroyed in the fire? I heard that you apparently see Jedi books on the Millennium Falcon near the end of the film, showing that Rey had taken them from the temple before it got burnt down. So maybe Luke is just the last ‘traditional’ Jedi?
  • I thought for a while that Kylo might have been lying to Rey about her parent’s but I honestly think that Rian Johnson was trying to get away from the whole Skywalker soap opera and make the universe a bit bigger. Particularly the shot of the young orphan using force powers at the end makes me think that the next film could be about the rise of non Skywalkers wielding the force, and Rey being the one leading from the front.
  • Luke will almost certainly come back as a force ghost. Does he train Rey? Does he haunt Kylo? Interesting to see whether Luke, in his transcended form will return to the more heroic Luke we saw in Return of the Jedi.

The Last Jedi, for all its shocks and surprises, has certainly left things open for a very interesting finale. It has given the Star Wars universe a fresh approach and kept things unpredictable and interesting. And for that, despite some negatives, I call it a big success. I’m very much looking forward to watching it again to see how my views may change or evolve.

UPDATE:
I’ve now seen The Last Jedi a second time in the cinema and I have to say I love it even more now. Most of the Bad Points listed above disappeared on second viewing. Read my supplementary blog post here http://retromash.com/2018/01/08/my-slightly-altered-thoughts-on-star-wars-the-last-jedi-after-a-second-viewing/