Monday, December 18, 2017

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Non-Spoiler Review)

Images property of Lucasfilm Ltd. and/or Walt Disney Studios
As promised here's my review of the new Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I'll make it as non-spoilery as humanly possible for the many who haven't seen the film yet (even though I'm dying to talk details). But that's not to say it may not contain some hint-ery and scene specifics later on. I'll give you fair warning.

Admittedly, I went into the movie with a skeptical "don't you dare ruin the franchise!" attitude. After 40 years of loving Star Wars and everything it stands for, I was so fearful that Hollywood was going to totally fumble this crucial middle segment of the new trilogy.

What did I think of the experience? I'll sum it up in three words. I loved it!

Images property of Lucasfilm Ltd. and/or Walt Disney Studios

This film manages to not only give homage to the Star Wars legacy, but to break out the franchise in new directions with a decidedly bold take and a hint at a limitless future. As one reviewer put it (paraphrasing), this saga has the potential to go on forever.

Images property of Lucasfilm Ltd.
and/or Walt Disney Studios
I saw the IMAX 3-D version of the movie because those were the only premier tickets available, and though not my first choice, it turned out to be an enjoyable option. Though there were a few moments of background blurriness, for the most part the scenes were crisp, clear and not overpowering. There were even a couple of moments where the ships seemed to come right off the screen and float over our heads. Amazing!

The cinematography was mind-blowing, but that's only to be expected of any Star Wars installment. This story literally kept me on the edge of my seat from the opening scene. It's very past-paced, with multiple plot-threads and locations, but with many well-timed "breather" scenes to keep it from becoming a constant car chase.

From here, I get a little more specific, though no major details will be revealed. If you want to be totally in the dark before seeing the film, don't read on.


SCALE
I have to say this is the first installment where I actually felt like this was an all-out, galaxy-wide war, and not just a few good guys vs. a few bad guys on a planet or some sector of space where the taking out of one key installation would win or lose the war. The scenes had scope, high stakes, complexity and desperation. (And can I just vaguely mention...Poe is freaking certifiable!)

LUKE
I've always been a huge Luke Skywalker fan, so I loved Luke's expanded role in this film, and even his curmudgeonly rejection of the past. When I saw the last glimpse of Luke in The Force Awakens, I saw an old man. Not so in The Last Jedi.

Images property of Lucasfilm Ltd. and/or Walt Disney Studios
Here I glimpsed a man who has only aged on the outside, and still carried the fire of the Force on the inside, even if he's become resentful and disillusioned over past failures.

You remember how Rey hands him his lightsaber at the close of The Force Awakens? That scene is carried forward in an unexpected way. There was one interchange between Luke and an old comrade that took me right back to the early days of the franchise and revealed that despite his decades of struggle and rising to become a powerful master, he also has some very human flaws that will forever be a part of him.

ALL THE FEELS
I was amazed or charmed by some of the surprises. I laughed out loud at most of the well-timed jokes. I felt warm fuzzies at some of the visual cues back to early Star Wars days. There was one element that I knew was probably inevitable and I dreaded it--but I think it was handled as beautifully as could be hoped for. It actually left me nodding my head in a "well played" acknowledgement at the dignity and honor of how it came about.

This installment managed to avoid an emotional bottomless pit--a feeling of utter shock and horrible grief like I felt when Han Solo took a lightsaber to the gut and fell to his doom in The Force Awakens. Or when Jyn and Cassian were engulfed by the shockwave from the Death Star at the end of Rogue One. Those scenes had the potential to end my fanship forever. But in time, I managed to survive even those black moments to love Star Wars again. The Last Jedi is largely responsible for that. 

WHAAAAAT?
There was one WTF moment for both David and me. A scene where a new character was revealed, and she's a look-alike for co-blogger Sharon Lynn Fisher! It turned out to be well-known actress Laura Dern, but the resemblance was uncanny. To the point where I thought, "Wow, Sharon didn't tell me she had a part in Star Wars!" (Sharon, you'll have to let me know what you think if you see it.)

WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE?
Along with all the good came a few things that felt a little off.

I had a couple of moments where "suspension of disbelief" became a little difficult. For one, a bomber in space? I'm sorry, but no. Space has no gravity, those bombs are not going to "fall." They're going to float away. But that's always been part of the Star Wars brand--starships that roar (no sound in a vacuum), bank (no air resistance in a vacuum), and now--drop bombs. After some thought, I gave them a pass in that the bombardier mechanism might possibly carry enough power to propel the bombs on a trajectory toward the enemy craft. Okay. Acceptable.

Images property of Lucasfilm Ltd.
and/or Walt Disney Studios
I also had some moments of discomfort when the power of the Force was revealed in all its glory. If the Force is that damned powerful that it allows individuals this level of manipulation of nature and physics--and sometimes even to return from beyond the grave--there would be no need for bombs, blasters or fighters. No need for opposing fleets at all. The all-powerful Force would decide everything based on who was the stronger conduit and could use it in the most clever, deceptive or effective ways. It would simply be a war of champions of the Force--the Light Side against the Dark Side of its spectrum.

And if Jedi Masters never die, why couldn't a ghost army of former Jedis materialize from the past (much like the impressive ghost army in Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King), because, yeah, Dark Side... game over! For that matter, why couldn't the redeemed Anakin Skywalker simply return to have a long chat with his adoring grandson about the error of his ways. (Apparently only Jedi Masters and not Dark Sith Lords have this power to return.)

But I digress. As a writer, my mind tends to explore both the what if's... and the but wait's...

These little glitches in logic did not in any way ruin or taint the grand experience for me. And it truly was grand.

THE FINALE
Though definitely not a "happy feel good" ending with a triumphant ceremony or a big party as in A New Hope and Return of the Jedi, it offered a feeling of tenuous victory but a very ominous challenge for the Rebels/Resistance, one from which it will take them a long time to recover. Perhaps...another generation? But...it also concluded with a surprise--a completely unexpected, yet perfectly set-up scene that left me with a feeling of wonder and hope that I haven't felt in, ohhh, about forty years.

At the start of the closing credits--and a bittersweet tribute to "Our Princess," the late actress Carrie Fisher--Star Wars: The Last Jedi left me with a wistful and satisfied smile and a strong desire to see it again--soon!--to catch all the nuances and details I may have missed the first time in my wide-eyed amazement.

I honestly couldn't have been happier with this new addition to the series. Waiting another two years to see where they're going to take the saga is going to be tough. Fortunately, I'll have the distraction of Solo--a segment about Han Solo's early days--to look forward to next summer.

In the Go/No Go rating system we use here in the Lounge, I rate The Last Jedi a resounding GO!

And as always, my opinion may or may not reflect those of my co-bloggers.

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Please note that after this week, Spacefreighters Lounge will go dark until after the holidays.

Wishing you a wonderful time with friends and families and a very happy close of the year.


6 comments:

  1. **Could be interpreted as spoilery despite vagueness!! Skip this comment if you need to!**

    I suspect that the “huh?” Force power you noted is possible because of the strong connection between Luke and Leia. Other Jedi masters wouldn’t necessarily have this ability because Jedi weren’t supposed to form connections, as with family. Luke and Leia showed they could communicate telepathically in ESB and RoTJ. Possibly they practiced in those years before Luke shut himself away from the Force. And the Force-ghosting like Yoda and like Obiwan in RoTJ was mentioned at the end of Revenge of the Sith as a little-known power that QuiGon had either discovered or developed, and Yoda and Obiwan were going to try to get in touch with QuiGon that way. Not sure how I feel about references to the prequels.

    I have no explanation for weird space physics. Lol

    All that aside, I Loved this movie. And you’re right: Sharon Fisher and Laura Dean are secretly twins separated at birth. (Force users, too?)

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    1. Ahh, very good point on the powerful connection between Luke and Leia. (I won't say more to avoid any spoilery.) I'm going to have to do a re-watch of Revenge of the Sith because I don't remember that reference to QuiGon. But then...it has been a few years, hasn't it? LOL

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  2. I wouldn't read this post until after I saw The Last Jedi. While you didn't reveal too much, I'm glad I waited. You are right on target. Here's an amazing coincidence. At dinner after the movie last night, my 8-yr-old grandson proposed the same thing you did with the ghost Jedi. Brilliant minds and all that. LOL Your point (above) about the connection between Luke & Leia: my son-in-law made that same point. Holy cow! Maybe those two read your post. :) I will share it with them. I loved the movie, as I've loved all of them--some more than others. Like you, I hoped Last Jedi wouldn't disappoint. It didn't. Still a Star Wars fan. Great post!

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    1. So glad you enjoyed it, Diane, and LOL on your similar discussions. Yes, still a Star Wars fan here, too--maybe bigger than ever--and I so wasn't sure I was going to be able to say that!

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  3. I also waited until after seeing the film (and until after the holidays steamrolled over us) before reading your post, Laurie. It's funny, my wedding anniversary coincided with the film's release, and we went to see the film AND watched our wedding video for the first time. The resemblance has been mentioned to me before, and I have to admit I see it too, especially after watching myself on video.

    I have got myself on a deadline and am totally behind after the holidays, so won't go into too much detail, but I have to say that I felt the evolution of Luke was totally in keeping with his character. Yes, he has always been a heroic, do-gooder kind of guy, but in the original films he was a bit of a whiner and WAY moody. I found his jaded transformation totally believable, just as much so as the actions he took to help his friends/family in the end.

    I also loved the Leia/Poe/Holdo dynamic.

    I definitely enjoyed the film overall, and also feel like I'll need to see it again to fully appreciate it.

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  4. I totally agree with his metamorphosis being in tune with his younger self. My guess is those who were outraged over the representation of Luke in TLJ are probably those who explored his character through the countless books and expanded (former) canon, because I totally saw the Luke I know--just a terminally disappointed and disillusioned one.

    I did see the film a second time and it IS better because I was able to see so much more.

    [SPOILER ALERT: SPOILER AHEAD!]

    My favorite scene (EVER--in any episode) is where Luke goes aboard the Millennium Falcon after hearing about Han's death and still refusing to help. Then R2D2 comes out of status to "chat" with him--and shows him the iconic video of his sister pleading "Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi...You're my only hope" some 40 years earlier. Seriously, that packed one hell of an emotional punch. What a total tearjerker, not only in how it fit the scene so perfectly, but it was such a magnificent tribute to Carrie Fisher besides.

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