Copied and pasted from my letterboxd account. Hello, all my seething masses of fans. I know everyone’s been asking, where has F3ldman gone? I miss his poorly worded, poorly thought out reviews of Brian De Palma films. The answer is who cares I don’t have any fans and no one was wondering that. I spent like four hours analyzing the last jedi scene by scene and I couldn’t figure this fucking thing out. If somebody could please explain what I’m misunderstanding I would be forever in your debt.
This review may contain spoilers.
Ok so I don’t have a lot to do today so I’m going to do a detailed analysis about my feelings on The Last Jedi, which have been difficult to parse. I can’t stand that my indifference towards the movie has labeled me a toxic misogynist so hopefully here I can offer some objective criticism. I really WANT to like this movie, maybe this time around I’ll like it more. No one’s going to read this, it’s going to be retardedly long. NOTE; this is not intended to be some kind of takedown of this movie. It’s a kind of personal exercise to work out my thoughts on the film.
Opening scene: the first joke is cringe at best. I’ve seen people justify it by saying Han’s joke in the OG was also silly, and it was but it was quick. It was also sold based on the look of frustration Han expressed when he impulsively replied “how are you?” I also have a problem with starting the movie off with a giant cgi space battle. Do something with the characters first, set up some plot threads (the crawl doesn’t count). A big chaotic action scene opener is difficult to care much about if we don’t quite know the stakes. Don’t assume our interest from the first film has carried over and automatically will make us absorbed the instant this movie turns on. Other than that it’s a well done cgi action fest. Looks gorgeous and you definitely have a feel for the action in a way other movies who rely heavily on cgi action fests fail to accomplish. Nitpick: I experienced mild emotion when the bomber sacrificed herself, but it almost feels like cheating to have something that will guarantee a reaction, probably because the filmmakers knew that the audience wouldn’t have any investment in the scene and wanted to include some semblance of drama. This is a really minor nitpick and it goes into setting up the Rose character so I’m indifferent towards it.
Rey and Luke’s first scene: I love it! Luke tossing the lightsaber over his shoulder, defying years of fan build up. The look of bafflement on Rey’s face. I’ll get into just how much I like (and some elements I don’t like so much) this running theme when I’m doing a wrap up of sorts but I love this joke to death. The little fishing hamlet Luke lives in is totally awesome looking too. I neither like nor dislike the chinchilla creatures that proved controversial. The nerd in me is disappointed at Luke’s reaction towards his reunion with Chewy. It’s consistent with the theme I like and the place Luke’s character is in, but I just badly wanted them to embrace and go out for a drink or something and reminisce about the OT.
Smoke throne room: awesome visuals! It’s like something out of a Bergman film. Shits all over the dumb lava fortress where Vader chilled in R1. Snoke’s reprimand of Kali Ren is some quality writing too. Snoke, I think, is trying to continue inspiring anger in Kylo, but is also expressing genuine dissatisfaction in Kylo’s performance as a sith. Kyli destroys the mask, a symbol of his giving up the quest to become the new Vader and instead set his own path as he’ll do later in the film.
Back to Luke and Rey: he calls a lightsaber a laser sword! So awesome. The minimization of the importance of the jedi, and thus Star Wars’ real societal importance, is one of my favorite things about this movie. Then Luke Skywalker, one of the most renowned fictional characters ever, mills a giant space cow creature and flags from some green milk grimacing at Rey in the grossest way possible. Just awesome. Needless to say the long spear fishing is awesome, done with panache and the idea in and of itself is cool and creative along with the next sequence as Rey wanders a bit. Visuals are not this movie’s weak point, not by a long shot. It is gorgeous. The exposition about the original jedi texts is very cool, some light worldbuilding does a lot to build investment in a sci fi story.
Rey wants training, Luke doesnt want to give it. Good stuff, builds up mystery. Why does Luke want the Jedi to end? What happened to make him this way? I have to say, as much as I like the turn the character took it’s really hard to see how Luke from the OT could morph into this cynical hermit man. I get that he went through trauma and stuff and people change over 30 years, but it doesn’t seem to square with the kind of Star Wars that I like (light hearted fun action adventure, like SOLO). Minor complaint that I can dismiss intellectually but still feel in my heart.
Back to the resistance: the drama between Poe and Leia makes sense, but still feels dramatically contrived. That kind of dynamic is boring to me. He’s a hot dog pilot who plays by his own rules and she thinks he should’ve followed orders. I’ve seen it done and I just don’t care that much. But it’s necessary for some of the dumber plot elements to come.
CGI space battle! This time I give a shit because we’ve received some exposition and are reminded of why we care about these characters. I like the shot of BB8’s head reattaching to his body, super charming!
Kylo Ren hesitates in taking the kill shot on his mother. Some humanity still exists? I don’t think this squares with his character very well. His murder of his father at the end of TFA was clearly meant to show his total sublimation to the dark side, a complete loss of humanity. The one thing Vader refused to do was kill his family and Kylo’s willingness to cross this line meant he had gone to places even Anakin hadn’t. So Rian Johnson hit the reset button on that. I imagine JJ Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan found this irritating af. I did also, it was one of the most interesting elements of TFA, an overall thematically simpler movie, but honestly I’d give up the complexity of this movie to have a consistent and logically sound adventure story. Nitpick: the shot of Leia zooming back into the airlock superman style is really hard not to laugh at. It’s comical.
Luke and Rey: pretty much love all this stuff. Reshowing the Leaia message from ANH is fan service, but it makes sense in the context of the story unlike a lot of the garbage in R1. Luke gives in to teaching Rey some lessons and I’m not quite sure why. I guess R2’s guilt trip worked?
The dynamic between Holdo and Poe is one of my biggest problems with the movie and the worst of its plot contrivance errors. He’s an impulsive hot-dogger, so she won’t let him in on her plan and expects him to just follow orders. I think this makes her a bad commander, which I’m pretty sure was not Rian Johnson’s intent. She should’ve seen that her treatment of him would lead to more hot-dogging. Or it makes Poe more hate-worthy than Snoke or Kylo Ren, since his stupid dumbass actions have the effect of killing the majority of the resistance (a la Bernouts and non-voting liberals in the 16 election). Is the lesson here to blindly obey authority? If so, that’s pretty stupid.
I find the Rose character charming. She’s immediately likable. Her praise for Finn I think is meant to stand in for Star Wars fan’s obsessive fandom. At least at this moment: I can’t remember if they follow up this line of symbolism.
Their plan is convoluted. One of the reasons I hate the casino planet detour. It would’ve been so much simpler for them to just go immediately to the imperial fleet. So they have to disable the light speed tracker by getting into the imperial ship which they can only do by disabling the security which is only possible by recruiting the code breaker which they have to do by going to a dumb prequel-esque casino planet. Convolution.
The Kylo Ren/Rey scenes are some of the most dramatically effective scenes in the film. Nothing but love for that stuff.
Rey’s plea to Luke to bring back the Jedi and his dismissiveness is similarly effective. I love her naive explanation of the force, Luke’s response “Impressive. Every word in that sentence was wrong”. Good shit. I reiterate, the Rey/Luke scenes are fantastic. Rey’s vision is very powerful, both thematically and visually. The light side of the force is visualized as the life cycle, the dark side as a monstrous pit. Good visual for sure. I’m less sure about how it works into the themes of the film. Luke’s reluctance grows as he sees her base curiosity at the powers of the dark side. The second Rey/Kylo scene is equally effective.
CASINO PLANET: okay, I’m going to slightly shift my original opinion. I opine about how I kinda wish this movie had taken a softer, simpler approach (even though I appreciate the complexity on offer) then I scoff at the presence of a goofy super sci fi sequence. I know that’s sorta contradictory, but I think this could have worked if done differently. First off the introductory shot of the casino is ugly, plain and simple. If it had been lit darker, to show how scummy this was a la the cantina in the OG movie it might not have stuck out. I may only get this vibe because of the prequels, movies I’ve long loathed and this is pretty reminiscent of some of the material there. They also try to wedge in some kind of anti-capitalist subjugation of the poor theme. Now, I’m not against this kind of theme on principle, I’ve seen plenty of movies that I love with this kind of subject matter. But I really don’t want it in Star Wars. If I’m hesitant to accept the complex themes the movie offers through the rest of the runtime I really don’t want to hear about some done-to-death message about the bourgeois and proletariat, especially in FUCKING STAR WARS. I just do not think this is the place for political posturing (DISCLAIMER: I hate Trump, I hate the cGOP, I hate the current political environment and I’m all for politically themed movies, just not Star Wars. It does not feel appropriate in any way) and it muddies the waters of the much more interesting stuff going on in the rest of the film.
Rey training with the lightsaber is dope. I even appreciate the semi-unfunny joke where the fish people’s little cart gets crushed. It’s consistent with the Star Wars spirit. Luke’s diatribe on the mistakes and failures of the Jedi is dope as hell. Refuting the deification of the jedi simultaneously refutes the deification of the Star Wars mythos. I’m all for shitting on dumbass fanboys. Rian Johnson is a real asshole, in the best way though. We get the beginning hints of character arcs here. Rey begins to restore Luke’s faith in the light and Rey comes around to understanding Luke’s dislike of light side based religious organizations? I’m not so sure about that now actually. In theory I like the “down with the old, in with the new” thematic elements but it doesn’t quite make sense in practice. I guess Luke’s disheartening experiences make him a little blind to the dissonance required to hate the jedi on the level he does, but doesn’t that undermine the theme? Someone smarter than me can probably puzzle that out.
The next sequence on the casino planet (jailbreak) is admittedly pretty fun. Benicio is fun and BB8 is awesome. Then the horse creature things. They’re cute I guess or whatever. The appearance of the children set up the ending of the film and the rounding out of the theme, so I like that. The stampede sequence is the ugliest and worst looking stuff in the movie. It looks bad, no two ways about it. Super prequel-y and leaves a really bad taste in my mouth in an otherwise gorgeous film. And I don’t get Rose’s line “now it’s worth it” when she releases the horse creature thing. It’s just sappy and dumb. It’s a shame they make her character so sappy, she’s a really charismatic actress and I was ready to like her but, to me at least, the character comes off as totally ancillary, like we wouldn’t miss anything if she was cut (along with the entire casino planet).
Rey and Kylo’s scenes continue to be the best dramatic material in the film. I don’t understand Kylo’s urge to let the past die. What past is he speaking of? His own where Luke tried to kill him? Because it seems like that was a primary motivator in what he became, so he didn’t let it die at all. Or Rey’s past? Which neither we, the audience, nor her, the film’s character, know jack about. Again, it’s possible I’m just not smart enough to figure this one out.
The dream sequence in the pit was bizarre, but I really liked it. I do not understand the significance. I am not a smart man. But I love that a Star Wars film included a crazy cyclopean Bergman-esque nightmare. Visually incredible and somehow emotionally resonant. It could be that the dark side offers as few answers for her as the light does. It sets up the blurring of the light/dark lines that comes later so that makes sense. I really like the shot of Luke blowing up the hut where it dollies in and out. Very cool. The movie does not lack for interesting visual style, that’s for sure.
The drama between Luke and Kylo is very compelling. His impulse to end Kylo’s life is another example of the jedi being imperfect. The betrayal was what sent Kylo to the dark side for good. It really works here, but again I always think about what I got out of TFA and how this totally backtracks over all of that. My thoughts on that film and the character arcs therein need serious reevaluation in light of this work. Which isn’t fair, because I think my interpretation was accurate to what Abrams and Kasdan intended and Rian Johnson shat all over it. Not that I don’t like the idea of upending the mythos and the ideas of Star Wars, but not at the cost of totally undercutting the dramatic material in the previous film.
Nitpick: how does Yoda have lightning powers as a force ghost? And then he lectures Luke about looking past the books, AKA exactly what he had been doing and then Luke sort of defends the jedi texts? Wasn’t he on his way to burn them just then? Is he just surprised that Yoda was also gung-ho about the burn-the-temple idea? Again, maybe someone smarter than me can puzzle this out, I am but a simple man. But it don’t make no sense.
I like the message of learning from past mistakes and not dwelling or obsessing on past success. I’ve said it multiple times already, but this is the most interesting part of the film by far, even if it doesn’t square with my ideal vision of what a Star Wars franchise ought to be. “We are what they grow beyond. That is the true burden of all masters” Great line!
Benicio’s lines in the next scene about selling the weapons to both the bad and the good actually assuage my criticism of the ancillary subjugation theme. It kind of makes it play into the moral ambiguity theme that the movie is centered around. I still think my criticism holds water, but I see what Rian Johnson was going for now.
Holdo to Poe: “trust me I got this. I’ve got an obvious plan that for some reason the empire for some reason won’t see coming that I’ll counteract through a maneuver that breaks the logic of all the previous Star Wars films”. This plot contrivance grinds my gears to no end. Probably the most severe of this movie’s blunders.
Benicio Del Toro’s character is going to be the Bolba Fett of this trilogy right? He’ll get knocked into the Sarlac Pitt by a blinded Poe Dameron or some shit. JJ Abrams has such a mess to work through.
Ayyyy back to the throne room! I love this place it looks so fucking cool.
There’s a shot during Poe’s mutiny where someone closes a door and it does that speed up thing that the OG movies did that I just love. So charming.
Again, all I’m getting out of the Poe mutiny is the moral “listen to those in authority and never disobey, they know what’s best for you”. Poe literally mutinies, ruins Holdo and Leia’s plans, and gets a huge chunk of the resistance killed but they’re all like “awww that one’s a trouble maker. I like him.” Which means Rian Johnson anticipated this unintended moral coming through and tried to counteract it with that line. He’s gotta know how BS this whole contrivance is, right?
Holdo’s maneuver is a striking visual. And my gut reaction when it happened in the theater was ‘awwwe yeah. Fucking awesome.” But when you think about it not only does it disrupt the entirety of all Star Wars logic, a problem they’ll have a tough time writing around in the next film, but it also undermines a later “message” (if you can call it that) we are shown later in the film. More on that when we get to it.
Nitpick time! I wish they’d done Snoke’s face with practical effects. It would’ve looked so much better. It’s that uncanny valley effect. He’s not un-human enough to keep us from noticing.
Now for more serious errors. So Snoke was aware at how conflicted Kylo was. Set up the whole plot to bring Rey to him so he could get Luke (why does he want Luke? Luke is content to j chill and not do anything) but doesn’t see Kylo’s betrayal coming? It’s set up earlier how much more powerful Snoke is than Kylo as well, but just so Rian Johnson can have his thing where Kylo sort of abandons the dark side and starts going down the middle or something Snoke gets killed. Snoke says that he senses resolve where there was weakness, and it’s clear he’s supposed to be mistaking that for the resolve to kill Rey and complete his sublimation to the dark side (which already happened in TFA but I’ve beat that horse enough) but can’t he read facial expressions? It’s so clear what’s about to go down. Doesn’t make much sense. Tough to overlook, but if the movie were better I wouldn’t mind as much. Hey, at least we get the coolest action scene of the film out of this, where Rey and Kylo fight off the crimson guard or whatever back to back. Super cool visually and I actually like the idea of Kylo going over to the middle and them temporarily teaming up (if it didn’t backtrack over all the great work TFA did but nvm that). Plus those whips they have are dope af and the sound design is stellar. One guy gets like blended up and spit back in little pieces. Totally awesome.
Now here’s another mistake. The movie would’ve won me over it had been truly convinced of its convictions. If the idea is that the Jedi and Sith are old news and we need to forge a new path then why didn’t Rey join up with Kylo? Wouldn’t that be the natural thing to happen? Of course this wouldn’t work because then it would place our heroine in opposition of the resistance we’d been following the entire time, and if she brought them around then we wouldn’t need a third movie. But why doesn’t she join up with Kylo? Is she refuting the movie’s entire theme, that we should forget about the old ways and forge our own path? Or did she remember she likes those dudes with the resistance and realizes she’d have to kill them or some shit if she joined Kylo? So I guess it means that even if we don’t necessarily totally align with good/evil we can still fight over other shit? But what is that other shit now? This movie is kind of a mess isn’t it?
BTW short note having Rey’s parents be nobodies was the only choice they could’ve made. I like it so much more than the idea that they’d be some background characters from the PT or OT or even like Obi-Wan’s daughter. That would’ve been super dumb.
This is probably the closest Benicio Del Toro has gotten to reprising his character of fenster from The Usual Suspects, right? The weird speaking cadence and facial expressions are so Fenster. It’s weird that the movie would take us through all that convolution, to the casino planet, onto the new ship, through all the security, half an hour plus of screentime devoted to this machination, and then just have Finn and Rose utterly fail. I’ve seen it praised as a subversion of expectations, but it feels super unsatisfying in practice. It’s like, wow, so the heroes of the movie are responsible for the decimation of all their friends because they’re incompetent and insubordinate and I’m supposed to like that just because I didn’t expect it? I like these characters! I don’t want to see them fail so egregiously. Or if they do fail maybe they should get something out of the experience, like Luke and Yoda talked about earlier. I don’t see any of that.
I’ve seen people bitch about the shot where it’s revealed that BB8 is piloting the ATST. Get over yourselves, it’s a movie. And their reaction, one of puzzlement, totally sells the bit.
What am I supposed to get out of the bit where Finn kills Phasma? He’s rebel scum? Is that cool? Cause you’re the reason a huge chunk of the rebellion just got murdered. Quality rebelling right there dude.
I think by now I’m so frustrated with some of the other occurrences I’m getting bothered by dumb stuff. It happened in my original viewing too. So some positives. The salt planet looks really cool! Those crystal wolf creatures are kinda cool too! That’s it though, more complaining incoming. Welcome back to the resistance Finn and Rose! All you guys did was fuck up and nothing was accomplished.
So now comes the contrivance for the final action scene. They need to buy time for the rest of the resistance to respond to them (which they never do) so they get in some shitty ship things and attack a bunch of imperial walkers well knowing they are absolutely no match and accomplish pretty much nothing but got a lot of valuable pilots killed (something he was repeatedly chastised for doing in the beginning of the movie, but it’s okay now?). Wow, great stuff. At least the visual of the ships dragging up the red stuff splayed on the white backdrop looks really cool. Honestly, fuck the theme stuff that shit isn’t even consistent or that well done. The visuals are the coolest part of this movie (minus the casino stuff of course).
Ok, when Rey shows up in the Falcon that shit was awesome. Watching her battle them in the crazy crystal mine place with the awesome John Williams score, communicating with Chewy piloting and the little creature thing attempting a cute little wookie roar, that was all super charming and I was having a lot of fun.
The second dumbest thing to happen in the entire film comes next. Finn is ready to sacrifice himself, to buy time for the resistance and make the attack effective (even though they could’ve sent out a single kamikaze that would’ve been equally effective with a bit of backup, but Rose almost kills herself preventing Finn from accomplishing his mission. Why, you ask? Finn is making up for his horrible mistakes that got so many people killed, but Rose says no, no because we will win not by fighting what we hate, but saving what we love.
What? Huh? Wouldn’t him stopping the breakdown of the resistance barriers be him saving what he loves? And, greatest of all, why was what Holdo did any different? She sacrificed herself for the greater good. Would Rose have stopped her, thus dooming what was left of the resistance, insisting that we need to save what we love. NOTHING MAKES ANY SENSE GUYS AM I GOING CRAZY WHY DO SO MANY RESPECTABLE FILM CRITICS THINK THIS IS BRILLIANT STUFF PLEASE SOMEONE EXPLAIN TO ME. Again, I’m but a simple man. Maybe all of you guys who thought this was brilliant have some sort of higher level of understanding than I do. Please explain it in terms I can understand I’ll assimilate what you say in good faith.
Look, Rian Johnson knows how to direct a film with visual acumen and incredible style. He can really put together some dope shit when he needs to and he does so here. I badly wish he was a consultant on the writing and they’d instead had Lawrence Kasdan and JJ Abrams plan out the entire story from the beginning. What possessed Disney to think that individual people connecting a serialized story without any sort of grand plan would create a salient, cohesive narrative? So much about this movie is completely baffling to me and so many people whose opinions I greatly admire seem to have nothing but love for this mess just because it subverted expectations. I appreciate that about it, sure, but that doesn’t excuse its blatant narrative fumbling.
The rest of the movie is pretty ok. I like the stuff with force projection Luke. His character arc still doesn’t quite make sense to me though. Like, what did he realize at the end? That, oh, I was right the whole time about the jedi needing to die but I should probably get over my self imposed isolation and lend the resistance a hand? Why? He didn’t really learn anything, Yoda just told him what he’d been expressing all along. You know they really coulda used that helping hand a while ago homie, maybe they wouldn’t be so on the ropes now you know?
Then Leia kind of hands the reigns off to Poe who has done nothing but fuck up and accomplish nothing the whole time. That didn’t feel like a forced arc at all. Was he supposed to learn how to be more subservient and follow orders? Cause he didn’t. Was he supposed to learn to take matters into his own hands and lead when it was required of him? Because that behavior has gotten a lotta people killed in three different circumstances over the course of the film.
Why did Luke’s projection dying kill him too? This is admittedly a serious nitpick, I’d be okay with it had the rest of the movie made sense.
Was Rey’s ability to lift up those stones supposed to be the completion of her arc? I don’t get it. What changed that let her be much more powerful in the force all of a sudden? Maybe her rejection of Kylo’s offer, aka what really seemed to be the main point of the movie? And wait, if the message was that the old need to die and we should move on why is Luke insisting he isn’t the last jedi? So I guess all of that was wrong and we really should trust in the idea of the jedi? Or maybe this is a new version of the jedi uninhibited by the old’s mistakes. But why would the new generation be inhibited by the old’s mistakes in any case? What happened in this movie to change that?
When I originally watched this movie I tricked myself into really enjoying the ideas of the movie. I liked the idea of the theme and I liked Rian Johnson’s attempts to totally subvert my expectations. I had similar reservations about the function of the plot, thought the characters made stupid decisions, but I thought hey at least he tried something cool and original.
But now that I’ve poured a lot of time and effort into really parsing what this movie had to offer I’ve realized even the elements I thought were cool are muddied by bad storytelling and inconsistent thematic work. I thought I’d probably upgrade my review at the end to three, maybe up to four stars. Nah. Downgrade to two. The competency with which the movie was made and the visual style earn it those two. It’s far from a boring movie. But it is so frustrating. Frustrating because it has potential, the ideas are there, the technique is excellent. But the fundamentals are totally outta whack
I’m done writing about this bullshit now.