'The Last Jedi' is Entertaining Fun, NOT a Liberal Screed (SPOILER REVIEW)
This here review be as full of spoilers as the Millennium Falcon is of pogs. If anyone here doesn't want to be spoiled about Star Wars: The Last Jedi make the jump to hyperspace now, and head to the spoiler-free version. Don't blame Lando if you can't make the jump before I lightsaber a rock off a cliff.
Now that business is dispatched, let's get to the necessary disclaimers for triggered freaks who take everything literally. Except the word "literally" which they use more liberally than Leia does hairspray.
A movie should be reviewed for exactly what it is. I say this for n00bs who judge a film (book, home decor, or your mom) based on their genre preferences. Star Wars isn't going to move you to change how you treat your sister-in-law this Christmas. It's not going to make you appreciate fine dining. You won't come out of the theatre blown away by any actor's performance. Star Wars isn't meant to be a deep-thinking mind-bender, film noir throwback, or sexy Rom Com where some girl next door changes the cold heart of a handsome weirdo. I won't judge a film for what it isn't.
Tedious notes said, The Last Jedi is an entertaining Star Wars film. Not as rich as Empire Strikes Back, but packing more interest (in my opinion) than The Force Awakens or Rogue One.
Surely everyone will comment on how this movie rehashes far too many scenes and plot points from the original trilogy. Allow me to to do the same. Last Jedi opens with the "Resistance" fleet (thesauruses were sourced for synonyms of "Rebellion") fleeing a planet in ways similar to Empire Strikes Back. Sans the fun battles on the Planet Hoth. Instead, the space battle here is between Poe (refusing to follow orders from his command) in his edgy black X-Wing fighter and a fleet of bombers whose bombs (which look like the cartoon time-bombs) magically use gravity in space. Rather than pilots checking in, they all tell each other obvious things in NFL commentating fashion. "If this team wants to make it to the super bowl, they need to move the ball in this playoff game." Similarly, "We need to take out those guns on this super big ship we won't call a Star Destroyer, otherwise we'll get blown to smithereens." I'm paraphrasing. Always flying in "tight formation." You know, in a straight line. Kind of like the Red Coats marching in a line, set to drumbeats, making them easier to pick off with spray shot and cannon fire.
Yes, I said the movie is simple and entertaining. It is. Doesn't mean I can't mock it where it deserves to be mocked.
After making one jump to light speed, the "First Order" (a lame name, but again, this isn't a heady independent documentary about elephant genocide) manages to track the
Rebel Resistance Fleet to their new location. This sets up the space-setting conflict of the film. General Leia's fleet needs to stay just out of range of the Empire's First Order's fleet so the First Order's cannons don't cause as much damage when they're fired from longer range. Despite there being no such thing as "drag" in the vacuum of space. So how weapons lose power at a greater range I don't know. Apparently all space ships have one top impulse speed. Maybe the galaxy's yuppy, upper crust elites (featured later in the film), who design weapons, can build better engines for their clients' space ships. This galaxy far, far away needs its Enzo Ferrari.
Also, if you're stuck on "OMG, this so isn't real" don't see this movie. Because it gets worse: the writers had a chance to kiss General Leia and her new hairdo goodbye but passed. Here's what happens: Leia's bridge gets blasted by a group of fighters (Kylo Ren among them, but he didn't personally pull the trigger. All sons love their mothers, even the emo boys who look like Snape), sending Liea and her band of merry men and women into the cold blackness of space. Only we later find out Leia must be on the Force's nice list this Christmas season. She manages to awaken and float her happy self back into the ship. Skywalker privilege, nerf-herders. Your suspension of disbelief: shove it up Yoda's ass, you will.
Meanwhile on Luke's Skull Island, Rey learns the ways of the force without actually learning the ways of the force. Instead assuming a yoga pose and reaching out to touch faith. She's her own personal Kenobi.
Now, in defense of Rey just knowing the ways of the Force without being taught: I get it. Not sure there's a more tired action movie trope than "the training montage." We watched Yoda teach Luke how to lift rocks with his mind already. The Star Wars audience knows how people learn the ways of the Force, thanks to the previous seven movies: through feelings and other vague practices. Vague because the Force is as real as a British accent where there is no Britain. Sorry, personal pet peeve.
Skipping over the training montage scene(s) allowed us to cut to what was the most interesting theme (in my opinion) of this film: the connection between Kylo Ren and Rey, forged through their deep understanding of the Force. A connection which remains even after Snoke (another cartoonish name and villain, but probably not to 12-year-olds, let's not get too snobby) gets a hot slice to the midsection via Luke's old light saber. Plot twist to a scene lifted directly from Return of the Jedi.
Rather than the conflict Luke has finding himself within the Force's light and dark side, The Last Jedi personifies the conflict in Kylo Ren and Rey. Yes, it's ying and yang. But for once, these two characters don't share a biological bond. They're not long lost twins, separated at birth, whose mother died birthing them. We know Kylo Ren's heritage, and Rey's doesn't matter. That seems to have been laid to rest in this film. Each character is trying to find their place in the universe, and their purpose, using each other for personal discovery. Character dichotomies, foils, doubles and doppelgängers have always been fascinating to me. I was pleasantly surprised to find this theme in The Last Jedi, expecting only to see flying ships, light saber battles, and corny dialogue (as is standard in Star Wars films).
Now, the social justice angles. I didn't notice any. But nor was I looking for them. Therein lies, as they say, the consensual rub. I predict many a geek of right-leaning perspective will complain about too much social justice warriorism in one form or another. One example might be General Leia and Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) shutting down Poe. I expect someone will say this was a feminist plot line, wherein Leia and Holdo somehow silence Poe for his "toxic masculinity." In fact, some feminists might claim the same from the other side of their screechy aisle. I didn't see Poe is a Hot Head angle as anything other than what it was: Poe is a hot head who thinks he knows better (he doesn't), his grand plan fails, and he's revealed to be wrong not just about his scheme, but about the person against which he conducted a mutiny. Reverse all the genders, keep all the genders the same, swap races, do whatever you want for this plot point, and you'll find no angle exists. Poe is the younger, lower ranking soldier to the elder, more war-experienced veterans. Poe failed to follow orders. Talk to a military person about this one for clarification, they'll tell you orders are there for a reason. Young pilots tend to be hot heads anyway, which is why they're dogfighting, they're not commanding armies. This isn't feminism, meninism, or any kind of ism. Stop it. If anything the angle is age = greater wisdom.
Okay, so this review is getting longer than the infinite line of Reys when she got sucked into Skull Island's rock vagina. Lemme tell you what I think about Luke's storyline before closing this review like a facial flesh wound.
Luke being kind of jaded asshole is a little bit of a character departure, but not much. Here's my reasoning: Luke's character evolved in the original trilogy from naive whiner bitching about needing power converters over Green Acres Farm Living, to being open to sacrifice for Daddy Dearest. Even though papa sliced off his hand. That's growth, yes, but also emotionally driven. We won't do a Freudian reading of the "No, I am your father scene." Where Vader cuts off Luke's lightsaber-wielding hand. Where lightsaber is a sword. Swords are phallic. Connecting the dots, are you? Uh huh.
So that Luke, after saving Vader and restoring order to the galaxy, thought he could become Jedi Master, teacher of nephews, only to find himself overwhelmed with no advice to seek and thus marinates in his own failure, isn't hard to believe. It's a movie, so Luke had to spell out how his hubris skunked him in a five minute segment. As opposed to a John Galt-like monologue, though completely fleshed out, spans well over twenty pages. Size ten font. Gawd.
Luke has always had a penchant for moodiness, acting emotionally rather than logically (leading him to abandon his training with Yoda to save Han and Leia in Empire Strikes Back. His intentions aren't all wrong). Not much of a stretch, I reckon, for Luke to have a galactic pity party when his pupil not only outshined him, but overpowered him. A tantrum which ultimately leads him to introvert paradise: an island in the middle of nowhere with cute critters and no people. No wonder he never wants to leave. When I can I move in?
Should you see The Last Jedi? If you haven't already, I say yes. I was entertained from start to finish, enjoyed the plot twists, the humorous snark which was popped in (Disney owns Star Wars now, what did you expect?) and where each character (including Luke) ultimately arrived to set up the third film: Star Wars: We Don't Need a Name, You'll Geek Out Regardless.