Disney has been on an undeniable streak of Empire-esque ambitions. From the acquiring of 20th Century Fox to be added to the towering powerhouse that is Marvel, the conglomerate did some more IP flexing last week with the latest outing of the famed Star Wars franchise – Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
With the many trailers that arose gave the impression of the entire Jedi existence been thrust into a precarious state, with a hateful and anger filled Kylo Ren coupled with a desperate Rey in search for guidance with this new awoken force within her.
So with that said, did The Last Jedi deliver on its doomsday message, or was this more promo-meandering to get fans off the scent of the real narrative and, ergo, the direction of the Star Wars franchise in the future.
Let’s do this, with force.
The Empire is stronger than it’s ever been. And the resistance is on the run. And the only way to start a Star Wars film is an intense battle in space. And it’s is in this arena that ace-fighter pilot Poe shines like a brash insubordinate buzz-boy, with BB-8 at his 6 of course. Poe buys time keeping the Empire occupied while the Resistance makes a hasty exit from their compromised home base. But the empire brings a fleet killer called the Dreadnought, and Poe takes it on himself to ignore Leia’s command to retreat and instead gives the order to bombers and fighters to take it out. The resulting victory is a Pyrrhic on and many are lost. Finn recovers from fear and whatever ailed him in The Force Awakens and we get to the real burning issues – like where is Rey?
Seeking guidance from a hairy, old hermit. As you do. But the Luke we once knew is gone as he seems a shell of his former self who has totally cut himself from the world and the force. His reasoning is the same as a person who doesn’t believe we have an effect on global warming. The idea that the force needs to be put back in balance by them is self-aggrandising; Luke now seems to believe that the force has and will always find a way to balance itself, with our without the Jedi. This is of course not what Rey wants to hear, and soon other compassionate listening voices start to ebb her in the direction of the Dark side.
Despite Rey’s raw ability, she is somewhat rudderless, and suddenly finds herself psychically linked to Kylo Ren. And Ren has his own motives, which begins as the need to kill every link to his Jedi past. But as things near to a crescendo, Kylo wants to ring the hollow sound of death with a toll that would see the entire Jedi order and the division and conflicts they wrought totally done away with.
Right now, I’m pretty much with Kylo Ren on this one. Who else was bad-ass enough to bring Luke out of retirement. Well, an astro-projection of Luke. Paramount to a visual voicemail if you ask me. The disrespect.
The maturity of Kylo Ren has been the most satisfying character development in the entire Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The Force Awakens showed a childish temper-tantrum Kylo who wore a mask trying to mimic Darth Vader. But the cold lecture from Ren talked about Ren fabled bloodline ultimately being weak as even Darth Vader showed confliction in his last hours. Snoke demands Kylo remove his childish helmet and once removed we now have an enemy who is about to become iconic in his own right. Both in the narrative sense and in the sense of the Star Wars franchise. Funny how those work hand-in-hand.
This was a good decision, as this is the best Kylo Ren we’ve seen who has stepped out of the shadow of Darth Vader’s legacy to pave his own.
At this point, we are kind of wondering what the actual direction or point of Finn is. We are constantly, on one hand, showing him as the flight guy – the one who is quick to run from battle to save his own hide, as in The Last Jedi where he gets caught trying to escape the sure coming battle before being caught by Rose. But then when he comes face to face with the likes of Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens and the tripped-out chrome toaster Stormtrooper boss-lady, he is up in arms, swallowing his fear and going in Geronimo-style.
It’s one thing to have doubt and fear. Rey has doubts and fears too. But she doesn’t run. She faces whatever comes, even in a trippy amusement park-esque cave of mirrors that she wanted to reveal the true identity of her parents. Who else thought of some hillbilly type of union when the simulacrum of her silhouetted parents melded into one? Just me? Okay then.
The issue as such with Finn is we are not sure what his journey is. One would expect it would be on par with Rey; trying to find purpose from the source. But whatever it involved, running away wouldn’t be an option he should jump to every chance he gets. If they have him ducking all the time I’m going to suggest Wookiee abandon his vegan ways and start expanding his menu to man.
But now Finn sees himself as ‘Rebel Scum’. We got there in the end… somewhat. All conflicts concerning Finn were far from tactical. In fact, his ‘fight’ responses to conflict only arise when he is truly cornered, and he would have died if not for sheer luck or Rose kamakazing Finn’s Kamikaze attempt to take out another hellish First Order WMD.
Let’s hope writers will help him commit to his resolve and give him other obstacles to clear aside from literal things that stand in his way as he runs from a fight.
Star Wars has always been a pioneer of rigged mechanical rigs and creature design. Some stand the test of time. Most are appreciated for the effort and is viewed in context of available technologies of the time.
Now whilst it may be several years to see whether the creature designs will stand the test of time for The Last Jedi, but it’s safe to say while creatures like the Crystal Fox showed strong conceptualisation and execution that married rigs and CGI.
But did we really have to see Luke assault a rather painfully-obvious rig for Bantha milk. Not like we need to see where blue milk comes from. Its blue. We know its from some weird creature. But seeing Luke milk the poor thing by the shore line is about as much animal
sexual abuse one can take.
And the Porgs? As cute as they are, they suffered in places too in terms of expressions and mechanics. Maybe it’s because they spoiled Wookiee’s campfire feast.
It what has to be the best fight sequence in the entire film is to see Kylo and Rey, back to back, side by side fight through Snoke’s armed guard, who did a poor job might I add seeing Kylo used to force to slay his own master via a lightsaber that lay beside him. The pair were scrambling, ruthless, cohesive and graceful all at once. It actually made me want to see Rey take his hand.
The fact that they were psychically linked I felt was a nice touch where destiny was almost calling these two together. But for what. It doesn’t matter. That fantasy gets ruined when we find out Snoke orchestrated a psychic link between the two prodigies, using both the trustworthiness and weaknesses as pawns to locate the whereabouts of Skywalker.
But other than the Force psychic calls, did Rey really come face to face in the cavern of mirrors. The force that was calling her into the glory hole of dark inky swells that conveniently lived underneath the island. Is that the place that harbours the ‘balance’ betwixt light and dark. Did we ever get an explanation of why Luke was so terrified when Rey seemed locked in a trance? I don’t know, if that place was the embodiment of the dark side, it’s slightly better than the mirrors in my bathroom after a steamy hot bath. I always have this dark fantasy that I wipe the steam away and revealed is maniacal masked killer standing right … behind… me? Nope, no one there. Whew.
Now let’s talk about Luke. The hope of the entire Jedi religion rested on the Skywalker prodigy. And we finally get more on the backstory of Skywalker’s tutelage of Kylo Ren, then Ben Solo. Luke says he sensed the darkness in him and in a fleeting moment drew his lightsaber to cut him down in his sleep. Kinda a pussy move. Very bitch. But when Luke gets the better of himself, Kylo awakens and sees Luke’s violent intent, razing the temple about them as they cross swords.
So Luke blames himself for failing Ben, his nephew, and Leia, and Han Solo. So his answer is to become a recluse, abandoning the ways of the Jedi and the force altogether. Talking all crazy about how the Jedi must come to an end. Poppycock
It is only with the emergence of Rey and her unrefined but powerful gift in the force does she slowly start to bring Luke out of retirement. Now if you’re bringing out a star player out of retirement to meet his demise. It has to be pretty epic. Luke dabbled in both the dark and the light. Witness his father’s death. Men like this never die in peacefully in their sleep or meditating on a cliff somewhere miles away from the action.
We do believe Luke deserved to be one with the force. But like Jesus, he should’ve physically show up to the crucifixion. Not astro-projecting a mind fuck. It’s like he hadn’t the balls to face Kylo Ren, his legacy’s biggest mistake, by Luke’s own assessment.
Disney has a lot of Hydra tentacles in a lot of pies. But like the beautiful world that played the final battle arena for Kylo and Luke, there is blood in the snow. Well, red salt under the snow. Still cool. But ultimately, it is a perfect metaphor for Disney’s intent come the next onslaught of Star Wars films lay unearthed. Rumour has it The Last Jedi is a gateway movie that opens up possibilities of exploring The First Order and the legacy of Snoke, his rise to power and the likes.
Additionally (to me), it seems like The Last Jedi was quick to get rid of the old guys. And there could be many reasons for that. But one is obvious. And ugly. Old people die. Carrie Fisher aka Princess Leia – gone. Lit like a lightsaber on that Stardust. God forbid Mark Hamill can’t play Luke any more. And let’s have Harrison Ford’s Han kick the bucket as we replace him in a solo Solo movie.
There is also another reason. An extension of the first, if you will. The Last Jedi now doesn’t feel as much a epic conclusion to a building story – one we thought would see a Luke chose sides. Maybe a fight between elders Snoke and Luke? But whatever. This film was the last, yes. But not of the Jedi. It was the last changing of the guards from the old to the new. Future films (and there will be a helluva lot as Disney flexes their Empire endeavors) will likely refer to the old Luke, or Han Solo, or Leia, but their visages will likely only exist via VFX witchery. Or at least that is what it feels like. Only to be used to make a referential pass to the old glory days of Star Wars like Yoda’s astral cameo.
The end of Skywalker wasn’t a spectacle to behold. Contrarily, it felt a bit contrived. Almost as contrived as that Finn / Rose romance. We find Luke only to see him as a shell of a man to then have him astro-project himself to buy time for the Rebellion to retreat (they were running away throughout the entire film [something in common with Finn there]). An act that costs Skywalker his life, giving up the ghost to the Force. Hell, Obi-Wan Kenobi went out with more moxy.
Rey effortlessly aids in the Rebels escape by levitation boulders, equipped with all the raw talent in the world and three cheap lessons from Luke Skywalker himself. She is the future hope of the Rebels. And any success in that will be virtually separate and independent of Skywalker. Kylo also takes his place as her antithesis. The old gods are dead. The young gods are bold, and brash and rudderless. Sentiment of the world today it seems.
A lot of sacrifices were made in The Last Jedi. Much of it on the side of the Rebels. Despite seeing 3 technological marvels of the First Order including tracking the trail of ships via its lightspeed, nothing particularly dynamic happens. We had a narrative that saw Rose and Finn’s efforts to get a codebreaker to surpass security on an Empire ship to disable their ability to track the escaping Rebel fleet amount to a whole lot of nothing. Not to mention a stuttering Benicio Del Toro is slightly weird and it breaks my heart.
The design and decor is the core strength of the Star Wars franchise, and for the most part, The Last Jedi the keeps up tradition. From Snoke’s inner chambers to the final battleground. And while hot-head Poe uses descretion in the end to make a hasty retreat, Rey finally finds out her place in the grande scheme of things, Finn, well, is “rebel scum”? Right.
And while this is far from Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice, it feels like The Last Jedi to some degree serves the same purpose. That its to say it is just a bridging mechanism to Star Wars geared towards a younger generation and younger actors. And it seems Luke Skywalker was that last connective tissue needing severance. So it seems the old school will have to live out their days in solo spin-off film projects as the new school generation become center-focus in the core Star Wars movies. Highlighted even further as the dirt-poor kids at the end of the film speak of tall tales of the man that was Skywalker in their play, and then return to their forced labour as a kid subtly and casually uses the force to telekenetical take his broom in hand. He is the future. And where the greatest merchandising potential lies.
And a small fact, around 90% of blockbuster power this year has been with Disney and affiliate brands – ergo Marvel and Star Wars. Let that sink in.