i completely cannot understand why this new star wars installment is dividing people so hard. this is objectively such a good movie. the spoiler free version to start with:
from a technical standpoint i don’t think it’s a stretch to say no other star wars movie can even come close to last jedi. the musical theming we have come to expect, but now the visuals, the art palletes, the cinematography, and thematic elements deeper than “go underdogs” and “go characters i like” on top of some outrageously strong acting, dialogue that mostly isn’t cheesy mumbo jumbo, and characters who have flawed motivations all coming together in conflict, resolved with so much grace. this is a really strong movie just as a movie. it’s imperfect–and i’ll list a few whines i have with it–but i like this movie a lot.
my main purpose below the Spoiler Marker won’t be to talk about the movie so much, but to look at some of those thematic elements i mentioned and wonder aloud… now what? where can the series go from here?
[this is the spoiler marker]
[seriously i’m going to drop major spoilers immediately]
i do want to start with those gripes though just to get them out of the way. i just saw the movie for a second time and these stuck out to me as kind of, ew.
- i dislike how they handled leia Not Getting Killed By Kylo Ren. my suspicion is, they had planned for him to kill her in IX. that’s probably not happening now for obvious reasons, but i imagine this was some kind of force fate destiny thing. but DUDE. she’s in the vacuum of space. the moisture in her skin is flash freezing. she has suffocated and is dead. her flying herself back to the ship is fine–she’s obviously always been force-sensitive, just untrained–but if you have to have her survive those bombs, there has to be some other way to do it. like she clearly knew what was about to happen. she could feel kylo ren’s thumb hovering over the button. they could have had her brace and hang on to the controls then force-fly her way in or something and fall unconscious to asphyxia just as the door opens. this way was silly and felt bad.
- they play fast and loose with the timeline here while making it look like everything is happening simultaneously. it can’t be. several days pass on luke’s island while the resistance cruiser has like 18 hours of fuel left or something, and kylo ren mind-melds with rey on multiple days.
- i know, the rey narration is actually coming from the next scene, when she’s looking at time stretched out in front of her while we hear her talking to kylo about it, but it’s still extremely sudden narration and very out of place here. it was jarring in a scene that’s already jarring. you over-jarred and now i am tossed out of the movie.
- i’m torn on whether the appearance of yoda was too on the nose or brilliant and awesome. does the movie lose something without that scene? is luke motivated to force-astral-project himself across the galaxy without it?
- i am team anti porgs. are they adorable? yes. are they a cynical ploy to woo you into buying shitty merch? also yes. is it cute and hilarious that the porgs were terrified that a giant ass wookiee had just KILLED THEIR FRIEND and was about to EAT him in front of them all? NOT AT ALL, that was sad as hell and threw me out of the movie. especially that one who was the most scared, you just slaughtered his brother and got annoyed that he was sad and terrified you were going to snack on his body, you shag monster. “isnt it a little hypocritical of you to gender the porgs” hey you know what, you try making that bullet point make sense without losing clarity in a bunch of “theys” and without turning them into nonliving things with “its”. anyway it isn’t necessary for chewbacca to take on porg pets by viscerally shaming him for eating meat and exploiting the (fictional, i will emphasize) porgs’ clear grief and mortal horror because their eyes are cute.
- bb-8 coming out of the head of an at-st was the most “fuck you movie” moment of any of the new movies, and that includes all of the bullshit that happens in the final act of rogue one. to the director’s credit, he almost seems to apologize for this, as fin and rose look at each other like, hang on, really? dafuq? how…? but if you know it’s incredibly stupid then you could have done better. that might work in a comedy but this was a movie with fun and jokes in it and that isn’t the same thing.
now that i have bitched about continuity, magic bullshit, and porgish liberation, let’s gush.
- wasn’t it awesome at the end when 3po was doing his godawful 3po stats line and poe told him to shut the hell up?
- wasn’t it so funny at the beginning when poe was acting like he had a bad connection to general hux to stall for time, like usually in sci fi movies all the tech works great until the plot needs it not to for suspense, so thats a super original gag because we dont expect the idea of the tech failing?
- wasn’t that shot of the resistance cruiser accelerating to lightspeed but hitting stoak’s ship before it reaches that point and just slicing it in half in total silence and almost monochrome jaw-dropping and amazing and the most arresting shot in any star wars movie to date easily?
- wasn’t the crystal planet like so visually stunning?
- wasn’t it neat when luke met up with r2d2?
- wasn’t the “rhyme” between “the force isn’t all lifting rocks” and “ha, lifting rocks” perfect?
- wasn’t it awesome when the mind link between rey and kylo first showed up and rey was like hey its you i hate you and kylo was just like, bemused, like, oh, huh, what’s going on here?
- wasn’t the fight scene they shared badass and stoak’s death a great way for both kylo to not turn, because he is following the sith tradition of defeating your master, and also rey to trust he was going to, and THIRD to set up said badass fight scene which was great and fun to watch and made kylo ren trust rey was going to turn with him?
- wasn’t adam driver amazing in this movie in general?
- wasn’t the banter between hux and kylo ren great?
- wasnt it awesome when poe acted to the new general whose name i cant remember (she had purple hair and i spent both entire watches of the movie wishing she had been played by jewel staite, not that this actress was bad or anything) like he was entitled to answers and she just shut him down hard?
- dont you want more of the obviously untold backstory between her and leia?
i’m ranking this movie 3rd in my star wars power rankings.
4. Rogue one
the shit one. I
we don’t talk about that one. II
okay, so now to that thematic thing.
star wars hasn’t really had anything to say about the world before. galaxy? world, screw it. it’s never been about nothing–it’s been about lots of things, but it’s never really made commentary before. that all changes with the side plot that people who aren’t thinking too hard about the movie consider a red herring.
fin and rose go to canto bight, aka the wokening of the fin
let’s sum what’s going down here. fin and rose take a little transport through hyperspace (….k) to the playground of the ultra-wealthy: a casino and resort on canto bight. that’s where they’re going to find a master hacker to come save their day. we aren’t told why that moz or whatever person thinks he will agree to help them, but they’re pretty desperate, so you may as well go for it. they park at random on a beach. this isn’t any other place, this is canto bight–someone owns that land, and you didn’t pay them cash to sit your ship there, so you’re now guilty of criminal trespass. rose is not looking forward to this place, but fin gets there and is like blown away, this is opulent and fabulous. i mean, he’s just a stormtrooper, so the line we get is “wow, this place is great” but you know. they step outside and she explains she came from a planet where she was of a slave, child labor caste. their masters got uberrich by selling what her people mined out of the ground. we see some child laborers in that shot, but they aren’t yet important, what’s important is the uhhhhhh dog-cat-horse-goats standing in for quarterhorses on this planet. they’re held against their will and cruelly forced to do something pointless so someone else can profit. this isn’t just a casual animal liberation subplot, the creatures are a symbol of rose’s people. she reveals that most of these people got their wealth from selling arms to the fascUH ahem the first order, and that’s the last piece to fall into place for fin, he decides… you know what, you’re right, these people sit on a throne of blood and lies. then they get arrested.
what happens next is important. they don’t get to meet their master codebreaker, but they do casually run into someone else who can do the job. (hacker ex machina?) he gets them out of their cell and they escape, immediately finding themselves where? the horse-dog-goat-cat stables. that symbol of the oppressed from earlier. now we meet the child laborers of canto bight, and this is the crux: rose explains to the kid who they are, and then they set the goat-dog-cat-horses free, smashing the shit out of the casino on the way, in a manner that would have made a black bloc proud. fin is still a little naive. “it was worth it to hurt them,” he says, but come on, these folks are gonna be fine. and then hacker-ex-machina re-appears, and they have no choice but to put their trust in him.
unfortunately, you can’t put your trust in anyone from this world. hacker-ex-machina helps them because the price is right, and then the next time the price is right, he helps their enemies. money is all that matters to these people, and who gets hurt along the way is just an unfortunate cost of doing business. it does get revealed that capitUH (Cough) canto bight people are funding both sides of the war to generate perpetual profit for themselves a little earlier. hacker-ex-machina uses that fact to say look, there are no good or bad guys. finn calls that bullshit and he says, hm, i may be wrong, who cares? i got mine, nothing matters, good luck with getting executed!
what, the hell, is an anti-capitalist subplot doing in a big budget Disney movie? let’s let rose and leia explain.
fin tries to valkyrie himself into the battering cannon. rose shoves him out of the laser’s path. why? “we won’t win by fighting what we hate. we’ll win by saving what we love.” then they kiss and there’s an explosion and sparks behind them and oh my god groanerino, but that line, combined with leia’s last–that between the people in the millenium falcon, they have all they need to spark a new rebellion–explains exactly what that angle is doing here.
in the final shot of the movie the child laborers are dicking around, playing Resistance Soldier, when some boss alien is like hey back to work. the kid goes to grab his broom. it flies to meet his palm–the kid’s force sensitive, look at that. and he shows us he still has rose’s ring with the rebel emblem. and after faking a little sweeping, he lowers that broomstick like a light saber. these kids are going to grow up into adults who resist.
what the last jedi uses this “red herring” subplot to set up is a universe where neither the rebellion nor the empire, neither the resistance nor the first order, can ever truly win, because they’re both profit machines for the ultra-wealthy that can’t exist without the other, without the two in balance. it’s the never ending exploitative struggle between worker and owner that’s behind all this, and not only can we not trust someone from that world to help us, we don’t even need them. the resistance must fend for itself. and it will fend for itself, and it will grow, not by destroying a force clearly more physically powerful than it, but by helping the people, building solidarity with the people, proving to the people that the resistance has their backs, until the people outnumber the forces that would step on them, exploit them and their work, and stop them living their own lives in the name of money and power. star wars VIII is revolutionary canon, yall, and the next time i’m feeling TIRED, i’ma hear the late (goddammit) carrie fisher in my ear: “we have everything we need.”
so yeah, that’s all buried in a movie about space lasers and lightspeed and john williams music. and none of that even begins to touch on kylo ren’s obsession with letting go of the past or how none of this movie would have happened and everyone would be safe if the new resistance leadership just talked to each other. we could expound on that for another–good lord, thats a lot of words. let’s stop this here. this movie owns. publish button.