The Last Jedi: Lightning Doesn’t Strike Twice

 

Two years ago, the world was set alight when The Force Awakens was released. The movie was a mega-hit, in no small part because it stood astride two worlds, the old and the new. It gave us new characters, new worlds, new adventures, but it was grounded in and was respectful, even reverent, of the original trilogy. And, as the first of three movies in a new trilogy, it set up larger questions to be paid off later.

The movie still holds up two years later and I stand by what I wrote about it then.

The new Star Wars flick, The Last Jedi, just opened and picks up where that last movie left off. I’ve been eagerly anticipating it, so I went to the first showing Thursday evening. This is the third new Star Wars movie in three years. Between The Force Awakens and Rogue One, my expectations were high. And, in all honesty, I was disappointed. The movie has several problems.

First, the humor. I read a few early reviews that mentioned it. Yeah, it’s there, or it tries to be anyway. The problem is twofold: not only do the jokes not land, but they don’t fit the tone. The humor was part of the fun of The Force Awakens, but it always fit seamlessly and matched the film’s reverence for the source material. The Last Jedi doesn’t do that. Sometimes the jokes connect, but the tone is always off.

Second, the plot. There’s a main plot and two secondary plots. But the two secondary plots don’t really do anything to progress the main plot. It’s like they had characters and were trying to figure out something to do with them. Compare this to The Force Awakens, where we had a clear plot, we knew where we were going, and everything was, again, seamless.

Third … how do I put this? I don’t want to go so far as to call them “plot holes,” because I feel people misuse that term. But a lot of the characters do stuff that doesn’t make sense, often from a practical military point of view. I’m willing to forgive some things, like in Rogue One where they use the mechanical claw to get the tapes. It’s a little silly, but I’ll forgive it. Fine, the Star Wars universe has its own rules on certain things. But “they can’t shoot us because they don’t see our small ship” isn’t consistent with our understanding of in-universe practicalities.

Fourth, some of the CGI goes too far. I’m going to use that word again — The Force Awakens combined practical and computer effects seamlessly. I didn’t know which were which and, more importantly, I didn’t care. In The Last Jedi, there are a few scenes that are obviously gigantic piles of CGI. Kids may enjoy watching our heroes ride a herd of strange creatures, but I just don’t care.

Fifth, it’s slow at times. The Last Jedi is literally the longest Star Wars movie, but it doesn’t need to be. I still don’t know what the battle in the final act adds to the story. And when part of your plot involves how slow-moving ships cannot catch other slow-moving ships (while other ships somehow can whiz in and out), that’s both problematic and annoying.

Sixth, the payoffs aren’t very good. The Force Awakens sets up a lot of things for future movies — several mysteries and things left to be explained later. Well, later is now. We get to see some of those payoffs and … they just don’t get there. Wow, we get to see Snoke in person and … meh. That’s the thing. There’s lots of “meh” in this movie.

And those are just a few of the problems. There’s plenty more. But there’s also a lot of good stuff in this movie.

First, you’re gonna want to see what happens to these characters. This is a continuation of the story from TFA. You could read a recap to find out what happens, but why read a recap when you can literally watch a Star Wars movie?

Second, there are a lot of surprises in this movie. Over and over again I sat there wide-eyed and open-mouthed because something happened that I did not expect. With some recent movies (Batman vs. Superman comes to mind), the trailers give away all the good stuff.

So should you see it? Yes. If you’re a Star Wars fan, you should absolutely watch this movie at least once. Just know that there are better Star Wars movies out there.

There are 45 comments.

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  1. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    The problem is that the whole series has become meh. With the exception of Rogue One, which I thought was good. Episodes 1-3 were meh at best, and terrible at worst. Episode 7 was….. a little better but still meh to eh.

    Am I the only one who thought it was dumb and jarring that Han Solo returned to smuggling and was still doing it 50 years later in the same broken down ship? A squeaky clean smuggler never doing anything wrong; no more rogue just an LTL freight carrier with no edge? Or did he also return to murdering and stealing too as if his character experienced no growth in episodes 4-6, as if he’s just a ramblin’ man, a rolling stone, with no time for his wife or kid?

    Anyway, the source of the meh is twofold:

    1. Poor writing by people no longer connected to a solid worldview. Now everything is relative in a way it wasn’t back then. Hell, they even built it into the story in episodes 1-3! Remember “only the Sith deal in absolutes” and all that “balance” blather? What happened to Light vs Dark? Is Light now only some relativistic/nihilistic nothingness while Dark represents anyone taking a viewpoint? Geez, that’s really compelling stuff – [sarcasm, obviously].
    2. Groundhog Day. Remember the scene where they first had that snowball fight with those kids and then they fell into the snow and had an intense emotional moment with each other? Yeah, then do you remember when Murray’s character tried to recreate that moment? It doesn’t work. Some moments can’t be recreated; others require sincere spontaneity and purpose – it’s not a scientific chemical formula to be repeated at will whenever you want to whip up some of that old magic.
    • #1
  2. ToryWarWriter Thatcher
    ToryWarWriter
    @ToryWarWriter

    Ed G: Am I the only one who thought it was dumb and jarring that Han Solo returned to smuggling and was still doing it 50 years later in the same broken down ship? A squeaky clean smuggler never doing anything wrong; no more rogue just an LTL freight carrier with no edge? Or did he also return to murdering and stealing too as if his character experienced no growth in episodes 4-6, as if he’s just a ramblin’ man, a rolling stone, with no time for his wife or kid?

     

    –Really? Cause that’s not what happened, and I thought it was clear.  After his family broke up, he went and returned to what he knew.  Lost himself, in the galaxy so to speak.

    • #2
  3. Fred Cole Member
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    ToryWarWriter (View Comment):

    Ed G: Am I the only one who thought it was dumb and jarring that Han Solo returned to smuggling and was still doing it 50 years later in the same broken down ship? A squeaky clean smuggler never doing anything wrong; no more rogue just an LTL freight carrier with no edge? Or did he also return to murdering and stealing too as if his character experienced no growth in episodes 4-6, as if he’s just a ramblin’ man, a rolling stone, with no time for his wife or kid?

    –Really? Cause that’s not what happened, and I thought it was clear. After his family broke up, he went and returned to what he knew. Lost himself, in the galaxy so to speak.

    But that’s not what happened. He didn’t have the Falcon at the beginning of TFA. When things went to hell for him, did he return to being a space hustler?  Yeah. But that seems reasonable to me.

    • #3
  4. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    ToryWarWriter (View Comment):

    Ed G: Am I the only one who thought it was dumb and jarring that Han Solo returned to smuggling and was still doing it 50 years later in the same broken down ship? A squeaky clean smuggler never doing anything wrong; no more rogue just an LTL freight carrier with no edge? Or did he also return to murdering and stealing too as if his character experienced no growth in episodes 4-6, as if he’s just a ramblin’ man, a rolling stone, with no time for his wife or kid?

    –Really? Cause that’s not what happened, and I thought it was clear. After his family broke up, he went and returned to what he knew. Lost himself, in the galaxy so to speak.

    Yes really, that is exactly what happened [EDIT: except for the part about having the Millenium Falcon]. Why not become a legitimate freight carrier or a general or a politician or a bar owner or anything else? For that matter, why did he leave his wife again? Because their son turned evil?

    In his familiar life as a smuggler – did he experience moral conflicts which might be expected after his growth in episodes 4-6 or did he return to remorseless selfishness likely involving stealing and murdering and other unsavory things? To me there is no reconciling his growth with a return to that, with leaving his wife, with not finding some licit activity to lose himself in. And doing it for decades without a return to his senses and newfound truths.

    • #4
  5. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    The bad part is that it’s as if none of it matters. Is that what they’re shooting for? Nothing matters so leave your wife and kid and return to a life of crime for no good or discernible reason? If that’s the overall theme then that is different from the originals and a big part of why none of the new ones work anywhere near as well as the others.

    Let’s also not forget that the originals were novel. Yes there were serials and such which served as the inspiration, but nothing on this scale. It was groundbreaking and beautiful. Yet simple and exciting. None of the sequels can claim novelty; none of them are simple and few are exciting.

    • #5
  6. Brian Watt Member
    Brian Watt
    @BrianWatt

    Yes, yes, yes…but does Jar Jar accidentally eat an Ewok?

    My apologies. I didn’t realize that this was a discussion that takes Star Wars seriously.

    • #6
  7. Pilli Member
    Pilli
    @Pilli

    The problem is that the franchise is totally childish and has been since Ep. 1 came out.  It’s CGI for its own sake.  And, we know there will be another just as lackluster movie from the series soon enough.  Its boring.

    • #7
  8. Fred Cole Member
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    Ed G. (View Comment):

    None of the sequels can claim novelty; none of them are simple and few are exciting.

    I disagree with this.  TFA and Rogue One were both novel and exciting.

    • #8
  9. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    I saw the original film in 1977 and went a second time because I was enthralled with the CGI which was then so breathtakingly new. The storyline was secondary. (I still love the flash of the green bounding box around one of the tie-fighters.) Now even the most mundane film contains a boatload of enhanced graphics.

    When something like this has been around as long this, 40 years for Star Wars and 50 years for “Trek,” whatever “official” storyline that has been concocted is infinitely less satisfying than what the fans have been imagining for themselves. And to top it all off there are volumes of fan-written fiction floating around that reads better than what the studios produce. (Note to studio: Hire someone to write who has as much passion for the story as he does in getting the job in the first place.)

    I remember a story about a letter Bing Crosby wrote to a young performer praising his work but offering a sage piece of advice: Don’t stay on the stage too long. Star Wars Episode 96, or whatever this is “in the cannon,” may have been on the stage too long.

    • #9
  10. Fred Cole Member
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    EJHill (View Comment):
    Star Wars Episode 96, or whatever this is “in the cannon,” may have been on the stage too long.

    This is only the eighth film in the cannon.

    The counter example, of course, is Dr. Who, which seems unending and fans still love it.

    • #10
  11. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    Fred Cole (View Comment):

    Ed G. (View Comment):

    None of the sequels can claim novelty; none of them are simple and few are exciting.

    I disagree with this. TFA and Rogue One were both novel and exciting.

    I agree that Rogue One was exciting and you could make a case that it was novel. TFA was recycled without most of the good things that made the originals so good while also actively damaging much of what was good about the originals. True enough that TFA was better than the prequels but that is a low bar.

    • #11
  12. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    EJHill (View Comment):
    I saw the original film in 1977 and went a second time because I was enthralled with the CGI which was then so breathtakingly new. The storyline was secondary. (I still love the flash of the green bounding box around one of the tie-fighters.) Now even the most mundane film contains a boatload of enhanced graphics.

    When something like this has been around as long this, 40 years for Star Wars and 50 years for “Trek,” whatever “official” storyline that has been concocted is infinitely less satisfying than what the fans have been imagining for themselves. And to top it all off there are volumes of fan-written fiction floating around that reads better than what the studios produce. (Note to studio: Hire someone to write who has as much passion for the story as he does in getting the job in the first place.)

    I remember a story about a letter Bing Crosby wrote to a young performer praising his work but offering a sage piece of advice: Don’t stay on the stage too long. Star Wars Episode 96, or whatever this is “in the cannon,” may have been on the stage too long.

    Right. Let the characters ride off into the sunset. We don’t need to know that they’re likely returning to some drudgery and that they likely won’t be called on to be heroic again in their lives. Mundane doesn’t play well and neither does belaboring the point. Leave the audience wanting more instead of delivering things that break the spell no matter how much they clamor for it.

    • #12
  13. Fred Cole Member
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    Ed G. (View Comment):
    TFA was recycled without most of the good things that made the originals so good

    I disagree with that.  The similarities are only superficial.  If you look past the surface you see that every echo of the original in TFA intentionally twists it in new ways.

    An easy example is right at the beginning. Leia and Po both put data devices into their respective cute droids and sent them off into the desert.

    But Leia sends R2 towards Obi Wan Kenobi and this action is important to forwarding the main plot.  In contrast, Po sends BB-8 off into the desert away from what’s going on.  The information BB-8 isn’t important to the main plot, only to the secondary plot.

    You’d have a point if they did the same thing twice.  But the similarity is only at the surface, it’s just an echo.  It’s meant to be evocative, to remind us of the past.  But in reality they’re doing two very different things.

    • #13
  14. EJHill Podcaster
    EJHill
    @EJHill

    Fred Cole: The counter example, of course, is Dr. Who, which seems unending and fans still love it.

    The British will also fund and watch the 132nd adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. 

    I can’t speak to the strength of the storylines in Who since I’ve never indulged. The best of the Trek series was strong storylines. The problem with Star Wars has always been that its story was secondary to its success. The whiz has lost its bang.

    • #14
  15. Bishop Wash Member
    Bishop Wash
    @BishopWash

    ToryWarWriter (View Comment):

    Ed G: Am I the only one who thought it was dumb and jarring that Han Solo returned to smuggling and was still doing it 50 years later in the same broken down ship? A squeaky clean smuggler never doing anything wrong; no more rogue just an LTL freight carrier with no edge? Or did he also return to murdering and stealing too as if his character experienced no growth in episodes 4-6, as if he’s just a ramblin’ man, a rolling stone, with no time for his wife or kid?

    –Really? Cause that’s not what happened, and I thought it was clear. After his family broke up, he went and returned to what he knew. Lost himself, in the galaxy so to speak.

    I thought it was dumb that not once in their many years together had Han evidently fired Chewie’s bowcaster. The writers expect me to believe that they never swapped weapons while doing target practice.

    • #15
  16. PJ Coolidge
    PJ
    @PJ

    I saw it last night, too, Fred, and I think your review is spot on.  I saw it with my son, and we’re pretty big Star Wars fans.  We were squirming in our seats at many points.  It’s 45 minutes too long, and I could cut 45 minutes worth of junk out of it without breaking a sweat.

    They also seemed to have lost the lesson of the prequels by using cute CGI animals and little kids.  They know everyone hated the prequels, right?

    • #16
  17. ToryWarWriter Thatcher
    ToryWarWriter
    @ToryWarWriter

    Meh,

     

    I stopped carring after the Yuthon out of galaxy invasion stuff.

     

    • #17
  18. Von Snrub Member
    Von Snrub
    @VonSnrub

    Agree with much of your review, but I’d actually recommend a pass if you’re not a star wars fan. There’s nothing in this film that sets itself a part from any other generic space show.

     

    • #18
  19. Fred Cole Member
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    PJ (View Comment):
    They also seemed to have lost the lesson of the prequels by using cute CGI animals and little kids. They know everyone hated the prequels, right?

    Like it’s okay to include them, you just need to keep them in check.  Star Wars has always had weird animals and stuff.  TFA learned the lesson and had the right balance.  They weren’t conspicuous or annoying.

    The other lesson TFA learned, that this new movie forgot, is the value of practical effects over CGI.  The whole herd of horse, racing animals took me out of it.  It was like the tsunami surfing scene in Die Another Day.  

    • #19
  20. KevinSchurig Coolidge
    KevinSchurig
    @KevinSchurig

    Will wait until a relative puts in the family Vudu account.

    • #20
  21. Ontheleftcoast Member
    Ontheleftcoast
    @Ontheleftcoast

    Ah, yes. George Lucas. Gotta push them boundaries for art. From a brainstorming session for Raiders of the Lost Ark. Emphasis added.

    George Lucas: I was thinking that this old guy could have been the mentor. He could have known this little girl when she was just a kid. Had an affair with her when she was eleven.

    Lawrence Kasdan: And he was forty-two.

    George Lucas: He hasn’t seen her in twelve years. Now she’s twenty-two. It’s a real strange relationship.

    Steven Spielberg: She had better be older than twenty-two.

    George Lucas: He’s thirty-five, and he knew her ten years ago when he was twenty-five and she was only twelve. It would be amusing to make her slightly young at the time.

    Steven Spielberg: And promiscuous. She came onto him.

    George Lucas: Fifteen is right on the edge. I know it’s an outrageous idea, but it is interesting. Once she’s sixteen or seventeen it’s not interesting anymore. But if she was fifteen and he was twenty-five and they actually had an affair the last time they met. And she was madly in love with him and he …

    • #21
  22. Spin Coolidge
    Spin
    @Spin

    Star Wars movies are like U2 albums.  We want them to be what they were…but they just aren’t.

    • #22
  23. Randy Weivoda Moderator
    Randy Weivoda
    @RandyWeivoda

    This seems like a likely place to put in a plug for Starship Ricochet, our science fiction group.

    • #23
  24. Ed G. Member
    Ed G.
    @EdG

    Fred Cole (View Comment):

    Ed G. (View Comment):
    TFA was recycled without most of the good things that made the originals so good

    I disagree with that. The similarities are only superficial. If you look past the surface you see that every echo of the original in TFA intentionally twists it in new ways.

    An easy example is right at the beginning. Leia and Po both put data devices into their respective cute droids and sent them off into the desert.

    But Leia sends R2 towards Obi Wan Kenobi and this action is important to forwarding the main plot. In contrast, Po sends BB-8 off into the desert away from what’s going on. The information BB-8 isn’t important to the main plot, only to the secondary plot.

    You’d have a point if they did the same thing twice. But the similarity is only at the surface, it’s just an echo. It’s meant to be evocative, to remind us of the past. But in reality they’re doing two very different things.

    Very different? I would not characterize TFA that way. More like very similar, with some cosmetic or macguffin differences. Besides, I said it was recycled not the same.

    • #24
  25. Front Seat Cat Member
    Front Seat Cat
    @FrontSeatCat

    Thanks Fred – good analysis – my husband is a huge huge fan,  He even dressed as Darth Vader and his best friend as Luke Skywalker and had a laser sword fight in Underground Atlanta back when the original first movie!  I think we will see it and his brother in law plans to see it.  Funny how a new generation is grabbing on to it after all these years.   However, I have to wonder – 3 movies in 3 years? They used to be farther apart to create a suspense – I wonder if marketing and merchandising is more the goal?

    • #25
  26. ToryWarWriter Thatcher
    ToryWarWriter
    @ToryWarWriter

    Friends review.  Worst than a Jar-Jar Binks solo movie.

    • #26
  27. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Well okay, time to be the contrarian. While the movie isn’t perfect, especially the beginning which has to have one of the worst jokes in all of Star Wars that kills the scene, the movie actually become far more interesting as it progresses. Does it waste time? Yes, but despite some meandering it does a good job of clearing the board and not falling into what could have been some very likely cliched traps. The wild scheme fails, the bad guy isn’t redeemed, the cavalry doesn’t come. All good steps in the right direction. Also they don’t kill Leia off just because the actress has died. All the things I both expected/feared were avoided. They could make it tighter, they could define some sense of rational physics for space combat: why do shots arc, why do bombs fall, why do ships that lose engine power stop moving forward, any practical knowledge of physics makes these thing maddening. But, it’s not important. Just like the Astropolitics aren’t important. After all I still don’t get the political situation,  but it’s a fairy tale it doesn’t have a political situation. It’s not Game of Thrones it’s Star Wars.

    • #27
  28. Fred Cole Member
    Fred Cole
    @FredCole

    Valiuth (View Comment):
    especially the beginning which has to have one of the worst jokes in all of Star Wars that kills the scene,

    Yeah.  That whole run, starting with “holding” and ending with “mother,” really soured me on the whole movie.  And it happens up top.

    • #28
  29. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Fred Cole (View Comment):

    Valiuth (View Comment):
    especially the beginning which has to have one of the worst jokes in all of Star Wars that kills the scene,

    Yeah. That whole run, starting with “holding” and ending with “mother,” really soured me on the whole movie. And it happens up top.

    I agree it’s a mistake but not a fatal one in retrospect.

    • #29
  30. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    The Star Wars franchise lost me at Ewok.

    Having said that, I’ll point out that I’m somewhere north of that pop-cultural dividing line between Star Trek and Star Wars, and so I’ll always take the former more seriously than the latter.

    Warp factor one, Mr. Sulu.

    • #30

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