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Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

    After Rogue One, I was looking forward to The Last Jedi. Being a Star Wars fan who lived through Legacy of the Force and Revenge of the Sith, I always figured there was nowhere to go but up, but Rian Johnson somehow managed to find the hole I threw Episode III into by digging horizontally. He didn't get quite as far down as rock bottom, but he damn well came close. It has literally been twelve years since I've seen something this undignified as an official, unignorable part of the Star Wars universe. Before we get into spoilers, let me just establish a few reference points for those who don't want to be spoiled. Remember precocious Anakin from The Phantom Menace? His nonsensical, out of character heel turn in RotS? The inexplicable death of Padmé in the same movie? The various effects failures of the prequel and original trilogies, the bad line-reads, and occasional overlong subplot? I guess The Last Jedi is better from a technical standpoint than all of these examples, but as a whole, the movie is running on concentrated stupid. Rian Johnson is like what George Lucas would have been if he was a good director and a worse writer. At least Lucas managed to put together a series of amazing scenes and good, sometimes profound lines of dialogue to go along with the messes he called movies. While the dialogue and line-reads never sink down to prequels level, the actions of the characters are as stupid as the worst moments of the prequels combined with the worst moments of The Clone Wars animated series. While The Last Jedi is a visually pretty film, it lacks soul, internal coherence, and coherence with the immediately preceding films and other canon material. In other words, Rian Johnson is everything that Zack Snyder's detractors claim the latter to be, and The Last Jedi is what some critics claimed Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was. A series of desperate, nonsensical retcons and two, maybe even three movies rolled into one with blatant attempts to emotionally manipulate the audience into feeling what the director thinks they should feel. The prequels could be pretty bad at their worst, but I at least felt they were the honest efforts of everyone involved, with George Lucas earnestly believing that he'd done what he needed to do in those movies. This is a trainwreck almost from the word go, and not because of anything excusable.
    I guess the best thing to say about this movie would be that I'm not angry, just massively disappointed. It seems like this has been the year for sequels that had undue influence by someone who didn't understand what they were doing, or the characters they were writing in the slightest. Joss Whedon's scenes in Justice League spring to mind as another example of scenes that clash with established characterization and established canon, but that was a movie that was clearly ruined after the director had mostly finished it, and could be redeemed from its position by a directors cut later down the line, kind of like what happened with Superman II. This film, to the best of my knowledge, was conceived poorly, written poorly, shot poorly, and edited poorly. The pedigree of awful runs too deep in production for mere editing to solve the problems I have with it. Most of the film would need to be re-written and re-shot entirely to salvage what little good exists within the depths of this execrable excuse for an epic endeavor.
   Now that that's out of the way, let's get into spoiler territory with the plot summary. The Last Jedi (Not to be confused with the EU Revenge of the Sith-sequel starring Obi-Wan Kenobi which might be a good basis for a Ewan McGregor-led solo movie, The Last of the Jedi, or indeed the fourth book in the Coruscant Nights series of the same name) picks up right after Rey's arrival on Ahch-To in The Force Awakens. While the destruction of Starkiller Base has significantly impacted The First Order, rather than rely on superweapons to finish off their enemies, The First Order moves their fleet into the system as the New Republic forces move out. For the most part, they manage to do so, but The First Order remains on their tails. Ace Rebel pilot Poe Dameron manages to distract the fleet long enough for the bombers to deploy and begin attempting to destroy the Mandator IV-class Siege Dreadnought leading the fleet. They succeed, against orders and with heavy casualties. This is the kind of thing that wouldn't fly back when Luke Skywalker was in charge. He'd have packed most of Rogue Squadron into B-wings or captured Tie Bombers with the rest in either A-wings or captured Tie Interceptors for the assault, and the Rogues wouldn't have lost a single man, and the New Republic wouldn't have lost a single capital ship. I know this because I've both played the game and read the books titled "Rogue Squadron". Clearly something Rian Johnson should have done before making this movie.
    Speaking of B-wings, they're not the bombers that were used in the assault. Compared to the Slayn & Korpil MG-100 StarFortress SF-17's the New Republic was using in this fight, the old Koensayr Manufacturing BTL-A4 Y-wing assault starfighter/bomber combos were bloody A-wings! These so-called "Star Fortresses" can't even tank a single hit without all their bombs going up and taking the rest of the ship with them. You see guys, bombers are supposed to be more heavily-armored than your normal fighters to prevent this sort of thing. You know, kind of like the armoring the old Y-wings had. Even the more fragile Slayn & Korpil A/SF-01 B-wing starfighters could hold their own in a fight longer than the new SF-17's do. The SF-17 is so slow that the AT-AT almost looks like a Formula 1 racecar by comparison. These bombers are clearly unfit for military service, and only exist so that the fleet could be devastated at the end of the battle. If they'd used any more efficient or better-armored bomber, then they would have come out with only a few losses.
    Leia is none too happy with Poe disobeying her orders and continuing with the assault after she told them to break it off, so she gives him a field demotion. Poe naturally protests this, given the fact that the order to break it off was stupid and considering the fact that the First Order immediately tracks them down as soon as they leave Hyperspace and proceeds to destroy most of the fleet, he was absolutely right to make the run against the Dreadnought. The assault manages to destroy a good number of New Republic fighters and almost kills BB-8. For everything else this movie could have done, there would be no faster way to make me hate this movie and the people who made it than to kill off BB-8. My broader point being that if Poe hadn't led the Dreadnought run, the entire fleet would have been destroyed immediately.
       Kylo Ren fires on most of the fleet easily but hesitates to hit the flagship when he senses his mother aboard. Tie Fighters then blow the hell out of the bridge of the flagship, which kills Admiral Ackbar (Yes, seriously) and almost kills Leia, who somehow manages to use her meager Force powers (Which up until now have only been useful for communicating with her brother and sensing emotions) to pull herself back to the ship in one of the strangest moments in Star Wars history. When I saw them blow the bridge up, I expected this to be their way of writing Leia out of the next movie, given that Carrie Fisher died before it could begin filming and that they weren't planning on doing what they did for Rogue One and putting her in on top of another actresses face. Even if they didn't intend for this to happen before she died, they damn well should have done so afterward to keep there from being any questions about why Mon Mothma's right hand and the commander-in-chief of the New Republic military was missing. Not to mention the fact that not only was she spaced, she was blown up as well, and by all rights shouldn't be alive anymore. Jedi have used their powers to keep from being sucked into space, but they've never come back from that. This is especially egregious considering Disney got it mostly right with both Guardians of the Galaxy movies. Star-Lord and Gamora barely survived the vacuum of space in the first Guardians of the Galaxy, and they're super-beings who had protective gear. Leia is a fifty-two-year-old woman wearing a glorified bathrobe. Clone Troopers and Storm Troopers don't survive long out there in the black, and they were a race of Mandalorian super-soldiers in pressurized armor! In addition to the fact that the scene just kind of sucks, because of all the aforementioned issues with continuity and willing suspension of disbelief, it also draws heavy influence (read: shamelessly steals) from a similar scene in 2016's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. People who have seen that film, or read my review of it should know what I'm talking about, but in case you don't, there was a scene in Dawn of Justice where Superman had been hit with a nuclear warhead while fighting Doomsday and was left drifting in space. As his body drifted beyond the Earth's horizon and managed to catch enough sunlight to revitalize himself, he flew back to Earth and rejoined the fight. This scene works because Superman draws his power from the sun, as anyone who's read the comics (or indeed, seen Man of Steel) would know. Last time I checked, Princess Leia didn't draw her power from the cold uncaring vacuum of space. And before anyone jumps on me for saying that this film ripped off BvS, please note that principal photography for The Last Jedi wrapped in July of 2016, a little over three months after Dawn of Justice's theatrical cut was released, and post-production only wrapped this past September. That leaves plenty of time for Rian Johnson to see BvS and decide he wanted to copy it in some respects. This isn't the last thing Rian Johnson copies from much better movies by much better directors.
    Meanwhile, back on Ach-To, Rey is still holding Anakin's Lightsaber out to Luke, which sets up the time-scale for the film being mere minutes after the end of the last film. She hands the Lightsaber to Luke, who tosses it over his shoulder. The scene is timed just perfectly to make the audience think Luke is about to say something profound, but he remains silent long enough to make it awkward before tossing the saber. There's almost a pause for laughter as the shot switches back to Rey, who was as baffled at this reaction as I was. At first, I was intrigued by this development, hoping that something interesting would come of it, but the only explanation that came just made me even more baffled at how someone who was purportedly writing a Star Wars movie would do such a thing. Luke continues to be a curmudgeon, refusing to talk to Rey for more than a short while until Chewie busts into his hut to berate him for being such a stick in the mud. Luke refuses to come back to lead the New Republic push against the First Order even after hearing that his best friend got a lightsaber drilled through his chest by Kylo Ben. Luke was able to sense when his sister was in danger from across the galaxy, how did he not already know that Han was dead and Leia gravely injured? Regardless of what they say, later on, Obi-Wan laid low for twenty years and was still able to sense when Alderaan was blown up. Darth Maul went insane after fifteen years as a man-spider, but he managed to track Kenobi down after all that time. Point being that, without an Ysalamir (which we know exist, because Thrawn has sculptures of them in his office), one cannot cut oneself off from the Force. This isn't Dragon Ball, Force power can't just be squashed down and ignored. Luke himself says as much later on in the movie, that the Force flows through all living things. Sensing bad things that are happening through the Force is entirely involuntary, as has been well-established in previous films. If anything would have shaken him out of this stupid funk he's in, Starkiller Base's destruction of a solar system should have done so. Everything is connected to the Force, living or dead, as we've seen throughout the films and animated series. Luke could literally not do this with what he had with him on this island. Also, a small note, Rey acts like Luke doesn't understand Chewbacca even though Luke and Chewie have spent way more time together than she and Chewie have. I get that she knows Wookie, but there's no need for her to translate just for the sake of the audience! We can understand what he's saying from Luke's responses, no need to have someone repeating it just in case the public is too stupid to get the obvious.
    Back with The First Order, Snoke gives Kylo Ren the "loose cannon" speech from every police-drama ever if it were given by Light Yagami's inner-monologue. He then proceeds to tell Ben that he's trying to shape him into a new Vader and then proceeds to tell Ben to stop wearing the helmet he wore in the previous film. Kylo proceeds to overreact to this and completely destroy the helmet. Given that this is entirely in-character for him, and actually a very good scene I have nothing else to say about this.
   Rey gives an impassioned plea to Luke, begging him to return to help the New Republic drive back the First Order, but he dismisses her with contempt, saying "You think what, I'm gonna walk out with a laser-sword and face down the whole First Order?"
Ladies and gentlemen, this is where I started getting a sinking feeling while watching this film, because that was exactly what I expected Luke to do. Nothing else would say "Luke is back and Star Wars is back" than him rocking out from hyperspace in his X-Wing and facing down Phasma, Kylo, Snoke and the whole Imperial army. This was when my suspicions about the film started rising to the top, and all of the bad things I'd been hearing about the movie started to make an absurd amount of sense. Luke tells this girl who for all he knows, tracked down pieces of a starmap that he left behind because the New Republic desperately needs its greatest hero back to go away. Luke pisses off to catch some fish and harvest what looks like some Blue Milk. From an oversized aquatic lizard-creature called a Thala-siren, and not a Bantha. It was at this point that I realized that Rian Johnson probably didn't have the slightest clue what he was doing. Blue milk has been established as Bantha milk within the current continuity, so there's really no excuse for this continuity slip-up. Wookiepedia classifies their milk as "Green milk" but I'll be perfectly honest, it doesn't look green. The general hue of the milk is turquoise when the creatures are being milked, and it looked blue when it ran down Mark Hamill's beard.
    It is then revealed to us that there's a Force Cave on this planet, just like in The Empire Strikes Back, and that Rey apparently knows about the place Luke went to despite never having come there before. It is also revealed that instead of using holocrons to store the ancient knowledge of the Jedi, they used books. Luke then refers to the Jedi as a "religion" despite the fact that using "religion" to refer to the Force and its accompanying factions has only ever been a way of demonstrating to the audience how truly ignorant the person who's calling it a religion really is. Again, demonstrating a fundamental misunderstanding of the themes of the franchise.
    Luke naturally wants to know who Rey is and why she's there, but when he asks her "what's special about you?" rather than giving him the obvious answer of "I went toe-to-toe with Kylo Ren in a desperate Lightsaber battle while the third Death Star was blowing up and not only managed to survive but also to keep him from taking your dad's Lightsaber and save my friends who came to the base to save me." or "I'm Force-sensative" or "because my friend and I found the map you left behind and the New Republic needs help, so your sister told me to find you and haul your ass off this planet so we can destroy what's left of the Empire once and for all" she remains silent. Rey is a firey spirit, the kind of person who would answer that question as bluntly as possible. This is something we saw earlier in the movie when she followed Luke through a storm and refused to let his odd behavior mess with her. This is one of the points in the movie where her character starts taking something of a nosedive. I liked Rey in the previous film, she was an interesting character. Accident-prone, paranoid, quick to fight, difficult to get along with, constantly screwing up, mysterious back-story, and pretty endearing. Rey and Finn both were incredibly relatable, but in this film, the relatability has been assigned to my least favorite character from the previous film, Poe Dameron. But we'll get back to Capmander Dameron once the rest of the plot returns.
   Luke follows up his previous question by asking Rey where she's from. The first time she responds, she says "nowhere" followed by "Jakku" once he presses her on the subject. Luke's response is "Okay, that pretty much is nowhere." and that was the movie really really started to worry me. There were enough clues in the previous movie for me and the rest of the Star Wars fandom were able to figure out that Rey's parents were likely Luke Skywalker and a woman who probably shares a lot of characteristics, but not a name with Mara Jade. From her connection to the Skywalker family Lightsaber to the flashes of Luke in her memories to the fact that the ship flying away was clearly based on the rather odd shuttle that Luke Skywalker used in the old Star Wars comics. The only plot thread that made any sense would be for Rey to be Luke Skywalker's daughter, but considering his reaction to hearing where she came from and what her name is, that's rather unlikely at this point. More's the pity, because if she was a Skywalker, there would be plenty of justification of things that she does later on in this movie, but sadly not.
    Rey tells him that she needs a teacher to show her the ways of the Force. Regardless of his circumstances, Luke has been in her position before and shouldn't turn her away for a number of reasons. One being that he knows what happens when an undertrained Padawan Learner goes up against a seasoned Sith Lord, and another being that if she were to turn to his misguided nephew and his master for instruction. Luke literally says that he came to the island to die, but that's not something Luke Skywalker would do even when faced with a no-win situation, or one where he'd royally screwed up. Luke Skywalker is optimistic to a fault and never does anything without a reason. If Luke was beaten by a Sith Lord he'd retreat to a hideout and figure out what he did wrong, analyze his opponents and then come back stronger than ever. Luke Skywalker before this movie was the Jedi equivalent of Darth Maul, a nigh-unkillable badass who always came back with a new trick up his sleeve to win the day, not a mopey, whiny bitch who couldn't handle getting his ass handed to him a few times. If the Luke in this movie got his hand chopped off by Darth Vader in the final battle of The Empire Strikes Back, rather than get a new hand, build a new lightsaber, rescue Han and redeem Vader at the end of the next movie, he'd just slink back to Tattooine and be a moisture-farmer for the rest of his miserable existence. This miseryguts isn't Luke Skywalker, and we learn exactly how much he's not Luke Skywalker later on in the movie.
    Commander Weaksauce ventures into the Falcon and takes down some kind of gold tassel thing that was hanging in front of the viewscreen or whatever, then R2-D2 wakes up and goes to talk to him. One would think that if anyone could convince Luke to return, it would be his oldest and most faithful companion, but that doesn't happen. In fact, this is just about all we see out of R2-D2 in the entire movie. Yeah, R2-D2, one of two characters to be in nearly everything Star Wars related since the original movie barely shows up in this film. Not that R2 didn't do something important in this movie, he plays back the holographic message that Leia gave him back in A New Hope and convinces Luke to train Rey. If it wasn't for the forced conflict in this film, Luke would have agreed to do this thirty-five minutes ago. The Original Trilogy Luke would have jumped at the opportunity to train more Jedi, for all of the reasons I mentioned earlier in the review. Now, one could say that Luke has changed over time due to his ordeals, and that would be a perfectly valid argument if the ordeals that got him into this mess weren't also caused by a fundamental misunderstanding of Luke as a character.
    Luke tells Rey that he'll train her and teach her why the Jedi need to end, but I don't really think he ever does that. He just states the obvious when he tells her that one need not follow the orthodoxies of the Old Jedi Order to use The Force properly. Okay, that's not a profound lesson, Qui-Gon Jinn was telling us that back in The Phantom Menace, do you have anything new for us, Luke? Well actually, he does, but we'll get to that.
    Throughout the movie, Rey goes through a far more compressed and far less impressive version of Luke's trials in The Empire Strikes Back, complete with a journey into a cave with strong Force connections, a niggling sensation that something is wrong pulling her back to her friends, and a giant twist revealed by the villain that the heroes confirm to be true. You see, Kylo Ren and Rey form a Force connection and start communicating telepathically. It's a bit weird, but I could roll with it. Luke and Vader did the same thing at the end of The Empire Strikes Back, but it gets odd when they actually start moving physical things between the two places through The Force, and when Ben shows up in Rey's hut out of nowhere it really doesn't make a whole lot of sense. I thought this was something only dead Force-users could do, not living ones. Luke tells Rey that Ben destroyed the Jedi Academy, killed some of the students and left with others. Ben tells Rey that he woke up to Luke standing over him, madness in his eyes and his Lightsaber lit up, trying to kill him. I thought this had to be a lie, because that's not something Luke would ever do, but no, Luke confirms this! He saw darkness in Ben and thought he had a chance to snuff it out, but hesitated long enough for Ben to wake up and realize what was going on. You fucking what mate? Luke Skywalker refused to kill Vader because he sensed good in him despite the fact that Vader had killed his mentor, killed his best friend, cut off his hand and been party to not only the destruction of Alderaan but also to the Jedi Purge at the end of the Clone Wars, yet he'd be willing to kill his nephew who had not yet done any of that? I think Rian Johnson forgot that he was writing Luke Skywalker and not Anakin, because that's something his dad would have done, and it's part of the reason why Luke was better than his father. Plus, Luke Skywalker is a Jedi Master and Ben Solo was a Padawan Learner! If he thought there was an issue, Luke would have begun setting up monitoring devices around the academy, and if push came to shove he would have been more than able to take down a single wayward student as we saw in the books this whole storyline is stolen from, Kevin J. Anderson's stellar Jedi Academy trilogy. At this point, Kylo Ren is basically a bad distillation of elements of Kyp Durron, Gantoris, and Jacen Solo, with a bit of Darth Revan thrown in for good measure. From Gantoris, he gets the conflict with Luke and the strange source of his seduction to the Dark Side if Gantoris never fought off Exar Kun, from Jacen he gets almost his entire family history and his tendency to kill and/or threaten close relatives, and from Kyp Durron he gets his tragic past, sympathetic monster status, and the fact that he's sort of Dark Side and sort of not. Oh, lest we forget, he also gets pretty much his entire outfit from Darth Revan too. Not that the Old Republic-era stories weren't also guilty of stealing loads from the movies and books that were made before it, but they at least tried to mask it all as bits of history that got re-used by future generations. What the sequel trilogy, and to some extent, the standalone films as well are doing is pretending the EU never existed, all the while shamelessly stealing from it. If they weren't putting on airs and trying to pretend that they're not adapting bits of the EU, and were going more along the lines of the current DC television series and named characters after characters from the Expanded Universe they were clearly based on, I'd be willing to give them a lot more credit, but what they're doing is the kind of thing that would get them tossed out of a college creative-writing class or even English Composition I class for plagiarism.
   Something else I noticed was that Ben's Lightsaber in the flashback doesn't have a crossguard or an overdriven blade, elements I would have expected given the fact that anyone who uses a Lightsaber generally tends to stick with the same format for all of the ones they use in their lifetime. Anakin Skywalker went through three Lightsabers and all three of them were basically identical in appearance, so why is Ben's so radically different?
   Rey returns to the New Republic fleet against Luke's advice. Luke decides that he wants to burn down the old Jedi temple before getting a case of the cold feet again. Yoda shows up, asks Luke if he read the books and then causes a lightning bolt to strike the place and burn it down, saying that the books weren't that great anyways and that Rey basically already knows what was in them. Despite the fact that Luke never showed her how to make her own Lightsaber or really anything that Luke had to study the old texts in Obi-Wan's cave back on Tattooine to figure out how to build one himself. And I know that's a reference to Shadows of the Empire but at this point, I'm a little too peeved with Disney to allow one of my favorite EU books and games to go unrecognized.
   One of the many problems with this sequence is that Luke came out to this planet and spent god-knows how long on it without cracking open the old books and reading them. If they were in a dead language I'd understand, but they don't say that in the scene. What really doesn't make any sense is that Luke as a character is inquisitive and constantly in search of new knowledge, which means that he should know them front to back by now. I'm a rather bookish fellow as one might presume from the fact that I've spent a good deal of the last seven years writing reviews as often as I can, so unless the books were full of obsolete knowledge, like forging methods for the old Je'daii katanas or outdated superstitions about The Force from before they figured out the science of it all, I really don't understand why Yoda would have attempted to destroy the books. Plus, if that was the case, why would Rey feel the need to take them with her? Plus, why wouldn't Chewie just knock Luke out and take him with them when they left? Chewbacca knows Luke is being dumb and would probably be willing to do this given proper motivation. Plus, how was Yoda able to summon down a lightning bolt from the afterlife?  I didn't think that Force ghosts could interact with the physical realm, and last time I checked, the Jedi weren't literal wizards. Yes, Force Lightning exists, but that comes from hands, not from nowhere! If Yoda had shot lightning from his fingers, that would have been something of a stretch, but it would have at least been something that we've seen can be done. I'll give the film this, a single Jedi of sufficient power could probably summon up a storm by manipulating the skies, but attempting to aim a lightning storm is nigh-on impossible. I know I'm mixing a combination of real-life physics with Star Wars rules here, but given what we know about Force powers at this point in time, I think we can safely say that this doesn't make a whole load of sense. I will say this though, it makes a hell of a lot more sense than the shit they pulled with Leia earlier in the movie.
Back with the New Republic Space Navy, we find out exactly why Ackbar was killed off. Because he was a competent leader and wouldn't have made the kind of moronic mistakes required for the plot to go where Rian Johnson decided it had to. With the rest of the New Republic High Command either dead or in a Space Coma, command falls to Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo, an entirely new character with a face like Wilhuff Tarkin, clothes that look like she borrowed them from Mon Mothma and hair like she took a bath at ACE Chemicals with The Joker. In fact, to go back to the clothing, this is something of a major issue with the New Republic High Command in this movie. For some reason, despite the fact that Leia was basically wearing military gear in the last movie, which took place at most hours before this one, all of the non-Ackbar military leaders are wearing these long impractical flowing gowns and robes that aren't particularly conducive to military efficiency. Back during The Clone Wars, you'd never catch the female Jedi wearing anything but combat gear out in the field, and it's not like Leia's been any stranger to wearing armor before. In fact, if she'd been decked out in a flight-suit when the bridge was hit, I would have been completely on-board with her Force-pulling herself from the wreckage back to the ship, but that's not what she was wearing. I know Leia and Mon Mothma wore big flowing robes in Episode IV and Episode VI, respectively, but neither Leia nor Mon Mothma was actively planning to be involved in combat in those films, and therefore didn't need to be wearing less complex clothing (Plus neither of them were shown wearing anything else immediately prior), but this is literally right after an evacuation of an entire base after having been dressed in sensible clothing previously. Leia had to have changed out of her military gear and into the robes she wears in this film in the minutes to hours the New Republic had to evacuate their base, and one would think that she'd have more important things to do. Although now that we mention it, do you remember the red arm that C-3PO had back in Episode VII that Abrams stuck on as an homage to the robotic arm Big Boss has in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain? Well, he's not wearing that anymore. Again, given the urgent nature of the situation, I would have thought that they would have had more important things to do than to either re-spray 3PO's arm, or detach the red one and attach a new gold one. Now that we're done with that stupid bit of logic, I'd like to ask why this incompetent bitch is next in command! Her bright idea is to demand that the freedom-loving and order-questioning New Republic military follow her instructions without telling them what the plan is. Did she forget that this was exactly what led to the Rebellion in the first place? Naturally, the crew revolts and Poe sends Finn and a random mechanic that Finn met earlier in the movie named Rose Tico to find someone that Maz from The Force Awakens told them to find. Poe's plan is to disable the tracking that the Empire used to find the New Republic fleet and warp away to fight another day. The guy they go to find is just some random dude, but because Finn and Rose are idiots, they get tossed in jail and wind up recruiting a different hacker to help them. Neither the first hacker they tried to find, nor the second are anyone associated with Lando Calrissian, more's the pity, but DJ (Benicio Del Toro) shares most of Lando's character traits and almost all of his arc if Lando showed zero remorse at selling Han and Leia out to the Empire.
    The biggest issue with this storyline is that, had Luke been in charge, none of it would have happened. Back when Luke was in charge, the Rogues would have covered the fleet as it retreated and would have had every single Imperial vessel that didn't retreat blown to space-junk before following to the rendezvous point. Anakin Skywalker would have done the same and the only casualty in the entire battle might have been his own ship. But never mind that, Leia, Akbar, Mon Mothma, Anakin, Luke, Padmé, Rex, Obi-Wan, Ahsoka Tano, General Dodonna, Hera Syndulla, Kanan Jarrus, or even Ezra Bridger would have come up with a less risky plan than Admiral Tumblr does, and all of them would have explained the plan they did come up with well enough to prevent the crew from assuming their leader was an incompetent bint with a hate-on for her underlings to rival that of Darth Vader. Funny how they give us a new human character with bizarrely-dyed hair rather than bringing back one of the more interesting alien characters from, for instance, Star Wars Rebels or The Clone Wars, like the aforementioned Ahsoka Tano or Hera Syndulla, two characters that people already know and like and would, therefore, sympathize with more than this severe authoritarian. For that matter, where are most of the aliens in this movie? We see a lot of humans of all races, but most of the aliens appear to either be entirely neutral in this conflict, dead or have shacked up with The First Order. It seems like the filmmakers have gone out of their way to try and turn all of the interesting alien races into background dressing so they could try and shoehorn more humans into the mix. Rose and her sister could have easily been Togrutas, for one thing, and I can bet you almost anything that the audience would have erupted in applause if Hera was the one to take command after Leia should have died. Hell, I'd have taken Ezra Bridger if it meant that we didn't have to sit through more tedium. The Last Jedi is the longest Star Wars film by thirteen whole minutes, and it certainly feels like it. I used to think that the events of Revenge of the Sith drug on forever, but after seeing this movie I feel kind of silly having thought that. I'm a guy who sat through the entire running time of Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition and didn't even think it felt that long. I've binged through countless episodes of a number of television series in sessions that had to last five hours or longer, and still, none of them felt as long as this movie does. It might be the fact that the film has about five or six plotlines going on at any one time. There's the one between Luke and Rey, the one between Rey and Ben, the one between Luke and Ben, the one between Holdo and her entire crew, the one between Finn and Rose, the one between Finn and The Empire, and the one between Finn, Rose, and the casino planet to go to to get DJ. Plus the plotline with DJ himself being a two-faced git. This doesn't make the movie more complex, it just makes it tedious, mostly because a lot of the things that get brought up aren't paid off within the movie, the ones that are are brought to such a weak close, and the rest are just kind of pointless. At one point, DJ notes that the owner of the ship that he and BB-8 had stolen sold X-Wings to the Republic and TIEs to the First Order, but the New Republic buys all of their X-Wings directly from the Incom Corporation, while the Eyeballs were made by Sienar Fleet Systems and bought directly by The Empire, with all the TIE Fighters used by The First Order being made by Sienar-Jaemus Fleet Systems. Mind you, this is all from modern continuity, not just from my old-fashioned knowledge of the original canon. Either way, this scene doesn't make a lick of sense. The only thing that DJ's findings prove is that whoever owned the ship dealt in secondhand starfighters and not the more sinister implication that the current conflict is stoked by war profiteers who make money off of both sides. Star Wars has always been about the horrors of conflict, but all this movie does is demonize the good people of the Incom Corporation who risked their lives to manufacture X-Wings for the Rebellion for the sake of pushing a hamfisted message. Yes, we get it. War is bad, that's something we knew already, what with the entirety of the prequels being dedicated to the story of how war can change people, with all of the loss of life seen throughout the series and Rogue One highlighting what one group of people had to give their lives to get. We don't need them injecting a screed against it in the middle of the movie when the entire series up to this point has been about how bad war is! Luke Skywalker lost his best friend and aunt and uncle in A New Hope, Kanan Jarrus lost his sight, Ahsoka Tano was stripped of Knighthood, Anakin Skywalker turned into Darth fucking Vader, we get that war is bad and that it can screw a person up, but this scene was so heavyhanded that it's absurd!
    Anyways, Rian Johnson then proceeds to rip off not only A New Hope but Rogue One as well when he has DJ, Finn and Rose dress up in stolen Imperial uniforms to break into The First Order flagship, but as I mentioned before, DJ betrays them and Rose and Finn wind up having to fight their way out. Finn faces off with Phasma, who dies an unceremonious death and then leaves. Meanwhile, Poe stages a mutiny on the New Republic flag-ship and takes over from Holdo, but instead of executing her then and there for being a coward and a traitor, he lets her live, which allows her to escape, wake up Leia and thwart his plan to save the fleet. At this point I should mention that Holdo's idiotic plan was getting the New Republic fleet picked-off left, right and center, and that her big "plan" was to cloak up the smaller transport ships and evacuate the remaining crew to a nearby abandoned Rebel base. Poe naturally thought this was a stupid idea, and proceeded to be proven right once the First Order sees through the plan and proceeds to start picking off the smaller ships like wooden ducks like he said they would. Why Holdo thought this would work in the first place, I have no idea, but in her infinite wisdom, Leia actually stops Poe's mutiny from going through and causes the plan to go into action flaws and all. The only reason this almost works is that the First Order was too stupid to bring an Interdictor Cruiser with them to reveal any cloaked ships, which one would think would have been common practice after the stunts Anakin Skywalker used to pull with cloaking tech back in The Clone Wars. Plus, someone on Reddit brought up that, had the New Republic ships been zig-zagging back and forth in a Naval technique known as "juking" to avoid fire they could have avoided having any casualties. The Rebellion was working in close quarters with a Death Star, a Super Star Destroyer and an entire fleet of regular Destroyers in Return of the Jedi, there was something of an excuse as to why they were getting picked off there. The vast majority of this movie is a protracted siege that ultimately doesn't make a ton of sense from a tactical perspective. Why do the New Republic Military forces just accept that their ships are going to get picked off instead of evacuating the damaged ones and tossing the ships at The First Order to distract from the evacuation? Funny that I was thinking that at this point in the movie, because rather than use a Droid or the ships' autopilot to do this, Holdo does it her god-damn self once her stupid plan goes tits up. The movie tries to paint this as some sort of grand sacrifice. In fact, the movie basically tries to recreate the climaxes of Excalibur and Dawn of Justice wholesale across a much longer section of film, but it just comes across as a completely pointless action. Autopilot exists, and it functions well enough for it to be used to pilot starfighters in a dogfight as we saw in The Phantom Menace, even if it wasn't a particularly good pilot. Basically what I'm saying is that if Rian Johnson had bothered to watch any Star Wars movies, or paid the slightest bit of attention to them, he'd have known that this wouldn't happen in a proper Star Wars movie. Rian Johnson is only slightly older than the Original Trilogy, while I'm exactly half the age of the series, so if I know and/or care more about the details of Star Wars than a man more than twice my age who was chosen to write and direct a film in the series, then that's a rather large issue with the approach Lucasarts has been taking.
    Before we move on to the rest of the movie, I'd like to address Admiral Holdo as a character. Two years ago, I remember the term "Mary Sue" being bandied about to describe Rey as a character, but I wasn't at all convinced that she was, given the severe negative consequences she suffered throughout the movie from all the times she kept fucking up. Over the last several weeks of writing this review though, I've come to realize that Amilyn Holdo is almost a beat for beat recreation of the main character from A Trekkie's Tale. While I was researching Holdo's history, I found out a few rather strange details about the character. She's a previously unknown childhood friend of Princess Leia's who apparently provided critical information to the survival of the Rebellion, and was subsequently appointed Vice Admiral and the command of a ship prior to us ever having seen her. She's also portrayed as a nigh-perfect commander whose plan would have gone off without a hitch had everyone followed her orders, and is given a heavy-handed death within the same piece of fiction she was introduced in. She also might have been a lesbian and might have had a thing for Princess Leia, as is hinted at by the fact that she holds onto Leia just long enough to make it suggestive when she's about to go on the suicide mission. Not that I blame her, just about everyone's had a thing for Leia at some point in history, but what makes this scene odd is twofold. One being that I was under the impression that they were pressed for time, and another being that it's implied that Leia might reciprocate these feeling by the way she stares soulfully at Holdo, holds Holdo's hands as long as Holdo holds hers, and the way she talks about Holdo. Leia didn't react like this to the death of her husband at the hands of her son, despite her connection to The Force. She also doesn't react to the death of another close relative as much as she does to the prospect of Holdo dying. This is what leads me to conclude that Amilyn Holdo is the archetypal Mary Sue. She's got a past with the lead characters that we've never seen or heard of until this point, she's got hair that isn't a normal color for humans without any explanation, she comes up with a plan to sacrifice herself to save what's left of the New Republic, has implied romantic ties to an important member of the main cast, and is portrayed as a selfless hero too good for this cruel galaxy. Every bad thing she does gets swept under the rug, never mind the fact that Poe's objections to her command decisions were all perfectly valid, and if Finn and Rose hadn't royally screwed up his plan it would have turned out a hell of a lot better than Holdo's did. That's not to say that Rey doesn't have the possibility of turning into a Mary Sue, but that Holdo feels like direct author-insertion wish-fulfillment to my trained eye. I could be wrong, but then again, The Last Jedi could have been a good movie.
    Rey tries to break into Snoke's ship but is immediately captured. Why she doesn't proceed to mind-trick the Stormtroopers into not capturing her, I don't know. In fact, I don't really get her grand plan. They have blasters, she's got a Lightsaber and The Force, logically she should be able to take them on, considering she was able to overpower James Bond with a bit of effort in the last film. Plus, she could have Force-shoved the lid of her pod into the troopers and come out swinging.
    Rey and Ben share an elevator scene almost identical to the one shared by Luke and Vader in Return of the Jedi, before he turns her over to Snoke. Snoke taunts her, she tries to pull her Lightsaber from him, but he whacks her upside the head with it, tortures her for a while and tells Ben to kill her when she doesn't join them. Rather than do this, Ben rotates his grandfather's Lightsaber 90° and ignites it, cutting Snoke in half. This doesn't make a significant amount of sense, given the fact that it takes Ben a good fifteen seconds between when he starts turning the saber to when he remotely ignites it to kill Snoke. Vader got away with saving his son because he made the decision to do so immediately before he killed Palpatine. Despite the rather vague justification given to us, it still doesn't make a whole lot of sense, because usually, someone who can read minds and emotions with The Force can read them more specifically than the scenario Snoke sees. He should at least be able to see the massive amount of resentment that Ben wears on his sleeve, or the massively obvious schoolboy crush that he has on Rey. After this, Ben and his new girlfriend kill all of the faceless guards in what I have to admit is an awesome fight scene, but it does raise the question of "When did Cortosis, Mandalorian Iron and Sith Alchemy become so rare that they couldn't make the armor of the Emperor's elite guards out of either material?" Granted, one could easily extend that question to the armor of every single military force in the galaxy, but considering that the primary threat to any Jedi or Sith is another Jedi or Sith, one would assume that they would have adopted Lightsaber-proof armor by now. Kylo Ren has it, Darth Vader had it, literally every Mandalorian has it, so why didn't Snoke or any of his minions have it?
    Anyways, at this point, I thought the plot was going the way I figured it would. Ben's vow to finish what Darth Vader started was clearly referring to the destruction of the Sith, and I figured at this point that Luke's attempted assassination of Ben was a ruse to embed Ben with The First Order to take it down from within, given what Luke said about other students of his (that we never see) following Ben to the First Order, and that the big villain of the series would turn out to be Holdo or Poe Dameron but that entire twist would have made sense. Ben and Rey, despite clearly being perfect for each other and in-tune on a rather bizarre level for people who aren't blood-related as we find out, have a fight. Rey wants Ben to order the First Order fleet to stop firing on the retreating New Republic, but at this point I had lost all sympathy for those incompetent sods and would have been perfectly happy to see most of them get blown to bits, as long as Finn, Poe, and BB-8 survived, but Ben doesn't do this despite it making a rather insane degree of sense for his character.  We also find out that Rey's parents were nobodies. At this point, her parents didn't have to be Luke Skywalker and Mara Jade, I would have settled for Sabine Wren and Ezra Bridger, I'd have settled for her having some connection to the Jedi.
    They fight over Anakin's Lightsaber, tearing the damn thing in half. Rey manages to recover both parts of the saber while Ben is stunned (Because destroying a Lightsaber is treated like a bomb going off despite Anakin Skywalker never having built a single Lightsaber that would do that in his entire life, as we saw when his first saber was destroyed in Attack of the Clones. In fact, the only time in current canon that we've seen a Lightsaber emit such a devastating burst was in that episode of The Clone Wars with David Tennant in it, and that Lightsaber was literally constructed to do just that so they could evade the space-pirates.
    The entire last half-hour of the movie is a recreation of the opening sequence to The Empire Strikes Back, complete with AT-AT walkers that have even more armor and stronger legs than their predecessors back on Hoth, trenches, a fortress in the middle of a desert (this time of salt instead of snow) and a bunch of repurposed rickety speeders as primary defense craft. Rey shows up and lifts a bunch of rocks off the passageway out of the base so the troops can man the scant defenses. Finn, who's our resident Imperial tech-expert apparently tells the remaining forces that The First Order has brought a Superlaser siege cannon with them to bust down the door to the bunker. The Superlaser siege cannon is a piece of "miniaturized Death Star tech" according to Finn, which utterly ignores the fact that the Death Star was basically a tooled-up Lightsaber that only ignited for long enough to blow up a planet, a concept codified in the EU via Darksaber and in current canon via Rogue One when we saw the Empire stealing a cache of Kyber Crystals for use in the Death Star. It's not a miniature Death Star, Finn, it's a Unicron-sized Lightsaber.
    Finn tries to sacrifice himself to destroy the siege cannon, but Rose crashes her ship into his and gives him possibly the stupidest line I've ever heard in a war movie. "We're going to win this war not by fighting what we hate, but saving what we love!"
I don't know what to say to that. The Galactic Civil War was won by fighting, The Clone Wars were won by fighting, this war will literally only be won by fighting, what the hell is wrong with this girl? Was it the fact that her sister died fighting? Tough shit, she died so that the New Republic, and by extension, you, could survive another day, something that Holdo completely wasted by sacrificing the entire fleet to the First Order. Finn and Rose only survived Holdo's bone-headed plan and pointless sacrifice by fighting, and the only way Luke Skywalker managed to save the morons who call themselves the New Republic Military was by fighting!
    Speaking of fighting, before we get to Luke, I'd just like to mention that the First Order fails to take the most obvious route and use their TIE fighters and bombers to strafe the trenches. This is the kind of thing done back in World War I when planes were basically new, and if I'm not mistaken was featured in The Clone Wars as an employed tactic. Previously we've seen an evolution of tactics and military hardware over the course of the prequels, the animated series and the original trilogy, but in Episode VIII everything appears to have taken a step or two backward.
    Anyways, when all hope seems lost, Luke Skywalker shows up, not in his X-Wing, not to great fanfare, not to the kind of pomp and circumstance one would expect out of the return of the galaxy's greatest hero. He walks out of the base, brushes off every attack the First Order throws at him (At the orders of Supreme Leader Ben, natch) and then fights Kylo Ren in the most pathetic attempt at a fight-sequence I've ever seen in Star Wars. At least in Episode IV, the fight was taking place between two old men, one of whom was very clearly toying with the other, who in turn was stalling for time. In this fight, we see Luke ignite a Lightsaber he hasn't seen in nigh-on thirty years, rather than the one he forged basically by hand and has been using that entire intervening period and weave around every attack Ben throws at him like a combination of Neo from The Matrix and Muhammad Ali before revealing that he's just projecting himself across the galaxy somehow and fading away. This effort apparently was enough to kill the most powerful Jedi in the history of the galaxy, and he becomes one with The Force as the sun rises, never mind the fact that his nephew pulled it off by fucking accident.
    This whole scene raises so many questions, such as the aforementioned one about why Luke is using his dad's old Lightsaber instead of the one he built himself and has been using for thirty years. One would think that if he held such an attachment to it, he wouldn't have thrown it over his shoulder at the start of the movie. Another being the fact that the dice he took from the Falcon at the start of the movie vanish when he dies, despite the fact that we saw objects being transferred across the projection previously. Not to mention, Luke's a healthy fifty-two-year-old warrior who spent most of his life in front-line military service, and the rest of it he spent working on machines on a moisture farm, he should be in tip-top physical shape. What I'm saying here is that Luke would have easily survived the fight if he'd been there in-person rather than using The Force as his personal holonet. Not to mention, the hero of the Rebellion, the last of the Jedi, a man who beat Darth Vader in combat, the man who destroyed the first Death Star, who tanked more Force Lightning than most of the Jedi who previously experienced it combined, Rogue Leader, Jedi Master, General Luke "The impossible is what I do" Skywalker goes out not in an epic Lightsaber battle over the fate of the galaxy, but because of the strain brought on by using a Force power that was previously shown to not be strenuous at all and actually kind of easy to use by total accident. You mean to tell me that Rey and Kylo Ben are stronger than him? Piss off, I don't believe that for a second.
    After what remains of the Rebels evacuate from the base to send out a distress signal (that isn't picked up by Lando for some reason) we get some speech from Leia to Rey about rebuilding things that were broken in regards to both Anakin's Lightsaber and the New Republic, but that rings somewhat hollow knowing that Disney had an entire year to re-shoot this movie to account for Carrie Fisher's death and the fact that Luke crucially didn't teach Rey how to build and maintain a Lightsaber in her time on the island with him. Granted, neither did Yoda when Luke was on Dagobah, but considering what Luke had to go through to build his Lightsaber between Episode V and Episode VI, and the fact that one of the first things Jedi learn is how to build and maintain their Lightsabers, one would think that Luke would have brought that up at some point, perhaps even leading to Rey constructing a saberstaff akin to the one Darth Maul used in The Phantom Menace, but that would add a bit too much unique variety into the movie, now wouldn't it?
    All in all, this film is what one would get if you took all of the bad decisions made in the prequels, distilled them to their very worst and then used that to fill the gaps between randomly arranged scenes and set-pieces from other parts of the Star Wars franchise, primarily from Episode V and Episode VI, but also from Rebels and various EU sources as well. From The Empire Strikes Back we get the plot-twists, even going so far as to rip off the false revelation from the end of that film. You see, in the script for Episode V, and in the dialogue recorded by David Prowse, the primary suit-actor for Darth Vader, the revelation was that Obi-Wan killed Anakin Skywalker, not that Darth Vader was actually Anakin. The revelation that Luke tried to kill Ben before his big turn to the Dark Side mirrors that somewhat uncannily. Then there's the fact that Holdo's big sacrifice has been done a number of times before. Green Leader did it in Return of the Jedi, as did a CR90 Correllian Corvette, not to mention the time Rogue Squadron ran an unmanned transport into a shield generator during the Fondor shipyard assault, or in Star Wars Rebels, when Phoenix Nest rammed an Interdictor cruiser to allow Ezra Bridger to escape and call for Rebel reinforcements, and that was way more moving when Commander Sato and his men did it than it was when Holdo did her schtick. The Porgs, much like the Ewoks, exist mostly to sell toys, Luke has basically been transformed into discount Yoda, there's literally a Force cave that fucks with one's perceptions, the fact that the movie ends the way Empire starts, the main villain's right-hand man turning on him and killing him, parental revelations, the Jedi character spending most of the movie training away from their friends and allies before rushing back to help them and getting into a fight, a direct confrontation with the main villain within his ship as he shows off the destruction of the heroes friends and allies, torturing the hero, attempts to turn them to the Dark Side that fail, the villain's right-hand man telling the hero that "Together, we can rule the galaxy," an offer that the hero refuses, a clearly outmatched opponent going up against a seasoned veteran who's clearly messing with him, for a film that's so caught up in "buccking convention" it sure seems to rip off a lot of stuff. Not that everyone's as savvy as I am, I once heard someone at the local library call Jupiter Ascending a "very good and unique film" and I had to stifle a bout of raucous laughter.
    Once one moves beyond the stolen elements, one comes to the decisions that just didn't work. For one thing, the characterization of Luke Skywalker is abysmal to even casual fans of the series, and for weird obsessives like me who've read all of the books and played most of the games, it's absolutely atrocious. Luke Skywalker was my hero growing up, more than Spider-Man or Superman to be honest, and this movie betrayed everything that Luke stood for. He gave up, he tried to turn away a potential student, he tried to kill his nephew in his sleep, he didn't care when Han died, he turned away from The Force, he abandoned his friends and the Republic he fought tooth and nail to restore, he left his X-Wing at the bottom of the lake because of apathy, and if R2-D2 hadn't been there he wouldn't have even tried to train Rey. There's an entire subplot (the one with Finn and Rose) that wouldn't exist if the New Republic military forces were the slightest bit competent, which incidentally extends the movie to its somewhat ludicrous runtime. If all of the running time was dedicated to showing Luke training Rey and the siege, then this movie wouldn't have felt like it was stretched too thin, despite the fact that it's the longest film in the franchise. "Hyperspace tracking" is a brand new thing that seems like it was introduced simply to stretch out the plot. It would have made perfect sense if that turned out to be fake and Holdo was just feeding information to the First Order, in fact, it would have been an impressive twist. Holdo was already an unlikable bitch, making her a villain would just be logical. Plus it would open up time for Rey to have literally any character development. She doesn't grow, she doesn't change, she doesn't really suffer through her training, she just sort of does stuff, figures things out without practicing them, and then has an awesome sword-fight with her boyfriend, who has the more interesting arc. Ben has an arc over these two movies, but in this movie, Rian Johnson and Snoke alike are attempting to turn him into Darth Vader despite the fact that Ben has far less passion for what he's doing than Vader ever did. Plus, the only time he's ever really passionate about anything is when he's with Rey, and it's a shame they basically tanked all chances of their relationship working because Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley have good chemistry together despite the fact that Rian Johnson can't write characters to react normally or logically. Ben cared enough about his mother to not kill her, and I'll bet you that Han was the one to ignite that Lightsaber in The Force Awakens, which would imply that Ben isn't really evil, but given the fact that Rian Johnson appears to have ignored all aspects of proper storytelling and character arcs I doubt that that's where this will go now. Ben and Rey's fight doesn't make any sense from a character perspective since the two of them spent the entire movie bonding and learning about each other. In fact, the modicum of good development Rey gets is with Ben. Speaking of the Solo/Skywalker family, Leia's vastly out of character too. She's giving Poe shit for doing the kind of suicidal super-weapon run he did in the previous movie and the same kind of suicidal runs that her brother's elite squad used to do routinely. Runs that we know work, as was demonstrated when Luke destroyed the first Death Star and when Wedge and Lando destroyed the second. Suicide runs on super-weapons are par for the course when you're fighting a bunch of overspending Imperials who would rather blow shit up than conquer it. Thirty years down the line and a few hours after the last time, you ran one of these assaults, you picked a hell of a time to take a stand on that Princess. Then there's Holdo. When she takes command, Poe asks her what the hell they're supposed to be doing, and she admonishes him for not following Leia's orders, and in doing so reveals her utter ignorance of the New Republic military Ranking system. When Poe was demoted, he was Commander Dameron, and the rank immediately below that was Major, not Captain the way Holdo implies. Given the fact that she's enshrined as a martyr in this film, I'll bet you that Rian Johnson simply doesn't know how the ranking system works. Also, you'll notice that throughout the entire review I never once referred to them as "The Resistence," and there's a reason for that. One being that that's a stupid name when they were previously known as The Rebel Alliance, another being the fact that the reason it's called that is straight up moronic. While looking into the new canon, I found out that the military forces we follow in this aren't the military arm of the New Republic, but an independent militia created by former Alliance members when the New Republic government decided it would be a good idea to open themselves up the same way the Old Republic did and disband their armed forces, never mind the fact that that kind of weakness was why the CIS thought they could get away with splitting off in the first place. Apparently, Leia's protests were ignored because it came out that her father was Darth Vader. Which is ludicrous, because the people who knew that were either too smart to let that slip or dead! The official story was that she was the daughter of Bail and Breha Organa, and the official story about what happened to Anakin was that Darth Vader killed him, so if anyone found out she was adopted they'd only be able to trace it back to a secret marriage between Senator Padmé Amidala and General Anakin Skywalker, Jedi Knight. While he was in Imperial military service, he was officially know as Lord Darth Vader, not Anakin Skywalker. And all that aside, she was raised by one of the co-founders of the Rebel Alliance, and it's not like she was ever an Imperial collaborator. Hell, it's not like Vader even knew she existed, so even if it did come out I can't see why this would disgrace her in the first place. Plus, if anyone who remembered how the Empire came to power was part of the New Republic, they would have stopped that. Regardless, stupid contrived reasons, and stupid name. Plus, it's not like any of this is ever brought up in the movies, so for all we know they are the New Republic military, never mind the fact that they basically are. Maybe someday I'd consider a comparison between the real canon and the new canon, but right now that's not in the cards.
    Getting back to the movie, the simple fact that they put the trilogy climax a half hour before the second film was over and had to contrive a reason for there to be a second climax would be enough to condemn this movie on its own. It's like Rian Johnson took about half of Episode V and most of Episode VI, tossed them into a blender and served it up with bits of the EU and Dawn of Justice sprinkled throughout without thought nor care for how his decisions affected the franchise as a whole, and the sequel trilogy specifically. The remainder of The New Republic's military forces could probably fit into my backyard, any chance of redemption for Ben Solo has been squandered, Luke is dead, Snoke is dead and is Carrie Fisher is dead too. There's nowhere to go from here unless Abrams ret-cons huge chunks of this movie in Episode IX, most of the stakes are gone. The First Order has practically won at this point. In Episode V, there was a glimmer of hope. They still had stuff they could do. In Empire, Luke got his hand cut off, but he got a robotic one to replace it. Han was captured, sure, but the rest of the main cast escaped thanks to Lando, and the Rebellion didn't have its entire fleet destroyed for the sake of spectacle. I've got a lot of problems with The Empire Strikes Back, but objectively speaking it works as a middle installment of a trilogy, while this film is the plots of two, possibly even three films stitched together as ineptly as AT&T's internet service. Or Konami's ban-lists. Point being that this film shouldn't exist in the state that it's in. It's not subversive, it's not revolutionary, it's nothing we haven't seen before. It's a nonsensical piece of trash masquerading as a legitimate installment in my favorite franchise. I've said a lot of mean things about Revenge of the Sith, about how the only reason it ends the way it does is because of a series of uncharacteristically dumb decisions made by an otherwise smart, savvy and above all ruthless protagonist, but that's nothing compared to what I have to say about The Last Jedi. While Anakin makes a series of decisions that get progressively stupider as the movie goes on, everyone else in the film reacts the way one would expect them to. Revenge of the Sith relies on one character making numerous inane decisions for its plot to go down the way it did. The Last Jedi relies on just about every important character doing at least one thing wrong. The bombers get destroyed because the New Republic are idiots and didn't test their bombers, Poe stages a mutiny because Holdo was an idiot and didn't explain her plan, Finn and Rose get caught because they were idiots and didn't follow parking procedure, Luke causes Ben to turn to the Dark Side because he's an idiot, Luke dies because he's an idiot, Finn and Rose get sold out because they're idiots, Snoke dies because he's an idiot, Ben and Rey engage in domestic violence because they're idiots, Ben goes down to fight with his uncle because he's an idiot, Ben doesn't call off the attack that would probably kill his mother because he's an idiot. Nothing in this movie happens because the characters are reacting the way they naturally would, it happens because Rian Johnson wanted it to happen that way. Incidentally, just about everything in this movie takes way too long to happen. The timing of every action, especially in circumstances where the characters are supposedly pressed for time takes an eternity, and for every criticism I ever had of how George Lucas writes and directs, at least he knows how to make an urgent scene feel urgent. Just about every shot takes a few seconds too long to feel natural, like this is the anime adaptation of Dragon Ball Z and they're trying to fill time. Except that some of the filler in DBZ was at least somewhat interesting. Lucas could add gravitas and weight to every scene that needed it, regardless of his ability to wrangle actors and performances. In this film, almost every scene has this floaty feel to it, as if there's a fundamental emotional disconnect between the audience and the film, like every frame is doing its best to alienate people who like good filmmaking. Part of the reason for that would be that it introduces Force powers that push the limits of credibility and willing suspension of disbelief. Yes, this is a series about telekinesis-using space-monks who can shoot lightning from their hands and fight with laser swords, but the difference was that their powers had visible limitations in the past. One would think that in the thousands of years the Jedi Order had existed, someone would have been able to figure out how to project across time and space, or summon electricity from the sky. This is a group that figured enough out about The Force to know that one's sensitivity to it is directly correlated to Midichlorian concentration. The old Jedi Order had the study of the Force down to a science, and in all their time they didn't figure out how to project across the galaxy, yet two teenagers were able to figure it out by accident without the support of anyone? Not to mention that their telepathic communication doesn't make any sense when we find out they're not related. Leia and Luke were twins, Luke and Vader were father and son and they could sense each other rather strongly over long distances, but finding out that Rey is just some nobody from nowhere? That doesn't make any sense given what we know about how this is supposed to work. Then there's the fact that Luke dies something of a nothing death. Qui-Gon died in battle, so did Jango Fett, and Count Dooku. Mace Windu and Kit Fisto died trying to arrest Palpatine, Darth Maul died facing off with his mortal enemy, Obi-Wan became one with The Force buying valuable time for Luke and Han to get off the Death Star after having disabled the tractor-beams, Biggs Darklighter died in the Death Star run, Tarkin died closing in on crushing the Rebel Alliance, Yoda died of old age after several centuries of life, Anakin died saving his son, Palpatine died when his apprentice turned on him, Han died trying to bring his son home, Luke dies in a hologram battle because he used a taxing untested Force power instead of hopping in the Falcon with Rey and Chewie when they left. In making Luke's last stand take place by proxy, they also reduce the level of badass of the preceding scene where Luke takes everything the First Order was able to throw at him. This is Luke Skywalker for god's sake! If anyone could deflect every turbolaser pointed at him and bend every projectile around him, it would be Luke! I can buy Luke doing that entirely on his own, sans any stupid extra powers. And before anyone gets on me for criticising the new powers with the now tired comparisons to the introduction of the other powers, allow me to say this. Transporting objects and projecting a solid hologram through absolutely nothing and calling a bolt of lightning down from the sky is very different from shooting lightning from your hands and using telepathy to read minds and influence people, or running fast. Hell, it's different from preserving your consciousness in the Living Force, and I'll explain why. First off, consider the fact that a Force-user can move things with their mind from a distance, then consider the fact that when air rubs together, it creates static electricity, which creates lightning. That, taken with the fact that living creatures basically rely on electrical impulses to stimulate muscles and for signals in the nervous system, it actually kind of makes sense that a Force-user could create lightning and direct it at a person, especially since humans are mostly water. As for running fast, one could be Force-pushing themselves along their path with their feet, it's not a difficult concept to grasp considering what we already know. Then there's preserving one's consciousness in the Living Force. Since The Force flows through everything, and those sensitive to it can influence it to do things, and given the fact that the brain kind of runs on data signals of a sort, and The Force can be used to program simple computers in the form of Holocrons, it then follows that one could copy one's appearance and mind into The Force. You take that with the long-standing tradition of ghosts in popular culture, and it makes perfect sense. How exactly is Force Projection supposed to work? Are they going to explain this in the next animated series or the current season of Star Wars Rebels or something? Regardless, I don't really see them being able to explain this or justify it in any way. Maybe you could make a case for them using astral projection and The Force to make the apparition seem solid, but considering the fact that we saw seawater from the island Rey was on splash Ben in his Imperial whatever the hell it was, they're not just doing that, they're literally transporting things. But why does the dice that Luke took from the Falcon disappear when he dies then? Why, when Luke attacked Kylo from across the galaxy did it not affect him a whole lot, but when Luke was running circles around him later on did it exhaust Luke enough to kill him? What's going on? Where's the consistency? What the hell is wrong with this movie?
    The Last Jedi strikes me as something written by the kind of fan who loves to write over-the-top fanfiction, like the kind that gives the trio from Harry Potter ancient elemental powers, or where The Doctor can use The Force, or other stuff that makes every single struggle in the series pointless. At this point the Force-users are so overpowered that most of the non-Force threats in the franchise and even other Force-users aren't a big threat to the Force-users in the series, or maybe they are if they can figure out a way to overexert the other or maybe this whole plotline and power-set doesn't make any sense.
    All in all, Star Wars Episode VIII is worse than anything George Lucas ever did. Sure, he ruined Anakin Skywalker in Revenge of the Sith, but just about everyone else got a fair shake, and while the prequels might have been technically inept, they had consistency, weight, and choreography backing them up. While far superior to the prequels and even the originals on a purely technical level, from a filmmaking perspective it's like comparing the Bayformers films to The Transformers: The Movie, in that there's no competition. Yes, the line delivery is less wooden, and yes there's way less bizarre CGI failures, but this film is operating on a level of storytelling incompetence I haven't seen in a long time. I don't think I could have written a story this bad on purpose, let alone by accident. Back when The Force Awakens came out, I wrote up a short pitch for what I wanted Episode VIII to do, sort of like the pitch I wrote in my head for what I wanted the new Power Rangers movie to do, except that I actually published the Star Wars pitch in a Facebook group, and it basically went as follows: When Luke meets up with Rey, we get insight into her back-story and some explanation about how Luke and Mara Jade left her on Jakku so that Ben, Snoke and the other Knights of Ren wouldn't be able to take her if they died facing off. Ben would have been tempted to the Dark Side by Snoke, who was an Inquisitor who served under Lord Vader from around the time Star Wars Rebels is set. Snoke would have killed Mara Jade in his and Ben's duel with her and Luke. Luke and a loyal student he could trust, probably Corran Horn from Rogue Squadron would have searched out the old Jedi homeland to try and figure out what went wrong and if there was anything they could do to overcome Snoke and the Knights of Ren, such as uncovering old powers and techniques lost to time. Horn would have wound up on the Jedi home-world, Tython, while Luke would be where he was when Rey found him. Neither of them would have made a lot of progress, but Luke would train Rey in the ways of the Jedi. He'd teach her to build a Saberstaff, show her how to duel, how to meditate, how to do all of the things he'd learned. The First Order would be hot on the trails of the New Republic forces, and Rey would return to the fleet against Luke's wishes to duel with Ben. Luke would remain behind for a short time, searching for new information before warping in when all seems lost to save the day. He'd be shouting flyboy lingo and then hop into the lightsaber fight to the tune of Duel of the Fates, coming down into the shot with his GREEN Lightsaber blazing the way Darth Vader came into shot in the finale of Rebels Season 2 and drive Ben back and rescuing Rey after she got a limb chopped off. I hadn't gotten nearly as far in planning out what I thought would be good for Episode IX, but the ending was basically the same as the throne-room scene in this movie, but Luke would have been training Finn in Episode IX as well, and when Ben killed Snoke, he would have said "I am here to finish what my grandfather started. The complete and utter annihilation of the Sith." and right before he said the last three words, he would have fiddled with his Lightsaber and ignited it through Snoke's back, revealing a purple blade. He, Luke, Rey and Finn would have then fought their way out of the palace or ship or whatever and Luke, Ben and Corran Horn would reveal that Ben was working undercover to bring down what was left of the Empire from within, and that the other students that he took with him (And it would have been a good idea for one of them to be Kyp Durron) were installed in places of importance within The First Order, so as to allow them to completely dismantle the Imperial Remnant at a moment's notice. Starkiller Base would have come to fruition too quickly, and Han would have ignited Ben's saber himself to prove to Snoke that Ben was really on his side. It's all a bit rough, and I know I'm not the most objective person to analyze my own story, but I can't help but feel like I came up with a better story than Rian Johnson did. I've heard that he started working on The Last Jedi before The Force Awakens was even done. One of the things that makes me question Rian Johnson's credentials in this movie is a line that implies that The Force created Rey to be Ben's equal and opposite, a balancing weight in the game of The Force. I don't know if Rian Johnson realizes that The Force can't actually create life on its own, and that the Jedi only speculated that was possible when they found out Anakin didn't have a father. Palpatine used The Force to create a child with incredible Force sensitivity, which turned into incredible Force power. Which Rian Johnson would know if he'd watched the extended cut of Revenge of the Sith. Deleted scenes have been canonical up until now, when Johnson decided to make his own version of Rey's first meeting with Poe that contradicted the version that Abrams shot for The Force Awakens that got cut to meet the running time, but then again, Johnson didn't enough care to not contradict previous films or even himself within the same film, so I guess I shouldn't expect any more out of him. What really gets me is that Gareth Edwards, the director of Rogue One was not only an extra in the movie, but was also finished with Rogue One by the time The Last Jedi began shooting. J. J. Abrams didn't even have any directorial projects going on at the time, and he's going to be directing Episode IX, so why didn't they just have him direct it and bring back the other two guys who wrote The Force Awakens? Why did Disney not take Abrams proven success with Episode VII as a sign that he should write and direct the rest of the trilogy?
    In the end, despite how good the previous two films have been, I can't help but think that we would have been better off in the hands of George Lucas. Apparently, Disney was so impressed by The Last Jedi that they gave this Zack Snyder-wannabe an entire trilogy, and boy oh boy, I could not be less enthused. Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi gets a 2.5*. I'm out. I've literally been working on this every day since the movie came out and I'm glad to be done finally.

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Sunday, December 24, 2017

Top Six Best Movies of 2016

Honorable mentions go out to Suicide Squad for managing despite massive studio interference to somehow make a better superhero movie than Captain America: Civil War and a better ensemble action movie than all three Expendables films, but all in all, it moved a bit too fast to earn itself a spot on this list. I'd also like to give a shout-out to Finding Dory, while it was a damn good movie, it still wasn't The Incredibles 2. Jason Bourne was also pretty good, having less shaky-cam in it than the last canonical Bourne movie, but it wasn't quite as enthralling as it possibly could have been. Warcraft also gets a nod because it had a lot of potential and pretty visuals, all of which were ultimately wasted on a mediocre fantasy movie.
#6: X-Men Apocalypse
Coming out later in the same month as Captain America: Civil War was the best thing that could have happened to X-Men Apocalypse. After seeing my favorite superhero destroyed I was in the mood for some classic, animated-series-style X-Men, and boy did they deliver. While not being a perfect adaptation of the Apocalypse storyline from the comics, this film was at least thematically similar and felt like the Apocalypse storyline, which is saying something considering what Tom Rothman and Brett Ratner did to the Dark Phoenix Saga. Apocalypse actually feels like the ancient mutant monster he's supposed to be, and above all, this feels like an X-Men movie more than it feels like a muddled fever-dream put together by someone who had only ever vaguely heard of the X-Men and the storyline concepts from people on the street.
#5: Doctor Strange
After the disaster that was Captain America: Civil War, and the complete mess that was the 2016 Marvel television lineup, I wasn't expecting Doctor Strange to turn out as good as it did. In a lot of ways, this movie was the Ant-Man of 2016, an unexpectedly good movie that followed on from a bafflingly bad Marvel crossover film. Benedict Cumberbatch dominates this role like he does any other, and his American accent never once slips or sounds unnatural. I think that this movie might be one of the few classic origin-stories we've seen in recent years, all the while being far better at telling its story than almost every other equivalent it had in the early 2000's. In a lot of ways, this movie reminds me a lot of films of the 1970's and 80's, films like Commando, Ghostbusters, Top Gun, Rocky, Alien, Star Wars, and Kickboxer. They start, they introduce the heroes, the villains, the driving conflict of the plot, the hero does whatever they need to to prepare, the heroes and villains face off, then they face off again in the climax. Simple, to the point, paced out perfectly, and creates a satisfying conclusion. Hardly any films do that these days, most of the time they either spend way too much time on minutiae (Ghostbusters: Answer The Call) or speed past all the relevant details for meaningless action (The Expendables)
#4: Deadpool
2016 was a hell of a year to not be a mainline Marvel film. Marvel Studios only managed to produce one good movie based on their properties, while Fox managed to produce two. Deadpool is a character Fox never wanted to make a movie out of, but thanks to fan demand and some leaked test footage, he finally got his own film. Sections of the film were reportedly shot without permission from the studio, and the filmmakers managed to work around a smaller budget to create a damn great movie. Here's hoping that when Deadpool 2 comes along it manages to top this movie in every way.
#3: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
I was somewhat cautious about Rogue One going into it. I thought it might just be a soulless cash-in Disney was making to wring every bit of money they could out of the Star Wars universe, but it actually did the impossible by making A New Hope, one of the greatest films ever made, into a better movie. I was stunned by the storytelling, the effects, and the continuity between it and the original Star Wars. They managed to resurrect dead actors and make old ones look young again, all through incredible use of CGI that would make George Lucas weep. Rogue One is not just one of the best Star Wars movies ever made, but an example of how to do a prequel right. It might even be higher on the list if they'd managed to get a good take of Darth Vader's lines, and hadn't criminally underutilized Mads Mikkelsen.
#2: Star Trek Beyond
When I first watched this film, I was awestruck. This was one of a very few movies that I've watched that I immediately thought "This is a Best Picture contender." By the end of the movie I was convinced that this would be in my top five (now six) at the end of the year. Star Trek Beyond is the best of the three Star Trek reboot movies, not that the previous ones weren't pretty damn good too, but that this was a cut above the rest. Star Trek Beyond is easily the best Trek film since First Contact, and I don't say that lightly. Not only does it feel a lot like a Star Trek movie, it also feels like it could be a giant episode of the TV series, which for once isn't a negative aspect of the film.
#1: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice Ultimate Edition
Speaking of being a good year to not be a Marvel Studios film, I looked back hard. I watched a lot of movies from 2016 to try and populate this list, but not a single one of them compared to the sheer stature of Dawn of Justice. I debated whether I wanted to make Star Trek Beyond my best movie of 2016 or this, but in the end, BvS won out. With hidden depths and allegories requiring multiple viewings to fully comprehend, even with everything it had working against it in terms of studio interference and blatant critical bias, this was almost certainly the single greatest film of the year. The performances of everyone involved greatly impressed me, the score from Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL is stupendous, the writing and pacing is supurb, and Zack Snyder's direction manages to set new standards for filmmaking that I don't think will be able to be topped for a long time.

Images from impawards.com

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Top Five Worst Movies of 2016

#5: Warcraft
I was torn over this movie when I reviewed it, but over time I ultimately decided there were too many problems with Warcraft to not put it on the list. From the lack of European accents, to the fact that we seem to be starting this series in the middle of a trilogy, to the strange editing, as much as I hate to admit it, this film just kinda sucks. No two ways about it, the people working on this movie really screwed up what could have been an amazing trilogy of films. I hope a sequel comes along, or a prequel, but at this point, I doubt that that's likely to happen. Shame really, I would love to see more of this if they'd bother to do it right next time.
#4: Ghostbusters: Answer The Call
Of course this movie was going to be here. I had a spot on this list reserved for Answer The Call as soon as I saw the movie. It's not bad enough to put higher up on the list, but Jesus fuckmothering Christ this managed to find new ways to not be funny, or to fail as a movie. Warcraft was at least a beautiful movie, Answer The Call somehow manages to screw up even the ghost effects. CGI bleeding out of the letterbox, ghosts that look like they were ripped from Luigi's Mansion, and a whole movie made from less than half of another one? Sony, why did you think this would work?
#3: The Angry Birds Movie
For as much as Answer The Call caused me to sigh with contempt, The Angry Birds Movie actually made me kind of mad, funnily enough. Not wildly mad, just angry enough at the premise, the characters, the plot and the running time that I remembered it enough to put it in this slot of the list. This movie is the most copy-paste, derivative children's film that I've seen in years. Notice that I said "children's film," Answer The Call and my number two pick are also massively derivative.
#2: Sausage Party
Any other year, this might have been the worst movie released. With the same plot and characters as Angry Birds, but more irritating characters and story, Sausage Party actually stirred up a rather significant amount of anger in me. This movie can go die in a fire and I hope we never get any sequels. For as much as this movie should work, it just fucking doesn't. Fuck this movie, but special thanks to Seth Rogen, who apparently liked my review (Or at least liked my tweet about it without reading the review).
#1: Captain America: Civil War
I heavily debated what I would pick as the worst movie of the year, but all in all, there wasn't a single movie in 2016 that made me as angry, sad, and disappointed as Captain America: Civil War. Made solely to cash in on the superhero versus trend that Marvel figured would start with Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, but Marvel seemed to forget that they were the trendsetters of the last decade, not the trend-followers. With an incoherent plot that depends entirely on coincidence, the Russo's not only managed to screw up Iron Man, Captain America and Black Widow, but also Baron Zemo and freaking Spider-Man. "Miscast" is an understatement when referring to Tom Holland's version of Spider-Man. His powers are inconsistent, he's obviously hiding his foreign accent, his suit is somehow less comic-accurate than the one from the Raimi movies or The Amazing Spider-Man, and he literally just shows up for two scenes and then is gone from the movie. Iron Man reacts like an idiot, Captain America was a moron for not telling Tony about his parents being killed by Hydra, Zemo's plan shouldn't work, and Black Panther doesn't stop the fighting once he captures Zemo. I covered this piece of glorified trash enough in my review though, so you can search for that on the site if you want to know more about why this movie is a complete disaster.

For the most part, Sony dominated this list, which isn't a surprise considering what they were putting out last year.

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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Top Five Best Movies of 2015

Yeah, it's late but at this point, I've been sitting on this too long to just delete it, so here we go.

#5: Ant-Man
Right off the heels of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man was a surprisingly good movie when the MCU was taking such a horrible turn for the worse. This film was better than it had any right to be, especially considering how bad Age of Ultron turned out to be.

#4: Kamen Rider Drive: Surprise Future
What can I say? This was a good year to be paying attention to anything but the big Hollywood films. In fact, I probably spent more of 2015 watching Kamen Rider movies and episodes than I spent thinking about the mainstream films of the year. I don't know, Kamen Rider Drive connected with me better than Age of Ultron did, and I'd been following the MCU for almost a decade by the time that film came out.
While Surprise Future ties rather heavily into the plot of the corresponding television show, it's a very good movie regardless. Part of that has to do with the fact that it had a large general development of the characters over the course of the series, but it all comes down to the amazing writing, acting, and directing in this movie. It's all up to the standard of the rest of the series, and all of it falls together rather perfectly with the preceding and succeeding episodes.

#3: Straight Outta Compton
I knew as soon as I saw this film that it was going to end up on my best of the year list. This film is an emotional journey through the lives and careers of the members of NWA, and it bloody rules. If you're a fan, it's a good movie. If you're not, you'll be a fan by the end.

#2: Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens
Another movie I knew was going to be on my best list as soon as I saw it. The Force Awakens is the best Star Wars film since Return of the Jedi, easily. But then again we already knew that from my review.
#1: Blood Punch

Like this is any real surprise. Blood Punch is easily the best film to come out of the wasteland year that 2015 turned out to be.  Blood Punch turned out to be one of the most unique, funniest horror films I've ever seen, and it deserves all the praise it can possibly get. After some consideration, I finally decided it was better than my #2 pick. If you haven't seen it, buy it on Blu-ray, it's a movie you'll want to see over and over again to pick out the details.

The hardest thing about putting this list together wasn't deciding the top spot, I had the top four spots solidified by the end of January of 2016. The tough part was remembering a fifth good movie from 2015 that I'd watched, and eventually, I remembered Ant-Man.

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