Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017)

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Ola: The Last Jedi is the second instalment in the new Star Wars trilogy, produced by Disney and without any direct involvement of George Lucas, the original creator of Star Wars universe. The Last Jedi starts right where Episode VII ended. My review for The Force Awakens, and my openly expressed criticism, can be found here. Episode VIII was supposed to open a new field of play, built on the flimsy foundations set in the derivative plot of Episode VII. Most of the fans had high hopes for The Last Jedi, both because of the immensely advanced technology allowing for more picturesque and dynamic scenes, and because it is the middle part of the trilogy – the analogies to The Empire Strikes Back were clear from the beginning, with Luke Skywalker doomed to reprise the role of Master Yoda.

The Last Jedi turned out to be a wholehearted reprisal of The Empire Strikes Back: with Dagobah set on a stony island, a reluctant hermit teaching the secrets of the Force to a young (but too old anyway!) and strong in the Force adept, a doom hanging on suddenly desperate Rebels… What happened to the New Republic? There are also some additional scenes taken out from The Return of the Jedi: our protagonist, trained in the ways of Force, tries to rescue the Big Bad Skywalker, in whom a conflict of darkness and light burns brightly… The protagonist is tortured by the evil Emperor with a badly distorted face and a penchant for terrible sneer (or Supreme Leader, whatever) only to be saved by the Big Bad Skywalker.

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I hope everyone’s already seen Episode VIII. Because my first question is: WTF??? Why are you, Disney, so bent on killing all the beloved characters of old trilogy? Is this some kind of ritualistic patricide? I mean, I probably should be glad you didn’t use pretzels as a means of gruesome death, but that’s not enough for me, not by a long shot.

Piotrek: I, on the other hand, had fun watching the latest installment of Star Wars franchise. I’d say it was a very nice movie, but perhaps not a good addition to the SW universe.

But yeah, something is broken in the Disney version of Star Wars, I agree. Not bad, as the prequels are, but the fundamental idea of just repeating the sequences of original movies with new heroes, ignoring the consequences of past events (like – the Rebel victory), instead of building upon previously told stories – I can’t see a way around that problem that would fully satisfy me as a viewer. I wanted to see the New Republic thrive for a moment, maybe to quickly rot, maybe be hijacked by some nefarious force, but for all that was build to just be cancelled in a series of explosions… I am not happy with that. And even if the core planets of the New Republic were destroyed by the First Order – should that be enough to destroy the Republic, and suddenly First Order controls most of the Galaxy? A couple of days after the events of Force Awakens?

Ola: The Last Jedi contains one of the worst scenes of the whole, 8 movies long series – and that’s including the famous “rolling on the grass with giant guinea pigs” scene, and “sending pieces of pear over the table” scene. I’m sure everybody knows which exactly moment I’m talking about. Right, SuperLeia? But, to be fair, The Last Jedi also contains the best space battle scene to date – the destruction of the second dreadnaught is a great moment indeed, majestic and beautiful, and emotionally gratifying, even though the payoff was witheld unreasonably, illogically long. Another visually great scene was the samurai-like duel at the end – it was well set, creatively shown, with enough echoes from old movies to keep the viewers on the edge of their seats. It could have been perfect – if not for the next scene. I’m not going to rant about it, I vented my irritation somewhere else ;). What remains to be said, though, is that next scene was a hard slap for all the fans of the original trilogy – especially because it was completely unnecessary. If a clean slate was what Disney desired, they should have set their trilogy fifty years later.

Piotrek: I don’t know about that. I see it as an acceptable ending – Luke went away with fanfares, using all his power to save what’s left of the Rebellion. He spent all his life force in his confrontation with Kylo – confrontation that was great, I agree here. Perhaps my favourite part of the movie.

SuperLeia… it was a great idea, perhaps overdone. We know Leia is force-sensitive, and I think it started as a great scene, but took to long and finally turned into a sort of Marry Poppins in space.

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Battles were really cool, with some exceptions. II WW-style bomber raid was ridiculous as a part of space battle, even if emotionally it played its part. I liked how the captain of the dreadnought seemed to be genre savvy enough to know when he’s doomed 😉 And I loved how Dameron had to learn a few lessons and swallow his pride a few times. Military side of the story was strong, going beyond heroes-save-the-day, and teaching protagonists – and audience – about the price of thoughtless gallantry and lessons one can draw from failure. I’ m not surprised that two of my favourite military blogs had a piece about just that – War is Boring and Angry Staff Officer. And admiral Holdo. I wish she wore some kind of uniform, but she proves to be an able commander. Her final sacrifice is one of the very good scenes in this piece of Star Wars.

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Ola: My favorite scene of the movie is the appearance of Yoda. It is a funny, poignant moment, one that Yoda fully deserved.

Piotrek: It is great. And Yoda does his part, making Luke move his ass and do his job.

Ola: The whole side plot with Finn and Rose was IMO completely unnecessary, emotionally tepid and designed only to prolong the movie beyond any sensible limits and insert some new, unimportant characters. Fangirling Rose who saves the day at the end seemed like a shoe-in Mary Sue vehicle for every SW fan who ever dreamt of being in the SW movies. If the point of this side plot was to say that not everything goes right all the time, and sometimes you’re out of luck, it was at least half an hour too long, and ultimately not enough emotionally resonant to matter. Honestly, it seemed like a failed side-quest in a fan-made Star Wars-based RPG.

Piotrek: It was clumsy, and too long. And prequelly 😉 The whole part about casino world and Benicio del Toro’s character… was it necessary? Did Finn even need to go aboard Snoke’s ship? They had to introduce a a new love interest for him, so Rey could be a proper lonely Jedi, but it ultimately fails as part of this movie.

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What I didn’t mind was Rose. Yes, she was an audience stand-in, but it doesn’t hurt to have one in a Star Wars movie. And she made some good points about the good fight being fought for things and people you care for, not to kill your enemies.

Ola: The acting is still pretty bad. Emo Kylo Ren is even worse than before, with a clearly unbalanced and stunted personality of a raging five-year-old. Rey is equally bad, with one facial expression for everything – as a result, the meeting of the two protagonists on the screen resembles mostly a walk through a wood on a windy day. Something’s moving, there are weird sounds everywhere, and the emotional impact is just the same. I have a conspiracy theory here – Disney’s killing off all the good actors one by one. We’re left with BB-8 and Chewbacca. Oh, wait! There’s the evil twin of BB-8, as another visual kick to head in case you didn’t remember the message: the dark side equals the light.

Honestly, that’s my main woe. This new trilogy has no vision. Say what you will about movies II and III, I’ll probably agree with most of it anyway. But they had one thing those new movies don’t: a vision. Not money – although it definitely played a role (ehm, Jar Jar), not the sleazy play to the audience (did I mention Jar Jar?), but a consistent vision of a world bound by internal logic (well, except the midichlorians and the immaculate conception) and changing not through some arbitrary decisions of greedy producers, but through the internal processes of growth and decay. Yes, the vision was imperfect. It was overly simplified and dichotomized, divided into easily digestible chunks of pop culture fast food. And yet this vision was ambitious and bold, admirable in its sheer scope, straightforwardness and, so rare these days, a total lack of cynicism. To show the rot lurking beneath the shiny veneer of civilization, the seeds of ruin growing so quickly on the heavy soil of hubris and complacency, to insert a relevant social commentary into a movie considered by many as nothing more than an overpriced fairy-tale – it all required resolve, bravery and a devotion to vision. The vision was not easily noticeable under the clutter of badly acted and badly executed scenes, sure – but it was there. It’s not to be seen anywhere in the new movies. Now it’s just the money.

Piotrek: You’re quite right here, I’m afraid. Execution is significantly better than prequels, but vision… they play it too safe, and change their ideas from one movie to another. Rey’s parents, Snoke’s past, a few promising plot points from Episode VII are simply abandoned. I was really disappointed with Snoke, his actual death was very cool, but for a character able to turn young Solo from the light path… underwhelming, terribly dressed, and under-explained.

Not a big fan of Rey, but I actually like Kylo. Not your usual villain, I agree, and sometimes too emo, but still, it’s a new thing and something not copied from the previous movies. Now clearly beyond redemption, so in part IX we’ll get the final confrontation between the two Force champions.

Ola: Aand the porgs. And the ice foxes. People scoffed at Ewoks, but Ewoks had at least an agency and weren’t only dumb pets to be cuddled! C’mon, have you seen any more blatant money grab than The Last Jedi? I can even imagine the thinking of the marketing department… “So, let’s make something for Pokemon fans, ooo, furry penguins with Puss in Boots’ eyes! But Pokemon fans are mostly boys… So, for the girls, let’s make an animal Elsa. Foxes are cute… Ooo, let’s make an Elsa fox! Yay!” One other thing: if I were the Catholic Church, I would seriously consider putting a lawsuit against Disney. Why the heck all nuns look like a cross between a frog and a fish? Is this what non-Catholics imagine as a reason for priests’ celibate?

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Piotrek: Well, I feel the porgs are just about as bad as Ewoks. But they had some funny scenes. Foxes – pathetic, definitely. Nuns? No worse than your average SW aliens, it is a weird space fantasy, not a hard s/f, what do you expect?

Ola: And don’t let me even start on the gigantic cosmic cow with four tits and green milk. What do they take at Disney? I’m just asking, because I never want to try it.

There are a few good scenes. The rest… I should say “is silence”, but just look above – “is long rant” seems more apt here. One thing is sure: I’m no longer waiting for the new movies in Star Wars franchise.

Piotrek: I’m increasingly conflicted. While The Last Jedi is fun, it is just another step in bad direction for the franchise as a whole. But, as it was ruined by Force Awakens, I wasn’t expecting too much and was able to enjoy the experience.

Disney, you own all the franchises, you have all the money, don’t play it safe all the time…

Score: Ola 6/10 Piotrek 7,5/10

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