Now that we've all survived the relentless onslaught of Christmas elves, we're about to welcome a new year! I hope you enjoyed my Christmas "story," those of you who are signed up for the mailing list (and if you're not, you can sign up on the bottom-right of this very page)! I also hope that you received your heart's desire from Santa this year, and not your nightmare's greatest fear from Krampus.
In the spirit of providing what people asked for, here's another thing some people requested of me on the blog: reviews. I've tried reviewing some things in the past, but I always feel awkward doing it, because in the end my opinion is only my opinion. Why should it be any more valuable than yours?
Well, I'm going to start sharing what I thought, if only so that you can form a better picture of my aesthetic tastes and what I like, don't like, look for, and try to avoid in stories. If you disagree with me about a work, no problem!
Without further ado, I'm going to start with the most obvious target for a review this season: Star Wars Episode VIII, The Last Jedi.
[Major spoilers follow. I'm sure you've seen Star Wars, because slightly more people have seen that movie than currently reside on Earth, but if you haven't...well, I'm not going out of my way to ruin the movie for you, but I am going to be talking about specific scenes in the movie. Which includes the end. You have been warned.]
I didn't like it.
You can now feel free to skip to the comments and tell me what a terrible or awesome person I am, depending on your position.
I know everyone has a strong opinion about this movie, and I'm no exception. While it had some awesome scenes--the appearance of Yoda, the incredible hyperspace suicide run, and Rey and Kylo Ren fighting together all spring to mind--the impact of each of those scenes is weakened by context.
First off, there was a problem going into this movie: Episode Seven didn't explain to us who the First Order or the Resistance actually are. That was a minor weakness in Seven, but it becomes a huge flaw in Eight, when we don't know what the Resistance is actually fighting for. Or against. Is the First Order a galaxy-spanning super-Empire greater than the Emperor's dreams, or is it a fractured cult using the remnants of the Imperial army for terrorist ends? We don't know.
I know there is an answer, and in fact I know what the answer is because I've read some of the books, but that doesn't help. If the audience has to do their homework in order to answer a basic plot question like "Who is the bad guy and what does he want?" then you've made a mistake.
So that's the foundation on which this movie is built, and it only splinters from there.
We don't know what the good guys or bad guys are after, so we don't know what's at stake on a broad scale. However, we're soon shown what's at stake for the heroes: a First Order fleet is bearing down on the Resistance and will kill all the good guys in one fell swoop. Great! Clear threat, timeline established.
Now we break into three plotlines: Rey trying to convince Luke Skywalker to come back, Finn and Rose trying to stop the First Order from tracking them through hyperspace, and Poe trying to save the fleet from an incompetent and possibly self-serving vice-admiral.
...they all fail. And yet it doesn't matter.
Sure, some of the faceless, nameless members of the Resistance die, but everyone we care about survives. We also still don't know the purpose or scale of the Resistance, so being left with like twenty people is...fine? Did they lose ten people, or two hundred? Or two thousand? Not sure. And what happens if they're destroyed, does the galaxy end? Don't know.
I was left feeling like most of the movie was a waste, like all the heroes could have stayed at home and accomplished the exact same thing (because, in at least one case, that's true). It's a long movie, and it feels long, because no one accomplishes anything.
I could go into specific complaints, but then this post would get really long. So I'll just say that it's a shame where this movie ends, because now I'm not excited to watch Nine.
At the end of Empire Strikes Back, going into Return of the Jedi, we have the following specific questions we want answered:
--What can Luke do as a trained Jedi?
--How will Leia escape?
--How will Han escape the carbonite?
--How will the Rebellion beat the Empire, now that the Empire has demonstrated control even over Rebel allies (Cloud City)?
--How will Luke beat Darth Vader, now that he's demonstrated he can't beat him in a fight?
--How will Luke beat the Emperor, who's even more powerful?
At the end of The Last Jedi, we don't have any of that.
Rey has been Kylo Ren's equal from the very beginning, and has gotten the better of him in every exchange...with zero training. So I have to assume she's going to keep beating him and win with no effort.
The Resistance has lost...some portion...of its membership, so maybe we want to see how the Resistance could possibly beat the First Order. But I still have no sense of the size or purpose of either organization, so as far as I know, the First Order has even fewer ships and people left.
Plus, as far as I know, both organizations are equally to blame for the state of the galaxy. The only explicit villains we see are war profiteers, who sell war materiel to both sides, leaving the Resistance just as culpable for the suffering in the galaxy as the First Order. Why am I rooting for these guys?
This movie has given me nothing to look forward to in the next installment. But I'm obviously going to see it anyway.
It's Star Wars.
This book has been out forever at this point.
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