Don’t read this if you haven’t seen the movie. There isn’t anything in this article that isn’t a spoiler. Cool?
I consider myself a Star Wars fan. I saw the original Star Wars, in the theater, when I was 7 years old. It was a magical experience. I have found memories of the original trilogy. I mostly did not like the prequels. I hated Clones. Sith was the best of the 3 but I’m not sure that is huge praise.
Regarding Star Wars films in general I have one true belief. I believe that to define yourself as a good parent you need to show the Star Wars movies in the following order: 4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3.
If as a parent you exposed your kids to 1, 2 and 3 first please leave a comment so I can have social services take your children to parents that will raise them appropriately.
I enjoyed The Force Awakens. It was basically a re-do of Star Wars, but I dug it. It brought back all the right feels.
Yesterday I saw The Last Jedi. This isn’t a review. I think I enjoyed it. I say “I think” because when you see a movie with that level of expectations sometimes it takes time to digest and perhaps even an additional viewing.
Instead of attempting a review I felt a need to explore my thoughts and feelings on the movie so I turned to my friend, Dan Zehr. Dan and I met a year ago in London where Gillette had sent us both to be guests at their Rogue One sponsorship announcement at London’s Pinewood Studios.
Dan is a renowned Star Wars expert who is the Host and co-creator (as well as the senior writer and marketing and media manager) of Coffee With Kenobi, one of the top Star Wars podcasts around. Dan is a high school teacher of English, which comes in handy when he breaks down Star Wars since he looks at it like a literature teacher. He's pretty funny, too, which is evident on his podcast; he's one of those teachers you wanted to have in school because he makes you think and laugh at the same time. This totally comes through on Coffee With Kenobi. He is so highly regarded amongst Star Wars fandom, as well as in the field of education, that he was one of the stars in last year's Target Rogue One commercial, "There's a Rebel in all of us.". Not only that but the guy lectures on using Star Wars in the classroom, as well as on Star Wars as a mythology. He also hosts Star Wars events around the globe, too. Does the guy ever sleep?
JD: Let’s talk The Last Jedi.
DZ: Love to! It's a fantastic film.
JD: The Porgs were cute, but don’t you think Chewbacca would have noticed that before killing, skinning and roasting it over a fire? I mean it was cute while he was preparing it as well wasn’t it?
DZ: While I'm no expert in Wookiee dietary methods, I do know that, as Han told us in Return of the Jedi, Chewie is always thinking with his stomach. So, perhaps being on a remote planet, and, most likely, being hungry, took precedence at first. However, Chewie's heart is much bigger than his stomach, fortunately for the inhabitants of Ach-To.
JD: People are saying this movie is new and takes you to new places. I sort of felt the opposite. Like Force Awakens there seemed to be a few ‘repeat’ sequences (similarities) from previous episodes. Ie., sneaking on board to shut something off so they can escape; Rey going to a distant planet to learn the ways of the force from an at first grumpy Jedi master in seclusion; said Jedi dies at the end and vanishes; an almost shot for shot remake of the Hoth attack. Why do you feel it felt like a Star Wars movie?
DZ: Actually, I think this feels less like a Star Wars movie than anything that has come before. It does a beautiful job of keeping nostalgia somewhere in the foreground while exploring new concepts of familiar motifs in the Star Wars saga. The Force, Jedi abilities, character motivations, etc. There are some sequences reminiscent of previous films, but that is in tune with any great mythology. There is a nice blend of the familiar, but it is more of an homage than a carbon copy. I thought The Last Jedi incorporated archetypes that are integral to Star Wars but with a fresh coat of paint.
JD: This is the only Star Wars movie where during a scene I had the immediate reaction, “Wow that was the best kill ever!” When Rey tossed the lightsaber to Kylo and he turned it on directly into that Imperial Guard’s face. They sure took the level of killing up a notch in this one, didn’t they?
DZ: I think so. It's indicative of what makes The Last Jedi so fresh and captivating; it's unexpected. But, I don't think it is violent for the sake of violence. It helps to illustrate Kylo Ren as a character. He's much more brutal and violent, and this helps prove that point. Plus, the shock factor of this moment also contributes to the pathos of the film. It makes it much more difficult to root for him, and also increases our angst when he challenges Rey's philosophy.
JD: What about all of the jokes? A lot of people aren't crazy about that aspect.
DZ: We learn pretty early on that humor is a big part of this film. While it might seem a bit out of universe, the conceit presents itself right way, once Poe Dameron contacts General Hux. I was instantly aware that this may be considered a bit of a different approach, but The Force Awakens had a number of moments like this as well (particularly with Finn). In fact, every Star Wars film has had some humorous elements. The thing about The Last Jedi, however, is that every comedic moment is fully in line with each character, and does a lot to establish characterization throughout the movie. There are no cheap laughs. You need some levity in a heavy film of this magnitude, anyway. That's a literary device heavily employed by Shakespeare.
JD: Why no Lando? Billy Dee Williams got screwed out of being Two-Face and now this. Is there no justice for Billy Dee?
DZ: Shed no tears for Billy Dee. He's still the smoothest scoundrel in the galaxy. That's never going to change.
JD: Finn and Rose (protected by Poe) go on a mission that literally served no purpose as the actual Rebellion leadership had already changed the plans on how to escape. The whole thing just seemed to be an excuse to fulfill a secondary studio contract held by Benico Del Toro. Thoughts?
DZ: The fact that the mission was ultimately a failure was paramount to the film. It was one of the last vestiges of hope for the Resistance to survive. Having DJ (Del Toro) turn on them was ironic, as he appears to be the embodiment of what is wrong on Canto Bight anyway. Plus, it helps to further remove hope form the galaxy. No matter what Finn, Rose, Poe, and the rest of the Resistance do, the galaxy seems to be against them. I think this makes what happens on Crait even more powerful. Remember, a powerful motif in Star Wars is hope and the negative consequences of what can happen without it. When Leia declares the spark has left the galaxy, as an audience, we can remember that we have seen this happen repeatedly throughout the film. For me, it creates suspense. Perhaps most importantly, it makes Luke's return all the more impactful!
JD: Why do you think they killed Admiral Ackbar and gave the hero moment to Laura Dern? Ackbar is basically famous from one line in the series, “It’s a Trap” which was captured in an extremely popular Meme. Why suck him out a window and not let him go down as a hero? Didn’t he deserve the big hero’s goodbye? He could have even said something like, “You wanna see a trap, I’ll show you a trap.”
DZ: I was disappointed that audiences did not get the opportunity to tell Ackbar goodbye. Perhaps that will be covered in a future storyline, maybe even the novelization of the film. However, Laura Dern was dynamite, as always, and really gave that scene a lot of poignancy. Plus, her goodbye to Leia was beautiful, which made Admiral Holdo's sacrifice all the more meaningful.
JD: Tell me about your thoughts on Leia being able to survive in space with no protection at all? I will remind you that Liam Neeson couldn’t breathe underwater in Episode 1, so I’m not sure there’s a precedent that you can do so in the void of space.
DZ: For me, that scene was haunting and beautiful.It was a lovely moment and was not without precedence in the Star Wars universe. In Claudia Gray's novel, Leia: Princess of Alderaan (released in September of this year), there is a scene in which Leia faces almost certain death (via a mudslide), but is transported to safety via the Force. In both cases, she is in imminent danger of suffocation, but the Force is strong in the Skywalker family and seems to escort her to safety. Let's not forget who her brother and father are, either. Makes perfect sense to me.
JD: OK, let’s just agree it’s OK she survived in space. But don’t you think knowing Carrie Fisher died in real life and here you have a scene where she dies, maybe just let her die? Her being alive later in the movie didn’t help bring her allies.
DZ: Fairly soon after we lost Carrie Fisher, it became public knowledge that nothing was being altered in The Last Jedi, regarding General Leia. Carrie Fisher had wrapped on the film (which was an endearing sendoff to this iconic character). To be honest, knowing that Fisher is no longer with us gave that scene even more emotional weight.
JD: Truth be told I once spent an entire day watching YOUTUBE videos on who Snoke might be, etc. I’m not saying I didn’t regret spending that time while I was doing it, but we got nothing, nothing on Snoke at all. This amazingly powerful person misreads a vision and next thing he’s dead on the floor with his tongue sticking out. It was a huge letdown. I had been hoping it was Mace Windu.
DZ: I can appreciate this comment. It's also a bit ironic, too. For all of the criticism that either TFA or TLJ had too many similarities to previous incarnations of Star Wars, now we have lamentation that Snoke isn't as powerful as the Emperor or is a recycled Jedi Master with a purple lightsaber. Besides, Star Wars is at its strongest when it provides more questions than answers. There was plenty we didn't know in the middle chapter of the last two Skywalker trilogies. Personally, I would have been disappointed if we did discover Snoke's backstory in this film. This movie has a lot going on already. Plus, there is plenty of Star Wars still to be told. Not to mention, this is Kylo Ren's story, not Snoke's.
JD: While we’re on the subject of disappointments. There was so much about Rey’s parents and to just find out they were two nobodies was another disappointment. I didn’t expect Luke to say, “Rey, I am your father” since they had already taken so many scenes from Empire but I expected something.
DZ: While I don't have any insights into Episode IX, when Kylo Ren tells Rey that her parents were nobody (which I'm totally at peace with; that's one of the themes of this film-you define who you are, not your parents), he looks away for a brief moment. Traditionally, when someone lies, they don't maintain eye contact with you. Difficult to see, the future is.
Much like the mystery of Snoke we just discussed, I don't mind not knowing. It creates fascinating conversation and debate. Was Kylo telling the truth? Time will tell. It's not unlike Vader telling Luke he was his father in The Empire Strikes Back. We had to wait three years (ESB was 1980, with ROTJ in 1983) to receive confirmation from Yoda on that one. We only have to wait two years for Episode IX.
JD: It was nice to see Yoda again. Seemed to be a good cross begin Empire Yoda and the over CGI’d version in the prequels. In burning the Tree he seemed to be giving the same message as Kylo was giving to Rey. Let go of the past so you can move on. I’m sure they were coming at it from different points of view but seemed like they were on the same page.
DZ: Good point. They are quite similar. The main difference being that Yoda wants Luke to let go so that he can move forward as a person, and think for himself, instead of being beholden to an ideology that may be in need of a refresh. Kylo, however, wants Rey to let go of her belief, think as Kyo Ren does, and remain stilted as a character. Often, good and bad have similar goals in mind, but it is the journey and the choices we make that determine which side we come out on.
JD: My other thought was that they brought Yoda back so when Luke disappears, in the end, it’s totally plausible for him to come back as a Force Ghost. It was almost like, “Hey don’t forget, in addition to breathing in space you can come back as a ghost.”
DZ: Not exactly. As we learned at the end of Revenge of the Sith (and in Season 6 of Star Wars: The Clone Wars), Qui-Gon Jinn learned how to commune with the living, as a part of the living Force, and taught both Obi-Wan (while he was watching over Luke on Tatooine), and Yoda (while he was on Dagobah) to do the same. Luke appeared to transition into the Force as well. Only time will tell if he has mastered this skill.
JD: One last thought is it me or do they seem to be wanting people to think of Phasma like Boba Fett? No offense but Phasma is no Boba Fett. “Will Phasma return?” seems to be a question going around but frankly are they trying to get this to stick like ‘Fetch’? Cause I don’t think either is going to happen.
DZ: Ha! You can only wear chrome armor on Wednesdays.
I grew to appreciate Phasma through Delilah S. Dawson's novel Phasma. She is one dangerous adversary. I don't imagine she will come back, but I'm not really a speculation kind of person. I'd much rather deal in what is than what might be.
JD: Overall, does this movie feel like Star Wars to you?
DZ: It really doesn't, but I love that. It is very cool that a forty-year-old franchise can still challenge my pre-conceived notions of what I think Star Wars is. From a meta-perspective, Luke ends up asking us to do the same.
Let us know what you thought about the movie in the comments!
Check out Dan’s review of The Last Jedi below:
Jeff Dwoskin (@Bigmacher) is a professional comedian, avid tweeter, social media guru, viewer of all Star Wars movies, and CEO of Hashtag Roundup (@HashtagRoundup)