Star Wars: The Last Jedi

String theory

A dmiral Ackbar is dead. Normally, I don’t believe in spoiling films, but when you take away the most beloved character in franchise history people have to be warned. No, I’m holding firm on this. You must know going in to Star Wars: The Last Jedi that Admiral Ackbar dies, which does little more than

RIP, Admiral. When you see the light, take the escalator up; the other one is a trap.

exposing the existential “what’s the point?” nihilist in all of us. Who is going to let us know when something is or is not a trap, huh? Who? Thanks, Rian Johnson. Life just became that much more desperate.

It seems weird as this is technically film #8 in the series, but epic adventure Star Wars: The Last Jedi feels like a middle film, behaves like a middle film, and has the same issues as many middle films. Before you see that as a damning phrase, keep in mind I believe The Empire Strikes Back to be, by far, the very best of all Star Wars films, and I believe Episode II: Attack of the Clones (in spite of, arguably, the worst screen romance in history) to be the best among the awful Star Wars prequel trilogy I hope never to mention again. The disadvantages of a middle film are obvious: where to start and where to end? And Star Wars: The Last Jedi follows suit, suggesting at least two or three different points to conclude before fooling us with more action.

Rian Johnson clearly shares my love of The Empire Strikes Back, as he gave us a repeat of both plot lines from said film: 1) The Empire pursuing/squashing what remains of the rebellion (now the “Resistance,” … no wonder the Alt-Right has a problem with this film) and 2) Jedi training with Luke Skywalker. On the latter, they just don’t train Jedis like they used to, huh? With Luke (Mark Hamill) now in Yoda’s position as master, his handling of Jedi wannabe Rey (Daisy Ridley) is 100% psychological. That’s ok. I don’t really need to see her leaping through bogs while carrying Luke around on her back. Yet, what is Jedi training all about, then? Is the Force just a philosophical understanding? Is “training” just advanced mind games? And what’s up with Rey’s telepathic interplanetary communication with Vader-like villain Kylo Ren (Adam Driver)? Why is the connective string between them as strong as that between Luke and Leia? Are Rey and Kylo sibs, too?

On the former, the Resistance just can’t shake their Empirical tail. It doesn’t help that General Leia (Carrie Fisher) gets herself blowed up but good early on. Resistance leadership falls to Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern), who immediately has conflict with inferior officer Major Poe (Oscar Isaac). “Major?” Damn, he got promoted in a hurry, huh? Is this what happens when your ranks are down to fifteen people or so? I should point out that the keyword in the war plot is insubordination. For all the military kerfuffle, orders are mere suggestions for the lower ranks of both Empire and Resistance. I lost count of how many times a soldier defied a direct order in the film. Maybe you could get away with this crap long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away, but here and now? That’s no way to defy an Empire.

Despite the weaknesses I see, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is a winner in several ways. For all the potential endings, I don’t believe it got dull during two-and-a-half hours of film. I probably could have used fewer noble suicide kamikaze attempts, but one particular self-sacrifice allowed us to keep and flesh out two non-white, non-alien characters: Finn (John Boyega) and Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran). Minorities?! Women?! Again, it’s no wonder this film pisses off the Alt-Right. In fact, the sheer volume of significant women military figures -by itself- makes me want to root for this film.

And while nobody will mistake The Last Jedi for the genius of The Empire Strikes Back, it certainly has moments – a set of scenes late in the film in which Luke reappears among the Resistance to take on a fleet of AT-ATs by himself not only demonstrated great filmmaking, but also served as a reminder of why we love these films. I’ve been waiting a while to love this franchise again. Not quite sure I’m there yet, but this is the first time in seven films that I really wish to see that again. It’s a start.

♪Hey Luke, don’t make her mad
Teach her the Force and make her be fly
Remember what Yoda always told you
“Do. Or do not. There is no try.”

Hey Luke, don’t be afraid
Fear and hate lead to the dark side
The minutiae of midichlorians
Can result in patricide♫

Rated PG-13, 152 Minutes
Director: Rian Johnson
Writer: Rian Johnson
Genre: Empire Strikes Back, v.2
Type of being most likely to enjoy this film: Star Wars junkies
Type of being least likely to enjoy this film: People who hate “the middle episode”

♪ Parody Inspired by “Hey Jude”

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