This past Friday, I sat through a corporate event for the privilege of watching the latest corporate Star Wars movie: The Rise of Skywalker. How apropos.
To prepare for this, I re-watched The Last Jedi, which re-assured my unpopular opinion that the movie isn't terrible. In fact, if you're one of those people who thinks that TLJ is the worst Star Wars movie, then I'm afraid that your aesthetic is broken and we really can't be friends.
Because, for all it's fuck ups, at least The Last Jedi isn't a color-by-numbers soft reboot of A New Hope like The Farce Awakens was, nor is it a well intentioned, but otherwise artistically-bankrupt, pile of garbage like The Phantom Men-Ass, Attack of the Clowns or Revenge of the Shit.
But to paraphrase Yoda: "a perfect film, it is not." After my re-watch I noted sixteen things that ranged from irksome to downright idiotic. Granted, some of these are kinda nit-picky but they all take me out of the film in some way.
So, strap yourselves in, folks...we're about to make the jump into hyper-waste.
(16) The First Order Reigns...In Your Mom
This one's actually a carry-over from my rant about The Force Awakens, which I'll just repeat right here...
"What exactly is The Resistance? And who are the First Order? When we last left the Rebels, they'd struck a decisive blow against the Empire. We felt content that the story was told and the good guys had won the day. So, what the hell happened in the galaxy over the past thirty / forty years?!?
"Maybe the remnants of the Imperial fleet retreated to some distant corner of the galaxy, re-branded themselves and eventually came back with a vengeance. And maybe the New Republic, weary of conflict, just let them do their thing, underscoring the dangers of capitulation. Maybe the Resistance sprung up because Leia recognized the impending threat and could see where things were headed.
"Unfortunately, everything I just typed is an assumption. I've never read any supplemental Star Wars books and I flat out refuse to. Frankly, if I gotta buy and then read an effin' novel just to give this movie some badly-needed context, then things are clearly flawed."
The sad fact of the matter is: the most interesting part of this story, I.E. the rise of the First Order and the corruption of Ben Solo, has already happened by this point and what we're getting now just feels like table scraps.
Back when I reviewed The Force Awakens I wrote the following:
"Yeah, yeah...I know, I know...we're just getting started and it's likely that these questions and many more will be answered in the next installment."
Ah, 2015. It was a more innocent time for me. Poor, naive sap...
I didn't know it at the time but The Last Jedi would brazenly double down on these vagaries. In fact, the gorram title crawl has the audacity to declare that "THE FIRST ORDER REIGNS." But why? How? In light of the good guys blowing the shit outta Starkiller Base, this is particularly baffling.
Since these sequel movies have given us zero context and stakes, the First Order is less a concrete threat and more of a generic fabrication designed to validate the existence of Disney-sponsored Star Wars product.
Which leads me to my next point...
(15) The First Order? More Like The WORST Order
Kylo Ren is my favorite sequel trilogy character because he's a parody of edgelord Star Wars dudebros who worship Dark Side shit. And I'm all about making fun of sad fucks who fetishisize villains over heroes.
The only problem is that everyone in the First Order is equally pathetic. Hux is a complete ass-hat and there's nothing scary or intimidating about him at all. In fact, the only Resistance officer with any gravitas, Captain Canady, well-played by Mark Lewis Jones, gets dispatched almost immediately. Pissing away such a great character is a pretty clear indicator that Rian Johnson isn't concerned with giving us any intimidating villains.
And, let's face it, a movie like this is only as good as its bad guys. Hey, I don't mind if one or two of them are depicted as mooks, but there's zero tension if every one of them are a bunch of incompetent yahoos.
(14) Finn the Forgotten
I know I'm supposed to judge a movie based on what it did as opposed to what I wanted it to do but, in Finn's case, I really can't help speculating. In my opinion, Rian Johnson had 152 minutes to explore Finn's character and he didn't even try.
I really liked Finn in the first movie. He went AWOL from the First Order because he hated what he was being asked to do and he was also a bit of a scaredy-cat. Despite his clear attraction to Rey he was still willing to walk away from her because of shame and cowardice but, ultimately, he came back because he clearly has feelings for her.
In fact, as soon as Finn "comes to" in The Last Jedi, the first word out of his mouth is "Rey!" Clearly she's paramount in his thoughts, soooo...why not let him go find her?
How about this: Finn discovers that all troopers have L'il Anakin-style 'splody homing beacons in their noggins, which is how the First Order is tracking the Resistance. So he goes on a solo mission to try and remove it and /or find Rey to warn her of danger. Somewhere along the way he gets captured by Phasma, which would have given Johnson the perfect opportunity to explore their adversarial relationship as well as his origins.
But nope, instead, his quest it undone by a superfluous, hitherto unknown partner and then gets side-tracked in a pointless sub-plot. What a waste!
(13) Luke: "How Did You Find Me?" Rey: "Um...Google Maps?"
Does anyone else think that Luke's reaction to Rey's appearance on the island is a tad "methinks thou dost protest too much?"
Look, all I'm saying is that someone put the missing map piece in R2's memory banks...and it wasn't Ponda Baba.
(12) ♬♪ "Your Best Friend's Dead and Your Gonna Say 'M'eh' Now" / "Hey, Ya...Hey, Ya...Your Best Friend's Dead!" ♫♩
Luke chucking his lightsaber away is a level of subversion that makes sense to me. But as soon as he hears that his sister is in dire straits (the condition, not the band) and his best friend is dead, I'd like to think that he'd march right back, shoo the porgs away, pick up his lazer sword and spring into action. If not at that point than certainly when R2 replays Leia's original holographic plea to Obi-Wan.
After years of wallowing in defeat, it makes sense that Luke is a bitter, disillusioned, depressed, broken martyr. The unfortunate thing is that we didn't see what bright him to that point. The last time we saw Luke at the end of Return of the Jedi he was resolved, triumphant, and resolute.
Maybe if we'd actually witnessed some of the events that made him borderline suicidal, than his appearance in The Last Jedi wouldn't have been so jarring to fans.
(11) That Battleship Is About As Impregnable As A Parking Garage!
You know what would improve the design of these military starships? Make it so that you can't fly directly into their super-structure and blow 'em up! It's as if the half-built second Death Star in ROTJ caught on as some sort of galactic, avant-garde hipster design ethos.
(10) General Leia Does Her Captain Marvel Impersonation
I love the idea of Leia finally displaying her Force powers...but the way she does it is unintentionally funny.
After her cruiser got hit, it would have been great to see her instinctively whip around, form some sort of protective barrier and prevent the explosive decompression which would allow the bridge crew to escape. Sure, it's not as OP as what we got but it's also not patently ridiculous to watch.
(9) Vice-Admiral Who Now?
First off, I'm still not entirely sure why Poe takes so much heat in this film.
You can't blame him for the bombers getting creamed because the concept of sending a fleet of ponderous, poorly-armed, virtually-defenseless, meandering ships hurtling directly at a dreadnought is inherently stupid. I guess Poe's refusal to obey Leia's order to retreat forces the fleet to stick around and cover his insubordinate ass. Unfortunately, other than Leia briefly looking at a tactical display, Poe's role in the squandering of the Resistance fleet is very poorly conveyed.
After Leia is incapacitated, Laura Dern's Vice Admiral Holdo is summarily introduced from out of nowhere. Sorry, but Holdo is nothing more than Rian Johnson's hubris at work. And, hey, this is coming from someone who absolutely adores Laura Dern. Unfortunately, the character's caustic attitude and Dern's appropriately-flinty performance make for one condescending and repellent package.
In order for Poe's arc in the movie to work, he has to be in the wrong. And since we already know, like and trust him, our sympathies automatically lie with him as opposed to Holdo. Especially when she acts like a shifty, snarky, uncommunicative twat-waffle. This would be like Yoda ordering Luke to go kick Vader's ass in The Empire Strikes Back and responding "if your opinion I wanted, beat it out of you, I would" if Luke expressed any doubts at all.
(8) Rose. Just...Rose
In The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson acts like a petulant child that hates the outdated toys left to him by his big brother J.J. I actually visualize him crossing his arms, stamping his feet and muttering "I want NEW stuff!" within earshot of Kathleen Kennedy.
Unfortunately that new plaything turned out to be Rose Tico.
Before I proceed, lemme get one thing straight: Kelly Marie Tran is a lovely and delightful human bean and doesn't deserve any of the nasty treatment she was subjected to. It's important to stress that the only people who can't distinguish creator from actor are slack-jawed troglodytes.
It's not her fault that the part was ill-conceived and poorly written. Between Rose directly spoiling Finn and Rey's early reunion and her batshit insane motivations towards the end of the film, most audience members found her to be alternately preachy and / or annoying. If you don't believe me, head over to your nearest discount department store and see how many Rose Tico (in)action figures you can buy for twenty bucks.
Hint: it's twenty of them.
(7) "Lupita Nyong'o Is Asking For Black Panther Money Now? Okay, We'll Fix Her Little, Red Wagon..."
Maz Kanata should’ve been the "master code breaker." It would’ve given this already-established character some much-needed screen time, scrapped her dumb-ass cameo in the flick and, most importantly, jettisoned all of that pointless Canto Bight nonsense.
Plus maybe she would have had the time to explain this cryptic and infuriating bullshit...
(6) "Rey, Meet The Locals: Jab, Streex, Big Slammu, and Ripster."
Speaking of toys, Rian Johnson was 21 when Street Sharks debuted in 1994. And although he was clearly too old to collect them, I still think he was a fan, cuz' the lanai, or the caretakers that live on the planet of Ahch-To, look like whtat would happen if a street shark fucked an ostrich.
The way these natives are introduced in the film is really jarring. They just kinda pop in, milling around the stone village as if they suddenly phased in from another dimension. It's like they all collectively shrugged of their Harry Potter-style invisibility cloaks...and the effect is really jarring.
Every time I watch this scene I feel as if I'm experiencing some sort of weird, communal, audience participation-style acid flashback with Luke and Rey.
(5) "Yeah, Right Here Is Fine!"
Consider this: everything goes wrong on Canto Bight just because Rose and Finn are too cheap to pay for parking.
This would be like abandoning your Hyundai Accent on Miami Beach and then wandering through the lobby of the Fontainebleau Hotel. C'mon, Rian...no one is that stupid!
(4) Phasma Is Back...And Not In A Detention Cell
I don't know what's worse: that Rian Johnson bothered to bring Phasma back with absolutely no repercussions after sold out the entire First Order in the first flick...or that her character's motivations and connections to Finn are completely ignored. This is fucking unforgivable.
(3) The Real Mary Sue Isn't Rey...It's BB-8
For two dyer balls stuck together, that droid is 'effin dynamite. Not only can BB-8 turn slot machine tokens into dangerous projectiles, she's also mobile enough to steal and pilot a scout walker by herself. Jesus, why doesn't the Resistance just put a bulk order into Boston Dynamics and be done with it?
(2) Save-Us Interruptus
Between John Boyega’s awesome performance and the stirring music from John Williams, Finn's run at the surface cannon could have capped off a decent arc for the character. Instead Rose intervenes, nearly killing both of them. Again...who the fuck would even think to do that?!?
Finn's self-sacrifice could have single-highhandedly saved his new friends and fired up their will to fight on. Instead we get the following inane conclusion:
(1) Luke: "The Force Isn’t About Lifting Rocks!" Rey: "Okay, Boomer!"
If the script hadn't done poor Luke dirty at every turn, this could have been a cute moment. But since our beloved hero was written as a contender for the "Worst Cinematic Mentor EVAR" award, this sage advice comes across as yet another example of his failure.
So, there you have it. Keep an eye on this space for my review of The Rise of Skywalker, coming soon. Will it finally justify the existence of the Disney Star Wars trilogy or will the whole thing be revealed as little more than perfunctory entertainment product shit out to recoup an investment?
Place your bets, folks!