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Saturday, December 16, 2017

Force in Focus: The Last Jedi

Spoilers ahead, obviously. If you haven't yet seen the film, just...don't read this post. Certainly nothing beneath the picture below.

As detailed below, I have some quibbles with the film, but they're mostly plot-related, or carry-overs from Force Awakens. For the most part, I enjoyed the movie, which is one of the most thematically-rich entries in the saga, one which manages to effectively callback and homage the previous films while still being remarkably surprising as it takes some unexpected turns. It also leaves the franchise in a really interesting place that makes me even more excited than I would have been already to see what's next.

Things I Don't Like 

Force Awakens Carryovers
This was a problem in Force Awakens and it remains so in this film (which, given it picks up minutes/hours/a few days, in various places, after TFA is not surprising): the overall state of the galaxy remains maddeningly unclear. The opening crawl tells us the New Republic is gone (not surprising, given its capital system and thus governmental body was wiped out last movie) and the First Order has risen in its place, but just how big is the First Order? Is it more than the ships we see in this movie? Is there an entire bureaucratic structure of governors and generals out there seizing systems in Snoke's names? Or is just the half dozen Star Destroyers and Snoke's ship that we see pursuing the Resistance? If so, does that essentially put the Resistance on even footing with the First Order at the end of the movie (in which the vast majority of the fleet chasing the Resistance seems to get wiped out by Holdo), or does Kylo Ren have untapped resources out there still at his command?

Along similar lines, it seems odd that for all the First Order's technical superiority, they seems to only ever have one gun capable of shooting down ships, and it takes FOREVER to aim and charge. Given how heavily armed Star Destroyers are, and how they're meant to be capable of surpressing a planet from orbit, it seems like none of the Resistance transports should have survived by the end. Unless there's additional technical limitations on the First Order weaponry in place, in which case the film needed to establish them.

Holdo's Secret
Okay, so I'm fine with Holdo (Laura Dern) withholding her secret "stall til we reach Crait, then sneak the Resistance down to an old Rebel base" plan from Poe. It's need to know, he's kind of a punk, and learning to follow orders/respect the chain of command is an important part of his character arc. But there comes a point where withholding makes no sense other than for the weakest of plot reasons. Basically, when Poe spots the transports and is all outraged that Holdo is running away, that's the point where she should sigh and say, "fine, look, here's the plan". At that point, Finn & Rose are already off on their mission, so that part of the plot has been serviced. And Poe will have already learned his lesson, without the whole thing devolving into the ridiculousness and forced tension of his mutiny.

I get that the Resistance is naturally secretive and very cell-oriented, keeping things close to the vest, but there's a point where that becomes harmful, and this plot sped well past that point. 

Better to Have Done Nothing At All 
So the whole Finn/Rose/Canto Bight plot is important to the film, in terms of Finn's character arc and in developing the movie's themes of how anyone can be a hero and that the Resistance is sparking hope all over, but in terms of the narrative, Finn not only fails in his mission, but he actively makes things worse (since DJ reveals the cloaked Resistance transports). I'm fine with Finn failing (not every hero mission has to be a success), but I'm not sure that having him make things worse, combined with Poe's mutiny, was the best decision considering the film still wants us to root for these characters by the end. Ultimately, all it did was add a bit of extra tension to the "Resistance flees to Crait" sequence, and that tension at that point in time wasn't really necessary.

Who the Heck is Snoke? 
This is another TFA carryover; I'm not saying Snoke needed to be "someone" (ie Darth Plaguesis, Mace Windu, Ezra, Tarkin, etc.), and in fact, I'd prefer he not be. But we still needed to know SOMETHING about where he came from, how he created the First Order, how he trained in the Force, how he got his hooks into Kylo Ren, etc. We don't need a lengthy dissertation on the matter, and I know a book or comic series will come along that will likely flesh out a lot of his backstory, but within the context of this film/trilogy, the story needed at least a line or two explaining where he came from (Luke: "we thought Vader was Sidious' only apprentice. Turns out he had Snoke waiting in the wings all along." Just something like that). When the Emperor was introduced, before the Prequels fleshed out his rise to power, it worked, because the setup was simple: the Rebels were fighting an Empire, he was the Emperor, and he was Vader's boss. But the setup of this trilogy is more complex; both the First Order and the Resistance exist in juxtaposition with the old Empire and Rebellion, and Snoke is a Dark Side Force who ascended at a time the previous films told us all Dark Side force users were gone, so it's necessary to understand more of Snoke's deal before writing him out, because "evil Force-using bad guy leader" just isn't enough to get by on the second time around.

Where are the damned Twi'leks? 
Another problem shared with TFA (and to some extent Rogue One): why are there no pre-existing alien species represented amongst the various group/background shots (notably in the casino at Canto Bight)? Where are the Twi'leks, the Bothans, the Given, the Gran, the Duros, the Nemoidians, the Talz, the Bith, the Rodians, etc. I have no issue with the new films wanting to add new species, but it would hurt nothing to throw in a few pre-existing aliens into the backgrounds of scenes, if only as an Easter Egg to hardcore fans, and it would help the new films feel connected to the existing canon with a minimum of effort.

Things I Do Like

Everyone Got an Arc
All four of the new trilogy's main characters, Rey, Finn, Poe and Kylo Ren, received a character arc in this film, coming out the end of the film different than when they started. Rey comes to accept her parentage and Force-abilities, Finn learns to care about something bigger than himself and his immediate friends (chiefly Rey), and to stop running away in the face of trouble, Poe learns to think strategically and not just tactically, that sometimes doing nothing is better than something, and grows as a leader overall, and Kylo Ren rejects Snoke but not the Dark Side, claiming the First Order for himself.

Kylo Ren 
In fact, I came out of this enjoying Kylo Ren way more than I did in TFA. After that film, Ren seemed like the weakest character, a wannabe Vader with some of Anakin's emo tendencies, set on a standard arc of questionable redemption. But here, Ren became an increasingly more interesting character. Having him kill Snoke, then fight side-by-side with Rey, seemingly setting up the expected redemption, only to have him turn to Rey and be like, "uh, yeah, I'm not a good guy. I just decided to be the main bad guy now" is a fantastic subversion of expectations. Combine that with the fact that he's still not entirely bad - he couldn't kill his mom earlier in the film, and he so desperately wants Rey to like him - and the fact that for all his exhortations of rejecting the past, he still really, really hates Luke (and that, from his point of view, he has some valid reasons to do so), and the character becomes so much more complex and entertaining to watch. After TFA, I couldn't wait to see what was next for Rey; now, I can't wait to see what Kylo Ren does next.

Narrative Parallels and Upending Expectations
One of the big problems with TFA was how structurally similar it was to A New Hope, right down to the climax involving a pilot making a trench run in order to blow up an orb-shaped super-weapon moments before it destroys the scrappy Rebel heroes, and the fear going into this movie, particularly since it was already poised to feature at least some training between Rey & Luke, was that it would similarly repeat Empire beat-for-beat. Thankfully, it doesn't, and while it still echoes Empire in plenty of places, the nods are just that: echoes, rather than repeats, of familiar beats (when I saw Luke's X-wing underwater, I immediately feared we were going to see Luke or Rey raise it from the water in a rehash of Yoda doing the same in Empire).

We have a novice learning the Force from a cranky teacher, but the teacher is now decidedly nihilistic, and while the the student storms off before finishing the training (we never do learn what Luke's third lesson was), it's to ostensibly save the villain, not the other heroes, and while Yoda & Ben were probably right that Luke shouldn't have rushed off to face Vader, Luke is decidedly wrong to hold back Rey (even if, in the end, he's right that things didn't go as she expected them to). Ghost Yoda even pops up, both to make us fondly remember Empire but also to take the piss out of Luke.

Moreoever, the film doesn't limit itself to echoing Empire, instead drawing from the entire saga. From New Hope there's the reprise of Leia's message to Obi-Wan, along with a second Binary sunset, and Luke echoing Obi-Wan's sacrifice to buy the heroes time to escape. The Rey/Ren/Snoke scene is staged exactly like the Luke/Vader/Emperor confrontation in Return of the Jedi (which only adds to the excitement when Ren upends expectations and isn't drawn back into the light by Rey). There's even shades of Revenge of the Sith in some of the musical cues as Snoke goads Rey and Ren attacks Luke, and a callback to The Force Awakens as Ren urges Rey to let go of the past to join him, with the fiery embers from the destruction wreaked by their lightsaber fight snowing down in a reminder of their last face-to-face meeting in the snow on Starkiller Base.

The Music 
While this film is lacking in any significant new musical theme (aside from one that seems to be either an overal Resistance theme, or one specifically for Rose that get reprised as part of various Resistance stuff and in the closing credits; it's fine but not terribly memorable), it contains the most callbacks and references to previous themes of any Star Wars film ever. My eyes watered just hearing Yoda's theme in a movie theater again, and by the time Luke & Leia's theme piped up over their reunion (my all time favorite bit of Star Wars music, I fell asleep listening to it nearly every night from the ages of roughly 15 to 24), well, let's just say it was getting hard to see the screen.

Trolling Hux
There's been some criticism of the film for its humor being too forced, plentiful, etc. But at the very least, Poe trolling Hux at the very beginning in order to stall for time seems right in line with some of Poe's earliest dialogue in TFA, when he deflates the rising tension of being captured by Kylo Ren with the whole "who talks first? Do you talk first?" exchange.

And in general, I kind of love how this movie portrays Hux as something of a puffed up boob, from Poe taking the piss out of his grand pronouncements to Kylo Ren casually Force slamming him into the side of his ship's cockpit. If he was the main villain, it would undermine his menace, but he is poised to be the perpetual second fiddle villain, and as such, is perfectly positioned to suffer as the butt of some jokes. 

Use the Force, Leia 
While the visual of Leia using the Force to pull herself back onto the Raddus didn't quite land, I really love that we finally got to see Leia show off her own prodigious Force strength and do something with it other than sense things and know when people died.

Of all the great things that happen in the scene between Luke & Artoo aboard the Falcon, the best is easily Mark Hamill's performance, as he effectively channels his younger self. For that brief scene, gone is the gruff, jaded Luke, as the character sounds as though he's 18 years old again, about to remove Artoo's restraining bolt in his uncle's garage. It's a fantastic bit of acting from an overall excellent performance from Hamill (arguably his best ever live-action work), and does a lot to show the strong bond between the two old friends.

Darth Sidious 
I always appreciate any reminder that the Prequels, in all their messy, problematic, complicated glory, are still canon, so I love that Luke referred to the Emperor as "Darth Sidious" in detailing the Jedi's failure. Now I am eagerly looking forward to the story of how Luke came to learn the story of the Prequels and the Emperor's Sith title.

Trolling Luke
Mischievous Dagobah Yoda is the best Yoda, and it was a delight to see him pop up here, imparting more crucial wisdom to Luke (ie failure is an important part of learning, all students are meant to surpass their masters) while also trolling him about the Jedi books (telling him Rey already has what she needs as the library burns down...because Rey took the books with her before she left).

Snoke's Death
Putting aside the fact that the story really required at least a tiny bit of backstory on Snoke before killing him off, I really love that he died in this movie, which is probably the best bit of expectation-upending in a movie filled with it. It's the kind of thing that would usually happen in the final film of a trilogy, and it's great that Rian Johnson took out the new Emperor figure here, so as to make it that much harder for JJ Abrams to turn Episode IX into a carbon copy of Return of the Jedi (also, I loved the way Snoke died, with Ren doing a little in-universe expectation-upending of his own and emphasizing that old "certain point of view" Star Wars chestnut).

Rey & Ren  
Snoke's death leads to the best action scene in the movie, which is, not coincidentally, the only one to feature extended use of lightsabers, as Rey and Ren fight back-to-back against Snoke's elite guard. That this ends both with Ren not rejecting the Dark Side but with another parental reveal/plea to join the bad guy in ruling the galaxy, is another example of how the movie plays with expectations and expertly handles Empire callbacks.

Holdo's Exit 
Holdo lightspeeding her way into Snoke's flagship and taking out the First Order fleet was a top-notch "fuck yeah!" moment,  and I loved that it was shot silently and the effects work involved in depicting the action (specifically the crackling lightning effect that essentially split the First Order fleet open).

Poe patting BB-8 
There's a brief shot when Poe and BB-8 are reunited on Crait in which Poe pats BB-8's belly like he's a dog and it is all the adorbs.

Luke's Journey Ending Where It Began 
Luke Skywalker is hands down my favorite Star Wars character, and one of my all time favorite characters, ever. When I played Star Wars as a kid, while everyone else was Han, I was Luke (because Luke had the Force and a lightsaber, and that trumps snark and a blaster any time/all the time). A lot of stuff happens to Luke in this movie, and it's the first real look we've had yet at a canonical post-Jedi Luke (most of the books and comics have largely shied away from featuring him). And it's going to take me some time and additional viewings to fully sort out in my head everything that happens to Luke and how I feel about it, and how much of what I feel is down to filmmaking decisions and not just being presented with something different than what I was expecting in my head (I mean, I've long wanted to see Luke engage in some kind of spectacular lighsaber battle on par with the Prequels, the kind of thing we got occasionally in the old EU but that we've never seen in live-action, but just because this movie didn't give me that doesn't means what it did give me was inherently bad. This is not unlike a similar effort I had to make with TFA and its declaration that Han & Leia didn't live happily ever after despite what I had play-acted as a child and absorbed through decades of old Expanded Universe stories).

That said, I never doubted that Luke was going to die in the course of this trilogy, and while the exact details of his death were not what I was expecting (see above re: blaze of glory), in the end, his death was absolutely fantastic. I have a long and deep relationship with the Binary sunset scene from A New Hope, the shot of Luke gazing out over the setting suns of Tatooine as the Force theme swells to completion for the first time. It is my favorite shot of the entire series, and it perfectly encapsulates Star Wars: Luke, on the precipice of his journey, yearning for more than his provincial life, for a life of consequence and meaning. And then in this movie his journey ends exactly where it began, with Luke looking out over another binary sunset as his physical form fades away. It is both an ending I never expected for him (I was primed for the Obi-Wan-esque "strike me down..." that ultimately turns out to be a feint here) and the absolute perfect ending for his character, and I get choked up thinking about it even now.

Saving what we love, not destroying what we hate. 
Rose's declaration that the Resistance is about saving what we love, not destroying what we hate, absolutely floored me. It's a perfect encapsulation of the ethos of Star Wars (in which the Big Bad of the Original Trilogy is defeated by a son's love for his father, a love the father has done absolutely nothing to earn), a quiet repudiation of some of the nihilism found in Rogue One that left me cold, and one of several bits in this movie (more below) that make it resonate it at this particular moment in time.

What's Next?
After TFA ended, the path forward for the story, at least immediately, seemed pretty clear: The First Order would strike back, the Resistance would run, Rey would train. And while some of that held out (the First Order did strike back), Rey's training didn't exactly go as we expected. But with the end of this movie, I have no idea what to expect from Episode IX, aside from more general Resistance vs. First Order business. In fact, with the Resistance whittled down to a ship's worth of people and the weakened First Order now fully in the control of the unstable Kylo Ren, it's hard to even picture how that conflict will unfold. Instead, it almost seems like Episode IX is poised to be the post-Return of the Jedi film we never got, with the new (and now properly-introduced) heroic trinity working to restore order to the galaxy while the First Order struggles to keep itself together. Whatever happens, Episode IX is now positioned to be the start of something new, instead of just the running out the exepected conclusion to the immediate story started in TFA, and that is to this film's credit.

I love that Rey's parents aren't somebody. That she's not a secret Skywalker, an illegitimate Kenobi, the improbable child of Jyn Erso. She is, like Anakin Skywalker, just a nobody from a backwards world with a strong connection to the Force. This is important, both to the narrative in terms of widening the Star Wars saga beyond that of the Skywalker family, and in terms of the themes of this movie, the notion that anyone, of any bearing or heritage, be they a mechanic-turned-security officer-turned Resistance hero, a backwater junker, a defector, a farmboy, or a freed slave, can be a hero, a source of hope. That heroism is a choice, not something inherited by dint of being born from an already-important character. And I desperately hope Episode IX doesn't role back this revelation by revealing that Kylo Ren was wrong or lying.

The Spark That Will Light the Fire 
From the celebrations of Episodes IV, VI and I, to the mounting dread of Episode II and plaintive hopefulness of Episodes III and VII, each Star Wars film (except Rogue One) ends with a dialogue-less coda that uses a combination of music and imagery to closeout each movie with a specific tone and underscore its themes. The coda of this film is arguably the strongest of the lot, as we see firsthand the sparks of rebellion referenced repeatedly in the film, while at the same time are reminded once again that heroes can be nobodies, as a small Force-sensitive child, living a life of cruel servitude, regales his friends with tales of Luke Skywalker's heroism before stepping outside to gaze with longing at the distant stars, dreaming perhaps as Anakin, Luke and Rey did before him, of a better life, a life of meaning & purpose & heroism & hope.

Not only is it the perfect encapsulation of the movie's central themes, but it's the perfect ending for this movie at this moment in time. Contrary to what some online trolls believe, Star Wars has always been political, a product of its time filtered through the very specific experiences of its creators. The Original Trilogy exists in the shadow of the Vietnam War (with Lucas considered the Rebels as like unto the Viet Cong and the Empire the US), while the Prequel Trilogy gains something unfolding as it does amidst the (now-quaint) fears of increasing government  oversight in the wake of 9/11 and the ongoing Bush presidency. This film, with its arguments to save what we love, that anyone, anywhere, can be a hero, that all it takes is a spark of hope to fan the flames of resistance and burn down a harsh autocracy that would impose its will on its subjects, resonates deeply in Trump's America. At the risk of trivializing some very real, very serious real-world concerns, that bullying stable master may as well be Trump, the kid with the Force broom everyone who isn't a rich white plutocrat that is currently fighting or yearning to fight to make the world a better place.

If you're curious, here's how I currently rank all the Star Wars films, in terms of how likely I am to reach for one to rewatch it at any given time (so not how I rank them in terms of objective quality, but in terms of how much I like watching them). The top and the bottom usually stays the same, but the middle is constantly in flux somewhat.

Empire - Jedi - Sith - New Hope - Last Jedi - Force Awakens - Attack of the Clones - Rogue One - Phantom Menace.



    Excellent and thoughtful review! I agree with a lot of your points, though I still came out of the movie somewhat frustrated. I enjoyed it as I watched it, but the further I get from that viewing and the more I think about it, the more certain things really bug me; mostly plot elements which could've been easily fixed. First among these is the Finn/Rose mission. Our fleet is in imminent danger, so we're just going to jet off across the galaxy to some other planet for a day or so. I understand the movie presented a clear reason why they needed to do this, but it broke up the flow for me in a really jarring way. I'm sure they could've found some other way to get everyone where they needed to be, both physically and in terms of their character arcs, without doing it that way.

    That said, I liked Canto Bight. It was the most prequel-ish planet we've seen in any of the Disney-era movies. Though I'm with you -- where are the pre-existing aliens? This drives me nuts every time.

    I also agree we need more answers on Snoke. As-is, he was just a plot device, not a character. I don't want him to have a "secret identity" either; I just want to know who he was and what his deal was. Similarly, I'm with you that it's okay Rey's parents aren't anyone special -- but it's annoying that this was set up in THE FORCE AWAKENS like a legitimate mystery, only to have the payoff be "never mind." That sort of cop-out, for good or ill, bugs me to no end.

    I loved Yoda. As is my custom, I listened to the soundtrack before seeing the movie. I've done it with every Star Wars film since PHANTOM MENACE, and while there are always some spoilers to be gleaned this way, I don't really mind. It's my tradition and I'll never stop doing it. It's fun to hear the music first and try to imagine what scenes it will play under. But anyway -- this time around, the score gave me probably the biggest spoiler I've ever gotten from a pre-movie listen, with Yoda's theme popping up in full during the track called "The Jedi Texts". (Though I've subsequently learned that Frank Oz was at the movie premiere, so people already suspected Yoda might make an appearance.)

    The bits between Luke and Artoo and Poe and BB-8 were great too, though I wish Luke had gotten more interaction with Threepio than just a wink.


      I thought some of the humor was way out of place in this one. I avoided reviews, but I did see a headline that referred to the movie as "funny and..." something-or-other. When "funny" is the first word that comes to mind, I get worried. The same thing happened with THOR: RAGNAROK. Everyone said it was basically a comedy, which concerned me to no end going in. Both movies turned out okay (though I do think THOR had way too many jokes undermining the drama), and it's not like I want these things to be joyless slogs, but I still think THE LAST JEDI was a bit too jokey in places.

      In a related note, at one point in the movie, Poe refers to something as being "big-ass," which is something no Star Wars character should ever say. I can handle things like "damn" and "hell", but modern Earth slang just doesn't work in this universe.

      Anyway, I'm going off on tangents now. To try and wrap things up: Why can only one First Order ship track only one Resistance ship? This makes no sense and was not explained. How was the First Order able to track the Resistance in the first place? Was there a tracking device aboard? A traitor? Never explained. Why doesn't the First Order just do a hyper-jump and land in front of the Resistance fleet? Not considered. Why don't the First Order and Resistance build, like, giant missiles with hyperdrives, since a hyperspace ram does so much damage? There are tons of little things like this that still bother me about the movie.

      And, foremost aside from Luke's end, which I'll get to momentarily -- how could they kill Admiral Ackbar like that? He's a beloved character who gets unceremoniously sucked out into space after a single line. I seriously think they could've cut Laura Dern from this movie and given Holdo's role to Ackbar, and let him make the grand sacrifice to save the escape pods. But I doubt anyone considered this, or if they did, they likely wrote it off immediately since he's just an alien puppet and not a real human actor, which is a shame.

      Lastly, I did want Luke to go out in a blaze of glory. Subvert expectations, fine. But for all the subversion we get here, which may be technically superior than a straight fight, and which may be more interesting for future developments, I still would've come out of the movie far more happy, satisfied, and ready to watch again, if Luke had battled Snoke in an epic Force-fueled lightsaber duel to match the Obi-Wan/Anakin fight in Episode III, culminating in him overtaxing himself to win. His sacrifice here is appreciated, but after an entire movie of him running from his problems and refusing to help, I wanted something grander and more exciting than a little lecture to Ren. Luke really deserved better than what he got here.

      I loved the mention of Darth Sidious, though. Always happy when Disney remembers that the prequels exist.

    2. but it's annoying that this was set up in THE FORCE AWAKENS like a legitimate mystery, only to have the payoff be "never mind." That sort of cop-out, for good or ill, bugs me to no end.

      I've come around to mostly blaming Abrams for this, for turning Star Wars into yet another of his Mystery Box stories (because the man never met a story he couldn't Mystery Box then walk away from before solving the mystery satisfactorily). Star Wars had never really been *about* mysteries before - no one left the original wondering who Luke's father was - a lot of the surprise from the Vader comes from the fact that there's something even to reveal. The closest the OT had was the "there is another" line at the end of ESB, and even that reads like (and was intended to be, initially) it is more about setting up a sequel trilogy than making audiences spend the break between EMPIRE & JEDI speculating wildly on the identity of the Other (though I'm sure plenty of that happened).

      Then Abrams comes along and suddenly everything is a Big Mystery to Be Solved. Should Johnson, as a collaborator on a story with multiple stories, done his part to carry on in Abrams stead? Yeah, and for the most part, he did. He punted on the Snoke mystery, but he solved the Rey mystery (which was the bigger one), just in a way that says that the "mystery" isn't the most important part of Rey's character, and that seems more fitting, overall, with what's come before in Star Wars.

    3. Poe refers to something as being "big-ass," which is something no Star Wars character should ever say.

      Heh. One of me and Dr. Bitz's podcast co-hosts had the exact same criticism (it was in reference to the Crait base's door, I believe, that was big-ass). I think if anyone other than Poe (or maybe Han) had said it, it would have bothered me more, but I didn't really even notice it until people started pointing it out after the fact. I was, frankly, more taken out of things by Holdo saying "godspeed", which briefly sent my mind spinning down the same well as it did when I was a kid and realized that when Han tells that deck officer in EMPIRE he'll see him in hell, he's using a (to me, at the time) specifically-Christian term in a universe that otherwise seems completely disconnected from that tradition.

      Why can only one First Order ship track only one Resistance ship? This makes no sense and was not explained.

      Because more ships can't? I mean, why can't all laser guns blow up planets if the Death Star's laser gun can? There's clearly some kind of specific tech involved, but it's not important to the story to know exactly how it works, so long as the story establishes what the limitation is. Only one ship can do it at a time, and I'm willing to take their word on that.

      How was the First Order able to track the Resistance in the first place? Was there a tracking device aboard? A traitor? Never explained.

      They tracked them via Active Hyperspace Tracking, which from the context of the film, was a thing that was only thought theoretically possible until then but which the First Order proved to be possible (in my head, I likened it to Transwarp Beaming from the Abrams STAR TREK). Finn & Rose even give a little techno-babble-y explanation of how it works (in order to establish how they could take it out). This isn't in the film, but per the Visual Dictionary, Active Hyperspace Tracking is apparently something the Empire had been working on a long time, and it took until the First Order came along to figure it out (and in ROGUE ONE, when Jyn is sifting through the files on Scarif looking for the Death Star plans, one of the secret project files is named Active Hyperspace Tracking).

      Why doesn't the First Order just do a hyper-jump and land in front of the Resistance fleet? Not considered.

      >pushes glasses up the bridge of my nose< Most sources would suggest that in-system hyperspace jumps would be dangerous and/or difficult to pull off (in terms of the exact positioning necessary). Holdo could do it because she wanted to destroy stuff, but the First Order ships wouldn't want to risk damaging the rest. The better alternate tactic would have been to put one of the non-flagships in the lead of the chase, continuing to pummel the RADDUS, then have the flagship jump to another system entirely, THEN back into where the RADDUS is (since it is the one with the tracking capabilities), coming in right on top of it again.

      *Shrug*. At some point, you just have to roll with what you're given. I mean, the plan to rescue Han from Jabba in JEDI doesn't make a lick of sense, but I still enjoy the movie.

      Why don't the First Order and Resistance build, like, giant missiles with hyperdrives, since a hyperspace ram does so much damage?

      Cost, I assume (particularly on the Resistance side). Why didn't the Empire build ten Death Stars instead of two? I mean, even if you decide not to waste an expensive (and in other ways useful) capital ship as a lightspeed ram and just, I dunno, put a lightspeed engine on a big chunk of metal, the engine and metal would still cost a lot (cuz it would need to be a ship-sized chunk of metal). That said, I could totally see the First Order building a big lightspeed missile launcher after this (and I'd much rather see that than another damn Death Star stand-in).

    4. I seriously think they could've cut Laura Dern from this movie and given Holdo's role to Ackbar,

      To start with, I already have issues with the Holdo plot, and the secrecy involved in it. That said, the best argument I've heard against using Ackbar in place of Holdo is that for Poe (and by extension the audience) to be distrustful, the person in charge needs to be someone new to both Poe and us. If Ackbar says "I've got this, hang out at your station", Poe is going to say "alrighty, you're Admiral Freakin' Ackbar, of course you've got this!" and there's no conflict, so Poe has no reason to push Finn & Rose to go on their mission, etc.

      Now, you could certainly argue whether the story *needs* Poe to be distrustful of the person in charge, and whether it needs the entire Finn/Rose plotline (I would argue it does, as the Canto Bight plot is important to developing the movie's themes and Finn's character arc), but if you're going to do a story where Poe is suspicious of the person in charge to the point that he acts behind said person's back, that person really can't be Ackbar, because Poe would have no reason not to trust he knows what he' doing.

      Also, apparently, the actor who plays Ackbar (ie wears the mask/suit) died recently, and LucasFilm was reluctant to have another actor take up the role, which is why he was killed off and not given a larger role (and I think he died unexpectedly, preventing the kind of scenario we have with Peter Mayhew more or less retiring from Chewbacca and helping train in his successor).

      This is also why Leia is likely going to die offscreen between films, because LucasFilm has said they don't want to do an extended ROGUE ONE CGI Leia or rework cut footage from TFA and TLJ to work the character into Episode IX. So the only real option is to have her die offscreen (or, I guess, have it established that she's handed over the reigns of the Resistance and is off enjoying retirement somewhere else, but that would seem out of character for her unless things are going swimmingly at the start of Episode IX, and that seems unlikely).

      I still would've come out of the movie far more happy, satisfied, and ready to watch again, if Luke had battled Snoke in an epic Force-fueled lightsaber duel to match the Obi-Wan/Anakin fight in Episode III, culminating in him overtaxing himself to win.

      Yeah, that is one of those places where I'm still parsing through whether the lack of a sequence like that is objectively bad, or just something that bothers me because I wanted to see it but didn't get it. I think what we got makes for a stronger film, but I also can't deny I really wanted to see Luke kicking some direct, super-charged, ass before he died.

    5. Yeah, I'm probably being pedantic in some of my complaints about the movie... I think partly it's because I had set expectations for what I thought we would see, and this turned out to be so different from anything I imagined! I contrast this with the prequels, which, while never exactly what I envisioned, more or less followed the path I expected (which makes sense, since they had a predetermined end point to hit).

      I still think THE LAST JEDI is a good movie; it's just not the movie I wanted it to be (and there are definitely some glaring plot issues I have trouble moving past).

  2. I’m torn. I basically loved all of the Jedi stuff, but thought the Resistance plot was a little too “been there, done that.” The Throne Room fight is one of the best things in the series though. Benicio del Toro doing Tostito Mifune was pretty great too.

  3. My main problem with the film is just the sheer incompetence of the villains. Okay, I can (just about) live with the Resistance blowing up the New Order’s Dreadnought in the opening sequence. This is directly explained by General Hux being a poor commander who should have “scrambled his fighters five minutes ago.” And in Hux’s defence, the Resistance explicitly break one of the key rules of war. It is a really bad show to approach your enemy under a white flag and then start firing.

    I hated the deus ex machina of Holdo hitting their fleet at lightspeed. If the Resistance can do that then the New Order’s whole policy of following them at a safe distance is flawed. The Resistance could have pulled this trick at any time. Indeed, why did it take Holdo so long to do it? She knew she was going to sacrifice herself, why didn’t she just turn the ship around as soon as the last transport had left?

    After the destruction of their dreadnought, shouldn’t they have been a bit savvier when the Resistance leave just one crew member on their largest ship. (As an aside, I am not fond of this sci fi trope in general, if Holdo can turn around the ship and aim it at the enemy at lightspeed then what are all the other crew members there for? Could one person steer an aircraft carrier or a battleship?)

  4. Hey... is there an established reason why Yoda drops the Yoda word order for the "Fear leads to anger, ..." thingy? Shouldn't he technically be saying "To anger fear leads, to hate anger leads..."

    Is he quoting some old Jedi teaching there, or...?


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