So let’s do something a little extravagant. We’re gonna mix elements of a formal review, an opinion piece, and an off-the-walls personal document! We’ll pick it apart, while also talking about my unbridled hatred for Disney. It’s the signature(?) brand of comedic, messy writing one comes to expect when reading from my blog.
Disney Exec: “Okay, Rian. We’ve hired you for this directing gig, but we want you to adhere to some standards we want for this film, okay?”
Rian: “Okay, sure. You’re paying me seven billion dollars anyway.”
Exec: “Okay, cool. So, what we’re looking for more than anything else is profit. We want to make sure to not only get the demographic we typically bring in, but those who may be new to the franchise in general. So, what can you think of that young people like?”
Rian: “Well, what about those Communism memes on the internet that always get, like, 5k retweets on Facebook or whatever?”
Exec: “Yes! Yes! Wonderful, okay… we’ll just put that in there… as… ‘Bourgeoisie… are… greedy… soulless… dicks…’ Okay! Now we need a Disney tradition: the cute mascot character!”
Rian: “I really like those Ewoks from the original films, especially when they were being wacky and wild, haha.”
Exec: “Ah, yeah, I remember them! Okay, okay, we could give them really big eyes… and furry little penguin-ish bodies… and they’ll screw around with Chewbacca!”
Rian: “Ohoho! That sounds funny! And what will Chewbacca do?”
Exec: “Oh, he’ll roar and be in, like, four scenes. No one really cares about Chewbacca, y’know? He was never super important to Star Wars in general.”
Rian: “Yeah, I guess you’re right. Oh! We should them a cute name. Something almost pet-like. How about… Porgs?”
Exec: “Ahahaha! Porgs! Yes! I really, really like that! Okay, so we’ll put that in as… ‘Porgs… being… cute… and… annoy… Chewbacca…'”
Rian: “Alright, before I begin knocking this thing out, is there anything else we need?”
Exec: “Yes, Rian. We actually have one more thing we think will be vital in making this film more ripe with emotional… tenderness, yeah.”
Rian: “Oh, are Rey’s parents going to be revealed?”
Exec: “Well, yes, but that’s not what I meant. We want a romantic interest for Finn.”
Rian: “Ohhhhhh! Okay, okay. So you want me to establish Finn and Rey as a couple to-be?”
Exec: “Actually, we were thinking of bringing in a new character. And in the quest for diversifying the field, we are going to make her Asian, so make sure you don’t write in any Asian stereotypes for her character… just make it general, alright?”
Rian: “Yes, of course. I wouldn’t dream of it. So, we have porgs, a romantic interest, and anti-capitalist messaging. Anything else?”
Exec: “Hmm… let me think… Oh! Of course! How could I be so empty-headed?”
Rian: “What? What is so important that it has you calling yourself out?”
One of the more pungent things about The Last Jedi is just how much of a “Disney” film it is. I could see it, with each and every scene, the smudges of the company’s fingerprints on the frames that show the film’s clear path. Watch as Rey gives Luke his lightsaber as a direct continuation from the final scene of The Force Awakens… only to have him toss it behind him like we’ve just shifted into The Three Stooges. Hahaha, classic comedy! Or how about when Poe calls the First Order’s ship and makes General Hux sound like a real nitwit? Knee-slapper! Nothing screams Star Wars like Luke Skywalker drinking nipple goo straight out of an alien creature’s tit, only to turn to Rey, with his beard all dirtied with bright liquid, and make a funny face.
Raise your hand if you’ve seen a Marvel film. For every person in existence who raised their hand, specifically those who have seen more than one, what would you say is the most similar thing about the films from that specific brand? Is it… comedy? I sure think so. Tony Stark’s one witty sucker. Thor cracks some funny jokes. And the Guardians of the Galaxy? Hoo, what a riot they are! You know what else is pretty convenient? Marvel is owned by… who else! Disney! So, Disney, with their productive heads thinking of what people like most about their film history, likely decided that they should maybe, and this is just a suggestion, put an emphasis on comedy in a Star Wars film! The idea spawned a wonderful round of applause, and as such, the script included the occasional marker that read, [Audience laughs here]. It’s not super prevalent. Just in some of the most emotionally crucial scenes in the entire film. No big deal.
I knew what porgs were going into The Last Jedi. A Youtuber I follow adores them, so I got my dose of Disney-brand advertising in the form of cute mascot adoration. Much to my surprise, they aren’t actually that important to the story, nor do they even appear all that much. Kind of like Chewbacca. They appear just enough to make you remember what they are, and where you can buy them. That last point was a joke… unless, of course, you actually wanted to buy a porg doll or something. No complaints there, other than a general piggybacking of comedy.
Now, do not take this as turning my nose to those who find capitalism to be a heavily exploitable and unjust system; it definitely can be. Yet to dedicate about 90% of an entire scene to making rich aliens act like despicable creatures who are money-hungry and exploit the working class, use animals for sport, and disregard child-protection laws feels way too much like pandering… and nearly hypocritical. Hello, Disney. You’re pretty good at saying what people want you to say, but you enjoy selling those toys, huh?
Speaking of bowing to the whims of people, look at this rare pairing of an African-American gentleman and Asian-American young lady. The appearance of such a power couple will drive those alt-right buffoons up-the-wall, huh? That’ll show those bad people that everyone should get a chance at representation. Fantastic, we have appearances all set and done. How are they as a couple? Well, they talk to each other like civil adults and help each other out of perilous situations. They are both also good guys. That’s enough to have them want to fuck each other, right? I mean, look at Han Solo and Leia. They talk to each other like two co-workers working at Wal-Mart. They’re practically inseparable! Rose and Finn is my “OTP.”
Sarcasm and fun aside, this is the part of this entry where things get a little more personal (as if they haven’t already been). This is the topic where things begin to unwind dramatically: we’re talking plotholes. Ah, yes. Plotholes aplenty here. Should this entry be a true-and-blue dissection of the film, I’d be willing to note them as I saw them, one-by-one, but for the sake of keeping things relatively spoiler-free, I’ll only note a few quick quips. For example, why isn’t the force used very much throughout this entire film? Rey and Kylo Ren both are adept at using it, with both of them being trained under Luke Skywalker, disputably the greatest Jedi of all time. Why not use some force pushes? How about lightning strikes? Jedi mind tricks? There was some used in the last film! Why not here? Or how about this: How does BB-8 get into everything? How is this little droid so amazing in its survival skills that it not only single-handedly takes out three guards with blasters, but manages to make the bottom portion of an AT-ST work without the head? There are plenty of events that occur in The Last Jedi that force the audience to simply accept the things taking place. Don’t think about ’em! Thinking is bad. This is a simple film about simple pleasures. Also, humans can survive explosions.
People having not seen this may think my above paragraph is an exaggeration, but I assure them, it really cannot be understated how P-L-E-N-T-I-F-U-L the plotholes are in this film. I could write an entire post about the plotholes that occur and it would likely exceed the word count of what I’m currently writing. Many online film critics have already taken the pleasure of doing it.
Then, there’s Luke Skywalker. Mark Hamill himself has come out and said that he despises the way his character was portrayed in The Last Jedi. For me, the way Luke is was a necessity to make room for the “new” that they kept preaching about, a la Rey, Finn, Poe, etc. How could they possibly write up Luke that has him in a similar position as Yoda and not make him seem just like a Yoda rip-off? A scared little bird with some serious PTSD. He feels more like a war veteran than the brave young Jedi we once knew him to be. I didn’t have any strong feelings about this sort of interpretation, but saw it as a necessary evil. In all honesty, I feel Luke redeemed himself as a character by the end, so his initial down-trodden self became an afterthought.
“Gee, Kapodaco. You’ve pretty much been talking shit about this film the entire time. Doesn’t the title of this post mention something about ‘Potential’?” Yes, myself. The title does say that, because despite all of said shit pointed out, I enjoyed this film, and found more positive with it than negative. Yes, plotholes and comedy and blatant pandering aside, when I put this film side-by-side with The Force Awakens, I think there’s a hell of a lot more effort into making a real story out of this flick. I’m just glad they didn’t completely rip off Empire Strikes Back, which I expected them to. There were homages to those original classics, but they felt more like genuine tributes than straight plagiarism. More than anything, I’m just glad this film tried. It tried to make its own Star Wars story for people to enjoy, instead of taking the easy way out and making yet another safe and predictable journey a la The Force Awakens. At the end of the day, I’d much rather see something new that fails than something standard that’s decent.*
* Exclusions apply.
If I may be a little personal, I just felt immersed in the emotional weight employed by the film. Many didn’t. I did. I’m fascinated with Kylo Ren’s character (The only character among the new cast I’d say I liked). I’m fascinated with Luke’s downfall, and eventual rise. I’m fascinated with Poe’s quirky antics (even if they stray just a tad too far). There was a lot about this film that kept my interest and allowed me to think about, to question (definitely question), and to analyze. Finn, Rose, and Rey are basically throwaways as characters, but Kylo Ren, Poe, and Luke pick up the slack for them and offer ample service to a new and emotionally-amplified story. The added atmosphere of triumph, both bitter and sweet, are justified enough to make the later scenes impactful. It would’ve been better… if not… for the comedy…
But it was more good than bad. Perhaps from an emotional standpoint than a critical one, but it at least made me feel emotional, and that won’t ever be taken away from my experience with The Last Jedi. A flawed, yet valiant attempt at crafting Star Wars into one’s image. Had this been directed under a company not named Disney, however, it probably would’ve been a true piece of art.
Final Score: 6/10
The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.