Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi – Is all hope gone?

By now, most of the free world has seen the new Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. Not since the Phantom Menace has a Star Wars film invoked such raw emotions amongst fans. Many would suggest that this movie is the harbinger of a civil war in the Star Wars community, pitting older, Lucas respecting fans, against a younger generation of Iger’s. Unfortunately, the battle rages and I suspect you will soon know where I stand on the battle to be fought.

Overall: The plot of the movie is an underwhelming space chase that follows the rebel ship (not fleet) as it runs out of gas. Hosting more characters than an “Expendables” movie, this film is not up to the task of character development, but rather excels at character destruction. Fans of the original trilogy will be disappointed, and fans of the Disney Universe will be left confused. Rian Johnson (Director & Writer) fails to deliver in more ways than can be counted. Kyle’s Rating: CUT THE REELS AND SEND BACK

Comprehensive: One could write a list longer than the number of pages in the IRS Code with all of the items that are simply wrong with this movie (Vice Admiral Holdo, new love interests, shirtless Adam Driver, etc..). However, if this movie does have one redeemable quality it is the return of Luke. Luke has been alone on a desolate island in the middle of nowhere for years. He has repented the ways of the Jedi and is no longer involved with helping the rebellion. We get to see Luke explore some of the deeper philosophy of the force and how it is not something which can be claimed by any group, including the Jedi. We see a classic case of a fallen warrior and the ambitious fighter (Rey) who wishes to achieve the same greatness, come to fruition in this movie. It is similar in that regard to “A New Hope” but with much deeper and darker themes.

We also get to see some interesting new force abilities in Luke, Snoke, and even Leia. They are interesting in the regard that the beg the question: why & why now? Why can Leia suddenly force glide in space? Why kill her and then bring her back to life? One thing this movie needs is drama. Had Leia died, albeit at the hands of some First Order pilots instead of her son, it would have made the rebel’s case that more compelling. Why can Snoke manipulate the minds of Rey and Kylo, but not see the most obvious betrayal? Why can Luke force project himself across the galaxy only once? Is it like a Jedi self-destruct ability that can only be used once? If not, why did he wait until just now to use this ability? Is it a dark side power, perhaps Danny can shed some light on this.

But its not even the force abilities that are really disappointing, its the underwhelming characters. Kylo Ren is not a badass and he NEVER will be. He does not evoke fear or any respect. In the first 30 minutes of the movie, there is a scene where Snoke literally goes through every flaw with Kylo’s character, falling just short of calling him a complete loser. I thought we had agreed after Force Awakens that we would not see Kylo in a mask again? But wait, we do in this film! Despite his betrayal to Snoke, we end with a character that appears more like an angry boy going through puberty, than a dark Sith Lord.

I know that many say that you should never put much stock in Fan Theories or rumors, which is exactly true. However, I feel that argument does not excuse Johnson for swiftly and decisively killing Snoke. I am OK with Snoke being a nobody. I would have preferred that he had been at least an ancillary character from any of the first 6 episodes, but what’s done is done. However, I suppose Abrams and Johnson did not have a brain storming session together when Johnson wrote “Last Jedi” because Snoke is a nothing villain. Abrams built him up to be this mysterious Sith that ruled the First Order. Johnson hinted at this when we discover that he could serve as an AT&T operator for Rey and Kylo’s awkward force calls. However, we needed more. We needed to see someone who had some extraordinary abilities and somewhat of a backstory to show why we should care. In many ways Snoke is similar to Count Doku from Episodes 2 & 3. Doku has a brief appearance in the trilogy and shows us some new force powers (first time we see force lightning in the prequels). He also dies quite unremarkably in Episode 3. But we at least get some of a story behind him. We know that he was once a Jedi Master and trained Qui Gon. Conversely, we will probably never know where Snoke came from and why his character should matter.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the Casino Planet. Most everyone seems to agree that this storyline was unnecessary and that the movie would have been better without it. While I agree that the Rose/Fin plot is dull (like so many others in this film), I kinda enjoyed the Casino Planet for 1 reason: backstory. This is our first true look at life for the ordinary people living under the rule of the First Order. It develops this narrative of why we should hate the First Order in the first place. Rose actually leads us to feel this emotion for the inhabitants of the mining planets who are forced into slavery. For the first time in a Star Wars film, we get to see the money behind the power, which I thought to be an interesting dynamic. So take away the Jedi, the Sith, and everything else, and you have this brief glimpse of why the rebellion matters — what the rebels are fighting for or against. I encourage you to rethink or rewatch only this part, paying no attention to the plan to get a hacker, just so you can see the backstory to all the fighting.

This movie had so much going for it. The trailers even suggested that we may see Luke flirt with the dark side, which is kinda true. However, the lack of character development and a painfully slow plot ultimately were the “straws that broke the camel’s back” for this film. Yes, we had a pretty cool space battle at the beginning. Yes, there are some awesome SFX that set the standard for any Star Wars movie. Is the movie worth a watch – – definitely. Just like the force, the Star Wars universe does not belong to one 25 year old child who loves the AT-AT’s in “Empire Strikes Back” and fears the voice of James Earl Jones. So, go out and see this movie and form you own opinion. Perhaps we are seeing a departure in the Star Wars films that will go on to create a legacy that will amaze fans in the future. For every flaw this movie had, there is such uncertainty. Yet, hope is not entirely lost. It can be recovered. Johnson is set to direct 3 films after Episode IX. Perhaps, this is but a divergence to that plot. Will J.J. Abrams deliver Episode IX to be an epic film that trumps VII & VIII, perhaps? If anyone can do it, it will be Abrams. Only time will tell.

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