Star Wars: The Last Jedi Is A Polarizing, Mixed Bag In The Star Wars Saga

This review for Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi is coming later than usual because I wanted to think about the film I saw on opening weekend before plunging ahead with words about its merits…and faults.

The first part of this review will be spoiler free and talk about the latest Star Wars film in general terms. The second half will discuss in more details my impressions, which will go into spoiler territory.

Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi continues the saga of the universal struggle between good and evil in a distant galaxy. It takes place shortly after the last film where fledgling Jedi, Rey (Daisy Ridley), finds the long-lost Jedi Master, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) on a distant planet called Ahch-To. She wants to be trained and enlist Skywalker’s help in the struggle against the First Order, the despotic government that rose from the ashes of the Galactic Empire.

Meanwhile the ragtag group she belongs to, the Resistance, is in dire straits and on the run from the First Order. Its leader, Snoke (Andy Serkis), and his apprentice Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), are determined to wipe out the pesky Resistance once and for all and destroy Skywalker, who is the film’s titular character. This largely sums up the plot of Star Wars: The Last Jedi without giving anything away.

The eighth film in the main Star Wars trilogies is a mixed bag. There are so many powerful moments and unpredictable developments. These will resonate not only with fans, but with the overall saga. Admittedly, this film borrows elements from The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, but only superficially. Certain expected narrative beats never occur and the film left me guessing as to what would happen next. The unpredictable nature of the latest Star Wars film will leave viewers unsure about the fate of characters, which creates genuine tension. We genuinely wonder if certain characters will survive by the end of the film. The film also takes time to examine the Force, the mystical energy wielded by the Jedi and the bad guys. Unlike those stupid midichlorians, the Force in this film rightfully returns to its metaphysical roots as the film explores its nuances. For the eighth film in a franchise to be this unpredictable and out of the box is a testament to the skills of writer and director Rian Johnson.

Unfortunately, there are too many flaws in logic and gaping plot holes that cannot be waved away with a Jedi mind trick. As skilled as he is, Johnson failed to think through the plot. Too often, we keep asking “why did so and so do that? Why don’t they just do this and be done?” This is a problem Johnson displayed with his acclaimed (and overrated IMO) film Looper, where cool concepts were undone by flaws in narrative logic. Honestly, this makes me wonder about the quality of the new trilogy he will oversee.

Just as crippling is the film’s pace. It starts with a blast, but meanders in the middle and feels uneven, though the final 45 minutes are terrifically nail biting. Certain characters fly off on meaningless quests in scenes that could have used another pass in the editing room. Other characters are given well-rounded and satisfying arcs that allow them to grow and change. Others should have not appeared at all.

No matter where one stands with it, Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi is a very polarizing film. It is unlike previous Star Wars films, which will disappoint many fans. On the other hand, story and character wise, Star Wars: The Last Jedi strikes bold new directions that anyone would have to admit bring new and much-needed wrinkles to the Star Wars saga.

Alright, this is the final warning for anyone who has not seen Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi and does not want to be spoiled.

 

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Top 40 Greatest Star Wars Moments, Part II

We’re celebrating the 40th anniversary of Star Wars! The “little” sci-fi film that came out in 1977 has spawned an intergalactic media franchise that is just as popular today as it was 40 years ago. Being that it’s the 40th anniversary of Star Wars, we’re continuing the countdown of the 40 greatest moments in Star Wars films and TV.

Palpatine forms Empire

20. Emperor Palpatine Forms The Galactic Empire (Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith): We, and many of the film’s characters, watched with horror as the disfigured Chancellor Palpatine used a failed attack upon him by Jedi as an excuse to dissolve the crumbling Galactic Republic before cheering throngs. What made this moment so unsettling to watch was that it can be compared to real-life events in our history.

19. Obi-Wan Kenobi and Qui-Gon Jinn vs Darth Maul (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace): Say what you want about the flawed Star Wars prequel, but it had one kickass lightsaber duel. Buttressed by green screens and John Williams’ rousing, operatic soundtrack the deadly duel between the Jedi Knights and Darth Maul was wild, exciting and undoubtedly the best moment in the film.

ahsoka-quits

18. Ahsoka Leaves The Jedi Order (Star Wars: The Clone Wars “The Wrong Jedi”): In the final episodes of the fifth season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Ahsoka Tano, Anakin Skywalker’s Jedi apprentice, had been framed for murder. After much ordeal, Ahsoka was cleared, but she was so disillusioned with the Jedi Order that she chose to leave it at the end of the last episode. This turn of events was frankly surprising and deftly sets up Anakin’s own disillusionment with the Jedi later on.

Arent you a little short for a stormtrooper

17. “Aren’t You A Little Short For A Stormtrooper?” (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope): When Luke Skywalker disguised as a stormtrooper bursts into Princess Leia’s prison cell on the Death Star, her first words to him were unexpected. Instead of being fearful or excited, she comes off as nonchalant and unimpressed with her liberator. Throughout the film Leia displayed spunky bravado and put up a steel front even as a prisoner. This savvy attitude perfectly summed up Princess Leia, who dispelled the cliché of being the damsel in distress. We knew that no matter what she could take care of herself.

16. The Battle of Hoth (Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back): The very first Star Wars sequel set a darker, more ominous tone which was foreshadowed in the first acts’ climatic battle. Rebel forces were forced to evacuate their base on the frozen world Hoth and brave fighter pilots and troops, including Luke Skywalker, desperately tried to hold off imperial metal, behemoth walkers. It was soon clear that the Rebels were outmatched by the superior forces and the one-sided battle was disheartening, yet exciting, to watch.

yoda-in-last-star-wars-clone-wars

15. Yoda’s Vision Quest (Star Wars: The Clone Wars “Vision”, “Destiny” “Sacrifice”): In the series finale, Jedi Master Yoda goes on a spiritual retreat because he is troubled by the Clone Wars and the rise of the dark side of the Force. His insightful visions during a visit to a Sith planet let him (and the viewers) know there was more to the Force than he knew. He realized that waging war was not the answer to bringing balance to the Force and that the Force was much more multi-layered than just good and evil. This, and Yoda’s vision of a true Chosen One, was a poignant way to end the series.

han shot first

14. Han Shoots First (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope): In the original and true version of the first Star Wars film Han is cornered at the cantina bar by the bounty hunter Greedo, who has come to collect Han’s debt owed to Jabba the Hut. From the testy conversation, Han knew Greedo was going to shoot him so he beat the bounty hunter to the punch and underhandedly shot him dead. Pure badassery and it sets up perfectly Han’s eventual redemption later in the film.

13. Darth Vader Saves Luke Skywalker (Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi): Following the climatic lightsaber duel in Return of the Jedi a victorious Luke refused to kill his father Darth Vader and to submit to the dark side of the Force. In response, Emperor Palpatine attacks Luke with vicious lightning attacks. Luke was helpless under the savage assault while Vader stood by passively. At this point, Vader made a life-changing choice and turned against the Emperor. This cost Vader his life, but his final act saved Luke and put him on a path of redemption as he rejected the dark side of the Force. This moment made Vader much more layered and somewhat of a tragic figure instead of a one-dimensional villain.

12. Darth Vader Goes Medieval (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story): This moment came in the closing scenes of Rogue One and neatly segued the way into Star Wars Episode IV. After the Rebel flagship received the plans for the Death Star, it was prevented from escaping and boarded by Darth Vader. As the frantic Rebel troops tried escaping onto another ship with the plans, Darth Vader silently cut through the hapless soldiers with his red lightsaber being the only source of light. The way he so viciously and quickly killed the troops was both frightening and awe inspiring. The scene demonstrated how deadly Darth Vader was as he displayed his mastery of the Force.

11. Order 66 (Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith): Perhaps the darkest moment ever seen in a Star Wars film was when Emperor Palpatine ordered the Republic’s clone troopers to turn against the Jedi. One by one, we witness heroic Jedi taken by surprise and slaughtered by their own forces. Underlining the gravity of these acts were John Williams’ haunting score, Yoda’s pained reaction at feeling all those sudden deaths and Anakin Skywalker coldly murdering young children, who were training to be Jedi (thankfully this happened offscreen).

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Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 and Its Similarities To The Empire Strikes Back

GOTGV2 as Empire Strikes Back

Many people who have seen Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (GOTGV2) have noted that the film, whether they enjoyed it or not, has a different tone than the original film. Some have even gone so far as to claim this sequel is to the first Guardians of the Galaxy film as The Empire Strikes Back was to the first Star Wars film. The reason for this opinion has to do with the more adult and darker mood oozing throughout Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 despite all the jokes and action. Is this a valid way to look at the movie? Consider the following and it goes without saying that major spoilers will be revealed…

Separate Ways

In the second Guardians film, the title characters split up and go off on their own separate adventures in smaller groups and meet other people. Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord takes off with Gamora and Drax to join his newly found father Ego and later meets Mantis. When they leave with Peter’s father, Rocket Raccoon and Baby Groot are left with Gamora’s sister Nebula (who is at this point a prisoner instead of a full-fledged Guardian). The remaining trio then meet up with Yondu and his Ravagers. This encounter leads to Yondu’s powerful story arc, while Peter learns about his heritage.

A similar plot device was used in The Empire Strikes Back where after abandoning the Rebel base on Hoth, Luke Skywalker and R2-D2 go to Dagobah and meet the Jedi Master Yoda. As this happens, Han Solo, Princess Leia Organa, Chewbacca and C-3P0 spend most of the film evading Darth Vader and his imperial forces. Eventually they meet up with Han’s old friend Lando Calrissian. Both groups are changed forever by their separate adventures just like in GOTGV2.

Deeper Characters

Even though some people have issues with Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2, these critics agree with fans that the second film does a better job of exploring the characters. Writer and director James Gunn took time to delve deeper into what makes the core group and the supporting characters tick. By the time the film finishes we understand the Guardians and their associates much more than in the original film. They are no longer stock character types. Instead, they are more rounded and we know how and why they act and feel like they do. This leaves us with more relatable and believable characters who enhanced our enjoyment of the film.

The same thing occurs in The Empire Strikes Back. Everyone loves the second Star Wars film for its focus on the characters and making us care more about them. From joining Luke in his painful spiritual journey to understand the Force and the ways of the Jedi, to observing the growing love Han and Leia have for each other. In both films, while the dazzling special effects and sounds are out of this world, what we take away from the viewing experience is our love of the characters.

Fathers and Sons

The main character and story arc in GOTGV2 is Peter Quill’s relationship with Ego. Before meeting him, Peter and the audience did not have any idea of who his father was. When the two men meet it’s a joyful reunion as Ego fills in Peter about where he came from. Naturally, Star-Lord is excited to learn that he is a demigod. But sadly, the occasion turns sour when Peter and his friends discover Ego’s true nature and plans. The man is actually a monster who murdered not just his own children, but Peter’s mother. To make matters worse, Ego has plans to massacre countless people throughout the galaxy in order to spread his seeds.

Ego and Guardians

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Top 40 Greatest Star Wars Moments, Part I

The 40th anniversary of Star Wars is upon us! It is hard to believe that a quirky sci-fi film that went on the change our cultural and celluloid landscape is 40 years old. In that time, Star Wars and all the films and TV shows that followed, boasted many important and awe-inspiring moments that continue to resonate with fans throughout our planet. As we celebrate Star Wars’ 40th anniversary let’s look at the series’ greatest moments.

Rey claims lightsaber

40. Rey Claims The Lightsaber From Kylo Ren (Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens): Nobody was sure about who was the main hero in the new Star Wars Sequel Trilogy. That mystery was solved beyond a doubt when Rey used the Force to claim Luke Skywalker’s lightsaber and battle Kylo Ren. Her eventual victory  cemented the fact that she is the best hope for the galaxy. 

pod race

39. The Pod Race (Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace): As flawed as the first Star Wars prequel was, the exciting and breakneck pod race on Tatooine with all the weird pilots and their distinctive pod vehicles was one of that film’s best moments.

38. Anakin’s Spiritual Journey on Mortis (Star Wars: The Clone Wars “Ghosts of Mortis”):  On a distant world, Anakin Skywalker became corrupted by the dark side of the Force after encountering spiritual embodiments of the Force. Terrifying visions of his rise to Darth Vader highlighted this powerful story arc that better explored his fall from grace than the prequel films.

37. “These Aren’t the Droids You’re Looking For” (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope): Forget using the Force to do super acrobatics, wield lightsabers and levitate objects. When Ben Kenobi used a Jedi mind trick against stormtroopers interested in Luke Skywalker’s wanted droids, that scene displayed one of the most powerful aspects of the Force. Honorable mention goes to the bar scene in Episode II where a younger Kenobi tells a drug dealer to go home and rethink his life.

36. Darth Maul’s Final Duel (Star Wars Rebels “Twin Suns”): Darth Maul finally finds his ancient enemy Obi-Wan Kenobi in exile on Tatooine. The older Jedi isn’t interested in fighting Maul until the former Sith apprentice deduces that Kenobi is protecting someone (Luke Skywalker). The resulting lightsaber duel is brutally short and to the point with Maul quickly killed. It may have disappointed those waiting for a drawn-out sword fight, but the scene demonstrated that Kenobi was indeed a master. Plus, it cast Maul in a sympathetic light as he seemed to see the error of his ways in his last breath.

Ahsoka vs. Darth Vader

35. Ahsoka Tano Vs. Darth Vader (Star Wars Rebels “Twilight of the Apprentice”): Ever since Anakin’s apprentice Ahsoka left the Jedi Order near the end of The Clone Wars series and reappeared during Star Wars Rebels, fans have wondered how she would react to seeing her former master as a Sith. We got our answer in the second season finale where she faced off against Darth Vader and proved she was his equal.  What was more engaging than the duel was her coming to terms with her former master’s fall.

battle of geonosis

34. The Battle of Geonosis (Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones): A Jedi force set out to rescue Anakin, Obi-Wan and Senator Padme Amidala from Separatist forces, but they weren’t enough. Enter the new clone army led by Jedi Master Yoda and before you know we witnessed a full-scale and chaotic ground war between clone troopers and droid soldiers. Seeing all the intense blaster fire and wild looking vehicles of all shapes and sizes engaged in battle was a spectacle and for Star Wars that is saying a lot.

33. Cassian Andor Murders an Informant (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story): It was a small scene in the first live-action Star Wars spinoff film. Cassian Andor gets vital intel from a Rebel spy who cannot keep up with him as stormtroopers close in on them. Instead of helping his comrade Andor unexpectedly kills him. This cold-blooded act drove home the point that Rogue One was a decidedly dark film that took risks by showcasing this morally gray character who goes to extremes for the Rebellion.

32. Anakin Pursues Obi-Wan’s Killer (Star Wars: The Clone Wars “Friends and Enemies”): One of the best arcs in the animated series featured Obi-Wan Kenobi faking his death and going undercover with bounty hunters. Anakin, believing his master to be dead, relentlessly pursues Obi-Wan’s killer, who is actually Obi-Wan in disguise. This development was an undeniable a high spot in this tense and captivating story arc.

31. The Grand Army of the Republic Sets Out For War (Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones): Following the climactic Battle of Geonosis in the film, the Galactic Republic unveils its mighty clone army to counter the Separatist threat. With much fanfare marching legions of white armored troops leave Coruscant in giant ships to engage the Separatist droid armies. While many celebrated this moment, others (and we) knew better than to hail these troopers because they foreshadowed the coming of the evil Empire. Continue reading

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Teaser Is Finally Unleashed

After much anticipation and wait, the teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi is finally here and is about two minutes or so in length, longer than usual teasers. It starts with glimpses of Rey on an island being trained by Luke Skywalker similar to his own training from Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back.  Not much happens for the first minute or so, besides a shot of General Leia (from behind), until the second minute when we see fast cuts of space battles which look very nice and shots of new landspeeder-type vehicles in a snow-covered desert environment. We also see Finn in some kind of stasis, but we don’t know why.  Maybe he’s still healing from the wounds he received from Kylo Ren.

 

We also see Poe Dameron in action with his custom black X-Wing caught in an explosion inside a hangar potentially putting him in harm’s way. The trailer finally leaves us with a tantalizing plot point at the very end of it when Luke Skywalker states that he knows that the Jedi must end. This is an interesting idea that maybe Luke is disillusioned from the seemingly endless battles between the light and dark side of the Force, which always leads to suffering for the whole galaxy. Perhaps seeing his nephew and former protégé Kylo Ren succumb to the dark side finally pushed him over the edge. This may lead to an inevitable confrontation with Ren as is hinted with the teaser poster showing both Luke and Ren divided by a lightsaber. How this will affect Luke’s relationship with Rey is to be seen and should be something to look out for.

rey the last jedi

Overall, this first look at Star Wars: The Last Jedi has some intriguing bits but was a bit lacking in action. Nevertheless, it should keep Star Wars fans satisfied until the next trailer surfaces in a few months. Hopefully some of the new characters  played by Benicio Del Toro and Laura Dern will appear along with a clearer picture as to the plot of the movie. This is usually what full length theatrical trailers are for and should be something to look forward to. Take a look down below and leave a comment or two on your thoughts of the teaser for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

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