Sunday, 31 December 2017

Review: Star Wars - The Last Jedi (sixth-pass)

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (sixth-pass / IMAX 3D / SPOILERS!)
Cert: 12A / 152 mins / Dir. Rian Johnson / Trailer

Previous reviews: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

"Heeded my words not, did you; 'pass on what you have learned'*1. Strength, mastery? Hmmm. But weakness, folly, failure also? Yes, failure, most of all. The greatest teacher, failure is..."

~ Yoda.

So. As well as being a parable on change and narrative torch-passing, The Last Jedi is a film about failure. Namely, getting us to accept that our heroes - however much we've venerated them into untouchable demigods - can be fallible.

This is a movie about watching your heroes get shit wrong. A lot. And we all expect a little second-act tension, but here it's repeated and brutal. And yeah, that's probably going to upset people.

The bad guys are always great at being cack-handed of course, and The Last Jedi is no exception. The supreme leader of the whole organisation displays exactly the same blithe assumption and careless posturing which proved to be Palpatine's downfall (and which he presumably lived through, even if this was at a distance). His main henchmen are both quick to learn but emotionally unstable pawns, demonstrably unable to anticipate enemy moves in the heat of battle. As such the First Order strikes, like the Empire did, with brute force rather than calculated precision. So how was that ever going to end?

But our heroes... we haven't seen them stumble so blindly before, and it's a theme which continues to divide audiences. Because this isn't Disney 'not getting' Star Wars; everything we see in Episode VIII is entirely deliberate. And it all began (arguably) when Han Solo thought he could talk round his son on the Starkiller Base, before being proved disastrously wrong. And with The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson picks up that ball and sprints, full-tilt, toward an uncertain future. To wit:

‎Luke is morally wrong to have abandoned his responsibility and gone into exile while Kylo Ren still lives to make matters worse.
Luke has failed Ben (and the Jedi/Alliance/Republic/Resistance) before we even start.
‎Rey is mistaken in claiming he hasn't.
Luke is misguided in tossing away the Bespin-lightsaber and for an entire first-act of grumpiness*2.
‎Luke recognises the failures of the Jedi Order, but fails to apply those lessons going forward.
Rey leaves her (formal) training incomplete, jaunting off on a whim because of psychic messages from a known arsehole (familiar, Luke?).
‎Leia fails in successfully commanding Poe Dameron during a critical battle.
‎Poe's plan to take out the dreadnought succeeds, but he fails the bombing crew in executing it.
‎Poe fails in his mutiny to 'protect the fleet'.
‎Vice Admiral Holdo fails in her plan to get all the transports safely to Crait.
Finn fails to escape the cruiser Raddus to aid Rey's safe return.
Finn and Rose fail to secure the services of the master codebreaker.
Finn and Rose fail to secure transport to escape Cantonica.
‎Finn and Rose fail to disable the hyperspace tracker.
‎Finn fails to take out the battering-ram cannon.

Yet we know that Luke, Leia, Poe, Rey, Finn and Rose have what it takes to win. With the exception of Rose Tico, we've met them all before and know they have the hearts of victors. Even in the short amount of time we spend with Rose, we see she's clearly going to be on the new Rebellion's A-team. So why is all of this stinging a particular section of fandom*3 so much?

Our heroes fuck up here, continually, yet we love them anyway. We know why they're failing and we know why they were trying in the first place. The lesson is not to stop failing but to keep trying. Look around you, put the news on. The message of The Last Jedi is the same as the one which Star Wars taught us in 1977. If the delivery seems jarring, that's more a reflection of the times we live in.

The entire film is a lesson of perseverance through failure. And that is how The Last Jedi succeeds. Even Yoda didn't get it right all the time.

"Try again. Fail again. Fail better."
~ Samuel Beckett*4.

+ + + + +

Oh, and the IMAX was fantastic as always. Thundering sound and a glorious picture which really underlines how regular 3D light-loss will affect a movie with dark, night-time scenes. If you get the chance to see this The Last Jedi in IMAX, go and see The Last Jedi in IMAX.

So, watch this if you enjoyed?
The Star Wars.

Should you watch this in a cinema, though?

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
It's strong.
It's very strong

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
That all depends on how wrong you are.

Yes, but is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
There is.

Yes, but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 0: It is Star Wars.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

*1 "Mate, Rey's been here for literally a day. Do I like like I'm finished? Do I look like I know *so little* it can be packed into one 'An Afternoon With Luke Skywalker' seminar? Really, Yoda? Really? It's precisely this kind of shit which caused me to flounce off in a strop in the first place, don't show up now wagging your finger and smacking me on the head with your stick, I've got a library to burn down..." [ BACK ]

*2 While I'm on though, when Luke vaults over that chasm to spear the fish, is he really going to keep the pole upright and balanced when retrieving it from the spike? And how is he going to get back over when he's also carrying the fish? Or does he vault back over first and bring up the pole onto the flat-side? In which case why did he even leap over there in the first place? Why not just spear the fish from the side he was on? What the hell is in that blue-milk, Luke?? [ BACK ]

*3 I use the term 'fandom' wearily and loosely, [ cf ]. [ BACK ]

*4 1) Not the one from Quantum Leap, 2) Yeah, I know that quote isn't as glibly optimistic as it initially sounds. I don't care, I'm trying to make a point about Star Wars here and it fits my narrative drive to distort the original meaning. Look, this is 2017, have you not been paying attention? That's definitely how we do things, now. [ BACK ]

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

No comments:

Post a Comment