Saturday, 16 December 2017

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

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (third-pass / 2D / SPOILERS!)
Cert: 12A / 152 mins / Dir. Rian Johnson / Trailer

Previous reviews: 1 | 2

This is your spoiler-break. The section at the top of the post which acts as a buffer between the start of the page-code and the bit with the actual spoilers, so that any previews or auto-pulled segments of the review don't present the reader with unwarranted plot-details. After all, the movie's only been out for two days, and if you haven't seen it yet you really shouldn't be here. But this is your last chance, because I'm nice like that.

This post is about Princess Leia, I think I can tell you that much at least. It was always going to be a tricky move releasing The Last Jedi less than a year after Carrie Fisher's untimely passing (that's definitely not a spoiler), not least because Episode VIII is the second-act of a trilogy and not yet the one where Leia was meant to have a pivotal role. After the news came through, Lucasfilm quickly went on-record to confirm that her character wouldn't be digitally recreated as she had been in Rogue One. And not that I suspected they would anyway, it came as a relief as that's one aspect of the Death Star heist which I didn't particularly enjoy.

That's all history, of course. Nonetheless, it's interesting to watch Leia Organa-Solo's character arc in The Last Jedi, knowing that these concerns will have been present in the room throughout the pre-production of IX and post-production of VIII. Speaking of which…

Spoilers ahead: Last chance…

You're still here, smashing. Now, there appear to be many people gleefully moaning about The Last Jedi on social media at the moment. I'm not one of them, and this isn't one of those moans. I love this movie, I love that Carrie Fisher has more to do in it, and I love that Rian Johnson has given her the script and direction she needs to do it well. While the principal photography for TLJ had been completed by last Christmas and the story pretty much 'locked down', there were - no doubt - many long discussions of how Carrie's loss affects not only future projects, but also the one mid-way through production. What's the best way to honour someone who won't be around to watch their final movie? All credit to Lucasfilm that they went for dignity without mawkishness*1, celebrating Leia while celebrating the galaxy she's been instrumental in saving.

But what the hell is going on with Super Space Flying Leia™?

There. I said it.

I don't imagine I was alone in expecting Leia to meet her in-universe end during the running time of The Last Jedi. So when the bridge of the Resistance cruiser Raddus was targeted by Kylo Ren's support-pilots, shattering the viewport and pulling everything out into space before the blast-doors kicked in, I also don't imagine I was alone in watching Leia looking just off-camera as a huge fireball engulfed the room and thinking 'so this is it'. Not a particularly peaceful exit, but in times of war you can't really have people going down with tetanus from an infected paper-cut. Even the general herself acknowledges here that things get blown up. So if you are going to write (or retool) an exit for a character for practical, IRL reasons - getting pulled out into the airless void during a space battle is a solid enough way to do it.

Except dear reader, as you know*2, that's not the end. Moments later, we cut to the exterior and find a largely intact general floating gently away from the Raddus, the physical signs of explosive trauma as scarce as emergency breathing equipment. And as she gradually regains consciousness, Leia opens her frostbitten eyes, sets her sights on the shellshocked crewmembers through the other side of an impromptu airlock, and summons enough Force-power to move through the zero-gravity towards them; all the while gesturing like Superman's cool mum. Leia is rescued and put into recovery on the stricken starship.

Now, leaving aside the impracticalities of surviving in hard-vacuum (it's not completely impossible), leaving aside Leia's Jedi powers previously only being shown as needing a bit of a sit down when Han was turned into a smuggler-kebab (and she's in zero-g so relatively little active telekinesis would be required), leaving aside that the momentum of exiting the ship and subsequent lack of gravity would have her quickly belting off into infinity, and leaving aside the fact that opening the blast-door to get her back onboard would rip everything in that corridor back outside with Leia, what is the purpose of that scene?

I know the overall narrative reason is to strip the command-structure to its absolute core and incapacitate Leia so that Vice Admiral Holdo can hold the reins for the second-act, but this pseudo-resurrection comes off as overblown and frankly unbelievable (I know Star Wars isn't a documentary, don't @ me). Even if she'd been rescued from space by a crew-member quickly donning a vac-suit, I could have bought it. Or if she'd been tethered to the bridge by a cable not quite snapped in the blast, or a protruding beam crossing Leia's path and barring her exit. Or by a flock of porgs which happened to be passing. Any of those. Instead we get 'I'm basically invincible so think very carefully now about how you're going to explain my absence on the set of the next film'.

Of course, the explosion is an early point in the movie for writing out a central character*3, and it seems evident that Leia was never supposed to die at that juncture. So how about having her (in a highly injured state after the explosion, say) volunteer to stay behind on the Raddus while everyone else flees to safety? Nope, Holdo's got that. That's leaving aside, of course, the fact that Holdo says someone's got to 'stay behind to pilot the ship', yet the only piloting she actually does in the on-the-fly kamikaze mission once the troop-transports have been rumbled - something she can't have banked on beforehand.

Instead, Leia survives to the end-credits. That's fine, the new Rebellion needs an anchor of wisdom, determination and experience. And I'm never going to complain about seeing more of a character I love per se, but it seems intentionally problematic. Because now the only options are to assemble some b-roll footage and subtle CGI/double work to write the character out in the opening act of Episode IX, or worse - to kill off the princess between movies. I'm not sure which I prefer less.

As much as I'm troubled by the decision-making behind all this, what I'm really bothered about is that ridiculous shot*4 of Frosty-Faced Pointy-Fingered Super Space Leia™. There are enough parallels to be drawn with Guardians Of The Galaxy as it stands with the film's humour, never mind throwing in 'space? pah!' comparisons. If our heroes' lives are shown to be unbelievable, how are we supposed to accept their inevitable deaths? It's bad enough that we lost Carrie, don't make things more painful with Leia…

But the good news is that after watching the movie three times, I love pretty much everything else about it. Well, I might have some thoughts on Canto Bight, but we can save those for another time, yeah?

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 I'm looking at you, 'that clearly too-long shot of Robin Williams in Night At The Museum 3 which the editors hoped would come off as a serendipitous tribute but is obviously a moment when the cameras had been left running and someone then made the decision to shoehorn it into the final print'… [ BACK ]

*2 I mean I assume you know. If you're reading this and you haven't seen the film - after everything I said up there about spoilers - then there really is no hope for you. [ BACK ]

*3 Sorry Admiral Ackbar, they got no love for you, mate… [ BACK ]

*4 Which looks CGI'd judging by the difference in and around Leia's eyes. And while I have no problem with CGI itself, they've already insulted the last ambassador of Alderaan with the final scene of Rogue One, and animating this segment in The Last Jedi would suggest they've done the whole thing posthumously. Which is even more questionable. [ 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.

1 comment:

  1. It made me laugh, it made me cry my eyes out & it made me feel like I was 7 yrs old again. I loved it.

    Yes it had its 'what?' moments, but nonetheless it was great.

    Still not Empire though.