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Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

STAR WARS: THE RISE OF SKYWALKER is the kind of thing that happens when a singular voice creates a revolutionary trilogy that changes movies forever and becomes a cultural phenomenon beloved by generations and then years later makes a trilogy of prequels to said movies that are also a cultural phenomenon and also change movies forever in a different way but are disdained by many and after a while he gets so sick of fuckin hearing about it that he sells off his entire life’s work for nearly five billion dollars and gives most of it to charity while a giant entertainment conglomerate treats his creation as an all-consuming brand centered around a third trilogy that ends the saga but is made by three different directors with no plan for where the fuck it’s going and the first guy does a good workmanlike job, then the second knocks it out of the park with a soulful and distinct followup that severely pisses off a small faction of people we only know about because of the internet and then the third guy gets fired so the first guy has to come back and figure out how the fuck to conclude a story he designed for some other poor sucker to have to deal with and also find an ending to the larger cultural phenomenon he’s been mimicking and for some reason he feels the need to alienate the people who like the movies by pandering to the people who didn’t.

So, you know, if you haven’t seen it yet, you surely can picture that type of movie, but also you shouldn’t read this review because it’s ALL SPOILERS and also you won’t know what the fuck I’m talking about.

With that in mind, here is the first SPOILER thing we need to address: how is Palpatine out there fucking? I’m trying to do the math here of when he would’ve had to conceive Rey’s dad. According to my calculations it’s about four years after the founding of the Empire. So imagine him on top of you when he’s four years older than this:

Well, it’s space I guess. Somebody would be into that. But he’s gotta be using some abilities-some-would-consider-unnatural to keep the pipes working.

I’m one of the people who loved THE LAST JEDI’s (it turns out inaccurate) revelation that Rey was “nobody,” not descended from some previously established Star Warrior. That was so much more dramatic, interesting and meaningful than what we all expected, and it’s weird that very-nice-seeming writer/director J.J. Abrams (with co-writer Chris Terrio, whose reputation based only on ARGO is a total mystery to me, but what do I know) decided to hit control-Z on the depth it added to his story. He’s not stupid – he knows that for many of us it expanded on Lucas’s theme. It said that not only can a slave or a farmboy become a legendary hero, but they can do it without being a chosen one, or a descendent of royalty. They could just have some random drunks as their parents and still be the greatest.

They gave us that and now they’re saying Nah just kidding, only if you have the most powerful Force user ever as a grandpa. Only if your grandpa was the mentor of your enemy’s grandpa. That’s how it works. Do I have to explain midichlorians to you? Don’t test me, I’ll fucking do it.

I was able to roll with the punches of this silly “You’re a Palpatine” revelation. I don’t like it as much, but it doesn’t erase everything. In a way this is still a message of democratization. Instead of “anybody can be a Jedi” it’s saying anybody can be a storyteller. Every last one of us regular chumps saw THE FORCE AWAKENS and said “she’s either a Skywalker, a Kenobi or a Palpatine,” and the official ender of the saga couldn’t come up with anything good either. Even after it was handed to him on a platter, he didn’t know he could just keep it. He’s as bad as us!

I’m neutral on the idea of bringing back Palpatine. Since I don’t think he’s even mentioned in the previous two it feels kind of forced (get it, the Force) to resurrect him and say he was behind everything all along. On the other hand he was the main villain or shadowy danger in the six actual George Lucas Star Warses, so it makes sense to involve him in the officially licensed ending of that story. And I love that they call him a “phantom Emperor” in the crawl. That’s a higher rank than Phantom Menace.

Since they did decide to bring him back I like that they really committed to it, didn’t waste any time pretending it was a surprise. The opening crawl is about his return, and there’s only one line of dialogue speculating about how it happened: magic, cloning, Sith shit, etc. In this (and only this) aspect we’re gifted a CRAWL-like storytelling efficiency. Much like “Where did Snoke come from?,” I don’t think it’s a question that matters. (Although the revelation that the Emperor “made” Snoke brings up more questions.)

It starts like a runaway train – one that’s constantly giving you information. So, a runaway train with frequent announcements over the intercom. STAR WARS was known for setting an exciting new pace, but this is the only one of the nine that seems like it’s being chased by a bear. The first half especially feels rushed, hectic, bizarrely overstuffed, in serious need of a longer cut or a massive rewrite. It’s the first time I’ve ever felt a star war was less of a story than just a harried sprint through a list of places to go, objects to obtain and foes to encounter, glued together by paragraphs of exposition. Exactly like a video game, or in the outlawvern.com parlance, like 2 FAST 2 FURIOUS. It’s a modern feel, but it’s not the feel of the previous Disney Star Warses, even the one by the same director. That one had plenty of time to breathe.

This maddening, coked out rhythm makes RISE OF SKYWALKER the sloppiest and hardest to follow Star War ever, but at least it has a certain goofy I-can’t-believe-they’re-doing-this-shit kick to it. One of the early scenes reintroduces us to Chewie, Finn and Poe on the Millennium Falcon and it seems like old times until it casually reveals a giant cartoon slugman named Claude that Finn just walks by and addresses for like two seconds and then there’s another cartoon alien who pokes his head in and Finn says it’s good to see him like he’s an old pal and like two scenes later he’s been decapitated by Kylo Ren and no one mentions him again. For a while it kinda reminded me of  VALERIAN AND THE CITY OF A THOUSAND PLANETS the way it’s just people flying around casually talking to goofball alien dudes and robots as if we know who they are and they spit out a bunch of jargon and pull levers and get on ships and snap at each other wittily and get chased and fall off things and go to a parade and then they’re all wearing hoodies including the robot when they have to sneak onto a planet to find a scary underworld figure named Babu Frik who turns out to be a huggable kitten sized muppet that could’ve been left over from LABYRINTH.

One of the many fast-forward-paced sequences is a speeder chase on a desert planet, during which all of us across the globe psychically glanced and nodded at each other in recognition that J.J. Abrams also loves MAD MAX: FURY ROAD. But it’s not so easy, is it J.J., to make a perfect movie full of heart-pumping action set pieces that are flawlessly executed visually and completely fueled by story, theme and character? This ain’t that.

It’s fun though, and I was particularly impressed by the crashing jetpack stormtroopers. If they weren’t actual stunt people crashing and flopping and bouncing on sand they sure did fool me.

(Stunt coordinator: former Angelina Jolie stunt double Eunice Huthart. Fight coordinator: Mike Lambert, “Russian Mafia,” KNOCK OFF.)

Since they announced the new trilogy I’ve thought Lucasfilm was crazy to do it as a handoff between directors. When LAST JEDI worked out so well it seemed like maybe I was wrong. But the baton pass is not as smooth this time. I don’t like to use the language of improv comedy, but it seems J.J. is not a good “yes and”er. Like, as much as I like the weird red scars on Kylo’s repaired mask, it’s as weird as if RETURN OF THE JEDI undid Luke’s robot hand from EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.

“Oh, you think you can come in here and make a part 2 that moves the story to a new place beyond part 1? You didn’t think I was gonna find out and make part 3 and then back up to the original place? Well I got news for you, motherfucker!”

But I guess it’s a visual cue that Kylo is also going back on having killed his master and becoming the leader – now he’s agreed to be Palpatine’s stooge, so he puts a mask on again.

Abrams didn’t quite give Johnson’s character Rose Tico the Jar-Jar-in-Episode-II treatment, but he clearly had no idea how to use her. (Then again, his own character Maz Kanata has even less to do.) When he has Luke catch Rey’s tossed light saber and tell her he was wrong to exile himself it’s a fitting and logical reversal/continuation of LAST JEDI’s story, but it comes off very “Who let Vicki Vale into the Batcave?” I don’t think he’s trying to criticize the last movie, he’s trying to joke around to make peace with the “fans,” in this case meaning non-fans. That sours it a little for me. With rotating directors – or without it all being the weird vision of George Lucas – we get two directors/stories fighting against each other and we feel like we have to take sides.

I kinda liked that they mentioned “The Holdo Maneuver” – a phrase I believe was coined by a Star Wars nerd podcast – and why they can’t use it again. Goes without saying in my opinion but if this will seal the hole of whining on that topic I approve.

The biggest foul is that Abrams mostly – arguably completely – ignores the ending (in fact, purpose) of LAST JEDI. Luke finally (pretended to) leave the island in order to be the spark that reignites the Rebellion. We see in the epilogue that his incredible feats have inspired legends and hope across the galaxy. I didn’t expect or want them to bring back “broom boy,” but where is that rising tide? Only in the final battle, when the “not a Navy, just people” (a line I loved) show up. I guess that must mean things have changed since the last time they called for help because of Luke’s actions. Otherwise this chapter doesn’t continue from the events of that one.

But there are a few things Johnson set up that Abrams figured out something great to do with. Maybe my favorite is the Kylo/Rey Force connection, with more A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET now that they can pull objects from each other’s locations. The passing of the light saber is great – he finally gets (and deserves) the weapon he said was his in THE FORCE AWAKENS. And the resolution of the Rey/Ben Solo relationship (which prompted some guy to yell “Fuck that shit!” at the 10:30 Thursday show at Cinerama) is entirely built off of LAST JEDI.


Some people can’t accept when they don’t get what they want in a sequel. They can’t let the expectations go and appreciate the thing for what it is – that’s part of why it can be hard to discuss Star Wars online without pulling your hair out. I really wanted them to stay with the superior idea of Rey not being from a famous family. I gotta accept that it’s now about her being good even though she’s descended from the greatest evil in the galaxy. About Leia trusting her enough to train her despite this heritage. I also wanted – in fact assumed – that Luke saying “See ya around kid” meant he was gonna be Force haunting Kylo. Coming to him to hassle him in ghost form. Oh well.

Also I wish at some point Lando had a line that began, “Ever since Lobot retired…”

But I got my three biggest wishes:

1. Anakin Skywalker Force Ghost. Kind of. I maintain that the logical progression after Episodes I-VI is for Anakin’s ghost to come to Luke. And for him to tell his grandson that he moved beyond Darth Vader. But at least we got his voice speaking to Rey. That’s something. I’m glad Abrams gave in and embraced a little bit of prequel stuff (and even the cartoons!)

2.Ewoks

3. It’s not about killing Supreme Leader Kylo Ren. It’s about redeeming him. Anything else would be anti-Star-Wars, I think, but many people thought I was crazy for saying that in our discussions the last few years.

Though this angry murderer switching sides was not 100% true to human behavior, and required some magic, I think it feels more earned than either Anakin’s turn to the Dark Side or Vader’s… well, attempted murder it turns out of The Emperor to save Luke. In THE FORCE AWAKENS we saw Kylo’s vulnerability – Snoke scolding him about being tempted by the light side of the Force, his emotion and hesitation before killing Han. In THE LAST JEDI we saw him decide not to fire on Leia. And we saw him build a relationship with Rey through their Force connection, trying to push her to his side but in the process having conversations and bonding with her. And we see him reject Snoke, though for the wrong reasons. Now with the life force of his mother, and the act of forgiveness by Rey (almost killing him, but then healing him), and the intervention of (the memory of) his completely charming father (who he calls “Dad” for the first time instead of “Han Solo”), he finally comes back.

This part was fuckin cool

As with THE FORCE AWAKENS, the story of the new generation of characters is much stronger than anything with the original ones. Bless Billy Dee Williams (HIT!) and the character of Lando, and it’s kind of sweet when he gives leadership advice to Poe, but it’s one of those movie roles that’s more for “hey, it’s [actor], I love [actor]” then for actually telling a story.

The scenes with Leia (Carrie Fisher, SORORITY ROW) are understandably choppy and weird, always distracting though necessary so that a beloved main character has an important role in the finale. So we get why her final sacrifice is awkwardly rushed. The funny thing is there are other story elements where they weren’t working around existing outtakes that feel similar. The huge revelation that Luke trained Leia in the ways of the Force after RETURN OF THE JEDI is clumsily worked in when Force Ghost Luke blurts it out with little prompting.

That said, I sort of needed this explanation of why Leia’s life went the way it did, and Luke’s knowledge of her vision about her son gives more context to him pulling the light saber on young Ben at the Jedi Temple – another self-fulfilling prophecy.

[Update: I wrote the above thinking the vision was about her son turning evil – on second viewing, I realize it was just about him dying.]

I have come to the realization that J.J. must not be a Luke Skywalker fan – he directed two Star Wars movies and put him in two scenes. That’s so weird. So he must be a Han fan, and actually Han’s (somewhat inexplicable) appearance here does work very well, and Ford seems legitimately present.

I don’t think he likes R2 either. Definitely doesn’t realize that he was the hero of the first six movies. In 7 he made him a total chump. In this one he does have some sweet moments acknowledging that C3PO is his best friend. And 3PO gets several big laughs.


Poe continues from LAST JEDI, having learned to be a better leader, and to make more jokes. It’s nice to see him reunited with Finn, though that has the adverse effect of making Finn more of a sidekick than last time around. But the friendship is part of the fun.

Kylo Ren/Ben Solo might be the best part of this movie. I love that the opening scenes are him on a rampage. RETURN OF THE JEDI is the only other Star War that opens on the villain, and that villain also turns to the light side at the end. But this treats him like some adventure anti-hero, some of Williams’ strongest new themes roaring as we follow him through a battle (well, a massacre) and a journey through Sith-planet hellscapes to find and confront Palpatine in some dark underground lair.

And by the end he has re-dropped the helmet, lost some of the dark garb, and traded the temper for more of a dashing swashbuckler, somewhere between first-scene-of-REVENGE-OF-THE-SITH Anakin and his charming scoundrel pops.

And Rey continues to be a compelling hero, doing cool Force shit (including floating rocks), flying off on her own like her mentor, getting to fly his X-Wing (another gift Johnson left for Abrams), also using the opposite of violence to get out of some of her biggest jams (though blocking Palpatine’s lightning until he dies doesn’t seem that different from striking him down).

I kind of like that until the very end I was still thinking “Okay, but why is it RISE OF SKYWALKER again?” and then there’s a very nice epilogue that answers that question while tying the three trilogies together with the appearance of the Lars Moisture Farm under the twin suns of Tatooine, site of the most beautiful moment in STAR WARS.


They also crammed in some new-new characters. I’m fond of Zorii Bliss, played by Keri Russell (HONEY, I BLEW UP THE KID). I’m not sure if this is a mistake or something but according to IMDb Russell previously worked with Abrams on I guess some sort of TV show called “Felicity”? She even won a Golden Globe for that. Now she’s better known for starring in The Americans, for which she was twice nominated for a Golden Globe and three times for an Emmy. Playing this feisty criminal and ex of Poe, she’s completely hidden behind a body suit and Daft-Punk-esque helmet… except in one scene where she talks about her long-worked-for plan to escape the embattled planet of Kijimi, and asks Poe to come with her. A chance encounter with a cute boy inspires a seemingly rash decision to completely change her plans. As they sit and talk she opens her visor revealing only her huge, penetrating eyes. And suddenly I completely bought that Poe would be tempted to run off with this character who we never heard of until a couple scenes ago when she thought about turning him in for having abandoned her to join the Resistance.

As skeptical as I am about many of Abrams’ choices as a filmmaker, this is a brilliant thing that I can’t see another director doing, or knowing to do with Russell. And Zorii is just one of the characters who has apparently done bad things in the past but now makes sacrifices for the cause. Her presence asks the movie’s primary question: can you become a new version of you?

To me it’s a movie about not being defined by where you came from or what you used to do. Finn gives Poe shit about “shifty stuff” from his past as a Spice Runner, but he and Zorii (from his questionable days) behave heroically. Finn and his new friends in the Endor system bond over having quit being Stormtroopers. And in that final scene Rey chooses her allegiance to the Skywalker family over her genetic heritage as a Palpatine. (Even though her dad was a Palpatine and apparently a nice guy.)

That’s why, in the tradition of the prequels, I can largely forgive RISE OF SKYWALKER’s many obvious and bewildering flaws. Although I think the themes of LAST JEDI are more heartfelt and resonant, I do think there’s some of the true meaning of Star Wars in here.

I think this is an insane mess of a movie, but it doesn’t make me mad. It’s better than being bland. In my top secret rankings, this is a low one, but I look forward to seeing it again. I hope it changes and grows over time like the others.

This entry was posted on Monday, December 23rd, 2019 at 8:52 am and is filed under Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

199 Responses to “Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker”

  1. The degree to which Abrams walked back everything Johnson did almost felt like personal animosity. The worst sins are the stuff with Rey’s parentage, but even just the stitching together of Kylo’s mask, he seemed determined to take even the non controversial good ideas from Last Jedi and scrub it clean.

    I watched it again before writing on this post, just because of all the positive reactions to Rise of Skywalker I’ve been seeing online (the Rotten Tomatoes “audience score” is high on Episode 9 and low on Last Jedi), I wanted to be sure I wasn’t tripping. And I liked it even more! Seeing it a day after Episode 9 really highlighted its strengths.

  2. I was also super bummed that they sidelined Rose. How insulting is it that Finn barely looks at Rose for the whole of Episode 9?! She represented the new hard scrabble Resistance who didn’t have a famous name but through her selflessness and heroism earns her place at the round table. That one felt especially shitty of Abrams.

    That Star Wars fandom turned on the character (and all the stuff trolls did to Kelly Marie Tran), and Abrams seemed to have thrown in with that group, as well as John Boyega, really turns me off on what Star Wars has become.

  3. How did you not bring up The Mummy Returns in this review? You used to describe the worst summer blockbusters/Stephen Sommers movies as “a bunch of loud noises and phony excitement with no sense of rhythm or build.” That describes Rise of Skywalker to a T

    I think the only thing that rescues Rise of Skywalker from those comparisons is that we’re watching pros like Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver lead us through the chaos instead of Brendan Fraser.

  4. Brilliant review, Vern.

  5. The Rise of Skywalker is being trashed by every single film critic I follow; like completely ripped to shreds. Thank you for having some voice of reason in your review, acknowledging that it has problems but that there are also great things about it that shouldn’t be ignored just because of the missteps. People forget that there’s a whole bunch of people involved in every movie project, and it isn’t unusual that the director would get notes, mandates or ultimatums from the higher ups to do certain things in a certain way, or he or she can show his or her own way out the door permanently. J. J. Abrams was given a thankless task to create a movie that had to satisfy a bunch of people who are asking for completely opposite things, and it’s a miracle that he managed to pull off something that’s still easier and more enjoyable to follow than a Michael Bay Transformers flick.

  6. Big Movie Freak – Of course I know real people make these things and I’m sure everyone who worked on it busted their ass. You could begin a review of any bad movie with your comment and it would be true.

    When it’s Disney and JJ Abrams I don’t feel as bad about telling it like it is with their artistic choices. Especially when the choices I’m criticizing are them mowing down everything that was personal, soulful and idiosyncratic about The Last Jedi but left the porgs.

    Why did they do this?! Retelling and re-litigating Return of the Jedi, only louder and dumber (among other choices)

  7. I say this as someone who likes JJ Abrams – I think The Force Awakens, Star Trek, MI:3, Lost are all good.

  8. I thought the best and most important thing about Last Jedi was the Rey / Kylo relationship. I knew Abrams was going to ignore much of what happened in that film. But I sincerely hoped that he would continue the most interesting aspect of that film, and the trilogy overall. Apparently that is exactly what he did. So I can’t be too mad at him, and liked Force Awakens more anyway. Still haven’t seen this one, but mostly everyone is saying Rey / Kylo relationship is the primary reason for this film to exist.

  9. Tuukka – (SPOILER WARNING)

    He continues those dynamics, but in the most joyless and unimaginative way possible. Kylo gets like 5 minutes of screen time as the Supreme Leader, then immediately he’s answering to Palpatine just like he was with Snoke, so his character doesn’t get to go to any new places like Rian Johnson had cleverly set up at the end of TLJ.

    Rey is given a “tempted by the dark side” arc AGAIN after triumphantly turning it down at the end of 2 movies.

  10. The animosity towards Rian Johnson’s setups probably didn’t come directly from Abrams. Creatives on blockbusters don’t work in a bubble, especially when the customers are upset about your last product; you’re bound to receive some “requests” to do thing a certain way from up high, and the alternative would be to join the ranks of Colin Trevorrow, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, and to some degree Gareth Edwards. I’d give Abrams the benefit of the doubt and not throw him under the bus for everything just yet.

  11. Patrick N- I also thought of Vern’s description of the Simmers MUMMY films while watching this. I thought this was something of a disaster. I’m a STAR WARS agnostic; I only saw the original films once as a child and they didn’t enchant me the way some other films did, but the flip side of that is neither did I find PHANTOM MENACE or LAST JEDI to be among my worst ever sits. Nor is this, but it was pretty shockingly uninvolved. Vern’s review has me thinking that there were actually a few interesting ideas, but when they’ve been hurried by so much noise, does it even matter?

  12. Big movie freak – of course.

    Been following this site and all of Vern’s great Star Wars coverage for years. When Force Awakens came out a lot of his writing was about whether or not the Disney sale was going to strip Star Wars of the magical idiosyncratic stuff that Lucas had baked into it, and if it would just be about rehashing the original trilogy over and over to sell toys and lunchboxes. This was the first movie in the new trilogy (and depressingly, the last), to confirm that the corporate mandate is to just condescendingly play the hits, punish the attempts to free the series from the shackles of nostalgia, don’t let the door hit you on the way out

  13. Pacman – I agree, and also that Vern’s points about the good parts were not lost on me. I enjoyed Keri Russell as Zorii too!

    The first time I smiled watching this was when Lando took his helmet off, but that’s exactly my point – the cynicism of making Star Wars about nothing but cheap fan service and applause breaks

  14. I don’t have high hopes for this one, given how much I dislike pretty much everything else Abrams has been involved with. The guy just has no sense of how to put a story together. He’s like Ridley Scott, but without the visual flair. (Not a slam on Scott’s career, he’s made some great movies, but all his best ones kept him far, far away from crafting the story or screenplay. Abrams could really stand to make a few movies where he just directs someone else’s screenplay.)

    Can’t say that I’m pleased with the Palpatine reveal. I believe Abrams when he says how much he was blown away by the TLJ script, so it boggles the mind that he’s this incapable of understanding the meaning behind Johnson’s choices.

    I dunno. Abrams may be a nice guy, but he’s got the most surface-level understanding of other movies that I can imagine a professional filmmaker having. (See also: Super 8. Compare and contrast with the movies it’s aping.)

  15. Times like these make me wonder what Harry Knowles would think about Episode 9. Something tells me he would prefer this kind of approach to Johnson’s – Less of a real movie and more of something that pats him on the head and gives him a cookie for knowing the names of the ships/planets and all that shit.

  16. Why is working in the established milieu of a long running series considered crass fan-service?

    Shoe-horned cameos (ie Lando has a fuckload more to do in this movie than Bill Murray or Ernie Hudson had to do in GB16) and references in something like Ghostbusters ’16 are crass fan-serice.
    Acknowledging 40+ years of history, characters and iconography in a 9 (in story… with 2 offshoots theatrically and 100 tv and EU joints written on top of that) movie series… is just playing in the same sandbox that has already been very well set.

    The Last Jedi is my second favorite SW movie because of its bold choices and shirking of expectations… but it still had PLENTY of fan service in it too…

    I liked Rise Of Skywalker a lot… flaws and all… and am prolly 70% on board with Vern’s critiques of it… but calling it nothing but crass fan-service is just patently untrue.
    It is the weakest of the sequel trilogy in terms of story and pacing (even acknowledging the weaknesses of The Last Jedi’s Finn/Rose side-adventure) … but probably the strongest in terms of character and specific beats… And for all of its flaws, it is a better movie than Jedi or any of the prequels.

    One thing I have seen pointed out SEVERAL times now is the whole “we need to find this macguffin to find THAT macguffin to get to THIS place and eventually do THAT thing…”
    I do not see this as a flaw… it is, more than any other SW movie… a QUEST movie… and those are inherent in a quest movie.

    Also, it is after noon and I still need more coffee…

  17. Every last one of us regular chumps saw THE FORCE AWAKENS and said “she’s either a Skywalker, a Kenobi or a Palpatine,” and the official ender of the saga couldn’t come up with anything good either. Even after it was handed to him on a platter, he didn’t know he could just keep it. He’s as bad as us!

    God, this was my exact though walking out of the film. It’s fine, I liked it well enough, but just like The Mandalorian… it could’ve been so much more. Instead we get every single moment unnecessarily explained, culminating in the ridiculousness of Finn having a throw-away line to Jannah about “Hey look I can ride a space horse after only one lesson” and she’s like “Yeah because you had a great teacher, me” even though he rode those space llamas in the last one. It really feels like J.J. had an initial three-movie outline and instead of going with what Johnson did in part 2 he just was like, I’ll make part 2 and 3 and stuff them into this third one.

    It’s fine, whatever. It’s STAR WARS. And J.J. gave us Rey, which I’ll always be thankful for.

  18. Chris – what I mean is this movie seems only comprised of fan service, looking back instead of forward. It threw pretty much every step forward in the story of Last Jedi in the garbage

  19. That first sentence is absolute genius.

    Also: „ To me it’s a movie about not being defined by where you came from or what you used to do.“ This is exactly why, despite all its flaws, that rushed, overstuffed and expository-laden first half, and the disappointing retconning of TLJ, I prefer this to TFA, which was about absolutely nothing, other than making Disney a shitload of money. Hell, as much as I loved the return to „a farmboy/scavenger can be a hero and change the galaxy for the better“, I can forgive the return to this „everything has to be connected“-way of thinking because this is actually the first time the Star Wars-Saga deals with this topic (which, if you think about it, is crazy, given that Darth fucking Vader is the father of both Luke and Leia). And I love the message that your heritage doesn‘t determine who you are, but rather your actions. Despite where you‘re coming from, ultimately, it‘s you that decides who you want to be (perfectly captured by her adopting the Skywalker-name at the end).

    Also, I agree with everything you said about Ben. His story of redemption alone made it worth it.

    TLJ will always be my favorite of the sequel trilogy, but while TFA might have been the more entertaining and overall rounder film, ultimately, for me TROS comes second, because it‘s not as bland and superficial, but actually has something to say, and also offers some really strong moments. It‘s a rough ride, but for me, it at least paid off in the end.

  20. A few years back, I made myself some copies of the De-Specialized Editions and filled out the discs with some vintage SW documentaries I downloaded from YouTube. The most recent one came out right before the release of the Special Editions. Watching them recently as an antidote to RISE OF THE SKYWALKERS cynicism, It occurred to me that this era was both the peak and the beginning of the end of STAR WARS as a near-universal cultural touchstone. We’d all grown up with the first three films, and no new product had come out to tarnish their reputation. The worst anyone could say about the series at that point was that they didn’t like Ewoks, which nobody really took that seriously as a criticism. STAR WARS was good: full stop. The message of all the docs was consistent: Isn’t it amazing that this weird and personal project from an idiosyncratic filmmaker managed to unite so many disparate groups of people through the sheer joy of the communal experience? Isn’t it great that we have this one thing we can all agree is amazing?

    We couldn’t be further from that now if we tried. STAR WARS, once a uniter of humanity, is now a divider. We all think we own it, so we rage against anyone, even its original creator, who tries to play with our toys in ways we do not condone. Where once we thrilled at the strangeness of STAR WARS, we now demand it do only what we want and become bitter when it does not. (I am no different: I merely want it to die and it refuses to oblige me.) We have become an audience of angry restaurant patrons, sending meal after meal back to the kitchen because a revolving-door of guest chefs can’t magically recreate the recipe that burned itself into our taste buds when we were children.

    We held on too long to a beautiful thing and turned it ugly. All we can do now is let it go and hope its plumage will grow back over time or crush it to death and be done with it forever. I’ve attempted to do the former, but I fear Disney won’t let that happen and I’ll have no choice but to resort to the latter.

    It’s a sad and destructive thing when joy curdles, and even more so now, when we could really use something like STAR WARS, something that represents the best of what humanity has to offer, to bring us together.

    I try not to think about it too much. As much as I think LAST JEDI fails as a story (and boy does it), I appreciate its message: Throw that lightsaber away, young padewan. It was once a source of strength, but now it will bring you nothing but suffering.

  21. SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

    I might be more amenable to the movie as a mindless special effects parade if it weren’t so disinterested in its characters. The cast was the best thing the Disney Trilogy had going for it, and TRoS really just openly doesn’t care about them very much.

    Finn gets it the worst, going the whole movie without even a rudimentary arc, and the movie barely even remembers to make up some arbitrary thing for him to do here and there. Doesn’t even bother to follow up with its own weird unanswered question about what he was going to say to Rey. Whatever it was, I guess it wasn’t important, because they barely interact again after that. You could remove him entirely from the movie and it wouldn’t make a lick of difference. (And man, does the movie do poor Kelly Marie Tran dirty. Bringing along another female partner for Finn is really rubbing salt in the wound, pointing out that they’d rather make up a new character to not explore at all rather than bring her back. Although in fairness, maybe Tran just didn’t want to come back, and who could blame her?)

    Poe also has no arc, but it doesn’t matter because frankly he’s never really been a character and barely shared time with the other leads before anyway. At least Isaac is easy on the eyes,

    Even Rey barely has an arc; if she’s pulled towards the dark side, it’s obviously more a matter of destiny than anything that arises inherently from the character, although Ridley at least does decent work making her look tormented about whatever it is that we’ll never learn about that she’s thinking.

    Kylo immediately goes back to being a lackey, then gets to look sad in the rain as his memory gives him a lecture, and then I guess that sorted things out and he doesn’t care about whatever it was that made him decide to be evil before, which we’ll also never know about. It’s kind of amazing that the question of “what, exactly, does the primary villain of the trilogy want?” was never meaningfully addressed over the course of ten-plus hours, but there you go, that’s corporate storytelling for you. Since we never knew what he wanted in the first place, his sudden turn toward heroism doesn’t really mean anything, although, again, I will concede that Driver does an adequate job brooding (although he seems kinda bored here for the first time in the series).

    I dunno, like I said before, it’s such a nothing of a movie that I don’t even really feel much like criticizing it. It’s like harshly criticizing an episode of Scooby Doo for being insufficiently intellectually stimulating. But still, it is kind of disappointing to have (reluctantly) invested in these characters for nothing.

    I was curious if Vern felt obligated to do the Ed Lover dance when Hayden Christensen’s voice came up. I guess he got off on the technicality that there’s no body.

    SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS SPOILERS

  22. “It said that not only can a slave or a farmboy become a legendary hero, but they can do it without being a chosen one, or a descendent of royalty.”

    I’m getting tired of people repeating this over and over. The prequels said that, not TLJ. Did everyone miss all those non-Skywalker with glowy swords? Not just the Jedi goons, or the council, but the ones that are mentioned as old Jedi of lore. Or the Jedi of thousands of years before Anakin was born? What about Obi-Wan in the original? And that’s only in the movies, we all know that the EU is choke full of them.

    If the trilogy is set up for Rey to be of someone’s parentage, you just can’t spit on it, and on everything else while you’re on it. TLJ left the trilogy broken. Disney could’ve made any movie and trilogy they wanted to do, the idea that it needed to be like old times was BS from the start. But they did what they did, with no care about it whatsoever, and in all that chaos TLJ was unleashed and felt like a sore thumb.

    It never was that SW *has to be* about a particular bloodline (or this Bene Gesserit crap that they conjured). The first 6 movies were because those were George’s story. These 3 are about corporate failure.

  23. Also, I resent that the movie implies that Wicket had sex. I find it offensive.

  24. If we got ROGUE ONE partly to answer the question, why would a massive, hugely powerful and expensive weapon have such an exploitable and catastrophic design flaw, then how many movies are we going to need to answer all the head scratching questions about Palpatine’s plan and his fleet?

    For a movie that is weirdly obsessed with video game like completing tasks and questions to spell it out exactly how everyone figures out where this Sith Planet is located, it’s very weird that it ignores other questions (I still don’t know how the rebels learned about the navigation signal weakness for that Sith planet’s atmosphere for example, which is another set of questions).

    This movie sucks. It’s not Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom bad or as bad as Attack of the Clones or the Phantom Menace, but it left me feeling a diminished version of the feelings I had walking out of those movies (particularly Revenge and Clones).

    Anybody play Fortnite and listen to Palpatine the podcaster’s message drop?

  25. Some questions for the group:

    -What did the fans that complained about Luke force projecting himself in TLJ think about Rey and Kylo healing each other with the force, Palpatine sucking the force power out of Rey and Kylo, Rey using two lightsabers to beat back the dark side like Wonder Woman, etc.

    -What was the deal with the stadium full of sith guys at the emperor’s evil hideout at the end? Who were they? Why were they?

    -It was an enjoyable twist that they had General Hux be the mole for the resistance in the Empire…but then he’s shot like 2 minutes later with no opportunity to build on that idea. What gives?

  26. Episode 9 is also a lot like GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra.

    Kylo with his pointlessly re-constituted mask being a Vader poser again and trying to turn Rey to the dark side was a lot like Cobra Commander doing the silly evil voice.

    The flashback with Luke and Leia (played by stunt doubles with way more dexterity than either of those actors had in their 20s) sparring with lightsabers in the woods was like the backstory of the black and white ninjas in GI Joe.

    The breathless constant introduction of exposition, settings, macguffins and 1 dimensional new characters because to chill the fuck out for 5 minutes would be boring.

    Maybe JJ Abrams did study Stephen Sommers movies while he was making this

  27. Seen a few comments about Kylo Ren having the mask back – it was rumoured a while back that Adam having more screen-time in this one was difficult to schedule (and he’s busier than ever) and the mask meant that they were able to get doubles in for some of the act 1 star destroyer stuff. I can absolutely buy that, the physicality of some of these scenes isn’t so much off as just.. not memorable or interesting. There’s some cool moments masked, but nothing that extraordinary.

    I think Driver is.. properly astonishing in this movie, and he brings it to every (unmasked) scene. Even picking up that Sith holocron thing on the flooded death star, he makes his hand look like a claw, animal-like. He thinks about every gesture, and full-on channels Ford in his last few scenes. It’s good acting, and it’s the big thing that elevates the movie. His – pretty much silent – performance across his last 20 minutes is just one of the best things in any Star War. He’s up for an Oscar with Marriage Story but he’s honestly even better in this.

    In terms of the general film tho – they shoulda pushed the release back when Fisher died. The script reads as a mostly solid first draft but not much more than that. After seeing it once I felt a bit disappointed and worried it’d fall apart on rewatch, but actually, having gone back, it really cohered for me. Leia’s slightly off-centre lines scan more naturally when you know she’s right at the end of her life. The Palpatine fucks decision is absurd, genuinely close to outright foolish. But so too was making Leia into Luke’s sister out of nowhere. That’s how it goes. I think the film didn’t click for me first time as I spent it wondering what decisions they were gonna make and was always frustrated by the options they kept choosing. On revisiting, knowing what they went with, I was more able to just go along for the ride. I do genuinely think ppl are gonna be pleasantly surprised when/if they revisit.

    It’s the details that make this one for me. I loved how in TFA Ben was given a scar right where Han touched him after getting stabbed. And I loved that Rey force healing him of his stomach wound in this one healed that scar too. It’s good, and by JJ standards subtle, visual storytelling, the stuff you notice without noticing imo.

    Yeah, so that’s where I am with it. I think it didn’t live up to a lot of the broader stuff RJ intimated with TLJ.. but it really does nail the Rey/Ben stuff, which is the sequel trilogy’s beating heart. I think they mismarketed it a bit – if they’d sold it as the end of their story – which is what it is – rather than the end of the 9 film saga.. people wouldve come away more satisfied. I was surprised by the extent to which it was uninterested in basically any film other than 7. But as a TFA 2 – with a return to that film’s very arthurian take on the mythos (complete with a sleeping beauty kiss) – i’m pretty into this one.

    But also yeah, really hope they don’t cancel Rian’s trilogy cos this one misses a billion or whatever.

  28. I’m a massive fan of STAR WARS – I saw A New Hope when Star wars was all it was called, not that this informs my opinion, it just means it’s part of my DNA.

    This film was a mess, and I loved it. Ben and Rey knocked this out of the park, so that nearly everything else is meaningless to me. Adam Driver, man.

    The fight with the Knights of Ren (that little apologetic shrug!), seven pointless Boba Fett chumps and their smoky ship, the dirty footprints on the shiny floors, the relieved stormtroopers, poor old Hux, Hayden Christensen, Babu Frikkin’ Frik, Zorii’s eyes… The more I think about it the more I’m happy. The poor old Jedi were right about balance, they just got the whom and when wrong.

    But what was up with the lack of Artoo, though? Was it in Anthony Daniel’s contract?

  29. @Patrick N

    – I loved the force healing stuff, am fully onboard with the ending. Think it pays off Ridley and Driver’s surprising chemistry while also gives him as happy an ending as a mass-murder could’ve got. I like that it wasn’t a violent death, and that he died – as Rose Tico said they all should hope to – saving the person he loved. For all the ways this film isn’t interested in TLJ, I’m glad JJ and Chris were listening to that bit.
    – The crossed sabers thing was a bit naff, but the lead up to it (“be with me”) was among the most beautiful minutes in the series history, so I give it a pass.

    – I think the stadium is just the channelled spirits of all the past Sith. Not full force ghosts, cos that’s being a sith for you, but they only live on thru the ritual I suppose. Force echoes rather than force ghosts, was my take.

    – On Hux.. guess he’d just served his purpose. Love TLJ but Hux was too thoroughly defanged to be much use in this!

  30. It’s a good thing Driver and Ridley have strong chemistry together because they kept having the exact same scene and conversation together that they have been having since the last movie. Also Kylo gets that FURIOUS 7 Jason Statham writing where he is everywhere until he has his turn.

  31. Couple of points that will get lost the minute I got send :)

    1) The dislike of Last Jedi isn’t as fringe as people who love Last Jedi want to think.

    2) JJ Abrams is a much more interesting visual director than Rian Johnson this time out. The horror aesthetic during the finally was really cool.

    3) Rian Johnson set up, at least, two more movies worth of plot in Last Jedi that no way you could have addressed in any meaningful way.

    4) I love the idea she is a Palpatine in the sense that we haven’t dealt with kids of Sith origins before but even that is probably two movies with of exploration.

  32. Daisy Ridley as Rey is pretty much what saves the movie for me. She’s so likeable and earnest.

    Boy, does Force Ghost Luke need some hair conditioner.

  33. As has been widely noted, it’s really not the kind of movie where characters have arcs. It’s all set pieces and scavenger hunts. Even so, Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver are so good that the film eon me over in the end. The Emperor and Kylo’s are were highlights, and I agree with Sternshein about the Emperor’s lair. Dope. It’s all over the place, it doesn’t take the time to earn a lot of its beats, but it worked for me more often than not on the sheer strength of Driver and Ridley.

  34. oops — “won me over” and “arcs were highlights”

  35. And here we go.

    Half in the Bag: The 70-Minute Rise of Skywalker Review

    Internet superstar Rich Evans joins Mike and Jay on this very special episode of Half

  36. I hated FORCE AWAKENS when I first saw it, but on repeat viewings I begrudgingly appreciate what they were trying to do with Kylo Ren and his Vader worshipping and inferiority complex, wrestling with the Light Side instead of the opposite Dark Side temptation that has been done to death now. But much like the prequel trilogy’s fairly intriguing theme of the Jedi being ivory tower out of touch bureuacratic goody two shoes hypocrites, the good ideas are lost in endless waves of drivel. Where PHANTOM was doomed by infantile humor, TFA was doomed by flippant humor and dozens of Deus ex machinas, a million to one coincidence every 4-5 minutes. TLJ was nearly sunk by adolescent humor as well. And half of the great ideas in it were discarded by the end of the film (Rey and Kylo joining up to tear down the established order? Why was that plot thread dropped? So disappointing). The fact that TROS drops the other good ideas from TLJ into the shredder is just part for the course.

    Katherine Kennedy should be fired, fired, fired. Star Wars is getting more like James Bond, just a tired franchise that they trot out every few years that will go on forever whether we care or not.

    The first thing Disney should have done when they bought it was take one of the best regarded story arcs from the old Star Wars Canon (pick one, I don’t care) and hire Spielberg to direct a full trilogy. Pay him whatever it takes. They would have made double their money over what they have made just throwing the property around, letting these disparate directors do whatever they like without an overarching story or theme.

    What a waste.

  37. I don’t hate this movie as much as alot of people, even though I recognize it’s about 10 minutes worth of really good material buried in 2 hours of Transformers-level awfulness. I’ll just say Rian Johnson staying mum about it on twitter, except for just posting a captionless picture of Kelly Marie Tran, made me smile harder and gave me warmer feelings than anything in this actual movie. Rose Tico, love her or hate her, has less dialogue and onscreen time here than Abrams’ buddies Dominic Monaghan or Greg Grunberg, whoever the fuck they were. She deserved better – if you’re not going to follow through with that kiss with Finn, at least ADDRESS it or abandon it for a real reason, like give Finn a new love interest or have him pursue his feelings for Rey. But instead they waffle and do neither! Having Finn not telling Rey his feelings is straight out of X-Men Apocalypse (with Quicksilver teasing telling Magneto he’s his son the whole movie and then inexplicably not doing it at the end), and this movie feels more like a shitty mashup of that series, Marvel movies (with the macguffin chasing and giant blue laser in the sky climax!), DC movies (specifically Wonder Woman and Aquaman), the worst impulses of the Fast and Furious movies, with a few limp attempts to recreate Fury Road and John Wick for good measure. Actually the closest comparison would have to be Justice League- another flat, bland, middle-of-the-road franchise ender that technically ties off loose ends and course-corrects its last episode to appease angry people who are probably gonna hate on this one again anyway. It’s easily the worst in this trilogy and kind of a terrible film, though the parts that work really do work (I think the lightsaber battle is the best in the 9-film series)

    Sidenote: My prediction that Palpatine wouldn’t be 1/100th as interesting as Kreese on Cobra Kai was obviously correct. What I didn’t predict is he’d come back with a literal stadium of *shoulder shrug* people? Clones? Ghosts? I would make a joke about we need a Prequel to explain it all, but who am I kidding, I think this franchise is toast again, at least for a couple of years.

  38. I was thinking of the TRANSFORMERS movies, but you’re right, the Stephen Sommers MUMMY movies are a more accurate comparison. It’s not a problem of visual coherence within the scenes, it’s the rhythm of all the scenes flying by one after the other that’s disorienting at times. A major difference, though, is that I’m already very invested in the characters and the world of Star Wars, so I have more motivation care what’s happening and try to keep up.

    Also, for whatever it’s worth, this is much better looking than Sommers’ movies and has state of the art special effects instead of the shockingly shoddy ones he prefers.

  39. fwiw, neal2zod, I don’t think the thing Finn was working up to tell Rey was that he loved her, but that he’s force sensitive.

  40. I’m the biggest Star Wars apologist there is, but there is no getting around the fact that this just isn’t a very good movie.

    As a SW fan, there was plenty here that got me riled up, and that I enjoyed. But I don’t know how you could even set forth the argument that this movie is well made. It is a huge, fucking mess. There are fun scenes, the performances are good, but the story makes no sense and feels like it was slapped together. And honestly, I think the action scenes are poorly executed. I can’t think of a single scene in this movie that will suck me in the way the scenes on Jakku suck me in in episode 7 or the throne room fight does in episode 8.

    I had fun with parts of this movie because it’s Star Wars. I love Star Wars. But I find it less likely that I will revisit and rewatch this movie than any of the others that have been made. I just can’t think of the scene in this movie that I am dying to see again when I buy it on bluray.

  41. And you Episode 8 fans who are mad that JJ basically tossed everything Rian did over his shoulder into the trash, well, you see where I’m going. Rian basically took enormous chunks of what JJ did in episode 7 and threw it away from the very beginning.

  42. Franchise Fred was fine with it. I haven’t liked the last two episodes so didn’t expect this to do any different. They all tease bold choices and then walk it back literally a scene later. The example of what if they took back Luke’s robot hand in Jedi is apropos.

    My friend also questioned who fucked Palpatine.

  43. Jeffg, to me there’s a huge difference. Johnson swerved the story in ways that made it feel like everything was wide open, it was no longer going in the hacky obvious directions, it added new meaning and made me excited to find out where the hell it was going. And then Abrams swerved back and said settle down everybody, it doesn’t actually mean that, and it is what you assumed before.

    For example, the unexpected defeat of Snoke was a total thrill because it said “You thought this was a retread of the Star Wars trilogy, and this guy is the new Palpatine, and in the third one they kill him. No! He’s out of the way already! Now the possibilities are endless!”

    And Abrams says “You’re right! It’s not a retread of Palpatine this time. It actually is Palpatine again!”

    At least the new planet killing ships weren’t round.

  44. Please do Cats. The world needs that.

  45. I did enjoy this film based mostly on the emotional resonance achieved by Driver, Ridley, and ***SPOILER character appearance***, good production values, lingering nostalgia, McDiarmid’s cool lair and his scenery chewing, and the relentless forward momentum of the film that never gives you a breather to reflect on story or whether there is one.

    However, they failed badly at establishing a new villain and a new set of space operatic stakes. New of this is a new observation: The First Order and Snoke were lazy, under-explained concepts even without the Death Star 2.0 and other lifts from the original trilogy. Before the re-appearance of Palpatine in this film undercut RotJ, the unexplained emergence of the First Order and Snoke had already undercut the end of RotJ.

    This series and especially this film wants Rey’s and Kylo’s stories to be saturated with all of the gravity and emotional stakes of the central psychodrama in an apocalyptic battle for the soul of the galaxy at large, but everything about the First Order except Kylo is boring, underexplained, and insufficiently differentiated from the Empire of the original trilogy. Abrams and Johnson spent the first two films essentially hot potatoing the worldbuilding mythology decisions and just settled on a retread. They never fully committed to making Kylo the ultimate villain and never found another robust, credible evil to insert in his place. Bringing in Palpatine, as much as I loved seeing him, was the ultimate admission of narrative defeat.

    And as much as I loved the ***SPOILER CHARACTER APPEARANCE*** Harrison Ford appearance, everything about Luke and Leia was pretty much flat-to-cringe for me. This film is so over-stuffed with characters accumulated from the original series and from TFA and TLJ that it can only pay most of them lip service. Finn and Poe are charming and well-performed but never developed beyond one-note cliches for me. I’m not in the camp of people complaining about their being sidelined, because I think they are boring characters and were the worst thing about TLJ.

    Speaking of TLJ, I like the film but think it is overrated among its boosters. Everything Luke-Kylo-Rey in that film is gold, and I enjoyed Laura Dern and Benicio Del Toro, as well. Finn-Rose-Poe-Leia are boring, meandering filler that only serve to underscore Finn and Poe’s lack of an interesting inner life. It also tries to do double-duty in giving Luke a satisfying arc and send-off, and in doing so, it shortchanges Rey, mostly sidelining her at the end so Luke can have some Gif-worthy moments with Kylo — which I loved in the same empty calorie way I loved Palpatine in this. TLJ problematizes and punts a lot of things to Abrams to solve in this film. Who is the big bad? Can Kylo graduate to Big Bad in a convincing and powerful way? How will the resistance grow and reform? How will all of this build into a truly resonant apocalyptic showdown that doesn’t feel like another retread of the first series? What the hell are we going to do with all these good guy characters and their plotlines or send-offs? This third film inherits a ton of questions and problems inherited from the other films, from Carrie Fisher’s death, and from the weight of being the final film in the Skywalker trilogy, and it largely throws its hands up and abdicates.

    So, I had fun with the film, I really enjoyed the look, some of the characters, and some of the individual moments. It does not hold together as a good, cohesive, robust story and ultimately magnifies all of the narrative weaknesses, gaps, and fakeouts of the previous two.

  46. I am at once empathetic and puzzled about all the complaints about someone’s pet character getting sidelined. There are so many characters to begin with, to say nothing of the new or re-inserted ones, that !EVERYONE! is getting sidelined and shortchanged to various degrees. Even Rey and Kylo have precious little time to rush through the paces of their contrived emotional conflicts and crisis points, and it’s proportionally worse for everyone else. Adding in Lando is an example of Abram’s horrible instinct for just stuffing in extraneous shiny objects, further crowding out all the other under-developed crap he’s already stuffed in there, all the while drawing our focus further and further afield from a guiding story that would ground and propel the individual scenes and character beats. This is because the series has no such story to offer, just a bunch of loosely strung together characters and vignettes arrayed in a more-or-less coherent sequence. There are some good characters and some interesting visual iconography, but there is no real story.

    Subtlety is right that the film mostly doesn’t care about its characters, but, here’s the thing: ***I*** don’t care about most of these characters either! The film *does* seem to care about its most compelling characters (the ones I also enjoy), but it crowds them out by its competing need to sustain all the other dead-weight characters, giving each of them the illusion of having some meaningful contribution to make toward the narrative. The proliferation and under-development of these characters is the bigger problem, and it is itself a symptom of the fact that this film cares more about individually cute or interesting parts — and about multiplying and permuting the parts– than it does about the whole — the raison d’etre that is supposed to make Kylo Ren something more and other than mediocre and unearned but well-acted dialogue. This series doesn’t care about the story and the why. It’s just a massive unwieldy agglomeration of elements with nothing to say about anything.

  47. steven – I think Abrams and Boyega have also said that Finn was going to tell Rey he was force-sensitive, which doesn’t seem like something that he would have to keep secret for years and also a strange thing to do when you’re both about to drown to death. The fact that they purposely leave it vague is just one final JJ Mystery Box in the coffin, him trying to create some Lost in Translation-style discussion or debate to cover up the fact that this is an empty husk of a movie.

    Speaking of which, I think the reveal that Finn turned “good” because of the Force (not because he has a conscience, or because he thought massacring un-armed villagers was wrong or anything) is just as ill-advised and even more offensive than the Midichlorians thing everyone hates. It’s literally the same “chosen one”/born with it trope that I thought this sequel trilogy was supposed to refute, and it seems less like a plot turn and more like Abrams’ shorthand so we don’t have to worry about the hundreds of thousands of African child-soldier metaphors that got kidnapped from their homes and died horrifically at the hands of the good guys at the end of this one. “They were bad and the Force didn’t pick em, so fuck em, amirite?”

    The movie’s so obnoxious how it keeps teasing shit (Chewbacca’s death, C-3PO’s death, Ben’s death, Rey’s death) only to reverse itself five to ten minutes later. (Seriously, did Abrams learn nothing from Kirk’s “death” at the end of Star Trek Into Darkness?) Rey burns her ship to strand herself on a planet and gets a new ship immediately. Ben throws away his lightsaber and in his very next scene shoots a bunch of dudes real good and grabs another lightsaber to chop em up. The more I think about this movie, the more I kinda hate it – it’s the first one I don’t have any desire to watch again and the first one I wouldn’t recommend people on the fence to see. Life’s too short when there’s actual franchises out there run by people who care about their characters and have some idea of where they want their stories to go.

  48. Interesting, Neal. I enjoy the film in spite of all its limitations. The individual things that work are pretty great, and there are some good emotional payoffs, even if it is only by dint of excellent casting and acting that they deliver, and the film coasts on goodwill and completism. This series had its work cut out for it, and I think it did a lot of things well, including adding a level of emotional depth and nuance to the characterizations and performances that neither of the previous trilogies could achieve. In the end, I think it was poor and ad hoc plotting that limited it. A real shame, because I think Kylo and Rey were legit great characters with a ton of potential. There was just too much other clutter and general muddle-ment about the bends and turns in their character development and about how to prune and use the supporting cast and sub-plots.

  49. Long time viewer, first time poster!

    This is the first time I’ve walked out of a Star Wars movie without a big smile on my way. (Well, except for ESB – I was mostly in a state of pants-shitting terror after that, but to be fair, I was four.) It really bums me out. With your average Star War, regardless of where I ultimately land on the quality of the movie in the course of time, I always have tons of fun in the moment of watching it in the theater for the first time. I’m able to enjoy them at a childlike level and the nitpicking and analysis comes later. I just couldn’t get into that state with this one. Halfway through, I became aware that I was frowning and had been doing that the whole time. That’s unprecedented for me. The weird, poisonous politics around Last Jedi seeping into TRoS affected me, and I couldn’t get onboard with the 1.5x pace of the movie or the ridiculous plot shenanigans. In a lot of ways, this nonsensical movie is what I was nervous JJ would make for ep 7. (Which he mostly ended up coming through on, IMO.)

    I liked TFA and TLJ (TLJ more, but enjoyed both) and am sad this is how it all ended. This is going to be the first SW movie I don’t see multiple times in the theater. I feel like I gave Disney my Star Wars money one last time, and now I gotta turn my back on em, like Paul Sorvino in Goodfellas.

  50. Very flawed but I mostly liked it. One thing I don’t think I’ve seen mentioned (sorry if I missed it in comments): the Emperor’s look was clearly inspired by Dr Chennard in Hellraiser 2, right?

  51. Star Wars Episode IX: Fuck Rian Johnson. That’s the movie I saw. But then, I’m not a Star Wars fan. I just happen to think The Last Jedi is a solid gold fully-formed cinematic masterpiece that I still can’t believe Disney allowed to happen. What really baffles me is JJ Abrams. He’s Michael Bay in Spielberg clothing. If the pod people in Invasion of the Body Snatchers made movies, Abrams would be their number one director. His movies have no soul, no life, no artistic sensibility. They’re empty, virtually sociopathic in their disdain for honest emotion. They have the appearance of emotions but there’s nothing real underneath. I don’t believe anything in them. Rise of Skywalker is no different. Everything is glib, untethered, adrift. I felt nothing, except relief when it was over. No time to dwell on anything. The momentum of emptiness mustn’t be disrupted.

    In much the same way that I can watch Aliens and happily pretend that Alien 3 (or Resurrection) doesn’t exist, I’ll now watch The Last Jedi in isolation and nothing can touch it. Not Force Awakens and not Rise of Skywalker. Those films can fly away, never to return.

  52. I generally agree, and I think the “Bay in Spielberg clothing” is an apt turn of phrase. At the same time, I think Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Harrison Ford, and even Mark Hammil in his brief moment, do some very emotionally resonant work in FORCE AWAKENS, and the Kylo-Han confrontation is particularly poignant and affecting. You can argue that this is all in spite of Abrams, but it’s a lot of good emotionally intense but restrained performances, possibly the best in that regard of any STAR WARS films up to that point. For whatever reason, in RISE OF SKYWALKER, it felt like the good emotional beats were happening almost in spite of Abrams, whereas they seemed like a more central, intentional feature of FORCE AWAKENS.

  53. I don’t think that description is fair…to Bay. For all his obvious faults (and they are myriad), Bay is an auteur: He’s putting shit on the screen that he wants to see, that excite him, that reveal aspects of his personality. They are asinine, juvenile, insane, morally bankrupt things, but they are important to Bay. He doesn’t give a fuck if you want to see them too. Abrams has NONE of that. There isn’t a single whiff of auteurial vision in any of his work. He gives you what he thinks you want to see and nothing more. He is a focus group in eye glasses. He takes things that are popular and, without putting any personal spin on them, either regurgitates them bigger and flashier and speedier or he puts mindless, empty twists on them without any understanding of the unsexy narrative and character mechanisms that enabled the original stories to have the impact they did. Spielberg had a heartfelt relationship with an alien in ET so that’s what JJ’ll have in SUPER 8, even though it makes no sense in this particular story. Spock died in the engine chamber last time so Kirk’ll die this time, because that’s what JJ thinks is a clever twist. These are representative of Abrams’ only two storytelling options. The idea of just doing something completely different that does not play on an established story trope—something that only he, an ostensible creative type with his own idiosyncratic view of the world, would or could come up with—does not occur to him. He chooses Door #1 or Door #2. There is no Door #3.

    For all Bay’s faults, he doesn’t even know Doors 1 and 2 exist. It’s Door 3 all the way.

  54. That’s a fair point, Majestyk. He clearly has an extremely strong and specific visual sensibility (shades of Tony Scott, though). Interesting timing, as I just tried THE ISLAND again the other day. It sagged in the middle for me, but I liked that he was actually trying to explore some ethical issues (and explore 20-something ScraJo in a form-fitting white tracksuit), and there was a fun surprise heel turn from Ewan McGregor

  55. Since we are talking Bay: 6 UNDERGROUND might be the worst movie he ever did (mostly because of how boring and lifeless it is), but one short stunt in the beginning made me realize what sets him apart from other action directors: The movie starts with a car chase and at one point a bad guy car crashes into an excavator. Every other action director would leave it at that, maybe add an explosion, but that’s it. Bay lets the car explode, rip in two halfs, let them fly through the air and when they land, the dead driver plops out of the wreck in front of the camera.

    Say what you want about him, but it’s that kind of excessive “bumping the lamp”, that makes him unique.

  56. One thing in this review that I think is wrong is the idea that JJ was aiming to please “fans” but actually alienated “fans” and instead pleased “non-fans.” I think the opposite is closer to true. This and Last Jedi have both been very divisive, but I think that Last Jedi drew rage from lifelong, hardcore fans way more than Rise. Overall, I think Last Jedi appealed more to the very casual fan or even indifferent audience member who doesn’t hold the original movies or classic characters in all that high regard, who got a kick out of seeing Johnson call his shot as being “subversive” (even though casino planets and junker parents aren’t actually subversive ideas, really). I think JJ was aiming to please longtime hardcore fans and Johnson was aiming to excite people who are disdainful of the material by fucking with it like a gremlin, and I think they’ve both mostly hit those targets. Not all “fans” have warmed to Rise of Skywalker, but the sense I have is that even fans who are disappointed by it regard it as an honest miss instead of Johnson’s deliberate mischief.

    My big problem with the Last Jedi was it disposed of JJ’s established mystery boxes but didn’t lay a foundation for anything new to take up in Episode IX. It was just sort of like, I hope you REALLY like the Kylo-Rey sexual tension because that’s all that was sitting there at the end of VIII. And my reaction to that was, meh. And at the end of the day I found the spaceship-running-out-of-gas-and-grumpy-Luke-on-Achto plot pretty flat, empty and occasionally dumb.

  57. This auteur theory thing is overrated.

  58. you gotta say more, Sternshein. I think there’s something to it, at least in a soft sense. Just as I’m almost certain there would have been no second Iraq War if Gore had been President of the US, I’m equally certain that a Johnson-directed Episode IX would have been a very different ball game — almost certainly no Palpatine and probably Kylo is THE closest we get to a big bad.

    I agree with Ben’s view on TLJ creating problems for the trilogy. I liked both grumpy curmudgeon Luke and nothing-special-about-your-parents Rey just fine. I’m not opposed to any of the individual radical moves Johnson makes, but the sheer accumulation of them gives the impression that he is more interested in subverting expectations — both general STAR WARS tropes and specfiic TFA plot points — as an end unto itself and without offering much of a constructive narrative way forward in their place.

    If there’s any theme underlying the film, it’s one of radical relativization, demythologization, and deconstruction. Of the mythology surrounding Luke, of the metaphysics of the force and force powers, and of the Sith and Jedi religions and their false, extremist dualism. Yoda and Kylo — and Luke, until the end — seem to agree that it’s time to kill and bury the past. To put literally put it to death or burn it to the ground as an act of reform from within. Hence, Kylo’s actions toward Snoke and his offer toward Rey, as well as Luke’s insistence on ending the Jedi and Yoda burning the temple and sacred texts when Luke loses his nerve. Sad devotion to tired religious and institutional groups (the Sith, the Jedi) and their falsely dualistic dogmas must end. Let the past die and chart a new, less sectarian, less dualistic path forward. It’s a deconstructive and subtractive agenda that is in some ways tailor-made for our skeptical, increasingly secularized, agnostic, and self-consciously pluralistic consciousness.

    Unfortunately for part 8 of a 9-film series steeped in a dualistic religio-magical, it leaves some metaphysical gaps and ambiguities, and it’s not even clear how much Johnson is really interested in building a constructive new vision so much as he is just interested in upsetting Star Wars mythology apple carts for the hell of it. Luke’s final speech to Kylo seems to walk back a lot of his previously expressed nihilism about the Jedi. Whatever the case, this penultimate film leaves us with more questions than answers and fewer key characters than we started with (we traded Luke and Snoke for Rose, I guess).

    It’s one thing to give us a grumpier Luke than we’re expecting and a less special Rey than we’re expecting, but it’s quite another to do both of those things AND problematize the nature of the Force and the Jedi and Sith AND kill off the ostensible main villain AND do nothing to flesh out the First Order AND do nothing of much narrative consequence — or general entertainment value — with Finn, Poe, Rose, Leia, and Holdo.

    People complain about Abrams giving an F-U to Rian Johnson, but, c’mon, TLJ was a giant F-U to all of JJ’s mystery boxes and to dogmatic, back-ward-looking STAR WARS fan-boy-ism, and it left the director of the final installment with far less time and a more narratively constrained situation, since we’re essentially down to a handful of resistance fighters and a vague quasi-empire led by a bratty 30 year-old in an environment where old religious dualisms and “brands” (e.g., Jedism, Sithism) appear to be dissolving into something more ambivalent and ambiguous.

    It’s interesting to ponder what a more “Johnson-esque” final film would have looked like. I’m not sure how that would’ve worked in terms of the galaxy-is-at-stake aspect. It certainly would have been a lot different from what we got.

  59. CJ, you didn’t like 6 UNDERGROUND? I thought it was just the mind numbingly stupid over the top excessively violent action fare I needed to end the year.

  60. I posted this two years ago in the comment section for The Last Jedi:

    “I think, other than not including Snoke and Luke (and Leia for reasons outside of his control), JJ can largely ignore TLJ and do whatever he wants in Episode IX if that is his desire. I assume it will be necessary to set IX a good bit after XIII, otherwise the Resistance will only be about 15 people strong. If, for sake of discussion, they pick up 5 years after TLJ, how exactly will JJ be constrained by what happened in The Last Jedi? It is still Rey vs. Kylo with supporting characters who will be given something CGI and pointless to do. Hell, he can even give Rey parents if he want and say it was all a lie. He can give us the back story of Snoke if he wants. He can give us Ghost Luke if he wants. Honestly, other than picking off Luke and Snoke, cant Abrams just make a sequel to the Force Awakens if he wants? I’m not saying this is a good thing, but for all these folks petitioning to make TLJ non-canon, JJ really can almost do that on his own.”

  61. pegsman, the action was great and at times even pretty innovative (Magnets!), but most of the movie was just boring banter between uncharismatic characters and random stuff happening to them. Also it was a bit of a bummer when Bay juxtaposed his usual over the top action with horrible war crimes. That was his trademark tonedeafness gone a bit too far.

  62. I also found 6 Underground incredibly boring. 5 minutes into the chase at the beginning I’m like wondering why I’m supposed to care about any of this. It’s one thing to start out a movie mid action scene like Lethal Weapon 2 where you know the characters already, it’s another to do this over the top scene that ends the way it does and expect us to really care about any of this.

  63. Man, you guys are seriously making me want to reup my Netflix for a month just so I can see this.

  64. Does anyone want to discuss Star Wars on this Star Wars thread? That is pretty telling.

    Another bitch and moan I have about this one: Mr. Mystery Box was always so big on not spoiling the big moments in his movies by giving us very little info in the trailers. Boy, they ruined a lot of the bigger moments here in the trailers. Two that come to mind: The enormous fleet of ragtag ships coming to the rescue at the end. And Chewie obviously not being dead, because he is shown in the trailers doing a dozen different things after the shuttle explodes.
    Even cool moments like Kylo coming out of the waves on the side of the Death Star and Reys flip in the desert. I get they have to give us something in the trailers, but come on.

  65. Not sure if we can really blame that on Abrams. Not many directors have the power to control every aspect (or any aspect) of the marketing and you know how studios loved since the beginning of cinema all kinds of spoilers in their trailers.

    Sternsheim: I thought the opening of 6 UNDERGROUND was the best part. I was totally on board with the movie during it. Not so much after it.

  66. I think the weird thing about Abrams is that re-watching The Force Awakens earlier this week, I finally understood the appeal of his “mystery box” bullshit. The questions and the setup are clearly more fun than the answers, the journey is more important than the destination, etc… So seriously, why the fuck does he seem to traffic only in big budget franchise film-making that by definition, eventually requires answers? Why doesn’t he just make big budget sci-fi one-offs like Inception, the type of shit that leaves you with your damn questions but doesn’t actually require a sequel to answer shit you just said wasn’t important. Then again, his ONLY non-franchise movie he directed is Super 8, which may actually be his worst movie since I think it’s even more incoherent and empty than all the others (while the music and the lighting do all the heavy-lifting and tell you you’re watching something very special).

    Also, remember when Quentin Tarantino was talking shit about Disney’s Star Wars, or as he called it “Simon West’s Star Wars”? Can we all agree Simon West’s Star Wars MIGHT have been better? Or at least, Con Air has a more fun tone, a less-headache inducing plot, and more consistent characters than the two JJ movies?

  67. jeffg, are there anything left to say? It’s taken me 42 years and 9 visits to the cinema to get to the end of this series (12, if you count the 3 times I saw EMPIRE on the big screen). Let’s move on. Mr M, I think you’ll appreciate Bay’s total lack of respect for human life in this one! CJ, I told you not to watch movies like that sober!

  68. For J.J. Abrams to be faced with the task of finishing this series seems like karmic retribution for his entire career. Id never try to convince anybody that its any good, but I loved the everliving shit out of watching it, and I’m as surprised as anybody – I hated TFA and really liked most of TLJ so I did not have high hopes for this one, especially after hearing the early critical reactions.

    Re Palpatine’s attractiveness and virility (and also his presence at all in the movie): a megafan friend of mine theorized that the Palpatine in 1-6 is a clone of this one, since 9’s Palpatine is aged but has none of the mutation/scarring present in the earlier films. Do what thou wilt with that wacky idea!

  69. I can only speak to the many people I talk to about Star Wars shit, pretty much all of whom are life long Star Wars nerds, having seen all or most in the theater since the late ’70s or early ’80s. Very few have the tolerance I have for the prequels, a couple (but not most) are into some of the ancillary cartoons or books. Among these people I don’t know any who don’t love THE LAST JEDI. Conversely, I’ve only talked to one who didn’t mostly hate RISE OF SKYWALKER, and he liked it about the same amount I did.

    I can’t remember if I’ve ever talked to a Star Wars fan who didn’t like LAST JEDI, so I have no data on who that would be. I have only seen two years of evidence that people who love Star Wars can and often do love that episode.

  70. JeffG, I don’t disagree with you about the freedom/lack of narrative constraints that Johnson bequeathed to Abrams, but that’s also a double-edged sword, because he didn’t offer much in the way of constructive plot development or momentum either. He just walked back much of TFA and killed off a few more key characters. Nnow you’re coming into Act III of the trilogy with frankly much less narrative momentum or tension than we had at the end of Act I.

    This certainly leaves you with lots of places to go, but not many places to go that meaningfully build on the momentum of prior events, because there isn’t much momentum to build on. It’s just a blank slate. That’s a weird place to start the final film of a trilogy or trilogy of trilogies. You’re still stuck trying to establish, build, and pay-off a world-shaking conflict that rises to the level of RotJ (preferably without aping or further undercutting RotJ itself). But you’re starting off behind in the count, because the last movie seemed to suggest that maybe the Jedi and the Sith and the good-evil dualism is overly extremist, overly dogmatic bullshit (“The sacred texts!” “Page turners they were not” “The Jedi, the Sith…Let the past die. Kill it if you have to.”) that should be replaced with a less sectarian. It’s hard to honor the past and the legacy of the previous films if you’ve thrown their mythology and world-building largely out the window. Maybe there’s a middle path between walking back vs. doubling down on Johnson’s choices. Possibly a very interesting one. But it would be tricky, and I don’t think TLJ does much by way of showing the way. It essentially says, “I’m throwing your mythology, mystery boxes, Emperors, and Luke’s away, now find some other way to end this trilogy.”

  71. Vern, I’m a pretty enormous Star Wars fan, I even have a room in my house dedicated to my SW collectibles and props. I have to say I don’t like LAST Jedi. I used to say I hated it until episode 9 came out. It seems much better in comparison to episode 9.
    Unlike most episode 8 bathers, I love everything involving Rey, Kylo and Luke. It’s interesting, unique and daring. I wasn’t thrilled they killed Snoke because I knew they would have a problem with a big bad for episode 9. But it was a great moment in the theater.
    What I don’t like about Last Jedi is the rest of the movie. The slow speed run out of gas chase, the pointless quest to head to Canto Bight and find a Codebreaker, which are apparently so hard to find that they run into 2 of them in 5 minutes. The whole Holdo/Poe spat that leads to two mutiny’s, Leias Mary Poppins moment. I try and rewatch it and wind up skipping everything happening on the capital ships, the entire casino sequence and horse race, and the Phasma fight.

  72. Really? Vern’s got a representative sample of Star Wars fans who all “love” The Last Jedi? Hard to believe. That movie roused a wild chorus of people who who raged about the portrayal of Luke Skywalker and an overall disdain for the series, and the abandonment of plot threads, etc. Who does Vern think those people were? Just casual moviegoers? I don’t think so. Some “fans” liked it, but loads hated it. If your entire network of “fans” loved it … that’s crazy, you’re on another planet.

    Let me put it in terms he might relate to. All that “subversive” stuff like “Forget the past,” and Luke being a loser who sucks milk from an udder and throws an iconic weapon off a cliff, and characters spending a large chunk of a movie walking around a boring casino setting while a brand new character lectures us about greed, and laughing at the audience for caring about who or what Snoke was…

    Imagine if the next Fast and the Furious movie consigns Vin Diesel to a one-location cameo and goes out of its way to humble him—he’s a loser now with a drinking problem who’s too scared to drive a car. And the new villain of the piece is an annoying goth guy who rails about how driving cars fast is stupid, forget it, “forget the past.” And the movie kills of Jason Stratham in a comedy set piece because the new director thinks Jason Stratham and people who like him are rubes. There are a lot of people out there who think The Fast and The Furious series is pretty dumb who would get a kick out of that. But they’d be liars if they called themselves amused “fans.” That’s what TLJ was. It charged up people who were primed to be tickled by somebody giving the finger to a pop cultural sacred cow that they didn’t really get.

    I’m mystified by this entire trilogy. You’ve got J.J. playing shameless copycat in his movies and Johnson being a dull hooligan in his. None of it is very fun.

  73. Well I was pretty devastated by how this one turned out. I feel like it retroactively makes the entire series feel smaller, makes me feel like I got played. It’s all just about Skywalkers and Palpatines. The last scene at the moisture farm made me feel deeply depressed.

    I wish Rey had been the villain in this. The image in the teaser of Dark Rey sure was compelling. It didn’t have to be some abrupt binary shift. Maybe she’s become this ridiculously powerful warrior and we see Poe and Finn and Rose start to look askance at the zeal with which she slaughters Stormtroopers, like Wolverine and Sabertooth in the opening montage from WOLVERINE ORIGINS.

    Maybe within the Stormtroopers, there is a group of force-attuned rebels who decide to throw off the yolk. But, they realize that the Rebel Alliance is now led by a bloodthirsty warmonger just like Kylo, that they’re two sides of a coin. But also, the sacrifice of Luke Skywalker actually meant something to the universe’s mythology, and the Skywalker name is now associated with moving past these binary dualisms. So these force attuned Stormtrooper rebels found the Order of Skywalker, because the title of the third film always refers to an Order, and they show up at the precipice of the climactic battle where Kylo and Rey are about to annihilate one another, and pull some genuine pacifism shit and like just stand in the middle of the battle and unlock a new force power where now everybody’s blaster can no longer fire a laser beam but only beams of love. The Star Destroyer death star gun fires and it gives Tattoine some meadows and flowers and shit.

    I mean okay, that last part needs work. But I genuinely think Johnson left Abrams with a fucking embarrassment of riches, opportunity wise, and gave him permission to NOT do all the formulaic unimaginative shit he decided to do. This film seems like it was engineered down to the molecular level to suck as much as possible, to render every character useless to the story, every event inconsequential. We all knew Disney was going to murder this franchise but holy shit I didn’t realize how much I was still holding on before this movie came out and really undid things for me.

  74. You can’t decide who is and who is not a Star Wars fan based on whether they liked TLJ or not. I am a long-time fan of the series and that movie worked for me. It’s easy to think the Internet echo chamber means that all “fans” hate TLJ, but it’s not true. The anti-TLJ folks are just the loudest voices in the room, because like anything on the Internet, it’s fun and easy to rant on and on and hate something, and boring/tiresome to constantly be defending something.

    For what it’s worth, my perspective is I don’t see how any fan of the series could get behind TRoS. Hyperspace skipping? It takes hours for Lando to fly all around the universe and gather their forces? Death Star cannons on star destroyers? This dumb business with the dagger that only works in one place and luckily that’s where they are? Nothing in this movie makes any sense and suddenly this universe has lost the tenuous sense of cohesion it had. Abrams was trying a little bit in Ep 7, he was barely trying at all in this one. I’m going to try and stop ranting and stay positive like our host and inspiration Vern, though.

  75. I don’t know any RL STAR WARS fans who hate TLJ either, from the casual viewers to the “I collect models of every starship and know what that random background alien was up to in his own book series” hardcore fan. The most negative reaction came from my mother, who didn’t like that Luke died, but that was it. Okay, we all say that we don’t give a shit about IMDb ratings, but it has a 7.1 rating, which may not be as high as the classic trilogy, but is far from “Everybody hated it” and higher than 2/3 of the prequels.

  76. I think others in and out of this thread have probably correctly identified the core issue, which is that Rian Johnson and JJ Abrams had very different visions for how this series should end. Not that I have privileged access to Johnson’s specific vision of how this trilogy should end — which he quite possibly never had — but that it was almost certainly not this. It was almost certainly something narratively and thematically bolder and forward-looking whereas Abrams’s film is narratively pretty backward-looking.

    And, as I thought about it more yesterday, I think there is a “Johnson-esque” direction the third film could have taken that could have worked. I think it would have to entail the binary identification of good and evil with two pure and undiluted cultural-religious-political orders and would have pushed deeper into ambivalence and a non-sectarian force and a more psychological and less sociological/political/biological (i.e., Sith-vs-Jedi/resistance-vs-empire/force-sensitive-vs-regular-person) tack. Again, a kind of demythologizing of the Force and its cultural forms, where darkness and light are less about group affiliation than about the choice to move toward hope, love, sacrifice, inclusion, freedom, and human flourishing vs. the choice to move toward fear, control, domination, hatred, and will-to-power. A less religious and a more psychological form of spirituality. That’s the basic path Luke, Kylo, and Yoda are charting in TLJ, and it’s a promising reimagining that resonates and also serves as a helpful commentary on our neurotic, literalistic, backward-looking tendencies to freeze Luke and the mythology in nostalgic amber.

    I think that could have worked, but it would definitely be a bit of a darker, more adult, more mature kind of STAR WARS (I know that is all a bit patronizing). There is something about the pageantry and wonder and iconography of an evil ghoulish cackling wizard shooting magic lightning out of his hands, but I think Kylo as the ultimate big bad could have worked. It’s a different kind of villain.

    My main thing though is that I basically agree with JeffG about what works and doesn’t in TLJ, and it’s a lot of the running time that doesn’t work, and I do have the same mixed feelings about Luke’s final battle as I do about the Emperor in TRoS — the mixed feelings being that they’re some of the most shit-eating-grin fun individual scenes of the trilogy, but I’m not sure they are particularly coherent, well-earned, or net helpful to the broader narrative.

    For me, the stuff Johnson gets right really works, but there’s plenty that lands with a thud, and no one ever found anything really interesting to do with Poe and Finn or their sub-plots, and Johnson actually did a bit worse than JJ on this score. What Abrams did well is capture some good if fan-servicey goosebumps and set pieces and some really good emotionally rich stuff, though I think this worked way better in TFA.

    I’m trying to take a Vern-ian approach to TRoS, which is to see and celebrate what is excellent and “sparks joy,” to borrow the Mari Kondo meme. I think it looks really great. The new characters are uniformly pretty good. The set pieces are solid. Poe and Finn are as appealing as they’ve ever been, though I still don’t have a ton of use for either of them. Driver and Ridley are as good as ever, even if they’re stuck in a choppy mess of a film, we get one last pretty great moment with ***SPOILER CHARACTER***, the Emperor / Exegol and Knights of Ren stuff is pretty much all gold for me. There’s a lot to enjoy, even if it doesn’t add up to an overall good film. Time to let the past die. Kill it if you have to.

    ***SPOILER — Han

  77. Oops, meant to say that it would entail moving away from the binary and religious sect-driven good/evil element of previous films. I also wanted to say that I think Renfield does a nice job of charting this trajectory in broad stroke.

  78. Look guys, I will accept that some people don’t like the creative choices in TLJ, but I absolutely will not accept this insane argument that TLJ “doomed” TROS and made it impossible to make a good final movie. A filmmaker with even a glimmer of creativity could have easily taken what Johnson left behind and gone somewhere satisfying with it. In fact, by clearing out the useless deadwood and zeroing in on a few specific themes and characters, I would argue that TLJ actually offered a much clearer path forward than TFA left it with. Leave it to Abrams, of course, to immediately come back and add moredeadwood. Whether or not you like the things TLJ sets up, surely he’d have been better off following those threads instead of just dropping them and replacing them with a bunch of meaningless fetch quests and a light remake of the last act of ROTJ. That just leaves a trilogy which isn’t really about *anything*, and I think that’s mostly why people are so mad at this movie. By itself, it’s a pretty benign kind of dumb, just the world’s biggest-budget fanfic, and not really worth getting too worked up about. But capping off a trilogy with a final movie that follows exactly zero themes or character arcs from its predecessor leaves the entire trilogy feeling pretty pointless, which is a hard thing to accept for anyone who’s sunk nearly nine hours into it.

  79. I agree with you Subtlety. I certainly don’t think Johnson doomed the final installment. That said, in celebrating the great, bracing stuff in TLJ, there is some overlooking of the meh-to-bad stuff. All told, I do not think TLJ is a better film than TFA. TLJ is a more cerebral and philosophical film and generally a bolder one. Its best stuff is surprising, challenging, and generally great — for me, I’m talking about Luke-Rey and Kylo-Rey. I also like Holdo and the Codebreaker. At the same time, I think it’s rather uneven, and its worst or most forgettable stuff accounts for a ton of screen time and is a snooze fest that goes nowhere.

    TFA is more fun, rousing, and consistent. Also, as I mentioned upwards in the thread, there are some really great emotional beats, great characters. Excellent work from Driver and Ridley. The Rey-Han, Kylo-Han, Kylo-Rey stuff is gold. The introductions and alone times for all three characters are gold. Chewie is fantastic. Finn and Poe are at their most likeable and intriguing. It looks fantastic and explores a wider and richer color palette. It’s prettier, more rousing, better set pieces, great emotional stakes. It’s a more consistently satisfying and enjoyable space opera at all times. The only moment in TLJ that approaches its level of viscerally satisfying, popcorn fun pay-off is the Luke-Kylo face-off, which for me is good but is not as good or emotionally powerful as the Han-Kylo face-off. In pouring score on TRoS, it’s easy to do our own retconning of TFA where we overlook how much good stuff Abrams did, not only in look and feel and palette cleansing or whatever, but in setting up some interesting mystery boxes, some great performances, really good character development, dyadic work (across several different dyads), and general good guy group dynamics.

    I think TFA holds up as at least as good if not better than TLJ, even if the latter is bolder and better at its best points.

    Also, I’m not sure JJ Abrams is the person to direct a Johnson-esque follow-up to the TLJ. I don’t hate Abrams for playing to his strengths and doing the STAR WARS he wanted to see, which is what I think he did. I do think the end product is something of a muddled mess, and I blame him in part for that, but I think even more so I blame Disney/Lucasfilm for botching the higher-level trilogy architecture.

  80. Oops, I mean “pouring scorn” — I’m underslept!

  81. I assumed you meant “scoring porn.”

  82. Who’s Obi Wan’s father/mother/sister/great-grandfather? Never mentioned. Ditto Yoda, Mace Windu, Qui Gon Jin. And wasn’t Anakin Skywalker himself a lowly slave boy on a backwater outer-rim desert planet? I don’t see that the Star Wars films ever really set up any kind of “force royalty/elitism”, and think Johnson would’ve better served The Last Jedi (and thereby the overall trilogy) by focusing on investing Rey with some actual character as opposed to subverting a non-exsistent trope. The who’s who of Rey’s progenators didn’t matter to me nearly as much, as the shallow narrative gimmickry of elevating her by way of character assassinating Luke.

  83. I recently read that over 50% of the Twitter trolls who were posting the racist bullshit about Rose after TLJ can be traced back to the same Russian sites who were interfering in the election. That doesn’t explain all the internet hate for TLJ, but it’s nice to think not all those hateful fanboys are real. It’s disappointing that they were successful in causing dissent. And I really hate the idea they may have even been part of the equation in sidelining her.

  84. I have a question: Does anybody LIKE the character of Rose or do people just like defending her from hypothetical racists? She barely made any impression on me at all. If not for the alleged uproar, I doubt I’d even remember she existed.

  85. That image of Rey and Ren slicing their enemy into quarters is a lovely shout-out to Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim film.

  86. I think she and Finn made a good team and I love how she casually kept “doing her job” on their first meeting. I wasn’t too fond of her saving Finn for some corny “Love conquers all” bullshit speach (not saying I wanted Finn to die), but yeah, I like her, the way I like Qui Gonn or Lando. They are not my top favourite characters (hell, I even rank Jar Jar higher, but he is muthafucking Jar Jar!), but I enjoy seeing them.

  87. (Obviously talking about Rose in reply to Mr M’s question)

  88. I like her just fine but am not sad that she wasn’t featured in this one. I care more about Rey, Kylo, Poe and Finn, but I don’t like racist assholes. And I think it was lame to push her so far out of the picture without addressing why since she had such a connection with Finn in the last one.

  89. Count me solidly on team Rose. I liked her even before I knew I was obligated to as a card-carrying SJW PC policeman. I appreciate how she fits the STAR WARS universe easily and comfortably but still reflects a solidly different perspective from any previous character we’ve spent a significant amount of time with. I thought she gives the most likable performance in the whole movie and was genuinely sad to see her get an ostentatiously humiliating Jar Jar treatment here. Even if they’d just thrown her into the crew without a significant arc –which they almost certainly would have done, judging from the movie overall– it would have given the whole thing a little more heart and kept poor Finn a little more tethered to the plot. It’s a real loss, IMHO, and one of the many self-inflicted injuries TRoS insists on inflicting upon itself in the service of trying to give some imaginary person the STAR WARS they were demanding on twitter.

    I mean, like it or not, it’s just crazy storytelling to completely abandon a character who was so integral to the second movie, regardless of whether or not fans liked her. I think very often about that old Mr. Majestyk line ‘when we stop asking stories what they mean, and start demanding they mean what we want them to mean, stories lose all meaning.’ Ditching Rose for the final act of the trilogy is an act purely of perceived fan appeasement, at the expense of telling any kind of meaningful story.

  90. I have no dog in this fight (she’s a sorta nothing character in a movie I don’t like so I can think of many non-racist reasons not to give her much screentime) but I agree that it is definitely fucked up to write her out of the story just to placate assholes. But if those assholes never complained, would anyone even notice she’s not in RISING SKYRISERS RISE: THE RISE OF THE RISENING RISERS very much? I feel like it would be like complaining RETURN OF THE JEDI doesn’t have enough Wedge.

  91. Bad analogy: There can NEVER be enough Wedge.

  92. I’m a big advocate of accepting a movie for what it is instead of hating it for what it isn’t and I admire Vern’s total Zen approach to Rise if Skywalker. But goddamn. This movie is a total mess, both as a stand-alone adventure AND as a piece of an ongoing serial. Almost nothing worked for me. I can’t believe *this* is what Disney went with. I guess it came out looking this way because of corporate synergy. Disney wanted to goose the numbers on its allegedly-underperforming Star Wars theme park expansions, so a delay to work things out was out of the question. I bet some executive egos (to say nothing of bonuses) were also tipping the scales. There’s no way they thought this was a strong conclusion in a vacuum.

    And that leads to the real lesson of Star Wars as a franchise. What’s most fascinating about It, now that it’s all said and done, is how the three trilogies operate in discussion with the Auteur theory. Lucas’ original work came to be because of Auteur theory, which rebuked the importance of film as a collaborative, producer-oriented medium and prized the director’s vision. But then Lucas immediately became that very same heavily involved producer for episodes V-VI. Lucas stepped in as the full auteur in the prequels, which were the ultimate statement on the need of a strong producorial hand for 20+ years. All the way until this trilogy. As good as Last Jedi is, the new films are the perfect case study in why you need a strong producer there to guide a film, especially if one wants to make a multi-part epic.

    My head is still spinning. I’ll try and find a better way to phrase this later. But man, someone needs to be in charge. Have final say. And take accountability for that privilege/responsibility.

  93. I will give credit where credit is due: If nothing else, these new STAR WARSes have upheld the Lucasasian tradition of ridiculously memorable names for every person, place, or thing that appears onscreen. I’ve seen TLJ exactly once and didn’t pay that close attention to a lot of it. So why are the names Admiral Holdo, Rose Tico, and Canto Bight burned into my fucking memory for life? There are movies I’ve seen 10 times and I couldn’t tell you the names of the main characters, let alone the name of the place where the worst sequences in the movie takes place. These carpetbaggers haven’t done much right but at least they properly calibrated the algorithms for whatever Random Star Wars Name Generator they’re using.

  94. Mr M — no, I don’t buy that analogy; Rose is hardly a Wedge-level supporting player. She’s an unambiguous co-lead in TLJ. She gets to deliver the moral of the movie! I bet she has more screentime than Poe, and probably almost equal to Finn. 100% she has more screen time than Lando in EMPIRE. Conspicuously excising her from TRoS is more like if they brought Han back for EMPIRE just to give him one line about how he’s not going to go on this adventure because he has other things to do, and then he just kept appearing in the background of shots every now and then for the rest of the movie. Meanwhile, they made up a new smuggler character and awkwardly inserted him into the plot an hour from the end.

    You can argue about her objective worth in TLJ, but completely sidelining a character who receives so much focus in one movie, to no narrative gain whatsoever, is deeply weird storytelling and it sticks out as bizarre and ungainly.

  95. I will concede that it probably takes an actual fan of TLJ to make the distinction as to how significant she is. I wouldn’t recognize the character if she came up and bit me in the face. To me, she’s just a redshirt the movie forgot to kill off.

  96. I mean, I don’t think it’s really up for debate that she’s one of the most central characters in TLJ. If you care about the movie so little that you don’t remember anything about one of its principal characters, I don’t think you’re in the target demographic for its sequel.

  97. I agree. I am not in a position to argue for or against her lack of presence in the new one. I was just curious as to how much people actually enjoy the character herself vs. appreciating what she represents on a meta level, and I got my answer. Apparently there are Rose fans. I don’t get it but that is very much par for the course with me and this franchise.

  98. rogue4: it was always sort of an unspoken possibility in the prequels that palpatine created anakin somehow. revealing palpatine as some kind of genetic engineer capable of creating force-sensitive life forms like snoke seems to bolster that theory.

  99. Although, to be fair, it’s entirely possible that I am the only person who liked her in a non-performative, non-metatextual way, which would be equally in keeping with my own aberrant relationship with the series.

    Tawdry — a minor but illustrative point: can you believe they actually had the balls to haul out another death star?

  100. Rose is central inasmuch as she as Finn’s companion on a largely forgettable macguffin hunt that I think even defenders of the film tend to regard as one of the saggier elements.

    I enjoyed Rose and Finn’s little meet-cute to an extent, but I was already starting to tire on the whole “Is he a courageous, conscientious defector or a cowardly deserter, or what?” angle, which seemed pretty well explored in the TFA. TLJ doesn’t so much deepen or resolve this question as repeat it, and his first encounter with Rose is played in an oddly slapstick fashion. Aw, shucks, you guys, now he’s deserting the resistance just like he almost did at Maz’s place in TFA and just like he *did* desert the First Order in TFA. It’s always wedding day jitters with this guy, you guys, isn’t he adorable?! Across the first two films he seems to randomly oscillate between impetuous, self-righteous acts of courage and impetuous self-preserving acts of cowardice, and there’s often a subtle or not-so-subtle comic overtones to his antics. He’s like a Tom Holland Peter Parker type but without the self-deprecating qualities to endear him to us. And Rose is a sidekick who nearly gets herself killed in an unnecessary and ill-conceived symbolic act of heroism to offset his unnecessary and ill-conceived symbolic act of heroism because they bonded over the course of their extraneous B-plot macguffin hunt to planet boring-Casino.

    I tried to introspect, like, is this just some subtle racism on my part? And maybe it is, but I think I just don’t like the Finn character’s energy (and/or maybe Boyega as a performer?), and when Rose exists primarily as a partner/foil who is inexplicably and immediately all in for him, it’s hard for me to get her either.

  101. Now, having said that, I completely agree that it is stupid for Abrams to jettison her in TRoS only to introduce another new, underdeveloped friend/love-interest/whatever character in a film already overstuffed with underdeveloped characters. For as much time as she got, they could have just killed her off as a result of what happened at the end of TLJ, which might have actually been fodder for some growth and pathos to the Finn character. Alternatively, just add her to the squad. All the stuff going on at Burning Man planet and crashed-Death-Star planet is already kind of a Goonies/gang’s-all-here vibe, so, it’s not like they couldn’t have included her in that and just dropped the other character who exists largely to become the new-Rose.

  102. It doesn’t make sense to completely write a character out of the movie? Same thing happened to Jar Jar. The backlash was so bad, he basically got nuked. You know he would have been all over 2 & 3 had the response to him been what Lucas had expected.

    I’m not saying that Rose is a bad character or that the reaction to her was JarJaresque. Personally, I didn’t like her character because I find the whole Casino side plot unwatchable. I was astounded when people tried to weave race into that issue, that never crossed my mind.

    I would have been very interestedly see what Johnson would have done with episode 9. I’m sure he thought about it, and with as love as they were with Rian before the TLJ fan hate came pouring in, they must have at least had a discussion with him about it.

  103. @ron. After 6 sequels, either said theory came to fruition or it didn’t.

  104. Also, this case is different from JarJar, because it’s not obvious that Rose is going to make it after she saves Finn in TLJ. She looks pretty worse for the wear after she saves him, and her recovery by no means seems like a given, if I’m remembering correctly. I’m not necessarily advocating or killing off the character, I’m just saying that, given where TLJ left her, and given what they ended up doing (pushing her to the side and introducing another character who serves largely the same narrative function), it might have been more meaningful.

    Overall, my feelings on this are a little all over the place.

    1. I was fine but not in love w/ Finn in TFA, and he became full-blown annoying pretty early in TLJ. I never really got what Rose saw in him as to be so ride or die, especially after their disappointing first encounter.

    2. Particularly starting in TLJ, the Finn and Poe sub-plots seemed to go nowhere interesting or critical to the main plot. The three-person Han-Luke-Leia dynamic was solidly built up in the first 2 OT films and the first at of RotJ. This sequel trilogy never even tries to fully gel Finn-Poe-Rey into a strong three-person dynamic until the somewhat forced and scattershot first act of TRoS. As a result, starting in TLJ, Finn and Poe seem to mostly exist in their own mini-movies that (a) are not particularly compelling or consequantial in their own right and (b) have only tangential connection to one another and less connection still to the Rey-Kylo central conflict.

    3. TRoS has more characters than it knows what to do with, and although I can’t blame Abrams for trying to bring Finn and Poe together and splice them into Rey’s main plot when the alternative is to repeat TLJ of just sending them off on random Macguffin hunts or teachable moments. First act of the last film is a little late in the game for trying to build that Luke-Han-Leia three-person chemistry, and the most interesting stuff happens when Rey breaks apart from the pack to engage with Kylo. The problem with TRoS is not sidelining characters per se but failing to adequately prune and prioritize characters (i.e., giving us some fairly pointless Lando time and a whole new Finn buddy but then only showing Rose long enough so that we know she’s alive and marginal).

  105. Jeffg — you’re not gonna like this, but I also think it’s noticeably awkward to sideline Jar Jar the way Eps 2 and 3 do… and he isn’t nearly as central to the plot of TPM as Rose is to TLJ (in fact, one of the biggest problems with Jar Jar in the first place was that none of the other characters seem to like him or want him around or can seem to focus their eyes directly on him, which makes him a little easier to dispose of). And there’s not an obvious place for him in the plots of 2 and 3 as they ended up, so you’re not constantly noticing his absence. On the other hand, like Skani says, it’s super weird and jarring that TRoS’s story obviously does have room for Rose, but then very deliberately chooses to ignore her and introduce a new character to fill roughly the same role, except obviously to even less effect.

    Skani — I agree, if they didn’t want to use Rose, they should have just made it clear that she died of her injuries at the end of TLJ, which, exactly as you say, would have made more sense and maybe even offered a way to deepen Finn’s character (not that TRoS has even the slightest interest in doing that). I assume their solution, like literally every single other thing about the movie, was some sort of mercenary corporate compromise to try and please everyone: “Don’t worry, racist misogynists, you won’t have to look at this disgusting woman in your space wizards movie anymore!” But also, “Don’t worry SJW’s! Rose is still alive and I assure you is contributing lots of important things both feministly and intersectionally in ways which are not interesting and happen off-screen!”

    Of course, as Mr. M warned us all those years ago, neither impulse is even remotely close to what “storytelling” is.

  106. Mr Subtlety

    Not *just* another Death Star, *TEN THOUSAND* new Death Stars!

    And relatedly, it was really, really cool how this movie went way out of its way to remind us that Storm Troopers are not robots or mindless clone servants, but rather kidnapped children conscripted into service as war-slaves… and then invited us to view it as FUCKIN’ AWESOME! when these same victims of kidnapping and psychological torture were brutally mowed down by the dozen. And as a cherry on top, we also come to understand that these Storm Troopers are 100% capable of rehabilitation and are not permanently scarred beyond repair. They still feel joy. And love. And passion. And can lead full, meaningful lives… if they aren’t killed by the heroes.

    It’s a similar issue to the one I had with AVENGERS: ENDGAME, where Thanos had an army of slaves, who get vaporized by the heroes without even the slightest bit of hesitation or moral consideration. It’s really gross in both cases, but at least Skywalker is less morally bankrupt than Avengers in its climax. The latter movie is A-Okay with the “snap.” the only moral issue is WHO gets to snap. Here, the heroes don’t literally use the bad guy’s weapon. Instead, they reflect the villain’s assault, effectively hoisting him by his own robo-petard. If nothing else, I have to give JJ and co credit for thinking that element all the way through.

    On the other hand, the fact that the mass-murdering, multi-genocidal Kylo Ren receives a heroes death still belies a ‘Divine Right of Kong’s’ mentality… but that comes with the territory of Star Wars’ feudal politics.

  107. JeffG,

    I know nothing of your life, and I’m not making any accusations, but there is a LOOOOOONG history of white men being utterly baffled by the concept of race playing into public reaction. Keep in mind that being “color blind” is pretty much exclusively an ideology proffered by white folks.*

    *No, MLK was not talking about being individually color blind in his most famous speech. He was discussing a color blind society, which is very different.

  108. Tawdry – But…how did the Rebels know how to shoot each Star Destroyer in the giant cannon to make it easily blow up?? I DEMAND another Star Wars Story to explain this to us!

    I also noticed rewatching TFA, that JJ really loves mowing down Stormtroopers the way Peter Jackson likes killin’ Orcs- i’m willing to bet more get shot to death onscreen in that one movie than in the entire original trilogy. So of course he goes for it again in TROS with even more exhausting results, especially when those are the two movies making explicit parallels to African child soldiers! By the way, did ANY Stormtroopers get shot in TLJ? I feel BB8 might have shot some in the Captain Phasma scene but I honestly don’t remember (or at least I don’t specifically recall feeling bad for these poor bastards the way I did in TFA and TROS)

    And yes, Kylo Ren, who turned “good” for about 10 minutes, gets the Jedi hero fade-away death like Luke, Yoda, and Obi-Wan. Obviously Anakin didn’t get the hero’s death, but Qui-Gon and all those Jedis who got killed in Episode II didn’t even get that either! It’s nonsensical and dumb, but let’s be honest, he faded away as a script device so Rey and him wouldn’t get caught in an endless circle-jerk of healing each other. (Kinda like how Khan’s magical blood will never be used in the Star Trek Universe again to bring someone back to life)

  109. Neal, I remember you making that observation about ENDGAME, but for whatever reason I’ve always been able to suspend disbelief regarding collateral damage. This is a subspecies of the outrage about Superman and Zod dropping buildings on people in MAN OF STEEL, but I just couldn’t relate, since all kinds of horrific collateral damage seems to be the order of the day with blockbuster action/disaster spectacle movies. In fact, I would say that there is an implicit “Massive Collateral Damage Is Fine” movie-audience pact, as per the Stalin Principle: A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic. Basically, masses of undifferentiated people are — up to planet-obliteration — is not worthy of batting an eyelash, but I have a bond with Wicket or BB8, so, if you kill them, I’m having feels over it. The default is dehumanization and expendability of those in the background until/unless they get called to the foreground. How is this different?

  110. I love Rose Tico so much I bought a figurine of her. Zap those trolls, Rose! Regarding The Last Jedi’s “pointless” plot sojourns, I feel like I’m in a parallel universe where people don’t understand that films can be more than their surface-level plots. For me anyway, TLJ’s plot is realised chiefly through the characters, and on that level it’s amazing, while RoS is immaterial. Poe’s part in TLJ is about him learning different leadership qualities and when to apply them in different circumstances. Quibble with how that’s done, but that’s his arc, bluntly stated. Rose and Finn’s Canto Bight quest, which takes up a monumental, teeth-grinding, never-ending 7% of the entire movie (I timed it, the Canto Bight scenes are 11 minutes in total), contains so many blatant thematic signposts it just feels like wilful ignorance that people don’t see them. Finn’s arc is in realising he can’t run from the fight, in which Rose is instrumental. She is absolutely integral, standing in for the ‘downtrodden and oppressed’, the workers whose exploits are rarely celebrated, but whose contributions are invaluable. The Canto Bight scenes also establish that there’s a war economy. In a few short scenes we’re given a glimpse of a larger world, a sense of how the galaxy functions and how oppressive systems are maintained. It gives weight and substance to this fictional world that TFA lacked. I loved every moment, but then I don’t have a problem with politics ‘ruining’ my Star Wars. Continuity box-ticking and object quests bore me to tears, which might be why TLJ is the only Star Wars film I really love.

    Speaking solely from a literal representational perspective, it’s also the first time ever that generous screentime has been given in a Hollywood movie to a black man and an Asian woman together, with no fetishisation or sexualisation towards anyone. That’s still bloody significant. And it’s kind of incredible how Rise of Skywalker does away with any hint of romance between potential mixed race couples.

  111. I don’t see any way to interpret the Rose fiasco other than caving into racist fans. If they genuinely were trying to appease people who wished the character had been better written, they’d’ve attempted to write a better character. Instead she’s what, unhesitantly abandoning Finn to die on the star destroyer with his new gf? Incoherent and insulting.

    I vehemently agree with Tawdry that the “piu piu let’s kill all the Stormtroopers hahahah!” mood of the last battle is completely fucked. Especially considering that so many of this film’s scant world building details were about how Stormtroopers are kidnapped children who can, and do, throw down their weapons!

    This movie has not one iota of honor. Not one.

  112. God damn, is this what it was like to be a TLJ hater?

    No. I will not stand for the both-sidesing of Episode 8 vs 9. This is DIFFERENT

  113. This is all insightful and well-said, particularly by way of giving voice to which pieces of Rose’s story can resonate and why they do. Thanks for adding that substance and concreteness to the discussion, Stacy.

    As for the substance, on the one hand, I am all for increasing the representation of people of color and other cultural/identity points of view in these films, and I am also all for a critique of the 1% capitalist elite. But I didn’t find an of TLJ’s offerings in this department to be particularly new, eye-opening or textured. Interestingly, I think KNIVES OUT tackled these themes far more effectively, as did, wait for it … SOLO, which is very gray and nuanced in wrestling with the moral ambiguity of avoiding or collaborating with the Empire, has a mixed ethnicity relationship among two of the principle supporting characters, and even explores such issues as Robot personhood, forced labor, and Wookies rights.

    Back to Rose-Finn in TLJ, an uncharitable reading is that the entire sub-plot exists as a a kind of hackneyed “Getting Woke for Dummies” bingo/drinking game. The whole thing is so on the nose in checking the right boxes: intersectionality, exploited child labor, the evil 1% living it up at the Casino, and half-baked innuendos about the gray moral pseudo-equivalence of the Resistance and First Order on account of them both buying weapons from…prepare yourself…weapons manufacturers (Okay, Benicio, so, is the Resistance supposed to be purchasing only organic fair-trade weapons or perhaps making their own small-batch artisanal weapons?). If you have an actual statement to make about inter-galactic income inequality and the Jeffrey Epsteins and Jeff Bezos’s of the STAR WARS universe, please come with something less lazy than Justin Theroux stroking his beard and Rose serving as Finn’s Lorax.

    TFA has already set up Rey and Finn as (a) possibly having some romantic chemistry (though this is as debatable as the Finn-Rose romantic chemistry imho) and (b) both coming from pretty downtrodden and exploited hardscrabble beginnings, Rey being an orphaned female child laborer, Finn being a kidnapped person of color and former child soldier. The fact that there is all manner of exploitation, outright First Order collaboration, or look-the-other-way capitalist client-patron co-existence among Empire/First Order brass and local merchants and gangsters is very well-established in prior films (Unkar Plutt, Jabba, Lando, Han, prequel trilogy politics of the Republic). So, what is the new revelation here: That the capitalist upper class sometimes wears fancy clothes and gambles in swanky locales, plus now we have an Asian person in the cast, and her adoptive stepmom Kathleen Kennedy is cool with her and Finn hanging out?

  114. Yes, Ben, myself and my friends are hard to believe. I must’ve imagined us. I might be in THE MATRIX.

    I went into detail about it in my review at the time, but as a fan of Luke Skywalker, samurai movies and kung fu training movies of course I loved a movie about him as a disillusioned exile living in an ancient temple, reluctantly coming back to train a new student and fighting an awe-inspiring battle that shows him cooler and more powerful than ever before, uses the Force in new ways and works on multiple levels. Yes, it’s unexpected. It’s in some ways different from what we pictured all those years. I love that. I don’t understand hating that. Although I enjoy seeing Han and Leia in these movies, I just can’t imagine any possible way to think they are handled better than Luke is. Hamill gets way more to work with and he knocks it out of the park.

    Also I love Star Wars creatures and why the fuck wouldn’t you like Luke milking one? What is the hang up on that?

    The movie doesn’t tell you to forget the past. Kylo says that, and he’s wrong. Yoda teaches not to be hung up on it, but Rey takes the books anyway, and uses them in this chapter. My love of Star Wars includes surface level pleasures (which LAST JEDI has a ton of, including the beautiful red in the throne room fight and the Crait battle) but I also like thinking about the philosophy behind the Force, the Jedi, the visions and prophecies, the ways the movies echo each other (like Luke throwing aside his lightsaber in a different context than when he did the same thing at the climax of the original trilogy). These things that you seem to take as personal insults I take as an exciting theological discussion, exactly what I came here for. To me they’re an expansion of and love letter to Lucas’s ideas, which I wish there was more of in Abrams’ two chapters.

    I don’t know. Maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s the type of movie buffs I hang out with, but genuinely, for real, most people I know loved that movie. If you read all my writings about STAR WARS and George Lucas and think I’m not a fan, what is your definition of fan?

  115. One thing I’m glad is when we get a female voice here. We don’t have enough of it.

    My SJW brother in law doesn’t like Last Jedi. It’s an oxymoron.

  116. I honestly think you guys have it backwards. If the racist trolls never happened JJ probably would have cut Rose out altogether as he clearly has no interest in her (neither do I for that matter). It’s only because of them he put her in at all to show he wasn’t giving in. Like everything else in this movie though it just ended up pissing off both sides.

  117. Having rewatched all these except 9, and having stuff about all of them I like and dislike, I will say that LAST JEDI is the entry that most feels like it exists in the same movieverse as the Original Trilogy. I guess it has to do with some intangible alchemy of light heartedness vs deep stakes, the rhythm of the pacing, the plot’s relatively uncharted path forward, the hints of lawlessness in the design of the world.

    A lot of the discussion about the prequels and sequels has been about how this plot element doesn’t make sense, and this performance is shitty, and this dialog wasn’t well written, and these characters aren’t coherent. I know that stuff is important to a film being good, but none of it really explains what it is about LAST JEDI that works so well for me. It’s like, not about knowing the notes, but feeling the music.

    At any rate Episode 9 neither grasped the notes nor the music, perhaps least of any film in this franchise.

  118. Odo19, they couldn’t have cut Rose out entirely without offending the plothole police.

    They truly settled for appealing to nobody.

  119. Mr.M,
    I think how essential these characters are to the plot was up to the directors in the 1 year process they had in preproduction. I really thought Kelly Marie Tran was great, I just hated the lame story line they stuck her to.
    Tawdry, I almost piped off a nasty response to you, but I think (hope) I read it wrong at first. I promise you there was no subliminal racism in my head regarding why I didn’t care much about Rose and hated the whole Neverending Story horse chase on LasVegasooine.

  120. I just came to see if this review contained any mention of Keri Russell and the television show she was in, of which Vern never knew of its existence. It did, and as always, I got a big kick out of it.

  121. neal – Qui-Gon didn’t fade because he had to die first to INVENT that shit. People forget that that was established at the end of REVENGE OF THE SITH. (I’m not kidding.)

  122. Despite all the vast and contradictory problems so many have with various aspects of this trilogy, don’t almost all of us (besides Max Landis) agree that Rey and Kylo were good inventions/castings on the part of Abrams? As much as I grouse about so many things I think they are pure and legitimate additions to the world of Star Wars, not just rehashes of old shit.

  123. QuiGon did invent Force Ghosting and, supposedly, disappearing corpses too, but that is all screwy.
    Qui Gon didn’t vanish on death, Yoda and Obi Wan did, because they were communicating with Qui Hon from beyond. Ben Solo disappeared but canon said that learning how to force ghost was supposed to be a learned skill. So how did that happen. Luke disappeared. Leia disappeared an hour after she died.

  124. You should read the articles about how the Rey/Kylo relationship is gross.

  125. I had a great time with this movie and felt it was the most Star Warsy Star Wars movie yet in terms of spectacle. There were some fantastic character moments too with Rey and Kylo. However… I wish Rian Johnson completed this trilogy. I don’t know why I haven’t seen this written anywhere else, but Rian took TLJ to a logical place from TFA. It was JJ who actually undermined the premise of TFA with TroS!

    Think about it. Rey is not a Palpatine, she really is a nobody, but the Force has its own will and it has awakened in her because Kylo and Snoke, both very powerful, need to be countered by a powerful Force user. That’s why the movie is called ‘The Force Awakens’. That’s why Luke’s lightsaber calls to her, because she is the right candidate to answer the call to adventure. If you want to get really deep, maybe it awakened both Snoke and Rey.

    Rian was correct in positioning Rey as a nobody, because the Force is big enough to work through the right candidate. In this case Rey, despite her being of lowly origins. This is also why Luke is confused about her and has to ask her, “Who are you?” Despite being a Jedi Master, he ironically fails to appreciate the Force could be big enough to send forth its own champion from a backwater planet.

    As entertaining as seeing Palpatine again was (seriously, I love that cackling weirdo!), they should have left Kylo as the big bad of Ep 9. Having him run the show would have allowed him to achieve a level of power and influence his grandfather never reached. He could have still been redeemed but the path to get there would have been different.

    As much as I enjoyed what we got instead, it gives me pause to think angry voices on Twitter probably shaped the narrative of TroS. Movie making by social media is a depressing precedent and our entertainment will be much poorer for it.

  126. SPOILERS – Jeffg – Leia disappeared when Kylo died, since she had combined her life force with his. Maybe that has something to do with him knowing how to do it. Or maybe it’s one of the earlier lessons at Luke’s Jedi Academy.

  127. JeffG,

    I very much meant that I was not discussing you or your personal reaction to Rose. I intended only to highlight a common behavior among my kinfolk that really grinds my gears. Sorry for stating it clumsily. I can definitely see how it reads as passive aggressive or, “No offense, buuuuuut…”-ish.

    Thanks for giving me the benefit of the doubt and upholding the spirit of the Verniverse.

    UniVERNse?

    UniVERse?

    Extended Cinematic Verniverse?

  128. Skani (aka, clever joke where I misname you but you still understand I’m talking to you),

    I’m not talking about COLLATERAL damage. I’m talking about full-on, direct and intentional damage. Tony Stark’s final (but let’s be honest, likely-not-only) act of genocide was collateral damage in the same way that taking a hostage during a bank robbery and then intentionally shooting said hostage as part of your previously-outlined getaway plan is collateral damage.

    I mean, yeah. Technically the army of intergalactic slaves weren’t the *primary* target of Stark’s Snap, but they weren’t exactly caught in the cross fire. He aimed for them and intentionally and directly caused their demise.

    Heroes defeating the bad guy by using the bad guy’s weapon is not a victory. It’s a defeat. A crushing defeat. Something that would be clearly abhorrent to everyone if Stark didn’t die as part of the endeavor. But at least it’s true to the character’s origin as a Randian wet dream of privatized militarism. Did y’all see SIX UNDERGROUND? Because that’s an honest depiction of Tony Stark.

  129. Tawdry, I don’t follow your opening sentence about names. I think I was responding to Neal’s post, which was in dialogue with yours, but I’ll stop overthinking what that means now.

    I’m sorry if it comes across as belittling your point of view, just like I hope my comments about the Finn-Rose subplot don’t come across as belittling Stacy’s or others. These are legitimate points of view that add interesting things to the conversation, but I don’t find them sufficiently revelatory as to, e.g., raise ethical questions I had not previously pondered or cause me to positively reevaluate some sub-plot I didn’t already like. In other words, they are cool and unique features of the conversation that do a good job of expressing a broader spectrum of legitimate reactions, but I can’t arrive at the same state of enjoyment (of the Finn-Rose TLJ subplot or of Finn as a character) or moral outrage (of “good guys” killing armies of “bad guy” troops) as you guys, and I’m 98.71% at peace with that.

    I do think you make some great points about Tony Stark. At the same time, I think the MCU is actually pretty revolutionary in the extent to which it at least tries to wrestle with the dubious morality of war and the military industrial complex, particularly in the AVENGERS films and the IRON MAN and CAPTAIN AMERICA franchises, which eventually converge in CIVIL WAR. As a continuing evolution of the “good guys save the world from the bad guys” film, the extent to which the MCU dips its toe into exploring the ethical dimensions of all of this is at least a start. As a franchise that needs to strike a balance between idealistic pacifism and full-dark nihilism, I think it does reasonably well, though I concede that it probably tries to hard to have it all ways with Tony.

  130. Aren’t the Marvel movies bankrolled by the US military and beholden to a pro-military message?

  131. No, I don’t think that passes the Snopes fact-check. It’s more of a cross-branding synergy (just threw up in my mouth a little).

    The MCU's Relationship With the Military, From Iron Man to Captain Marvel

    Captain Marvel has been cross promoting with the Air Force, and it's not the first time Marvel has partnered with the military.

  132. Catching up here on some of the other more recent comments…
    1. With regards to Vern’s “can’t we mostly all agree that Rey and Kylo kick ass?” plea for sanity and unity, I think it’s obvious I share the love for Kylo and Rey.
    3. I am okay on Rose, though neither film gives her much to do.
    4. Finn, I somewhat actively dislike though not with any strong animus, I just think he lets the air out of at least the last two films whenever he shows up (it’s cool if others feel the opposite).
    5. Oscar Isaac as Poe is very charming and winning, but the character seems to have zero inner life, and he always seems to exist in parallel to or on the margins of the Rey’s or Kylo’s story. Making him a clueless, mutinous asshole for almost all of TLJ, then ending with an abrupt and over-tidy teachable moment/turnabout at end of TLJ, then more-or-less rebooting him to TFA factory pre-settings in TRoS feels like moving in an unsatisfying circle, and the attempt to bring the full gang together for an adventure in the first act of TRoS feels forced and too-little, too-late. I guess, the upshot is that Oscar Isaac has charisma and acting chops for days, all of which I think is sadly under-cultivated and under-integrated in this series, which seems to have him sturck in charming flyboy purgatory.
    6. Luke is fantastic in TLJ (and I think his limited moment in TFA is genius, btw). He’s more-or-less a total whiff for me TRoS, which reinforces my sense that my reactions to various characters and performances across this series has at least something to do with the particulars of dialogue, characterization, acting, and direction, and is not just some insidious “I like the white characters best” implicit racist animus.***
    7. Han is great all around.
    8. Chewie is great.
    9. BB8 is always a homerun.
    10. C3PO is surprisingly solid in TRoS.
    11. Wither R2? Maybe he can be Rose’s sidekick if that stand-alone Rose series happens. #justiceforR2 #notmyR2
    12. Palpatine is great in his very narrow pocket, but the character really has no business deus ex machina-ing at this stage in sequel trilogy, at least not to the extent or in the way they did it here. People are trying to defend this by Jedi mind-tricking us with “He’s the central big bad in both previous trilogies, how could he not be in this one?” but that is clearly a frown-upside-down desperate justification for a weak sauce response to Johnson killing off Snoke.
    13. Lando is fine if a little slower and glassy-eyed in this one, but even more so than Palpatine, his appearance does feel like pure fan service, but unlike Palpatine, it’s not plugging a major plot gap but is rather crowding out other characters. A single, very brief appearance would have been plenty, but then there are so many of those little easter egg fan-bait moments that it might have been one too many, I don’t know.***
    14. Babu Frik and Zori Bliss (not even trying to spell those right) are winners, but, like Lando, they are fairly incidental, and Zori seems to exist mostly to assure us in as quick and tacked-on a fashion as possible that Poe is straight and has some backstory and inner life. Still, these are good characters.
    15. Jannah is a solid character, but, again, one too many, and the optics of benching Rose and adding in Jannah only serve to make Finn and Abrams both sort of look like dicks (which is not helping my already strained tolerance for Finn). I enjoy Jannah a lot in her own right, though, and probably more so than Rose, which complicates my feelings on that whole thread a little bit.

    ***I also thought Donald Glover was fantastic as (and a fantastic choice for) Lando, so, I don’t think my tabulated-by-gender-and-ethnicity reactions to the sequel series cast can be explained by anything as simple as reactionary anti-woke-ness, though I do tend to react negatively to the more pandering flavors of wokeness or the implication that the act of giving a person of color a substantive role necessitates my enjoyment of that role on pains of being deemed un-woke or anti-woke. Lando has always been a great character. Jannah is a good character, what we see of her. Rose is fine. Oscar Isaac is great, but Poe’s characterization is uneven and somewhat arrested. Finn is kind of like C3PO acting like Tom Holland Spider-Man but thinking he’s coming off as peak Lando. I’m sure that makes zero sense, but I’m leaving it.

  133. Skani – Yeah, that was Tawdry and Vern (among others) who found the Tony Snap problematic – I had no problem with it because a) it didn’t seem to take particular delight in the deaths or view it as a KEWL thing (the way Jackson and Abrams love to show bodies flying and bouncing off things), and b) the Dr. Strange “only ONE way this can end happily for you guys” plot device assures us that if Tony just subdued the bad guys some other way it wouldn’t work eventually.

    I do, however, remember feeling bad as a kid for the Stormtroopers on Endor who got killed in the Speeder Bike chase. Like, I specifically thought “Oh my God what if that one guy who bounced off the tree is still alive and is lying there in the woods paralyzed with a broken back until he starves to death?” Yeah I was a weird kid (I also felt really bad about Al Leong getting shot like 10 times in the chest in Die Hard since he had that comical candy-bar scene and I don’t think he killed anyone). Years of watching tons of action movies has of course softened me to this (I don’t really feel bad for all those guys in the John Wick movies, but I do feel bad for the cops who had their kneecaps blown out and have to spend the rest of their lives in wheelchairs from T2. I also felt bad about the “guys just following orders” who died at the end of Black Panther and Aquaman).

    I feel Lucas regretted this cavalier killing of Stormtroopers too, which is why he retconned all of them into being Manchurian Candidate-esque clones of one bad guy to make it more OK I guess (and also made robots the other disposable villains in the Prequels). So Abrams “Making Stormtroopers People Again” in TFA, specifically saying they were kidnapped as children, making us feel sympathy by showing one of them can change, and then going back to killing em in KEWL ways feels not just wrongheaded but purposely so. Then in case you didn’t get the metaphor of African Child Soldiers, the only other unmasked Stormtrooper they show in the entire 9 film series is revealed to be black too, and then they establish the Force has to pick you or you’re irredeemable, and go back to killing em in KEWL ways. It doesn’t help that the supposedly brutal Stormtroopers capture/arrest the heroes at least 6(!) times in 3 movies when the heroes have no problem mowing them down by the dozens.

    Again, I wouldn’t even notice this shit if it was buried in a good movie. But like Tim said above, TROS’s undoing of the “anybody can be a hero” theme established in TFA and TLJ is a giant missed opportunity and puts the entire universe on rails. Everything is predetermined – Rey is only powerful because of her lineage, Finn only turned good because he was born Force-sensitive, a lowly mechanic like Rose won’t get to do anything except quickly abandon the guy she almost killed herself trying to save in the last movie, etc…

  134. That’s good food for thought, Neal. I don’t think you were a weird kid, lol, but for whatever reason I’ve never developed an emotional attachment to more backgrounded characters or felt an inkling to pull on those threads. But they are there, and it seems like you’re in the opposite situation–you can’t ignore or unsee / unthink them.

    I do wonder how much of this relates to Abrams being a nostalgia/reboot simulacrum generator algorithm as much as a director. He is more interested in capturing and building out the look and feel of “classic STAR WARS” than in storytelling as a whole. He is good (in TFA as in LOST) at creating dazzling displays, establishing compelling mystery boxes, and populating or animating intriguing worlds, but he has trouble drawing and holding these elements together and sticking the landing by way of paying off his mystery boxes. They are empty and kind of a con. He was not the guy to finish off this series, for sure. I’m not entirely convinced Johnson was either. I think they both did well enough overall with TFA and TLJ, but this last film is Abrams’s weaknesses and sensibilities at war with Johnson’s. The result is a hot mess, but there is still some good in it.

  135. You do realize that the only reason the force ghosts can now interact with environment physically was Iger’s order to Kennedy? “Kathy, make sure they are China safe”? I.e. their nature must be masked because the Chinese party censors won’t accept the presence of ghosts & their audience hates ghosts? That’s also why they are not referred to or treated as ghosts anymore. Which is double funny, because the Chinese have Star Wars deep up their asses anyway, they’ve crapped on them for generations now, they couldn’t give a rat turd about them, and Skywalker has bombed in China, as tradition dictates (beaten by a local Chinese romcom… again!)

  136. @Tim Horan. Anakin Skywalker was a nobody from a backwater planet. That response on Luke’s part comes off as just another bit of character assassination. Which speaks to how far Johnson had to go out of his way to make up a premise, to then “subvert”.

  137. Bruce: Oh man, that would be hilarious if it didn’t make me want to slit my wrists. This franchise truly doesn’t have a single genuine creative impulse left in it, does it? I wonder what other arbitrary artistic mandates were shat from on high. It’s like the suits who tried to get Lucas to put pants on the Wookiee are writing the scripts now.

  138. Majestyk – your post reminds me, (and not to get too much into identity politics), but I do think it’s weird that everyone calling for Kathleen Kennedy to step down/be fired is dismissed as a sexist troll (and I’m sure some of them are)- yet through the history of cinema, everyone has always hated the nameless/faceless “suits” at the studio. We’ve spent decades talking shit about the idiot, money-grubbing suits who stood in the way and tried to compromise the vision of Hitchcock, Carpenter, Peckinpah, Woo, Craven, Ridley Scott, etc… How dare these corporate hacks tell our genius auteurs what to do!

    Except now one of those suits is not nameless or faceless (and not named Bruckheimer or Weinstein), and said suit somehow thought it was an appropriate idea to not have a set story and make up the biggest trilogy of all time on the fly like a game of telephone. And fire and replace the directors of both Star Wars spinoff movies in the 11th hour due to creative differences. And release two Star Wars movies within 5 months of each other. And announce and cancel more Star Wars movies than they’ve actually made. And the internet has to weirdly rally around this person because other assholes on the internet say mean things about her. I’ve never really put much thought in it because I was thinking Ep IX had a chance to be good, but now that this is all over, I’d totally be one of those guys calling for Kennedy to step down if I still gave a shit.

  139. This is what happens when the overlords try to serve their adult masters instead of remembering these are supposed to be movies for kids.

  140. I think that the whole thing about Finn meeting another ex-stormtrooper who not only mutinied, but did so with her entire unit was meant to make it okay to slaughter stormtroopers. Sure, they were all kidnapped and brain washed as children, but this showed that if you’re really good, you can rebel against that. Ipso facto, all these other stormtroopers are choosing to fight for the bad guys. I’m not saying I agree or disagree with it and I think it’s pretty clumsy and has no nuance, but I think that’s what they were trying to do there after they thought, oh, shit, now that we’ve made this African child soldier comparison how are we going to get around it.

  141. That makes sense, Maggie. Like so much of the exposition-speak in TRoS, that part where Jannah explains how her entire battalion silently, unanimously agreed to disobey an order to slaughter a bunch of people was so weak-sauce both in its implausibility and in the way it was written as dialogue. Ouch. Like so many other clumsy parts, such as Kylo saying, “Oh, yeah, Palpatine’s your grandpa.” It’s like they have to take an abrupt hard pause to the kinetic action about every 25 minutes to dispense with 1-2 minutes of bare minimum necessary exposition as quickly as possible, then equally abruptly hit the unpause and go right back into fighting or hyper-jumping to the next stop in the inter-galactic pub crawl.

    Just starting up with the Mandalorian, and honestly, I think things are now wide open for them to do some great storytelling that is free of the constraint of being compared to the OT or criticized for its handling of a sacred character.

  142. Bruce – Is there a source for that? Obviously it’s true that studios are making edicts in order to make money from China, but that particular claim sounds dubious to me. They were never called “ghosts” in any other Star War, nor did they act differently from this, being able to catch a lightsaber seems like a miniscule distinction that would not effect such censorship, and also Chinese movies have ghosts in them all the time. A CHINESE GHOST STORY, hundreds of haunted house comedies, martial arts fantasies, etc.

    Neal – I think she’s not a nameless suit because Lucas handpicked her to run the company and because we knew her as producer of all of Spielberg’s movies since E.T. If she got fired and replaced, that replacement would be the nameless suit. But it’s true, not having a visionary artist like Lucas as the hands on producer is a problem.

  143. I was thinking about the mask business. I don’t know what Abrams intends as the story reason for wanting to repair it, but in THE LAST JEDI he smashed it after Snoke told him to “take that ridiculous mask off.” Maybe it makes sense that he puts it back on after Snoke was gone. You can’t tell me what to wear, dad!

    Also I was wondering if Palpatine was thinking “I’ve had success seducing kids to the dark side by befriending them as a creepy old man. I’ll have to clone a creepy old man to influence this Solo kid”? ‘Cause maybe it would be smarter to make a hot Sith lady or a cool James Dean type guy he could idolize.

  144. “Qui-Gon didn’t fade because he had to die first to INVENT that shit. People forget that that was established at the end of REVENGE OF THE SITH. (I’m not kidding.)”

    Ha! I remembered this because I was enough of a nerd that I read the ROTS novelization before the movie came out and Qui-Gon shows up as a force ghost at the end to teach Obi-Wan. I was really disappointed when he didn’t appear in the movie.

    Another cool thing I remember is that Vader actually dies from his injuries on Mustafar and Palpatine brings him back to life showing that he wasn’t full of shit at the opera and does have the power to bring people back from the dead (including himself I guess). Also Palpatine is revealed to be the apprentice in the story he told which makes him hundreds (thousands?) of years old.

    Oh and it’s kind of hinted at in the movie but it’s overtly stated in the novelization that a big reason Anakin turns to the dark side is because he thinks Obi-Wan and Padme are fucking behind his back.

  145. Vern’s is far, far better than I am at articulating why TLJ is so amazing (and my Christ, there are still umpteen people who somehow missed the fact that Luke’s depressed when he’s talking down the Jedi and he explicitly refutes his earlier despair with his actions AND DIALOGUE at the end!). As far as I’m concerned, Johnson’s thoughtfulness and creativity (seen not only with TLJ, but in Brick, The Brothers Bloom, Looper, and Knives Out – all in different genres, all acclaimed, all which he wrote and directed) mean that Kennedy should’ve just given him VII, VIII, and IX on day one.

    I think the frequently repeated idea that TLJ left TROS with limited places to go is nuts: you’ve a temperamental Skywalker running the galaxy, a right-hand villain who hates his boss, flaws in the stormtrooper programme, a Resistance worn down to the bone, the mystery of Snoke’s origins, Rey and Ben’s connection, and the legend of the last stand of Luke Skywalker to play with. Without chucking in anything new – which you could still do! – that’s plenty to work an elegant plot from. But Abrams has this weird instinct to repeat what’s already worked. TROS, which follows up a film that actively seemed to make sure that its sequel couldn’t be a remix of ROTJ, has:

    Palpatine revealing a masterplan to crush the Resistance (which was already being crushed, but aping ROTJ takes precedence over following from VIII).

    Luke telling Rey that she has to confront Palpatine (which is the film’s single most jaw-dropping bit of laziness).

    Luke telling Rey that he and Leia always knew about her parentage, which suggests Abrams and Terrio felt they needed to transfer the visible seams in the OT’s Skywalker family plot over to the new film.

    Palpatine telling Rey to strike him down, which is so stupid he needs to explain some convoluted, self-defeating rationale to her as he argues with her (compared to the elegant goading from ROTJ).

    Palpatine’s army getting vanquished in such a way that it’s obvious there would be some survivors, despite the fact that this trilogy’s original – now forgotten! – conflict was between the Republic and the reforged remnants of the Empire.

    Force ghosts looking happily on, despite the fact that the victory won is exactly the same as what they thought they’d accomplished decades before. I *liked* that TFA and TLJ put the Skywalkers through the ringer, because it’s far better to do interesting dramatic stuff with characters than just have them do victory laps. But I thought Luke and Leia would get some sort of reward at the end beyond seeing Rey take their name – Ben going off to walk the galaxy, Luke’s example being referred to, Luke’s work on restoring the Jedi being explicitly key to Rey’s victory, Palpatine’s presence being more explicitly diminished from the get go (or better yet – keeping him fucking dead, or stuck in an ambiguously sentient hoogram, or confined to the ruins of the Death Star).

    Oh for the days when Attack of the Clones was the Star Wars that made the least sense. The intense (fucking nutty!) dislike so many people felt towards TLJ I think I feel towards this lazy clusterfuck.

  146. I’m not saying anybody else should do this, but I decided to see it a second time, and it played way better now that I’m used to what it is and what it isn’t. The Emperor’s plan still doesn’t seem to make sense, and Luke’s exposition still seems rushed, but mostly the pacing didn’t seem nearly as hectic, and I was able to follow everything much better and see how things tied together. For example, the first time I didn’t follow that Rey in her first scene is trying to learn how to hear the voices of past Jedi the way she does in the end. And I thought the Chewie medal moment made no sense within the story (Maz giving him a medal only the audience cares he didn’t get decades ago), but I realized this time that Leia is holding it when she dies and therefore it must be Han’s medal that she wants Chewie to have to remember him by. I picked up on little things like people repeating each other’s phrases, or that Finn saying he has an idea for the ground invasion, which turns out to involve space horses, must be inspired by his rampage on Canto Bight.

    And mostly I just appreciated how cool Rey is, although in the tradition of Luke I never really buy that she’s tempted by the dark side. In fact she’s defined by the number of times she uses non-violence or kindness to solve a conflict (the snake, Zorii, D-O, Kylo, some random stormtroopers).

    I even got a little emotional at the end when the three leads of THE FORCE AWAKENS are looking for each other in the crowd like Rocky looking for Adrian, and then they hug and cry. I’m not the type to get involved in which character should get with which character, so that stuff never captured my imagination, and I’m much more moved by them just being friends who went through an adventure/war together.

  147. 150 responses! The suits must be doing something right.

  148. Seconding Vern’s opinion that it plays better on re-watch, that stuff that slipped past you on first watch manages to cohere – I think my view on the film is basically just that… they shot an obvious first draft screenplay, but shot the ever-living hell out of it. There’s a lot of stuff going on, a lot of talent and craft, but it isn’t refined. There’s little things I like that I never would’ve noticed first time around (eg, Daisy force-healing Ben also heals the face scar she gave him in TFA, which was already right where Han touched him after he died. Right in time for him to meet Han again).

    A lot of my complaints (aside from how they handled Rose) fall by the wayside really, cos ultimately the studio should’ve pushed development back a year after Fisher died. But they didn’t. So that’s that really. When the death of a lead means 2 years of development get junked I think the studio should’ve just bit the bullet and delayed. They had The Mandalorian on Disney+ to do the 2019 heavy lifting. Think they’re gonna regret that, this movie missing a billion (it really might not) will likely change the sorts of Star Wars projects we see get greenlit for good.

    So yeah, ultimately, this is a flawed movie that keeps growing on me. I think Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley hold the entire thing together. He was very good in TFA, and TLJ added new depth and layers to his character, but his performance in this one is an absolute powerhouse. And Ridley makes a demanding role look absolutely effortless.

    Do agree with the take I’ve seen here that the way they mass-kill the conscript stormtroopers makes for a bit of a problematic ending. Legit thought during the first screening that Finn getting to the transmission tower was so he’d hack it and send a “you have a choice” lay-down-your-arms message to the stormtroopers. I felt similarly about TFA too – back in 2015 during my first viewing I thought the tensions they’d set out between the Resistance and the New Republic would culminate in the more militant, morally compromised wing capturing Starkiller Base and seeking to use it themselves. Still think that would’ve seen off a lot of the rehash complaints…

    The decision to just blow everything up in an obviously morally shady way could set up a new series of films tho – if I was writing episode 10 my starting point would be traumatised, conscripted, now-stranded kids crawling out of the ruins of the star destroyers on Exogol (which mostly just fell apart and dropped to earth, they weren’t all vaporised), having a legit reason to seek revenge, also crashing close to the ruins of a gigantic sith temple to, i dunno, learn the dark sith arts in. Could easily make a movie about a post-rule of two expanded Sith order starting up from there (the resistance’s original sin), gathering momentum right as Rey starts up her new Jedi Order. Lot of potential in that IMO, with Rey’s order having to face down the consequences of the rebellion’s hubris. The funny thing is, I think the decision is in keeping with Poe and Finn’s character flaws, it just suggests they didn’t learn the lessons of TLJ. Pretty much doing a genocide is in keeping with Poe’s hot-shot characterisation, and Finn’s failure to appreciate shades of grey. Would absolutely love a movie about that biting them in the ass.

  149. I find all this talk of genocide in a Star Wars movie so weird. Do you get depressed at the end of Star Wars or Jedi when the Death Star blows up?

  150. I find all this talk of genocide in a Star Wars movie so weird. Do you get depressed at the end of Star Wars or Jedi when the Death Star blows up?

  151. I would find it depressing if they repeatedly emphasised that the ppl manning the death star were child soldiers, yeah. That’s this movie’s own goal really, adding shades of grey and nuance but then not owning the implications is a storytelling problem, easily avoided.

  152. About the “China won’t let Disney call them ‘ghosts'” thing – a few months ago I saw Zeb Wells talk about his work on Star Wars: Detours, a Robot Chicken style Star Wars parody show that Lucas was making before the Disney sale. Apparently they made 39 episodes but none have ever aired? Anyway Lucas was involved in the writers room with them, and Wells said that one thing Lucas insisted on was that they couldn’t call them “ghosts” – they could call them “gahostas”, but not “ghosts”. So whatever the reasoning behind not calling them ghosts, that’s been a thing since Lucas.

  153. Fair point but there is no guarantee any of the storm troopers in the OG trilogy were anything but bad guys

  154. According to the writer of this explained that Rose has no screentime because all her stuff was with Leia.

  155. The Mandalorian is the best Star Wars thing from Disney.


  156. Agreed, Sternshein. I think it benefits from its intimate, sparsely populated nature and focus on character. And from its longer-form, smaller bite-sized chunks nature. In any event, I think it puts to rest the speculation that the STAR WARS universe is tapped out of ideas or can’t work without the Skywalkers or whatever. Turns out it’s a pretty rich universe with a lot of potential for telling all kinds of stories that, if anything, is stronger and less constrained when we subtract the messiahs and demigods of the “Skywalker saga” (of course, I like those, too!).


    As for the Skywalker Saga, the more I think about it, and in reading Timothy Horan’s and Renfield’s woulda-coulda counterfactual Episode IX plots, I do think they could have made a winning Episode IX that picks up more of the Johnson threads than it walks back.

    I don’t think the Palpatine plot was altogether bad either and some variant of it could have worked here, as a sub-plot. I like the idea that the spirit of Palpatine is manipulating Kylo — kind of a nested, mega-reveal that subsumes the “Snoke was the one bridging Kylo and Rey all along” motif in TLJ; basically, that it was actually Palpatine’s spirit manipulating the whole thing, and Snoke was essentially a mask or conduit. I like the idea of Palpatine’s weakened spirit trying to return by cultivating an Anakin-like predatory master-apprentice relationship with Kylo, but with the twist that Kylo is actually getting stronger and stronger and is using Palpatine’s spirit to advance his own agenda and grow his own strength (like Palpatine did Darth Plageius). Basically, each of them is using and playing the other, so, it’s a question of who will get what they need out of the other and then screw over the other first.

    Doing this would allow for some of the cooler, creepier Palpatine stuff that I for one really loved in TRoS, connect this installment back to the other trilogies, but then also allow the film to continue with the notion that Kylo is transcending his fanboy hero worship and is actually looking to consolidate the First Order, exponentially increase his power, and basically end the Sith and the Jedi (“Let the past die. Kill it.”). In other words, I think there was maybe a way to square that circle. I’m not actually sure we needed Palpatine, but I think he does bring some unique elements to the table, and a more complicated relationship dynamic between Kylo and Palpatine (not unlike the dynamic with Rey) could have been interesting.

    I think trying to bring Poe, Finn, and Rey together was less successful than hoped, and possibly a better approach would have been for Rey to be on her own mission but with Finn, Poe, Rose, and others on a supporting mission with much more marginal screen time, but well-connected to Rey, like they are checking in and coordinating.

    A bit of fan-fic, which is not usually my thing, but I’m trying to get a handle on what worked and didn’t and whether there is actually a constructive way to pursue these various impulses vs. just complaining about the flaws.

  157. Guys, I have to get something off my chest, and if I do it anywhere else on the Internet I’m gonna get torn apart: I think Baby Yoda is the stupidest fucking thing I’ve ever seen in my life. He looks like a fucking Funko Pop of himself. His stupid face and big dumb doll eyes are bad enough but then he’s got this dumb miniature doll robe that doesn’t look like an actual piece of baby clothing but like a full-size robe that’s been shrunk down to baby-size, which is why all its folds are weird and disproportional, like when they use water with modelwork and the waves don’t look right. I fuckin’ hate him. He’s like the fuckin’ Nermal of Star Wars. I just want to punt him.

    Thank you. I’ve been holding that in for too long. This has been very cathartic.

    Why, no, I’ve never seen a single second of footage from THE MANDALORIAN. Why do you ask?

  158. But what do you think of Baby Sonic?

  159. Majestyk, I sympathize. On paper, it sounds like precisely the kind of cynical, lazy, cloying, manipulative plot that Disney would hatch in hopes of a “viral” moment that spawns memes and gifs, moves “merch,” and generally appeals to the broadest swath of cutesy-cutesy casual fans as possible. And that’s most likely the kind of mentality that got the Baby Yoda ball rolling. Having said that, I think it works and makes for a pretty effective buddy dynamic for the Mandalorian character. If the show were just Baby Yoda mugging and doing cutesy stuff, that would be one thing, but this is a case where it would be dishonest for me to play the screw-you-corporate-whores contrarian hater. I’m fully on board with Baby Yoda. I encourage you to give it a try just to challenge your own echo filter bubble chamber of presuppositions, and if they come out vindicated…well, my bad. There’s a free 7-day trial, so you could binge the whole show on Disney’s dime and call it sticking it to the Man.

  160. I just don’t understand the point about his robe. Are you saying the puppet is oversized or something?

  161. I think we both know I’m not going to do that.

    My problems with the character go beyond its cloying design. I don’t like what its existence says about Yoda. Previously, one could assume that Yoda was Yoda because Yoda was special. Yoda has great talent and worked hard over many centuries to be the wisest and most powerful Jedi Master in the universe. Nah, says Baby Yoda. Yoda was Yoda because he’s a Yoda. All Yodas are the most magical special beings in existence. All you gotta do is be born a Yoda and BAM. Instant Jedi. That old Yoda you thought was so great? Mediocre. Runt of the litter, really. Throw any old Yoda off the street in his place and you’d get the same thing. The other Yodas down at the barbershop clown him all the time. If you guys knew more Yodas you’d know how not that big a deal that particular Yoda was.

    I mean, why should I expect more from a show that stars the third iteration of a character who’s never been much more than a cool Halloween mask? It’s more legacy bullshit from a franchise that keeps swearing up and down that it’s doing away with all that.

  162. Vern: I just think it looks uncanny valley or something. It looks like they miniaturized the proportions of a big robe instead of using the proportions of a small robe in order to maximize the cuteness coefficient. You know how doll clothes don’t fold like human clothes because fabric doesn’t work that way? The size of the swatches changes but the size of the stitches doesn’t. Yoda’s robe looks like the stitches got shrunk. Something about it just bothers me. I find its machine-tooled adorableness nauseating.

    Skani: I think we both know I’m not going to do that.

    My problems with the character go beyond its cloying design. I don’t like what its existence says about Yoda. Previously, one could assume that Yoda was Yoda because Yoda was special. Yoda was born with exceptional talent and worked hard over many centuries to become the wisest and most powerful Jedi Master in the universe, despite everyone underestimating him because of his size and speech impediment. It’s an underdog story. Nah, says Baby Yoda. Yoda was only Yoda because he was a Yoda. All Yodas are the most magical special beings in existence. All you gotta do is be born a Yoda and BAM. Instant Jedi Master. That old Yoda you thought was so great? Mediocre. Runt of the litter, really. Stick any random Yoda off the street in his place and you’d get the same thing. The other Yodas down at the barbershop clown him all the time. If you guys knew more Yodas you’d know how not that big a deal that particular Yoda was.

    I mean, why should I expect more from a show that stars the third iteration of a character who’s never been much more than a cool Halloween mask? It’s more legacy bullshit from a franchise that keeps swearing up and down that it’s doing away with all that.

  163. Sorry about the double comment. If you have to read one (and you really don’t) read the second one. It is more complete.

  164. There’s an interesting nature vs. nurture, elitists vs. egalitarians debate stirring underneath this and the Rey’s parentage discussions. I think it’s a given that many abilities do “run in families,” not in a strict 100% determinist sense but in a “not strict 100% tabula rasa” sense. The idea that certain species would have different floor/ceiling ability levels (like Cheetahs and running or hominids with tool-making) or that different intra-species gene pools might have certain potentials (tall parents means taller kids, incredible hand-eye coordination has a genetic component) should be pretty intuitive at this point.

    I like Rey being a nobody, but I don’t follow the emotional bordering on moral outrage about the Force running in families and more strongly in some families than others. First off, you don’t have to be a force beast to make a meaningful contribution, and for me the more toxic message is that unless you’re a force superstar, you’re just a cog. Han is awesome, and the fact that he doesn’t have and doesn’t really get/cotton to the force adds to that, it doesn’t detract. My childhood wasn’t raped because Han didn’t have the force. Also, we know from the prequel trilogy and common sense that all kinds of folks from all kinds of ethnicities and species had awesome force powers. So, the force potential and matured, hardened force powers are widely distributed in the population tough to some extent heritable. What is so upsetting and shocking about that?

    I get that Rey being completely unpedigreed and unprecedennted is a cool and new direction to go (her being a Palpatine is also a cool direction to go, and it fits in retroactively with the story, though is by no means necessitated by it). But it’s not as though there is a question about whether only Kenobis, Skywalkers, and Palpatines can have force powers. All kinds of people and critters can have and then further develop force powers to varying degrees.

  165. Mr. M: It’s kinda fitting in a SW thread that you made a ‘Special Edition’ version of your post and then publically disowned and derided the original post.

    While I can appreciate the additions and more completeness of the Special Edition post, I think I like the scrappy unperfectness of the original unaltered post.

  166. I was anti baby until I saw the show and the puppetry is so good that it totally feels like a real character and it’s all adorable and I’m not the world’s most cynical person.

    Also the thing is 50 years old so I’m sure in the first 50 years it could have been learning Jedi shit. It’s also like arguing that only one or two humans can possibly be Jedi because it’s weird for more then one of a species to be able to do wizard shit. Also, you’re fucking exhausting to read dude.

  167. Good thing I’m completely optional then.

  168. I’m gonna regret this but fuck it. Long time coming.

    Why even say some shit like that? I’m going about my business, not even fuckin’ talking to you, and you still gotta make it personal. What the fuck is wrong with you? Why can’t you make your perfectly reasonable points without insulting me? You think I’m exhausting, just stop reading when you see my name. Nobody put a gun to your head and made you absorb my exhausting opinions. That was your choice. I learned long ago that some commenters never have anything to say I want to read, so I just don’t read them. It’s one of the easiest things I’ve ever done in my entire life and it’s saved me and everyone else a lot of grief.

    If you can’t find it in yourself to do that, then how about you just keep my name out of your mouth for the foreseeable future? I’ll do likewise.

  169. I brought up Mandalorian and then you made your post and it felt like a response to my post. Your point about not reading you is a fair point and I appreciate the response.

  170. I haven’t had a chance to see the new movie yet, but I’ve been mostly enjoying the show (little behind just because I don’t find it quite compelling enough to want to binge it), but I don’t think we know enough about the Yodas to understand what the deal is with them yet. I’ll confess that I think it may have been a more interesting choice if the only yoda we ever saw was Yoda, but we already had weird perm lady Yoda in the prequels, so I guess we might as well see some more of them. I also dig the LONE WOLF AND CUB vibe it lends to the show.

  171. I love Baby Yoda SO much that it *almost* ignited a desire to have children in me. I don’t care in the least if I’m being emotionally manipulated. My love is pure.

  172. To be honest, we dressed our new baby as Yoda for Halloween two weeks before the show premiered, and it’s the most accidentally trend-forward I’ve ever turned out to have been in my life.

  173. I have no idea what Bob Iger told Kathleen Kennedy about force ghosts but it is certainly true that ghosts fall foul of Chinese censorship rules. It’s very much less clear that Chinese audiences hate ghosts.

    This Forbes article deals with both the rules and how Piixar’s COCO may have managed to get past them and become a massive hit in China despite all the ghosts:

    'Coco' Got All Of Its Ghosts Past China's Superstition-Hating Censors

    It turns out China’s movie censors are human after all, at least according to the story that’s circulating on the Chinese internet today.

    The classical solution to the problem has been to add a coda suggesting that the whole movie has been an hallucination or a dream. I believe that A CHINESE GHOST STORY (1987) did not receive an official mainland China release until 2011; I’m curious to know how it managed even that.

    I’m guessing the lesbian kiss wasn’t sufficiently integral to TROS to worry about, but it seems to’ve gotten past the censors in China (at least) anyway.

  174. “It’s like harshly criticizing an episode of Scooby Doo for being insufficiently intellectually stimulating ”

    @Mr. Subtlety
    I take it you’ve not watched Scooby Doo: Mystery Incorporated
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_PuOCqlfvk

  175. “It’s like harshly criticizing an episode of Scooby Doo for being insufficiently intellectually stimulating ”

    @Mr. Subtlety
    I take it you’ve not watched Scooby Doo: Mystery Incorporated

    YouTube

    Enjoy the videos and music you love, upload original content, and share it all with friends, family, and the world on YouTube.

  176. “I take it you’ve not watched Scooby Doo: Mystery Incorporated”

    Sorry, this was not meant to come off so stand off -ish, there was supposed to be a sad emoji next to it :(

    Here’s another great video on Mystery incorporated though :D

    YouTube

    Enjoy the videos and music you love, upload original content, and share it all with friends, family, and the world on YouTube.

  177. *takes a deep breath and tries not to start a long rant about why MYSTERY INCORPORATED might be the most awful SCOOBY DOO series ever*

  178. I know this thread is long dead, but I just saw The Rise of Skywalker this weekend, and I’m genuinely shocked by how shoddy the film is. I mean, there’s a legitimate argument to be made about how the film doesn’t really follow up on the promise of The Last Jedi, but before you even start criticizing the subtext of the film, there are just a million narrative problems you have to deal with first.

    Disney really should have just given the movie another year, because this feels very much like a first draft that somehow made it to the screen. If I’m being kind, I can sort of see where the filmmakers are going with the characters, but too often it seems like they only realized what sort of character arc they wanted for Rey, Finn, and Poe three-quarters of the way through the film, which make sense when you’re writing the initial draft of a screenplay, but is downright negligence when that first run through somehow becomes the shooting script. For example, at one point well into the second half of the movie Finn basically tells Poe that he’ll never live up to the example of General Leia. That’s a great problem for Poe to face, but he should have struggled with that for the entire film. That shouldn’t just be a one-off comment inserted shortly before the third act.

    And The Last Jedi gave Abrams a pretty wide canvas to play with. It also gave him some real problems to solve, like the fact that the Resistance has been reduced to a handful of people. I honestly expected the third film to either jump far enough ahead that the Resistance is more or less fully reformed or to grapple with the problem of rebuilding a new rebellion. But the film improbably does neither. I mean, there’s some talk about how decimated the Resistance has become, but, again, this shows up towards the back half of the film. Why aren’t we seeing Finn leading a Stormtrooper rebellion or Rey finding other force wielders to face off against Kylo Ren? There are so many possibilities, and this film basically decides to make no choice. I have nothing against a good old fashioned MacMuffin as a plot device, but here it just seems to take up time. You could probably kill the first thirty minutes of this film, and you would lose nothing.

    And while people claim that The Last Jedi completely killed what Abrams did with The Force Awakens, I actually think that they fit together quite nicely. There’s a wonderful meta-textual element of The Force Awakens that I really appreciated on second viewing. These characters have heard about the Rebellion and the characters from the original trilogy. The stories are floating around the galaxy and that influences their quest. Kylo Ren is dealing with the legacy of his grandfather, for instance. The Last Jedi takes that idea of mythology and storytelling and turns it on its head, asking us to reconsider the narratives we’ve been handed down. The Rise of Skywalker, though? Who knows what the hell this movie is about. It’s just a bunch of scenes strung together.

    And the sidelining of Rose is a goddamn insult. I genuinely liked the character. She represented the common person who even sacrificed a family member for the Resistance. She’s a true believer, which is something that, as I’ve gotten older, I appreciated in films. More and more I’m drawn to the “everyman” rather than the cynical outsider or the chosen one. Let’s say they didn’t have the space to include the character as much as I would have wanted. Why not have her out there training Resistance fighters. She left because she realized Finn didn’t have the same feelings for her as she had for him. It’s an easy fix that fits with what we saw in the last film. That sort of inability to carry through with the few thread The Last Jedi left make this film seem half assed. With so much at stake, I really don’t understand how Disney could have pumped out this truly mediocre film. If anything, it makes me appreciate those Marvel films, which are at least reasonably competent, even if they are forgettable.

  179. They claim she had way more to do but Carrie Fisher died and so did most of her scenes. It sounded like they were going to make Rose the leader like Leia but who knows.

    I really feel like the biggest narrative issue was them thinking they needed to only make three of these when Last Jedi really sets up like two more movies at minimum.

  180. Good summary, RBatty. I think this is more or less where I ended up. My initial reaction was to want to lay some of the blame at TLJ’s feet for painting EPISODE IX into a corner by taking out yet another OT legend, killing the big bad, decimating the resistance, and calling the whole mythology or Rey bakstory into question as stupid and/or outmoded. The more I reflected on it — and listened to others, like those in this thread — and after re-watching TLJ, I came to the conclusion that EPISODE IX could have done plenty of interesting stuff and ended the trilogy just fine with enough time and in the right hands.

    Stern, I see where you’re coming from, but at this point I think the impression that they needed 2 or more movies to end the series is just a narrative optical illusion that the actual EPISODE IX creates. In other words, the problem is not that there were tons and tons of characters and loose threads and plotting challenges that this film needed a ton of screentime to address. Rather, the problem is that the film takes it upon itself to stuff in a bunch of extraneous scenes, planets, fan service cameos and characters, and plot threads that it didn’t actually need.

    SPOILERS. We didn’t need a Han memory flashback, an extended Lando cameo, an under-baked Palpatine thread, a 30-40 minute mcguffin scavenger hunt, etc., list goes on. To me, the problem is too little time and choice of Abrams as a director, which is not actually a slam on Abrams, and really, I use that as shorthand for “choice of Abrams as a director to pick up after Johnson when it is painfully evident that he and Johnson have strongly opposed narrative sensibilities.” Abrams couldn’t resist his fan-boy, fan-pleasing instincts, and he tried to do too much for too many disparate audiences.

    I still enjoy a lot of disparate elements of TRoS, including some that I think ultimately do not serve film well. Palpatine and Han are two great examples. As isolated moments or elements, they are probably my two of the most enjoyable aspects of the film for me, but neither of them really belongs in the film. As a great monster once said, they belong dead. That’s the film’s problem. A lot of individual great elements, but a fundamental strategic calculation to include many of them. Too much, too choppy, too much extraneous crap. They spent a little time on each of too-too many things. Perhaps we need to add “don’t unnecessarily resurrect your dead darlings” to the canons of good advice.

  181. Rbatty – I’m with you – I was kinda down on the Marvel movies too but they at least finished strong in spectacular fashion – TROS doesn’t even feel like a proper conclusion to its own trilogy, nevermind a supposed conclusion to a 9 film series. (As someone pointed out, Rey being the one to “bring balance to The Force” aka I guess kill the Emperor, effectively makes Anakin “a guy who ALMOST killed the Emperor that one time” which makes me glad we spent 6 of the 9 movies on this kid-killing, planet-blowing up asshole). Also, the Avengers Endgame-aping finale of TROS is downright embarrassing. Abrams seemed to miss that the entire point and thrill of Endgame was to see our once-dead, beloved heroes come back to life and come together with our core group and kick ass. TROS ends with uh…Lando and Zorii Bliss and Wedge and a bunch of faceless people we’ve never met show up while the music blares to tell us something really awesome is happening. I hate to say it but I think the finale is just as cringe-worthy as Jar Jar Binks stepping in poo or Anakin talking about fucking sand.

    I’m also wondering what everyone thinks about the Colin Trevorrow plan for Ep. IX that leaked last week. Like all proposed treatments that never made it to screen I kinda have a hard time visualizing it and am not sure if it would necessarily make a “better” movie, but it at least seems to be written by someone who, y’know, WATCHED The Last Jedi and seemed interested in taking up the challenge of following through on its plot points instead of just blatantly ignoring them. I mean, the balls of JJ to watch The Last Jedi and say “Well Rian, you fast forwarded to the end of my trilogy and already re-did the Throne Room scene from Return of the Jedi which I was kinda planning to do. You got me in a pickle, so my solution is to….do ANOTHER Throne Room scene Goddamnit. Nobody’ll notice”. (When you factor in Revenge of the Sith ALREADY re-did the Throne Room scene and realize this series has as many Throne Room scenes as it has Death Stars, you start thinking that this series might actually be kinda terrible)

  182. I heard the excuse that Rose was supposed to be hanging out with Leia and Carrie Fisher’s death affected her screen time, but I don’t buy it. If you have time to digitally insert Carrie Fisher into the film, you have time for a rewrite.

    I also don’t understand why it’s not okay to us a CGI version of Carrie Fisher, but it is okay to us a CGI version of Peter Cushing?

    I do agree that The Last Jedi left a lot on Abrams’s plate, which is why the MacMuffin chasing was so disappointing. I kept on thinking that these characters should have far more important things to do.

  183. I think the Finn and Rose stuff in the Trevorrow outline sounds better, especially that he gets to lead a rebellion of stormtroopers. It seemed to flow out of LAST JEDI better, using the depleted Resistance and the spark re-ignited by Luke (and the cameo by broomboy at the end). And I like the idea of seeing the former Jedi Temple. But it feels a little weird reading that the heroes are on a daring mission to start the war. And I think the Rey and Kylo stuff does not sound as good as the existing movie. I don’t see how part 9 of 9 can be “Ah, we tried to redeem him, but he was too evil. THE END!”

    It’s weird that the reports say nothing about what Leia was doing, even though this one was written before Fisher died. I always hoped they were saving something great for her.

  184. I know what your are saying but I expressed this opinion once before:
    Sternshein
    January 9th, 2018 at 11:18 pm

    BTW, I have no idea how they wrap this up with one more movie.

    But you bring up a really good point that they totally could have easily but they overly complicated things.

  185. I only recently read about what Trevorrow was going to do, and who knows if it was going to be better. On paper, it sounds like an improvement. Having Kylo Ren give himself completely to the dark side sounds like a total bummer, but it would have been unexpected. Still, I don’t think I’ve enjoyed the two Trevorrow movies I’ve seen, so I wasn’t exactly excited when he was given the third film initially.

    But it does seem like no one at Disney knows what to do with Star Wars, which is insane.

    Weirdly enough, the film that Rise of Skywalker reminds me the most of is actually Pacific Rim 2: Uprising. Both feel like they could be some comic book spinoff from Dark Horse where the write comes up with a bunch of crazy ideas but doesn’t really care too much about making it cohere into an actual story. The idea of having every Star Destroyer also be a Death Star is something you would find in the Expanded Universe of the 1990s. And while Rise of Skywalker might have better special effects, I actually think Pacific Rim 2 is the better film, which is not something I ever thought I would utter when the TROS trailer dropped.

  186. Perhaps the strongest thing the Trevorrow script has going for it is the idea of taking TLJ seriously as a game-changer for the direction of the trilogy vs. treating it as a feint.

    SPOILERS

    I’m not sure how it would have worked to have Kylo stay all the way bad. What I like about it is that it is a fresh take vs. having him essentially repeat the Vader arc. It’s difficult for me to separate the idea of Kylo staying bad (or getting worse) from the execution of Kylo being turned back to the light. As I said a few times above, his moment with Harrison Ford in IX is a standout moment of glorious nostalgia-stroking (had my eyes misty), but that’s mostly just daddy issues feels plus a couple of iconic characters being performed with 10M watts of talent, charisma, and commitment. It doesn’t particularly make much sense. The whole Kylo turn scene feels sort of like a Rey-Leia-Han relay race of hand wavy emotional manipulation acting as substitute for actual conflict or development in Kylo. His turn just feels like an abrupt, “This being the bad guy shit ain’t all it’s cracked up to be” moment.

    My guess is that there could have been effective ways to non-redeem him or better ways to redeem him than what they ended up with.

  187. I think one of the most powerful moments in Last Jedi that nobody really talks about is at the end, when Rey ends her final Force Skype with Kylo by slowly closing the Millenium Falcon door between them, Godfather 1-style. She’s spent the whole movie babbling on about how he can be redeemed, arguing with Luke that she knows he can change, that Kylo is the hero that the Rebellion needs, etc. And at the end, by slamming that door, it’s a definitive “Alright Fuck You Then, I’LL be the hero the Rebellion needs”.

    Granted, it doesn’t make much sense since she whooped Kylo’s ass pretty thoroughly in TFA and I feel her obsession with turning Kylo good seems more like Johnson’s statement on people wanting to be stuck in the nostalgic past with the comfort of the same shit happening again instead of taking a risk and dipping into uncharted waters (Not to mention Kylo is a guy she barely knows who killed his dad in front of her and also tried to mind-rape her). But it’s still a strong message and good hook for a movie so of course it’s not followed up on in TROS.

    I felt there’s a couple of ways they could have non-redeemed him in a satisfying way, but unfortunately Johnson blew his load and already used it in TLJ. The throne room scene where Kylo teams up with Rey to kill Snoke and the guards but then turns out to want to burn it all down, including her friends, would have been a great climax to the trilogy if it led into a final showdown between the two. (I mean, that’s sort of the ending of Tomb Raider 2 with Angelina Jolie and Gerard Butler, but that’s also the best part of that movie)

  188. The world is obviously not any poorer for the lack of another Colin Trevorrow movie, but it does sound like his script at least engaged with the characters’ basic motivation. To me, the most damning thing about the whole Disney Trilogy is that after almost nine hours, I still can’t explain why Ben Solo becomes Kylo Ren, or what he’s hoping to accomplish. TLJ at least makes a gesture towards answering that question with his “kill the past” speech, but, uh… why? And why would getting a bunch of new stormtroopers accomplish that goal? TROS straight up doesn’t address it at all. He just decides not to be evil any more when his mom dies, and that’s what, I guess.

    It doesn’t seem very “STAR WARS” that the character would end up beyond redemption, but at least it would be something. TROS makes his entire arc seem arbitrary and meaningless. But then again, I’m sure the Trevorrow script would also have been re-written into nonsense by the time it ended up on screen anyway.

  189. Mr. S: I thought his turn to the dark side was because he felt abandoned and betrayed by his family. Han and Leia both talk about feeling guilty for sending him to Luke instead of being more hands on. Han didn’t know how to teach him to live with the force and Leia feared his darkness. Then when he’s struggling with the darkness and he wakes up to see Luke standing over him with his lightsaber out.

    I read all of that as an adolescent, “You think I’m evil? Fine, I’ll be evil!” Then he gets all twisted up in the manipulations of the emperor/Snoke and feels connected to Grandpa Vader. I don’t think he has any kind of thought out plan of why he wants to be on the dark side. It’s just spiraling anger, hurt, confusion, guilt, need for acceptance, and juvenile dipshitedness.

  190. Maggie — I agree that’s about the best we can do with the available evidence, but that just leaves us with “he turned evil because his parents sent him to boarding school as a teenager.” Not very emotionally satisfying, and still leaves a lot of blanks. I mean, what the fuck is up with this asshole? By the time Luke looks into his mind, he’s already so far gone that Luke considers murdering him right then and there! What exactly is so dark that he’s thinking about? Surely every teen has some chaotic, antisocial thoughts, what makes him so different? And how did he end up that way? Surely just having an emotionally unavailable father doesn’t explain becoming a teenage Hitler, right? We hear that Snoke/Palpatine have been “getting in his mind,” but what does that mean? What were the “tempting” him with? The whole Disney trilogy keeps referring to people being tempted by the dark side (they say this about both Rey and Kylo), but never gets around to what they are actually being tempted by. Power? Control? Revenge? Nah, you know, just sort of… general temptation, I guess, no specific thing, just temptation. To the dark side. TLJ offers some hints as to his motivation, but the TROS mostly throws them out the window instead of building on them.

    I dunno, it just feels so vague and under-imagined. And even if we take the trilogy at its word that there’s nothing to this except angsty teenage rebellion, his behavior is awfully specific to just be the result of random lashing out. What’s up with the mask? Why does he connect to Vader, whose redemption story he surely knows very well? What does he mean when he tells Vader’s skull that he’ll “finish what you started?” Finish WHAT? By punting on all this, the trilogy just leaves us with a character who’s just so ill-defined that none of his arc feels very resonant.

  191. It’s definitely weak and lame. I was actually more disappointed with how they treated Rey’s temptation to the dark side and made it more like every other Star Wars character’s struggle. I liked how in TLJ she seemed to just accept that she has some darkness in her. She didn’t fear or freak out about what it could mean, like Luke did when he thought she immediately “went there”. After her trip down the rabbit hole, or swirling sea vortex, or whatever it was, it was a refreshing and interesting take that she seemed to be, I don’t know, zen about it. I don’t know much (really anything) about Eastern philosophy, but it felt very much something. Like acknowledging it’s there, but not having to be consumed by the thought of it. I think that’s actually more impressive than overcoming it as a deep-seated fear. It almost seemed like more of a feminine reaction, too. Like, women have to deal with so much shit on a regular basis, that she didn’t have time to worry about it.

  192. Still haven’t watched this movie yet but reading the synopsis of the Trevorrow story made me go “Hrmmm…. sure does SOUND like a Star War made by the assholes who made JURASSIC WORLD…”

  193. I don’t have the time or energy to read this review and/or the comments. I don’t understand why people get so worked up about any STAR WARS movies.
    I have probably seen some of the original movies more than once but definitely not more than twice. The prequels – I watched the first two and have no interest in ever seeing the third one. But I did not get mad about it.

    The new movies are fine. They’re entertaining and instantly forgettable. I *did* love ROGUE ONE and not just because Donnie Yen was in it. But I don’t care if I ever see it again.

    This latest one did seem a lot stupider than the previous two but whatever. What I want to tell you guys is that if they make any more of these things you MUST go see it in a 4DX theater. It is fucking awesome! Whenever someone shoots a laser, there is a blast of wind blowing past your head. Whenever someone gets cut down by a lightsaber, your seat punches you in the back. X-Wing crashes in a lake – water splashes in your face! This is the ONLY way to watch STAR WARS!

  194. Just read the comment, so please forgibe me for the suuuper late reply, but CJ Jolden, what’s your argument for Mystery Incorporated being the worst one? (Legit curious)

  195. Okay, there are Scooby Doo shows, that are technically worse (GET A CLUE for example), but unlike MYSTERY INCORPORATED, none of them tried to be the definitive new interpretation of Scooby Doo, which is why I just have to be tougher on it. The show basically starts with Velma telling an audience (and therefore also us) that the classic episodes were awful and this is gonna be the real deal. They talk the talk, but fail to walk the walk, as we learn pretty quick.

    I won’t pretend that the original mysteries made sense or the show ever was about delivering a whodunit in the first place, but if you have for example an episode with three monsters and there are only three suspects who also happen to look exactly like these monsters and then turn out to be these monsters, you just know that nobody involves gives a shit. It’s even worse that they tried to push the show into the era of modern storytelling, but then still can’t come up with better plots then “Oh no, I heard a small out of context bit from a conversation and now think that guy hates me, although he actually said the opposite!”

    Then they really ruined the characters. Fred was dumb since A PUP NAMED SCOOBY DOO, but here he entered a new dimension of stupid, especially with his creepy obsession with traps. Daphne reverted back to being a stupid pretty girl who does nothing but swooning over Fred all day. But Velma got the worst treatment, by getting turned into an awful, mean bitch, who not just hates Scooby, but got in one episode so angry for not getting her way, that she actually desecrated a cemetary!

    I’m gonna cut my rant short, but let’s just say that it had its qualities, like the art direction (minus the character design), some inspired voice casting ideas (Udo Kier as the main villain, Jeffrey Combs as an H.P. Lovecraft parody) or even the attempt of making a Scooby show for the 21st century, but it doesn’t really add up to anything more than a bunch of fanfiction cliches. (What if Velma and Shaggy dated, but have to keep their affair a secret? What if their families have a dark secret?)

    The next show BE COOL was definitely a better modernisation (despite its hideous character design), although all they did was making the humor more absurd. I’m a bit indifferent about GUESS WHO though. I like the idea of an unironic redux of THE NEW MOVIES and bringing it back to the classic formula without any too modern or post modern tweaks, but a certain spark in the writing is missing. (That Ricky Gervais spends his whole episode being abused by his cat while being completely oblivious that she hates him, still makes me chuckle though)

    And yes, feel free to laugh at me for taking Scooby Doo so seriously.

  196. CJ: but the episode with the with the convention of SCOOBY knock offs though!

  197. That was fun, but also nothing I hadn’t seen on Adult Swim or their likes before. Nice to see it in an official show though for once.

  198. Catching up on some of the later comments here, and, boy, I love this bunch of commenters. I think Subtlety nails the weaknesses of this trilogy in general and the Kylo arc in particular. It’s all driven by where these characters need to be by a certain point in the runtime vs. anything organic that breathes and mutates in a more or less trace-able way. It’s all just arbitrary bursts and lurches in various character motivation directions, because we’ve got a schedule to keep and need to get on with that Kylo redemption, people.

    Kylo and Rey work only because of great casting and phenomenal performances, and everything else works only because of nostalgia and more great performances. Narrative substance, coherence are a complete fail. There was a chance to tell a very satisfying, interesting, thought-provoking, and imaginative three-act story, and I must sadly report that they blew it, Tommy.

    My inner Vern still enjoys and will re-watch these films with the kiddos for all the little nuggets of competence and imaginative inspiration, focusing on what is good and beautiful to enjoy and not getting too bogged down in what sucks. I’m also a sucker for the shameless emotional manipulation in pretty much all the LAST JEDI Luke stuff, anything with Rey and Kylo, and especially Han and Kylo. I gladly surrender to all that angst and the warm fuzzies, too.

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