Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi: Likes and Dislikes
On the whole, I disliked it. Spoilers ahead.
1. The movie did not culminate in blowing up a Death Star.
2. There was potential in having Luke agonize over things, and in his bouncing back from failure. I liked his sacrificing himself for the Rebellion.
3. Rey’s personality is well drawn, and well-acted by Daisy Ridley.
4. Kylo Ren’s personality (not character) is well drawn, and well-acted by Adam Driver.
5. The chemistry and drama between Rey and Kylo are affecting.
6. Actor Laura Dern played Vice Admiral Holdo, a nice character, well costumed, well played, and with a cool farewell.
1. A smarmy, Barney-the-Purple-Dinosaur-like Yoda gleefully summons a bolt of lightning to destroy the Jedi “tree,” the original Jedi texts,* the whole Jedi legacy. Aaa, after living 800 years for the Jedi cause, on second thought, screw the Jedi. The scene emblematizes the Barney-ish anti-excellence drift of the whole movie.
2. However, after smarmy Barney/Yoda says his crap, nonetheless, a few scenes later, Luke affirms that the Jedi will continue, that he is not the last Jedi. Go figure.
3. I found Kylo’s personality engaging — glad he lost the mask — but the character does not cohere. Kylo is not committed to being the next evil heavy. In fact, there’s no deliberative cruelty in the character. His personality is one, even, to abhor cruelty. So, why not fall in with Rey, as well as reconcile with Mom, especially after he smokes Snoke? If Kylo has something better to do, the film doesn’t show it. Hanging with Hux didn’t seem to suit him.
4. The film is loaded with low-level mass snippy-hippsty humor, stuffed animals to evoke child emotion, reviling of the fancy-pants rich, and overarching pandering to the mentality of anti-excellence. Rose, especially, characterizes and signals base themes. Such features show the Rebellion the opposite of sage, which makes one wonder: What does resistance accomplish? Is the plan to install Barney as galactic leader? So different is the Lucas saga: The first six films intimated a political wisdom, and made compelling a political purpose. That now is far, far away. (However, I quite liked Rogue One.) Now the good guys are often called “the Resistance,” rather than the Rebellion. Maybe in Episode IX they’ll be called “the Occupation.”
5. Several sickening stretches took place in Canto Bight, scenes that ooze leftian imaginings of the evil capitalist rich. The whole excursion to Canto Bight comes to nothing. Indeed, since the movie is not committed to the good guys, there would be no particular beauty in their various efforts dovetailing. And they don’t. Aaa, screw the Jedi with their noses high in air and their midichlorians; we don’t need elitist like them, we have Barney.
6. But the prize for sickening goes to Rose’s crashing her aircraft into Finn’s, explaining: “I saved you, dummy. That’s how we’re going to win: Not by fighting what we hate. — By saving what we love.” That is, she had no explanation for her supervening Finn’s heroic decision. Nevermind that the entire movie depicts them fighting what they hate. Meanwhile the nurturing Rose figured she’d save her Finn by crashing aircraft at top speed. Such lying dialogue crops up time and again.
7. Powers and magic fly out of control, as when Leia’s bridge takes a massive direct hit, blowing it to bits and sending the debris into space. There are no survivors. Plot armor fails Leia. Or does it? After being blown into space, Leia flies like an angel through space (without oxygen tank), back to the bridgeless ship, to get some medical attention. It remains unclear why someone who withstands Star Destroyer blasts needs medical attention.
8. Also cheap and fake: The mental meetings of Ren and Kylo. They grabbed me. But it is just more viewer manipulation. Snoke claims credit for the psycho-space encounters — as though that helps. The new Star Wars episodes have thrown out the constraints — and hence potentiality — Screw The Man’s oppressive focal points — . A familiar sign of craperoo.
9. It turns out — barring, that is, future wrenchings — that the mysterious flashbacks about Rey’s parents and upbringing, in Episode VII, were nothing. She’s just another agreeable gal 50 standard deviations above the mean in just about everything.
10. Finally, there is the way Luke, finally, takes action. He sits on a rock and projects his presence, in full appearance, audio, touch (not sure about smell), and bearing gifts, elsewhere in the galaxy, doing intricate battle with the most powerful guy in the galaxy. A nice trick, even if it kills you. One might ask what the opportunity cost was — Maybe killing a sleeping Snoke years earlier? More movie-lying.
The chief sentiment that arises in me from Episodes VII and VIII is disappointment at George Lucas in not taking better care of his legacy.
[*Updated: A friend tells me that the Jedi texts are seen on the ship at the end, something I missed. Whatever — more jerking around.]
Dan Klein is economics professor and JIN Chair at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, and chief editor of Econ Journal Watch.