This is Not Going to Go How You Think: My review on The Last Jedi

I wanted different.  I craved different. When they announced Disney would be buying Lucasfilm, I wrote about how I wanted them to pass the baton to a new set of characters and give me something fresh in the Star Wars universe.

Oh, they did. The Last Jedi is different. It’s similar, yes, to Star Wars, but they shook up the universe.

I felt that the first ½ of the movie was confusing, slightly forced, and didn’t really find it’s groove well. There were too many plot lines to follow (I counted four major ones) and it jumped around too much. The latter half more than made up for it. Once the main characters wrapped up their smaller plot lines and convened together (mostly), the movie got a lot better. Better, but very different than what I expected.

1.5 hours later…

I wrote a whole 5 page review  on a word doc that had such in depth feels and whatnot…but I’ve decided that instead, I will save them for separate posts for the next few months. That is much more easily digestible. No one would read 5 pages of my thoughts in this day and age.

Instead, I’ll highlight quick thoughts/feels/disappointments.

I liked:

  • The new twist on Star Wars. They gave us more to explore and more to think about. They opened more of the Force with the visions and the ability to be in more than one place – it almost had a TCW/Rebels feel that way. TCW and Rebels were always exploring new aspects of the Force and this just gave us more to chew on.
  • I’m glad her character didn’t fall to any kind of petty stupidity or need any man to rely on. That said – her chemistry with Kylo Ren! Oh man, they’ve got some good chemistry. When he asked her to go with him, the sensible part of me was saying she should not but the emotional part of me was saying GO GO GO! Her showdown against Snoke showed how untrained she is, but when she battled with Kylo Ren, it was one of the best scenes in the movie.
  • Do you think it’s true that her parents were nobodies? At first, I didn’t want to believe it, but now I’m becoming okay with it. They are trying to move away from the Skywalker legend (which they banged over our head a million times) so perhaps this is a way to show that the new hero can be a nobody (possibly a nod to Anakin who was also a nobdy).
  • Speaking of Snoke – he is no more and no explanation on who he is either. Great death though. I liked how he kept manipulating Kylo Ren. In the beginning he mocked him for his mask and said he felt the conflict, but when he needed something from him, he immediately turned the tables and said he was completely turned to the dark side. Butttt he didn’t see Kylo Ren killing him. Alas.
  • I loved how this movie explored that the Jedi Order was a horrible institution. I like how Rey was unafraid to confront the dark side, but still stay true to the light side of the Force. The fact that Ren’s conflict continues to grow is an interesting aspect to explore. With the Jedi order ending, we can now observe how the Force interacts with people, as could have been shown with that little kid at the end of the movie.
  • The little boy – how important of a role do you think he is going to play? Or do you think he’s only to show that a nobody can be strong in the Force?
  • I loved DJ. I loved seeing a smuggler, who was out for himself and went with the money. I must admit that I kept waiting for him to turn good or help them, but he didn’t, and I liked that he didn’t. We had that with Han and seeing someone only wanting to save their own skin for once was, strangely, refreshing.
  • The emphasis on animals. Anyone else notice that and find it interesting?

I didn’t like:

  • Leia’s floating scene. I think this went up there with the Rathtars for me. A few of my friends liked it because they said it spoke to the mysticism of the Force. I thought it was laughable. It also was a very appropriate place to kill her character. We all know at this point that Leia is not going to be in IX unfortunately. It was said that VII was for Han, VIII was for Luke, and IX was going to be for Leia. But now it’s turned on its head and IX will be … none of the three original heroes. So instead of ending her character in an appropriate place, they instead had her Force float back to the ship and live through the entire movie. Agh.
  • Maz. Why was she needed in this movie? Just because she was in TFA doesn’t mean she had to also be in TLJ. And being on the run while trying to talk to the Poe, Finn, and Rose? What? The whole sequence was bizarre.
  • The multiple storylines. Four storylines was a lot for the first half! I think Canto Bight could have been very interesting, but instead it felt forced due to the fact that the movie was constrained by time. If they had expanded it, made it more of a nod to Ocean’s 11 or a James Bond movie, it could have been fascinating. Instead, I think we lingered far too long with Poe and Vice Admiral Holdo and the Finn/Rose storyline was crammed into the movie.
  • I am not completely sold on Luke’s reason for becoming a hermit. I understood Luke’s shame and his reason for ending the Jedi Order. What I don’t understand is why he deserted his friends and family because of this. I could not match that up with the Luke from the OT. Even in ROTJ, where he is much more serious than the previous movies, he still has that optimism about himself. And for someone who spent 20 years of his life yearning to know his real family, I doubt he would have given up on Leia and disappeared on her.
  • Why didn’t Holdo tell Poe of her plan? Everyone is dying and no one has hope and she keeps this a secret? It doesn’t make sense. Can anyone shed some light?
  • The Force hologram/being in 2 places at once? I liked it and didn’t like it. I liked it because, like I mentioned, it gave us more things to explore and understand about the Force. What I didn’t like (and I might be in the minority here) is that I think it kind of cheapened the ending. It would have been so much cooler if Luke was actually there in person with all the blaster bolts trying to destroy him and facing Kylo Ren. Instead when I realized he was not there, it made me feel a little cheated.

Now that I have those brief thoughts out of the way, get ready for my super long post that I just wrote to be broken down into segments over the next few weeks.

 

Let’s discuss! Can’t wait to see what everyone else thought.

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Machete Theory: Review

I did it. I watched 7 Star Wars movies over 7 weekends. You may be thinking, “Really? That’s a feat?”

Yes. Why yes, it is.

I have a 19-month-old toddler. I run my own business and I’m up early in the morning working and late at night working. We bought a new house that we have been working on. It is the Christmas season.

Dammit, yes, 7 movies in 7 weekends is a lot!

If you remember, I decided to prep for The Last Jedi by watching every Star Wars saga movie in the Machete Theory order.

To recap, I watched them in this order: IV, V, I, II, III, VI, VII. This is not the original Machete Order, but my version because I love TPM and TFA is a new addition.

I also tried to pretend I was watching these movies for the first time and being introduced to Star Wars as a rookie. (This is important as many people suggest showing your children the movies in this order or to people who have not seen the movies.)

My verdict? I was not impressed. In fact, I’m not sure I liked this viewing sequence. I’m happy I did it, to finally get it out of the way because I’ve been obsessed with it for a while, but I won’t do it again.

There are few reasons here. (Excuse my lists lately on blog posts; they help me organize my thoughts cohesively)

  1. It doesn’t make sense.
  2. The flow is horrible.
  3. You can’t get strongly connected to the characters.

 

Before going more into detail on the above points, I do want to point out one tremendous pro to the Machete Order: You get more invested in Anakin as a character.

This is, after all, the point of the Machete viewing. You follow Anakin’s story much closer than you do if you split the trilogies up. I find the character fascinating but I’ve never had the connection I feel for, say, Luke or Rey. Yet over these past few weeks, I’ve understood more about Anakin than I ever have when I watched the movies as single one-offs.

For that reason alone, I do say every fan should try watching the movies in this specific order at least once in their life.

Now onto why I wouldn’t watch it in this order again.

 

It Doesn’t Make Sense

This was the biggest surprise for me. If you are watching the order in Machete style for the first time, you do not know who Anakin Skywalker is.

Think about it:

  1. ANH – Kenobi mentions a pupil named Darth Vader betrayed and murdered Luke’s father.
  2. ESB – It is revealed Vader is Luke’s father. We don’t know his first name. (***Please note, I am referring to the ORIGINAL THEATRICAL version of ESB. The scene when Vader speaks to the Emperor via hologram is later edited in the DVD versions to include Anakin’s name)
  3. TPM – Anakin’s full name is not mentioned until…get this…the podracing scene where they refer to him as a “late entry” to the race. He introduces himself as Anakin quickly to Padme in the angel scene and his name is mentioned when Padme says goodbye. It’s not until the podracing scene that they say his full name is Anakin Skywalker. There are a lot more mentions of his last name during the podracing scene, which helps, but right now, I would believe we were following Obi-Wan’s life, not Anakin’s.
  4. AOTC – Suppose I skip TPM and follow the original Machete order. We still run into the problem that Anakin’s last name is not mentioned in relation to him! It’s worse than TPM as the only time we run into his last name is when he is looking for his mother.
  5. ROTS – By this point, it evens out and we understand that Anakin’s last name is Skywalker.

As you can see, this is a big problem. If you are watching Star Wars for the first time, it is essential that you understand that Anakin is Luke’s father. The Leia surprise can wait, but it’s vital to the viewing of the Saga to understand who Anakin is. By watching the Machete Order, it would take a long time to understand that Anakin was the father to Luke. Like I mentioned, while watching it this way, I believed I was seeing the story of Obi-Wan’s life, not Anakin.

The Flow

There is a reason the audience should watch them I-III or IV-VI, and then VII separately. The most obvious reason are the special effects. The special effects make such a big difference on how we view the movies and I often forget that since I’m so entrenched in the mythology and story of Star Wars.

The Original Trilogy has more of a slow, plot-driven feel to it. Even though the special effects are good, it’s an older movie now and I find myself trying to follow along with figuring out who the Empire is versus the Rebellion. The redeeming part is that the basic plot is easy to understand and the characters are very relatable.

After watching ANH and Empire, I jumped into TPM, AOTC and ROTS. It was very jarring and slightly absurd. With ANH and ESB, I felt like the plot was relatively easy to follow. When I went into TPM – I couldn’t understand a thing. It was much faster; the effects they used made the movie seem like BANG! KAPOW! ZOOM! It made the saga seem disjointed and there are so many new characters. Most of the characters we focus on from the OT are Luke, Leia, Han, Vader, Kenobi, the droids, and Yoda. In The PT we have bounty hunters, the Jedi Council, multiple senators, Jar Jar, and a new species in each movie.

The flow when watching in this order didn’t fit well together. Lucas created these pieces of art in two different times in his life and wanted them to represent two different times of the galaxy. When watching it as a newcomer, it is irritating and it was hard to get into the PT after coming from the OT.

 

Connecting to Characters

This relates to my above point about the flow. One of the greatest parts about Star Wars are the characters. It’s very hard to get a lasting connection to the characters when they are chopped up from their trilogies. There is a lot of character development in the OT, and by taking ROTJ out of its place following IV and V, you get disconnected from some of the greatest feelings you may have when watching the OT whole. By ESB, you are really rooting for the characters. When you turn heel, and move to the PT, you must rework your feelings and do a 180 to understand a completely new set of people.

As with the different flow, the variety of environments and new faces make it hard to really feel for anyone except Yoda and Obi-Wan in the PT. I would also argue that it’s harder to connect to characters in the PT than in the OT. I believe, again, this is because the OT feels a lot more plot and character driven than the PT, which relies more on events to drive the movies.

 

As for TFA, I did not feel strongly one way or another about it, as it followed in the correct sequential order. The one note I did have, however, was I believe it is more different from ANH than I sometimes think. Broadly, yes, it pulled from ANH often. But minutely, not so much. There are enough differences to make it feel like the start of a new trilogy, but still within the same universe.

 

All that aside, if you watch the Machete Order as a seasoned fan, I think it can be enjoyable. I gained new experiences and felt deeply for Anakin in a different way than I had before.

If anything, if you choose not to explore watching the movies this way, I do recommend at some point watching ROTS followed by ROTJ. It was refreshing to watch Anakin’s fall and then his redemption within those two movies.

 

And now ladies and gents…onto The Last Jedi.

Fan Art Friday! Peekaboo! Where’s Artoo?

Can you tell I have a baby in my life? Honestly. I just wrote peekaboo in the title of a blog post. Shoot me now.

I’m glad Mei-Mei picked an easy picture this month to color.

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I realized while coloring this that I always, in my head, thought of Artoo as a “blue” droid. But he doesn’t have that much blue! I think it’s because it’s his only defining color that I think he’s blue. Just like I think BB-8 is orange, but he’s not really. He has very little orange as well. The dominant color of most astro droids is white (if that can be considered a color).

I was pleased with the way this picture came out for most part. I stayed true to Artoo but did the background with colors I don’t use very often so I felt satisfied that unused pencils got a chance to shine.

I picked the quote on top because it stuck with me the entire time that I was coloring this in. Sometimes I like throwing in a quote here and there and this one is one of the funnier ones Threepio says to Artoo.

When you check out Mei-Mei’s picture, she mentions that a lot of fans were disappointed that Artoo didn’t get as much screen time as some had hoped. I was fine with it, but I think it will be interesting to see how his story progresses along with Luke’s. They’ve always been tied together, along with Artoo being with Anakin. Artoo is a member of the Skywalker family – something I had never really considered until this drawing.

We will be taking a break next month as Mei-Mei just had her little baby boy and will reconvene on the first Friday of February 2018. The picture will be the one of Darth Vader and Anakin in the podracer towards the end of the book.

My New Found Appreciation for AOTC

I really dislike Attack of the Clones. I find it to be unbearable in some instances. Of all the films, I find it the weakest and I’m always surprised by people who prefer it over The Phantom Menace. I forced myself once to watch it and try to find 10 things to like about the movie.

The script writing is atrocious and we never get to see if Hayden Christensen is a good actor because of it (if you’ve seen Shattered Glass – he is a better actor than most people give him credit for). Natalie Portman works her magic as best as she can, but I feel there are only a few times her skills really get to shine. Ewan McGregor seems to be the only saving grace of this movie. Though there are times that are also halting and a little awkward with him, he seems much more comfortable on a green screen and with funny, jilted, strange dialogue.

While watching one movie every weekend (I lie – sometimes it’s been 2.5 movies in one weekend because I’m really behind) in the Machete Theory Order to prepare for The Last Jedi, I watched AOTC over the Thanksgiving break.

I enjoyed this movie for primarily one reason:

Ewan Mcgregor/Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Ewan McGregor totally steals this movie as Obi-Wan. He is excellent in it and his entire plot line had me riveted. Even when I think I know everything about Star Wars, it goes to show that it’s full of surprises.

Two things that struck my interest this time around:

  1. Obi-Wan’s treatment of Anakin got me pissed off, and
  2. This is the only Star Wars movie where we see an entire plot line that is a mystery.

 

Obi-Wan & Anakin

Obi-Wan derides Anakin constantly in Attack of the Clones. No wonder Anakin wants to throw off his yoke and thinks he is better than Obi-Wan! The entire beginning of the movie is Obi-Wan berating Anakin and emphasizing how young he is.

We are not going to exceed our mandate, my young Padawan learner.

We are not going through this exercise again, Anakin. You will pay attention to my lead.

We will do as the Council has instructed, and you will learn your place, young one.

It’s too risky… and your senses aren’t that attuned, young apprentice.

If you’d spend as much time working on your saber skills as you do on your wit, young Padawan, you would rival Master Yoda as a swordsman.

 

It was starting to get under my skin, and quickly. I could not figure out if this was a normal way for Masters to speak to their Jedi Apprentices or if it was unique to Obi-Wan and Anakin. Even if it was the norm, Anakin clearly did not do well with that kind of instruction.

I’m not sure why I noticed this dialogue more closely than I have in the past but it opened my eyes to the relationship between Obi-Wan and Anakin and helped me understand why Anakin could have been much closer to Palpatine than the brief glimpses we saw in the movie.

Palpatine was always building Anakin up, telling him how wonderful he was, and how he would become the greatest Jedi Knight. For someone with such high standing in the galaxy to be telling you that…I would want to be more in his presence as well.

This was briefly touched upon when Obi-Wan is talking with Mace and Yoda. They discussed that the padawans were becoming more arrogant of their powers over the years. Perhaps the way Obi-Wan talked down to Anakin was his way of trying to curb that arrogance.

Another thing to keep in mind was that Anakin had been hearing about how he was the “chosen one” since Qui-Gon brought him before the council. So not only does he have great power, he also believes he’s some sort of prodigy.

Don’t get me wrong – I believe Obi-Wan was doing the right thing by criticizing Anakin and taking him off his high horse. But I also think he did it a little too much and he may not have realized it.

Watching Obi-Wan’s interaction with Anakin in AOTC and seeing how it shifts in ROTS (it’s much more friendly and equal in the third episode) helped me empathize with Anakin and how he felt like he was constantly being held back.

 

The Mystery

Obi-Wan’s plot in AOTC is the only plot in Star Wars where we have a mystery. There are subtle mysteries, to be sure, like wondering who Luke’s father is, who are Rey’s parents, etc., but this plot line was very deliberate and elaborate.

It starts with Padmé’s ship being blown up as soon as we open the movie. From there, there are covert directives from a strange bounty hunter to an assassin, along with a Jedi chase. A planet has been lost and cloners are brought into the mix.

If this wasn’t an interesting enough chase of information, the kicker is when Obi-Wan arrives on Kamino to find that Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas had ordered an expansive clone army without any of the Council’s knowledge, and, Sifo-Dyas is dead.

This whole time, we have a backdrop of political unrest in the galaxy’s capital – Coruscant. The separatists are leaving the Republic and the only reason Padmé returned was to vote on the Military Creation Act which coincidentally ties into the discovery of the clone army on Kamino. As a seasoned Star Wars viewer who in a twisted way admires Palpatine, I have to wonder if he planned all this on purpose. Did he mean for Zam Wesell to fail in her missions, for Obi-Wan to get a glimpse of Jango, and see the dart? Was he working this entire time to try and figure out a way to get the Jedi to Kamino?

 

It’s enough to make your head spin. Actually, I believe I missed many finer points for the first 10 years that I watched the movie.

This mystery side plot IS the main plot of the movie and I misunderstood this for a long time. I watched the movie focusing on Anakin and Padmé’s romance and cringed so much that it made the movie unbearable.

I found a new appreciation for Attack of the Clones when I watched it last weekend and focused on Obi-Wan’s chase to unravel a large hole in the Jedi’s knowledge. I understood where The Clone Wars took directive from in their short episodes. One of the primary thoughts I had was that Obi-Wan’s plot reminded me of a fleshed out TCW episode. The movie became riveting and I learned more information than I have in the past.

I never thought I’d write this, but I left my viewing of AOTC extremely satisfied and I enjoyed it.

Haiku Me Friday! Snoke and the Force

Twisted, deformed
But I am so much stronger
Should I use the Force?

I haven’t talked about Snoke in a while. But his theme music came on today when I pulled up my blog post to write so now is as good a time as any, especially with TLJ in less than a month.

***Please – I am trying to stay as spoiler-free as possible, so do not list any spoilers if you know them!

I’m interested to see what and who his character is. I have always stated strongly that I really, really hope he is not Palpatine. But at the same time – as we get closer to The Last Jedi, I find that I have more of an open mind. I’m not sure who he is, and some of me doesn’t really care.

Looking at the TV spot/trailer, it seems like he knows how to use the Force – or, it’s implied though it could be some fancy editing. I liked the theories out there that said Snoke is not a Force user, just a crazy manager of the Knights of Ren with extensive knowledge of, well, everything.

I think, in some ways, it would be weirdly delightful to have no explanation on him and he would be like Yoda – just enough info, but most of it is locked away. I know that won’t happen as Disney is going to try to exploit as much as possible – but I thought it would be an interesting turn to just accept a character for once, instead of knowing his entire back story.

I’m dreaming.

And if Snoke is Palpatine, I will be disappointed though I think not nearly as disappointed as when I was first speculating theories almost two years ago. I guess it could make sense, but I believe Disney is trying to lead us down the direction of thinking he is Palpatine (his disfigured face, looming presence, etc.) to throw the fans off.

In the end, does it matter?

Not that much. We’ll probably end up accepting the explanations they tell us.

 

What’s your favorite Snoke theory so far?