TLJ: Finn & Rose

This is Part IV and the finale of an ongoing series where I review The Last Jedi.

 

Finn and Rose were the heroes that had me the least enthused. I’ve never really loved Finn, even in TFA, but he propelled the storyline forward and got a few laughs out of me. In this movie, they amplified Finn’s bad qualities and then paired him with a forever-hopeful sidekick so that she could reform him in a subliminal sort of way.

I’ve read a lot of complaints about the character Rose and how useless she was. I admit, I found her to a be a little bland and when paired with Finn (whom I also find bland), their storyline was the slowest. But if you think that Rose was useless, then you are missing the point of her character. Sure, she may not have been the most interesting but her character was there to bring Finn wholeheartedly into the Resistance. Finn’s allegiance to the Resistance was only because of Rey, and when in by himself, he wants to run.

Finn is a constant deserter. He deserted the First Order. He deserted Rey on Takodana. He tried to desert the Resistance at the opening of this movie.

What the directors needed to do was to create a character that motivates Finn to have a change of heart and stay with the Resistance DESPITE everything he knows about the First Order and how they obliterate everything in their path. It’s a fine line to walk because on one hand, Finn knows how ruthless the First Order is. The characters should logically jump ship as soon as he can (he tries). On the other hand, Finn needs to stay with the Resistance.

Enter Rose. Poe is too busy being a flyboy and causing trouble on the ship with his own story line. Rey is off training with Luke. So when creating the story of the Last Jedi, they needed to create someone new and that someone was Rose.

But unfortunately for Rose, her naïve optimism comes off as boring. Yet Finn needs to be around someone who has blind faith in the Resistance, is not jaded despite the fact that her sister died, but has a slight melancholy back story to give her a bit of depth. When Finn goes to sacrifice himself at the end of the movie and Rose saves him, she shows Finn (and us) that death is not always the most beneficial way to help a cause. Sometimes you need to save people as well.

Did I love Rose? No. Was I appreciative of her character? Yes.

Canto Bight

Okay, let’s talk about the elephant in the room – namely the city of Canto Bight. After a lot of hype, it fell a little flat. The problem with these scenes is that I think it could have been expanded and some of the Resistance scenes cut shorter. It had the potential to be a refreshing break from the slow, dark Resistance vs. First Order scenes, but it instead became too much, too fast.

The only purpose I can think of for this scene is that it gets them in touch with DJ (whom I loved, but that’s a post for another time). By getting in touch with DJ, it gets Finn into the First Order, where he has his final battle against Phasma, and Finn & Rose realize literally that “loose lips sink ships”. Not everyone can be trusted, and DJ is the perfect example of this as he sells them out to the First Order.

But was there another way to get DJ into the picture? Did they have to go to Canto Bight, get locked in jail, and escape on fathiers? It was a very twisted way to get Finn and Rose into the First Order and have a betrayal. Wouldn’t it have been easier to just meet DJ at some random place and not race fathiers and get locked in jail?

What is, is. No use saying I would have done it differently, but I do believe Canto Bight could have been a missed chance on something a lot more interesting had they played with the timing of the movie a bit more.

 

Did you enjoy Canto Bight? Do you think it should have been cut from the movie?

And what about Rose? Did you like her character?

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TLJ: The First Order Storyline & Its Characters

This is Part III of IV in an ongoing series where I review The Last Jedi.

 

The First Order

The First Order was on point this movie. While I thought they looked a little foolish in TFA and I was wondering if they were even a large organization, they showed their might and strength in The Last Jedi.

Even with Poe’s stunt in the beginning taking out the Dreadnought, I felt like they shrugged it off as a minor loss and continued with business as usual. If they barely notice the loss of a Dreadnought, then what the heck was the Resistance thinking?! I believe this could have been the point General Organa was trying to make: save our people, for we need as many as possible. The First Order seems to have a limitless supply, similar to the Empire. Oh, you destroyed our Dreadnought? Okay, we’ll continue after you. Oh, you busted us up with your hyperspace maneuver? Okay, we’ll take our ground assault team to you.

When the Resistance keeps trying to win these battles against the First Order, they may feel like they win, but they lose in the long run. At least with previous movies, like The Phantom Menace, A New Hope, Return of the Jedi, and The Force Awakens, they went after the big fish.

By destroying the Trade Federation, the Death Stars, and Starkiller Base, they are striking where it counts and suffering major losses in exchange for another major loss.

The lesson I took away from this movie is the First Order has the resources to infinitely outmatch the Resistance in these small battles. The Resistance made numerous mistakes throughout the film and it started with Poe’s hot-headed foolishness. They either need to take out all their leaders or their main base of operation (which may have been Snoke’s ship but I couldn’t quite tell). Yes, it may seem like a repeat of the other movies, but it’s a smart tactical move.

Sadly, by the end of the movie, you’ll notice that the entirety of the Resistance can fit inside one ship – The Millennium Falcon. The First Order is winning.

Supreme Leader Snoke

Much to the chagrin of many fans, Snoke came in with full evilness and was quickly destroyed by his apprentice. Rian Johnson clearly did not like his character and wanted to dispose of him as quickly as possible. Though I am completely fine with this, I wish we could have had a bit more of a backstory to him. Creating a character that looks a bit like a zombie, barely alive, but strong in the Force demands some explanation. Will they give it in Episode IX? Perhaps in a book?

While some were upset with his early death, I think it was an important and interesting move. This is the first time we have seen an apprentice over take a master and get rid of the leash holding him, giving him at least one full movie to explore his dark side. By killing Snoke, we give Kylo Ren full control of the First Order, and that is going to be very fascinating to watch in Episode IX.

Kylo Ren

Every time I watch Kylo Ren, I enjoy his character more and more. He is a volatile character, with smidges of good within his evil that makes him unpredictable. His instability is clearly shown with the way that Snoke was able to easily manipulate him. All he had to do was make fun of his mask and indecisiveness and Kylo destroys his mask. But as soon as Kylo Ren brings him Rey, he changes his tune once again. Unfortunately for Snoke, he pushed his manipulation too far to the point that even Kylo caught on and he didn’t see what was coming to him.

Everything Kylo does borders on sociopath prior to killing Snoke. You’re not sure if he was ever truthful with Rey, not only about her parents, but about everything he said during the Force communications. Is he using her for her strength or was he being honest?

But after he kills the Supreme Leader, a change comes over him that lands him in the territory of being insane. Not only does the power go to his head and he takes over the role of Supreme Leader, he tries to kill Luke in a brutal way. Even Hux got to the point of incredulity at how long Ren was shooting at his old Jedi Master. It makes me wonder if he would have killed his mother, Leia, had he been confronted her in his mental state at the end of the movie.

With Kylo Ren losing so much (Rey refusing to join him and unable to kill Luke) by the end of TLJ, I wonder how unstable he will be in Episode IX. What type of leader will he be? This is what I’m most interested to see. He is an emotional wreck and I can’t wait to see what this insecure Sith will turn into as a leader of the First Order.

General Hux

I love General Hux. When many thought he was pointless in TFA, I enjoyed his character as he is so completely brainwashed by the doctrine of the First Order. It’s a fascinating take on a character that we haven’t seen before. He continued with his magnificent sneers, pasty craziness, and intense loathing for Kylo Ren in this movie.

Yet his detestation for Kylo Ren was upped a level in TLJ and that was more intriguing than his leadership of the First Order. You knew he didn’t like Kylo Ren in TFA but TLJ showed us how much he HATED him. I am trying to figure out if he believes Kylo Ren to just be incompetent, if he can sense the conflict within him and believes that makes him weak, or if he sees Ren only as competition and that is where his disgust comes from. Either way, when he reaches for his blaster to kill him, I’m almost cheering him on. When he looks over in disgust at Kylo Ren’s need to blast Luke to smithereens, I find myself nodding in approval.

I believe Hux will have a larger part to play in the next movie and may orchestrate some of Ren’s downfall. He may not have the Force, and sometimes he’s not the smartest bulb, but his lust for power and hatred for Ren could culminate in something climatic in Episode IX.

Captain Phasma

Sadly, Captain Phasma went the way of Snoke and she never got to prove her bad-assery other than with a chrome outfit. I believe the directors and producers never expected Captain Phasma to become a fan favorite and were a little confused with how to handle her character. So they gave her a little hand-to-hand combat with Finn and then killed her off (which, by the way, how did Finn ever get away?). It kind of reminds me of Boba Fett, who was worked up so much between ESB and ROTJ, and Lucas decided to kill him in an embarrassing way. It wasn’t that bad with Captain Phasma, she did get her moment to shine briefly, but there wasn’t much to her character. She fell flat in TFA and fell flat in TLJ again. I would have rather they not have her in TLJ at all and saved a more dramatic confrontation for IX. Or, as Imperial Talker suggested, it would have been cool to see her lead a battalion of Stormtroopers onto Crait to attack the Resistance.

 

What did you like most about the First Order? Were you a fan of Phasma or Snoke and disappointed with their deaths? What would you have liked to be done better?

TLJ: The Remaining Jedi

This is Part II of IV in an ongoing series where I review The Last Jedi.

 

While we were dealing with the desperate escape of the Resistance, there does not seem to be much optimism with the Rey/Luke storyline, where she tries to convince Luke to return and give the galaxy hope. Luke seems to be determined not to give the galaxy anything, instead he would rather brood on an island, drinking the milk of Thala Sirens. (Really? Did we need that scene?)

Luke

I really wanted to be convinced that the explanation for why Luke was isolated and in hiding was a legitimate reason. I think they convinced me at about 70%. I understood Luke’s shame and his reason for ending the Jedi Order. In fact, that was one thing I strongly came away with from this movie – maybe it was good that the Jedi Order ended. The references to the Prequels and how Sidious masterminded the destruction of the Jedi and the rise of the Empire was a nice nod. To galaxy inhabitants, it was almost 100 years ago (almost, but not quite) and the galaxy had built the Jedi Order and Luke into a legend. By ending the Jedi Order, it opens up a new realm for the way the Force flows. Perhaps there is no dark and light, but a combination of both. I’m hoping they explore that in greater depth in IX.

I understood Luke’s fleeting moment of wanting to kill Kylo because of the dark he saw in him and then the immediate, but too late, regret. It’s kind of like when I’m very, very irritated by something in my business or an email I get and would really love to take my computer and smash it. Like that – but on a much larger scale, haha.

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 within 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.

Some of me is also frustrated with the end of the movie and the weird Force holograms. It takes away from his awesomeness. I feel like if he had actually gone to Crait with Rey, instead of being stubborn…all that would have been SO much cooler. Instead, the Force vision/hologram thing cheapens everything a bit. It’s a minor point and I wasn’t as annoyed by it the second time I watched it, but I mean – wouldn’t it have been way cooler if he actually fought Kylo in person?

It is what it is and I reluctantly accept his story line, but I wanted to voice my opinions here. It’s just going to take me a while to believe in it. All that aside, I was happy to see Yoda join Luke for a few moments. It felt like a reunion between old friends…almost as if not much had to be said because they had kind of been with each other the entire time.

Rey

Thank you, Johnson, for not ruining Rey’s character. Thank you for keeping her real and a hero to look up to. I enjoyed her perseverance in getting Luke to come back to the Resistance, but what I most enjoyed were her chats with Kylo Ren. At first it threw me for a loop (as I’m sure it did with many fans) but then I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed her flirtation with Ben but also her flirtation with the dark side throughout the movie. She was trying to understand everything and where she fit into the entire picture.

Rey was unashamed of her call to the dark and confronted it. A few times in this movie, she was invited to the dark side of the Force but did not fall. It had me thinking that perhaps it’s just the lust for power that skews you toward the dark side. Or perhaps you always lean one way or another, but if there is opposition, then there is balance. Kyle Ren is not wholly bad. Rey is not wholly good. Both are heavier in one direction but maybe there is no need for such strict delineation between both.

Rey was a shining example in this movie of always doing what was right, even when it was hard. She didn’t give up on Luke, but she did give up on the training when she knew it was no longer the right path for her. She didn’t join with Kylo Ren after he defeated Snoke, though it was tempting, especially as he tells her that her parents were nobodies and she was a nobody…but not to him.

It was interesting to watch Rey grapple with who she was and who her family was the entire movie. It was almost as if Johnson wanted to say, “Rey’s a nobody, and are you okay with her being a nobody?” There are many fans out there who refuse to accept this is true. There’s a possibility that Abrams may reverse this in the next movie as all we have is Kylo Ren’s word that Rey’s parents were not anyone important.

Even though I rooted for Rey to a be a Skywalker, I also think this could be a good direction to go in. The movie was saying, “Enough with the Skywalkers. You don’t have to be a Skywalker to do great things.” And I believe them. After all, wasn’t Anakin a nobody?

 

Do you think Rey is a nobody? Or do you think there is more to her story that Ben did not tell us?

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.