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?

Advertisements

So Love Has Blinded You?

Over the past week I have come to the realization that if I connect with a character in a deep and meaningful way in a Star Wars movie, I become blind to almost all the other flaws within the movie.

I came to this realization primarily with two movies of the Saga:

  1. The Phantom Menace
  2. The Force Awakens

 

The Phantom Menace

 

With the Phantom Menace, my obsession is with Qui-Gon Jinn. Qui-Gon opened up a world to me that didn’t exist prior to the Prequels, and more specifically, the world of the Jedi as a functioning unit/organization.

I loved it. But it was peculiar because I loved Qui-Gon and didn’t care about any of the other Jedi on the Council or within the movie. Obi-Wan generated a shrug and “whatever” attitude from me, but I was obsessed with Qui-Gon.

I think the reason is two-fold: 1) Qui-Gon is a Jedi so therefore he follows some kind of moral compass , but 2) he is not on the council because he does not completely follow the Code and that is deliberate because he marches to the beat of his own drum.

I adored everything Qui-Gon said and did in The Phantom Menace…and I still do. I don’t understand why people dislike TPM because I’m blinded by the fact that Qui-Gon is in the movie and takes the movie to the next level.

There are flaws in TPM though, just like any other movie but there are glaring issues. I never realized this until this weekend when I saw that I have the same predicament with The Force Awakens.

Here are what I believe are the main issues with TPM. Correct me if I’m wrong, I’m only just coming to these realizations this weekend when I tried to take an objective look at the movie.

  1. The characters. If you’re a fan who grew up with the OT, the characters of TPM seem stale, lacking in warmth and connection, and they are not relatable. Whereas with the OT, we can kind of see ourselves in each of the three heroes shoes, with the PT, unless perhaps you followed a political career path, the characters seem less at ease and more distant. And don’t get people started on Jar Jar Binks (though I don’t really mind him but can understand why some people do).
  2. The politics. I have noticed this one before and have written about it. The movie is bogged down in politics to the point that it may become suffocating for some people. There is no simple (or even really linear) plot as everything is shrouded under Trade Federations, senate issues, etc.
  3. Droids. The droids were not as menacing as they should have been. The Destroyers did the job well but the Battle Droids came off comical. Where’s the fear that people had of the Empire? It’s not there in TPM, in fact, other than Darth Maul, there’s no real fear of the Trade Federation.
  4. No greater cause. With the OT, it felt like they Rebels were fighting for something real and a greater cause for the galaxy. In TPM, that essence is missing. There’s no overarching big bad guy to fight.

 

I’m only trying to play devil’s advocate here as many of you know how much I love TPM. It was the first Star Wars movie I saw in theaters and I thought it was amazing. I love that the main character is a child and there are numerous GOOD things about the movie.

But, I also came to realize that when digging deep on why I like TPM it all comes back to Qui-Gon. I blabber on about the Old Republic and the Jedi, but at my core, it’s all about Qui-Gon. He has blinded me to faults within TPM.

 

The Force Awakens

 

I had a very interesting Twitter discussion this weekend with other Star Wars fans. I learned that most hardcore fans are NOT looking forward to the Han Solo movie (this was also slightly confirmed in blog comments from last Friday). On top of that, what I thought was a minority of fans dissatisfied with Disney and the new movies, it’s actually a lot larger and the frustration runs a lot deeper than I had originally assumed.

I know there are people who did not enjoy The Force Awakens and as I was (am) a lot older when I saw TFA vs. TPM, I’m more aware of the issues in present time, instead of finding out years later.

However, I have a similar issue with TFA that I did with TPM: I love Rey. I love her more than I love Qui-Gon. She’s a female character who is relatable, but she can also fight and use the Force. She is strong without falling into a stereotype of a bland, physically strong female protagonist who has no emotion. I loved the character so much that I named my daughter with Rey as her middle name.

People bring to my attention all kinds of flaws with TFA and I have been able to argue or rationalize all the problems. I try to convince people that the movie is actually quite good and they are being bullheaded. But is the movie good? Or is my love for Rey blinding my love for the movie?

Tweeting this weekend with other fans made me take a step back and realize that TFA has some pretty major flaws.

  1. Too similar to A New Hope. This is obvious and even I couldn’t deny this one. The movie practically copies ANH in every way possible, to the point that even my beloved main character comes from a desert planet. Really? Starkiller Base is a bigger, badder Death Star…that gets blown up by the Resistance. Resistance sounds too similar to Rebellion. At least the Empire got a makeover in their name.
  2. Our 3 main heroes never get screen time. If you are going to go to such lengths to copy ANH and pay homage to the movie, why didn’t you give our 3 heroes some screen time together? If everyone survived, we could have maybe hoped for a reunion further down but that has been revoked with Solo’s death and the real death of Carrie Fisher.
  3. Politics…or lack thereof. Whereas TPM delved into politics TOO much, TFA goes in the extreme opposite direction where we have no understanding of the current political climate. At least within ANH we had some mumbles about the Imperial Senate and we understood Empire vs. Rebellion. In TFA there was Republic, a Resistance, and a First Order…but the First Order sounds kind of small? Or is it large? And is the First Order now the opposition group, like the Rebellion was?
  4. Too much convenience. Rey learns to use the Force very quickly. Artoo wakes up at the most convenient time. Luke/Anakin’s lightsaber magically appears at the right moment with no explanation of where it came from. There’s a certain amount of suspension of disbelief that you can accept when you see a movie, especially one in the sci-fi category, but TFA leaped and jumped over that line. Perhaps we will get all the explanations later, but if not, this is a glaring problem.

 

I have stood up to people’s complaints about TFA just as I did with TPM, but this weekend, I had to admit and accept that both movies have a lot of flaws. Would I love TPM or TFA as much if Qui-Gon and Rey were not in them? That’s where I bite my lip and think…no, probably not.

Qui-Gon was not in Attack of the Clones or Revenge of the Sith and I do not enjoy the movies as much as I enjoy TPM. I actually reallllly don’t like AOTC and I enjoy ROTS but it’s not something I usually pull out to watch at odd times like I do with TPM.

With the future Sequel Movies, I get nervous that they won’t capture Rey’s essence as well as they did in TFA. I worry that there will be no character development or that she will become the Hollywood stereotype of a “strong female character” instead of, well, just, Rey. At least there is hope for The Last Jedi and Episode IX, whereas the Prequels are over and done with.

 

Tell me – have you ever loved a character (any movie, doesn’t have to be Star Wars) so much that it’s blinded you to shortcomings in the movie?

Haiku Me Friday! It’s snowing…

Wampas and Tauntauns A cold desert in the snow The barren landscape

Wampas and Tauntauns
A cold desert in the snow
The barren landscape

I woke up this morning to an inch of snow.  Yesterday I was thinking to myself about how wonderful it was to finally be walking my dog with sneakers again because all the snow and ice had melted.  I must have jinxed it.

I’ve written about Hoth before in a Haiku but it always comes to the forefront of my mind when winter slams Massachusetts.  We live in a funny area of MA, closer to the coast, but not too close.  We’re on this dividing line where forecasters will often say, “West of I-495 should expect to see 6” or more of snow, whereas East of I-495 will see around 2-4”,” or vice versa depending on if it’s a land storm or a coastal storm.  But we are at that weird dividing line of I-495 so we never know what we are going to get.  Today is only an inch but tomorrow is 4-9” depending on what part of Massachusetts you live.  I would prefer 0” but it looks like I have no say in this matter.

My husband and I always thought we’d move out of here since we despise the winters.  But having family so close when you have children changes everything; I can’t imagine not living near our families now that we have ARM.

I think I just need to reframe my thinking, to go along with my New Year’s resolution to be more positive.  Every time I complain about snow I can think, “At least it’s not Hoth.”  Think about it – Hoth didn’t have any trees or greenery to be seen.  It was pretty desolate.  At least I have trees to look at and I don’t have to wear jackets indoors (ever notice how everyone in the Rebellion is wearing their jackets within Echo Base?).  It’s like when I had finals in college and was stressed.  I would say to myself, “At least the fate of the world doesn’t depend on me dropping a mind-twisting ring into Mt. Doom at Mordor.”  Do not think I’m joking.  I said that to myself at the end of every semester.

Okay, bring on the snowstorm!  At least it’s not Hoth.

 

In other news – I’m hosting my first annual Star Wars party in February.  I can’t believe it took me this long to make it an annual party.  I boba-fett-dancing-gifcan’t stand the month of February.  It’s cold, there’s a lot of snow, and Valentine’s Day is stupid.  Now I have a reason to be more positive!  I’m going to host a Star Wars party every February.  I’m trying to make it as chill as possible…open to anyone, light food, some alcohol and drinks, and one game.

Guess what the game is!

(Pun!)  The attendees have to guess what movie I am going to pick.  If they guess right, they get a prize.  Yup, no one knows what we’re watching until the day of.  This gives me a bit of a manic glee (probably similar to what General Hux experienced as Starkiller Base was charged by the sun) as I love having other people in suspense over something I control.

You guys are welcome to guess too and I’ll also send you a prize if you guess correctly.  But you won’t get the prize until after February 11th

 

Have a great weekend everyone.  I’m working on my books of 2016 post and I’m hoping to be more active here in 2017.  Xoxo.

Haiku Me Friday! The Bridge

A chasm between Father and son, tensions build In truth, a long bridge

A chasm between
Father and son, tensions build
In truth, a long bridge

First, a few administrative updates.  My Friday posts have been lacking because I have a doctors appointment every Friday now since I’m in the last haul of my pregnancy.  And because I am considered high risk, I have to go to the hospital for this appointment instead of my normal doctors and the hospital is further.  So by the time I’m done with all the monitoring and driving round trip, I’ve lost about 2 hours of my day and I spend the rest of that time catching up on my work.

Secondly, I am due in 3.5 weeks!  Soooo soooooon.  I don’t know what’s going to happen with this blog, but I’m sure I’ll be taking a hiatus for a while as I begin my new life and learn how to adjust.  Follow me on Instagram if you are interested in updates, if not, eventually I’m sure I’ll be back.  This is my only outlet for Star Wars!  I need something to keep me sane, haha.

Third, Mei-Mei and I have started a once-a-month Friday initiative where we will both be coloring the same page from the same Star Wars coloring book.  We won’t confer with each other and it’s just a chance to see what we did differently and why.  This month, she colored in the one I did just a few days ago on May the 4th.  Check it out!


I watched the Han Solo death scene three times last night.  It’s just so good.  I think it could be one of the best scenes in the movie acting-wise, cinematically, and artistically.  Abrams did a great job with it.

First, there’s that really long bridge separating both Kylo Ren and Han Solo.  Though bridges are known as a support, it’s made to look almost like a chasm in this instance, emphasizing the long distance emotionally and physically between these two characters.  When Rey and Finn barge in on the top landing, the light falls as a spotlight onto the two characters.  When we take in that expansive shot, it’s foreboding, but the light gives hope: you thinks that maybe there could be redemption here.

Kylo Ren calls out, “Han Solo!” after Han had yelled his name.  I noticed last night that Han calls his son by his true name (I would expect nothing less), but Kylo Ren also uses Han’s true name.  Not “Father” or “Dad” or anything like that…Han Solo.  I’ve written about the importance of names in Star Wars before, but this is just another perfect example of how by using Han’s given name, Kylo Ren distances himself from his father.  Han uses “Ben” to try to bring his son closer and Kylo Ren uses “Han Solo” to create a distance.

han solo deathAs we transition into the conversation between Kylo and Han, Kylo removes his helmet (and also his conviction) and turns into the petulant child that most people have grown to despise about the character.  Instead, I found that it made a lot of sense.  He’s trying to defend his actions and his turn to the dark side (though not spelled out like that) to his father.  Sometimes I find myself acting like a child a bit when I’m trying to defend myself against my mother or father’s unspoken accusations.  I am listing reasons and I sound a little pathetic, even to myself, similar to Kylo’s excuses that Han’s “son” was weak and foolish so he had to be destroyed.  And when Kylo says Snoke is “wise”, it’s almost like he’s grasping at straws.

When we get to that moment when Kylo Ren acknowledges that he knows what he has to do but doesn’t know if he has the strength, I find the acting of both Adam Driver and Harrison Ford really comes up a notch…especially on Driver’s end.  The tears were in his eyes when he was struggling and petulant but they slowly disappear as he hands the lightsaber to his father.  The beam of light that was on the bridge disappears and you know that last glimmer of hope is gone. As Han tries to wrest the lightsaber, Adam Driver’s subtle progression from conflicted to decided is perfect.  I remember thinking this the very first time I saw the movie in the theaters too.  You can tell that he realizes he does have the strength and he commits the unforgivable act of murdering his own father.

But after Han Solo registers surprise, he pulls his hand up to touch his son’s face.  His last act before death takes him is one of kindness and love.  I teared up watching this yesterday, and I’m sure it’s because I’m going to be a parent so soon, and I realized that no matter what – parents really do love their children.  No matter what.  Han just got killed by his son whom he trusted, but reached up to touch his face one last time before falling off the bridge.

han kylo gif

Interestingly, if you read the script for this scene, there is no directive for Han Solo to touch Kylo’s face.  This was Ford’s interpretation of Han Solo’s last moments.

Han’s last moment is looking into his son’s face. HAN’S
KNEES BUCKLE. The blade tilts down with him… until KYLO
REN EXTINGUISHES IT AND HAN HOLDS onto the catwalk — his
life slipping away.
Finally Han FALLS BACK, OFF THE CATWALK, INTO THE DEPTHS OF THE STRUCTURE

As the scene wraps up, we watch Chewie attempt to gun down Kylo Ren, hitting him with a blaster bolt that seriously weakens him.  I’m not sure if anyone else noticed, but when Kylo Ren leaves the oscillator, he also leaves behind his mask.

Will we see him with another mask in VIII?  A new mask?  Or, if the mask was to hide his indecision and conflict with the light side, will he now no longer need one?  He’s got a pretty good looking scar to make him look a little more intimidating so they might decide to keep him mask-less.

I enjoyed this scene even when watching it in the theaters, but being able to rewatch it at home and picking up all these nuances has brought it to a new level.  I think it’s one of the best scenes in TFA.

What do you take away from this scene?

In Which I Defend General Hux and Speculate on Supreme Leader Snoke

General Hux

I think I’m in the minority out there…but I really like General Hux.  I’ve been reading many reviews that label him as a superfluous character in The Force Awakens but I would like to argue that people who are writing about that are missing the point of who he is.

General Hux is a bad guy, sure.  He’s not the main antagonist like Kylo Ren and, possibly in the future, SL Snoke, but he falls more in the realm of a secondary antagonist.  Maybe J.J. was trying to create him to be the new Grand Moff Tarkin but he fell short.  Not in a bad way necessarily, but just because General Hux is different from Tarkin.

General HuxHux represents a new generation of the Empire.  He is the ideal First Order candidate.  Similar to Finn, he was raised with Imperial propaganda as his breakfast, lunch and dinner.  General Hux sincerely believed that the Empire saved the Republic from the Clone Wars and the current New Republic is weak.  He grew up as a beast frothing at his mouth, trapped by the New Republic.  He’s what I would label a First Order Fanatic (FOF…nice ring, right?).

This is where he is different from Grand Moff Tarkin.  Tarkin worked strategically to get the Empire where it was.  Hux believed it was his God given right to rule the galaxy as one of the best Generals in charge of the biggest, baddest base.   Tarkin was someone who firmly believed the Empire should rule the galaxy.  Hux believes the First Order is there to wipe out anyone who doesn’t agree with them and he should be leading it.

He’s a maniac. I love it.

All his thoughts and actions are surrounding the First Order in a way that reminds you of a deranged serial killer.  He’s obsessed with bringing the First Order to the height that the Empire once was.  He steals kids from birth to brainwash them into being perfect stormtroopers for the First Order!  Wow.

Everything he says and does is purely for the First Order. Starkiller base and it’s troops are his tools that he works into perfection.  Even Kylo Ren does not live up to his expectations, possibly because he knows that he has not completed his training or maybe it’s because of his heritage that involves people who so vehemently opposed the Empire, and now, the First Order.  Though Hux makes mistakes, you can see that he genuinely believes he still has the best army in the galaxy, unlike Kylo Ren who shows a moment of weakness when Hux accuses him of purposefully letting BB-8 escape in favor of taking the girl instead.  General Hux hates weakness and hates mistakes, especially large blunders like the one Kylo Ren made.

All this leads me to talk about why I loved his speech.  There were a lot of complaints out there about how it was badly written, but I didn’t even pay attention to what was said.  I was enraptured with Hux’s face because in that moment, he is in his glory.  Everything he has worked so hard for over 30 years is coming to a the epic climax.  His eyes fill with tears and you can see he means every single word of what he is saying to the core of his being.  This is his moment to show the galaxy that General Hux and the First Order are not ones to be trifled with.

He’s crazy.  I love it.

 

Supreme Leader Snoke

There are rumors going around that Snoke is Darth Plagueis.  He looks like someone once dead and most importantly, people are arguing that Snoke’s theme is eerily similar to the music played during ROTS when Palpatine and Anakin discuss Plagueis at the opera.

I sincerely hope that Snoke is not Plagueis.

Why?

Oh, I’m so glad you asked!

Because the more I’ve written in this blog about Palpatine, the more I love his character.  Lucas did an excellent job intertwining Palpatine’s story between both trilogies to see that he was an absolute genius and mastermind in creating the Empire bringing the Sith back into power.  He was, in supreme leader snokeshort, a genius the galaxy had never seen.

Palpatine, as we know, also learned everything he could from his master Darth Plagueis, and then killed him.  He stole everything he learned.

Do you really think that Palpatine would let there be a chance that Plagueis could return?  By doing so, it shows a weakness in Palpatine’s planning and takes away from how amazing and intelligent 60+ years of his life was.

The music being similar is a good argument, but LFL and Disney has a bunch of tricks up their sleeve.  Remember that the previews led us to believe that Finn was the Force user, as opposed to Rey.

Or perhaps Williams is getting up there in years and forgot he already did a very similar piece.

I just don’t like the idea of Snoke being Plagueis because it takes away from Palpatine’s greatness.  I much prefer Snoke being Palpatine resurrected but, for some reason, I just don’t think that’s the case.  I could be wrong, but I think that would be yawn-worthy and hope they don’t do it.  I like Palpatine’s story just the way it is and I don’t think he should be brought back.

It would also be somewhat out-of-character for Disney to bring in a character that was only mentioned in the PT when they are focusing so much on pulling similarities from the OT.  I will argue that the opera scene is one of the most interesting and best acted scenes in the PT and I don’t think anyone could argue with that so perhaps if they take anything from the PT, they go with the Plagueis storyline since it is canon.

If you’re interested in reading all the theories out there on who Snoke is, combined into one place, click here.

But please don’t.  Leave Plagueis to history and leave Palpatine with his body in fragments across the galaxy after the second Death Star was destroyed.