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 Resistance Story Line & Characters

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

 

I watched The Last Jedi again over the Christmas break and I came away feeling much happier with the overall movie. The first viewing definitely felt disjointed for me, but it flowed a lot better the second time around. I understood both a) Johnson’s direction and why he could have chosen certain routes, or b) character motivations.

Now that I have two viewings under my belt, I’d like to go into a TLJ series and delve a little deeper into the different storylines and characters we met or got to know better.

 

The Resistance

The Resistance was pummeled again and again in TLJ. It’s a very dark, desperate movie for most of our protagonists. The wins for the Resistance are small, and even though they ended up destroying so much of the larger ships of the First Order by the end, I still did not feel like the Resistance by any means won or came out ahead. It felt more like they barely escaped, which essentially, is the truth of it. I think this movie showed us more about the “wars” in the Star Wars title than Rogue One.

I felt a slight stab to my heart when they released the beacon at the end of the movie but no one had come to their aid. I wonder how that will play into the next movie. Were other supporters tracking what was happening and saw them lose more and more members and realize it may not be worth it? Will they rally around when they see Rey with her lightsaber, a sign that a Jedi has returned, a sign of hope?

With the main Resistance plot, I had two slight issues with the First Order tracking the them through hyperspace: 1) It reminded me strongly of the first episode of Battlestar Galactica, almost to the point of a rip-off and, 2) it takes away the strength of lightspeed. With ESB, this was cleverly done by having the Falcon’s hyperdrive malfunction/break. With TLJ, it seemed like a cheap way to spin old plotline.

That aside, we’ve never had the Rebellion/Resistance stuck. Just stuck. Nowhere to go, losing fuel, with more and more members being killed off by the First Order. It was very painful to watch. I think this movie drove home the fact that you lose lives in war more than any other Star Wars movie. It’s something that underlies the other movies but not something that is blatantly obvious. With TLJ, you get that point in the first 15 minutes and it breaks your heart. I thought the beginning battle sequence had a slight ROTS similarity, but the death of Rose’s sister and her sacrifice for the Resistance was gut wrenching. I don’t think I’ve ever felt like I was punched in the stomach that quickly into a Star Wars movie.

Poe

Poe is given a larger role in TLJ than he has in TFA and I enjoyed his character more. Thank goodness they gave him that scene in the beginning of the movie because otherwise he would have been a sitting duck the rest of the two hours. I’m glad we got to see some more of his pilot skills and some slight humor once more when he was bantering with General Hux.

I liked having Poe as a brash pilot who thinks and knows he’s that good that he can get away with what he wants. But he also strongly believes in taking the chances they have, which unfortunately ends up losing more lives than General Organa would like.

What I enjoyed immensely was how often he was put in his place by both Leia and Holdo. I feel like a lot of fans were upset about Poe’s treatment, which I understand, because we glorified the cocky, handsome pilot with Han but are punishing Poe. It’s easy to romanticize characters like Poe who are awesome at what they, but Poe is a working member of a military organization. If you are not obeying the rules of unity of command, then you are putting lives at stake and deserve to be demoted. He made constant mistakes throughout the movie by not being patient and it cost lives repeatedly. I believe that it was nice to see his behavior is not allowed and there are consequences for what he did. He lost too many lives for one chance. Was the chance worth it? Yes. But what if every good pilot was taking chances and not listening to orders? It can’t be allowed. And if it happens, there must be consequences.

Vice Admiral Holdo

I wasn’t sure how I felt about Vice Admiral Holdo. I thought she was a good addition in the sense that it was nice to see Leia have a female friend and I liked seeing another high-ranking member of the Resistance be a female.

In my first post after watching TLJ, I could not understand why Holdo did not tell Poe her plan and strategy. I was upset about it. Yet after reading some tweets between fans, I realized that the only reason I wanted her to tell her plan was because Poe is a main character. At the same time, it contradicted what I have just mentioned about the military organization. Why should a high-ranking officer tell a brash pilot their plan? Especially someone like Poe who can’t seem to be patient and respect a higher rank?

Holdo’s sacrifice towards the end of the movie drove home again the desperation of the Resistance. They finally catch a break and head toward Crait in transports only to find themselves getting destroyed. Holdo turns around and saves the remaining members of the Resistance by sacrificing her life. I wanted to cheer and cry at the same time.

As an addition to the movie, I’m not sure if Holdo was the strongest character, but I did appreciate her end. I went from being annoyed at her to admiring her. For a short amount of screen time, that’s impressive.

General Organa

The first time I watched TLJ, I was waiting for Leia to die the entire movie which made the movie a little distracting. Some of me wishes I had known she was not going to die, because then I could have watched her scenes with more interest, instead of trying to become slightly detached because I knew her death was imminent.

There is always one scene in each of the new movies that I can’t stand, and in this one it was Leia floating through space to get back to her ship. In a way, I thought the fake-death was a fitting ending for Leia’s character. Her son does not kill her, but it still gets her death out of the way early in the film. I also think it would have made Vice Admiral Holdo’s character stronger. Instead, she survives her stint in space while somewhat frozen, and propels herself back to her ship using the Force. It was just…silly. This is one of those scenes where people tend to either love it or hate it. I am going for the latter.

I enjoyed Leia’s character development for most of this movie. We saw her as a mother, a leader, and a friend. I don’t think we’ve ever seen that combination before. In TFA she was a mother, a lover, and a leader. It was nice to see her friendship with Holdo, another woman, as I mentioned previously. Her connection to Ben showed her strength in the Force, so much so that she knew he was going to shoot her ship, but then decided not to. When she demoted Poe in the beginning of the movie, it also kind of reminded me of her leadership in ANH, when she was being rescued by two kids who needed her rescuing more than she needed theirs.

My only disappointment with Leia, and I know so many people felt like this, is that the movie did not give her a satisfying death. Since we know she will not be in Episode IX, it would have been appropriate to find a time where she could die and work that into the storyline.

Crait

The last scene on Crait was interesting, mostly because it reminded me of a Star Wars Rebels episode. I’m finding as I continue to watch these movies under Disney, I see traces of how they are pulling the canon into a cohesive unit. Together, but separate. I liked that it was in old Rebel base so it tied back to the Original Trilogy and the Vulptexes (crystal foxes) also reminded me of how Rebels often finds ways to bring animals into their storylines. The most important part to take away from this scene/ending (other than the Luke/Ben showdown), was that Poe was taking over in command. It’s almost as if Leia gives her blessing when she tells everyone to follow him instead of looking to her. It’s a small moment, but I believe it will be critical to how we view Poe in IX.

One of the most important lessons I took away from TLJ was to always do the right thing, no matter how hard it might be. I talked with a lot of people who thought the overarching sentiment was to never give up hope. Yes, I believe that is true, but I came away with the fact that you never, ever give up doing what you believe is right. Even when all the odds are against you, you keep at it because that is what will produce the hope that others need.

 

What was the lesson you took away from watching the Resistance and it’s characters in TLJ?

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?