Inspired by the classic sci-fi serials and Akira Kurosawa movies, George Lucas created Star Wars. Nobody thought it would be as big as it became, but now it’s part of pop and geek culture if not culture in general. It’s responsible for launching the blockbuster and creating a merchandising sensation. And it nearly destroyed the man who created it. You really should check out SF Debris’s various videos on the backstage history of the movies. As of this writing we have the original movie, the sequels, and he’s just starting the prequels (or at least the first one).
Ahh, the prequels, which somehow gets LESS praise than the Star Wars Holiday Special. It led fans to demand the franchise be “rescued” from the very man who created it. I protested that line of thinking then and I stand by that, especially now that I know what Lucas went through and sacrificed for these movies. Although I am curious to see when SF Debris gets to how Lucas felt about that. Personally, having my biggest creation pulled from my hands would make me miserable. But we have what we have, the new sequels directed by J.J. Abrams, expanded tales like Rogue One, and another set of sequels already being created before this one is finished. I worry it’s a bit too much, that Disney is pushing quantity over quality.
My friends and I didn’t get to see The Force Awakens, the first of Abrams’ trilogy, in theaters. One friend was dealing with his mother’s passing, the other was sick, and I ended up in the first of four hospital stays. It wasn’t a priority for any of us, but with The Last Jedi hitting theaters we decided to check it out, so one of my friends borrowed the movie from his local library and we got to finally see it on DVD. Was it worth the wait?
RELEASE DATE: 2015
RELEASED BY: Disney-owned Lucasfilm
RUNTIME: 136 minutes
STARRING: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Adam Driver, and BB-8, plus guest appearances from Harrison Ford, Peter Mayhew, Carrie Fisher, Anthony Daniels, and Mark Hamill
DIRECTOR: J.J. Abrams
GROSS REVENUE: $936,627,416 from an estimated budget of $245,000,000
IMDB SCORE: 8.1 out of 10
ROTTEN TOMATOES SCORE: 93% (Audience Score: 89%)
The Plot: Set years after the events of Return Of The Jedi, the New Republic has brought peace to the galaxy, but it wouldn’t be much of a movie without a threat to that peace. A group of Imperial wanna-bes called The First Order is preparing to take over the galaxy, but are up against a resistance movement condoned by the Senate. One of the First Order Stormtroopers, though raised from a child to serve, has a conscience and decides to make his escape by using Resistance agent Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac, who is in this just little enough that I didn’t list him in the starring roles), who names him Finn (John Boyga) since he never had a real name. They escape but crashland on the planet Jakku. Separated from Poe, Finn finds his droid, BB-8, and the other main character of the movie, Rey (Daisy Ridley). Abandoned when her family was taken, Rey hasn’t given up hope they’ll return, and reluctantly is drawn into a fight to stop the First Order’s plot to destroy the Republic while dealing with Darth Vader fanboy Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). The heroes are joined by Han Solo and Chewbacca when they steal the Millennium Falcon. Note that there will be spoilers in this review, including a big moment that was already spoiled for me before I got to see this. They also ruined the villain of Zootopia and while I still want to see that this makes me sad.
Why I Wanted To See It: It’s Star Wars, duh! I loved the original trilogy, didn’t hate the prequels but they had issues, and enjoyed the Droids cartoon. I even like the first Ewoks live-action TV movie, The Ewok Adventure. (Battle For Endor, however, was unnecessary.) So of course I wanted to see this. And if it wasn’t for 2016 I would have been able to see it in theaters. As annoyed as I was that we weren’t getting Lucas’s story, following Han and Leia’s twin siblings in a passing the torch event, I was willing to check this out and see if it was any good. The build-up showed that Abrams might make a better Star Wars than he did Star Trek.
What Did I Think?: I really liked it. It had all the Star Wars style action that was missing from Rogue One and our heroes actually survived. (Save one but I’ll get to the huge spoiler in a moment.) Rey and Finn are good characters and I hope to see them team-up in the next movie. I’m assuming Poe will either be involved more since he’s BB-8’s owner and the little droid is easily the breakout character even among those who for reasons I can’t imagine hate C-3PO and R2-D2. And we’ll follow Rey’s journey to becoming a Jedi, since Luke proved it wasn’t Anakin’s age that made him untrainable. And Ren is more interesting than I thought. At first I thought he would simply be the Vader replacement and to an extent he is, but considering who his parents (and grandfather) are, he has potential, but if he’s going to reform I want to see it happen in the second movie, giving him an arc of getting to see his reaction to what he did and something besides the quick redemption Vader got, although it was done well. I still hate that stupid lightsaber he has, but they at least tried to make it interesting.
Visually it’s Star Wars. I didn’t have the lens flare issues Abrams is known to overuse. Instead of relying purely on CG he used practical effects wherever possible, making for a world you believe is there because it’s physically there to interact with. The flying is amazing, the lightsaber battles are few by necessity but good when they happen given the experience level of the heroes with a lightsaber. I have no complaints here that I noticed on this viewing.
Of course you have the guest-appearances. Chewbacca is great as always. Carrie Fisher is still good as Leia, and the same with Daniels as C-3PO. R2 is barely in this and Luke couldn’t really be in this but will presumably play a larger role in The Last Jedi. It was good to see the Falcon in action again, coincidental as the finding of both it and Han and Chewbacca are. We even get Moz from the various cartoons. And speaking of Han…HUGE SPOILER AHEAD! IF YOU’RE LIKE ME AND HAVEN’T SEEN IT YET AND HAVEN’T HAD IT RUINED FOR YOU YET, SKIP THE NEXT PARAGRAPH. I’ll just say here that Ford hasn’t lost a beat as Han. Too bad what happens next.
Yeah, Han dies in this movie. I won’t say how although you could make the case that it’s a fridging death but one done rather well. And Ford wanted Han to die all the way back in The Empire Strikes Back so he wouldn’t have to play him anymore. But given the fact that we’ve also lost Princess Leia (Fisher did record her scenes for The Last Jedi before she passed away) we’re seeing the old guard slowly killed off. Let’s hope Luke makes it to the end at least.
SPOILER DONE! So does this movie have any problems? It has a huge one actually: pacing. All the problems I have with The Force Awakens comes from this problem. It’s action scene to action scene, as if believing the lack of them was the problem with the prequels, or at least the first prequel, despite them having fairly decent action scenes. The fights were one of the only good things about The Phantom Menace, especially the final battle. But due to the pacing we don’t see Han becoming a father figure to Rey despite being told she saw him that way. The pacing causes the story to be left behind in the dust. Why did Ren join the First Order? All we know is that Snoke (portrayed well by Andy Serkis, the best actor to rarely be seen on screen) talked him into following Vader’s path. There’s a story here that could have been episode 7 instead of what we got, maybe leave this until episode 10. Now the best we can hope for is either a wrong-numbered second prequel or perhaps an animated show like The Clone Wars or Rebels to bridge the gap. Or possibly the Marvel comics or novels. There’s a missing story here.
The other problem are the replacements. I don’t mind a quasi-Imperial force looking to take over like the First Order. However, you have Snoke, the Supreme Leader, in place of Emperor Palpatine/Darth Sidious, Kylo Ren in place of Darth Vader, and the Resistance instead of the Rebels. Why do we even need the Resistance? Just make Poe an agent of the Republic and the others the Republic army. There’s no need for a Rebel replacement even if I can accept not-Empire, not-Emperor, and not-Vader. Where did Snoke come from? I know we didn’t see Palpatine’s rise until the prequels, but the first Star Wars was intended to be a one-shot and only later was it retconned into an Episode 4, which meant we knew or hoped (no pun intended…I say that a lot in Star Wars articles for some reason) to have that story later along with the fall of Anakin. Here you know you’re part of a running story but you left a piece out and we got more explanation from Obi-Wan that we did from anybody here.
Was It Worth The Wait?: I’d say yes but it was too long a wait and I had one big thing spoiled for me despite ducking what I knew were videos discussing this movie. However, despite my complaints I honestly enjoyed this movie and I’m now looking forward to The Last Jedi in the hopes backstory is fleshed out for the villains and the action remains good.