A Balanced Look Back at The Last Jedi: Things I Enjoyed

I didn’t hate The Last Jedi, and I don’t have any problems with its social justice themes in their own right. I hope for many of you this will help assuage any concerns I’m another rabid, human shit-stain of a Star Wars fan who doesn’t understand basic industry concepts like “actors don’t write the goddamn script”.

For a while I decided not to post anything about this on my blog, first because I was too worked up and, on some level, realized that. Then, after the abominable behavior of many fans towards Kelly Marie Tran and Daisy Ridley, I didn’t see how anything I said could have a positive effect amidst the vitriol.

It seems discussion’s still going, and I’ve come to understand my own position on the film at last, so here we are. One final caveat: I’m going to write a lot about how felt, what would’ve liked to see, and so on and so forth. I’m not doing this because I think Star Wars belongs to me somehow, or that anyone working on any part of the franchise has an obligation to cater to me.

I just can’t speak to anyone’s opinions, hopes and disappointments but my own, especially where The Last Jedi is concerned. I have to talk about my perception of the film–after all, who am I to talk about yours? Normally I tend to do these sorts of posts in pretty free-form style, but under the circumstances I think a more structured approach is better for everyone.

First: a lot of the stuff I liked about The Last Jedi, because I really do want you all to understand I’m not here to belch out more mindless hate.

Stuff Your Author Enjoyed:

Crotchety Old Luke: Just a delight to watch. My only quibble here is that I think some lingering sentimentality–eg. “taking the lightsaber from Rey, Luke’s face falls. He looks at her, shakes his head once, and passes by her”–would’ve helped tie this defeated version of Luke to the hopeful, original trilogy version. I can easily believe Luke being cynical, I just feel as though there’s too much “callous” and not enough “bitter remorse”. More on this later though, hm? Now is time for positivity! I absolutely love the self-awareness with which he addresses the Jedi of the fallen Republic, and I think the broad strokes of the backstory between himself and Kylo are some of the strongest in the film. More on this later!

(Most of) The Aliens: Yes, even the Porgs! Okay, sure, they’re an obvious marketing ploy, but they still felt Star Warsy to me. The crystal foxes were a bit much, but as a genre fiction writer myself, it’s ridiculous to expect every single alien lifeform in Star Wars to be Maximum Overgross. Fellow fans: you can’t argue about the unrealism of the fuel subplot and then act as though it’s in any way realistic for every nonhuman species in the universe to be creepy and weird. Is realism important to you or not? Are you… are you guys just the Imperium of Man? All Xenos must be sickening, purgeable filth?

Because that’s what we have 40K for, Battle-Brothers.

The Visual Execution of Almost Everything: Oh my God, it’s pretty! We are talking about a Disney film here, but still: one thing the new films have done an absurdly good job of is bringing more depth and vibrancy to Star Wars while still retaining its core aesthetics. And if you’d asked me before The Force Awakens, I’d have told you that was a paradox–how can a universe be grungy and gorgeous at the same time? Well… like this, apparently.

Where Snoke Seemed to Be Headed: Snoke was, for his brief presence, the most quintessentially Sith character I’d ever seen. Instead of belittling Rey, he lauds her determination, exhilarated by her attempts to fight. Unlike the vast majority of villains ever, Snoke wasn’t instantly deflated because a heroine didn’t break down and start crying instantly. Palpatine was evil, but he was generic brand evil. For a brief period, it seemed Snoke might do what I’ve wanted from villains since I started writing: to be a psychological match for the hero instead of turning tail the moment the hero doesn’t. Unfortunately, I think you all know we have to come back to this, and sooner than I’d like. But for now:

New Force Powers: They were never really foreshadowed in the Original Trilogy, so they shouldn’t have to be here. I think the way that Leia’s force-flight back to the Raddus was depicted made it look absolutely hilarious, and some indication of how she preserved herself from the vacuum would’ve been good, but I feel these kinds of things are well within the scope of even the basic “raw kinetic” abilities the force has been shown with already. As for all the visions and long-distance projection and so on, there are execution errors, sure, but on the base level these are all reasonable extensions of stuff the Force has done as far back as the Original Trilogy.

Also, you don’t have to go far into Legends to find these powers full-bore. Knights of the Old Republic 2 includes breath control that can be maintained almost indefinitely, as well as “shielding” Force powers which also appeared in the Jedi Knight games.

Attempts to Do More New Stuff: as much as their execution caused a lot of problems, I appreciated the spirit behind the efforts to bring in new or evolved technologies and to meaningfully expand the Star Wars universe.

Beginning to Seriously Examine the Light/Dark Paradigm (No, the Prequels don’t count): there were a few echoes of Knights of the Old Republic‘s in-depth look at the half-symbiotic, half-parasitic relationship between light and dark-siders in the film, and I was excited to see it in more depth. Between Rey and Luke on the one hand, and Kylo and Snoke on the other, I thought this seemed like a golden opportunity to really compare and contrast the two sides through their current champions.

Next time we get to the painful part: the many things that, after much time and with a clearer head, just don’t work for me. However, you may remember that I’m a writer! I’ll try to offer reasonable suggestions for how these things might’ve been executed more effectively while keeping their core essence. You will, of course, be free to tell me these things are stupid. Just don’t send me death-threats, I’ll never hear them over the ones from my own psyche.

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