Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Rating:

OLD TIME RELIGION

Main Cast: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega

Director: Rian Johnson

I continue to grow stronger and stronger under the regimen prescribed to me by my personal physician, the

wine glass chandelier by Kgbo

Another week and this entire chandelier is toast.

estimable Dr. Grandmas, and by my tap therapist, Lulu Pigg and my vocal coach, Madame Mimi.  Between the three of them, I am rapidly returning to fighting form and on my last session in my home studio, I nearly had the high B-flat while doing a triple time step – just being off by a semi-tone.  I’m being given some soft palate pushups to do over the next week and that should take care of the problem.  I cannot take on a new coloratura role unless the tones are so perfect and pure that they can shatter the proverbial wine glass (which must be Waterford crystal – I accept no lesser).

After my work out today, I sat down with Leah, head of my fine consumer product lines to go over sales for the 4th quarter.  The upper end lines such as GlamourPuss gowns, haute couture based on the costumes of Cats are just flying off the rack as fast as the seamstresses can complete them but the lower end pret a porter VickiWear has been disappointing.  We’ve decided we must develop some completely new lines that will speak to the millennial generation.  We’re going to start with some Hamilton inspired Schuyler Sistahs dresses and then follow them up with a line of Waving Through a Window sportswear based on the stylish designs of Dear Evan Hansen.  They’ll all be color coordinated with a new line of rich Corinthian leather footwear inspired by Kinky Boots.  I’m having Joseph, my manager, contact Shaquille O’Neal’s people to see if he’s available as a foot spokes model.

After all those important meetings and telephone calls, Normy and I decided it was time to take in a film, so we motored down to the local cineplex where there was really only one logical choice, the latest entry in that saga about a far away galaxy a long time ago, Star Wars: The Last Jedi.  How well I remember sitting down in the dark when the first film opened some forty years ago (which is an amazing feat, considering that I remain an eternal thirty-nine years of age) and found myself just like the rest of the world, looking forward to each new installment and meeting up with my old friends, even if some of the films have been a bit on the underwhelming side.

The current films, sequels to the original trilogy and taking place some years later, came to pass after the Disney company acquired Lucasfilm in 2012.  Disney, never one to pass up a chance to make money off a beloved title or franchise, commissioned a sequel trilogy under the guidance of fantasy auteur J.J. Abrams.  The first of these, The Force Awakens, came to us for the 2015 holiday season and the last is due in two years for the 2019 holidays.  Other stand-alone films, such as Rogue One, will fill our appetites for all things related to the force in the interim.  The Last Jedi, as the middle film of the latest trilogy, is being compared to The Empire Strikes Back, perhaps the best of the Star Wars films and as the second act in a three-act construction, serves to give our heroes heartbreak and challenges and leave them in a difficult position from which they can extricate themselves in act three.

The Last Jedi picks up where The Force Awakens left off.  The resistance is under attack by the First Order led by a CGI construction known as General Snoke (Andy Serkis) and his villainous henchman Hux (Domhnall Gleeson).  Hotshot space flyboy Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) defies General Leia Organa’s (Carrie Fisher) orders and leads an attack on a First Order Dreadnought (a gargantuan spaceship).  The attack destroys the ship, but it’s a pyrrhic victory and many of the resistance’s pilots are killed.  In the meantime, our heroine, Rey (Daisy Ridley), has tracked down Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) who lives on an island with some cute crosses between penguins and owls and a bunch of little nuns that look like cousins of the frog footman from Alice in Wonderland.  Luke has become somewhat crochety in his old age and Rey has a hard time convincing him that he needs to return with her to help the resistance.  Then we have ex-stormtrooper, Finn (John Boyega), who was injured at the end of the last film in his battle with Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), Leia’s ne’er do well son with Han Solo.  He comes out of his coma, finds the resistance crumbling, and is thwarted in his plans to desert by a new comic relief, Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran).  Kylo leads an attack on the resistance ships which destroys the command bridge and nearly kills Leia, but she has a force trick or two up her sleeve, but her injuries put her out of commission leading Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern in a wig borrowed from Mrs. Betty Slocombe) to take over.  The rest of the film intercuts three or four major stories.  Rey’s tutelage under Luke and then her confrontation with Kylo and Snoke; Poe and Holdo’s battle over the proper way to battle the First Order; Finn and Rose’s side trip to a fancy casino planet in search of a codebreaker that can help them get into First Order systems and where they run into Benicio del Toro as a rogue with too much eyeliner.  Eventually there’s a bunch of fights, a heroic death or two, and a final showdown on a salt planet that leads to some spectacular visuals.

There’s a lot to like in The Last Jedi.  Writer/director Rian Johnson deftly weaves all of these story elements together in such a way that the film is a seamless whole and it’s never unclear in its storytelling.  The characters, a mix of old favorites (Hamill, Fisher, Chewbacca, C-3PO, R2-D2) and a new generation (Ridley, Boyega, Isaac) offer something to everyone.  Hamill and Fisher inhabit their old roles with aplomb and each has a couple of special moments.  Laura Dern, a new addition to the cast, is also terrific showing that actresses with a few years on them are and should be a valid part of fanboy franchise projects.  The weakest link is Adam Driver.  His pout and general mopiness undercut his villainy.  I also have come to quite like Daisy Ridley’s quiet, but fierce Rey and Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose is a fun addition to the mix.

There are a couple of flaws.  The Last Jedi, at over two and a half hours, is too long.  It never drags but it starts to feel like it’s got one too many sequences and that maybe some things should have been trimmed a bit or a plotline or two could have been shunted into the next film.  The unexpected death of Carrie Fisher shortly after principal photography was completed might have led to some rewriting which made this installment a little top heavy.  There are also a lot of strange plot holes and underwhelming moments.  Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie), heavily built up in the first film, amounts to a minor cameo.  Snoke and his motivations are never truly explained.

The most interesting thing about the film is its rather subversive politics which are perfectly attuned to today.  Our heroes are a ragtag band, often female led and of various ethnicities, who are up against a patriarchal mainly white male first order.  And the villain?  He’s not a powerful, alpha male, he’s a whiny man child who in our society would be living in his mother’s basement and busy reading the Daily Stormy and making abusive social media posts on all those he thinks have wronged him.  I can see why many of the usual fanboys were somewhat unnerved by this film, it places their world view directly in its crosshairs.

The visuals, from director of photography Steve Yedlin, are gorgeous, from the rocky islands of Luke’s hideout, to the stark red cyclorama of Snoke’s throne room, to the gilded casino where the galaxy’s one percent gamble away their ill-gotten gains.  The whole thing is helped along by John Williams’ stirring score, using his old familiar themes and new music.  There’s also, as is necessary for these films, a great light saber duel.     If you have enjoyed the other Star Wars films, you’ll enjoy The Last Jedi as well.  But it might be a bit tough to follow if you go see this as your first experience with the saga.

Sunken x-wing.  Crushed cart.  Gratuitous evil black cave.  Even more gratuitous walrus like creature milking. Floating in space.  Symbolic necklace.  Bomb dropping. Gratuitous Warwick Davis.  Yoda cameo. Burning tree. Blood red soil. Sparkly foxes. Child force wielding.

To learn more about Mrs. Norman Maine, see our Movie Rewind introduction, visit her entire back catalog and follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/missvickilester

photo by Kgbo

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