5W Friday Panel: How Good/Bad Was the Last Jedi?

Star Wars: The Last Jedi has been a little... divisive among fans.  What did the Fifth Worlders think of it?  Will there be bloodshed?  Every Friday, we will host a virtual panel session on a topic of the week, capturing The Fifth World staff having a dialogue about a given subject.  This week's topic: reactions to Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Credit: Imperial_Reject, taken from Reddit.

Well, looking back on my predictions, I was right on a few things but not everything.  And I'm okay with that.  At least EVERYTHING I said wasn't wrong, so I'm ahead of both Rey and Kylo.

All in all, the Moral Of The Story for this movie seemed aimed at a certain type of fan as much as it was the characters: don't cling to the past, but recognize the importance of holding onto lessons learned from both the good and the bad.  More subtle than a hamhanded "only a Sith deals in absolutes," but the same basic idea...learn to find a balance between the new and the old, the good and the bad.  And that balance isn't going to be the same for everyone (i.e. Yoda knew Luke needed to believe that there was a cleaner break with the past than Rey did).

As an aside: I suspect they made a much more realistic Roast Porg prop, but decided a cartoonishly fake-looking one would be less likely to traumatize the kids who'd be begging for toy Porgs for Christmas.

Sean Fields

I really liked The Last Jedi. I only saw it about a week ago but I really enjoyed it. I purposely avoided spoilers and TLJ hate to make sure I saw it with no biases. It was a good time.

They did make quite a pair.
I could go into what issues that it had but I really want to talk about what I appreciated the most about the movie. I liked the fact that Rose saves Finn so that he can begin to fully realize he is not a weapon of war. I liked that Rey still tried to believe in Kylo a la Luke and Vader. I liked that Poe began to learn the restraint necessary to be an effective leader. I liked that Luke saw the problem on both the Jedi and Sith side. I liked that the little boy at the end believed in the Resistance and was tapped into The Force.

I think all of these events were connected to the two key reasons outside of action and plot that made me like this movie. The fact that love and connection are important to moving pass the opposing forces of loveless Light and evil Dark. The real balance in the Force is finally being achieved by not succumbing to one extreme or the other. The other reason behind me liking this movie is the fact that ordinary folks are stepping up to balance the universe. The resolution of the Star Wars saga will more than likely be decided by people not "chosen by fate" or not in the Skywalker family. I appreciate that so much. The fact that the success of the universe is on the shoulders of aliens uniting to be better and that it is both a matter of an universal bond and individuals stepping up to make sure things are done even without an actual call to adventure that these tales are keen on using. It's a step towards something interesting and new.

JL Franke

Honestly, I was amazed that there was so much vitriol against The Last Jedi.  I greatly enjoyed it, to the point that I was able and willing to overlook the film's many deficiencies, much like I'm able to with the other Star Wars movies I've really enjoyed (A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, The Force Awakens, and Rogue One, to be specific).  Key to this is the fact that Last Jedi managed to surprise me repeatedly by veering away from the tropes that the series had built up.  Luke will embrace Rey directly or shut her out completely?  Nope, it gets more complicated than that.  Rey's a part of some mystical lineage of Jedi?  Nope.  Poe upends an incompetent/treasonous commander and saves the day?  Nope, he's the one who's wrong.  Kylo will turn from the Dark Side thanks to love?  Nope, he becomes the franchise's new big bad.  I love it when a film shakes my expectations.

The film is far from perfect.  Some scenes suffer from less than perfect CGI.  The casino planet thread is a drag on the momentum of the overall movie, and the horse chase scene channels The Hobbit far too much.  Snoke turns out to be underwhelming as a bad guy in person (I actually would have preferred it if he had turned out to be a dwarf).  The opening gag with Poe trolling Hux, while funny, really undermines Hux as a villain in much the same way as Thor: Ragnarok's opening scene undermines Surtur.

I think it's important to expand on the humor that I've seen so many complain about.  It may seem odd given my response to the (unwise, in my opinion) use of humor throughout Ragnarok, but with just a few exceptions, I enjoyed the use of humor in Last Jedi.  To me the key difference between the two is this:  while Ragnarok's jokes often undercut any dramatic tension the movie might have mustered, while Jedi's humor offset and accentuated those (frequent) moments when everyone stopped laughing and felt the tension of the situation at hand.  Jedi still felt epic, while Ragnarok felt like a high production sitcom.

Speaking of awesome...
In addition, Last Jedi makes up for its missteps with a ton of awesome.  The tension of the bombing run.  The character growth of Poe.  The fight in Snoke's chamber and the complex nature of Rey and Kylo's relationship.  Holdo's gambit (oh, Holdo's gambit -- so beautifully done).  Luke's faceoff with Kylo, and the reveal of his ruse.  The realization through that quiet epilogue with the stable boy that the Force is with many, which repudiates the film's own title.  These are the kinds of chill moments that Star Wars provides when at its best, and the movie was packed with them.

Feel free to flame at Last Jedi.  I'll be watching it again and again over the coming years.

Chris Maka

I greatly enjoyed The Last Jedi. It delivered the kind of “moving forward from the past in new directions” experience that I was expecting from The Force Awakens, which I also greatly enjoyed. In fact, for me the two movies present an interesting sort of yin and yang to one another, as both are flawed in various ways yet also deeply satisfying and entertaining.

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, the personal merits of a film for me lie in how I feel about it after multiple viewings. Right now The Force Awakens has an advantage in that I’ve watched it and enjoyed it several times, whereas I’ve only seen The Last Jedi once at this point, so I can’t really predict where my final opinion on Last Jedi is going to land. Is it more entertaining than flawed or will the flaws weigh down repeat viewings? We shall see.

My purpose here is not to tell you why you should or should not like Last Jedi. You can form your own opinions and likely already have. These are just the things that most stuck out to me.

What I Liked

Everything with Rey was dynamite. I continue to love the character and enjoy her development.The space battles were superbly choreographed and executed, as you would expect.

How do these guys even see?
HOLY SHIT THAT THRONE ROOM SCENE, Y’ALL!!!!!!!!!! I don’t have enough exclamation points to emphasize everything about that scene I loved.

General Leia and Flying Super Force User Leia. If that didn’t work for y’all, I just don’t even care. Mark Hamill and everything Luke Skywalker. Okay, I was a little annoyed by Luke’s whiny position, but it was entertainingly portrayed enough not to grate too much, and whining is certainly a trait that runs in at least the male half of that family. Everything else was just great.

What Bothered Me

The second act felt slow and drawn out. 18 hours does not create a tremendous sense of urgency, but was necessary in order to have enough time for Finn’s side jaunt to the gambling planet. Speaking of which…

Finn’s jaunt to the gambling planet. This felt shoehorned in to give Finn an arc and out of place given what the Resistance was dealing with. Not that it wasn’t fun, but I found myself wanting it to get over with asap so we could get back to saving the Resistance.

But he runs as much as any Tom Cruise character.
Hot-headed unreasonable Poe. In The Force Awakens he seems like a very competent, level-headed guy. In The Last Jedi he seems like a hot-headed ass, and possibly a sexist one. Didn’t care for that.Hyperspace weaponry, or the lack thereof. The scene where the admiral makes an heroic suicide hyperspace launch into the super star destroyer flagship is an awesome moment and impressive as hell. I loved it! But it raises the question of why they don’t build A-Wing sized missiles with hyperdrives to do this repeatedly if it’s so effective, and that’s a question that just didn’t need to be raised. I know, I know, nitpicky, and I’m sure there are handwaves a-plenty for this one, but it still bothered me.

Finally, I now wish they hadn’t made the creative decision to not have Luke in The Force Awakens until the very end. For my money, what we got story-wise from that decision over two films wasn’t as good as having the Dream Team in action together one last time. In this movie, you could really tell how much Han Solo added to the original trilogy by the volume of his absence here. Oh well.

Right back at you.
And am I the only one who misses Lando Calrissian?

When someone watches a movie, the degree to which their swept up in the action has to be strong enough to overcome any natural tendencies to nitpick or question what’s going on. For instance, the Civil War movie has plot problems galore, but I still love it because what works about it is so strong I get swept away every time I watch it. I don’t know yet if that will be the case with The Last Jedi upon repeat viewings. It was extraordinarily entertaining in places, and overall I walked out of the theater happy, but it does have a lot of issues that bother me. I’m sure the film will come up again on the Fifth World in some way in the future, after I’ve had a chance to rewatch it, and I’ll let you know where I finally land on it then. 😃

Jason Tondro

I saw The Last Jedi opening weekend in the company of the always-lovely Rosie, and we both liked it. I later went to see it again alone on a bigger screen with all the bells and whistles, but my initial viewing was haunted by the knowledge of Carrie Fisher’s untimely passing; how many times did this movie fake towards killing off Leia, only for her to survive? The galactic irony is that the overall plan for using and removing the three legacy characters was obvious from the beginning: You kill off Han first, Luke second, and finally, at the very end, you get a movie where Leia doesn’t have to share the spotlight with any of those hams, where she can finally be Leia, alone. And then, like so many well tended gardens, the whole thing went entirely to seed. I have no idea what they’re going to do for the last episode in the series now, though Master Chekov’s lightsaber-on-the-mantelpiece rule mandates that Luke come back as a ghost to finally impart his third lesson to Rey. (I have read what the third lesson was going to be, but script rewrites aside, it’s really one of the very few things we know has to happen in the last movie.)

Still a cool scene after all these years.
Many of the things that bother others about this movie do not bother me. It does not bother me that Luke projected himself across the galaxy by means of the Force, because I remember when the Emperor rose his fingers for the first time and said, “Then you shall die,” followed by a burst of blue Force-lightning that made me gasp for breath. The Force can do anything, people. Haven’t you been listening? Likewise, it bothers me only a little (more on this later) that Luke has turned into a reclusive hermit on a remote Irish island (which, by the way, the players in my Ars Magica game visited two years ago), and that’s because of my RPG experience. The new trilogy is not about Luke, Leia, and Han. It’s about Rey and Kylo, and it’s their story. So of course you have to marginalize the oldsters and eventually kill them off. Every GM who has run a game in which the players try to call the Avengers for help, or even just the city watch, knows how this works.

“Look, you can call the cops to solve this kidnapping if you want to. But it’s your game. Do you really want NPCs to solve all your problems for you?”

This narrative convention — that the protagonists of the story are always the only people who can solve the problem, even when there’s a universe of other, presumably action-worthy, characters out there — often makes no god-damn sense. But it’s how stories work.

The movie is not perfect. Many people call the second act a meandering waste of time, and to some extent I agree, but then I came to understand that was the point. The same thing happens in Empire: Han, Leia, and the others get caught up in this dead-end of a plot on Bespin, Luke is explicitly told not to go help them, you’ll just make it worse, and he does anyway, and he makes things worse. Empire starts off with the heroes on the run and it ends with them on the run; Last Jedi is the same, except that it’s two days instead of two weeks. Neither movie is about the plot. Both movies are about the stakes and about the lessons. The difference between the Luke Skywalker of Empire and the one that appears to rescue Han in Return has never really been satisfactorily explained to me, but I love it anyway because Luke has clearly learned his lesson. Do not go in half-cocked. Have a plan. Be patient. Violence is the last resort. Trust in the Force, but keep your powder dry.

But we did get that milking scene.
For about twenty years now, I’ve been saying that I really don’t mind if they kill Luke off in a new movie, as long as we get one good scene of Old Man Skywalker kicking ass. That’s all I wanted. About five minutes worth would have done it. I didn’t get it. I thought I was going to get it. That was the lesson, and it was on me. I kind of dug it. For about a minute and a half I actually thought Luke was going to topple colossal walkers with a wave of his hand, send TIE fighters hurtling from the sky. Luke was looking like a total badass and I wanted that so bad.

But that’s not the lesson. Luke didn’t solve the problem of Darth Vader and the Emperor with violence, and he’s not going to solve the problem of Kylo Ren and the First Order with violence either. Luke’s bravest, most heroic moment is when he throws his lightsaber away and says, “I am a Jedi, like my father before me.” God I love that moment. How brave was that, as a filmmaker, to deny the audience the action scene they so clearly thought they wanted? My desire for Old Man Skywalker to torch his lightsaber and kick some ass came from a me that failed to recognize Luke’s arc, his transformation into a man of non-violence, a being like Yoda who understood that “Wars not make one great.” At the time that line was written, Yoda was a pacifist, a little green Gandhi. It was only later, in the prequels, that he would become a whirling CGI death-ball, which amused the kids in the audience but was an utter betrayal of his character.

Let’s acknowledge the immense challenge of the latest trilogy: they had to follow the prequels. Now, I understand that for many of you, the prequels are your Star Wars. Those are the movies you grew up with, the ones you saw in the theater, that define Star Wars for you. That’s cool. I like Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, and Natalie Portman too. The prequels gave us all the Jedi-being-bad-asses we could have asked for. For God’s sake, we got Mace Windu. But I hardly recognized these Jedi. Where was their remote Shaolin monastery? Why were they part of the government, leading armies? Wait, the Jedi were generals? I came to eventually understand that — whatever Lucas had intended — this was a depiction of a Jedi Order that had lost its way, that had become distracted by all the frippery and pomp. Which explained perfectly why they were hopelessly blindsided by, well, everyone in those movies.

"Puppet or puppet not.  There is no CGI."
When Yoda, glorious in his old school puppetness, talks to Luke about failure and “We are what they grow beyond,” Luke knows he’s talking about Rey. But we know he’s talking about fucking midichlorians. He, and Rian Johnson through him, is talking about the prequels. How do you reconcile the Jedi of the prequels with Luke’s heroic nonviolence at the end of Return? You have to stare it in the face and say, “The Jedi fucked up.” That’s all there is to it. That’s the only way out.

Friend of the blog Jim Seals, who should really be writing Star Trek, described Last Jedi as a democratization of the Force. These movies are no longer about chosen ones. Anyone from anywhere can make a difference. You don’t need to be a Skywalker; you can be a nobody, the daughter of filthy junk traders. In fact, we can’t just wait for a messianic old white dude to come solve our problems for us, we’re gonna need to do it ourselves. We live in a world where the biggest business is war, where war is so important they’ve named the whole IP after it, but that’s a moral bankruptcy that imperils everything good we do. If our flying space castles are to be built on something other than sand, the violence has got to end, somehow.

Those are good messages.

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5W Friday Panel: How Good/Bad Was the Last Jedi? 5W Friday Panel: How Good/Bad Was the Last Jedi? Reviewed by JL Franke on Friday, January 05, 2018 Rating: 5
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