00:00:00 – 00:15:00
Welcome to The Last Jedi Edition of the 15-Minute Force. Those of us here in the bullpen at the studios are excited to begin the second installment of the Star Wars sequel trilogy in anticipation of the next movie that releases in December 2019 (since that’s more than a year from when I’m writing this, that’s a long time to anticipate something). J.J. Abrams is back at the helm for the next movie; he wasn’t really around for The Last Jedi. I blame his absence for some of the things that bother me about this movie.
Enough time for that later. The Last Jedi was released in December 2017, and I saw it in the theater. I wrote a review for the movie then. I really liked The Force Awakens a lot, and it was destined to be a hard act to follow. I didn’t like The Last Jedi quite as much. I still like it, and I would rank it above at least two of the prequels, I think, and maybe all of them. Time will tell. But, the truth is that The Force Awakens checked off all of the boxes for things an OG Star Wars fan is looking for. This movie checks off some, while it continues to kill off our heroes.
We all felt that familiar visceral thrill when the Lucasfilm logo appeared on the big screen, followed by the “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” and then the opening crawl.
THE LAST JEDI
The FIRST ORDER reigns.
Having decimated the peaceful
Republic, Supreme Leader Snoke
now deploys his merciless
legions to seize military
control of the galaxy.
Only General Leia Organa’s
band of RESISTANCE fighters
stand against the rising
tyranny, certain that Jedi
Master Luke Skywalker will
return and restore a spark of
hope to the fight
But the Resistance has been
exposed. As the First Order
speeds toward the Rebel base,
the brave heroes mount a
desperate escape . . . .
I almost wish that every movie had an opening crawl to get all that boring explanatory exposition stuff out of the way and get right to the action. I mean, Forrest Gump would have been so much better if we could have skipped all of that floating feather crap and dropped in immediately on Lieutenant Dan and the Vietnam War, wouldn’t it?
After reading the crawl, my main takeaway was that calling Leia’s private army the RESISTANCE finally means something. Now they are resisting the First Order. It’s almost as if Leia knew the Republic was going to be destroyed all along.
Hey, she is Annakin Skywalker’s daughter. Maybe she has Sith tendencies, too.
To further recap what the crawl failed to mention, the Resistance just successfully destroyed the First Order’s planet-sized Death Star wannabe, Starkiller Base. Sure, we lost Han Solo during the mission, but we still have Luke Skywalker and Leia Organa, right? Lando Calrissian is probably out there somewhere as well. You know you are getting old when your favorite franchise movie characters begin dying off.
The evacuation of the Resistance base is a callback to Empire and the evacuation of Hoth after the Rebel Alliance base is discovered by Imperial drones.
We begin with a bit of comedy, which I didn’t hate, as Poe Dameron, Hero of the Resistance, confronts a First Order Dreadnought in his X-wing fighter as the Dreadnought is preparing to incinerate the base. A real David-and-Goliath moment. Poe gets on the radio and tells the First Order that he has an urgent communique for General Hux and asks them to patch him through.
This is General Hux’s time to shine.
“This is General Hux of the First Order,” he says, haughtily. “The Republic is no more. Your fleet are rebel scum and war criminals. Tell your precious princess there will be no terms . . . There will be no surrender.”
Poe acts like he hasn’t heard any of this. “Hi, I’m holding for General Hux.”
“This is Hux. You and your friends are doomed! We will wipe your filth from the galaxy.”
Poe continues with this bit to stall Hux, referring to Hux as a skinny guy, kinda pasty. While I remained amused, it began to feel like something from an Austin Powers movie to me. Eventually, the humorless Hux catches on and orders the Dreadnought to open fire. Poe flies across the Dreadnought in his X-wing, with his faithful astromech droid BB-8, and begins clearing out the surface cannons.
The stalling tactic worked. The last transport has left the base. General Leia Organa commends Poe and orders him to get his squad back so that they can get out of this place. Poe says they have a chance to take down the Dreadnought, which he calls a “fleet killer.” He disobeys a direct order from the General.
The bombers make their run and are taken out by the Dreadnought until only one remains. The Resistance suffers heavy losses, but the last bomber pilot makes it happen as she drops her bombs and commits suicide on this kamikaze run. A true hero’s death. The Dreadnought is destroyed.
I have painfully abridged the preceding fighting sequence, which was nothing short of amazing and is an example of why CGI effects were invented in the first place. Truly exhilarating.
Via hologram, Supreme Leader Snoke berates General Hux.
“My disappointment,” Snoke says, “in your performance can not be overstated.”
“They can’t get away, Supreme Leader,” grovels Hux. “We have them tied on the end of a string.” What does that mean, I wonder?
We cut to the Resistance flagship, the Raddus, a Mon Calamari Star Cruiser (incidentally, named after Admiral Raddus, the Mon Calamari admiral who died during the Battle of Scarif in Rogue One). Everyone’s favorite former Stormtrooper, Finn, has been in a coma since he lost his battle with Kylo Ren at Starkiller Base. He awakens—thanks to a steady diet of bacta juice, no doubt—and immediately begins looking for his gal pal Rey.
Finn is greeted by his old friend Poe. Another moment of comedy as BB-8 notices Finn before Poe Dameron does and describes him as “Finn naked leaking bag” because Finn is naked, in a clear plastic bag that is leaking fluid all over the decks of the Raddus.
Incidentally, I would expect a Mon Calamari vessel to always be drenched with water. As their ridiculously on-the-nose name suggests, the Mon Calamari are aquatic creatures, correct?
Poe says that they need to get Finn dressed. He knows his friend must have a thousand questions.
Finn may have a thousand questions, but it’s the first one that tells us where his mind is at. “Where is Rey?”
Which is a terrific place to segue back to the very green Irish island where we left Rey in the last movie, holding out the lightsaber to a very grizzled, very silent Luke Skywalker.
I’m continuing with the assumption that the sequel trilogy is Rey’s story, the way the original trilogy was Luke’s and the prequel trilogy was Annakin’s (or perhaps Obi-Wan’s. . . I don’t know, that one’s confusing). Based on that assumption, everything in The Last Jedi up to the point where we are back with Rey and Luke is a prologue to the main story. As this chapter of The Last Jedi Edition of the 15-Minute Force is brought to a close, we’re just beginning Act One. At least that’s my assessment, and I’m sticking with it until the evidence proves me wrong. That’s the Scientific Method, right?
At any rate, we still haven’t heard Luke Skywalker speak yet. I hope Mark Hamill wasn’t paid by the word. The John Williams score swells with what seems like momentous music as Luke accepts the lightsaber with his now-skinless robot hand. Everything in the construction of this scene is telling us that this is a BIG MOMENT.
Then, Luke throws the lightsaber over his shoulder like a piece of trash and our chapter ends.
Another comedic beat.
Okay, I like to laugh. Some people even consider me to be a funny guy, if you can overlook my sarcastic edge, obviously the product of deep-seated anger, insecurity and possible cowardice, according to Psychology Today. Be that as it may, I appreciate a healthy (or unhealthy) dose of snark, and even inappropriate humor at times.
But . . . the first fifteen minutes of this movie is throwing up red flags for me. We’ve gone for the comedic beat too often already. I even failed to mention when Leia tells C-3PO to “wipe that nervous expression off your face.” Okay, that’s funny. I admit it. And, Star Wars isn’t some holy text meant to be treated with humorless reverence. Funny is okay. I just feel like there’s a warning light flashing somewhere, maybe in the infrared spectrum only droids can detect.
We’ll see. I just want to feel like I’m watching a Star Wars movie, not Space Balls. I may be the only self-styled nerd in the world who didn’t like that movie because it didn’t respect the source material.
Until next time . . . If You Can Reach Him, Tell Him Leia Has An Urgent Message For Him . . .About His Mother. . . And May the 15-Minute Force Be With You.