Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (a 15-Minute Force production): Chapter Four: Training Montages Belong in ’80s Movies (Or: A Side Trip to Canto Bight)

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00:45:01 – 01:00:00

This chapter of The Last Jedi Edition of the 15-Minute Force starts with Rey and Kylo Ren making a long-distance connection via the Force. These two are connected now, somehow, maybe because they each probed the other’s mind.

Kylo says, “You’ll bring Luke Skywalker to me.” Then he goes on to say that she doesn’t have the power to contact him like this. Apparently neither can see the other’s surroundings either.

The contact is broken by the arrival of Luke and Rey’s blaster discharging suddenly. When Luke asks what that was all about, Rey says she was cleaning her blaster and it misfired. I’m not sure why she lied, but she did.

Luke says they will begin Rey’s training. Director Rian Johnson described the island caretakers as fish-bird aliens who have been taking care of the Jedi village on the island for 1000 years. To me, the Caretakers look like mole people in archaic dressing gowns. Something from a Richard Scarry book, perhaps. Luke pretty much dismisses them as island natives who keep up the Jedi structures. Perhaps he doesn’t mean to sound like they are merely servants to the Jedi, but we’re offered no further back story on them. They seem to have the same narrative weight as the Porgs do.

A boring and mostly pointless Jedi training sequence follows. Luke is now Yoda, spouting semi-mystical mumbo-jumbo about the energy between all things, a tension, a balance, that binds the universe together. We’ve heard all this before.

Rey detects something beneath the island as she’s discovering the Force within herself. It’s a dark place, she says. Cold. And it’s calling her.

Luke snaps her out of it. Saying that the darkness was calling to her and she didn’t even try to stop herself. But, Rey has also seen that Luke has closed himself off from the Force. Luke says he’s seen such raw strength only once before, in Ben Solo. It didn’t scare him enough then, but he’s scared now.

Another interstellar Force call between Rey and Kylo Ren. Rey calls him a murderous snake, and then gloats because she’s found Skywalker and he’s lost.

Kylo asks, “Did he tell you what happened? The night I destroyed his temple. Did he tell you why?”

I know everything I need to know about you,” Rey says.

You do? Ah. You do. You have that look in your eyes. From the forest. When you called me a monster.”

You are a monster.”

Yes, I am,” Kylo Ren agrees.

I’ve come to the personal conclusion that Kylo Ren talks too much to be a proper Star Wars villain. Think about it. Darth Vader spoke very little. Boba Fett, even less. Darth Maul, not at all. Palpatine talked a lot, but he was a politician.

I’m not sure why we’re still exploring the back story of Kylo Ren (nee Ben Solo). Do we really need any further explanation on this character? He is a bad child, a disappointment to his parents, one of whom he’s killed already and the other who is nearly dead because of him and the crowd he runs with. We know he went all Anakin Skywalker on the Jedi temple, continuing the proud Skywalker tradition of murdering Jedi younglings while embracing the Dark Side of the Force. I don’t understand this need to add more psychological layers to this story. I don’t want to humanize Kylo Ren.

This part of the story seems to drag to me. After the nonstop action-fest of the first of the sequel trilogy, this narrative pacing is a disappointment.

I’m beginning to wonder if anyone knows where the story is going at this point. I understand that Rey is trying to get Luke Skywalker to return with her to the Resistance. To what end? That’s not entirely clear. But, meanwhile, Rey’s interaction with Luke has turned into Jedi training. If you draw the parallel to Luke’s training on Dagobah, you might think this means all of our main characters will converge in some sort of Cloud City stand-in, like in Empire.

Canto Bight sort of seems to fit this bill. It’s a resort, with a casino. Rose calls it a terrible place filled with the worst people in the galaxy. Finn and Rose’s mission to Canto Bight is supposed to be important to one of our main story goals in this movie—to allow the Resistance fleet to escape from the First Order. But, it still has the feel of a side mission. A diversion. In many ways, an homage to James Bond.

Finn and Rose go through the casino, looking for a high roller wearing a red plom bloom on his lapel. They’re having trouble finding him. Then a race begins, run by something called fathiers, which seem to be Canto Bight’s version of thoroughbred racehorses. There is an immature impulse to make the “Luke, I am your fathier” joke, but I will resist.

Now our narrative is going to take an abrupt left turn into a theme about class struggle. Rose hates this place and Finn doesn’t understand why, because he thinks it’s beautiful. But, you see, Rose and her sister grew up in a poor mining system. The First Order stripped their ore to finance its military, and then shelled them to test their weapons. Rose tells Finn to look around. There’s only one business in the galaxy that’ll get you this rich.

War,” says Finn.

Selling weapons to the First Order,” Rose elaborates. “I wish I could put my fist through this whole lousy, beautiful town.”

Workers of the World Unite! Seems a touch melodramatic.

Of course, at exactly this dramatic moment, Rose spies a red plom bloom in a lapel. Simultaneously, Finn and Rose are arrested for a parking violation. Once again, we’re overreaching for the funny. And missing the target, in my opinion.

This scene mercifully over, we’re back at Jedi School, and we get to hear Luke tell the story of basically everything that’s happened in every movie so far, in pompous shorthand. It would be marginally better if Threepio were here making sound effects and speaking in the Ewok language.

Luke is about to begin talking about Ben Solo again, but we’ve reached the end of this chapter. I apologize. This has not been my favorite fifteen minutes of this movie. Virtually nothing really happens.

Here’s the thing. I tolerate more talk in the Star Trek franchise. That’s one of its hallmarks. Star Wars has always been more about spectacle, even if it sometimes loses sight of that. We are deep in the murky second act of this movie, and I think the story is floundering a bit. I’ll add that this is my opinion, if that was ever really in doubt, but I believe the evidence supports it.

My main issue with this movie is that there is something very non-Star Wars about it, in its structure and pacing and main story moments. I only vaguely understand what’s driving our entire Canto Bight sequence, while the Resistance fleet is running out of fuel. And the Rey training montage doesn’t seem to fit in with her stated goal of bringing Luke Skywalker back to the Resistance. Meanwhile, the whole “Rey and Kylo Ren speaking via the Force” thing seems extraneous.

What are we supposed to think is meant to happen next? The Resistance fleet will escape. That’s a given. But, that’s a passive goal. Rey either will or won’t get Luke to agree to help the Resistance. Is he the Last Jedi, or is that Rey? I don’t know, and I know I’m supposed to care, but I think the dark place under the island is calling to me, too.

In any case, we’re not done yet. We’re going to get through the rest of this together and try to figure out what we’ve watched.

Until next week . . . I Agree with Rose. I Wish I Could Put My Fist Through This Whole Lousy, Beautiful Town . . . And May the 15-Minute Force Be With You.

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