Star Wars Episode VIII: The Best Jedi?

Eric Cunningham

Eric Cunningham is the editor-in-chief of Elections Daily. He is a lifelong resident of western North Carolina and graduated from Appalachian State University. You can follow him on Twitter at @decunningham2. @decunningham2.

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7 Responses

  1. Oscar Gordon says:

    I would give it a C. I thought the scenes with Luke and Rey were great, but most of the space battle scenes were ‘meh’ at best. And the whole casino/hacker subplot was… I have no idea. The whole ‘chase’ plot was so full of holes and stupid that it just annoyed me.

    But Luke was gold. I know Mark Hamill wasn’t terribly excited about how Luke ended up, but the man knows his craft and he sold it. And I give credit where it’s due, the saber duel on the salt fields was perfect down to every detail.

    Johnson clearly knows how to make the medium work (the Holdo Maneuver was stunning, I held my breath in the theater), but his callbacks to WWII aerial just all fell flat. He just didn’t get those to translate.Report

    • North in reply to Oscar Gordon says:

      The Holdo Maneuver was brilliant theater and made me gasp aloud but I have seen very persuasive arguments that its implementation makes super heavy capital ship classes functionally obsolete which is why you felt a great disturbance in the force like a million fans screaming out in fury.Report

  2. Burt Likko says:

    I agree with the review and disagree with my friend @Oscar_Gordon above. The Last Jedi was a juicy steak dinner of a movie. And I love me some steak.

    I’ll grant that the space battle and chase sequences smacked of WWII movies more than what actual space battle would likely be. I fully realize that for a “bomber” to work in the microgravity environment of high planetary orbit the bombs would need to be propelled and not simply dropped. But Star Wars has always used space battles as callbacks to WWII-era aerial dogfights and submarine chases. This is no different from the most enjoyable of all the Star Trek movies, the original version of Wrath of Khan that mashed up Moby Dick and Das Boot, including the thoroughly silly direction of having the actors whisper to each other as though their conversation could somehow communicate the location of their vessel to the enemy ship though thousands of miles of vacuum. Yet somehow this doesn’t prevent the people who I presume are the same anti-fans harshing on The Last Jedi from dubbing Wrath of Khan the very best Star Trek movie.

    And for good reason. Wrath of Khan gives us phenomenal character conflicts. Khan’s thirst for revenge; his duel of wits with Kirk; Kirk’s movement through the cycle of discovering a son he never knew he had, learning to respect the man this son has become, and then mourning his death; Spock’s sacrifice (I hope I’m not spoiling a film that was released in the 1980’s) — but it all together and you get a hugely entertaining movie.

    The Last Jedi is brewed from the same batch of character conflicts. As the OP notes, each of the main characters gets significant growth; but we see so much conflict! We get Rey versus Luke to return to the fight. Rey versus Kylo Ren for the future of the Force. Rey versus Snoke for access to Luke’s hideout. Kylo Ren versus Snoke for control of the First Order. Kylo Ren versus Hux for control of the First Order. Kylo Ren versus the remains of his humanity when he relents from firing on Leia. Rey versus her own dark side in the cave. Luke versus his own inability to forgive himself for his past failures. Luke versus his reputation as a legend. Leia versus Poe for survival tactics. Finn versus himself for bravery. Rose versus Finn for love (“versus” may not be the best descriptor of relationship there). Rose and Finn versus the Codebreaker. All this before we get to a lot of actual fighting like in the chase scene, the attack on the dreadnought, the escape from the casino’s jail, the duel on the collapsing landing deck, the duel in Snoke’s throne room, the battle on the salt plain.

    It’s conflict all over the place, and it’s structured in a story that makes emotional sense, one that propels the arc of the overall story forward in obvious ways. It hands the torch of the story off completely from the old generation to the new. It reminds us that love and greed and fear and hate and ambition and deception and loyalty and friendship and courage are all timeless and will always play out between people no matter what the circumstances.

    Frankly, if there were never an episode IX, I’d be quite satisfied seeing the torch passed to a new generation ending with episode VIII, with the Skywalkers and their contemporaries finally fading away but their heirs and descendants carrying on indefinitely, looking at the horizon and feeling the Force flow through them.Report

    • Oscar Gordon in reply to Burt Likko says:

      I thought the character bits were, for the most part, well done. I have no quibble there (for the most part), but …

      Space battles: You can pay homage to the bombing runs of yore without being so divorced from reality that it’s cartoonish. Even if I stick with the admittedly non-Newtonian physics of the Star Wars universe, I could come up with bomber runs that would have the same tension, and still pay homage to the trope. Same with the chase sequence. Just think about how it was done in Empire, where the SD was kept at bay not by some goofy bit about not being able to overtake on raw speed (hyperspace exists and micro trips are possible), but with asteroids being a real, physical reason for not being able to bring the big guns to bear (sure, real asteroid fields aren’t that dense, but it’s Star Wars). Both of those subplots seemed lazy to me, even if they were pretty to watch.

      Casino subplot: So Finn and Rose can pop-off in a ship capable of hyperspace, but everyone else is stuck using sublight shuttles? I literally said “What the feck?!” in the theater when they did that.

      Holdo and the keeping of information: That is something so far removed from logic it hurts. Unless the intent was to showcase a critical flaw in Holdo’s leadership style. Then, very well done!

      Everything on the salt planet was excellent, and everything on Luke’s island was excellent. Even the cleaving of Snoke was well done (although Snoke was such a disappointing character). I didn’t hate the movie, I just felt it could have been so much better.Report

  3. Jaybird says:

    The Last Jedi has soured for me somewhat. Here’s what I wrote at the time. I stand by pretty much all of that except the “I can’t wait to see the next one.”

    As it turns out… I can.

    The stuff that didn’t work has, in retrospect, not worked even more as time goes on. The Casino trip was dumb. The altercation with Captain Phasma was dumb. The defeat of Snoke was dumb. They could have been awesome! Instead they were dumb.

    Admiral Holdo’s incompetence bugs me even more today than it did at the time.

    And they should have had Admiral Akbar press the button that showed that hyperspace was a weapon. (He could have said “It’s a trap”, sadly, before pressing it.)

    But the unforgivable thing, the *ONE* choice that could have turned the movie around, was to have Rey take Kylo’s hand. Had she taken his hand, all would have been forgiven.

    And expectations would have been subverted to a degree that merely having soldiers taste new planets wouldn’t have.Report

  4. The thing I liked about the film was that it seemed to want to build on the thread that ran through Lucas’ movies: that the Jedi Order had become too rigid, too insular, too narrow an needed to be replaced with a new order of “gray Jedi”.

    Anakin’s arc in the prequel is that he is failed by the Jedi. They tell him of the Dark Side but only in ghost stories, never anything practical or meaningful. So in the end, he can’t really see any difference between the sides, he’s told that once he turns to the Dark Side, he’s the Jedi equivalent of a “fallen woman”. So he goes whole hog. By contrast, Luke learns that he can use the Dark Side on occasion — such as when he overpowers Vader — but doesn’t have to let it dominate his destiny.

    TLJ seemed to be moving in that direction with Kylo — on the Dark Side but tempted by the Light — and Rey — on the Light Side but tempted by the Dark — ready to build a new gray order that would bring balance to the Force. But it kinda wussed out on that. And the early reviews indicate that Abrams will totally wuss out in ROS.Report

  5. George Turner says:

    The other day I was discussing “rewatchability” regarding blockbusters. One of the things that marked the original trilogy as so iconic was that people could watch them a hundred times. In that regard, I’ve only rewatched Solo or Rogue One perhaps twice. Of course some movies are really good but not that rewatchable because their story line depends on big reveals, such as The Usual Suspects or many mysteries and thrillers.

    But “rewatching” made me think of video sales as a potential measure , and here is The Numbers on all time US BluRay sales.

    Star Wars VII – The Force Awakens is at #5, with 5.9 million sales.
    Star Wars the complete saga (eps 1 to 6) is at #23, with 3.3 million sales (but most people probably got it on DVD).
    Rogue One is at #27, with 3.1 million sales.
    Star Wars the original trilogy (eps 4 to 6) is at #28, with 3.0 million sales (people still have those on VHS).
    Star Wars VIII – The Last Jedi is at #31, with 3.0 million sales.

    Solo didn’t make the top list, but has sold 1.4 million units.Report