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Movie Review: Star Wars The Last Jedi is YA Space Opera for Millennials

December 15, 2017       Arts and Culture
Movie Review:  Star Wars 
The Last Jedi  is 
YA Space Opera 
for Millennials
by Michael Rene D. Kanoy

The annual Star Wars sequels continue this year for the next trilogy chapter and The Last Jedi reveals itself to be the space opera for this generation rather than a movie for die-hard old school Lucas era Star Wars.

The Last Jedi starts off with fleet action evacuation, with Commander Poe, the rogue (literally) X-Wing pilot goading Princess Leia to stick around to fight a First Order Dreadnought.  The next sequence of seeing an X-Wing (probably a souped-up version) maneuver like a damn Colonial Viper complete with pseudo-vector thrust agility againts the momentum-challenged TIE fighters of the First Order.  Whut?!

X-Wings are supposed to be the second least maneuverable among the spacecraft of the Rebellion after the Y-Wing, but seeing Poe's X-Wing fly like an A-Wing made me do a double take watching it fly head on into the dreadnought capital ship.  Also, since when do Imperial capital ship class spacecraft have laser gun turrets that blow up on a single firing sequence from the X-Wing's weps?  Aren't they armored or have deflection shields to withstand close quarters fire?  They blew up on just one cycled firing of the X-wing blasters, and that just jarred me.

video credits:  Walt Disney Lucasfilm  (fair use)

Then, slow and posed in a terrible formation, a group of "Bombers" converge from out of nowhere to pummel the Dreadnaught by dropping "gravity" or magnetic charges.  Gravity in space?  Or highly magnetic charges that can cause massive deck-to-deck, chain reaction explosions on a capital ship?  Very strange if you are a space cadet geek who can't for the life of him figure out, what happened to proton torpedoes aimed at the bridge or magazine area, or even main engines of the enemy ship?  It was more Hollywood explosion-happy, drama than anything you'd recognize as Star Wars.  The Resistance ships were also flying potemkin ships, blowing up and causing a chain reaction with other bombers for they were flying too close to each other from the same direction that opposing combat space patrol took them out like big slow flies with an Imperial swatter. 

Boring.  Even if I love fleet-action anything.

The movie then bogs down for close to 35 minutes or more of a YA drama of Kylo and Rey getting some telepathic vibes and trying to emo each other out as Sith and Jedi dudes.  Whut?!  I though, what a waste of IMAX money.  Star Wars had turned into a J.J. Abrams YA Disney drama.  Then it turns around for the better.  After Luke Skywalker is found by gorgeous Rey and some tension about teaching her Jedi skills with really bad dialogue, the spirit of Yoda appears and does his saving grace Yoda-speak and tells Luke that the best teacher is failure and he should save Rey if Kylo was a lost cause.

There is a red herring side mission about hacking the tracking device on the main capital ship, Sith Lord Snoke's own, and this is a complete waste of eye candy scenes that put into play kids who tend beast racers, who Finn and his Hmong tech companion free from captivity, while giving hope to the slave kids about an existing Rebellion group.  These get on board Leader Snoke's capital ship, and get caught, are about to be executed, when the movie does its turnaround with Laura Dern warp smashing the Mon Calamari cruiser of Admiral Ackbar (he gets spaced after TIE fighters fire torpedoes at the bridge) into the middle of Snoke's ship.  

In the middle of all of that, the best part of the movie is when Rey delivers herself to Kylo and they meet up with Snoke, who does the fan service, Sith Lord tortures Rey but Kylo slices him into two like Darth Maul treacherously.  (One quibble, if Snoke is aware when the Force is on around him, shouldn't he have sensed something?  At least Darth Sidious Emperor got blindsided because Vader physically lifted him up and threw him down the power core shaft)  Then the two fight the red armored, Emperor's Royal Guard clones in a most enjoyable, old school Star Wars light saber dueling action sequence.

There are escape transports from the Calamari cruiser, carrying Princess Leia and the rogue pilot, Poe, who with the remainder of the proto-Rebellion, go down to a nearby deserted mining planet that was a former Rebel base with the cliched, heavily armored, mountain gate like Cheyenne Mountain-era NORAD in a space opera.  The First Order (Imperial dudes) chase them down there with around 10 or so AT-AT armored Walker upgrades along with a super cannon to blast the doors away, and we see the second best scene of the movie, desert skiing pod fighters race out to take out the super cannon.  They fail and Luke Skywalker in Jedi robes comes to the rescue as the cannon blasts through the armored gate.  He buys time by playing Paul Mu'adib, super-messiah Jedi, taking on a full assault AT-AT blaster barrage and walking out of the smoke unscathed.  This forces Kylo to descend from his AT-AT and fight Luke head-to-head.  Luke just strangely evades all attacks by Kylo and turns off his lightsaber and turns out to be an astral projection of Skywalker on his island, galaxies away.  

This is a cop-out in my most esteemed opinion because even AT-AT sensors should detect that Luke is not flesh and blood, but what do I know about the Force in the far future of Skywalker? 

If Luke played out to be the impervious Mu'adib-styled messiah slash Super Saiyan-Jedi, the movie would have kicked Imperial or First Order ass right then and there, and taking on AT-AT's head on would have been acceptable even for an old snooty fogey like me.  

But it had to be an astral projection to be more impressive, and so it becomes so much less than it could have been.  But this new trilogy isn't for canon freaks or old school fans.  

It's a Disney franchise that wants to appeal to millennials or younger, and every single chunk of plot, character and eye candy is more tuned to these guys than to older Star Wars fans.  Luke does his fade out as the two suns on his planet sets, and like Obi-Wan Kenobi dissipating in front of Vader, leaves only his Jedi cloak blown away by the wind.

The movie is a mixed bag for hardcore Star Wars fans and forgive the spoilers in this review because I just had to illustrate how all-out different the new trilogy works.  It is a Disney franchise and all of that shows too.  Sure, the space opera fleet action is still there, but with a more contrived plot-driven choreography than any legit old school Star Wars ship physics in space.  No self respecting "Bomber" pilot would fly into a direct turkey shoot of an Imperial capital ship if George Lucas were still at the helm of this trilogy.  The pod fighters on-skiis were an innovation that was heart-warming because of the ratbike nature of their desperate defensive stand.  Ships being too vulnerable to a single breach or their turrets being blown to space smithereens after a single cycle fire of an X-Wing makes me remember how tough the old capital ships were when I played the X-Wing PC simulation game way back in the early 90s.  But that's the space opera geek in me talking.  

The movie still works its own magic on the new generation of fans it seeks to magnetize for the future, working off YA drama and romantic angles that are so part of the generation that grew up on Mockingjay or Divergent flavor of sci-fi novels and movies.

If you've seen Jupiter Ascending or Valerian, those two, in spite of their lower box office take, are the cutting edge of any kind of space opera drama, and even YA romantic tensions in my humble opinion.  Maybe because I think that Star Wars should have extreme variable geometry spacecraft by now, but that wouldn't be Star Wars if it didn't have its X-wings, Star Destroyers and Pod-Fighters on Skiis.

The characters are impressive on their own, especially the new, young Sith Lord-emperor wannabe, son of Han Solo, Kylo.  Rey is so hot, I feel like a kid in love with Leia in her armored bikini all over again.  Poe as the new trilogy's Han Solo, but as X-Wing fighter pilot has his strong points as Nerf Herder dude for this generation as Harrison Ford was for his.  

Overall, the movie is still a nice reminder of that Galaxy far, far away.  But as a space opera where you want to see cutting edge fleet action, it comes off as old hat for this old school Star Wars fan (I'm 47).

Still, go out and enjoy the movie for all the kicks it offers, including the piece-de-resistance, should-have-been Paul Mu'adib style, Luke Skywalker facing off against 10 or more AT-AT upgraded armored Walkers.  They should have gone all the way and made it real instead of going astral projection.

May Kylo's Empire of the next generation be worthy of the Imperial March as our old school Empire.


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