So, I promised a bit of a review of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and it would be impossible to talk about it at the level I want without spoilers, so be forewarned…SPOILERS AHEAD!
Before getting there, some spoiler-free notes. Despite what I am going to say below, I thought it was a great film. Visually stunning and with superb audio, it kept you riveted. I love when a story delves into its own mythology, which we get a bit of here with the Jedi. I think overall the story was solid, although how it got there had a number of issues.
So let’s get started…
The Force Awakens was criticized for being a retelling of A New Hope. So you would think that they might try and avoid the comparisons with The Empire Strikes Back. And at first I thought they had avoided it (aside from a particular battle which seemed rather intentional) but then thinking about they really didn’t. Let me see if I can write up the parallel plot:
“The [Rebel|Resistance] base on [Hoth|D’Qar] has been discovered by the [Empire|First Order] and they have to quickly evacuate. A battle during the evacuation ensures their escape but costs them greatly. [Luke|Rey] travel to find the last Jedi Master [Yoda|Luke] on a remote planet but find he is reluctant to train [him|her]. They relent and begin the training, which involves a cave under a tree and visions. Meanwhile, [Han, Leia, Chewie and the droids|Finn and Rose] travel to a city [run by a gambler|inhabited by gamblers], and end up disrupting things before escaping. [Luke|Rey] ends up confronting [Darth Vader|Kylo Ren] where they learn the truth about their parentage.”
This leaves a bit off off the end of The Last Jedi, which is where a mimicking of the Battle of Hoth comes in, complete with AT-ATs, a white battlefield, useless trenches, and a sense of hopelessness. It just came at the end instead of the beginning, with a different battle at the start.
Can we talk just a bit about physics? Yes, I know, physics has absolutely no place in Star Wars. But at least there were some elements they they tried to accept. I’m not talking about Poe Dameron pulling a turn and burn like he was drifting on a dirt track in Charlotte…I’m talking about simple things like gravity and air. And, like, the apparent fact that gravity still pulls bombs downward while in space out of a bomb hatch like it was doing a bombing run in Germany in 1944, and that a ship can be ripped to shreds, yet losing air doesn’t appear to be a serious issue. Apparently because space is full of air. Why? During the “slow chase”, when the support ships ran out of fuel, they didn’t act like they simply stopped accelerating – they acted like they were encountering resistance. Instead of simply falling behind, they tumble backwards.
Yet Leia gets sucked out into space, in an obvious vacuum…which, by the way, was the LEAST stunning visual effect. It just looked cheesy. Sorry, I didn’t like it.
I do have to point out that the the way Holdo’s hyperspace jump into the oncoming fleet was artistically depicted was brilliant. To do it with absolutely no sound at all made it all that much more impactful visually. The chain reaction of superluminal shrapnel was awesome. Too bad they didn’t think of doing that with the support ships earlier.
And that brings me to the whole idea of the chase. First, the plot device out of the hyperspace tracker that only works in one ship, it’s on Snoke’s ship (which wasn’t even in the first battle), and that Finn knows where it is because he was a janitor on the ship just like he was on Starkiller Base and knows all the secrets like any janitor/Stormtrooper should…rather convenient.
Then, for the “faster, lighter” Resistance ships, they didn’t seem to be outrunning the First Order very well…but actually, I think this was correct. If they knew they couldn’t completely outrun the fleet, they wouldn’t thrust as fast as they could, which would just burn the fuel faster – they’d get out of range and then maintain that range as long as possible, conserving fuel. So, that’s one in the win column. Sadly, I only figured this out while writing this. This is why exposition lines in dialogue exist…and why they are important. 3 seconds and people aren’t questioning it.
But my biggest, and I mean BIGGEST problem, is the whole idea that Holdo kept the plan a secret from everyone. In fact, in general, this movie is full of the dumbest strategists in that galaxy on both sides. What purpose did keeping the plan a secret serve, other than yet another plot device to make the sacrifice and climax more impactful? Unless they feared a mole, which they never made mention of, it would have been better to let them know of the plan rather than allow an already burning seed of distrust and hopelessness smoulder into a full-blown mutiny.
Strategy and tactics on the First Order side aren’t much better. “Hey, let’s bring in our fleet-buster dreadnought to fight the remaining Resistance forces, which we know have small light fighters, but let’s not fly a fighter cover or anything…or, you know, just shoot them out of the sky when we show up…wait for the big ship to make a big show of it.” Works well, don’t you think?
Which brings me to General Hux in general. Now, I like Domhnall Gleeson, but I just don’t buy him as the leader of the First Order military. He seems more like a whiny military brat trying to do his General dad proud but is really, REALLY bad at it. Yet Snoke keeps giving him a chance. He’s failed to crush the resistance multiple times, last the biggest weapon ever made, and yet he gets more chances…I see Kylo Ren similarly, but the potential is seen there. Hux lacks that.
Resistance tactics weren’t much better. They need to watch Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan – strictly two-dimensional thinking, like it’s a sea battle. All ships form a line and head directly at the enemy – making it very easy to pick them off all in a row. you have three dimensions – you should be attacking from ALL directions, and spread the fire out. Same thing happens in the Battle on Hoth-er, Crait…attach all in a straight line, head on. Then again, stormtrooper aiming…maybe not so bad. The whole red soil and “hydroplane skis” thing was to make it 1) Not Hoth, and 2) more visually stunning (OK, a win there…) And wait a second, the First Order fleet was shredded, yet they still are able to get a bunch of AT-ATs and a battering ram down to the surface…and they park them so far away they take forever to move into position and allow the Resistance time to mount a hopeless defense…
Not a bad point, but did you notice there was a huge tell that Luke wasn’t really on Crait? He appears younger…darker, shorter hair. As Ben and Leia and anyone else would remember him when he left – that’s how his projection appeared to those who saw it. Interesting that even C-3PO saw him, so it wasn’t simply a force connection like Rey/Ben had. Very interesting.
I think that covers it. Do you agree or disagree? Come comment on the post on our Facebook page. I’ve said before, the problems I have with a movie do not detract from my enjoyment of a movie – I enjoyed the movie. I just wish they would think some of the technical aspects through better.