Friday, December 22, 2017

The (Almost) Last Jedi

Last night we went to see the latest Star Wars saga, "The Last Jedi." It has received wonderful reviews, apparently, and the kids all loved it. But me? Not so much.

It was fun, no doubt. Plenty of action, the appropriate amount of impossibly close escapes, and more than enough Force wizardry and mysticism -- some of it in forms we haven't seen before -- to last until the next installment. John Williams scored it, we have Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher and Anthony Daniels back in their original roles, and there are several other unexpected nods to the original trilogy. There's even a super-choreographed light saber fight scene with a whole minyan of sacrificial red-shirts, and Rey and Kylo Ren in the Samurai roles. It was light years better than the fight scenes of "The Phantom Menace," but it was also during that scene that I really noticed how overbearing the score was, and found myself wishing they'd just play something lighter. Like "Bad Reputation."

"Rogue 1" was a surprise "little" Star Wars feature that had something to say. "The Last Jedi," not so much. Luke is still cool, Leia is the queen of her ever-diminishing domain, and at least in this movie, women rule. There's even a very brief hint of romance, though it took a particularly ridiculous sequence to get to it. If you're going to put a main character out on a suicide mission, at least have the good grace to let him die!

The lines between good and evil, blurred somewhat in "Rogue 1," are blurred more so here. Characters turning to the dark side, or being tempted, has always been part of the story, but here the ambiguities are up front. The two main characters can join forces in a fight, but once the battle is won they can't make peace. At least, not in this episode.

Weird things happen in space. Ships drop out of hyperspace to a dead stop with a big Dolby thump. Leia goes full Mary Poppins in a scene that has to be seen before cringing. And, finally, Luke answers the age-old question: How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You're Not Anywhere at All?

I left the movie thinking, yes, I'll watch whatever they come up with for Episode IX, so long as they keep the Porgs in check, more or less. I'd be cool with less in the way of CGI pyrotechnics; bringing back Frank Oz for both voice and puppet was a nice step in that direction. I know it's called "Star Wars," but we don't need to be blowing up entire fleets quite so much. Perhaps that will be less of a problem in IX, now that the fleet consists of one Millennium Falcon and a whole lot of ghostly Force. That should be fun! As Luke said, "See you around, kid!"

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