Each year I find myself looking forward to the new Star Wars movie in spite of the gratuitous celebration of sci-fi violence it represents. Somehow, I appease my distaste by reminiscing back to the "feel good" moments I had as a young adult seeking space adventure sagas, CGI laseriffic action, and heroic friendships that give hope at the end of the tale.
This year I seem to have hit an mental inflection point in regard to Star Wars military machinations of Star Wars epicness. Thus I opt to share my thoughts on Episode VIII and some of the larger themes of the series.
Spoilers ahead! Also rueful speculation. You have been forewarned.
First, let's start with the things I enjoyed about The Last Jedi; the list is short. Rose, the Asian engineer, is the most compassionate character to date in the Star Wars universe. Her non-warrior, behind-the-scenes authenticity feels as true as her connection with Finn. The only other relationship that felt real to me was, oddly enough, between Rey and Kylo. Yes, that connection was a good girl seeking bad boy hyperspace e-date in-the-making, but it felt cathartic and honest. The Force being so strong in them yearns to join them, as they seek somehow to unite a galaxy divided between dark and light sides. I also was moved by the attempt to highlight animal rights with Chewbacca's refusal to eat a thinking (too cute) creature, and with Rose and Finn's assistance in releasing the enslaved alien (too cute) quadrapeds.
That's pretty much all I enjoyed about the movie. I kinda liked the red salt battlefield mimicking bloody trails in the final rebel base assault scene, but like most of the rest of the movie, the klugey editing, and patchy storytelling stirred the gestalt into lumpy Degaban oatmeal.
My dislikes rain like Snokian vitriol otherwise. Rant list initiate: First Order star destroyers hover useless to incoming rebel forces, the same space warships are deployed in two-dimensional simplicity that no armada commander worth his salt would use; space bombs that somehow drop even though they are in space, and could much more effectively be launched with a bit of downward thrust; too many heroes rebelling against leadership, escaping near death scenarios, and heading off on contrived errands, a horribly choreographied lightsaber melee as Kylo and Rey dispatch the Imperial cronies, Luke's cry-baby attitude, Yoda's super-Kermit pontificating, yoda...yada...yoda, and the final Luke ghost standoff with Kylo Ren resulting big explosions and the evaporation of Luke into the Force world to return in bluey halo another day. Oh wait, did I mention the light-speed rebel ship impact with the dreadnought? Van Damme triple-triple camera angle patchwork sequence blended with a nod to Star Trek reboot silence entirely ruined the moment...and I won't even get into the bad physics involved, as a light-speed impact explosion would not happen anything like it did.
I could continue with the negative list. Alas perhaps I'm just being passive-agressive in realizing just how much our culture has become delightfully hypnotized by violence opera from the Avengers to the Z-men which seemingly pits ultimate good against ultimate evil. It may just be a coincidence that the US has become as divisive as the polarities of the Force in Star Wars over the last 40 years. We worship the military without batting an eyelash to the estimated 37 million deaths the US military has inflicted since World War II. The fact that military budget and Star Wars movie budgets have gone into orbit over that period of time certainly has its connection. Somehow our primitive minds think an ongoing conquering of evil will somehow bring us closer to peace, when it just continues the cycle of violence with increasing amplitude.
Alas.... I have my own better ending to The Last Jedi: the embittered Kylo Ren and hopeful Rey manage to forge a union of deep friendship after destroying Emperor Snoke. In that connection of spirit, pragmatism, and yes love, they announce to the galaxy "No More Violence!" and begin a true revolution, bringing education, compassion and de-militarization to all!
(of course there would have to be one last amazing (think Episode One) lightsaber duel to punctuate that story -line inflection point)