The Last Jedi – A Review

This series of reviews will attempt to not only review each film selected but also the “fan fiction” that has sprung up around it, an art form that I have followed for some time and have now decided to incorporate into my writings on film and the reaction it inspires.

The reviews form the jumping off point for longer reviews, analysis, and extended coverage at Ripple Reel, which I hope you will find of some interest.

That is a paid site, but the reviews below will hopefully encourage you to delve further into the wonderful worlds that I will be examining with each review. This is a change from my initial strategy with both sites, but one that I hope will be just as effective going forward.

I am indebted to the artists at both deviantart.com, fanfiction.net, and anarchiveofourown.org for their remarkable work which has in turn inspired me to cover them, and I would highly recommend both sites for the intrepid fan who may wish to explore the worlds of fiction and the artists they inspire across the great and incredibly busy/transformative highways of the world wide web.

If you’d also like to keep up to date with the blog in general, then please feel free to follow on Twitter @fanorbit, and on the Facebook page @fanorbit.

It would have been 40 years ago tomorrow, on December 27th, 1977, that “Star Wars: A New Hope” first came to the UK, followed by a wider release on January 29th of the following year.

The 27th also marks a year since Carrie Fisher, who played the iconic role of Princess Leia Organa, followed by General Leia Organa in the new films, passed away.   As a result, I thought it would be nice to review the latest iteration in the saga that that one film inspired, a long time ago, in a cinema, probably not that far away.

So without further adieu, I present to you my review of the latest in the continuing saga that spans the generations and the lightyears between them…

This is not going to go the way you think…”

It’s not easy to write this review, as I know there is a lot of division over the particular film I’m about to cover, and well…it’s “Star Wars” so people will have a variety of different opinions on it.

For one thing, and I’ll admit this, I wasn’t too enamoured with the whole idea of revisiting this franchise again, whilst completely disregarding the existing canon that had been already established in the EU, or extended universe. It just seemed like a slap in the face to all the hard work that had already been done by countless writers and artists over the years, as well as bringing everything into the “Official Disney” line, which to me is increasingly resembling a devouring monster with each passing day that seems to want as much Hollywood real-estate as it can possibly get.

But I digress. Sure it was an interesting idea, and I was excited in a way to see an entire new universe open up before us.

Then…along comes “The Force Awakens”. Sure, it was fun, I enjoyed it, but I didn’t feel a burning desire to revisit it. I’ll probably get flack for this, but I honestly admired in some ways how Lucas managed to bring something new to the table with the prequels that weren’t simply rehashes of what we’d already seen, and what “The Force Awakens” seemed to do by default. I’ll admit…they have a multitude of problems, but I actually liked the overall narrative and conceptual approach in hindsight and found it sorely missing in the new films which seem to want to bring everything back to what has already been done before.

It’s already been pointed out to me by numerous people that “The Force Awakens” is simply a rehash of “A New Hope” and whilst I don’t know if I completely agree, I do think it has too many similarities to make this a dismissible point, and I can why Abrams chose to do this, in order to hit a reset button of sorts and bring people back into the fold with what was already familiar.

Again, I question if this was for me…and now we come to “The Last Jedi” a film I was honestly bored and disappointed by, at least on the first viewing. I may do another review of it at some stage, but I’m certainly not going to say it should be removed from the canon like some mainly because…it’s a movie, right? If it wasn’t for me, it wasn’t for me, and I have no real desire in truth to tear it apart piece by piece like a bad meal that didn’t agree with me. I don’t have the energy, and would much rather focus on the things that I love.

That being said, it is the latest “Star Wars” film, and I figure it’s worthy of discussion (hypocrite klaxon alarm sounding, I know), given how current it is in the zeitgeist, and how divisive fans seem to be regarding it.

We begin with The Rebels under attack by The First Order (where I have seen that before). The entire film then essentially goes into chase mode, with Rey seeking out the advice of one Luke Skywalker who has gone into hiding following a tragic and disastrous episode from his past that has a direct connection to the main villain of the film.

dystopian_rhapsody_by_jesterry-dbwloi3
Illustration by jesterry at: https://jesterry.deviantart.com/art/Dystopian-Rhapsody-719887179

Concurrent to this is the narrative of the resistance convoy simply trying to survive repeated attacks by the first order, and I suspect my biggest gripe of the film was made clear here: it doesn’t feel like it really goes anywhere, and feels too much of a rehash of the narrative drive of “Empire” for my liking.

None of the characters felt particularly developed to me. Sure, Rey learns to stand on her own two feet, but something felt missing, which I still can’t put my finger on. Her connection with Kylo felt half-baked to me at best, and not really that well presented, along with some bizarre comedic moments, particularly on Luke’s island, which I just didn’t get at all, along with a complete lack of any particularly memorable lightsabre battles that I feel are the hallmark of any “Star Wars” film.

I can’t fault Rian Johnson for wanting to try something different with the saga, but I can’t help but feel he got so caught up in the internal logic of his own film, that he forgot the wider picture. I’m aware that he’s stated that he didn’t, and thinks the choices he made are good for the next film, but I can’t help but disagree. I think fundamentally I just saw a film that presented nothing new to the table as far as the saga goes, and tried to do a rehash of previous storytelling whilst kicking the rug out from under the audience in an attempt to simply take them off-guard, which I feel ultimately didn’t work.

I can’t fault the film at all for the technical aspects or Johnson’s overall direction of each scene (several moments stand out in particular, including the beautiful shot of the riders on the moonlit beach, which felt straight out of an 80s adventure film), but I do think from a conceptual viewpoint that it just doesn’t work for me. In this respect, I’ve seen some people say that you can’t fault a film based on your own expectations for how it should have been, which is fair enough, but if it’s a gripe, it’s a gripe right? If it causes me to react negatively, then I can’t force myself to like it based on what the filmmaker has done.

Acting wise, each performer gives a solid turn, and I think J.J. Abrams certainly cast the characters well in the first film which form the backbone of this one.  Benecio Del Toro and Laura Dern both bring memorable turns in their roles, and R.I.P. Carrie Fisher, who delivers a wonderful final performance in an iconic role she made her own, and who will be deeply missed.

It is also wonderful to see Mark Hamill back in his own iconic role of Luke Skywalker, and although I would have liked to have seen both he, Carrie, and Harrison back on screen together, it’s been lovely to just see them up there again, and go on a trip down memory lane, one last time.

I don’t normally like writing “negative” reviews, but this definitely felt like an exception to the rule given how current the film is at the time of release, and I think in hindsight it will be seen as one of the defining chapters of the saga itself, and one I will continue to revisit to see how my opinion changes over time.

However, as long as the saga continues to inspire people like the young boy we see at the end of the film (a shot which I loved), then that is a good thing, and I commend Johnson for offering a riveting and whole-hearted attempt at a franchise that is dear to the hearts of many, including my own.

May the force with you…always.”

rock_splitter_9_by_shimmering_sword-d8akb3t.jpg
Illustration by Shimmering-Sword at: https://shimmering-sword.deviantart.com/art/Commission-Star-Wars-B-wing-501473081

Fan Fics

Upon the Sands

This breathtaking poem by Hawki offers a beautifully sincere and heartbreaking look at one of the central characters in the new “Star Wars” saga. I’m aware I’m reviewed one of his pieces before, but this one struck me incredibly when I read it, and plays on how bleak Rey’s life has become before a ray of light enters her life to change it forever (pardon the pun).

Like his previous poem, “Bones”, Hawki is able to capture the essence of Rey’s bleak existence, as she looks for hope on a horizon that seems to offer no hope of escape or fortitude. She is alone on this world, reduced to a scavenger’s life, watching each ship that comes and goes, unaware of the adventures that lie out there; previous ones leaving their bones to rot on a windswept world which she huddles against, imagining what the past world must have been like, that she now calls home.

I would urge anyone out there with an interest in fan fiction to check out this talented author’s work and I hope that he will continue to produce content for a long time to come.

Hero

A wonderful, sensitively written piece by Valerie_Vancollie, an author whose work I have a feeling I will enjoy a great deal; “Hero” takes a look at Luke Skywalker shortly after the event of “A New Hope” and sits with him as he tries to deal with the effects of all that has happened to him.

It’s a slightly spoilerish story (if you haven’t see “A New Hope” that is) and I would normally try to chose one that doesn’t go into that territory, but I liked the idea of this one too much, and the writing is just beautiful.

We see Luke on the edge of a lake, contemplating all that has happened to him; a nearby “Musical Forest” providing soothing musical notes, a wonderful idea that is something straight out of the imaginative power that “Star Wars” has.  I also like how we are told that Luke has had trouble with time zones since leaving Tatooine, leading him to have meals on the Millenium Falcon for the most part, a wonderful little detail and idea that adds again to the sense of detail that we can find in “Star Wars” and reinforces its believability and sense of imaginative possibility.

He and Leia also share a wonderful little moment together, which is both a nice foretelling of things to come but also just a nice character moment that gives Luke the hope he needs to carry on, in spite of the losses he has felt and the overwhelming sense of where his life is headed now.

I just love how peaceful this story feels, which feels appropriate for this time of the year, and it’s also a nice pause for reflection in a world where things are normally fast-paced and have intense repercussions one way or another.

Here, it is simply a man trying to gather himself in the healing arms of nature, and trying to contemplate what being a “hero” means to him,  and the woman who comes to offer him comfort who has just lost everything in her own life, but vows to keep on fighting, no matter what.

It’s a lovely piece as well to choose in memory of Carrie Fisher who we lost last year on this very date of updated publication, and I couldn’t help but feel her character through the writing as presented here; the vulnerability, but also the strength as she tries to carry a burden that would not be easy even for anyone to carry, let alone a figure as prominent as she.

It also reminded me of the situation Luke finds himself in in the new film “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”, a film where he too goes into seclusion only of a different nature, with a different twist on the same environment of nature itself, and carrying a burden in his own mind which he doesn’t know how to handle; a legend in the case of the film, and I like how this short piece features into that and connects with the same idea.

Ultimately I just thought it was beautifully written, and I look forward to delving into more of Valerie’s future works as time goes on.

A Coruscanti Snnowfall

I chose this delightful little short for one reason: it’s just after Christmas (at least at the time of publication) and it seemed like a nice way to end things on a positive and cheerful note, with a story that is wonderfully simply and beautifully written.

Written as part of the “FanFiction Christmas Countdown” on fanfiction.net by Brievel, it takes the simple premise of a young Anakin Skywalker being shown snow for the first time whilst training on Coruscant with Master Obi-Wan and Yoda.

Obi-Wan hints that Yoda is responsible, due to the pureness of the snow (in comparison to its usual dirtier appearance) – a “frivolous” use of the force that Yoda has mischievously conjured up to give some joy at this time of the year, much to the delight of the younglings in his presence who have never seen it before.

In this respect it’s a wonderful idea, and I would think it’s especially meaningful for Anakin in particular (a youngling we know at any rate); who, coming from a desert planet, is unaccustomed to such things and dealing with an entirely new way of life, as most of the younglings probably were as well.

I think the dialogue is spot-on in terms of the characters, and overall it offers a lovely little snapshot of a moment in time in a universe teeming with moments that all too often take a darker and serious turn. It also offers a nice represent ion of Anakin, a young man who still has the possibility of goodness in him before the dark times came.

Much like the boy at the end of “The Last Jedi” in fact, as the Galaxy stretches out with limitless possibilities before us all.

Darker territory awaits us in the next review, but for the time being, I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year 🙂

‘Till next time…fan it up!

 

Author’s note: The header image of the illustrated eye is by Saliov, whose work can be found here: https://saliov.deviantart.com/art/STAR-WARS-X-Wings-669648672.

Disclaimer: I acknowledge that the rights to “Star Wars” do not belong to me nor to the artists behind each piece, and I do this as a fan of the work and the work it has inspired.  I could not have not done this without the support and permission of each artist who contributed such fine and beautifully written/illustrated work to the world of “Star Wars” and fandom in general.

Any changes made to the above article can be found here.

3 thoughts on “The Last Jedi – A Review

  1. I’m reluctant to discuss TLJ at length because of how divisive it is. I’ve gone through that with other IP’s, and I’ve seen people devolve into mud slinging over differences in opinion. Still, going through this review, I’ll go with the following points:

    -Like you, I never felt the need for an Ep. VII. I felt that if you were a fan of Star Wars, you had a good deal. You could live with the two trilogies (or just the OT if you wanted), or you could get invested in the EU to see what happened post-Jedi. I never felt Jedi needed a continuation, but I wasn’t opposed to it existing (kind of explains why most of my EU stuff deals with the prequel era – while the films are weaker, I find the setting of that time period more interesting than the Galactic Civil War).

    -I’m more partial to the prequels as well (and even saying “the prequels” is a bit of a misnomer, because while Phantom and Clones have their share of issues, I really like RotS, holding the #3 ranking for Star Wars films for me). The prequels do have a sense of identity which TFA lacks. I will concede that TFA is certainly a better film (better writing, better directing, better characters, etc.) than the prequels (taken as an aggregate), but it feels like a more pointless film as well. Even discarding its similarities to A New Hope, the film feels like a giant reset button for the franchise, and one, frankly, it didn’t need.

    -Moving onto Last Jedi proper, per your points, it does have similarities with Empire, but it feels more unique than, say, TFA in regards to ANH. Partly because of its subversion of tropes, partly because of its structure. The most obvious part is how we have our AT-AT battle at the end rather than the start, but even then, it doesn’t feel like a 1:1 retelling. There’s even elements of RotJ in there as well (e.g. Snoke).

    -I like Rey more in this film than TFA, to be honest. She certainly has a character arc in this film in my eyes, namely coming to terms with the true nature of her parents, and accepting that she’s been lying to herself all this time.

    -I will say that to be frank, I don’t think this review is as in-depth as your Blade Runner one. However, I can sort of get why…maybe. I get the sense from reading this that you might still be ‘processing’ Last Jedi, whereas with Blade Runner, that film’s been out for decades. And I’m not trying to be high and mighty, I’m quite divided on Last Jedi as well. It stands as my #7 Star Wars film at this time of writing (out of the ten I feel I can rank).

    -As with Blade Runner, thanks for the shoutout.

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    1. Hello Hawki,

      Thank you very much for your thoughtful and in-depth comment again, much appreciated and at least gives me some indication that people are reading the bog and getting something from it lol.

      It’s this kind of feedback that I cherish, and I’m glad that my points resonated with you also. In terms of your feedback about the review itself, I would like to point out that I do lay out at the beginning, before the review, that you can find more in-depth coverage at another blog I run also. You’ll also find in-depth coverage about the other films I’ve reviewed, and I’m sorry if this wasn’t immediately obvious.

      The only caveat there of course is that you do have to pay $5.00 a month for the first review, and it goes up from there. I’m wondering if this is maybe asking too much, or maybe people just aren’t seeing that bit, for whatever reason, but it’s simply my way of trying to make the blog more sustainable for myself financially. As, you might have noticed, I do not run any kind of advertising on this blog, and I don’t on the other one either, which I think to be fair, and considering what I’m asking, is quite reasonable, given peoples complaints about advertising that I’ve seen.

      At any rate, I hope this is something you may consider, and I’m glad you kind of confirmed something which I suspected: maybe people just aren’t seeing the bit about the other blog, or don’t want to pay, and I may have to address the direction text to this, or rethink the way I’m doing it. Not sure yet.

      In terms of the film itself, I agree, although subversion of tropes…yes, maybe. I get that, but I still want it to have an impact, which I don’t really feel the film gave me ultimately. For other people it has, and that’s fair enough, but…yeah. Rey has an arc, sure, but…I didn’t feel the drama or a sense of “defined” character like I got from her in “The Force Awakens”, and I’m not sure why, given that she is in the film quite a bit.

      There has been a lot of division over the film, and I’ve been kind of astonished at some of the reaction to it tbh (well…maybe not that surprised in a way). It is probably a film I’m still processing, and I figured it would be a good film to do given the popularity of “Star Wars” at the minute, and to be honest also, running the blog has been a lot more work (including social media etc) that I think I expected, which has also been a factor, not to mention the fact that with the “Blade Runner” review, I wrote it months ahead in advance of the blog launch, so there wasn’t as much pressure it felt like ultimately, and I could sort of live with it for a while in a way.

      At any rate, it’s very much something that I’m still working on and proud of, and I really enjoy the way you’ve been responding to all this so far, it’s really gratifying and hope our conversation about all this can continue going forward. May have some more thoughts on “Star Wars” as well and will let you know here if that’s okay.

      Cheers,

      Will.

      Like

      1. Per the above comments:

        -I missed the RippleReel link. That said, I’d be surprised to see that model be viable. Maybe if it’s really, REALLY in-depth, and a valuable resource for film students or something, but other than that, I’d be surprised to see it take off. Maybe something like Patreon would be a better model? Can’t say though, since I’ve never taken my writing to a stage where I could get money from it (and being fanfic, it would probably be illegal anyway).

        -On the subject of Rey feeling like less of a defined character…I sort of get what you’re getting at, but I don’t think it’s necessarily the issue of Rey itself. Force Awakens essentially has one main plot thread. Rey doesn’t come into it for a period of time, but there’s a clear line of plot points from the beginning (Poe), to meeting Finn, to meeting Rey, and so on. In contrast, Last Jedi juggles two plots from the outset, has to juggle a third plot for a bit of time, and only unifies as a single plot at the very end. So, not only is Rey sharing the spotlight more, within her own plot arc, she has to share it with Luke, who’s got his own arc to follow as well.

        Rey’s also arguably at her lowest here – her plan to redeem Kylo backfires, her illusions of Luke are shattered, and she can only react to what the First Order does on Crait. Granted, she’s kind of reactionary in Force Awakens too, but here, she (and everyone else) are more like ‘bit players upon the stage’.

        Like

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