Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) Review

One from the re-watch pile…

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

The cover of the Steelbook edition of Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Film: I did not like this film at all when I first saw it. I didn’t understand the decisions that had been made, and I didn’t like some of the story choices. I wanted Star Wars to be like MY Star Wars!

After seeing it for the second time though I realised something greater than that though: it ISN’T my Star Wars anymore, and now that it is controlled by Disney, it doesn’t fall into the mistakes of what is the issue with the prequels were, and even The Force Awakens. Many complained that TFA just felt like a remake of Star Wars… well, this does NOT feel like a remake of The Empire Strikes Back.

It would seem that Disney are taking a similar step with the SW universe as it is with the Marvel Universe movies: find different directors to make the films so they have a different take on what we believe to be the status quo. Sometimes, like with the first Guardians of the Galaxy film, it works spectacularly and sometimes, like with Thor Ragnarok, it fails miserably.

Daisy Ridley as Rey

The Last Jedi is a continuation of the Skywalker family legacy and picks up after the events of The Force Awakens. Rey (Daisy Ridley) has found Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) in hope to learn the art of the Jedi, only to find him a reclusive who clearly has NO intention of ever teaching her, and with that emotional abandonment, she is somehow psychically linking to the First Order’s evil Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) who is offering her something different…

Meanwhile, the Resistance, led by General Organa (Carrie Fisher), is under constant attack by the First Order, and are trying to find ways to save themselves. Finn (John Boyega) and Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) travel to the casino planet Canto Bight in the hope of finding assistance, whereas Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaacs) prefers a more direct approach and will even commit acts of mutiny to get what he believes is right.

All in the background is the threat of the First Order’s Snoke (Andy Serkis), but will the good guys prevail, or will this middle part of a trilogy leave us with more questions than answers?

This first time I saw this film, I hated it. There is no other way around it, I thought it was a travesty, but upon watching it again, and listening to director Rian Johnson’s musings on the story, I have an appreciation of it I didn’t have previously. I still think there are a few story ideas that didn’t work, and the economy of cinema is not present, specifically with the Canto Bight scene which could be excised from the film without making any different to the outcome of the film.

It’s 30 odd minutes of wasting time for no reason other than to have a ‘cantina’ or ‘Jabba’s palace’ styled sequence.

Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker

Tragically some of the casting is off too. As much as I dig Benicio Del Toro, he and the entire sequence he is in is a worthless waste of time, and Rose just seems like a Star Wars nerd has snuck onto the set, killed an actor and hid her body, and then replaced the real thing. Other than that, the cast is as good as they ever were.

There were some frustrating decisions made too. A fan-favourite from the original films is killed off quite early in the film only to be replaced with a character who was previously in the novels, which means if you haven’t read those she’ll mean NOTHING to you and you’ll wonder why you are supposed to care. Watchers of the films shouldn’t need external devices to make them care about a character.

What I do have to really say about this film is how beautiful it is. Even though on the surface we see some elements reminiscent of previous films, we also get to see some really different and inventive character, vehicle and even environment designs.

The important thing is though that the story moves in a different direction to what anyone thought, and maybe the criticisms come from those of us, me included, who think we KNOW what is good for Star Wars.

I couldn’t quite explain to people how I felt about this film until I listened to someone talk about their sportsball team. People who passionately love their team follow them through thick and thin, and usually no matter how bad they go in their respective league. The Last Jedi is my team not doing very well, but I’ll continue to support ‘my team’ as I really do love them. Star Wars is an intrinsic part of my DNA and I can’t imagine ever HATING it because one or two films haven’t lived up to my expectations.

I now do enjoy this film, but I think if a film has to explain itself with it’s supplementary Bluray/ DVD stuff, or if characters are introduced in other mediums like books or comics and that means I’m supposed to care about them in the films, it’s still not a great film.

Score: **

The menu screen of the Bluray of Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Format: This film was reviewed using the Australian multi-region Bluray, an immaculate presentation, perfect in every way. It’s presented in a 2.39:1 image with a 7.1 DTS-HDMA audio.

Score: *****

Extras: As one would expect, this edition (and I say “this edition” as no doubt there will countless other releases) has a great bunch of extras on it, and honestly I felt it was a strange and interesting bunch of extras.

Disc One

The only extra feature on disc one is an audio commentary by Rian Johnson, and he clearly loves the fact he got to direct a Star Wars film, and he expertly explain decisions he made through the film, whether they were successful or not is up to we, the viewers.

Disc Two

The first is a feature length documentary called The Director and the Jedi which is a fascinating insight into the decisions that Johnson made with this film. It looks at all the aspects of the film and even bravely looks at Hamill’s disagreement with the things that happened in the script. I admit that I hated The Last Jedi at first, but after watching this I have a greater appreciation of the decisions made, and no longer detest it like I did.

Balance of the Force is a ten minute addendum to the previous extra, but I think watches more like someone justifying their decisions that have been judged as bad by the fan base. It’s weird actually, both these extras are like Disney’s trying to justify their employment of Disney.

Scene Breakdowns looks at a few scenes and their creation, from the story idea to the execution. This is divided into three extras: Lighting the Spark: Creating the Space Battle, Snoke and Mirrors and Showdown on Crait. I love special effects features so these were all of great value to me.

Andy Serkis Live (One Night Only!) shows all of Serkis’ performance as Snoke, but without the ILM effects posted on his mo-cap suit.

There’s a bunch of deleted scenes of various lengths that can be watched either with or without a commentary by the director, which I always find interesting as to why some choices were made to throw out a section. It’s interesting that some of these scenes would be placed far better in the film than the entire Canto Bight sequence.

Score: *****

WISIA: It being a Star Wars film, yeah, I’m gonna watch it again, but I’m still not going to think of it like The Empire Strikes Back or Rogue One which I think are absolutely perfect.

Carrie Fisher as General Organa

Week Ending 23rd December

A better weekly update of stuff this week with a great variety of stuff imvoleved, but first a small note. These weekly updates started on the Nerds of Oz website, but that is exclusively going to be for the podcast list from now, so technically this is the first TWP weekly buy update!

Movies


Grabbed four new movies this week.

The Mutilator from Arrow Video. Arrow video rarely disappoint, and I hope this will be just as trashy and slashy as their usual output!

All Through the House from Monster Pictures. Monster occasionally disappoint but I like how regular their output is and the price is occasionally right so I am prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt more often than not. Review coming soon.

Yoga Hosers from Reel DVD. Kevin Smith’s last few bits of output didn’t impress. His segment in ‘Holidays’ was the worst of them, and Tusk failed to entertain. I’ll be interested to see how this pans out. Review coming soon.


Last is an Australian bluray release of cult classic I Drink Your Blood! This limited edition comes with a repro of the VHS release, a ‘horror hypo’ and a sheet of I Drink Your Blood LSD sheets. Best thing about this release is it also comes with the films I Eat Your Skin and Blue Sextet! I love this film just because the exquisitely beautiful Lynn Lowry appears an a mute hippie!

Video Game


Watchdogs 2 from Ubi-soft. I liked the first one but wasn’t going to worry about this, but when EB Games discounted the edition with the statue, I leapt on it. I’ve played about 30 minutes, and totally dig it, though like with all video games, I’m not very good at it.

Comics


I haven’t quite gotten to read everything I grabbed this week, so some of these comments are about the art only, my apologies to the writers! I’ll point out which ones I managed to read before the blog post was published with a big ‘READ!’ before the comic’s comments.

READ! Red Sonja #0 from Dynamite.I’ve always loved Marvel’s re-do of Robert E. Howard’s Russian revolutionary character into Conan’s world, and the quality of art continues with this Dynamite collection. Unfortunately the story is a ‘person from the past gets sent to the future’ story, which is a bit generic, but if it opens some new opportunities for the character, I’ll at least give it a go.This was a ‘cheaper’ comic with not quite a full story, but with some cool sketchbook pages, and a buttload of adds!

READ! Batgirl and the Birds of Prey #5 from DC Comics. I’m really liking this series, and the fact it contains three of my favourite DC heroines doesn’t hurt. The quest for who is the new Oracle continues: it’s some really nice art with well written banter. Huntress has become particularly funny with her ‘should I kill him/her’ attitude.

Red Hood and the Outlaws #5 from DC Comics. I can’t comment on the quality of the writing in this series yet as I’ve not yet started reading it, but conceptually, the idea of a second rate Batman (in Red Hood), Wonder Woman(in Artemis) and Superman (with Bizarro) is both intriguing and hilarious. The art by Dexter Soy is solid too.

Suicide Squad #8 from DC Comics. Its Suicide Squad, and I have loved the Suicide Squad since the 80s when I first started reading it, and I grabbed the awesome alternate fractured Harley cover, so definitely loving it!

Supergirl #4 from DC Comics. I’m loving the TV series, so I thought I’d give the Rebirth Supergirl a go, just for nostalgia’s sake.

Superwoman #5 from DC Comics. I’ve never picked up an issue of this so I can’t make a comment on it at all yet, but this was bought due to the Supergirl TV series high as well!

READ! Hawkeye #1 from Marvel Comics. The re-sexing-of Marvel comics continues… only joking. I liked this character from the Young Avengers comics from a few years ago, and like the style of this comic. It’s a sweet mix of Alias, Veronica Mars and the New 52 Batgirl, and that ain’t a bad thing! I like the low key art, realistic with a David Lapham swagger to it, and the story is told efficiently with some smart dialogue.

 IVX #1 from Marvel Comics. Inhumans versus X-men is the new big thing for Marvel this season… I am wondering if they aren’t going to squeeze the X-men into a bunch of solo comics so the films don’t have to acknowledge their existence until Marvel movies regain control of the license. I will say though, a Marvel Universe with no Fantastic Four is no Marvel Universe in my books, not properly!

Books


The Art of Star Wars: Rogue One from Abrams. I can’t talk about this at all as I don’t open books about films until I’ve seen the film, so I’ll just say the price was right ($55 from Harry Hartogs) and it’ll look nice with my other ‘art of’ books.

Movie Merch


Normally I’d divide this up into it’s individual bits, but it’s ALL Assassin’s Creed so I thought I should share it! First is the book of the film, which I normally don’t open, like I said with the Rogue One book, but I couldn’t help but open this. It has some amazing pics from the film, and appears to be quite text heavy, so let’s hope it’s packed with information!

Next I have a couple of AC scotch glasses… I’d better start drinking scotch!


Lastly a couple of cosplay/ role play bits. A pretty cool Hidden Blade and a fancy Apple of Eden. Normally I would buy roleplay/ cosplay stuff but these are pretty cool!

The New Han Solo


Ladies and gentlemen, meet your new Han Solo!!

Alden Ehrenreich, of the films Stoker and Beautiful Creatures, has been cast as the young Han Solo for the film coming in 2018 from the Star Wars stable at the Disney ranch. At the moment the film is an anthology film with two directors attached, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, who directed the wonderful Lego Movie, with a script from Lawrence and Jon Kasdan. 

The role of Han Solo is a big pair of shoes to fill, so the To Watch Pile wishes Ehrenreich all the luck in the world, and would like to offer this advice:

ALWAYS shoot first.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

One from the re watch pile…
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

  
Film: I am an unabashed fan of George Lucas’ creation. I was lucky enough to go to a preview as a child, taken by a friend of my mother’s. From day one I was totally in love with the Star Wars universe and very quickly my DC Megos and Micronauts were pushed to the side as my life was taken over by the phenomenon. (Well, occasionally Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker would team up against the villainy of Acroyear, but that’s another story). All through primary and high school, my obsession grew and I had comics, books, toys, shirts… You name it.

My love affair with Star Wars continued through the much maligned prequels, and honestly, I was NOT one of the ones who was a critic of them. Were they flawed, of course, just like many films, but even I, through my rose-coloured glasses, could see that if the saga was to continue, Lucas needed to let go of the apron strings and let his creation grow outside of the confines of his scope.

Thankfully, and I mean this sincerely, Disney took Star Wars off Lucas’ hands, and I say that because they are the only company with the access and capital to continue the franchise. Not to mention with their ownership of Marvel comics, Star Wars will end up back where it belongs when in an illustrated platform.

  
Disney have basically decided to flick all of Lucas’s ‘expanded universe’ and restart the entire concept using only the 6 movies as cannon, which means the universe is now as limitless as the world ‘universe’ would suggest.

So what did they do with their freedom? 

  
Cynical me would describe the synopsis like this: Secret plans are hidden in a droid which is then abandoned on a desert planet only to be found by a youngster who ends up on a ship owned by Han Solo and is taken to a rebel base and assists in a mission which will halt the expanse of the bad guys evil empire.

However when I pack the cynical me away into a space freighter and send it into the other end of the Galaxy, the Rabid Fan Boy of yesteryear is back… And I begin LOVING it!

Star Wars: The Force Awakens starts with resistance fighter Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) collecting some intelligence from the planet Jakku. When they are suddenly attacked by Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and a task force from the First Order, he hides the information is his droid BB-8 and sends him away.

Poe is captured and the droid finds itself in the hands of Rey (Daisy Ridley), a scavenger abandoned on the planet who very soon teams up with a disenchanted First Order stormtrooper who has gone AWOL named Finn (John Boyega).

  
The pair of them quickly find themselves on an adventure together which involves them meeting up with with Han Solo (Harrison Ford), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) and many other familiar faces in The Resistance as they use the information held within the droid to find the one thing that may bring peace back to the galaxy.

I saw this film twice on the big screen, and honestly, I think I went in with a ‘No Lucas, No good’ attitude that coloured my opinion. The second time though I became enamoured by the new worlds that writer (and director of The Empire Strikes Back) Lawrence Kasdan and director J. J. Abrams presented us with, and I appreciated the fact that by making a film that emulated a story we are all familiar with it was easier for a new generation to understand whilst providing a vibrant fresh young cast that the current generation can identify with. The story overall has moments of great adventure carried with a lot of heart and a decent whack of humour too.

That same young cast are excellent. The trilogy of Ridley, Boyega and Isaac are as good as that of Fisher, Hamill and Ford and I am sure that cosplayers will be dressing like them in no time. That’s not to diminish the oldies either, as they reprise their roles with the same aplomb as they did over 30 years ago.

  
The villains are truly evil too. Driver plays Ren a selfish confused child perfectly, and his counterpart Hux (Domnhall Gleeson) plays the role of a disapproving older sibling, both vying for affection from their father figure, and commander of the First Order, Snoke (a CGI character character performed by Andy Serkis).

Speaking of which, the effects are truly a site to behold and I was totally in the film the whole time. I must admit to loving the fact that most of the vehicle battles took place within a planetary atmosphere, so just like when I was a kid with my Star Wars toys, a new generation will be able to play out their battles on the ground. 

The creature effects are spectacular too, and a fine combination of CGI and practical effects. SPFX nerds will go nuts.

As indicated, I have to admit the first time I watched the film I was fairly non-plussed. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the film, but I wasn’t excited by it, and as a rabid Star Wars fan, that’s what I wanted. The second time though, I was right into it, and enjoyed it like I should have. Maybe I was apprehensive by the change of Disney controlling it, but now, I’m back in the co-pilot seat ready to fly another mission. Basically, these films ‘feel’ more like ‘proper’ Star Wars than the prequels as there is a comforting familiarity in it.

Score: ****

Format: This review was done on the Australian bluray which is region free. The feature runs for 138 minutes and is presented in an epically pristine 2.40:1 presentation with an immaculate 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, and from Disney’s most precious product, I’d expect no less.

Score: *****

Extras: A dedicated extras disc with heaps and heaps…

  
Secrets of the Force Awakens: A Cinematic Journey is a really cool documentary divided into 4 chapters looking at the entire process of the film, starting with Lucas’ handover to Disney going all the way to the actual production, showing many parts of the process. Seriously, movie makers have amazing military minds when it comes to organisation and I am constantly astonished by them, and maybe, wish I were one of them. The real cool thing about all 4 chapters is that all these new people working on Star Wars now have been fans since they were kids, and give it the reverence it deserves.

The Story Awakens: The Table Read isn’t so much the actual table read, but the cast and crew’s reflection of the reading. I hope on a future release, the full reading gets played. 

Crafting Creatures takes us to the creation of the physical creature effects. One of those cool docos for effects nerds.

Building BB-8 is exactly what it sounds like. The production and puppeteering of the incredible PRACTICAL effect of BB-8.

Blueprint Of A Battle: The Snow Fight looks at the sets, choreography and performance taken to produce the final lightsaber battle in the snow.

ILM: The Visual Magic of the Force is to CGI what the Crafting Creatures doco was to physical effects. That same nerd reflex kicks in if your interest is in CGI.

John Williams: The Seventh Symphony discusses one of my favourite aspects of film, and John Williams scores ARE Star Wars: this extra celebrates his contributions.

Deleted Scenes shows six deleted scenes, and they must have only been taken out for timing, because I can’t see any reason why they were removed, in actual fact, I demand a restored version right now!

Force for Change informs us of an initiative based around Star Wars fandom where donations can be made to charity via our combined love of the force. Learn more at http://www.forceforchange.com .

I will have to also give the producers of the disc credit as the note about ‘commentaries by cast and crew not reflecting the corporation’ is shown once, under the ‘Info’ listing in the extras, instead of being a disturbing 30 second beginning of every extra.

The edition I have reviewed is a very sexy steelbook edition, which also comes with a digital download of the film, and a few inserts advertising various Star Wars consumables.

  
Score: *****

WISIA: Over and above any initial criticisms or smarminess I may have had towards this film, it’s Star Wars, and either I or my family or friends are going to trundle it out, just like the other 6, whenever we don’t know want to watch, and the excitement level and affection will constantly be present.