Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review

“Amazing. Every word of what you just said was wrong.”

 

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I observed in my review of Rogue One that the main Star Wars movies are (excellent) high adventure tales of good versus evil, while it showed there was also room for exploration of the shades of gray realities of warfare embedded in the struggle of the Rebellion and the Empire. The Last Jedi ends up somewhere in between in atmosphere, scope, and story, and I adored it. This is a movie featuring nuanced characters (including several excellent new additions) with conflicting and changing agendas, strong reveals, and significant open potential for next movie.

There were no easy answers and the characters, including familiar faces, are all too fallible. This seems to be one of the main reasons behind the mixed reception I’ve noticed, but I felt it added a wonderfully layer of depth. Without faults they have no room for growth, and the conflicts, missteps, and hard choices our heroes faced made this one of the most interesting Star Wars films for me. Without getting into spoilers, I also seem not to have made certain assumptions others did after Force Awakens, and the different expectations (or lack thereof) I had likely explain some of the disconnect between my impression and what appears to be more common consensus of longtime fans.

Of course I’m not claiming the movie was perfect and I did have some minor quibbles, most relating to certain aspects of Finn’s subplot, but nothing that significantly impacted my enjoyment.

One last aspect worth bringing attention to is the incredible visual look of the film. Rian Johnson not only introduced new and interesting locales, but also found new and interesting ways of presenting things we’ve seen before, with little details and creative choices that really aided and enhanced the movie’s impact.

So for what it’s worth, from a lifelong fan of Star Wars, I thought The Last Jedi was incredible overall and am extremely excited to see how everything proceeds from here.

Quick Takes: Magnificent 7, Jason Bourne, Suicide Squad, and X-men: Apocalypse

So if there’s one thing a 14 hour plane ride is good for, it’s catching up on movies I’ve missed. Here are brief thoughts on four films I plowed through on my way to Japan last month.

 

The Magnificent Seven

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Watched this on a whim, mostly due to the impressive cast. Decent Western with good setting, although the story would have been stronger if it was more along the lines of its synopsis. It wasn’t a bunch of guns for hire that grew to care the more they learned about the situation, as their “leader” Washington was never there for the money in the first place. It hampered the themes a bit. Also, some characters (such as Pratt in a remarkable performance) were much more interesting than others and stole the spotlight when the movie focused on them. Still, overall this was pretty compelling.

 

 

Jason Bourne

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Here we have the first of three movies I had waited on because of less than favorable reviews. As will become a theme for all three, it was better than I expected.

Though their trademark “shaky camera” fight scenes always leave me near nausious, I enjoyed the previous three Jason Bourne movies and was happy with Damon’s return to the role. This was definitely a retread in numerous thematic ways, but I thought the story fit with and expanded upon the previous narratives nicely. Not fantastic, but good enough.

 

 

Suicide Squad

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Well first off this wasn’t nearly as horrible as I’d heard. It was a mixed bag though, with highlights and weakness throughout the film. My biggest worry from what I’d seen in trailers was Smith as Deadshot, and those worries were both justified and unfounded. Smith actually played a fine character and played it well, but it didn’t feel like Deadshot at all. Writing weakness there. Similarly while this was an ok action film with some interesting plot and character touches, it didn’t feel like Suicide Squad. Glad I checked it out, but nothing I ever need to see again.

 

 

X-Men Apocalypse

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From word of mouth I expected a trainwreck from the latest X-Men movie, and in contrast I found a solid story that built off of First Class and Days of Future Past well. It’s admittedly not as good as those two films and so big in scope some characters (looking at you Psylocke) got shorted in the script and were underdeveloped. The overall arc was good though, Apocalypse was a worthy foe, and my biggest worry (Magneto as a Horseman) was done logically.

 

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So overall I spent a pretty enjoyable time on my flight with four films that provided both nothing extraordinary and nothing really bad. I don’t regret either skipping them at the theaters nor eventually watching them.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Review

“What chance do we have?”

“What choice do we have?

 

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At their core, the main Star Wars movies are high adventure tales of good versus evil. There is some depth to the characters, but the general themes always boil down to Rebellion / Light Side good and Empire / Dark Side bad in a black and white way. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that – the approach suited the stories being told and captured the imagination of the viewers leading to Star Wars becoming a beloved and near timeless universe.

But Rogue One beautifully demonstrates that there’s also room for something else in said universe: exploration of the shades of gray realities of warfare hidden in the crevices of Star Wars’ space opera scope. Whereas the main movies often embrace the themes of people losing their way and redemption, Rogue One is the story of people with with valid, nuanced reasons for things like wanting to avoid conflict, doing bad things for good reasons, etc.

It’s more drama than adventure, and yet feels just as right as a proper part of what’s come before. It’s fairly seamlessly woven into established mythos and provides a compelling prelude to A New Hope, retconning and explaining away some long standing possible plot holes without causing further logic problems.

In addition, as I mentioned above, there are harsh realities and difficult choices to be faced by the characters. I found the movie incredibly well written and acted. There’s a particularly fantastic confrontation in the middle where both participants in an argument are right, and both are wrong, and the movie rightfully resists any sort of easy answers. It’s the type of scene I simply don’t see existing with such effectiveness in the main movies, and I adore the extra layer it adds to the franchise. I also love the fact that this exploration was done in a spin-off and given proper space to develop as needed, rather than crammed into the “regular” movies where the formulas might clash.

Rogue One was excellent and I hope we see more side stories of this type to compliment the continuing epic adventures told in the main series in the future.