When Eight is Greater than Nine

While pondering a possible first Nike purchase as a lifetime Reebok guy…

I bought the Last Jedi Blu-ray over the weekend at Half Price Book’s Labor Day sale, which of course gave us a good excuse to watch it again. Although we saw it three times last year, all were within two weeks of release, so this viewing came after enough time had passed to give us a fresh perspective.

Meet the new perspective, same as the old perspective.

Almost everything I wrote then still applies. The bad is still bad: Leia’s spacewalk is still absurd, and still casts a stink over the whole enterprise1 that it has a hard time recovering from. The whole del Toro sequence still feels tacked on and unnecessary (although it didn’t bother me as much this time). Some of the humor is still misplaced and tone deaf.

But the good is still good, and sometimes great. The visuals: Rey’s hand rising to catch the lightsaber in the throne room, that beautiful red salt on Crait, and the brilliant sequence of Holdo’s cruiser lightspeeding through the destroyer (silence was exactly the right choice there). The Rey/Ren connection. The epic throne room fight sequence.

And that fantastic showdown between uncle and nephew. Watching it a year later, I’m amazed we didn’t catch what was going on. The difference in Luke’s appearance is obvious, and the cuts to show Kylo’s feet exposing the red and Luke’s feet not are equally so. Johnson gave us all the clues we needed to grasp what was happening. We missed it all. More on that in a moment.

Something that stood out more to me this time than last year: Johnson plays Sleepless in Seattle with the two main protagonists. He keeps Rey and Finn apart for the whole movie, and by the time they get together, they’re no longer “together.” Rey is a Jedi, and Finn has someone else.

Something else that stood out is what a good job Johnson did of moving the cheese. Poe is demoted after a disastrous bomber attack, Luke tosses his lightsaber like it was a piece of last year’s fruitcake, Kylo is humuliated by his master for losing to a girl that’s never picked up a lightsaber, Rey discovers there’s nothing to see about her parents, and that’s all in the first half hour! It’s as good a job of deconstruction as you’re ever going to see, made all the better by the reconstruction job he does in the following two hours.

Back to Kylo/Luke: why did we miss it? I think it’s because we were so into the movie, and the moment, that we weren’t processing what we were seeing logically, we were anticipating what was coming next. That’s what happens when you’re watching a really good movie—you lose yourself in it. It’s the same thing that kept most of us from catching the reveal in The Sixth Sense.

That, to me, most effectively answers the attacks from the trolls, spoiled brats, and receivers of too many participation trophies who have claimed the movie “ruined my childhood!” Last Jedi is a really good movie that, had one or two decisions been better, would have easily been the best of the nine numbered Star Wars movies.

“But there’s only been eight so far!” That is true, but as I said last year, nothing I’ve seen from Abrams, including Force Awakens, leads me to believe that IX is going to be better than VIII. I also believe Disney cares more about their empires than their Empire, and I suspect they will walk back some of Last Jedi in order to placate their audience. That will be sad, but a studio that makes Cars 3 is no longer concerned with art.

Enjoy The Last Jedi again. It might be The Last Good Star Wars Movie.

  1. Not the whole Enterprise; that would have been an entirely different movie.

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