The Last Jedi Is This Trilogy's The Phantom Menace

Image: IMDB

It might not have Jar Jar Binks and has opened to generally favourable reviews and a massive box office take but I'm going to put it out there. The Last Jedi is one of the worst Star Wars movies of the ten released so far.

The clear winner for worst Star Wars movie is the TV Holiday Special. And The Phantom Menace follows that. Although I enjoyed The Last Jedi (TLJ) while I was in the theatre last Friday night, the more I thought about it, the weaker I think the movie is.

What follows is full of spoilers. So read on only if you don't mind a bunch of plot details being revealed.

The good stuff

There were some strong points to TLJ.

The dialog between Kylo Ren and Rey was great. The "virtual" interactions, which were manipulated by Supreme Leader Snoke were a very clever device that provided the mechanism for Luke's confrontation with Kylo later in the movie.

The fight scene with Kylo and Rey was excellent even though there was a huge negative into it in my view (more on that later).

And the way Kylo surpasses the grandfather he revered, Darth Vader, by killing Snoke and becoming the Supreme Leader himself was an interesting twist. Vader's defeat of Darth Sidious was the final step in his turn back from the Dark to the Light. For Kylo, it is how he assumes power through the Dark. And it opens the door to who will become his apprentice.

I really liked a couple of the light sabre kills. In particular, the one where Kylo and Ren are fighting Snoke's guards and Rey throws a sabre to Kylo who catches is and activates it so it pierces the skull of the guard. That was pretty cool.

My favourite scene was the suicide mission, by the new character Vice Admiral Holdo. Taking the Resistance's last ship and plunging into Snoke's by activating the hyperdrive was nothing short of spectacular.

Luke's finale, presumably so he can become a Force Ghost, was a fitting end to his human existence. Particularly after he completely fooled Kylo so the flicker of the Resistance could make their escape.

The bad stuff

The last scene in The Force Awakens (TFA), when Rey hands Luke his old lightsaber was a brilliant way to end that movie. To then see Luke cast it over his shoulder like an old chip packet was terrible. I guess it was meant to be funny. I suspect the writers and directors were trying to make Luke out to be an eccentric hermit like his teacher Yoda but that was never his character.

Many of the jokes felt really forced in TLJ. In TFA, when Poe is about to be interrogated and he asks Kylo who goes first, it was funny and helped establish Peo's bravado. But almost every joke in TLJ felt like a Dad Joke.

The strength of the original trilogy was the triumvirate of good guys; Luke, Leia and Han. After the TFA, I really thought Rey, Poe and Finn would be that new trio. Instead, we had Poe being belligerent and launching a mutiny (that the audience was meant to support even though we eventually learn he was in the wrong), Finn off on a wild goose chase with the lovely but useless Rose, and Rey doing some interesting stuff that actually drove the plot along.

Finn's entire mission seemed like a way to keep him busy, give him a love interest in Rose, and act as a vehicle for Benicio Del Toro's character. He's a fine actor but the entire act on the casino planet did absolutely nothing other than add about 30 minutes to the movie.

Rose Tico was a lovely character. She's feisty, courageous and driven. But if she hadn't appeared there would not be a Rose-sized hole in the movie. The plot would have progressed nicely.

I've watched every Star Wars movie several times - other than The Holiday Special which I could only bear to watch twice - and have no recollection of anyone ever worrying about fuel. For the Resistance to suddenly need to find a servo after decades of war with the Dark Side seemed like a piss weak plot device. Throw in the fact the First Order had suddenly developed a way to track ships through hyperspace and we had a deus ex machina that left me scratching my head. I'd have had an easier time believing there was a spy called Hansel leaving intergalactic breadcrumbs.

TFA had some great bad guys. Captain Phasma was a fascinating but underused character. Seeing her come back in TLJ only to be killed (we assume) was a waste of a great foil. I'd have liked to see her become Kylo's second in command, after he sliced Snoke in half by using The Force to activate Luke's lightsaber.

Killing Snoke was a good way to build Kylo's power but I really wanted to know more about Snoke. Perhaps that's being held back for a future solo movie project.

And when it comes to killing characters - how they heck did Lucasfilm let the writers and directors kill Admiral Ackbar off camera and barely give him a mention?

The Porg... useless characters designed to sell stuffed toys. Enough said.

During the closing scenes, one of the slave children on the casino planet is seen wearing a ring with a Resistance symbol. Aside from being another cheap marketing ploy, it is utterly ridiculous that a slave would be able to keep such an item while working. And the little trick of using the Force to grab his broom - was that meant to add ambiguity as to who the last Jedi will really be?

In closing...

I really love Star Wars. Just this weekend a friend and I were playing with various Star Wars toys I have at home (at almost 50 years old, I ought to grow up I guess!). I went to see TFA a week ago at a theatre, accompanied by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and it was the best cinema experience I've ever had. I watched Rogue One again last Wednesday (it’s a great movie although it really hits you hard in the feels) and will gladly sit down to watch any of the films again.

When you look at the overarching plot of episodes one to three, you could easily omit almost all of the The Phantom Menace and it would barely do anything to damage the overall plot of that trilogy.

In Episodes 4, 5 and 6, each of the three movies contributes to plot in a major way. All of the characters that are introduced are important and are developed.

In TFA, there's hardly a wasted moment. And while the action in TLJ was great, a lot of it was useless filler. One of the strengths of TFA was the interaction between Poe and Finn and Finn and Rey. In TLJ, there were rarely on the same planet. Rather than have Finn take off with Rose to get the secret to the First Order's hyper speed GPS tracker, it would have been far more interesting to have Finn and Poe on that mission. There would have been more opportunity for interaction between them and it would have made a nice contrast to scene from TFA when Finn rescues Poe.

Is the TLJ a terrible movie? I don't think its terrible. But just as The Phantom Menace was a wasted opportunity to build the Star Wars canon, The Last Jedi misses lots of great opportunities.


Comments

    Very well said. As a Star Wars fan for over 20 years, it pained me watching TLJ. Although it was a fun movie to watch, the plot holes and dropped setups from TFA absolutely bugged me to no end.

    It felt like a massive let down and seemed like Rian Johnson wanted to make his own story, and wanted a clean slate so removed whatever he wanted from TFA.

    Also, how log was Rey with Luke? Because I’m pretty sure only about 18 hours appears on screen for the rebels, and Rey is training only that long?

      I hate the fact it makes TFA worse by having no intention to be a sequel to it. The Force Awakens had good characters, a rehashed plot but it was fun. We were excited for where it can all go. This shows they have no intention of telling a new story. Just generic characters in a generic Star Wars setting.

        You know what we found re-watching the force awakens 2 years later? all of our group of 6 stopped thinking of it as a rehash of ep4. I can't exaplin why but the second time around it just didn't feel like that at all and stood on it's own merits. I actually liked BB8 by the end of it lol.

        We discussed at length (of course) various theories why 2 years ago we were so ready to dismiss it as a rehash, and why now we can appreciate it more. I think it was a combination of expecting Disney to screw the pooch, and also having seen Rogue One in the mean time.

        IT is also something I'll say about Ep 8: around half the Star Wars fans I know who dislike it are the kind of Star Wars fans I'm Pretty sure were never going to like it - they go in expecting it not to live up and surprisingly it doesn't. I think many of us - myself included - were quite a bit like that when ep7 came out and we were all going to see a new star wars movie traumatised from ep1-3, and scared of Disney making a Star Wars flim.

          I thing with Ep 7 is that it didn't start a big new story. It's defeating a planet killing weapon. It's a rehash in the same way that Return of the Jedi is a rehash.

          Everyone tended to love ep 7 though. It was in hindsight people were less keen thinking about the similarities, but I don't think anyone denies it's still really good.

          I know for me personally, I went into ep 8 excited. I enjoyed it but there was just stuff I didn't like. The more I thought about it, the more it just fell apart story and character wise.

          With ep 7, it was more recognising similarities but it was still a great film. The disappointment with that in hindsight is that it didn't reinvent the wheel story wise, or at least try. However it was fun, great action and they absolutely nailed the characters.

          The Force Awakens deserved a much better sequel and this squandered a lot of potential. I'm not so much worried about who Luke was. I liked the Kylo and Rey dynamic. However the space chase needed to be better thought out and a better justification for why we're spending time on it. Yeah Poe learns a lesson but it just seemed something to fill time for the other characters.

          It's just a wasted opportunity. I wanted them to expand the story. Show us cool and bigger things. This was smaller than the previous film, told less story. Characters had nothing to do. I also personally think the whole sacrifice and hope thing was poorly done.

          Wouldn't the story be that Kylo killed the mythical Luke Skywalker while Rey saved the remaining rebels?

          I think the writer didn't have an epic or grand story idea. Only a more narrow idea for Rey, Kylo and Luke. So he didn't care about everything else that happened enough to have it make sense. Then fumbled his whole inspiring hope plotline.

          I went into Ep 7 expecting a fun new adventure and direction for Star Wars. I enjoy the Prequels and the Original trilogy. Ep 7 was and still is a remake of Ep 4. Even two years later.

          I went into Ep 8 just hoping it wouldn’t be a remake of Empire, and thankfully, it wasn’t because it blended Ep 5 and 6 together. It was a mess with plot holes that ruined the film. I look forward to Ep 9, but now my trust in Star Wars has been shaken...all because they didn’t respect the film that came before. How can I expect them to do better in Ep 9?!

      Throw in the fact the First Order had suddenly developed a way to track ships through hyperspace and we had a deus ex machina that left me scratching my head

      How is this a deus ex machina?

        The Empire had this technology...
        1) They were tracking the Rebel fleet in ROTJ - Leia sees it on the bunker's screen on Endor and mentions it to Han.
        2) In Rogue One, Jyn Erso reads out several file names while looking for the Death Star plans, one of those is "Hyperspace Tracking"

    It's a terrible movie unless you have a Disney press pass. MMmmmm.. Junkets.

    So was Disney aware how divisive this would be or did they have no clue how bad this movie is? If they knew how divisive it would be then they should have saved it for Rian's trilogy. If they had no clue how poor it is then they need some new people on the story group.

      Is it bad or divisive?
      I say it's divisive as the over whelming number of late 30's - 50's star wars fans I work with loved it, but then the people that didn't REALLY didn't.

      Episode 2 for example was not divisive and nearly everyone agree's it was terrible

    With Luke chucking the lightsaber, it's indicative of the film maker just throwing in stuff to be unexpected. It makes no sense, regardless of where Luke is emotionally and mentally. Surely he'd be curious as to who this person is and where she got the light saber.

    The films lack any vision or any big or grand story. Generic Star Wars. Just rebels and all powerful empire. Generic Star Wars villain that has no explanation, he's just the emperor figure. It's a caricature. That's the whole film, this film revealed the emperor has no clothes. This new Star Wars film is hollow and empty.

    The annoying thing is, the space chase was so badly done. So logically inconsistent and yet they could have done anything else. Rey going to Luke they kind of needed, although it did not need to continue that scene. However the lack of any story ideas made it the lazy and easy choice.

    But the space chase, what was gained? It wasn't well done or interesting Battlestar Galactica gave us an awesome space chase in 33. It was filling in time. It was filler plot and not good filler plot. If the rebels escape and went anywhere after the beginning you could have done anything. Set up the larger context and story of the Universe. Nopes.

    Nah, me and the wife have loved Star Wars since the 80’s and we both enjoyed this film.

    Also, you do realise that the phantom menace is the best of THAT trilogy, right? Episode 2 is one of the worst films ever made, and ep3 does an okay-ish job trying to recover from that all-time low point. At least episode 1 is just ‘not a good Star Wars movie’, whilst the other two are ‘how did this get made?’ movies.

    What you’ll find with the last Jedi is it will be incredibly polarising. There’s so much going on in it that you absolutely have to watch it twice to really be able to review it. I can’t quite put my finger on it but I came out knowing two things: 1) that was amazing, and 2) some older fans are going to complain.

    Also as a side note, honestly I think you’re looking through a nit-picking filter you’d never dare apply to the original 3 films.

    Yes there’s a lot of questions, but the pace was right - I didn’t feel we needed to very specifically explore precisely how Snoke came to power after the fall of the empire. It’s like complaining that episode 5 did not fully explain the Emperor's childhood.

    Seen it twice now, no regrets at all. As much as I never thought this would happen, disney are 3 for 3 so far, though there’s a lot of pressure on the solo Han film. (Also why the hell is that releasing just after May the 4th?!)

    Actually you know what I found as well? 2 years ago I was a bit so-so about ep7. I was one of those that saw it as ep4 retold, but on watching again in prep for ep8, man I saw that film in a whole new light :-)

    All in all of the 15 or so hard core Star Wars nuts we know, we’re about 2:1 split with the 2 absolutely loving the new film and the 1 really not liking at all. I don’t expect that to change much - it’s not a fence sitter lol

    Last edited 19/12/17 2:18 pm

      Also, you do realise that the phantom menace is the best of THAT trilogy, right? Episode 2 is one of the worst films ever made, and ep3 does an okay-ish job trying to recover from that all-time low point.

      I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought this. Jar-Jar aside I thought Phantom Menace was a reasonably entertaining film. The dialogue in Ep 2 and 3 was abysmal though, cringeworthy.

      I enjoyed TLJ and liked the humour. Glad they killed the Snoke Monster, who cares where he came from. Main drawback for me was Adam Driver's acting which I thought was woeful. There were plenty of plot holes in there but I rolled with them, I can see how they would be annoying if you didn't like the vibe of the movie overall though.

    My favourite scene was the suicide mission, by the new character Vice Admiral Holdo. Taking the Resistance's last ship and plunging into Snoke's by activating the hyperdrive was nothing short of spectacular.
    It was a great scene...but why wasn't it Admiral Ackbar instead? Introducing then killing a new character provides no gravitas to the death. Ackbar is a long-standing, much loved character. He deserved this noble death much more than Holdo.

      Giving such an emotional subplot to Ackbar would be asking a hell of a lot from an animatronic squid head. Great idea in theory, laughable in execution.

        That's fair. Poorly executed, it could have ruined the moment entirely. And what a moment it was!

        If not Akbar, maybe Leia? She could have gone out a hero; and it would have tied off her contributions to the saga nicely.

        I'm just struggling with it being Holdo.

          Leia would have been pretty great, but then we wouldn't have got the touching reunion with Luke.

        If they can GG human characters like Tarkin then they could have had Ackbar drive a ship into Snoke. I think the Holdo character was like DJ (Benicio Del Toro) - a "star vehicle" to fit a well known actor into the franchise.

          Probably a bad example. Tarkin was a misstep. But I get your point.

      They introduced a new character so that Poe would have someone to butt heads with. He never would have started a mutiny against someone so well respected as Ackbar or Leia.

    You know they mentioned hyperspace tracking nav systems in the archive scene in Rogue One yeh?

      Did they? I'll rewatch that to check it out.

        They did and they also mention it in other SW media, off handedly

    Completely disagree with the Porg take. I don't think it will hold up as well with time (depending on what Episode IX does with the characters). Such a fun ride though. Take all your lore and love out of it.

    Was the entire reason for the whole Finn/Rose story line to set up the idea of the kid with the symbol of the Resistance on his ring? That's about all I got out of it.

    As for Poe, he seems to be a replacement for the Han character as the rebellious, not quite legal, hero not-wannabe. Maybe there is more of a story line in future films. Or maybe there was some good stuff left on the digital version of the cutting room floor.

    Kylo/Rey are set up to be the two opposing elements of the Force, but actually they are there just to keep balance in the Force. If we buy into the concept of the Force being through all entities alive and not ( like butterflies and rocks, as well as Jedi and storm troopers), then there are no opposing forces, only balance throughout. Nothing is ever destroyed or created, only transformed.

    Here's hoping we just get some more good stories from long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away.

    Akemi Tatsakura
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    I hope all you salty haters enjoy being wrong because you're probably going to have to get used to it.

    I'm so glad that they threw the metaphorical lightsaber in the ocean and took the series in a new direction. I'm so over watching reverent remakes of "A New Hope".

      I don't think people are looking for "reverent remakes". But they are looking for something more than a series of action sequences loosely held together. People love the characters in the Star Wars universe. they want to see them develop. Luke's initial act in tossing the light sabre was completely out of character. Basically, we saw the writers and director try to make Luke into a half-assed version of Yoda. Even his death was the same as Yoda!

      You can move forward to a future while respecting the past. I don't think TLJ did that.

        I think that the change in Luke's character was well explained in the flashbacks in the movie, and I loved that they were willing to break the mould and take him to a dark place. I would say that his character in this movie had more development than in the entire original trilogy, we had the scarring dark history flashbacks, the curmudgeonly hermit, the mentor phase and the transcendant warrior, its not that he didn't get character development, it just went a way that you didn't expect. To say that this movie was a string of action sequences is a cheap shot, Rey and Kylo talked way more than they fought and they both had moments of light and dark. I'm glad that they didn't respect the past, its been a long time since the series was truly great (except for Rogue One, but I'm referring to the main series).

        You know what else is out of character for Luke? Running away and hiding when his friends and family are in danger. Old-man Luke is a very different person to the Luke we all know and love from the original trilogy.

          Are you referring to that time when he saved everyone in the movie? Or the time when he trained Rey so that she could save everyone? The story was more interesting because it was his redemption from all those years of hiding. Imagine if the storyline for this trilogy was: "Luke: awesome now just like he was awesome before and remains awesome and saves the day because he is and always has been awesome." BORING. The original trilogy is available on Blu-ray and you can just watch it over and over again and it will always remain perfect. Personally I am glad that they are telling new stories and giving the characters new and unexpected plot twists.

        Luke's initial act in tossing the light sabre was completely out of character.
        Out of character for 23 year old Luke maybe, but for a guy that has been living on his own for years, desperate not to be found, it seems in character to me.

        I felt Luke was more real, and better developed than he was in the original trilogy, it felt right to me, and well thought out. I think people were expecting Luke to step in and be bad-arse and save the day. We got a much more complex thing, and an unexpected one, and to me that was much more fulfilling.

    The strength of the original trilogy was the triumvirate of good guys; Luke, Leia and Han. After the TFA, I really thought Rey, Poe and Finn would be that new trio.

    I wanted the new movies to be a rehash of the old movies, and follow the same formula...

    I loved TLJ, and I have spent the last ten years working on restoring the Original Trilogy, I'm about the same age as the author, and revere the original three movies, but I absolutely loved TLJ, I feel it brought back the freshness and weirdness that was Star Wars when it came out, and was really happy it wasn't a rehash of Empire just with new characters.

    The film felt epic to me, had a totally new formula but still felt very Star Wars. I really enjoyed it, I liked the unexpected turns and also that it is for a new audience. My daughter feels like this is *her* Star Wars, she always liked the original films, but felt they belonged to someone else. I wish Rian was directing the third one, TFA was a rehash, but that was kind of what was needed to re-awaken the fanbase and the movies again, but the next movie needed to be new, and break away from the old mould, and I feel this one did.

    I saw the original over 30 times in '77, so not all of us old timers are humbugging about TLJ.

    Liked: opening battle, hyperdrive kamakaze, ForceTime (Rey and Kylo Ren), Rose's introduction, music, okay I liked Casino Planet when explaining about selling arms BUT...
    Disliked: ...that alone could have been an interesting dark twist and fleshed out sub-plot. Instead, we get 20 minutes of entertaining filler.

    Other dislikes: Mary Poppins (RIP Carrie Fisher, but I thought they could have done something better as a tribute. And since when could you make a ForceShield?), fleshed out characters only to be dismissed randomly, ForceTime HD (Ghost Luke), length, Rose saving Finn (honestly if they planned to send Finn off, his sacrifice to stop the canon would complete his character arc from TFA), too much Porg and BB8 Ex Machia.

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