I’m a fan of Star Wars. Not so much to be angry at people saying they like or dislike a particular episode. Not so much to check all possible related media. Not so much to easily quote the characters. But just enough to adore the imagination fueling exciting Galaxy Far, Far Away that had several amazing pieces of art/entertainment set in it ever since the original Star Wars (A New Hope). I also don’t particularly like going to the cinemas, but as with the Episode VII, I gave up on my dislikes and went to watch Episode VIII in the IMAX theater. Ever since the announcement of the “new trilogy”, I’ve had just one big question, and that question was “but why?” And don’t tell me – money, – the franchise could probably be making enough on the re-releases of the 6 episodes alone, not mentioning everything else. Episode VII didn’t really answer that question, but rather reinforced it, despite being a pretty okay Star Wars movie. What about Episode VIII?
Oh, and while I, as always, don’t spoil the story, I will speak of some things that will spoil the expectations so if you want to have a pure first watching experience (like I did, I didn’t even watch any trailers), I’d suggest reading this only after you have seen the movie.
But before we get to that, let’s talk about Rogue One a bit, a movie I’ve skipped when it was originally shown, but decided to check on before going to watch The Last Jedi. I was afraid that it’s a completely unnecessary movie. I was told that it’s a very enjoyable movie. Turns out, both things were correct. It might be the best movie in the series, after The Empire Strikes Back in terms of overall movie-watching-experience, purely as a movie, in fact. Tone, direction, cinematography, acting all feel to be mostly on point and even the highly criticized CGI-based or enhanced characters (based on actors who were dead or much older) at times looked amazing (but at other times terrible). In fact, in many ways, it’s a very quintessential Star Wars movie… except it never (and seemingly intentionally) feels like a Star Wars movie. It feels like a good movie set in the same universe, and, honestly, I’m fine with that. If you’re a fan of Star Wars specifically, you can miss this movie and not really miss out on anything. But if you just want to watch a really good space opera-ish adventure film, this one is going to serve you well.
Which brings us to The Last Jedi – a very non-standard Star Wars movie, that feels like it is a Star Wars movie. And a movie that is very important for the world and series, but not one particularly well made as a movie. I feel like this will get to be quite a divisive one. I liked it. I had to go through a lot of emotions while watching, but in the end I liked it. I might be rather unconventional in my tastes with Star Wars, of course: I tend to rate the original slightly lower than often hated Phantom Menace (which still means that I love both, mind you) and I always loved the prequel episodes, despite their numerous flaws. But after watching Episode VIII I feel like The Force Awakens and the entire first half of this Episode, were a long setup for a quite unexpected turn that for the SW universe, especially the movies, in the second half. It actually almost reminded me of the Metal Gear Solid 2 trick, with a long buildup to something that never happens and goes a completely different direction entirely. Except, this movie does it in a much much more clumsy and not as fun way.
The two halves of the movie, that is pretty goddamn long, by the way, got me going through completely different emotions while watching. First half felt like the continuation of the very misplaced desire to redo the classic trilogy, like with the Ep. VII, except now even more often feeling like watching a Harry Potter movie. There’s nothing wrong with liking Harry Potter movies or books, mind you, but they have a very different tone from Star Wars. It’s like, hmm… Like reading a good teenage fantasy novel, versus reading Tolkien. They can cover similar or same topics and themes, and the first can be very competently written, but it will still be, at it’s core, a completely different experience. And Episode VIII feels this tone deaf quite often, going for pointless threads, pointless scenes, misplaced comic relief, non-SW feeling way too often, in its first half especially. There’s also an abundance of the more modern approach to dialogue and mini-jokes coming from conversations feeling more “real”, which fits some movies, but doesn’t fit the Star Wars at all.
And then the second half of the movie happens. And for the first time since the announcement of the new trilogy I get a partial answer to the “but why” question, by seeing the universe taken… not in a new direction, per say, but in the new direction for the movie series. It’s an experience that reminded me of playing Knights of Old Republic 2, even with some of the similar themes explored, except, of course, considerably less smartly and elegantly written. And there’s still one episode to see if this whole thing will pay off, of course. Still one movie (at least for now, since what if there are dozens more) to know if “sacrificing” two and a half movies for the set up of this change alone was worth it. And it still leaves us with a glaring bad writing decision of creating outright disposable characters to show how unimportant they are in the end, instead of actually developing them and making them important, then discarding them to prove the very same point in a much better and effective way (in fact prequel episodes did this amazingly well). So I have a lot of doubts, but I’m hopeful. Oh and the second half also had some really beautifully set and decorated scenes.
Despite getting the reply on the “but why” question, or at least a part of it, it’s still not clear if it was worth to make the new movies. I seriously doubt new Episodes will have the same following and love as the original and prequel trilogies did (with all their surrounding controversies and edits). And despite liking The Last Jedi more than The Force Awakens, it still is much less liked by me than the first 6 episodes. But I’m curious. I actually want to see where this leads and where the new trilogy ends up. Hopefully, not in the trash can.