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Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review

This is a first! A non-LEGO related post. I guess I can do what I want with my own website. :)

So now that I’ve had some time to really digest after three viewings, here’s some thoughts on Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I’ve tried my best to give it the benefit of the doubt and come with fresh eyes with each viewing. Normally I don’t care to publicly express any opinions because, honestly, who cares? This is just to provide some catharsis, and if it benefits you in any way, I’m happy about that. I also write this knowing full well that Star Wars is just a movie series and, as much as I love it, it isn’t anything more than that in my life. Also, if this is the worst I have to complain about I’m doing alright!

The Last Jedi was a fun movie going experience. I won’t deny that. On first pass, it was a fun movie, and had a lot of surprises and good things going for it (every scene with Kylo Ren and/or Rey), but tying it into Star Wars lore as a whole, it ultimately dishonors ALL Star Wars that came before. And I’m m not just saying that for dramatic effect.

I’m just going to list all the issues I had with the movie, hopefully in order of importance (highest to lowest, then technical issues) but this is more a stream of consciousness so I might not adhere too strictly to that. Here goes!

  1. Luke’s character and legend has been completely wasted in this new canon. The ENTIRE OT was about Luke being an optimist and a hero, redeeming his father, and ultimately about the Light side (love) defeating the Dark side (hate). Fast forward 30 years, we’re back to square one. The promise of the “RETURN OF THE JEDI” (it’s in the dang title, for God’s sake) is that things are going to get better. But nope, same old Empire, same old bad guys; NOTHING Luke or the rebellion did matters. Blow up a Death Star? No worries, we got a Starkiller. Kill the Emperor? Don’t worry, we got a Supreme Leader now.
  2. Luke making himself a temporary diversion from keeping the First Order from getting in the old Rebel base? Okay, but golly that’s a lame “comeback.” If a cheap diversion is the spark needed to reignite the rebellion, I feel sorry for the Republic…
  3. Luke dying/transforming into the Force/whatever. I don’t mind Luke dying in this movie, but he effectively did NOTHING. Luke’s involvement in this movie: he runs away, performs a magic trick, dies. Luke Skywalker is a failure. Thank you, Rian Johnson!!!
  4. “Young” Luke looked HORRIBLE! Seriously, Marvel can make Kurt Russel look 40 years younger, and Lucasfilm can’t believably make Mark Hamill look 5-10 years younger?!?! It reminded me of James Lipton.
  5. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this is the first saga film that didn’t actually have two lightsabers touch?
  6. I might’ve missed it, but what was Luke’s third lesson for Rey?
  7. Snoke was a waste. For everything that the Emperor built up over several decades, it’s already a stretch for the Rebellion to have taken it down in four years. But then in under one generation we get the First Order that’s bigger, better, more efficient, more evil, etc. etc., with a ruler that’s a badder dude than the Emperor, and who’s supposed to have been around for a lot longer, for him to get bested by Kylo Ren with no real back story or explanation to who he is, is just sloppy. His death was cool and unexpected, but “behind the scenes” it shows a disregard for all of Star Wars to do that to him. I get that Disney wanted a soft reboot of the franchise, but they might as well have started from scratch so as not to have to effectively invalidate the saga up to this point.
  8. Andy Serkis did SUCH a good job as Snoke, so it makes it even worse that we won’t see more of him nor find out more about him.
  9. The First Order is shown to be a bunch of idiots. They have to be smart to be able to seize so much power in so little time. Showing them so buffoonish is disrespectful to that fact.
  10. Why not send a legion of TIE’s to shoot or even kamikaze into the Raddus? How about bombers just like the Resistance did to the Dreadnaught? “Out of Range” is no excuse.
  11. Small gripe; Snoke was supposed to be all about show. “Opulence” is the word that was bandied about describing his tastes. Why? Because he dressed in gold and wore a ring? Aside from that, he seemed about as boring as old Emperor Palpatine to me. But if I’m not mistaken, Palpatine liked gold and red in his office in the prequels. Whatever.
  12. Rey is too powerful, especially with the reveal that she’s “no one, nothing.” Anakin was the “Chosen One” and Luke comes from that lineage yet Rey, within hours or learning about the Force, is able to do what Luke never could (or at least never displayed) in three movies? Luke struggled to balance a few small rocks and Rey can clear an exit entirely blocked off by boulders?
  13. Maz being in the middle of a fight while talking to the Resistance. If I were in a life-or-death situation, I’d probably send you to holo-voicemail. Sorry. Also, she’s all of a sudden everyone’s contact and buddy?
  14. Good Lord, show some respect for the dead. Letting Leia die when the bridge was blown out would be a perfectly fitting end for her character, especially as it relates to her son, who couldn’t bring himself to do it but saw it happen anyway. How about have Kylo go all Kylo on his wing mates for killing his mom?
  15. Why not have Leia be the one to kamikaze into Snoke’s Star Destroyer? THAT’D be another good (and brave) end for her character. THAT could even be a good impetus for Luke to join the fight again; remorse for being a stick in the mud. Now we have to deal with the fact that Carrie Fisher is dead and Leia is not.
  16. Leia’s Force-save overshadowed the death of the other Resistance leadership, especially Ackbar. That’s selfish storywriting.
  17. If the bridge was blown out, how was the ship even functional for the kamikaze mission?
  18. Holdo was a cool character, but if this movie is about letting old things die, why not give the hyperspace sacrifice to Leia or Ackbar or anyone else whose death would actually have an impact on the audience.
  19. Holdo’s (and Leia’s) plan was to evacuate to the planet Crait anyway? That literally makes Finn and Rose’s mission 100% unnecessary.
  20. Finn and Rose’s mission was 100% unneeded in the story anyway. The Canto Bight scenes were boring and preachy, and the CGI showed. Fathiers (space horses) running all over town? Didn’t Indiana Jones and the Crystal of the Kingdom Skull have that same scene? Oh right, it was monkeys on vines. I could barely spot the difference.
  21. Benicio Del Toro’s character didn’t really add anything, and was a waste of a good actor. Thanks for that.
  22. Poe is not a good character. He’s got a big mouth (forgivable) but it gets old quick. He’s selfish; wanting to take out the Dreadnaught and being in a leadership role (positional or not) he’s ultimately responsible for the maybe 20+ deaths from the entire bomber fleet, and only gets demoted? Maybe he could’ve kamikaze’d himself as penance. Also, TFA made him too powerful. Seriously, in one 10-second sweep he shot down 5+ TIE’s plus a handful of stormtroopers? Han, Luke, and Anakin never pulled off any stunts nearly that impressive. Same problem carries over to this movie.
  23. BB-8 is cute, but his actions are unbelievable. Smashing your head inside an X-Wing fixes the weapons system? Okay. Shooting out 50+ coins at a police officer? Okay. Piloting an AT-ST? Now we’re reaching Prequel-level ridiculousness (and I say that as a big fan of ALL Star Wars movies until this one).
  24. If this movie was supposed to be risky, why not actually follow through on Finn sacrificing himself. That’s one thing Lucas wouldn’t do to Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back or Lando Calrissian in Return of the Jedi. It would’ve been a perfect moment and an excellent end to a good character.
  25. Rose is selfish. She “saved” Finn at the expense of the entire Resistance. Wouldn’t knocking out that battering ram have prevented the First Order from penetrating the base? So she stole his sacrifice from him so they could be dead anyway in, what, five minutes? At least they got a kiss out of it…
  26. Couldn’t the First Order landed all their Gorilla walkers a little closer? (I’ll admit that’s a nitpick since the Empire couldn’t done that in The Empire Strikes Back.) How about redirect another Dreadnaught to Crait to blast the planet’s surface into rubble? Or kamikaze a star destroyer into the base and be done with the Resistance forever.
  27. Why did the Resistance have to mount a defense at all? The ski-skimmer attack and trench defense seemed pointless. Why not just close the doors and wait for backup?
  28. Phasma sucks. I’ve seen how she’s been compared to Boba Fett. The difference is that the allure and appeal of Boba Fett (as far as I know) happened naturally, because he looks and sounds awesome. Phasma was pushed on us as a strong independent female but they failed to deliver on that. Twice. And now she’s dead.
  29. C-3PO is more annoying than ever. And not in an endearing The Empire Strikes Back way. Send him to the spice mines of Kessel, already.
  30. I get that they want to show how the Force is being opened up (or whatever) to anyone, but Force-pulling a broom into your hand from a foot away is just lazy. Shame on you, kid.
  31. Chewie should’ve taken a bite of the rotisserie Porg.
  32. Porgs in general. They were bearable in some scenes, but over-the-top product placement in general. At least the Ewoks did something useful.
  33. The cinematography was different than any of the other saga movies, and I think the technical structure or framework of the movies should be the one constant; where characters, situations and themes shift from movie to movie and trilogy to trilogy.
  34. Where are the scene wipes? Cheesy or not, they’re Star Wars!
  35. The humor was way out of place and usually lingered.
  36. “Big ass” has no place in Star Wars.
  37. DON’T start a paragraph (of the opening crawl) with “But.” That’s just improper!
  38. There was no memorable new music. It was just a “Greatest Hits” of OT music, and most of it felt like it was ripped, not even re-recorded for this score. Sorry, Williams…
  39. The fact that this movie (currently) has a 93%/57% on Rotten Tomatoes really makes me question professional movie reviewers; not their taste in movies, but their integrity. I listened to A LOT of reviews of this movie before and after it came out, and it’s surprising how similar (almost verbatim) so many key points of many of the reviews are. Disney does not let these reviewers see their movies early altruistically, they’re expecting something in return and I’m sure dangle the carrot of the next advance movie screening in front of them. It’s all about the money…

Bruce Reviews The LEGO® Movie

Bruce Reviews The LEGO® Movie

Like many people, when I first heard that was in the works, I was more than a bit apprehensive about it. The first teaser trailer, full of one-liners as it was, gave me the impression that the only decent two minutes of the film had just been viewed. I was still going to see it, but I was not expecting much more out of the movie than to bore my wife with an earful of complaints after the credits rolled.

I forget the exact moment when, watching a newer trailer about a month ago, something changed. It was a profound moment (that I just can’t happen to remember), but I actually wanted to see the movie! I prepped myself well, with steady viewings of new trailers and TV spots, getting my two-and-a-half year old son excited to see his first movie in a theater, and inadvertently getting hooked on “Everything Is AWESOME!!!” (which led to me buying the entire soundtrack). Come February 7th, I was SO PUMPED UP!

I saw The LEGO® Movie opening night with my wife and a group of friends and it’s safe to say we all loved it. We then took my son to see it two days later and were surprised that he sat rapt for the entire movie. The first word out of his mouth when the credits rolled was “MORE!” A true LEGO fan in the making! The second viewing was just as good, if not better, than the first.

Much ink has been spilled on the subject. Most reviewers of the movie have a cursory knowledge of what “Legos” are and spout the same facts over and over with some quips about how everything in the movie “fits together.” I don’t fault them for that; they have little invested in LEGO other than getting people to read their reviews for the next few weeks. Their analyses of the movie are fair enough, and I defer to them in that regard.

I hope to offer a different take on the movie, not a formal critique per se, but just the perspective of a guy who really likes LEGO. Onto the movie!

MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!

Oh, The LEGO® Movie… sure, we didn’t meet on the best of terms, but that’s all history. We’re cool now. The movie is a critical and commercial success, as well it should be. It’s a GOOD movie. It’s a FUNNY movie. It’s an INSPIRING movie. Allow me to expound on those three points.

The LEGO® Movie is good fun. The story is a bit formulaic (to a point), but I see that as a strength in two ways. First, one can relax and just enjoy the comedic and visual elements of the movie. Second, the story is later revealed to be the product of Finn’s imagination. I don’t know many eight-and-a-half year olds with enough story writing acumen to turn Hollywood on its back, so the fast-paced, slightly choppy, cookie-cutter story, at least to the point of Emmet’s transportation into the real world, is more than fitting. The turn the movie takes from there was a welcome surprise, and puts it on a much deeper plane that anyone with a heart can relate to. With the inclusion of the live action sequence, I think the film outshines most animated features almost to the extent Toy Story did in 1995.

The LEGO® Movie is funny; it’s literally packed with jokes, even in its most serious parts! I must confess both times I saw it I was the only one who laughed out loud when Vitruvius, right after almost giving Emmet the key to defeating Lord Business, saying, “What I’m about to tell you will change the course of history…” abruptly dies with a gasp as X’s cover his eyes. His reappearance as a ghost on a string is even funnier. “Emmet, you didn’t let me finish earlier… because I died.” The micro-scale scenes with mouthed sound effects are inspired. Will Arnett is competing with Christian Bale for my current favorite incarnation of Batman, though for very different reasons! Be sure to check out his song, “Untitled Self-Portrait.” The line “NO PARENTS!” had me laughing for about five minutes straight.

The LEGO® Movie is inspiring. The entire world, including crashing waves, lasers, explosions, steam, and everything in between is made of LEGO bricks. I like the subtle inclusion of a fingerprint on Emmet’s torso, which can only be seen when his reflective stripes hit light at the right angle. I can relate to how Wyldstyle sees the world around her when creating her super cool Super Cycle. The nods to the AFOL (Adult Fan of LEGO) community are numerous, and show the care that the filmmakers took in producing this. I left the theater inspired to go home and BUILD! I think seeing some of my MOCs in the movie and credits served as a fresh reminder that people actually like what I build, so that might have contributed to my elation. Will Ferrell’s character says that LEGO is not a toy, but “a highly sophisticated, interlocking brick system.” I know some AFOLs who forget that, at the end of the day, we’re all just playing with toys. So we might as well have fun with it, right?

The LEGO® Movie is not without its faults. The story feels a little light, or rather rushed, in some points (which I addressed earlier). For some reason, I wasn’t feeling Nick Offerman as Metal Beard. I’m a big fan of his, but this was the only character that I thought should have been cast differently. A few technical points that rub the LEGO nerd in me the wrong way; Emmet was able to bend backwards completely when real mini-figures only bend backwards about 60°, throughout the movie some of the bricks’ colors seemed milky as if they were inferior off-brand bricks, and the indentations on the underside of some plates’ studs were absent, which comes off as laziness considering the amount of detail put into the rest of the movie. Alas…

I know from personal experience how getting too “deep” into the hobby and letting it take preeminence over other things can lead to a burnout. I’d like to think I’ve found a good balance in the past few years in appropriately focusing my energies. LEGO® bricks are still the principal means through which I channel my creativity, but I’ve also enjoyed the peripherals that surround building; taking and editing photos, being involved in a local group and visiting conventions, taking commissioned work and other related events (including being in movies!), and most importantly building with my son.

Seeing as the LEGO® Company’s name derives from the Danish phrase “leg godt” (play well), I’ve seen a boost in creativity and playfulness as a direct result of The LEGO® Movie; with my son and his friends, but also in the AFOL community and with myself. If a silly 100-minute “kids” movie can do that, I’m all for it.