So last night, I sat back in a recliner with my 3D glasses on, paper mache tray containing a leaky medium Coke, poutine, and pulled pork sandwich on my lap, chowing down, trying not to make a mess, and waiting for Star Wars: The Last Jedi to begin.
Next to me, The Kid was chowing down on their pizza, stealing sips of my pop, and getting annoyed with me for telling my kid not to be a “Sally Soundtrack”. (The Kid still managed to talk and ask loads of questions throughout the movie, only to be told, repeatedly, to be quiet.)
But the question is, now, what did I think of the film?
Overall, I have to say, I think the story was pretty tight. Like most films, it had a definite beginning, middle, and end, and advanced the overall plot of this third (and vastly superior to the last) trilogy extremely well. Unlike the last film, which was, ultimately, just A New Hope re-told, this film was a more in-depth and self-contained story of its own, but not without direct throwbacks to The Empire Strikes Back.
While we can make direct comparisons to The Empire Strikes Back, updates to CGI technology have enabled the studios to produce effects and sequences which far outpace and outshine the older, more pedestrian work of the original trilogy. In, this time, a good way. There is one incredible hyperspace moment which is instrumental to the plotline of the film which ended up with me saying “cool” out loud in a completely silent theater, with a completely silent soundtrack at that particular instant, meaning my statement was probably heard by everyone.
While Lucas ruined the original films, the fact that these are first-time runs means that the graphics are far superior and completely in-line with the story. That being said, the studio did still fall, several times, into the trap of making the effects and action sequences far too “over-the-top” in terms of realism. By this, I mean it’s one thing to produce a battle scene, but quite another to produce a battle scene where all kinds of dazzling stuff happens that has, in reality, an extremely low chance of succeeding – such as Chewie piloting the Millennium Falcon through a crystal maze without any idea where he is going, what lies ahead, and how to get the hell out of there without crashing the ship into the wall or a dead end around a blind corner. Eye candy, sure, but completely unbelievable.
Of course, The Last Jedi continues with the story of Rey, the new series’ version of Luke Skywalker, complete with Jedi-wannabee-ness, demanding Luke teach her the Ways of the Force, who had managed to encourage Chewie to fly her to Luke’s new home and persuade him to teach her. Chewie, for the most part, spends the first half of the film doing pretty much nothing besides getting hungry, catching and cooking Roasted Porg for supper, then dog-whistling to PETA by throwing it away in revulsion when one of these cute-and-fuzzy animals looks all forlorn as he prepares to eat.
And that brings me to what I absolutely hated about this film: The virtue-signalling and dog-whistling that was there simply to show how wonderfully “inclusive” and “progressive” the studio has become.
Let’s start by laying some groundwork: The First Order, which is the cliche trope of The Powerful Bad Guy – representing Big Government, The Establishment, or whatever else you want to call it, is made up of stormtroopers in bright armour, with Stereotypical, Powerful, White Guy, General Hux. He’s the embodiment of the CEO, replete with hubris, and a touch of “Toxic Masculinity” thrown in. If you’re a Social Justice Warrior, he’s the Steve Bannon of the First Order.
Above General Hux is the Supreme Leader Snoke, who, by a strange coincidence, seems to ooze absolutely everything Social Justice Warriors claim that Donald Trump represents. He’s ugly, he’s evil, he’s powerful, and he’s oblivious to things happening right under his nose.
And of course, rounding out the parade of White Guys, we have Kylo Ren, who comes across as nothing more than Discount Darth Vader. Thank God he shed the stupid mask and cape in this story, but he’s still a white man with lots and lots of power. Since he’s younger than the other characters, he does, at least, show a bit of internal conflict over his role.
Moving over to The Good Guys – who, from the SJW perspective, represent those fighting for Truth, Social Justice, and Virtue Signalling, we have Finn, who at first,m must have been the First Order’s Token Black Stormtrooper (since that’s how he started out), and is now the Token Black Guy for the “Resistance” (as it’s been called this time around). To offset the First Order’s all-white-male leadership, the Resistance is led by Anthropomorphic Squid (Mon Calamari) and human Women. In the “engineering section”, we have our Token short, curvy Asian character, portrayed by a spunky vietnamese-american actress named Kelly Marie Tran.
To be clear, I quite liked the character of Rose Tico. I think Kelly Marie Tran played the part brilliantly and did the best job she could – and that was a very good job. (Note to those harassing her online with racist and sexist comments: STOP.), but the role she was in could have very easily been played by anyone of any race and gender.
Sadly, however, the “resistance” (discount Rebel Alliance) has been taken too far in the other way by Disney. In their effort to make sure that the film is “inclusive” and “progressive”, it loses its realism: men and women are wired differently. While women who do join military organizations are strong, powerful women who could probably break me in half without thinking twice about it, it still remains true that most women choose different career paths. I know, I know, you can make all kinds of arguments about how “the resistance will take anyone and everyone they can get” and all that, but even then, most people who join will be men; simply because that’s the kind of decisions men tend to make. There would definitely be women characters, but, by and large, the people out in the battlefield would be male, for no other reason than when it comes down to brute strength and reaction time, men have the advantage. So women would fill important roles in other areas.
Sadly, the progressivism, virtue-signalling, and, at times, forced humour (consisting of lines thrown in to get a laugh, rather than, as they did in The Empire Strikes Back flow with the story) overshadow and outweigh the good elements of this film, which means I was left shaking my head in disgust at the way it tried to beat me over the head with how good it was, rather than telling a good story.
And for that, I am forced to say, “the force is lacking in this one.”