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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

"The Last Jedi" I Liked it, And I Don't Like Star Wars Movies

I am not a "Star Wars" fan. In fact, I didn't even know the name of this episode when I bought the ticket. Apparently it's "The Last Jedi," but I'm guessing that that is a misleading title – no doubt there will be a "Last Jedi Part Two." Though I'm not a fan, I enjoyed this movie. I don't really know what fans get out of "Star Wars" that causes them to become fanatical, but I can tell you why I enjoyed this one.

I like high production values. I like to see a lot of money on the screen. "The Last Jedi" is a feast for the eyes. I did become fixated on things that fans probably never think about. For example, the evil villain, Snoke, occupies a ultra-campy, red-and-black throne room straight out of a 1950s Vincent Minelli, MGM fantasy sequence. Star Wars fans – that's a compliment. I'm guessing you have probably never heard of Vincent Minelli.

Snoke's throne room's floor is so glossy you could floss your teeth using it as a mirror. During Snoke's scenes, I kept thinking, Gee, Snoke has one heck of a housekeeping crew. It's these implausible aspects of sci-fi and fantasy that distract me from the plot.

But "The Last Jedi" has another thing going for it – good-looking and charismatic star power. It was oh-so-poignant to see Carrie Fisher in one of her final films.

Adam Driver is good looking and his character is thoroughly despicable, an excellent combination. In one scene, he is shown bare-chested, in high-waisted pants. Driver has certainly recovered from the starvation diet he adopted to appear in Martin Scorcese Japanese-torture-Jesuit-priests snuff film, "Silence." Driver, bare-chested in high-waisted pants, has apparently become an internet meme. Anything that encourages well-built men to take off their shirts is A-OK with me.

Daisy Ridley as Rey, perhaps the eponymous last Jedi of the film's title – or maybe not; what do I know? – is perfection. She's gorgeous, earnest, and a real actress. She conveys strength and purpose.

Ridley's costume distracted me no end. She spends much of the film in cold and foggy Ireland, and she's dressed in ace bandages and torn gauze. These textiles are porous and could contribute to hypothermia in such a climate. She really should be wearing Gore-Tex. These people can travel in space ships but they don't have Gore-Tex? These implausibilities are SO distracting.

There is much disturbance in the Force about how "The Last Jedi" treats Luke Skywalker. Me, I love plot and motivation and inner conflict, not static "action" figurines. For me, Mark Hamill became the worthy inheritor of Alec Guinness. Hamill was much more appealing to me in this film than in the previous ones.

Oscar Isaac is gorgeous and I love looking at his face. The movie seemed to be trying to make him another Han Solo, and Isaac is not Harrison Ford. Isaac has too much gravitas and he is more deadpan than eye-popping Ford – Eye-popping both in that he was really good looking, and Ford's eyes pop when he is capital-A acting. But I enjoyed Isaac's scenes. Isaac makes a joke early on and it's funny and smart. I understand that "Star Wars" diehards hate this scene. They don't want funny and smart scenes in their movies. Nuff said.

Domhall Gleeson as General Hux twirled his Snidely Whiplash mustache a bit overmuch for me. This is a metaphor. Gleeson is clean shaven. I'm saying he chews up too much scenery – another metaphor.

In addition to the fantasy's inherent implausibilities distracting me, I was distracted by this film's heavy-handed political correctness. Since Carrie Fisher, Mark Hamill, and Harrison Ford are all white, the new films must do penance by having an exactingly calibrated, multicultural cast.

A black guy is in something of a love triangle with a white girl and an Asian girl. Okay, woman. This took me out of the movie. What about Chewbaca? Where's his species-appropriate wookie nookie?

The film works hard to make women warriors, and for women to put men in their place. This is all well and good, but I like it that women are less eager to crush, kill, and destroy life, and more eager to nurture it. Oh, wait. There's a scene where a woman warrior lectures a man, "We're going to win this war not by fighting what we hate, but saving what we love!" That was just sooooo didactic. And you wonder what the roots of male rage are.

Anyway, I've come to the end of everything I can say about a "Star Wars" movie. 

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