Say what you will about the Disney STAR WARS movies, but if there’s one thing they’re good at, it’s pass­ing the ball. The old school char­ac­ters (Luke, Leia, Han Solo in the last one) are nev­er allowed to seize the movie from the new kids – they’re always depict­ed as let­ting go so the next gen­er­a­tion can have its shot.
So, in the spir­it of pass­ing the ball, we thought we’d put the band back togeth­er for anoth­er Tomato Slam, in which three of our Tomatometer approved crit­ics dis­cuss STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI among them­selves. Here are the thoughts of Tim Cogshell, Wade Major and Ray Greene about the movie you KNOW you’re going to see. And which they did see yes­ter­day – right there in the the­atre Walt Disney used to chain smoke in, on the Disney back lot.
Here be SPOILERS. And incon­sis­tent punc­tu­a­tion. You have been warned...
TIM COGSHELL: Re: Mark Hamill: Maybe Reindeers are Jedi’s… but Santa?.
So, The Last Jedi…” isn’t. The for­ev­er war will con­tin­ue a bit longer, we know, but I’m begin­ning to think it will nev­er end. Which is wor­ry­ing… we (peo­ple from our gen­er­a­tion) are the chil­dren of Star Wars.” I don’t think I thought they’d still be going on 40 years hence..
Star Wars” is the longest run­ning war in American his­to­ry. I have issues with that, but will hold them for anoth­er conversation.
It was well received by the room for the after­noon screen­ing. They real­ly liked it. I liked it… less. I won’t say didn’t like it. I always like it. I liked it the first time I saw it in 1977. I liked it when they dupli­cat­ed it a cou­ple of years ago. It’s a good sto­ry… every time they tell it.
The next one will be some­thing like Empire, obvi­ous­ly… and I guess I’ll like it too. I liked Empire. 
RAY GREENE: This is the one like EMPIRE, remem­ber? That’s the train­ing film…
WADE MAJOR: I liked it less than The Force Awakens.” Which I thought was the best entry since Empire.” But that’s not say­ing much since I’ve pret­ty much hat­ed every­thing since Empire.” At 152 min­utes, it’s also way too damn long. And Rian Johnson should not have been allowed to write and direct. The script is a prob­lem — it has only two real­ly great moments” which isn’t enough for 152 min­utes. But it also doesn’t feel quite right — the lan­guage, the iconog­ra­phy, the weird­ly campy humor at the begin­ning — it doesn’t feel a part of the Star Wars uni­verse. Also — is this the first time that the word reli­gion” has been invoked in a Star Wars movie? Especially as relat­ed to Jedis? And the con­cept of a tem­ple”? I know peo­ple have asso­ci­at­ed the Force” with all kinds of reli­gious and mys­ti­cal ideas, but the word reli­gion” to my knowl­edge has nev­er appeared in any Star Wars movie ever. That, I believe, is a mistake.
For the most part, I think the film is stuck in a rut cre­at­ed by its pre­de­ces­sor — when they decid­ed to reboot the whole con­cept of evil empire/​rebel alliance/​nascent Jedi/​hotshot pilot/​old Jedi mas­ter with regrets for hav­ing failed a stu­dent who turned to the dark side/​dark side stu­dent turned into impe­r­i­al threat etc., they inden­tured this whole tril­o­gy to basi­cal­ly repeat­ing the broad dra­mat­ic beats of the orig­i­nal three films. So it’s a lot of tread­ing water (for 152 min­utes) as a place keep­er for what­ev­er pay­offs” are sup­posed to enthrall us in the next one. 
Here’s what I’m sick of in Star Wars” movies — and which this one does too much:
Messianic self-​sacrificial char­ac­ters: No. I’ll stay behind… some­one has to hold them off!” 
Clever switcheroo fake-​out decoy/​deception: Oh! I thought he was going to do THAT but he real­ly did THIS! AND FAKED THEM OUT”
Return of the Hero” Cavalry moments when all seems lost: Oh, we’re doomed… no one will come to our… HEY! IT’S THE MILLENNIUM FALCON! JUST IN TIME!”
Every pre­vi­ous Star Wars” movie — and a lot of Marvel movies — have those moments in spades. This one has about a dozen apiece. And it gets old… real­ly… damn… fast. 
Plus, stitch­ing all those tropes togeth­er requires some of the dumb­est con­trivances ever. There’s only one way in… or out!” (five min­utes lat­er) Hey! There’s a secret back door!” It’s like Johnson was lit­er­al­ly just mak­ing it up as he went along. It’s ridiculous. 
Considering Empire” was eas­i­ly the best film of the orig­i­nal series, that they were unable to gen­er­ate the same kind of excite­ment with a mid­dle film this time around… doesn’t bode well for the conclusion. 
Which, as Tim notes — won’t be a con­clu­sion. They’re going to milk this cow until she’s a dry leather sack.
RAY GREENE: The Messianic self-​sacrifice stuff comes with a very pecu­liar gene­ol­o­gy, which is that George Lucas was from that pecu­liar boomer peri­od when the kids were watch­ing tons of old war movies from the 1940s on broad­cast TV. Part of his idea was to make a sci fi ver­sion of those old WWII-​era pic­tures. In fact in his rough­cut of Episode IV, Lucas cut in WWII dog­fight footage to rep­re­sent the star­ship bat­tles the effects crews were still work­ing on.
The prob­lem with bas­ing a sci fi fran­chise on those old 40s movies is that those movies were lies. Self aware lies. Generated as moti­va­tion­al pro­pa­gan­da for the war effort at a time when the stu­dios were bend­ing over back­ward to please the American mil­i­tary. Those films were cre­at­ed to make war look hero­ic, and to min­i­mize parental grief over lost chil­dren by mak­ing com­bat look pain­less and death in war­fare look like a hero­ic per­son­al choice. Those are dicey propo­si­tions, and just because STAR WARS movies strike a kind of okey doke ver­sion of hero­ism doesn’t stop that stuff from amount­ing to war porn.
I mean think about it. Can you remem­ber a sin­gle STAR WARS char­ac­ter who has ever been WOUNDED on the field of bat­tle? I’m not talk­ing about Luke and Anakin get­ting messed up in DUELS. I’m talk­ing about all that canon fod­der we watch get­ting squelched in this movie. There isn’t one time when you go back to the moth­er­ship and there’s any­one groan­ing over the foot they just lost or some­thing. Hell, they seem to go into bat­tle with­out a medic.
It’s war with­out suf­fer­ing (only glo­ri­ous death if you’re a rebel, deserved death if you’re not). 
War porn.
I’ve got more to say but I’m going to stop for now by just not­ing that, obvi­ous­ly, this movie is going to be mas­sive, and nobody wiil care if we didn’t like it.
WADE MAJOR: Totally con­cur with most of what Ray and Tim pre­vi­ous­ly not­ed — and I’ve cor­rob­o­rat­ed there is only one pre­vi­ous men­tion of reli­gion” — as per Luke Y. Thompson — from the orig­i­nal Star Wars when Cushing makes a sneer­ing, deroga­to­ry men­tion of it. Otherwise, stuff like, I’ll hold” and over­ly reli­gious ver­biage — espe­cial­ly tem­ple” — and oth­er lin­guis­tic anachro­nisms feel real­ly out of place.
I have less of a prob­lem with the old fash­ioned war­mon­ger­ing aspects of it all — I’ve nev­er seen Star Wars as a vehi­cle for polit­i­cal com­men­tary in the same way as, say, Star Trek, so if they want to emu­late old WWII pro­pa­gan­da films that George Lucas grew up on, that’s fine — the dog­fights are all WWI-​inspired, just the same. Feels more like Wings” than any­thing else. But I do have a prob­lem with entire ships filled with peo­ple are picked off like aster­oids in a video game and we aren’t made to feel any­thing. At least when plan­ets are evis­cer­at­ed in Star Wars and in Force Awakens, we’re pricked ever so slight­ly to feel a sense of loss. Nothing like that hap­pens here. It’s just attri­tion and, oh, well, zap! there goes anoth­er one. 
That’s both­er­some. 
But all fran­chis­es even­tu­al­ly dig them­selves an inescapable hole when they become behold­en to fan ser­vice.” I can’t think of any fran­chise more behold­en to more fanat­i­cal fan ser­vice than Star Wars.” So as far as I’m con­cerned, the whole thing is basi­cal­ly doomed at this point. 
But it’s still going to make an ungod­ly amount of mon­ey. So what do I know….
RAY GREENE: Ok I’m back. Here’s my over­all view of STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI – with spoil­ers galore:
1) That’s a lot of movie. Like a LOT of movie. In fact, so much movie, I think my engorged eye­balls had to stick a fin­ger down their throats and vom­it out a cou­ple of the ear­li­er epic bat­tle scenes just so they could man­age to get through the finale. 
The rea­son it’s so big is because Disney is about to remake their entire net­work of parks (which is where the REAL cor­po­rate mon­ey still is) in the image and like­ness of STAR WARS, and they can’t risk tank­ing that process before it starts (See the Warner DC movie uni­verse for a text­book on how to destroy bench­mark intel­lec­tu­al prop­er­ty). And Disney is dri­ving this ship now, no ques­tion – hence the feath­ered ewoks and the When You Wish Upon a Star” end­ing with the kids in the manger.
No expense has been spared here, except maybe — SPOILER ALERT — on the ani­ma­tion of Yoda, which looks vast­ly infe­ri­or to the CG stuff George Lucas was doing in the Anakin Skywalker tril­o­gy twen­ty years ago. Then again, Yoda has been designed to work in 3D this time, and maybe that’s why he looked a bit like a weath­ered avocado.
2) The cast­ing of new char­ac­ters in this one lacks the imag­i­na­tion of THE FORCE AWAKENS. With the excep­tion of Benicio Del Toro (win­ning­ly eccen­tric as always) the play­ers from the last movie res­onate more than the new hires. That’s a trib­ute to JJ Abrams, I guess. In this one, Laura Dern is espe­cial­ly off, and that’s just impos­si­ble. She played INLAND EMPIRE with amaz­ing con­vic­tion, and she could not pos­si­bly have known what was going on in that movie. But here, she’s defeat­ed by a cos­tume that makes her look like a tree with pur­ple hair and the bland­ness of her dialogue. 
Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, on the oth­er hand, were not hired 40 years ago because any­body thought they’d be believ­able in elder states­per­son roles late in life. And they’re both kind of prob­lem­at­ic, in ways Harrison Ford’s Han Solo wasn’t last time. On the Ian McKellan grandeur scale of 1 to 10 they each rate around a 3.
Luke Skywalker has essen­tial­ly been revived as a com­bo plat­ter of Yoda’s men­tor­ing impulse and Han Solo’s crusty cyn­i­cism. Neither part suits Hamill, and he’s form­less and odd look­ing in the action scenes. (Alright – I’ll say it – he has a full­sized head on a three quar­ter scale body). And this Luke’s a quit­ter. He left the rebel­lion to die in a fit of piqué and per­son­al dis­ap­point­ment. I didn’t sit through six movies about his hero’s jour­ney” for this.
Aside from one big emo­tion­al sceneTM” where Leia FINALLY proves to us that the Force is in her too, Carrie Fisher seems pri­mar­i­ly to be wrestling with her den­tures. May she rest in peace.
3) In the cur­rent STAR WARS land, it’s always Opposites Day. So we revive the famed Cantina scene, but instead of tak­ing place in the worst dive in the Galaxy, it takes place in a lush pan­galac­tic Casino Royale. When Benicio Del Toro shows up as a Lando Calrissian-​like hus­tler, he’s a stam­mer­ing bum instead of a suave ladies man. The whole movie feels like some­body fed the orig­i­nal tril­o­gy into the DNA CRISPR process, and then spliced the pieces togeth­er in a dif­fer­ent order. This gives the movie sweep, but it makes the char­ac­ter rela­tion­ships feel warmed over and even obligatory.
Daisy Ridley’s Rey felt par­tic­u­lar­ly ill-​served to me, though I can’t fig­ure out if it’s because she had to spend almost the entire movie plead­ing with Mark Hamill or because she’s just not that inter­est­ing as an actress. The one per­former who con­tin­ues to stand out is Adam Driver as Kylo Ren – eas­i­ly the most inter­est­ing vil­lain the STAR WARS fran­chise has ever offered us. It’s Opposites Day for Ren too of course – his tra­jec­to­ry is the Darth Vader sto­ry in reverse, a drift­ing from the dark toward the light – but his per­for­mance is so nuanced he pro­vides an emo­tion­al and even a trag­ic majesty to every scene he’s in.
That is very good news for a fran­chise that still has char­ac­ters bark­ing out their inner mono­logues and moti­va­tions like they’re host­ing a TED talk on mind­ful­ness, and where much of the heavy emo­tion­al mate­r­i­al amounts to know­ing nods and smiles. The cli­mac­tic bat­tle between Ren and Rey that’s being set up for the next movie might actu­al­ly have some heft and res­o­nance thanks to Driver’s refusal to gloss the inner life of his char­ac­ter, the way the usu­al­ly fine Oscar Isaac seems will­ing to.
4) The rebel alliance has got to be the worst fight­ing force ever depict­ed on movie screens. I mean, they sac­ri­fice sol­diers en masse in every major com­bat scene in this movie. And, with one excep­tion, nobody ever grieves any­one, or even reacts to the car­nage with more than a momen­tary sigh. By the end of the movie, when the entire alliance is reduced down to some­thing like 14 beings and some­body says We have every­thing we need right here,” their incom­pe­tence and obscene body count seem almost intend­ed as a parody.
And the big bad mil­i­tarists of the First Order are almost as bad – they seem to have no tac­ti­cal ideas beyond Blast them again!,” which come to think of it was pret­ty much the way the Empire behaved in the orig­i­nal tril­o­gy so I guess that’s canon.
5) The pres­i­den­cy of Donald Trump infects every­thing. I can remem­ber being a bit annoyed by the cav­a­lier way all the vic­to­ries of the orig­i­nal tril­o­gy were reversed in THE FORCE AWAKENS and by the idea of a seem­ing­ly even bet­ter equipped set of space fas­cists con­jured out of ether. But now, unthink­able, tox­ic and world-​destroying ide­olo­gies are on the rise all over the world and per­haps espe­cial­ly in America. 
The zom­bie res­ur­rec­tion of the worst of human and polit­i­cal impuls­es feels a lot less like a lazy plot device now, and a lot more like prophecy.
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