The star war was…OK

Star Wars: The Last Jedi was one of the better ones, actually, which isn’t saying a heck of a lot, but it does mean you won’t be embarrassed by it, as you were by the horrible prequels or the patent marketing ploy of the Ewoks. It also survived the most unpleasant test of a movie ever.

About halfway through the showing here in Morris, someone in the theater crapped their pants. It wasn’t too near me, so all I suffered through was the occasional eddy of air passing through bearing the odor of hot buttered popcorn and poop, and fortunately I hadn’t bought any popcorn or snack food, so it was only sporadically unpleasant — but no one left the theater. Not the poopy pants person or anyone seated near them. So I think we can say the movie was at least that engaging.

Just a hint of etiquette, though: you may think it’s a good idea to test the dedication of an audience, but still, when you’ve shat your drawers please excuse yourself and clean up.

The burning question, though, is about the plot. No spoilers here, but remember how the last one was practically a remake of the first Star Wars movie, A New Hope, and you could slot all the characters into analogs of the first movie’s cast, with some of that cast also making significant appearances, and the plot was just “blow up the Death Star”, only with an even bigger Death Star? Yeah, this one shows it’s bones are the same as the second movie, The Empire Strikes Back. Those bones have been creatively jiggered around, so you’ll still get some surprises. The ice planet battle with rebels in trenches fighting the oncoming, ponderous army of massive imperial battle machines is still there, it’s just been put near the end instead of the beginning, for instance.

It’s such a clone that there’s even a scene where the whiny Darth Vader copy, Kylo Ren, breaks the heart of the Luke version, Rey, by informing them of their parentage during a climactic battle. Don’t worry, though, it’s not something like, “I, Kylo Ren, am your third cousin twice removed” and Rey goes, like, “NOOOOOO. It can’t be!” It’s a little more realistic than that.

Also, the movie is overstuffed with irrelevant side-conflicts and tangents and sudden swordfights which turn the whole story into a sloppy turducken of confusion, but it’s OK, they’re entertaining, just go with it.

The porgs were clearly tossed in as comic relief. They weren’t very amusing. That’s the level of humor we’re working at here, so don’t expect much to laugh at. Do not buy the inevitable porg toys, or I will have to unfriend you.

The primary plot devices are all about Force magic. The hokey religion angle is wearing thin, but OK, it’s a fantasy story, I guess we need to allow it.

By the way, is it now a requirement that every sf/fantasy movie include one character rendered so badly that it breaks all suspension of disbelief? In this one it’s Yoda. He still looks like a cheesy foam puppet made in the 1970s, and his scene just goes on and on. He’s dead. He’s a Force ghost. Let him rest in peace, ‘k?

Bottom line: if I were twelve years old again, I’d probably be saying “This is the greatest movie ever!!!” I’m not, unfortunately, so I’m just going to say it’s fine, light, forgettable entertainment. It would be improved by having an audience that could control their bowels, but otherwise it’s exactly what it says on the label and as long as you don’t expect depth or greatness, and it truly is a nice representative of the Star Wars genre.


  1. Holms says

    Just a hint of etiquette, though: you may think it’s a good idea to test the dedication of an audience, but still, when you’ve shat your drawers please excuse yourself and clean up.

    They stayed and kept watching???

  2. blf says

    The mildly deranged penguin is ecstatic. Her new PeaCromeHallucinationVision (not, she indigently points out, PeeChrome…) ordure-enhanced memecapture system has passed a critical test: Some people actually claim Star Wars doesn’t induce immediate or prolonged mental and physical upset in creatures other than horses. PeaCrome… took whole seconds to develop, and whilst capturing and caging the peas wasn’t very easy, the mechanism for saturating the cinema(movie theatre / motion picture theater) with essence of pea was simplicity itself — just threaten them(the peas) with cardboard cutouts (not necessarily literally) from the overlong series.

    A few adjustments are necessary. The audience — or at least some of it — can still write coherent sentences without excessivE CaPS RAndOMlY; She hasn’t got the cheque yet; and Her jug of Absinthe is now empty. These are fairly minor problems, the most immediate issue is caging enough peas, then what to do with all the captured memes, not to mention an increasingly desperate need to visit the toilet…

    (She still insists, however, it’s not PeeChrome.)

  3. wcorvi says

    The never-ending mystery to me is how, so far in the future, the weapons can be so excruciatingly ineffectual. I mean, storm troopers can’t seem to hit the broad side of a barn, though they can make sparks that fill the screen. And why, when someone pulls a light sabre on them, doesn’t someone just blast them out of existence with a phaser?

    And a ‘death star’ that seems to have brought death to absolutely NO ONE!

  4. blf says

    The never-ending mystery to me is how, so far in the future, the weapons can be so excruciatingly ineffectual.

    The brides paid in the military-industrial complex are, in the far future, about 100% of the fees paid. Hence, what is actually delivered is not only way past schedule and significantly over budget (at cost-plus), but cardboard cutouts.

    The main innovation in the far future is the removal of any auditing from the contracts: “What you get at the price we decide must be correct.” With penalties if there are any complaints, be it by the recipients, users, press, or whoever. At treble rates, immediate payment (trebled again if not settled by the end of the day, per day, definition of “day” decided by supplier).

    The main flaw in this system is the lawyers and accountants who devised it overlooked the definition of “currency”. Hence, creative customers have tried to pay off the bills with, e.g., dried newts. In response, the Debt Star was created, which goes around blasting stellar systems containing alleged debtors. Unless, of course, everyone in the system publicly pays up (and not in dried newts).

    This doesn’t work quite as well as intended, since the companies which built the Debt Star used cardboard…

  5. weylguy says

    I saw the first Star Wars in 1977 and thought it was silly and childish. I later suffered through what turned out to be an indestructible extraterrestrial with a flashlight finger and a glowing chest, followed by what seemed like hours of Richard Dreyfuss building endless pyramids of mashed potatoes and dirt when more aliens arrived. My last experience was with Arrival, a truly mindless sojourn featuring ink-splattering floating aliens and sideways-turning gravity.

    There are two reasons for all this garbage — one, science-fiction filmmakers will spin out every kind of nonsensical bullshit today that has made a profit in the past, and two, their target audience is no longer 6-year-old children, but infantilized adults.

    Sorry for the rant.

  6. Vivec says

    Insulting the intelligence and maturity of people who like things you don’t is really, really not a good look.

  7. Michael says

    I thought the Luke/Rey/Kylo/Snoke plots were good, but the whole Leia/Finn/Poe parts were disappointing. I did like that they had a few surprises and broke with some stereotypical expectations, eg. Finn trying to shut off the tracking device in time. Rey’s parentage was a letdown, especially after all the speculation. The biggest plot hole that continues to annoy me is that a fleet of Star Destroyers can’t break formation for some reason to surround a single ship.

  8. Vivec says

    Without having seen the movie, the horrific inefficiency of facism biting the Empire/First Order in the ass has been a consistent theme throughout the entire franchise (See: focusing the entire empire around building huge superweapons with glowing weak points and insisting on human-only policies because fantasy racism in a setting where humans are very much the minority)

    Star Destroyers refusing to break formation to achieve victory is very in character (and also is probably an allusion to Empire Strikes Back, given that they didn’t do so to stop the blockade runners leaving Hoth)

  9. davidc1 says

    the boss @4 Don’t want to get any further in to this than i have to ,but was there just the pong ,or were there sound effects ?

  10. emergence says

    Weylguy @8

    Apparently you saw the ink splatters in Arrival but not the complex plot about communication and language.

    I’m really starting to think that people who shit on science fiction are just dullards with with no sense of wonder about how technology will advance or what discoveries scientists might eventually make. At the very least they’re so obsessed with everything being “real” that they can’t see any value in imaging worlds that differ in any significant way from the one we live in.

  11. Vivec says

    Right? I find most examples of “realistic” or “deep” fiction horrifically boring.

    I watch media for escapism. If everything was dreary hard science that always followed real world science with no magic or wonder or silly schlock, I’d never watch a sci-fi movie again.

  12. Tim Reeves says

    Human life can be just so squalid. No wonder you’re an atheist! But then what can come out of the other end of the alimentary canal can be even worse, as you well know!

  13. blf says

    Did it start in the usual way with fucking spaceships making fucking aeroplane noises in a fucking vacuum?

    Specifically, I have no idea. Generally, that is the signature of Star Drek nazi propaganda, so I’d be very very surprised if it didn’t include something similar, along with slaves, impossible physics, misogyny, and racism.

  14. Anton Mates says

    Just a hint of etiquette, though: you may think it’s a good idea to test the dedication of an audience, but still, when you’ve shat your drawers please excuse yourself and clean up.

    I wouldn’t assume that the person was in a position to worry about etiquette; they could very well have been having a medical crisis. Did everyone leave the theater looking normal-ish afterwards?

  15. blf says

    Did everyone leave the theater looking normal-ish afterwards?

    Probably not, unless you consider a corpse normal.

  16. hemidactylus says

    @18- Vivec
    I am for escapism and don’t get too caught up in passing judgement on movies as long as they keep me engaged and aren’t too unintentionally ridiculous. Intentionally ridiculous is OK. I actually thought Attack of the Clones was the best Star Wars movie (multiple simultaneous spit takes ruining keyboards). I saw the New Hope as a kid and enjoyed getting caught up in the hype. The next two were watchable.

    I am more of a BSG fan. Might wait for Blu Ray on the new Star Wars.

  17. hemidactylus says

    I saw a tshirt recently that said “OMG R2D2…I loved him in Star Trek” and had an image of a Dalek instead of R2D2. That’s exactly my take on scifi cultism. Too serious. The shows and movies are fun to watch though.

  18. brett says

    Poe had a pretty interesting character arc, showing his recklessness in a really negative light. There was a plot hole in there that turned out to be really important for moving the story along, but I only barely noticed it at the time.

    Overall, I liked it. It does have some similar beats to Empire Strikes Back, but it’s still quite different and there’s some stuff I really liked. What they did with Rey’s parents was really good, but I won’t spoil it.

    Side-note, but does anyone else think it’s weird to have Star Wars ever described as science fiction? It’s not – it’s space fantasy.

  19. Robert Serrano says

    Yeah, I’ve always heard it described as space opera. Some rough sci-fi trappings placed in what’s basically a big, dramatic, fantasy story. But I guess for some people spaceships + aliens = science fiction.

  20. John Morales says

    hemidactylus, exactly. There’s no science in Star Wars — or, alternatively, there is every bit as much science as there is in Tolkiens’ or J. K. Rowling’s universe. It’s straight-out fantasy.

    So Robert Serrano is spot-on, if one makes that distinction.

    (But I long ago gave up on trying to explain the difference between SF and Sci-fi — and by long ago I mean last century)

  21. John Morales says

    hemidactylus, as I said, I’ve given up. Either one gets that ‘science fiction’ is a compound term where both individual terms should apply, or one does not.

    (FWIW, I think the Black Mirror series is mostly SF — which is impressive)

  22. unclefrogy says

    I would agree that star wars is more fantasy the science in fact science is hardly ever mentioned in any context nor is reason for that matter. Has more in common with game of thrones the prisoner of zenda and the man in the iron mask or The Three Musketeers, than it does with 2001, forbidden planet, Johnny Mnemonic or Contact. even with all the now cliche elements form the associated genres Cowboys & Aliens was more science fiction
    some of them are are fun, some of them are leaden in parts and pretty hard to believe. They do shine in images and graphics though, even when the stuff they draw is impossible, the look is good, it may stretch the envelope of believe-ability but they do it usually with fine details and good renderings.
    poopy pants could have been a little kid with a full load in the diapers I seem to remember that they can be extremely pungent especially when eating groan-up food.
    uncle frogy

  23. hemidactylus says

    @34- John-
    Historical fiction is a compound word too. In that genre we have movies such as U-571 and The Patriot which are arguably atrocities because they are light on history and heavy on fiction and distortion and a movie such as The Quiet American (2002) which like its book by Graham Greene attempted to convey the actual backdrop of French recolonization of Indochina and US clandestine insinuation with a politically pointed message about the events it portrayed. There was a more authentic historic feel.

    If space opera is indeed a subgenre of scifi, it underemphasizes the science. The wikipedia article lists Asimov’s Foundation as an example of space opera though it touted psychohistory as a science. That “discipline” captured the worst excesses of memetics before it became a thing. I guess magic or Jedi religion works the same way as an autapomorphy that sets space opera apart from the ancestral taxon that takes science more seriously. So space opera should be considered an entirely separate genre given fantasy, adventure and some western tropes?

  24. John Morales says

    hemidactylus, things are what they are. I know people who imagine good stonefruit is crunchy stonefruit (it’s all they’ve known).
    Which is why I like the term ‘Sci-Fi’: one knows what (generally not) to expect.

    Historical fiction is a compound word too. In that genre we have movies such as [contrast elided] … There was a more authentic historic feel.

    Sure. So, do you get the same sort of scientific feel in science fiction as you do a historical feel in historical fiction? ;)

    If space opera is indeed a subgenre of scifi, it underemphasizes the science.

    Have you read Star Smashers of the Galaxy Rangers?

    (Super-science! A parody of EE “Doc” Smith, pretty much the original space opera. Or go back to Olaf Stapledon for an earlier example)

  25. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    So Morales, given your understanding of compound nouns, if Stat Wars is a space opera why isn’t there any singing?

  26. hemidactylus says

    @37- John-
    I concede the difference, but I am hardly an expert. Though when they brought Maya the Shape Shifter in did Space:1999 jump the shark from scifi to fantasy? And did anyone complain at the time?

  27. John Morales says

    What a Maroon, dunno, haven’t seen the movie yet. :)

    (But with Star Wars, one can always point at “the Force”, right?)

    I gather this flick has generally good reviews, but I find this one is quite informative.

    Preferable to so-called “spoiler-free reviews”, which are generally too vague to be useful.

  28. John Morales says


    Though when they brought Maya the Shape Shifter in did Space:1999 jump the shark from scifi to fantasy?

    Um. Obviously not.

    The very premise of the show was that the Moon was hurled essentially unharmed at superluminal velocity into galactic space by an accidental explosion of stored nuclear waste — where’s the science in that?

    (But hey, it was set in the future. Automatically sci-fi there, right?)

  29. microraptor says

    Marcus Ranum @14:

    I’m going to wait till I can see it free on netflix. I don’t want to reward the studios for producing endless shovel-loads of dreck.

    I would not anticipate that The Last Jedi will ever be on Netflix, given Disney’s announcement that it’s going to be pulling all its movies and shows at the end of next year in order to go with its own streaming service.

  30. says

    Why is it that every Star Anything topic gets so many high horses that you have to wonder how come the riders do not get vertigo?

  31. says

    I think I liked it a bit better than you, PZ. I liked Luke’s story arc. The new characters were much more developed this time around. I can’t wait to see again.

  32. brett says

    @36 Hemidactylus

    Space Opera is odd in that it can be a description both for Space Fantasy and Science Fiction stories. I classify Star Wars as space opera and Space Fantasy, but Foundation is Science Fiction and space opera because the whole “psychohistory” thing is a genuine idea to try and explore a futuristic idea or theme. Foundation isn’t what we would call “hard” SF, but it definitely is SF.

  33. johnhodges says

    I liked the Crystal Critters. Though there should not have been so many of them; half-a-dozen would have been enough. SF alien animals often make no sense ecologically. The Yeti on Hoth may have eaten TaunTauns, but what do TaunTauns eat? Crystal foxes no doubt eat the local mice, but what do the mice eat? Dead grass hidden under the ice, left over from the previous summer? Windborne Seeds that blow in from warmer places? It’s winter, food will be scarce, top predators (like these foxes) even scarcer. Maybe they live off solar energy directly, that’s what the crystal fur is for.
    I confess I failed to understand the scene where Rey visits the DarkSide place, seems to get no info about her parents. Interesting but inconclusive.
    I have seen a few fantasy movies that abandoned any pretense of making sense, a series of great scenes that had no apparent connection to each other or with a coherent larger world; IMHO they were terrible movies.

  34. says


    The never-ending mystery to me is how, so far in the future, the weapons can be so excruciatingly ineffectual.

    Actually, I do have a thought on this. And, its two fold:

    1. Unless you are in semi-defensible position, and have time to aim, you might not be that prone to accuracy anyway. Most “military” action, involving large number of people moving around, instead of firing from cover, involves, today, just spraying bullets at things, and hoping some of them hit.

    2. You do not, and I do mean “do not” want to know how many cases of both cops, and yeah, even ex-military my brother, or my dad, when he was still around, talk about seeing at firing ranges who where literally of the sort where they couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn either. Worse, you get stories like the one my brother mentions from when he was a cop himself – three cops, firing 36 rounds, at one guy, and missing every shot, using the equivalent of a blaster.

    Basically, I am not sure how “inaccurate” this portrayal actually, sadly, may be. Presumably, to get “more accuracy” you need a) training to be accurate, and b) something better than our own, “Point it and pull the trigger, and hope you are good at the aiming part.” What is possible in a firing range (and a lot of the people I mentioned are horrible at even that), just gets worse when you, or the target, is moving around, or not out in the open, just standing their to shoot at.

    You have an endless number of storm troopers that may be “adequate” at this, but not perfect, while.. I imagine the rebels tend to be more, “We are the ones that tend to be at least better than average, hence, still alive.”

  35. says

    Crystal foxes no doubt eat the local mice, but what do the mice eat? Dead grass hidden under the ice, left over from the previous summer? Windborne Seeds that blow in from warmer places?

    As one character in the trenches comments, when reaching out after his commanders scrapes some of the surface with his foot, getting out of the trench – “Salt”. The world might be somewhat colder, but not “frozen”. I suspect the white on the surface is just a thin layer of some sort of oxidation. So… presumably, somewhere we didn’t see are salt resistant/reliant plants, growing in what isn’t necessarily even close to a frozen planet. But, that is just my guess.

  36. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says

    Since we’re picking nits, and I don’t think this is a spoiler: what’s with the space bombs? Admittedly I’m not a physicist, but it seems to me that a space cruiser (or whatever they call those things) wouldn’t have enough of a gravitational field that you could just drop a load of bombs on them. Surely they need some sort of propulsion system, in which case they’re missiles or torpedoes, not bombs, and you don’t need to be directly “above” the target to fire them.

  37. brett says

    @49 What a Maroon

    Maybe they can home into targets, but the B-Wing was so heavily damaged that they couldn’t target them – they just had to rely on the inertia from being launched out of the ship to carry them to the dreadnought. It’s the only way I can make sense of it.

    Thinking too much about this causes problems. We know that they can travel across the galaxy in mere hours, and since the First Order is presumably in control of most of the galaxy they have tons of ships. Why didn’t they call in additional fleets to pin the rebels from different directions? Even Return of the Jedi had that, with the rebels pinned between the second Death Star and the Imperial fleet over Endor (unless they wanted to jump to hyperspace and lose their opportunity to destroy said Death Star).

    Side-note, but there might be an easter egg in Rogue One that came up in The Last Jedi. I didn’t notice it myself, but someone who rewatched Rogue One after The Last Jedi says that when Jyn is foraging through the data hub on Scarif in that film, one of the projects that comes up is “Hyperspace Tracking, Navigation Systems”.

  38. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says


    Maybe, but they referred to them as “bombs”, which kind of implies that they’re propelled by gravity (or I guess inertia, but in that case the bomber would have to be moving quickly towards its target when it releases them and then back off quickly–somehow that doesn’t seem very efficient in space).

    Anyway, I know we have to accept a lot of impossible things for the sake of the plot (faster than light travel? sure, beats hearing about a defeat somewhere else in the galaxy 100 years later and then sending out ships in response), but for some reason those bombers bothered me. I guess they just didn’t seem necessary to the plot. I appreciate the bigger message–that sometimes the swashbuckling approach just ends up wasting lives–but they could’ve found another way to make it.

  39. launcespeed says

    johnhodges @ 46

    I confess I failed to understand the scene where Rey visits the DarkSide place, seems to get no info about her parents. Interesting but inconclusive.

    I think part of the point may have been Rey’s realisation that the Dark had no answers for her.

  40. Matrim says


    Well, they were deployed by a ship with artificial gravity. They would accelerate downward until they left the ship’s gravity field, at which point they would continue at the same speed until they struck something. I don’t see any problem in how they work, but it seems like a pretty inefficient way of doing things.

  41. vucodlak says

    @ Kagehi, #47
    RE: can’t hit the broad side of a barn

    My grandfather, who was career military, had a ton of Army stories. One of his favorites:
    One evening, while he was serving in Vietnam in command of an MP battalion, he’s shaving just before going to bed. He hears gunfire inside the camp, a lot of it. So he puts on his helmet (which is dripping wet because he was shaving out of it), grabs his sidearm, and goes running through the camp, in his underwear, toward the shots.

    He gets to a tent where with a bunch of spooked looking soldiers standing outside of it, their guns in hand. They said they’d been in the tent, moving the gear around as was procedure, when a cobra crawled out from under one of the duffel bags. So they shot it.

    My grandfather goes in the tent and has a look around with a couple of the soldiers. There are holes in the tent. There are holes in the duffel bag. There are holes on the ground. At least 30 holes, all told. What there isn’t is a dead snake, or even a drop of blood. This, despite the fact that the soldiers had been shooting point-blank.

    So the colonel steps out of the tent, looks around at the now sheepish-looking collection of soldiers, and asks: “Where’s the snake?”

    One of the soldiers answers: “Well, sir, it crawled away while we were shooting at it.”

    My grandfather: “Oh, it crawled away… Alright then, we’re all going out to the firing range, and we’re going to stay there until I’m satisfied that you idiots can hit the broad side of a barn from five damn feet away!”

  42. What a Maroon, living up to the 'nym says


    Artificial gravity? Oooohhhhkayyyy,,,* But if that’s the case…. Oh, screw it, I’ll just go with magic.



    *Yeah, I know that other spacish movies/programs have the same problem, but I can’t think of another case where things are dropping off the ship.