I am not a big Star Wars fan, so take my review of the final act with a grain of salt. (I mean the final act of the original nine-episode storyline of course. This lucrative franchise will be milked with spinoffs until the next millennium.) I enjoyed the first trilogy (episodes 4, 5, 6), absolutely hated the first film of the second prequel trilogy (episode 1), so much so that I completely skipped episodes 2 and 3. The first film in the final trilogy (episode 7) got good reviews, enough that I went to see it and quite enjoyed it. I then watched episode 8 and was disappointed again and was now ambivalent of seeing the latest release but decided to do so due to a combination of staying with people who were going to see it and curiosity about how the story line would end. We ended up seeing it at 8:45 on Christmas day morning which had the benefit of the theater being largely empty even though we were watching it on an iMax screen.
(Q: Why were the nine films made out of order? A: In charge of scheduling, Yoda was.)
My review will not please those who are die-hard fans. Verdict on the film? Kind of meh. For me, the problem with all these films are the long fight and chase scenes that make the film much longer than they need be and the poor writing of dialogue. During the interminable fight and chase scenes, I would get bored and be waiting for them to end to that the story could move along, but when they did, the dialogue was so clunky that I began to get irritated and wish for some fight and chase scenes to distract me from it.
These films are not doing Adam Driver any favors as far as his acting credentials are concerned, even though they must be lucrative. I first saw Driver in a film in episode 7 and wrote about how his character of Kylo Ren looked “like a sullen teenager who is about to burst into tears because he has had his cellphone taken away and been grounded by his parents for the weekend.” My appreciation of his acting rose considerably with his performances in BlacKkKlansman and The Report but here he was back again with the sullen teen act. Would it kill the writers to give him a wider range of emotions and maybe even have him crack a smile or make a quip once or twice? In fact, the villains were all one-note characters and even when one of them behaved surprisingly, there is no backstory whatsoever to explain their behavior. It seems to be just thrown in for the sake of creating a surprise. And of course one has to overlook all the plot holes and contradictions and the fact that the mystical powers of the Force that some characters have seem to come and go and change without any explanation.
As to the main heroic characters of Rey, Finn, and Poe, they were ok, and the droids provided the usual comic relief. Rose, who seemed in episode 8 to promise playing a larger role, largely faded into the background this time in favor of two new female characters whose introduction was not well motivated and who at the end remained ambiguous. Actor Carrie Fisher had died before filming but her appearance using archival footage and CGI was done well so that you would not have known that she was not actually on the set. It was fun to see Billy Dee Williams reprising his role from the first trilogy.
Given how popular this film was bound to be, there were a lot of previews before it began. There were about ten that lasted for about half an hour, and they were all films that were high action with loud bombastic soundtracks so that by the time the film started I was already suffering from visual and audio fatigue. I also noticed that most of them (Top Gun, Dolittle, Mulan, Wonder Woman, Black Widow, and the latest Bond film) were sequels or remakes or spinoffs of popular earlier films, a tribute to the power of studio accountants over the creative artists.
Here’s the trailer.
consciousness razor says
But of course, there never was a nine-episode storyline. You mean the final act of the convoluted mess which was produced instead of that.
Indeed, it seems like much of episodes V and VI were mostly unsettled before filming began, not to mention a significant amount of editing that went into the theatrical version of episode IV. (Oh, and then there’s the “special edition,” but let’s not even go there.)
I figure that Lucas’ allusions to other stories at the time was just a lot of grandstanding. He could claim to studios/investors/audiences that he already had lots more exciting ideas where that came from, without having to say anything substantial. Nobody could really call his bluff back in the 80s when he was saying that stuff, because even if he did have such plans all along, you knew he would have kept them secret. So the only thing you could really do is take his word for it or not take his word for it. It’s clear now that the right choice was to not take his word for it, but he still got to benefit from a few decades of people buying his bullshit.
Happily, you’re wrong about that. I’ve been a big fan since I was very young, young enough to think the Ewoks weren’t overly silly. The film is what didn’t please me, not your review of it. I’m sure I’m not alone, and that a lot of other fans are disappointed. (Even the music in this one…. It was all pretty underwhelming.)
Well, unfortunately, they had a lot of ground to cover after The Last Jedi, because it certainly didn’t help to move the story forward. They really painted themselves a corner at that point.
At least they sort of understood that they had to resolve the conflict between Rey and Kylo somehow. It doesn’t matter how exactly that plays out…. Rey and/or Kylo switch sides, somebody’s tricked or betrayed or whatever — they could make a lot of different options work. It’s just that something needs to happen there, or else the story of the trilogy’s two major characters simply isn’t being told.
But notice how all of the other stuff in the movie, the new characters who were introduced and everything the other established characters say and do, is all basically pointless. That was not the story, and so it all goes nowhere. Sort of like The Last Jedi, it was around 2 hours of dead ends and distractions and irrelevant searching/chasing/fighting, so you could see the roughly 10 minutes dealing with Rey and Kylo that actually meant anything in the end.
It would’ve been nice if they had cut out most of that noise and gave themselves more than a few minutes to do almost all of the actual characterization and storytelling that needed to be there. If I had to grade that 10 minutes or so (from several different scenes) as its own little short film, I’d say it was actually pretty solid. But the rest? I would have tossed all of it out and asked myself why it was there in the first place. Somebody (or a lot of people) failed to do that while they were making this movie. If they had significant roles for Finn and Poe, I would’ve liked to see more of them too, but that’s not what happened. It was just “fix it with more space magic” or “fix it with more space macguffins.”
I was ten, thirteen and sixteen when “4”, “5”, and “6” came out, long before the prequels. In the late 1990s (my early thirties), the three came out on VHS, so I decided to rent and watch them. I got halfway through the first, realizing Harrison Ford’s famous rant at George Lucas was justified. I’m glad I only planned to rent them one by one.
At least you had the integrity to actually watch it before commenting on it, which is more than some people have.
I’d count myself a die-hard fan, and honestly, your verdict is pretty much exactly the same as mine. I know quite a few people who I’d describe as die-hard fans (i.e. adults who own at least one lightsaber and a double-digit number of SW t-shirts, for starters), and honestly, I don’t know a single one who’s more enthusiastic than that. “Fine” is the general opinion among the people I know who loved and grew up with this stuff. Not great, but equally not plumbing the depths of dross that the prequels did, just… fine.
The one thing I commented on to my friends as we left the cinema was an element of Driver’s performance. At a specific point near the end, in fight scene, he obtains a lightsaber, having been previously unarmed. At that point he makes a sort of invitational shrug, as if to say “OK chaps, let’s GO”, and it looked for all the world as if he was deliberately channeling/parodying John Wick. I can’t believe it wasn’t deliberate, and it was (to me at least) properly funny and a highlight of the film.
Overall, it was exactly what I’d expect at this point: safe, crowd-pleasing, didn’t make a lick of sense when you think about it for even a moment, and absolutely failed to deliver on any of the interesting possible threads set up by the hilariously divisive previous movie. And every time it looked like it might, it immediately rowed back as if to say “it’s OK neckbeards, you can relax”. I get why they did it, but in all seriousness I wish they’d accepted that this film was going to make a billion dollars regardless of what was in it and really run with the disruptive stuff they started with in Last Jedi.
I haven’t seen it, and will not be paying to see it (I’ll wait until I happen across it some day in the future) for I know I will not like it -- I haven’t liked anything since the first three and always for the same reason; utterly appalling stories that create no interest for me.
I thought Rogue One was going to be different but they managed to ruin even that effort at a better story.
Here’s a thing I cannot get past in the latest Trilogy; What the feck is the New Order?
At no point do I recall ever having it explained to audiences. And that highlights what I consider the biggest flaw of the three prequels -- they destroyed the foundation of the original movies by revealing that the great big evil Galactic Empire was younger than Luke Skywalker! He’s born during the effort to seize control and sees it destroyed in his mid twenties.
Watching Star Wars you get a simple straight forward story -- young lad in a back water gets caught up in an adventure to rescue a Princess and confront the evil Empire that oppresses all people (and imagine, perhaps over the movies, that the dark presence of the seemingly magic Sith Emperor is a long festering sore that is who knows how many centuries old).
But no, it’s all no older than the boy we follow from the start.
No evil empire worth the name.
On Adam Driver I had much the same experience as Mano -- first seeing him as Kylo Ren (just a stupid spoilt brat) I wasn’t impressed, but have been since seeing him in other roles.That’s just what’s become an expected symptom of Star Wars production poverty -- wasting through poor direction and story telling such talent.
I expect it occurs because shooting schedules are tight (because not all the directors were as horrid hacks as JJ Abrams) and orgainzed around the effects.
I recall seeing the first film in the theater on the first week it opened. It did not say “Episode IV” in the title. Apparently Lucas found he had a block-buster hit, and re-released the print a couple weeks after the initial distribution with the “Episode IV” added to the title.
While I don’t have any evidence for my speculation, I submit that the following happened:
Lucas, as he was taught in film school, wrote the back story outline and continuing story outline, then chose the pivot point in the history he wrote to make a film. That film was the original Star Wars. The original film, Star Wars shows the point in history where a mythic hero comes from poverty to lead freedom fighters to break the power of an oppressive Empire. From a story-telling perspective this makes a fun, if simple, story. And in order to tell the story well, the back story, how the Empire and Rebellion got to this point, needs to be known. But the back story is only in outline form, which is why Leia is a princess even though her father is a senator (not a king), and other plot house big enough to drive a star destroyer through.
But when it was apparent that this film “Star Wars” was a hit, all of a sudden that outline had a lot of value. So Lucas reviewed his original outline, revised in places, and quickly found he had plots for at least 8 more films, 3 of which would set up the events which occurred in “Star Wars”. It honestly wouldn’t surprise me that “Rouge One” was part of the original outline, as it follows similar structure as “Star Wars”.
So the original film was rapidly re-released as “Episode IV” and in interviews Lucas said he planned 9 films. I’m sure it was at this point where he decided that it really was a family affair, with Luke and Leia being siblings and their father being Vader. If this relationship was known when “Episode IV” originally was filmed, a few squinky scenes would have been re-written.
consciousness razor says
It’s called the “First Order,” and how it formed was never explained very clearly, although there was finally a half-hearted attempt to do so in Rise of Skywalker. (That title itself is still a bit mystifying to me, but that’s a conversation for people who’ve seen the movie.)
I always figured they were sort of like neo-confederates, after the South lost the U.S. Civil War. There were still people like that, and they were still militant, after the empire fell. They were handed another dark side leader, and they followed him. (Others, like Finn, were just enslaved/conscripted and subject to its propaganda.) It’s dead simple as a story, but it does work, as long as you’re not expecting to get much detail.
Along those lines, I wasn’t satisfied with how little was ever said about Luke, Snoke and Kylo, specifically. Those characters needed to be better understood, given the context — especially Luke, since things were so different from when we last saw him in Return of the Jedi.
Anyway, I thought it was generally okay that the bigger galaxy-scale story was a bit more vague. And come on: they tried to portray galactic politics in the prequels, but that effort was maybe satisfactory for some middle-schoolers, not for most grown adults. It’s probably best that they didn’t try to copy Phantom Menace and so forth too closely, which is more or less what they would’ve done, in order to answer questions like this.
I have plenty of complaints about the prequels. (For one thing, they shouldn’t have started so early in Anakin’s childhood, partly because that was just plain boring and irrelevant.) However, this is not one of my complaints. I’m sure there are or were real-world people who could say something similar about their experience of the Nazis’ rise to power, or about various other regimes throughout history. I don’t think there’s any flaw in telling a story about that kind of situation.
What’s also true is that the conflict between the “dark” and “light” sides is still very ancient. It’s not as if the fact that Palpatine became emperor more recently than you had assumed could invalidate that part of the backstory. If you’re familiar with other Star Wars fiction (in books, comics, video games, etc.), then you know the tide turns many times over the course of thousands of years, and the movies portray just one instance of it.
I’m not, never will be and do not consider any reliance on other media an acceptable prerequisite for understanding a movie.
The reason I don’t like the briefness of the empires existence is because, in the original movies, the ‘evil empire’ is not described in detail because of course the audience knows, essentially, what an evil empire is. But in the prequels we learn it isn’t really what we think an evil empire is -- it’s actually just (as far as galaxy spanning entities go) a brief dictatorship -- I find that really annoying.
Mano Singham says
That was interesting that the very first film did not say episode 4 for the first few weeks. I recall seeing the film in the US when it was released during the first run but am now sure how soon. Now after your post, I am not sure if I saw the words episode 4 or whether my memory has reconstructed it after the fact.
Your theory does make sense because films are always iffy provisions. How could an unknown filmmaker like Lucas have been so sure that he had backing for multiple films? It was not like he was working from blockbuster books like the Harry Potter series.
consciousness razor says
I don’t think that ought to be a prerequisite either. But it’s not that this would make you not understand the movies — you’re only complaining that they didn’t tell the particular story you wanted them to tell, in the way you wanted it told. The story (like it or not) which they did tell was definitely understandable. I don’t think we need to assume “being an empire” means “lasting a very long time.” That assumption is totally unsupported — just silly if you ask me — but even if I had to accept it, which of course I don’t, I bet you did understand the absurdly simple plot of the original and prequel trilogies just fine. So complain if you like, but please come up with something else, which we could both take seriously, something that is both true and is what you actually mean to say. If it’s at least true, I won’t have a good reason to disagree.
Moving on…. There are multiple references, in the movies themselves (and in other media, since there’s no harm in me mentioning that additional piece of information), which suggest the broader conflict is much older than Palpatine’s somewhat short term as the emperor, as you seemed to want in your complaint so as not to cheapen/lessen the scope of the conflict. It’s just that him becoming emperor is not when/how it started, even according to the movies all by themselves. The prequels did not suggest otherwise, because that really would have been inconsistent, and they only served to reinforce that fact.
All you really need to do is make a small adjustment to your implicit assumption that it’s a purely military/technological conflict about a galactic empire. Think of it as (mostly or to a significant degree) a conflict between darkside and lightside force-users, because that’s undoubtedly a very crucial aspect of the story which you cannot possibly have missed while watching the movies. And that is a very ancient conflict, as I pointed out before. The emphasis on the Jedi/Sith only becomes clearer in Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, particularly through Yoda but also Vader and Palpatine. Even in A New Hope, it’s described as ancient, and that film tells of at least one Jedi (Obi-Wan) fighting a Sith (Vader) before the empire started and in an earlier conflict (the “Clone Wars”). Given the name, you can infer that it was not just those two people but a war. And if not more Jedi/Sith where that came from, it presumably also involved clones, which aren’t depicted in the original trilogy. So no matter how the details are filled in, just from that you should expect the prequels to show a somewhat different state of affairs, not the very same empire/rebellion dynamic that you see in the original trilogy.
I should also ask how long you expect a scrappy little rebellion to hold itself together against a “big evil empire”…. Probably not very long, I would think. They either find a way to defeat this vast empire quickly and win (as in the movies), or it would eradicate them so that there is no such story to be told about the rebels. So no matter how old you think the emperor himself is, it’s not plausible that the rebellion took very much time to form and then succeed. If you wanted that implausible story, okay, but the filmmakers apparently didn’t and I wouldn’t be terribly satisfied with it either.
Anyway, by the time you saw the prequels, I do not know how you could have been unprepared for the larger Jedi/Sith conflict, unless you were just not paying attention. Maybe you weren’t and that’s okay I guess, but there’s no genuine criticism of a movie that comes in the form “I don’t know what I’m talking about.”
One of the things I liked most about the original movie was how much the dialogue *suggested* (e.g. offhand references to the clone wars).
One of the things I liked last about the supporting media that came later (including the prequels) was how they wrung every single possible iota of mystery or of those suggestions by filling in the back story on every single detail to the nth degree.
One example : the cantina. In the original movie, a typical spaceport bar scene, nicely populated with varied background characters to give a sense of reality and of other stories going on in the background. In the supporting media, every single fucking character you see in that scene, even for a second, has a name, a race, a back story and a reason they’re in that bar that day.
Over explaining takes away the wonder.
No I’m not.
I’m not complaining about something I wanted that was missing -- I’m complaining about the poverty of what was provided.
I wouldn’t care if the stories followed the basic plots they did IF they did it well -- but they just don’t. The mysticism of the Jedi which was cool early on was destroyed by over-emphasizing something poorly thought out with childish nonsense, this is a similar complaint to my problem with the passing insurrection called an Empire -- when it was a big threatening Empire audiences could imagine a rich world behind the scenes but every bloody time any effort was put into back story it always reduced the depth of the milieu making it smaller and smaller.
David Brin expresses a lot (with which I agree) is wrong with the Star Wars films beyond the first few