My Thoughts on Star Wars: The Last Jedi (SO MANY SPOILERS)
Right off the bat, I have to say that I really enjoyed the movie, but there was a part of my brain that was working on overdrive that prevented me from really getting lost in it. It felt like half a film. I know that's an odd statement, but yeah, it really felt like a good portion of the movie was Rian Johnson and crew, course correcting the franchise away from the redundancy of The Force Awakens, and sculpting the premise and the characters into something new and original. If you think I'm reading into things, I'll point out that the Stormtrooper's helmets are slightly different in this movie than they were in The Force Awakens (hereafter refereed to as TFA). Why is that a big deal? Well, there were a ton of those helmets made for the first film, and Disneyland, and collectors, and promotional material etc. and if you know anything about this industry, you'll know that it's not a light decision from a studio to redo something that 99% of the public will never notice. Yes, the Stormtroopers changed slightly in every film of the original trilogy, but that was due to props being misplaced, stolen etc. Disney probably has a warehouse full of FO trooper helmets now, and all of those will never see the light of day again because of the little tweak to the mouth for the new helmets. And don't get me wrong, the change is subtle, but it works. It makes them much more menacing. There's also the telltale scene of Luke IMMEDIATELY changing outfits as soon as the recap of the final scene from TFA plays out. The all white robe was an interesting visual choice for Luke, but it didn't work for the character of Luke that we actually see in TLJ so it felt like Rian Johnson was pretty much saying "yeah, no, I'm not having Luke wear THAT in my movie."
Anyway, it's late, so here's my quick breakdown on how this movie actively corrects a lot of the characters from how they appeared in TFA
Rey - like most JJ Abrams productions, Rey is a person with a mysterious past that the audience is left to speculate about. 99% of the public assume she's either Luke's daughter, or Kylo's sister. I'm willing to bet she was originally going to be Luke's daughter. I like her personality in TFA but there should have been more to character rather than just the fact that she's mysterious.
How TLJ fixes her - She's a nobody. She was born from lowlife degenerates who sold her off to feed their addictions. There's a possibility of this being a lie from Kylo, but I truly hope it's not. I love the fact that she's not part of this great destiny...that she comes from humble beginnings and achieves greatness. Unfortunately, this revelation will only add support to the people who believe she's a Mary Sue character.
Kylo Ren (Darth Vader 2.0) - Kylo is a pretty well rounded character in TFA and for me, he was one of the standouts of the film. But he was still toeing the line as yet another Darth Vader. It's here that I have to point out that the deleted scene with Kylo boarding the Millennium Falcon SHOULD have been kept in the film. With the short amount of screen time that he had with Han, the film needed that moment to reinforce his relationship with Han instead of just reminding us that he's Darth Vader's grandson. First and foremost, he's Han and Leia's kid, so you need that connection to be there for the audience.
How TLJ fixes him - Kylo goes through the biggest revamp in this film and this is symbolized by him smashing his helmet after Snoke belittles him from trying to be another Darth Vader with his silly mask. Again, this feels like a comment from the movie makers, and even though I was a fan of the helmet'd Kylo, they make the right choice by giving him his own identity in this movie. Kylo still has his temper tantrums, but he has a lot of nuance in this film, and if you predict what happens in the Snoke scene, you're a more clever person than me because WOW. That scene was fantastic.
Poe Dameron (Han Solo 2.0) - In TFA, he's essentially Han Solo's clone...a hotshot pilot who doesn't play by the rules and has a special relationship with Leia. That last part actually makes sense, based on Leia's affinity for roguish types, but Poe was originally scripted to die at the beginning of the film. But the truth is, he really doesn't have that much of a character in that movie
How TLJ fixes him - In TLJ, Poe's cocky behaviour is constantly called out and he gets a good dose of humility. He's indirectly responsible for the deaths of a lot of rebels here and his actions get called out. He has a great foil in the new Vice Admiral and by the end of the film, you can see that he's rethinking his shoot-first behaviour.
General Hux (Tarkin 2.0)- How the hell did this guy end up as the military leader of the First Order? TFA gives no hints to this. He's obviously supposed to be a young, angry Hitler proxy and they're recreating the power triangle between Vader, Tarkin, and the Emperor with him, Kylo and Snoke. I feel like they felt it would be too obvious to cast an older actor, so they said 'Hey, no one will expect this young dude to be in charge".
How TLJ fixes him - Hux is the butt of so many jokes and his inexperience is constantly indirectly referenced. There's a scene at the beginning where Hux makes a bad strategic decision about taking out Poe's X-Wing and we cut to an obviously older commander who points out that the decision should have been made 5 minutes ago. This is a poignant moment that establishes Hux's lack of respect in the film, and is eventually followed up with a necessary statement from Snoke as to why he keeps him around, which feels like it's actually directed to the audience. By the end of the film, Hux is relegated to a supporting position which actually feels appropriate for him.
Snoke (Emperor 2.0) - in TFA, Snoke is the Emperor back from the dead. Yep. There's no more to his character than that, and I HATED all the fan speculation about what his real identity might be. And I can tell you right now that I have NO doubt in my mind that JJ Abrams had plans for Snoke to be some huge reveal later in the series.
How TLJ fixes him - HOLY F**KING SH*T! Snoke goes out like a punk! Like two halves of a punk, even. This was very clearly Rian and co. going "Right! You were a stupid, redundant character and we'll have no more of your lazy character design in our film". Snoke is entirely unnecessary to this trilogy and if they weren't forced to write him in as a weak catalyst to Ben/Kylo turning to the dark side, they could have easily just went with the idea of Han being an absentee father like they hinted at in the first film. Ben was looking for a father figure and they could have just had him be swayed by the brotherhood offered to him by the First Order which would have paralleled real life accounts of why people joined the Hitler Youth.
I don't know about anyone else, but for me The Force Awakens didn't really do a stand out job of reinforcing the fact that the Resistance essentially lost at the end of the film. I remember the StarKiller base blowing up a bunch of planets (ala Alderaan) but the movie didn't really play up the consequence of this action. I'm told that there were a couple of lines mentioning this, but I cant remember this at all. All I remember is the light-hearted attack on the StarKiller base where no X-Wing pilots felt like they were in any danger. This was just another fun mission for them. Yeah, I know some get killed, but there's never the gravitas to those deaths like there is in A New Hope. So when the opening crawl goes up, I was a little taken back to read the bit about the Resistance being on the run from the mighty and victorious First Order. When the f**k did that happen? In the last movie? Ok, if you say so. Because of this, it took me a little be to reinvest myself into the situation of the movie because the last movie did a piss poor job of setting it up.
Luke Skywalker. Holy crap. I suspected something was up with his appearance (in both contexts) at the ending and I have nothing by high praise for Rian Johnson on how he handled this. When Luke shows up, you go with it because hey, that's what's supposed to happen in this type of film...but then when you realize what actually happened....HOLY CRAP! Every detail...holy crap! He shows up to talk to Leia and his hair is shorter and darker...his beard is neatly trimmed...he has his father's lightsaber, and these are all details that you're meant to just pass off. Then you realize what Luke actually did....just how powerful he's become...and this is how both Leia and Kylo remember him the last time they saw Luke...those little details are the mark of some master film-making.
Back to it being "half a movie"....The major problem with this movie is we're now 2/3's of the way through this new trilogy and most of the ideas that were set up for the trilogy have been scrapped 1/2 way along. Was there ever a long term plan for Snoke? Likely, but the character was derivative so I'm glad he's gone. But we can't ignore the fact that he still existed and we have no idea where he came from, how he used the Force, and how he created the First Order.
And finally....the porgs. Chewie fucking killed and spit-roasted two of the little bastards. Good times.