Today saw the release of the latest Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi, on Blu-Ray and DVD. I bought it on 4k Blu-ray, because I can play those now, so why not? I’ve talked about my general thoughts on the movie after it released, and I’ll talk a bit about my more recent thoughts later, but there are a few things we need to get through first.
Needless to say, The Last Jedi is polarizing among hardcore Star Wars fans. It did very well with the critics, earning a 91% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes with an average score of 8.1/10, which is almost identical to The Force Awakens’ critical reception. But among fans, there are a lot of people upset with how the movie handled Luke Skywalker and some of the revelations, and there are more moments and story details that are dividing fans.
Despite this, it did very well from a financial standpoint. It’s the number 1 movie of 2017, taking in over $1.3 billion, to become the 9th highest grossing movie in history at the time. Sure, that’s not very close to The Force Awakens’ $2 billion plus, but never in history has the second entry in a Star Wars trilogy done nearly as well as the first. The Phantom Menace earned more in its initial release than even Revenge of the Sith, and its 3D re-release pushed it over the $1 billion mark, the first Star Wars movie to do so. And with a budget of $115 million, that still makes The Last Jedi a massive financial success by any standards.
That’s right, The Last Jedi’s budget was much less than half of The Force Awakens’ $300 million budget, and also well under Rogue One’s budget of $265 million. All those numbers are before the paid product placement that would actually pay for part of the movie, which we don’t have the numbers on yet for The Last Jedi. In fact, that budget is barely above Revenge of the Sith’s $113, and that movie was made 13 years ago.
There’s one thing that I’m sure most people can agree on with this movie, whether you like it or not. From a visual standpoint, this movie is breathtaking. The neat contrast between the red rocks and the white surface salt on Crait makes for a beautiful visual that’s just alien enough for a Star Wars movie. The battle in Snoke’s throne room contains the right amount of sparks and a great colour pallet that enhances the mood of the scene. The environments shown on the island are always beautiful, and the cast and crew make great use of their surroundings to help tell the story. There’s a good mix of shots that reference moments from the first six episodes, and the types of angles you don’t usually see in these movies. The CGI with Snoke is a lot more convincing than it was in The Force Awakens, and CGI in general is used more sparingly. And I gotta say, this movie looks beautiful on 4k Blu-Ray. The difference between 4k and 1080p is subtle, sure, but it’s worth it for visually impressive movies like this, or violence heavy dramatic movies like Logan.
The soundtrack in this movie is also a lot better than The Force Awakens’. John Williams expands on a lot of the better themes from the previous episode into a number of tones, tempos and pitches. The theme expanded the most would be the Resistance theme. The New Rebellion theme you often hear during Finn and Rose’s adventures is also good. It’s a kind of inspiring tune. And of course the drum heavy beat during the Captain Phasma fight is awesomely intense. Part of the reason Episode 7’s soundtrack felt phoned in at times was because John Williams was sick for much of 2015. Well, he’s healed from whatever ailed him, and it’s incredible that at 86, he’s still better than anyone else in the business.
After watching some, but definitely not all, of the special features, they’ve clarified a few things on some of the story choices made in the movie. These reveals won’t satisfy anyone, but they do offer an interesting insight into the filmmaking process regardless of your opinions. From this point on, there will be spoilers. Also, you might be a bit lost if you haven’t seen the movie.
Probably the most controversial aspect of the movie is how Luke Skywalker’s character is treated. And as much as I defended this choice even back when I posted about this movie last year, I get it. I get people being upset that their childhood hero is portrayed as a grumpy old, broken man. Well, some of the deleted material shows more aspects of Luke’s character in The Last Jedi. There’s a brief moment after he learns of Han’s death where he sits alone, tearing up, before it cuts to Leia pretty much doing the same thing. Seeing how people wouldn’t even notice the added length by the end of the movie and the moment adds to both characters, I feel that removing this scene might have actually been a mistake.
There are a lot of other deleted scenes that would have worked fine in the movie, but seeing how this is already the longest Star Wars movie yet, I get why they were cut. Another deleted scene shows both Luke and Rey learning a lesson that contributes to how the movie ended, while also showing Luke joking a bit. It’s a nice moment that further deepens his characterization, while also adding to the raw emotions that eventually led to Luke and Rey’s stick fight.
But even without these, I’m perfectly fine with the direction they took Luke. It took me a week or so to get to that point – after my first viewing I just needed time to think about things. But in the long run, there aren’t too many other directions you could have gone with the character. Luke simply disappeared from his friends in search of the birth place of the Jedi order, without giving them a trace. He stayed there for who knows how long, living as a hermit.
As I said in my other post (I won’t say it in as much detail here), while Luke was the most optimistic character in the original trilogy, he was also the most easily discouraged. This is a guy who watched his entire body of Jedi students either murdered or led to the dark side, and by his own nephew of all people. That’s pretty much the worst case scenario. Of course he was devastated by that kind of failure.
One thing I did complain about was the Canto Bight scene. My complaints about this casino planet have softened over the last few months, to the point where I think the planet adds to the movie’s overarching themes. I also kind of like how it delves into the slavery that we saw Anakin Skywalker in when we first met him, but doesn’t dwell on bad child actors for long periods of time. But from both a visual standpoint and a jazz music standpoint, it’s the one thing in all of the episodic movies that doesn’t feel like Star Wars. The casino feels like it belongs more in a science fiction comedy than anything else, and the music feels like it belongs in a 1920’s throwback party/club. The chase scene went on a bit longer than it needed to as well.
As for my updated thoughts on Rey not being a Mary Sue, this is more an interpretation than anything set in stone, but this movie further convinces me that she’s not. Why? Because there’s a strong implication that she’s not special at all. And that’s not just because her parents are essentially nobody. Sure, she’s force sensitive and she’s got a lot of raw power. But that might not be because of her own natural talents.
Luke’s first lesson explained that with or without the Jedi, the force would eventually balance itself. It’s a powerful enough energy with a strong enough will that it never truly needed the Jedi. It just used the Jedi to balance itself. Meanwhile, Snoke explained that he knew as Kylo Ren grew in power, an equal but opposite force user would rise to meet him. He just made the mistake of believing that would be Luke. What I’m getting from this is that Rey isn’t powerful on her own, but that the force is boosting her own natural powers and balancing itself through her. I’m sure there are other interpretations out there, and that there are a number of religious allegories one could make from this as well.
That’s the beauty of explaining things enough to make sense, while still leaving things open for interpretation. Director Rian Johnson explained in one of the special features that he wanted to get away from the force being a superpower, and back to an energy that Jedi, Sith and some others can tap into. I find that one of this movie’s more fascinating aspects.
It makes for the most challenging movie in the franchise since The Empire Strikes Back. Also I’m fine with how this movie handled Snoke. I explained it in my first thoughts post that I linked to in the first paragraph, so I won’t bother explaining it again here. Same goes for the themes of failure. As much as I’d like to get into those, I feel like they were explained well enough in my previous post, and this post is long enough as it is.
Back in December, I said that The Last Jedi is my favourite Star Wars movie since Empire Strikes Back. Now in my personal preference, it might be second only to Empire Strikes Back. I still agree that this movie has pacing issues, especially with Canto Bight. I do agree that at times, this movie feels a bit crowded. Also, some of the deleted material would have enhanced character development (especially with Luke and Rey). But overall I find this to be a very deep, challenging and still enjoyable movie. But whether you like it or not, there is one thing I’d like to contend. You can hate this movie if you want – I won’t even try to stop you, but calling Disney to remove it from Star Wars canon is very disrespectful of Carrie Fisher’s last ever performance, and a great one at that.
Next up is my first of two mystery posts. I’m not sure exactly when I’ll get to them (I may spread out these posts until we get closer to Solo’s release), but I’m finally ready to reveal what the first mystery post will be. I’ll be talking about fan edits. I also plan to do a Dreamworks blogathon, but after that I might stop it with the blogathons and do theme months instead, looking at one movie a week (maybe two for some theme months). As much as I enjoy doing this, it takes up most of my free time now that I’m working full-time. Until then, may the force be with you.