I’m going to be perfectly honest here: Clone Wars was not my thing for a long time. When I was finally convinced to finish the series, it did end up being pretty good as it went on, and I will attribute at least some of my initial dislike to how it was replacing Genndy Tartakovsky’s amazing Clone Wars series. I prefer the darker and harsher tone of the hand-drawn to CGI and I still absolutely hate the Clone Wars pilot film. That said, the show did get better and, by the end, I admit that it grew on me to the point that it’s among my favorite Star Wars properties. The show was at its best when it was focusing mostly on Commander Rex and the 501st Legion, who eventually became aware that they were literally biologically programmed to kill the Jedi and had nothing they could do to avoid it. So, when they stated they were going to do a series that starts at the end of the Clone Wars (and the carrying out of Order 66) and bridge the gap between the series and the Rebels series following a group of renegade clones, I was on board.
The series literally starts with the implementation of Order 66. The “Bad Batch,” a group of genetically mutated clones who each have an enhanced ability: Hunter has heightened senses, Wrecker is strong, Tech is smart, Crosshair has superior marksmanship, and Echo is a cyborg (all voiced, like all clones, by Dee Bradley Baker). They witness the betrayal of the Jedi by their fellows but, except for Crosshair, feel no compulsion to do anything and they allow the young Jedi Caleb Dune (Freddie Prinze, Jr.), who will one day be Kanan Jarrus on Rebels, to escape the purge. The group, minus Crosshair, is soon accused of treason against the newly-formed Galactic Empire, but they manage to escape along with the gender-bent clone Omega (Michelle Ang). They then must travel along a rapidly-changing galaxy as outlaws, regularly interacting with characters from other series.
The weakness to this show, and it is not a huge one given the target audience, is that it is pretty lore heavy. If you didn’t watch Clone Wars, you probably won’t know the significance of about half of the things mentioned in a given episode. Sometimes, the references will be to things that occur in films or series set even later in the franchise, like Rebels. It does get more than a little annoying after a while to have to look up ten characters on Wookiepedia just because you might not have a perfect memory of Star Wars minutia. However, if you are either very dedicated to Star Wars or, unlike me, can just enjoy something fun, then you will like this show. The animation is great, the clones all have solid character development (particularly when contrasted with other renegade clones), and the settings are as creative as anything in Star Wars. Unlike The Clone Wars, I don’t feel like one-tenth of the episodes are filler or focused around characters that I don’t care about.
Overall, it’s a good show, but it is definitely meant for Star Wars superfans.
This cinematic mistake has never been released officially and that’s for the best.
SUMMARY (Spoilers, but you should be thanking me)
Look, here’s the damn video:
It’s Life Day, which is apparently like Wookie Christmas. Han Solo (Harrison Ford) is trying to get Chewbacca (Peter Mayhew) home to his wife, Malla (Mickey Morton), his father, Itchy (Paul Gale), and his son, Lumpy (Patty Maloney). Most of the special is dealing with the family waiting for his return. Malla contacts Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill *Applause*) and R2-D2 (Kenny Baker wasn’t in this, but he’s awesome and I’m putting his name here), who explains that Chewy already left with Han. Malla contacts the trader Saun Dann (Art Carney), who tells her that Han is on the way and heads out toward her house. Malla watches Chef Gormaanda (Harvey Korman) demonstrate cooking a Bantha loin. Saun arrives with a VR program as a gift for Itchy that features Diahann Carroll and is uncomfortably erotic. The Imperials arrive at the house searching for Chewbacca and Saun distracts them with a VR performance by Jefferson Starship.
Malla keeps Lumpy distracted with a cartoon featuring the adventures of the cast of Star Wars meeting Boba Fett (Don “Iron Buffalo” Francks). A video is played by the Imperials announcing that Tatooine is being placed under curfew, represented by Ackmena (Bea Arthur), the Mos Eisley Bartender, having to kick out her clients while singing. Lumpy creates a translation device that mimics the voice of the Imperial commander and tricks the stormtroopers into leaving. One stormtrooper sees through it and attacks Lumpy, only for Han to arrive and kill him. Saun covers for the dead trooper and the whole group joins Luke, Leia (Carrie “Space Mom” Fisher), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), R2-D2 at the Tree of Life church “Our Lady of WRaaaaaaagh.” Leia gives a short speech and a song, then the Wookies sit down to eat.
There’s also a crazy troupe of mummers, a bad instruction manual featuring Harvey Korman, and enough drugs to put a charging rhino down.
This is the third time I’ve seen this special. It seemed bad when I was a teenager and some people from my school had a bootleg. It seemed really bad when I was in college and a friend of mine showed it while we were drunk. It somehow was even worse when I watched it this time, probably because I was mostly sober. That was a mistake.
Almost everything in this is astonishingly bad and it’s bad in the worst way. Someone said it was written by a sentient bag of cocaine and I find that to be completely untrue. If it was a bag of cocaine it would likely have been alert, wild, and interestingly off-kilter (cards on the table, I haven’t done cocaine, but I’ve been with people who have). This was crazy, but in a lazy way where everything is left on the screen for so long that any charm it might have had slowly dies a painful death. It’s like it was written by a sentient barrel of laudanum.
It’s all about the tolerance we have for these scenes. Wookies talking without subtitles is fine as long as you either A) have someone who can clue us in or B) the conversations are completely clear from their body language and actions. In this case, some of the wookie-only scenes are so long that I assume there was a discussion of either baseball statistics or the plot of Inception. The mummer troupe goes from “kind of amusing” to “way too creepy.” In two entirely different bits, Harvey Korman, one of the funniest people alive, is forced to stretch for time. My only conclusion is that this was written for one hour and then they were spontaneously told that the Love Boat had sank or something, so they had to fill double the time. It’s just painful how everything goes on well past what you would have tolerated. Even if the scenes had been good, 10 minutes of watching a four-armed chef is just going to get old.
Then there are the other, much more bizarre moments. For example, the video program that Itchy watches is pretty clearly the Star Wars version of pornography. My first thought on re-watch is “oh damn, they still dragged poor Diahann Carroll into this.” It would be bad enough to just watch some of the things she says into the camera, but Itchy’s reaction shots ratchet it up from “uncomfortable” to “nightmare-inducing.” The same is true of many of Lumpy’s facial movements. I’m not going to take shots at Stan Winston or at Patty Maloney, I’m just going to say that someone, somewhere, needed to realize the only solution to this costume issue was fire and lots of it. It’s like I’m seeing into the eyes of a damned soul and now I feel only cold. I swear I thought I had a heart attack during some parts of this because my body started going numb.
It doesn’t help that so much of the film is based around watching people watching things as the framing device. Diahann Carroll, Jefferson Starship, the cartoon, etc. are all things that are being watched by the characters. It’s a conceit designed to work the guests into the story, but it’s kind of a terrible one and it really makes you question how media promulgates in the Star Wars universe. Since Star Wars doesn’t really seem to have pop culture or media in any other incarnation, it makes it even more glaringly awkward to inject weird modern-day references.
Overall, this is just so very bad. It’s almost worth seeing just to recognize how bad it is. It’s astonishing that something like this ever got made.
And since she requested that I watch it, here’s a forced commentary from The Faceless Old Woman that Lives on my Couch:
What more is there to say about this work of cinema? I spent most of it wondering “is something going to happen soon?” I was told that was the theme of this special. I’d wanted to see this because it seemed like everyone else had. Everyone had told me it was very bad and never to watch it, but I didn’t really understand. Given what I knew of Star Wars, I assumed it was just very cheesy and not very good. I couldn’t have conceived of how BAD it was, though. Maybe if someone had just explained to me that it is not like a regular piece of Star Wars media, where there is a story and the characters do things in the story – it is meant to be like a variety show. How could I have predicted the uninterpreted Wookie? That the characters everyone likes would barely be in it? The perm machine that’s actually a VR porn viewer? It’s truly an accomplishment to make Star Wars deeply disturbing and NOT entertaining, but they did it! The best thing about it is Mark Hamill in eyeliner and hearing my boyfriend repeatedly moan, “I didn’t know I could be this dead inside.” I’m going to finish this eggnog and try to forget about what I saw.
Lego knows how to make things fun, and they nailed it this time.
It’s Life Day, which is like Christmas for the Wookies, and all of the characters who survived the end of Star Wars Episode IX have journeyed to Kashyyyk, the Wookie homeworld. Rey NoLastName (Helen Sadler) is training Finn (Omar Benson Miller) in the ways of the Force, but it isn’t going well. Rey discovers that there is a lost Jedi temple on the planet Kordoku. She heads off with BB-8 to seek guidance while Finn helps Chewbacca, Poe Dameron (Jake Green), and Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) set up the Life Day party. Eventually, Rey finds the temple and discovers that it has a rock that allows her to travel through time and space, eventually running into the cast of the original trilogy, the sequel trilogy, and even the prequel trilogy. In the process, she might accidentally destroy the galaxy.
If you’ve seen The Lego Movie or the Lego Batman Movie, you probably understand that Lego films can actually be pretty good. While this film wasn’t in the same ballpark as those, it still captures the right balance between showing love for the source material and taking some huge shots at its flaws. Regardless of how big of a Star Wars fan you are, you probably have at least something about the series that you don’t like, and this film will likely give you a funny scene addressing it. Yes, that includes whether Han or Greedo shoots first, and they have multiple jokes about that.
The actual plot of the film ends up being one of the funniest premises ever once it starts playing out. It does require a number of out-of-character moments, but since everyone is a lego character already, it really doesn’t seem inappropriate. It also allows the characters who would never be able to interact due to being from different trilogies to share the screen and it is kind of amazing. It does make you realize, though, that the events of all nine movies only take place over 67 years’ time, when you see young Anakin Skywalker, Darth Vader, and Kylo Ren all in the same few scenes. It also drives home that only a few families were responsible for almost all of the events.
The actual jokes in the film are pretty solid. They’re kid-friendly, but they get a laugh out of you. There are a ton of jokes that work on a basic level that pay off better if you’re familiar with some of the Star Wars extended canon, as well, ranging from Shadows of the Empire to Knights of the Old Republic and more. Yes, that includes the original Star Wars Holiday special. While they don’t reference it heavily, obviously this film was designed as a better take on that event. By virtue of being half the length and not causing massive depression, this is the superior special.
Overall, if you’ve got little kids, you should watch this with them. Or if you just like Star Wars and have an hour. Tomorrow, my Christmas gift to you is the real Star Wars Holiday Special. I regret this decision immensely.
For my 500th Review, I’m doing the one movie I swore never to touch.
There are wars! In the stars!
Right after the end of the last film, the First Order attacks the Resistance base. General Leia Organa (Carrie “on, dear wayward space mom” Fisher) orders the base to evacuate. It turns out that the First Order can track them, so the evacuation doesn’t do much more than buy time. Leia gets shot into space, but manages to save herself through Force Pulling in Zero Gravity (any other explanation is terrible). Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura “I Kissed Ellen” Dern) takes over while she recovers. Running out of fuel, the rest of the fleet tries to outrun the First Order.
Meanwhile, Rey (Daisy “Not Peach” Ridley) attempts to talk Luke Skywalker (Hey Kids, It’s Mark Hamill) into helping the Resistance, but he declines to aid and believes that the Jedi Order needs to end. He ends up agreeing to give Rey some lessons in the Force. Rey finds herself communicating with Kylo Ren (Adam “I’m trying harder than everyone else” Driver) using the Force despite not really understanding how. It’s revealed that Kylo Ren betrayed Luke after Luke contemplated killing Kylo after Snoke (Andy “Bread and” Serkis) started speaking with Kylo (how close he actually came is debated). Rey thinks she can save Kylo from the dark side, so she leaves. Luke is counseled by the spirit of Yoda (Frank “Miss Piggy” Oz) to learn from his failure.
Meanwhile to the meanwhile, Poe Dameron (Oscar “The Grouch” Isaac) sends Finn (John “You ship them” Boyega), Rose the mechanic (Be nicer to Kelly Marie Tran, internet), and BB-8 to find a way to deactivate the First Order’s tracking device. They’re told that there is only one person in the Galaxy with the skills. They head to Canto Bight, the space Las Vegas, and don’t find that person, instead meeting a hacker who also has the skills in prison named DJ (Benecio Del Toro). Finn, Rose, and DJ infiltrate the First Order flagship and get captured by Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie), the only Stormtrooper with the budget for useful armor. Rey finds Kylo who brings her to Snoke, who claims he connected Rey and Kylo to find Luke.
Vice Admiral Holdo plans to evacuate the Resistance. Poe, thinking that’s the cowardly act, leads a mutiny that ends when Leia shoots him. Holdo stays on the main ship and tries to buy the evacuation time, but DJ betrays the people who he just met while in prison and tells the First Order what’s happening. The First Order blows up a bunch of the small ships that they’re using to evacuate. Snoke orders Kylo to kill Rey, but he kills Snoke instead. Rey and Kylo fight together, then against each other. Holdo sacrifices herself by accelerating to light speed and destroying the flagship, crippling the First Order fleet. Kylo takes over the First Order. Finn, Rose, and BB-8 kill Phasma then rejoin the Resistance survivors on planet Crait. Finn prepares to sacrifice himself to buy time, but Rose stops him.
Luke Skywalker appears before the First Order and confronts them, buying time for the Resistance to escape. Despite an army firing at him, Luke appears to be unscathed. Kylo Ren challenges him to a duel, but discovers that Luke is just a Force projection. Luke then passes away. On Canto Bight, a group of stablehands who helped Finn and Rose escape talk about the Resistance, and one uses the Force to move a broom. It never gets brought up again, but I’m sure the figurine for that kid sells for a lot.
So, I acknowledge that I was poisoned against this movie before I saw it. One of my family members called me after seeing the premiere and said “White. Ford. Bronco. Chase.” I knew it was a reference to the OJ Simpson police chase, but I didn’t understand what he meant at the time. Unfortunately, once I saw it, I couldn’t un-see it, because that’s what a lot of this movie is: a low-speed chase where the parties conveniently always maintain an enforced distance that doesn’t make sense. The focus on this element led me to join a bit of the crowd decrying this as a terrible film. However, I also disliked most of the groups of people that were crapping on the film, so I decided this would forever be the one film I would not give an opinion on.
Then, I had to think of something special to commemorate the 500th review, so congratulations to all of you for getting to hear my opinion about a movie that is now 3 years old and completely out of the zeitgeist. So, let’s get to it:
I once said that the closest thing I could get to my feelings on this film were contained in my review of the Breaking Bad episode “Fly.” That episode, also by Rian Johnson, is amazingly well-shot, contains some of the best interactions between the leads in the show, is perfectly performed, has some of the best dialogue in TV history, and completely destroys a lot of what the rest of the series built up. This movie is the same: It’s a great movie, but a terrible Star Wars film.
First, let’s say why this is a good movie.
Artistically, this is the best-shot Star Wars film. One of Rian Johnson’s strengths is his grasp of quality cinematography and this movie is no exception. Since its inspiration was in the Republic Serials of the 1930s and ‘40s, the franchise often had relied on the same kind of straight-forward camerawork with most of the beauty and art coming from the scenery and matte work. This film, instead, makes use of more dramatic framing and shot progression. Some of the scenes, particularly the fight scene in Snoke’s throne room and the silent shot following Holdo’s maneuver, are nothing short of beautiful. Even the scenes of the speeders on the salt plains are more visually stimulating than most of the settings of Star Wars.
In terms of dialogue, this film has a lot of great exchanges. The style is energetic, like The Force Awakens, but also has more willingness to play with itself. Rey and Kylo Ren’s exchanges are particularly well-done, with each using a linguistic style that represents their position. Rey uses emotional language while Kylo is blunter and more aggressive. It also has a lot of decent jokes that, if I wasn’t so blinded by rage during my first viewing, probably would have elicited a chuckle. Now, does it have any lines as good as The Empire Strikes Back? Well, no, but neither does most of the Criterion Collection and they’re still considered art.
In terms of performances… well, that’s tough. Star Wars is not Shakespeare and it’s not supposed to be (unless you read the Star Wars Shakespeare books). It always is meant to have a pulp feel, with characters who are more wildly expressive, like Han Solo. In that sense, everyone does a great job except for Adam Driver, who unfortunately thought he was in a much, much more sophisticated film. Seriously, he has a level of subtlety that is generally overlooked by these kinds of films, and while it’s impressive, it’s also somewhat jarring. However, that’s what Alec Guinness did for the original trilogy, so there’s precedent and therefore it’s okay.
Really, from a critic’s point of view so far, this movie has all of the basics down solidly. Unfortunately, we have to shift from my position as critic to my position as Star Wars fan.
Interestingly, one of the things that actually makes this a solid film is the exact thing that makes it bad as a franchise movie: Subversion of expectations. This movie thrives on trying to avoid giving the audience what they think they deserve and instead tries to give them something new and challenging. Since The Force Awakens was mostly a retread of something that even the movie pointed out had already been done twice, this really wasn’t a bad idea. The problem is that this film attempted to subvert EVERYTHING and it came off less as challenging the audience and more as profaning the franchise it was supposed to continue.
Some of the things this movie challenged really deserved to be subverted. Star Wars has always been a big example of a cultural submission to the “Great Man” theory of history and societal progress. In all of the original films, and even the prequels, great Galactic conflicts largely boil down to a few personalities that end up doing almost all of the work and they’re almost all from the same family. As opposed to saying “there are chosen ones in this lineage which basically decide the fate of the masses,” this movie takes the opposite position and says that the masses themselves ARE the power and that lineage means nothing. That’s why at the end of the movie they suggest that Force users can come from anywhere and that’s why it was so important for Rey to actually have parents who were nobodies (to be undone in the next film for reasons I’ll cover below). This is a great subversion that is representative of how Western society has shifted since the Republic Serials which inspired the original film and supports the more diverse casting in the film. The movie contains a number of scenes which debate whether the past should be destroyed in order to create something better and whether revering the past as an ideal leads to replicating the mistakes. This is a great theme that challenges the nature of a franchise and, if that were all the movie did, I think it would have made this the equal of every Star Wars film except maybe Empire.
Unfortunately, that’s not the only thing that it did. Instead, Rian Johnson also decided to highlight some things that, while they may have been dumb, were parts of the franchise that everyone had already accepted. A large part of the film is dependent on the fact that the fleet is short on fuel, something that A) makes no sense considering they’re a rebellion that had long been based on the planet and B) has never really been an issue in Star Wars to begin with. This was likely supposed to be a shot at creating arbitrary new rules to heighten tension that seem illogical, like forcing the X-wings to do a trench run rather than just shooting at the Death Star from the outside. Similarly, Finn and Rose run into the single person who is capable of doing the job they need by complete coincidence, a shot at how characters in Star Wars will coincidentally be in the same place as the person they need to find (like Luke landing near Yoda despite only being told to go to the Dagobah System). Most famously, and perhaps insultingly, Holdo accelerates to lightspeed and, using relativistic physics, proves that to be an incredibly powerful attack that devastates larger enemies, something that apparently no one in Star Wars had ever thought of doing. These are all just exaggerations of elements that were already in the series, but they were elements that we had already accepted as part of our suspension of disbelief in this universe. By trying to subvert or attack them, this seemed less like a “commentary,” and instead more like an assault on the people who liked the previous films.
Then there’s how the film treated some of the previous characters. I’m willing to ignore Leia’s flying, because I refuse to acknowledge the difference between that and a Force pull or Force jump in zero gravity. However, I’m less willing to ignore the fact that when Leia awoke to find that Poe Dameron was literally leading a mutiny, that she basically just knocks him out and says “okay, well, lesson learned.” She’s a General and should know better than that how you handle failures to follow chains of command. It undermines her position as leader. Also, not telling Poe the plan in the first place is ridiculous and unnecessary. Luke Skywalker’s self-imposed exile is selfish and born out of his own shame, but that’s not actually crazy given that he spent an entire trilogy overcoming his anger and impulse issues only to falter and give in when facing Kylo’s power. While Luke denies the version of the night where he attacks Kylo first, the fact is that he may be deceiving himself, something that actually explores interesting new paths with the character. Unfortunately, at the end of the film, rather than see Luke actually try to correct his error, we instead see him play an elaborate game to buy time and then die from the effort… somehow. It undercut most of the progress that Luke made in the original trilogy and denied him another opportunity.
If the film had only done a few of these things, this would probably have been an amazing experience, having enough familiarity to feel loyal but also challenging the status quo. However, since it decided to do all of them, it felt like a rejection of the franchise and of the fans who support it. As someone who spent a LOT of their childhood, teen years, adulthood, and probably future on this franchise, that makes me naturally opposed to it. On the other other hand… This didn’t do midichlorians, so let’s not pretend it’s the worse thing.
If you made it all the way to this part of the review, thank you for reading and thank you for supporting me through 500 reviews.
Disney finally gave us the Star Wars side story that we secretly always wanted and I’m pretty happy about it.
SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free if you have the internet)
It’s 5 years after Return of the Jedi and most of the Galaxy’s collective sh*t is pretty broken. A lot of soldiers are now working as private armies, a lot of formerly powerful Imperials are trying to resist the new Republic, and bounty hunting is a viable business model.
The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal) is a bounty hunter who operates alone and tends to be fairly brutal in combat. His bounty hunting guild leader Greef Karga (Carl “Apollo” Weathers) informs him that there is a client (Werner “Holy sh*t, Werner Herzog” Herzog) with a special bounty request. When the bounty price is revealed to be a cache of Beskar steel, sacred to Mandalorians, the Mandalorian agrees. After gaining the assistance of a vapor farmer named Kuill (Nick Nolte) and a robot bounty hunter IG-11 (Taika “What Waititi Do in the Shadows” Waititi), he succeeds in finding the target, but discovers that it is a child from the same species as Yoda. Having a change of heart, the Mandalorian goes on the run with The Child, earning enemies everywhere.
Let’s get it out of the way: Baby Yoda is about the cutest damned thing out there. It’s what happens when someone looks at baby Groot and goes “I’ll top this.” Is it bad writing to have a character whose main trait is just that he’s adorable? Maybe, but also HE’S SO ADORABLE YOU GUYS. Also, I think they’re going to name the child Yoda just so that, in retrospect, everyone isn’t wrong about what they call him.
Star Wars has had a lot of great stuff and a lot of crap over the years, but mostly it’s created an amazing world that manages to combine the possibilities of almost every frontier. Any scene can take place, justifiably, in almost any environment. You can have a representation of a futuristic armada intercut with a sequence of desert survival and nothing about that is inconsistent with the Star Wars universe. That means that, in Star Wars, you can imagine almost any background for a character or culture and it will still fit. Star Wars doesn’t stifle the imagination, it feeds it. That’s why it’s so great to get a show like this, where we just see a completely different story playing out parallel to the rest of the series.
While Star Wars was based on the old Buck Rogers serials and their sci-fi action/adventure roots mixed with Japanese jidaigeki films (mostly The Hidden Fortress), The Mandalorian is its own melting pot of genres. The main character is based on the Man with No Name figure typically associated with Clint Eastwood, a taciturn gunslinger who travels alone and has his own code of ethics. However, once he becomes attached to The Child, the series shifts slightly to be more like Lone Wolf and Cub, the famous Samurai manga and film series about a father doing horrible killings to protect his son. By blending the Western and Eastern influences with the sci-fi and fantasy setting, the show can justify making episode-specific genre shifts. This means that rather than having to focus on maintaining a consistent tone, the series allowed the writers and directors to explore more when they had control while still being true to the characters. For example, we have a heist episode that ends up also playing out a number of horror tropes and it still works.
The action sequences in the show are among the best in the Star Wars universe, partially because there are more people with guns and fewer space wizards. Not that I don’t love a good lightsaber battle as much as the next guy, but that’s been the majority of sustained action sequences in the franchise. Instead, we get to watch a bounty hunter use a combination of fantastic weaponry, tactical planning, and training to take out small armies of enemies. Hell, we get to see a single person fight a TIE fighter and, well, it’s everything that Star Wars videogames told me it would be.
Overall, this is just a great show. Does it have a huge character arc for the main character? Not really. Does it have a ton of lines that are profoundly quotable and meaningful? Nope. Does it teach me things about myself that I would never have found otherwise? Not at all. BUT IT’S JUST SO FUN. It’s got a space cowboy kicking ass to protect the cutest creature in TV history, a phrase that also describes Firefly, and that’s all I wanted out of it.
The third Star Wars trilogy has ended and I’m finally agreeing to review one of them.
THE DEAD SPEAK!!! By which I mean that Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) sends a broadcast into the galaxy in order to apparently draw in Kylo Ren (Adam Driver). It turns out that Palpatine created Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) in order to draw Ren to the dark side. He reveals that he has a fleet of planet-killing ships called the “Final Order” that are set to launch soon and promises Ren a place at his side if he kills Rey (Daisy Ridley). Naturally, the good guys find this out with about 24 hours to stop it. Rey is training under General Leia Organa (Carrie “I love you, Space Mom” Fisher), but upon finding out that Palpatine is back, she joins Finn (John Boyega), Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo), C-3PO (Anthony Daniels), and BB-8 in order to locate a wayfinder to the planet where Palpatine is.
The group heads to desert planet Pasaana where they meet Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee “F*cking” Williams), who helps them find a dagger that contains Sith writing. Rey and Kylo Ren fight and Rey accidentally blows up a ship that she thinks has Chewbacca on it. C-3PO can translate the dagger, but he can’t divulge the translation, so they have to take him to another planet where he gets his memory wiped and Poe sees his ex-girlfriend Zorii Bliss (Keri Russell). Rey finds out Chewbacca’s still alive, so the group rescues him and they find the location of the wayfinder is… on the second Death Star. Or what’s left of it, rather.
When the group gets there, they meet Jannah (Naomi Ackle), a former stormtrooper and Rey and Kylo Ren fight again. Leia dies calling out to Kylo Ren, allowing Rey to strike a lethal blow, but she heals him. Rey leaves, alone, but finds the wayfinder after speaking with a dead Luke Skywalker (Mark “The Best Joker” Hamill) as Kylo Ren turns good after speaking with a memory of the dead Han Solo (Harrison Ford). Also, Rey’s Palpatine’s granddaughter, because sure. Rey heads to Exegol, the hidden planet of the Sith, while telling the rest of the Resistance how to get there. The Resistance is short on manpower, but Poe believes that the rest of the galaxy will show up to fight when the chips are down. Kylo Ren, now Ben Solo again, arrive at Exegol and kill the knights of Ren, but get their asses kicked by a literally crippled and blind Palpatine, who incapacitates them both. Rey, empowered by all the Jedi from the series so far, uses two lightsabers to reflect Palpatine’s force lightning back at him, killing him until the plot will require otherwise. Rey dies from her injuries, but is revived by Ben Solo who dies in her place. Lando Calrissian does most of the Resistance’s heavy lifting and brings reinforcements to destroy the “Final Order.” Rey goes to Tatooine and buries Luke’s and Leia’s lightsabers, presumably because Alderaan is harder to bury stuff in, and changes her name to Rey Skywalker.
Star Wars has been a big part of my life, as I’m sure it has for almost everyone from my generation. I was too young to see the original films, but I watched the VHS copies at more than a dozen houses when I was growing up, because I was friends with nerds. Since then, I’ve been with it through the good and the bad. I was there when Han stopped shooting first. I was there when Shadows of the Empire gave us that awesome Hoth level. I was there when Midichlorians were suddenly how the Force worked rather than, you know, space magic. I was there when Captain Rex ran the last flight to Endor on Star Tours. I was there when Ahsoka Tano met the completely different Captain Rex. I read the Thrawn Trilogy and still consider the character to be one of the best contributions to the franchise and I was there when he finally became canon. I owe a ton to this franchise and, even when it’s had its low points, they’ve always been worth it for the highs.
And that’s this film in a nutshell: A bunch of lows that you can ignore to get to the highs.
I assume after suggesting that this film has lows that several of you are going to attempt to leap through the screen and murder me, so I can only respond that I love Star Wars and part of loving it is accepting that it isn’t perfect. Love requires accepting flaws, otherwise you’re just lusting after an ideal… of Star Wars.
The biggest problem with the film is that Carrie Fisher died and everything is worse for it. Not just in the movie, but in the world. Watching the film try to shoehorn in whatever unused footage they had on the cutting room floor and make her into a central character was painful on a lot of levels. They had to write constantly awkward dialogue in order for her responses to make sense, or, at one point, literally have another character give exposition about what she’s doing. It reminded me of Bela Lugosi’s “performance” in Plan 9 from Outer Space and that bodes well for no one.
Another problem for me came from the fact that the film tries to retcon parts of The Last Jedi that people didn’t like, rather than just accept them and move on. Not that there weren’t things in that movie that needed to be addressed and perhaps corrected, but a lot of the stuff could just have been ignored rather than overwritten and seeing that kind of forced correction in a film can get distracting. I mean, they did have to talk about the “Holdo Maneuver” (and WHY EVERYONE WOULDN’T JUST CONSTANTLY USE IT), but the response that it’s just “a one-in-a-million shot” makes Holdo’s actions in the previous movie completely ridiculous. There were a bunch of moments like that where I kept hearing Abrams screaming “F*CK YOU RIAN JOHNSON” through the camera.
The film refuses to explain a lot of things, even by Star Wars standards. (How is Palpatine alive? Why would he broadcast his plans to the rest of the galaxy? How did he get to Exegol? How did he build and staff all of those ships in 30 years? Who developed the technology to destroy a planet with a Star Destroyer? If you had that technology, why not just give it to the First Order? Since when does the Force allow people to teleport stuff? When did Palpatine have a kid and how and why?) Since it’s Star Wars, most of that stuff can be ignored as being a tribute to the series’ origins in Republic Serials, which rarely explained anything, but I do understand why some people might be annoyed by it.
Also, there are a few weird fanservice moments, like Chewie finally getting a medal, which don’t completely make sense within the movie even if they were sweet.
However, all of those things are offset by all of the things that this movie did well. It gave us some of the best lightsaber battles in the series which weren’t marred by the overused acrobatics of the prequels. It managed to connect more of the franchise together than any previous film (except maybe Solo) by including references to the prequels, original films, spin-offs, cartoons, and of course the current trilogy. It had some great emotional moments and some beautiful shots, as well as the happy ending that we needed.
What it did best was remind us of all the great moments that we’ve had because of Star Wars. This movie finally gave us sequences of the whole current team together after a movie of being constantly split up and reminded us of how well the series always handled personality interplay. That’s been true since watching Obi-Wan, Luke, Han, and even Chewie interact in A New Hope. We got to watch Billy Dee Williams show us what an old Lando who has had some hard times would look like, but we also got to see him bring hope to everyone. Seeing Han Solo have a real heart-to-heart with his son was beautiful, even if it was clearly supposed to have been Leia’s scene. It’s something that can only work so well because we spent years with these characters and we know how they got to this point. People may complain that some things are just fanservice, but seeing Wedge Antilles (Denis Lawson) back behind the controls of an X-Wing is an experience that no other series can really give you, and there’s nothing wrong with taking advantage of that to deepen an emotional moment.
This isn’t the best Star Wars movie, but it did provide me with an experience that no other movie could and I have to give it credit for that.