Fangirl Loves Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

So, I’m one of those people that gave a hearty shrug to The Last Jedi. I absolutely understood the movie. I got what Rian Johnson was going for, and applaud him for the attempt. Deconstruction of something as woven into the culture as Star Wars is a bold thing to swing for.

And here’s the thing with The Last Jedi, I don’t think he quite pulled it off. Which isn’t to say I don’t admire the attempt, I do. Some of the stuff, well, some of it I absolutely adore, I think it’s wonderful. I really enjoy Vice Admiral Holdo, and the way the movie plays with Luke and Leia’s connection. (Mirroring it in Kylo and Rey.) I think it’s visually stunning. I think Luke’s ultimate fate was brilliant and lovely and deeply in line with what we know of him as a man and his Jedi training.

I do think the movie tries to do too much. Insisting that we have to move forward but doing so at the expense of stories that had been built up in it’s predecessor feels arrogant. It’s also hypocritcal to say “we’re burning down the past” while transforming the more underground Resistance into the outright Rebellion of the original trilogy. (You can’t have both, Johnson!)

Some things that I didn’t like initially have grown on me. I initially didn’t love Benecio Del Toro’s DJ, who I now think is kind of delightful. (Still think he should have been Lando…but ya know…beggars and choosers.) My anger at how Poe became a more cliched “I know better” hothead this time around has cooled so I was able to see what Johnson and Isaac were actually going for with this performance. Poe’s given it all to the Resistance, he’s exhausted and frustrated. His mentor may be dying. His boyfriend (STORMPILOT LIVES!) is off on a dangerous spy mission. He has no information about how this is going to end. He snaps.

One thing that’s held up every time I’ve watched the movie is John Boyega’s performance. It’s mind blowingly charismatic and fun. Finn’s transformation from selfish survivor to team player/leader is beautiful executed. It’s the part of the movie I always liked best.

Which brings us to Kylo and Rey. I think Kylo Ren is a brilliantly rendered villain, and Adam Driver plays him well. He’s all raw emotion and easily triggered anger, with the power to back that up. It’s so different for this series. Rey is desperate here, she just wants answers. And while I’ve had so much fun in the past six years playing with “who is Rey?” theories. While I’ve always been fond of “Kenobi” as a theory, watching The Last Jedi this time, brought me around a bit to  “clone.” (I don’t think she’s a gender swapped clone of Anakin of Palpatine, but I think she might be a clone.) Her lack of answers about her past, her overall competence (almost as if she’d been programmed, like a Kamino Clone), and that scene where she sees herself reflected over and over again in a line while communing in the cave.

Not to mention the “Dark Rey” images from the Rise of Skywalker trailer.

There’s a lot going on in this movie, which is part of why I think it doesn’t work quite as well as it could. Rian Johnson is trying to do a lot here and some of it therefore comes out a little bit half baked. I’m also immensely gratified that J.J. Abrams has insisted he’s not going to walk back Johnson’s decision in The Last Jedi. He could have, but he’s happy with the status quo he’s got to work with.

We shall see in a few months how this all shakes out.

We’re still a few weeks from The Mandolorian so I’m not sure what will go in this spot quite yet. Taking suggestions!

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Fangirl Loves Star Wars: Episode VII: The Force Awakens

Last Friday night I sauteed a chicken breast, and boiled some spaghetti, popped a bottle of Cava (Spanish sparkling wine) and settled in to watch The Force Awakens for the first time in quite a while.

I mentioned the meal because I was so excited to watch the movie again and I wanted to breath it in and fall in love all over again. I was going on a date with Star Wars. 

I fell in love all over again. I really love this movie. I can see where the criticisms come from (though people criticizing a franchise that’s always been about remixing tropes and archetypes for doing it again feels like a reach…) but I can’t help but love it.

So much of that love belongs to Daisy Ridley and John Boyega, who are both so unfathomably wonderful. Rey and Finn aren’t particularly deep characters on the page. They are, as Luke, Han and Leia before them, archetypes, two searching orphans looking for home and belonging, and they find it in each other.

This would be wooden and dull and frightening if it were given to two actors with less charisma and less chemistry. Daisy and John click well together, so well, in fact, that they’re instantly connected, but they feel like family, not lovers, which is rare in a Hollywood blockbuster, and so so worth celebrating.

And then there’s the Kylo Ren issue. I think that Kylo is a pretty good villain, if pale in comparison to Darth Vader, but that’s kind of an impossible standard and is also the point of Kylo Ren. He’s not supposed to measure up, but he’s trying desparately to get there. The pressure of being from the greatest family in the galaxy broke him, and he reached for quickest connection to that legacy. It’s reiterated over and over again in Star Wars that the Dark Side is powerful and it’s quick. The light side requires patience discipline and letting go, allowing The Force to do the work. Ben Solo lost that battle because of the weight of expectation placed on his shoulders so he gripped to quick easy power.

THAT’S THE WHOLE POINT.

And, I saved it for last, you guys, I promised I wouldn’t spend this whole era dwelling on Poe Dameron, so I’m going to put it up here, and leave it at this. I am in awe of this character, who was shaped largely because of the actor they wanted playing him. (Oscar Isaac said he’d do it but not if he died.) Who became a focal point of the series because he was popular, and who models a kind of dedication and joy rarely seen in this trope of character. The hotshot pilot is supposed to be cocky, obnoxious, and out for himself, not quietly confident, deeply dedicated to his cause, and kind beyond reason. You keep waiting for Poe to be a dick. And then he isn’t.

I love Poe.

Alright, next week we talk about The Last Jedi, which should be great because no one on the internet ever talks about The Last Jedi right? We’re wading into new territory.

 

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA…GULP.

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: Resistance Season 1

One of the best things that J.J. Abrams did for Star Wars was make Poe Dameron as distinct from Han Solo as possible.

I’m going to try my best, moving into this era to not focus all of my analysis on Poe, I mean that. But it will be hard, because the only other character I’ve connected with this quickly and this completely was Blair Waldorf. (They have nothing in common except I love them both…)

I want to get this out of the way. Superficiallly, Poe and Han have a lot in common. They’re charismatic, confident have a certain anti authoritarian streak and then there’s the leather jackets. But Poe has a different heart than Han, he never even tries to be mercenary.

But part of what’s fun about Resistance is that it’s as enamored of Poe as I am, which might explain while I was immediately on board with the show’s main protagonist Kazudo Xiono, a New Republic Naval Pilot and son of a senator who’s saved by Poe and then immediately recruited to be a spy against the First Order.

Well, recruited is the wrong word. The situation goes as follows (A Summary)

Kaz: You’re Poe Dameron!
Poe: (Chuckles) You bet I am kid. The Resistance needs you! Wanna be a spy?
Kaz: You’re sooooo cool.
Poe: That’s a yes! Let’s go!

Kaz is a terrifically awful spy, but he’s a good pilot, and a good person, so he does well enough making friends and gaining the trust of the people around him on The Colossus, a refueling station on a sea planet. This includes a retired rebellion pilot, and his two teenage proteges.

The voice cast is delightful. All talented, and I had an immediate, “Oh, no, I love him,” reaction to Kaz as well. I have a soft spot for protagonists who are constantly in over their heads and that’s something that Kaz has in spades.

What’s also deeply fun and creative about Resistance is when it’s set, which quite literally the days leading up to The Force Awakens, so the First Order’s ascendance, the Resistance getting it’s act together has a ticking clock to it, which gives the show a lot in common with Rogue One actually. That’s about all it has in common with Rogue One but that’s there.

The finale bumps up exactly with the climax of Awakens, and what’s going on on The Colossus while Rey, Poe and Finn are storming Star Killer Base.

Season 2 begins next week. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next for this gang. (The teaser shows us Kylo Ren, which is fun, but I want more than anything for Kaz to meet Finn.)

Which we will talk about next week. I genuinely can’t wait to watch The Force Awakens again, and to write about it again. It’s the movie that got me excited about Star Wars to begin with. I’d always loved it, but The Force Awakens was like that moment where the nerdy girl next door took her glasses off and I realized she was the one for me all along.

 

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: Episode VI: Return Of The Jedi

The thing about Return Of The Jedi is that I really love it a lot. I like endings, and I particularly like happy endings of the fairy tale variety. Where good triumphs, and evil retreats defeated.

So, I really like Return Of The Jedi that has that in spades, plus a strong theme of family and legacy and the things we need to take. It includes some pretty strong bullshit, (from a certain point of view) and it’s certainly a more clumsy movie than either of it’s predecessors, but I love that ending. I love Luke redeeming his father. I love the rescue sequence in Jabba’s palace.

The main thing though, that again, this project has given me is perspective on the series as an organic whole, and you can really start to see the clunkiness that is Lucas’s style take shape. Luke and Leia’s conversation where he reveals their sibling relationship is about as bad as “I hate sand.” It’s better because Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher are better than Hayden Christiansen, but the dialog itself is bad, bad, bad.

Luckily, it’s just the one scene, the rest of the movie feels more natural, clearer and is really lovely. Frank Oz is probably my favorite part of both Empire and Jedi. 

Yoda’s role in the saga is kind of ridiculously great and one of my favorite, “go by the seat of your pants” legacies of Star Wars, his prominence in the saga is something of a fluke because of the great performance in Empire. People love Yoda, so Lucas gave the people what they wanted. (You know, kind of.)

Overall it’s hard to describe what exactly made the original Star Wars trilogy work. It really, really shouldn’t. It’s hokey, and strange and  lovely, and I’m so glad it exists.

Next week we talk about Star Wars: Resistance, which I have already finished as of this writing and that I love with all of my heart.

Fangirl Love Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Oh boy howdy, The Empire Strikes Back is a good movie. Just appallingly and spectacularly good.

I went in to this watch not sure what I wanted this essay to be, and found myself thinking about a million things, especially in connection with my having watched Clone Wars and Rebels recently. Mostly, thinking about The Force.

The Skywalker family’s strength in the Force, is undisputed, they’re in it deep, connected possibly pure force beings of some kind. Anakin turning his back on his role as the keeper of balance was a big problem, as laid out in the wonderful (though I have learned controversial) Mallus trilogy of episodes in Clone Wars. But what’s even more important here is the way that Luke repeats that mistake here, and Yoda and Obi-Wan know it.

Luke chooses to go after Han and Leia in Bespin rather than continue his training. Anakin chose Obi-Wan and Ahsoka over his destiny as the chosen one. And he chose Padme’s life over everything, the galaxy, even his own soul. Yoda and Obi-Wan want to spare Luke this, and spare the galaxy the fall of another Skywalker.

It’s an intriguing dynamic in the saga and one that’s illuminated by looking at things as a whole, even if that isn’t how they were originally meant to be. Filoni, and JJ Abrams and Rian Johnson, build a lot from the dynamics Lucas and Kershner set up in this movie and it’s quite impressive.

As for all the other stuff, I’ve mentioned that The Empire Strikes Back is my favorite love story ever, right? Han and Leia’s half of the movie is masterful. From the first look across the control room on Hoth to “I know,” everything is done subtly and gorgeously and naturally, and knowing as we do now that Carrie Fisher was the one writing it (for the most part) just makes the whole thing even stronger.

And then there’s Lando. If there’s one thing that my since the Disney acquisition full on embracing of Star Wars thing has taught me it’s that I really, really like Lando Calrissian. It’s almost non sensiscal, but I just really love seeing him on screen, in comic books. (Charles Soule!) Billy Dee Williams is awesome as Lando, and you guys, I’m just so happy that he’s going to be coming back. Aren’t you? BE HAPPY ABOUT IT! Also I think they should give Donald Glover his own Lando movie.

(That was a real, “Ma’am, this is an Arby’s,” moment.)

Next week we wrap up the Originals with Return Of The Jedi, which I secretly like better than Empire because it has more dance parties, and all movies should have dance parties.

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: Episode IV: A New Hope

Is there anything left to say about Star Wars, or A New Hope depending on your level of fandom pedantry?

I don’t even remember the first time I watched this movie, that’s how weaved into my life it is. I’m sure it was a rainy Saturday, and I’m sure my dad had his arm around me. I couldn’t have been older than three. I don’t remember this, I just know this is so, because that’s how we watched movies when I was little.

Here’s the thing about A New Hope that I think I, despite talking about the movie constantly, and loving what it has birthed, tend to forget. It’s a basic ass movie that is miraculously not boring. It should be boring. It’s weird that it isn’t boring.

The story is so simple. The dialogue is silly. The acting is very good. The score is sublime and the action is terrific. And this all gels to make something wonderful, something unqiue and beautiful that has since just exploded, like a death star.

I don’t know, I didn’t find anything new in this watch. I was just so happy to be watching this movie again. I was happy to watch Han, Luke and Leia all meet. I was happy to see Obi-Wan become one with the Force. I was just so damn happy. I love Star Wars.

I wish there was more to this post, but I just don’t know what’s left to say. It’s a really good movie and I like it a lot and I will watch it again many times in my life.

Next Week We’re heading into the Star Wars GOAT with The Empire Strikes Back, I don”t know exactly what I’m going to be writing about, but there’s a good chance is that it’s going to rhyme with “Brando.”

Fangirl Loves Star Wars: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Of the four “Disney/Kennedy” era Star Wars flicks, Rogue One: A Star Wars story ranks a steady third from me. I don’t love it love it, the way I do Solo or The Force Awakens, and while I recognize from a formal standpoint The Last Jedi is interesting, it’s never tugged at me the way the others have. So, there’s that.

Rogue One, grows on me everytime I watch it. I smile at Jyn Erso’s transformation from cynicism to hope, at Cassian’s dedicated whatever it takes attitude, I’ve love K2-SO from jump, so that’s not really fair. The rest of their ragtag team is great too, especially Donnie Yen as Blind Force Monk who’s just Donnie Yen.

I really like Kroenig as an adversary, and frankly, I love the whole idea that this is about a lower level of the Galaxy, it’s about the people who set the stage for the grand melodrama that is The Skywalker Saga, the guys that built the Death Star, the spies and cells that became The Rebellion. It  was a great idea for a movie that was beautifully pulled off, and that, as I said, I’ve grown to like more and more.

It’s a pretty subtle piece of work, especially for a series that I’ve always loved for it’s broader strokes. Part of the deal with the Stories (and Clone Wars and Rebels) is that you get to play around in the grey a little bit more, which is a good deal of fun. I do wish the characters in Rogue One were a bit more distinct, but I’m otherwise always happy with the film.

It also gives me the thing that I love the most, which is room for Jimmy Smits to do his thing. I really like Jimmy Smits.

I have no idea if I wrote that tweet while I was watching Star Wars or The West Wing or Brooklyn 99. I like the guy a lot. And he’s fun in this, Bail Organa showing up a few times and making cryptic references to “his Jedi friend,” and “Someone he’d trust with his life.” Bail and Leia make a good  contrast to Jyn and Galen, two people who died for the rebllion, and two who didn’t have to.  (Well Bail died, but in a pointless genocide, not for the sake of the rebellion.)

Next week we get to where this all started, A New Hope. Also, I apologize for the lateness of this post. I had a bit of a time this weekend. (Cancelled vacations, bachelorette parties, evacuated air line terminals.) (There was actually a minute there where this column MIGHT have been about me seeing Galaxy’s Edge.)

Speaking of! It’s looking like we’ll be talking about Black Spire Outpost and Batuu by March. I want to solidify a few other things, but there is just NO WAY I’m skipping a week in points sunny this winter, even if it means I eat nothing but rice and beans for the forseeable future. And if those points sunny wind up being the Sunshine state, well, we’re going to Batuu.