So, Star Wars is back in the cinema. The second instalment of the final trilogy of George Lucas’ space opera saga. Am I excited? Yes. Am I hopeful? Yes. Do I expect it to deliver? No.
I find disappointment all to common these days and I’m usually pessimistic of film releases – if it turns out rubbish then I’m not let down, if turns out a belter then I’m pleasantly surprised. Suffice to say I’m pessimistically optimistic.
Well then, Episode 8. Rey is on a mission to understand the force and bring Luke Skywalker back to the cause. Finn wakes up and is surprisingly not useless in a fight (I was genuinely startled at how rubbish he was – being an ex-stormtrooper – in the preceding movie). Leia is organising a full retreat and has secretly developed large scale force powers. We are treated to an ego-reigning character arc for Poe Dameron and yet another salty brood fest from the resident Vader-wannabe, Kylo Ren …oh and Snoke turns out to be near pointless. Seriously.
Now this isn’t a review, it’s my walkthrough of the film and how I feel about it. There is every spoiler here, so it you haven’t seen the film I’d suggest you watch it before reading on …unless you don’t care, will watch it anyway and form your own opinion. Good on you! Get a pancake!
I’m gonna start with the biggest immersion killer, the thing that drags me out of the movie every time it’s mentioned. You know what I mean, you’re into a film, believing the story and plot and characters …living the on screen beauty. Then something comes along and sucks that fantasy out of its comfy zone and into ridiculous – therefore shattering the created reality. We’ve all been there, for me the worst one to date was in disaster movie spectacle “2012” starring John Cusack in which the world was ending, but at the beginning a credible scientist utters a sentence. A sentence that throws the whole film into disbelief (at least for me) as he states “the neutrinos are mutating”. Now I’m not going to go into mad detail here, but those four words are impossible. Here though, the immersion sapper is the rebels are “running out of fuel”.
Leia and pals are running away with a count down. They are apparently running out of fuel. Star Wars is set in a galaxy in which its inhabitants have been in the space travel game for somewhat 30,000 years and they have yet to discover an unlimited power source, I find the situation ridiculous. This dire plot driving catalyst is consistently thrown into my face throughout, evaporating my enjoyment. Yes, I’m a pedantic git.
Next, Poe Dameron, greatest pilot in the resistance sets out to meet the First Order armada alone …solo, mocks they’re leader while he’s at it (which was quite funny). In ruse to get near enough to take out all the close range defences of an absolute ma-hussive ship. Which he succeeds, allowing his bombers to close in and take the bloody thing out. I mean come on! Really! A ship of this level in destructive capability is rendered limp by one phenomenally light armoured gunship all while three destroyer class ships nearby do absolutely sod all. It’s like a money-spider taking on an elephant in a fight to the death. Poe looses 95% of his troops and learns a lesson, a harsh one and gets a demotion for not following orders from Leia and presumably also being a git.
After this Finn wakes up he immediately needs to find Rey, understandable as he’s in love with her but doesn’t know it – at least not yet. As he’s executing his escape plan he stumbles upon the one person in the rebel fleet who can solve the issue of how the First Order can track them through warp, Rose. They both convince Poe of a hair brained scheme and head off to some casino on some planet in the back end of nowhere looking for a master code breaker. The only man able to crack the impenetrable shields of the pursuing bad guys in a bid to disable their tracking abilities. So aside from the fact that the entire casino planet being a pointless time waste they get arrested for parking where they shouldn’t have…. come on! You park in a disabled space your gonna get some flak. Instead here, they are part of the rebel alliance, outlaws, wanted dead rather than alive and they park on a tourist beach. For F@€K sake! How monumentally stupid can you be? To make things more annoyingly implausible, they find a bloke in their jail cell (played by Benicio Del Toro) who can do just what they need, hack a gap into the shields of Snoke’s cruiser to fulfil their whimsical plan.
It seems as though any bugger could hack into the ships shield system because they fail miserably in acquiring the help of the geezer they traveled so far for and the next bloke they meet can do the same thing. At this point I was getting annoyed, it was as if they had made this film to insult my intelligence in particular. Me.
So they escape on some visually pleasing horse-cat demolition derby through said casino. A herd of odd cat-hyena-horse-things destroying future roulette tables without harming a soul before breaking out into the open air, escaping on a ship and heading to the bad guys for the dangerous infiltration bit.
“How do they get close to the armada without being spotted?” …you say. From underneath. Yes. From under-bloody-neath. Apparently, in a time of phenomenal technological advancement they have yet to discover a radar system capable of tracking anything below your arse, as well as an endless power source. I digress.
So they get double crossed by Del Toro (didn’t see that one coming) and caught by General Squirms-alot. How this red-headed man-child has any semblance of power or control here, considering the actions/results of his predecessors. Now while all this is going on, Kylo, Rey, Luke, Leia and Poe have their own matters to deal with.
Rey is on some vastly water covered planet hassling Luke Skywalker into training her, in which he concedes to teach her three lessons while small ginger and white hamster-birds go for gold on comic appeal (Disney’s involvement no doubt). Rey learns some typically cheesy force background and we’re treated to some flashbacks of Luke’s failure to pre-empt Kylo’s betrayal during Jedi training. There’s something meaty here.
Kylo and Rey have a few interactions in the form of ‘Force FaceTime’ calls without explanation as to how – I assume they have become psychically linked by the attempted torture scene where Kylo tries to draw information out of Rey’s mind …er… first movie spoilers.
During they’re chats they bond a little while Kylo broods like a complete master broodsman and Rey struggles to move beyond the knowledge missing of her parents. Not having any (Rey) and killing one of your own (Kylo) must assist the empathy factor here – because, you know… they’re the same. Pfft.
Back in space, Kylo leads an uninterrupted three tie-fighter attack on the rebel fleet resulting in the bridge being buggered by laser torpedos. I know earlier on they said to divert power to rear shields in protection from the pursuing nasty gits but leaving your bridge unprotected, the sweet spot where all the political heavy weights of the rebel alliance are defenceless. You may as well had hung up a red and white bullseye target. What a properly daft thing to do.
Leia, torpedoed and blown into space let’s loose her force abilities by refusing the intensely low temperatures and radiation of deep space and then floats back down to her frigate without so much as a scratch yet drops into a short coma immediately after. Leaving the next in command, Admiral Holdo, a war hero in her own right who has a plan to lead the show. Trusted and proven by past accolades – as well as Leia herself – just doesn’t seem enough for Poe Dameron though. As Poe was demoted, Holdo has no reason to share said plan with him and sends him on his way, but not before he gets a chance to pull a proper hissy fit in front of the majority of the senior crew. Manly stuff.
Rey leaves Luke – because he would rather remain a hairy hermit collecting ginger hamsters than help quash evil – to intentionally walk directly into Kylo’s hands aboard Snoke’s ship. Kylo logically handcuffs her and takes her to meet Snoke, where said Supreme Emperor begins interrogation to track down Luke and claims to be the one responsible for the Force FaceTime action while he’s at it, though I’m not sold by the claim.
Kylo causes Snoke’s death by turning a lightsaber sideways in what was possibly the largest anticlimactic death of the entire saga. Seriously. He used the force to turn a sabre 90 degrees and switch it on. Job done.
Cue awfully choreographed Jedi vs Imperial Guard fight scene. It looked like an effin pub brawl. No class, no style, no talent. Rey displayed prowess with a staff in The Force Awakens but failed to appear anywhere near competent here. As for Kylo – having been trained by Luke Skywalker, and Luke himself trained by the greatest sabre duellist there was, Obi-wan Kenobi – he displays nothing but the mentality of a brute with a glowing stick as both he and Rey defend themselves and ultimately part ways.
Leia awakes in time to stop Poe from performing mutiny, because he still hadn’t learnt his lesson about following orders from earlier on in the film… bloody hell, he’s a git. The entire crew then eject in the escape pods towards a nearby moon while Holdo goes down with the ship because remote flight from another alliance vessel has yet to be intended also. The plan goes sideways though, because… well, you’d expect it to. When Del Toro’s character switched teams he dropped information on what the rebels were planning (because everyone discusses such matters in front of strangers) so the escape pods are getting gunned down by ‘ARCING’ laser fire.
It takes a good 15 minutes or so for Holdo to do what I thought of within seconds. Turn the frigate around and fly directly into the bad guys at light speed. The action is a success and inadvertently saves Finn’s life along with his techy buddy Rose while Leia and a tiny group of people left alive setup shop on a moon which conveniently had a very dated rebel base.
With Snoke dead Kylo takes charge and demands the remains of the First Order maintain pursuit to the rebel moon. Where they choose to land, whip out the new model walkers (AT AT’s) and some small scale Death Star tech to use as a battering ram. I refuse to believe that warfare regresses to that of medieval castle sieges, they even call it a bloody battering ram cannon. Not remaining in orbit, reigning down fire from above is confounding.
Losing the will here…
Luke magically appears in the rebel outpost and has a brief convo with Leia while Poe and gang use some skiff type craft due to having no other options. These oddly designed hovercraft look about 300 years old… how long has this rebellion been going on? Eh?
Anyway, Poe calls off the attack, his lesson finally sinking in ‘that loss of life is not acceptable even when winning the battle’. Finn, having escaped Snoke’s ship refuses to follow Poe’s command and charges at the main cannon, clearly willing to sacrifice himself …he has the only craft on the attack now and exactly at this point the bad guys turn into the Stormtroopers of old – they can’t shoot a damn thing. Despite these craft being slow as an asthmatic ant, Rose appears from absolutely nowhere to collide with Finn and save his life as he starts melting from the cannons pre-fire workout. Aww bless. She must have teleported her speeder in because it wasn’t there 3 seconds ago.
The First Order smash the door in and Luke walks out through the hole to stare down army alone. Now this is a a truly standout moment here, Kylo demands that every gun volley continuous fire at him but Luke Skywalker just stands there and takes it. After the smoke clears Luke is just standing there… even brushed a little dust off his right shoulder. Captain nonchalant at work. Visually marvellous and brilliantly cool, it really looks that good.
Epic fail here from Kylo and friends so he opts to go out and have a lightsaber scrap with Luke. We see some magnificently blatant moment of Luke’s feet leaving no foot prints where Kylo leaves plenty and he charges at Skywalker. To which, Luke responds by evading, three times… before opening a dialogue. Unsatisfying. The usual cheesy Jedi tripe, “strike me down and I will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine” Type stuff. Soon after Luke disarms himself leaving Kylo to slash away, right through Luke. Doing absolutely no harm at all, then the penny drops as Kylo realises that Luke is not really there! He’s off somewhere safe and he is just using the Force to project an image of himself elsewhere. Like a holographic video call. Spiffy.
Meanwhile, Leia, Poe, Rose, Finn and gang are using Luke’s distraction to escape via a back tunnel that was previously unknown – convenient yeah? – only to find it’s blocked up with rocky rubble (cool band name). Enter Rey! Deliberately using the force properly to clear passage for escape. Unexpected yes?
After suffering what appears to be heavy mental and physical stress of projecting his body millions and millions of miles away, Luke dissolves into thin air, as many Jedi often do …I presume to save on burial costs.
The rebels fly off into the sunset aboard the millennium falcon to live happily ever after.
So, we had the physics of the universe mocked, a swath of secondary characters added with little input or relevance to the plot other than convenience, we had 40 minutes of needless filler where the film could have been shorter and much more concise and last but not least …ginger hamsters replacing Ewoks as the obligatory Disney comedy influence. The prat fall humour littered throughout the film felt ‘forced’ (pun unintended) or desperate. New characters didn’t get their time to develop and integrate while mainstay characters were flatly paraded around as mundanely as possible in between action scenes.
A plot written poorly and a script to match, it failed to appease me even with my expectations lower than most cinema goers. It was just a swish eye candy spectacle, a visually pleasing CGI outing with drama on par with your average wrestling show – albeit with vastly better acting.
Safe to say, I was not enthralled. Maybe the final episode will perk things back up, but this outing into the Star Wars universe greatly failed to impress me. If I was to rate this -and remember this is not a review – it would get a 6 out of 10. End.
Written by Michael Jones.