Welcome to the Playpen, our space for ferrety banter and whimsical snippets of things that aren't quite long enough for articles (although they might be) but that caught your eye anyway.

at 16:34 on 03-01-2018, Arthur B
There's a lot of things I want and expect out of Star Wars ...

That could pretty much be the motto of any given discussion of Star Wars, to be honest.

It's pretty evident from your posts on the subject that you have an extremely tightly defined personal vision of what Star Wars should be, which if it brings you joy then great but at the same time seems to be a recipe for disappointment. Ultimately, the only way the franchise can continue at all without treading on one person or another's investment is by simply ceasing to produce new product, because you can't get away with regurgitating literally the same thing over and over indefinitely; anything which does anything genuinely new with a fictional setting is intrinsically going to end up changing the parameters of that setting by doing so.

If there's one thing which the reactionary backlash to The Last Jedi has confirmed in my mind, it's that yoking a significant portion of your emotional well-being to a particular fictional franchise perpetuated as a business is a dangerous game. For me the only way to stay sane in fandom is to retain a clear understanding that other people's IP isn't your ballpark, and as welcome and comfortable as you may feel in it you're never going to be as secure or able to declare the parameters as you would be with your own creative work.
at 08:15 on 03-01-2018, Janne Kirjasniemi
People keep making that point and I keep thinking "the galaxy just had some 30ish decades of comparative peace. That's frankly rare even on our one little planet."

It would be surprising if it came out that the real reason for all the discord and troubles on our nice planet is because it is actually the setting for a popular franchise owned by a large for-profit corporation that will keep on making more and more sequels as long as someone is interested, no matter how many times zombie Hitler needs to implausibly ride again.

This is not a commentary for the new film, which I haven't seen, but mean to and feel cautiously optimistic about. Although I guess at this stage of the hypewave and backlashes it will be hard to be super psyched and excited at the movies.
at 00:36 on 03-01-2018, Robinson L
Yeah, you made that point after The Force Awakens came out, Arthur, and my answer, again is that while that's a good message, I'm not convinced that it's an appropriate message for the mainline Star Wars films. There's a lot of things I want and expect out of Star Wars ... sophisticated social commentary isn't exactly one of them.

My reading of the original trilogy is that the defeat of the Palpatine and the Emperor in Return of the Jedi is that this is supposed to be a major game-changer. After this, it's never going to get as bad as it was before. Star Wars has always been a fantasy, so why not give the heroes a permanent victory? When it comes to Star Wars especially, I have higher standards for fiction than I do for real life.

That doesn't preclude new challenges and struggle (as the early Expanded Universe proved). You don't have to face the characters with the exact same problems and circumstances over and over and over again.

Hey, if it works for you, wonderful, but not me.

I keep thinking "the galaxy just had some 30ish decades of comparative peace.

I think I might have more sympathy for this argument if we'd been shown some evidence of how the galaxy benefited from those 3ish decades of peace (30 I might have been more mollified by), so that it felt more real to me. But yeah, on the whole, I still don't see why permanent victories shouldn't be possible in Star Wars. Who's to say the cycle can't be broken eventually?
at 23:07 on 02-01-2018, Arthur B
This trilogy has already done several things that made me ask “What was the point of the original trilogy, then?” but that seems like much too much.

People keep making that point and I keep thinking "the galaxy just had some 30ish decades of comparative peace. That's frankly rare even on our one little planet."

Literally the entire point of the new movies is that you don't get to sit back and rest on your laurels when it comes to opposing fascism. Otherwise you get, well, 2017. The fact that they're having to refight the fight their parents' generation thought doesn't mean their generation accomplished nothing any more than the rise of the extreme right today renders WWII a retroactive Allied loss.
at 22:36 on 02-01-2018, Robinson L
I get it, Robjec. I was being playful about that other stuff, because you said originally that your reasons for liking the movie are pretty much the same as my biggest complaints. And apart from all the Heavy Drama Pauses, my biggest complaints about the movie are stuff that you didn't expect to see somebody stand up and say, "Hey, no, that part was the best (like Lando's absence)."

My inability to read Kylo Ren is anything other than a complete joke of a character isn't a complaint about the movie, exactly - it's far too entertaining - just an observation that it sabotages the effect they're going for.

I don't feel like Finn is with anyone, Rose kissed him, not the other way around. I personally ship Finn and Poe.

Sadly, I don't think Lucasfilm is bold enough to have a canon gay main couple in a saga film. And I'll note that it wasn't just Rose kissing him - at the very end when they're all on the Falcon together, there's that scene where Rey looks over at Finn laying a blanket over Rose, which by itself is an innocuous gesture, but it's very much framed as him having chosen her over Rey. Also, I can't see the narrative point of introducing a new character in this movie to have unrequited love for one of the established main characters unless (it would be to kill her off tragically, which Last Jedi thankfully failed to do). Whereas I can see the narrative point of introducing a new character to be a mutual love interest for an established main character if for some unfathomable reason you wanted to eschew the already established potential love interests from the last movie.

I don't read Finn leaving as cowardly because it seems like the smart thing to do. Rey is presented as the best hope for the rebellion, she is going to be the big hero and everyone knows they need her to have any chance. Espcially of she brought back Like, which would of been a hope of the other chracters in the movie. Of he hadn't taken the transponder off the ship she would of walked into a trap.

You could make that argument, but Finn doesn't try to, and that kind of tactical thinking doesn't seem in character for him. Whereas running away from the First Order - and trying to get Rey away from them, too - and disregarding the wellbeing of the rest of the Resistance is very in character for him from Force Awakens. Trying to steal the escape pod seemed perfectly in keeping with that characterization.

The "joke" with him and Rose in that first scene together didn't read to me like she was mistaking his actions for cowardly when they were really strategic, but that he really was being cowardly, ha-ha.

And just like with The Force Awakens, I don't think Finn acting cowardly precludes him being courageous and taking risks. My read of Finn is that he can be brave, but he sometimes has to be pushed into it by people like Rose and Poe.

The force awakes had a number of Nazi parallels and the opening battle was very grim. But those are still pretty much fantasy tropes too.

More particularly, like so much of Force Awakens, they were lifted directly from the original trilogy - specifically, A New Hope. Last Jedi and Rogue One as military sci-fi I can totally see, though.

Also I'm not thinking about these as a final trilogy.

Oh no, I didn't mean to suggest this is the end of the franchise. Even before they announced a new Rian Johnson trilogy, I knew they were going to keep cranking out more movies.

But as I understand it, Episode IX is supposed to be the finale to the numbered films. I'm sure I read it announced somewhere that it's intended to be the end of the Skywalker family saga. So my assumption is that it's going to serve as an ending to the story begun in the original trilogy, and continued in the prequels and the sequel trilogy. Even if it's not the end of the franchise, that still makes it a grand finale, which is how my expectations for it are set.

(It kind of has to be a grand finale for the original trilogy's main three, considering two of their characters are dead, and the remaining characters' actor is sadly dead as well.)
at 21:08 on 02-01-2018, Robjec
@ Robinson L
Oh I want to be clear, I hope Billy Dee is brought into the next movie. I like Lando.
I don't feel like Finn is with anyone, Rose kissed him, not the other way around. I personally ship Finn and Poe.
I did like how Lukes story played out. I feel like if the whole universe is placed on one person again and again they either have to break or become a super Marry Sue, in order for me to see him as a hero he kind of had to fail, maybe not in that exact way, but withdrawing from everything is how I would of written it.
By these movies I mean all three of the new ones, but more rouge one and the last jedi. The force awakes had a number of Nazi parallels and the opening battle was very grim. But those are still pretty much fantasy tropes too.
Rouge one and the last jedi both make me think of war movies, especially ww2 ones. Rogue one pits me in mind of movies which take place in the French resistance or something similar, while the last jedi is a story of a small military force trying to escape a larger force after a battle goes badly, and slowly being worn down by attrition. The space battles are referred to in nautical terms, the bombers are ww2 eat super bombers. The tone is darker and more desperate, and some of the characters actions make sense in a military movie, but not a fantasy. Such as not telling a recently demoted soldier information they would normally revive, but now don't hold the rank too. I guess a lot of these are asthetic choices. And the large part played by the force of course draws in more into fantasy with magic and wise mentors and stuff. But even if they aren't straight mil-sci fi they are alot closer then the original trilogy.

I don't read Finn leaving as cowardly because it seems like the smart thing to do. Rey is presented as the best hope for the rebellion, she is going to be the big hero and everyone knows they need her to have any chance. Espcially of she brought back Like, which would of been a hope of the other chracters in the movie. Of he hadn't taken the transponder off the ship she would of walked into a trap. And someone had to take it away from the escape pod to prevent it simply being picked up after. That's how I read that scene. And I know it's alot of personal interpretation, but I feel its how the characters were presented. Finn volunteers for a very dangerous mission give minutes later in the film, which I feel is also a point against him acting cowardly.

Also I'm not thinking about these as a final trilogy. There were ealier whispers of at least 3 more numbered movies. And its made over a billion dollars. Disney is going to keep making movies as long as it makes money.
I figure we will get an old republic series or something similar to the Yuuzhan Vong war at some point.
at 20:36 on 02-01-2018, Robinson L
@Daniel F
For sure, there were a number of old Expanded Universe books which were better than either the sequel films or any of the books in the new canon (though several of the latter are quite good, particularly Claudia Gray’s contributions). And even the not so good ones that retained the spirit of upbeat adventure from the original trilogy I still have a soft spot for. As for the X-wing books, it’s been a while, but I think Starfighters of Adumar may have been genuinely excellent.

I actually even mostly enjoyed New Jedi Order, except for 1) killing off Anakin Solo, and 2) the massively sexist double standard between the Solo twins’ storylines. Sure NJO was grimdark at times, but not to excessive degrees (unlike the Legacy era), and it genuinely brought something new and semi-interesting to the table (unlike the Legacy era and the sequel trilogy).

But my favorite characters and stories always revolved around the Skywalker-Solo clan and the other original trilogy characters like Chewie, Lando, and the droids. And I’m so much of a continuity thinker that I can’t separate the early stories which I love from the later stories where they all get mucked up. The Last Command and Vision of the Future have happy endings … except not, because canonically, Mara gets killed off in an incredibly asinine way a decade or so later, Luke becomes a murderer, and then, eventually, a dictator (at least when it comes to other Jedi).

The Solo children are pretty cute … but one of them gets killed off in his late teens, another has his character entirely rewritten so the writers can beat the Fall of Anakin Skywalkerd horse some more, and winds up getting killed by the third (who, as I’ve already mentioned, is treated as a second stringer for no good goddamn reason for the longest time, and when Crucible rolls along, seems quite happy with her uncle’s aforesaid Jedi dictator shtick).

But at least they saved the galaxy from the Sith and the Empire in Return of the Jedi, right? Nope! It makes no real difference in the end, because by the time of the Legacy comics, a mere 140 years later, the Sith are back, have once again taken over the galaxy, and hit a giant fucking cosmic reset button to put the galaxy back into the exact same fucking position it was in at the beginning of A New Hope; because, again, rehashing the original trilogy. The actual story itself was kinda good, I guess, but the premise drove me up the wall because it means that not only did all of my favorite characters canonically live incredibly shitty lives, but all their accomplishments were ultimately pointless because the galaxy wound up in exactly the same place anyway.*

*Admittedly, one could level similar criticisms against the sequel trilogy—and that is one of my biggest complaints against it. However, the sequel trilogy has a leg up over the Legacy comics for me because 1) I can tell myself the First Order’s victory over the good guys isn’t as total as the Sith Empire’s in the comics, so maybe the heroes did accomplish something lasting after all, even if we haven’t seen it; 2) it doesn’t invalidate as many victories on the heroes’ side anyway (since all the intervening EU books aren’t canon); and 3) the sequel trilogy at least has the decency to give me heroes who are actually likable and worth rooting for. Also, it doesn’t shit all over the the original series cast to anywhere near the same extent the Legacy novels did. And hey, it’s nice to see Chewie back in action.

The bottom line for me personally is that having the Legacy era as the endpoint for my favorite characters and their stories is a fate much worse than having all the stuff I loved jettisoned from canon entirely.

I would’ve been horrified if the new movies had taken place within the EU canon—because that would validate the Legacy era as the endpoint of the Skywalker-Solo family’s stories, and again, in my view that’s a fate worse than oblivion. But from an industry perspective, I can see the point that with a new trilogy, you want to revisit the original trilogy cast, and that’s what audiences—most of whom haven’t read the Expanded Universe at all, let alone extensively—are going to want as well. So you either get your movie hopelessly bogged down in decades of continuity which limits your story telling room and only serves a fraction of your audience; or you throw out the Expanded Universe altogether; or you try to do this weird hybrid thing and get yourself hopelessly bogged down in the details.

I can totally understand the logic behind trashing the Expanded Universe. I would doubtlessly have been outraged over it … except, as I’ve mentioned, I view the Legacy era as a polluting influence which sucked the joy out of literally all the stories which came before it. So yes, the price of expunging it from canon was very high, but as far as I’m concerned, the net gain was more than worth the loss. I miss the good stories, but in my mind, they’re in a better place now.
at 20:30 on 02-01-2018, Robinson L
Robjec: I think it may of been my favorite star wars movie, and almost explusivly for the reasons Robinson listed for not liking it.

Really? Interesting. I have two reservations about all the Heavy Drama in the movie, the first aesthetic and the second storytelling based. My aesthetic qualm is that I don’t know if that level of seriousness and bleakness is appropriate for a Star Wars saga movie (I could see it working in an anthology film, but even Rogue One didn’t feel half so bleak, despite
killed off its *entire cast* at the end
). It feels like its edging into the territory of going against what the saga originally stood for. But I’ll come back to the tone in a minute.

My storytelling complaint is that those lingering shots right before the Big Dramatic Moment sap tension and excitement rather than enhancing them. Such shots can work to heighten the drama, but only if used very sparingly and very judiciously. Otherwise, you’re telegraphing what’s about to happen and how I should feel about it, rather than just letting it happen and allowing me to work out for myself how to feel about it.

As far as my other complaints: well, maybe you like how they handled Luke—fair enough. And maybe you prefer Finn with Rose rather than with Rey or with Rey and Poe—fine. And maybe you don’t care about the lack of Billy Dee Williams or are just as happy not to have him included—if so, then I’m greatly puzzled, but okay, whatever.

We’ve already established that you are able to take the character of Kylo Ren as portrayed by Adam Driver seriously. I’ll probably never understand how, but all right. Those were my biggest reasons for disliking it—I must say that, tone aside, they seem like rather odd reasons for you to like it, but okay.

As for the tone:
these movies feel more military sci-fi then the old ones, with less fantasy tropes being used, even if they are still using fantasy trappings. For me that's more of what I want, and what I feel both the cartoon series worked with.

By “these movies” do you mean Last Jedi and Force Awakens, or Last Jedi and Rogue One? Because if you’re arguing the former, can you explain a little more how Force Awakens seems more like military sci-fi?

Either way, I guess I see what you mean about the movies and the cartoons, and I’m not inherently opposed to a military sci-fi spin on Star Wars—hell, the Timothy Zahn novels were my introduction to the franchise, and they were military sci-fi with spellcasting. But his books were also adventure stories first and foremost, as are Clone Wars and Rebels (the latter of which also had the decency to bring in Billy Dee Williams a couple times). So were The Force Awakens and even Rogue One. (And apart from That One Scene in Force Awakens, when they did dramatic moments they never felt the need to hit me over the head with how dramatic they were being.) The Last Jedi feels different to me in that it’s a serious, brooding story with occasional adventure elements. Which, again, I don’t even necessarily dislike; I’m just not sure if it’s a fitting tone for a main saga film.

I also honestly didn't see any of Fin's actions in this film as cowardly, and an not sure where that reading comes from

Interesting. I think the scene where he first meets Rose—where he tases him for trying to nick an escape pod—was obviously intended to be read as Finn behaving cowardly. Yeah, he’s trying to find Rey, as well, but mostly he’s trying to save his own skin and never mind what happens to all the other members of the Resistance; which in American cinema parlance, at least, reads as cowardly. Can you break down a little more how your interpretation differs?

Oh, also, congratulations on first post. Welcome to the site.

Arthur: Perhaps the downfall of the Sith is that they go to the Dark Side looking for cool powerz when in fact it's a thing for revelatory self-knowledge.

I really like this interpretation, because there’s no place in my worldview for Evil as a force of nature. I much prefer the interpretation of the light side and dark side as two opposing forces, both of which have positive and negative aspects (thus the prophecy of restoring balance between the two). The short lived EU comic series Dawn of the Jedi took this approach, and was one of the many things I loved about it.
at 20:00 on 02-01-2018, Robinson L
@Arthur and Robjec
I disagree about Kylo Ren. I mean, yeah, he’s supposed to be an emo dweeb fanboy; but both this movie and the last also try to sell him as a serious dramatic character, who’s tragic and dangerous and full of pathos and genuine internal conflict that goes beyond just over-the-top angst. It wants me to view him as all these things despite being an emo dweeb fanboy, which is a difficult balance to achieve—and for me, Adam Driver fails to strike that balance. He comes across the whole movie as a walking joke, which undermines the scenes of his which are supposed to be dramatic and emotional.

I read an article about a week after seeing the film, where the author praised the fact that with Kylo Ren, the Star Wars franchise—for the first time in its film history, and in glaring contrast to the other big budget blockbusters currently dominating the box offices—had finally delivered a complex villain. I read through that whole piece thinking, ‘interesting points, but no, no, he absolutely isn’t a complex villain; he’s written as one, but his portrayal is that of a laughable pushover, simple as that.’

Actually, I also said last time around that Hayden Christensen would’ve been an excellent Kylo Ren, and I stand behind that statement, too. He wasn’t a very good Darth Vader or Anakin Skywalker (except when he’s playing off Ewan McGregor), but those qualities which dragged down his performance in the prequels are exactly the traits which the Kylo Ren character needs to work. Okay, so his tragic side and internal conflict didn’t come out so well in the prequels, but I think that with better direction he could pull that part off—better than Adam Driver, certainly.

Arthur: I also have a sneaking suspicion that there isn't going to be a redemption narrative for him. It is not an ironclad rule of storytelling that there must be one, and the entire thrust of his stuff in The Last Jedi seems to have hinged around the idea that actually, sometimes, even if someone seems to have better qualities somewhere deep within them and are a bit conflicted about what they've been doing, you are not necessarily going to be able to reach them and constantly looking for ways to "redeem" them means you end up losing the opportunity to defeat their agenda.

Oh, wow, I hadn’t even considered that possibility. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s a good message, but maybe not a good message for Star Wars. It works in The Last Jedi because the middle chapter is the one where everything goes wrong—and because the filmmakers aren’t going to redeem the villain they’ve deluded themselves into thinking audiences will go wild over in the second movie. But failing to redeem the tragic villain at the end of the series—in direct contrast to the ending of the original trilogy—seems much too cynical a move for the final act of the saga. This trilogy has already done several things that made me ask “What was the point of the original trilogy, then?” but that seems like much too much. It’s the kind of bullshit they’d pull in the old Legacy era, but so far, the Disney canon seems thankfully above that nonsense. (Not that I give a damn about the character of Kylo Ren, you understand, because, again, walking joke, but I find this possibility pretty disquieting in a discursive level.)
at 16:08 on 02-01-2018, Arthur B
I think that's where a lot of the split comes down to, these movies feel more military sci-fi then the old ones, with less fantasy tropes being used, even if they are still ussing fantasy trappings.

Yes, I can sort of see that. One of the things I noticed is that for the purposes of Empire Strikes Back the wider Rebellion isn't especially relevant after the Hoth sequence - it's all about Leia and Han's getaway and Luke's Jedi training after that. Whereas the action of The Last Jedi effectively takes place against the backdrop of a single long, rolling battle in which the fate of the Resistance military forces hangs in the balance.

As far as Rey's parents being an irrelevance, I will point out that it's not just Kylo Ren who says that. When Rey goes into the Dark Side cave on Jedi Island and looks into the Mirror of Erised and asks to see her parents, she sees herself. That's crucial: it's an absolutely explicit statement that for all intents and purposes she herself is the author of her own existence, and her parents are not actually important there.

Which leads on to the important stuff we learned about the Force this time: the Dark Side not only exists in perpetual equilibrium with the Light Side, but it also is a viable source of self-knowledge. The Dark Side pit on Jedi Island is extremely reminiscent of the cave Luke has his Vader vision in on Dagobah. Perhaps the downfall of the Sith is that they go to the Dark Side looking for cool powerz when in fact it's a thing for revelatory self-knowledge.

That leads us on to what's actually kind of brilliant about the movie: the one fighting hardest for peace is Kylo Ren. His whole agenda for the movie is to wipe out the Resistance and Snoke alike, for the sake of ending the cycle of galactic wars and attaining equilibrium via stagnation and stasis, whilst Rey goes for equilibrium via dynamism and takes actions that ensures that the wars will continue - and is heroic for doing so because Kylo's offering an unacceptable peace.
at 14:30 on 02-01-2018, Robjec
Oh first post. I want to see if I could jump in a bit and give an opposing veiw on the new Star Wars films.
I have to say, the reaction to star wars by the fans seems to be pretty heavily split down the middle. I think it may of been my favorite star wars movie, and almost explusivly for the reasons Robinson listed for not liking it.

I also have to say I agree with Arthur about Adam Driver. With the addition that Kylo feels more real to me then the old star wars villains. He is someone who has a lot of power which he doesn't quite know what to do with, who is in a position of power due to the actions of earlier family members, and seems to care more aboit preserving that power then anything else. He reads to me like a second or third generation dictator in real life would, and that grounding makes Kylo much more intimidating to me.

I think that's where a lot of the split comes down to, these movies feel more military sci-fi then the old ones, with less fantasy tropes being used, even if they are still ussing fantasy trappings. For me that's more of what I want, and what I feel both the cartoon series worked with. But I can see why this would seem to split the fandom so much.
I will agree that the Lea scene had horrible cgi. And that Rey's family history as related by Kylo can't be trusted, and while I want her to be a nobody, that still hasn't been supported by any of the movies in either direction.
I also honestly didn't see any of Fin's actions in this film as cowardly, and an not sure where that reading comes from, although I've seen them several times now online.
Sorry if any of this feels like beating a dead horse, I'm sure all of this has been argued to death in every other forum out there.
at 07:29 on 01-01-2018, Daniel F
Er, let me edit that a little. Let's say that the X-Wing books were fun or worthwhile, rather than excellent. I misread you - oops!
at 07:28 on 01-01-2018, Daniel F
There's no defending Legacy of the Force, but I'd like to argue that scrapping the EU was a bad idea, Robinson. I see how you couldn't make a sequel trilogy while still respecting the EU, but what that says to me is that it would be better to make new Star Wars within the existing continuity but in some other setting or time period.

You seem to grant that early EU works like X-Wing were excellent, and... well, for me it comes down to whether the sequel films are better or worse than the early EU, and I would argue worse. Perhaps more pertinently, I suspect the sequel films are worse than the alternative: that is, new Star Wars films that were not trying to be straight sequels to Return of the Jedi with returning actors.

...I would also take the rather more controversial opinion that even late EU works, notably New Jedi Order, are better or at least more interesting than the sequel films. But I do not expect anybody to agree with that!
at 20:31 on 30-12-2017, Arthur B
I think Adam Driver is perfect as Kylo Ren precisely because he's the perfect "frustrated emo Vader wannabe" figure that the character's meant to be.

He is a slightly underwhelming villain in terms of personal presence, and is hard to take seriously as a consequence, but I think that's kind of meant to be the point - he's the evil that isn't taken seriously, even by the people who think they are using him for their own purposes, until it's too late and the damage is done. (He's like the alt-right to Snoke's Trump.)

I also have a sneaking suspicion that there isn't going to be a redemption narrative for him. It is not an ironclad rule of storytelling that there must be one, and the entire thrust of his stuff in The Last Jedi seems to have hinged around the idea that actually, sometimes, even if someone seems to have better qualities somewhere deep within them and are a bit conflicted about what they've been doing, you are not necessarily going to be able to reach them and constantly looking for ways to "redeem" them means you end up losing the opportunity to defeat their agenda.
at 15:30 on 30-12-2017, Robinson L
Okay, back to Star Wars for a more comprehensive discussion of The Last Jedi.

I suppose I should've realized the direction the movie was going when it started off like the ending to Rogue One, with the successful bombing run on the dreadnought in which Paige and all the other bombers die, and then the attacks on the bridge and hanger bay of the command ship where Ackbar and the other leaders die, and most of Poe's squadron dies. (I totally thought that pilot who gave him a thumbs-up just before the explosion was Jessika Pava from the previous film, but apparently not, which makes me wonder about the fate of the other pilots with greater roles in the Disney Expanded Universe who were on the Resistance base at the end of The Force Awakens and don't appear in this movie.)

The movie also had a serious and malignant case of the Heavy Dramas. Kinda like that interminable pause before Kylo Ren stabs Han in Force Awakens, i.e., the single worst thing about that movie. (I got a good laugh at his claim to Snoke that he "didn't even hesitate" to kill his father ... yeah, right, not more than about six hours.) The Big Dramatic Pauses here in The Last Jedi aren't nearly so excruciating, but now they're flipping everywhere, and they only work maybe two, three times, tops.

Luke running and hiding on that island planet because he felt he'd failed Kylo Ren didn't ring true to me in the same way that, say, Han and Leia splitting up and Han returning to old smuggler habits made sense to me in Force Awakens. It didn't fit with where his character ended up at the end of Return of the Jedi, or how he's depicted post-Jedi in the other canon works (like The Legends of Luke Skywalker) and the early Expanded Universe books. It did set up his scene with Yoda, though, which I adored. I don't think we got enough of Wise Jedi Luke at the end to make up for Broody Hermit Luke, but his confrontation with Kylo Ren was seriously cool (I like both uses of the line "every word you just said there is wrong").

Then again, while I was looking askance at Broody Hermit Luke as opposed to Wise Jedi Luke, he was still billions of lightyears ahead of Wanton Murderer Luke or Proto-Fascist Jedi School Adminstrater Luke from Legacy of the Force: Sacrifice, and Crucible, respectively. Thank you, Legacy era, for constantly reminding me that no matter how inane and wrongheaded the new canon sometimes gets, the alternative was infinitely worse; and why I'm glad the old Expanded Universe has been erased from existence, despite wiping out many of my absolute favorite characters and stories in the process.

In theory, I wasn't opposed to killing off Luke (maybe the bleak tone of the rest of the movie finally got to me), and I'm glad that little snot of a Vader wannabe wasn't the one to kill him - Han I could believe, Luke never. But I don't understand why he died in-story. And if, as Rey claims, his death was supposed to be peaceful and not sad, then Johnson really should have made that clear to John Williams, and the cinematographer, and the editor, and everyone else responsible for the umpteenth epic Heavy Drama sequence just before he died. It also undermined the awesomeness of his final parting shot at Kylo Ren.

(Given this movie and Force Awakens, I'm now wondering if the original plan before Carrie Fisher's untimely death wasn't for her to have a confrontation with Kylo Ren at the end of Episode IX, possibly dying, and possibly that being the way he's finally redeemed. Rule of Three, and all that.)

I also liked Luke training Rey - both seriously and when he was trolling her - and I liked the exploration of the more mystical dimension to the Force, which was one thing I felt The Force Awakens lacked. (It was also one of my favorite parts of Rogue One with the character of Chirrut.) I feel the movie could've played up that part a bit more.

And it was really cool how we got to see the Force at work among the galaxy's unimportant nobodies and not just Super Special people like Rey and the Skywalker family. Though I was annoyed that their token everyperson Force user was still a white human boy.

I liked Rose Tico, and I was pleasantly surprised and relieved how she survived that final battle on Crait, where the movie had me convinced it was going to kill either her or Finn off - which would have been massively upsetting after all the Heavy Drama buildup. (Another nice thing about Rogue One was that in most cases, it didn't telegraph its character deaths way in advance and then drag them out interminably. For the most part it was quick, brutal, and to the point.) It also would've been massively annoying considering how overused the noble sacrifice trope is in speculative fiction. And I liked Rose's line about victory not being a matter of destroying what they hate but protecting who they love - which I feel would've been undermined if she'd died.

All that said, where do the filmmakers get off trying to pair up Finn with someone who 1) isn't Rey, and 2) isn't either Rey or Poe? That's just wrong.

My third biggest complaint about the movie was how yet again, they utterly failed to bring back Billy Dee Williams to play Lando. Seriously, of the members of the original trilogy cast whose characters survive the end of Jedi, he's the only one who wasn't even asked back for either Force Awakens or Last Jedi (and he's said that he would). Rian, JJ, I have to ask, what is your fucking problem?

It's especially galling and baffling since the movies take our heroes to a galactic watering hole and to Planet Monte Carlo respectively; i.e. Lando Calrissian's natural habitats. He's a great character, and the only black member of original trilogy cast, and they couldn't be bothered to fit him into either of their movies? Gah.

I liked the use of humor. Apart from continuing the gag from Force Awakens of Finn being cowardly and an atrocious liar - which was never remotely funny - the comedy all worked for me.

I also liked the action sequences for the most part, like the fight with the First Order at the beginning, or Rey and Kylo Ren versus Snoke's Imperial Guards, or the Resistance command ship blowing through the First Order ships and blowing out the soundtrack in the process, or Luke versus Kylo Ren towards the end. Those sequences were pretty fun.

Also Finn's rematch against Phasma - I remember reading some commentary from a black fan a while ago who was very critical of the fact that Finn got trounced in all his fights in The Force Awakens, so it was especially good to see him get a bit of his own back.

After our tragic loss of Carrie Fisher last year, I was especially concerned over how the movie would handle Leia's character arc, as it's now her final performance for the series. Overall, I was happy with what I got. I know she wasn't featured prominently in the last movie because they wanted to center Han, but I still felt she could've been given a bit more of a proactive role. Here, I thought they more or less did her character justice, which was a huge relief. I particularly liked how, even though she isn't a Jedi, she got a chance to use her Force powers and pull off an awesome escape - even if the special effects for that sequence weren't great.

ptolemaeus (who, like my other sisters, adored Force Awakens but disliked The Last Jedi) had a great idea for how to write Leia out of the series in the next movie. She said Episode IX should open a few months later, at Leia's funeral, where Billie Lourde's character is delivering the eulogy, talking about how great she was, how she was like a mother to her, how she's an inspiration to the Resistance, etc.. And then her memory can continue to be an inspiration to the heroes throughout the third film, and at the pivotal moment, Rey has some choice words for Kylo Ren about not having been there for his mother at the end, how she always believed in him, and that's what helps him finally shake loose. Then at the very end when they're having their post-victory celebration and Rey sees Force ghosts of Leia, and Luke, and Han looking on in approval. Granted, from what we've seen before, it seems like only Jedi can manifest Force ghosts, but with all the other weird stuff they've done to the previous canon, why not throw in Han? (Although, it would also be kind of interesting if it was revealed that Han is actually alive somehow, and he reconciles with Kylo Ren, and winds up being the last survivor among the original three.) Pretty neat.

And then there's Kylo Ren ... Oh, Kylo Ren. I get what the filmmakers were going for with the character, and on paper it's solid. Stuff like him hesitating to shoot the Resistance command ship bridge when he senses his mother aboard, or the interactions between him and Rey on the island planet*, that's good. It's just a shame about the casting. Poor Adam Driver, he's all wrong for the role, and it's impossible for me to take the character remotely seriously. He's just laughable whenever he's out of the mask, which in this movie is pretty much always. I get that he's supposed to be tragic and conflicted and all that jazz, and I think in script terms and how the other characters play off him it works really well. And Adam Driver tries his best to live up to the material - but he can't manage any better than Emo Doofus. All of his scenes are excellent Enjoyable Bad Movie material; massively entertaining, but because you're laughing at the movie rather than with it.

*Actually, even setting Finn aside, a romance between Rey and Kylo Ren would be massively screwed up given how much he was creeping on her in the last movie; but the rest of his arc works fine in theory.

I'm pretty sure I made a joke back when The Force Awakens came out about how Hayden Christensen should be grateful to Adam Driver for making his performance as Anakin Skywalker in the prequel trilogy look downright dignified and masterful in comparison. Having seen The Last Jedi, I still stand behind that statement.

Also: "You come from nothing. You are nothing ... But not to me." Sitting in the theater, I nearly laughed myself out of my seat. He totally just negged her! No wonder he's such a crap Dark Lord (apart from being played by Adam Driver): he learned everything he knows about being evil from pick-up artists!

I've seen fans and commentators make a big deal about the "reveal" concerning Rey's parents, but I'm skeptical. Maybe it's just that I can't get over reading two years ago when Force Awakens came out that Colin Treverrow had promised a "satisfying" reveal for the third film in the trilogy. Granted a lot has changed since then, and Treverrow isn't even attached to IX anymore, but it makes me suspicious. I interpreted that scene as Kylo Ren reading and playing off Rey's own doubts and insecurities rather than having actual knowledge of what went down with her parents. That's another massive creeper alert, but completely in character.

I read an article by Film Critic Hulk, praising the unreveal for subverting the saga's fixation on dynastic bloodlines (highly reminiscent of David Brin's accusations of elitism against the series), so maybe it would be for the best if this is the truth of Rey's origin. But either way, I remain skeptical, and I'm perplexed at how many people are taking the story we get in this movie at face value, and treating the matter as settled.

Incidentally, ptolemaeus' suggestion for the ending to Kylo Ren's storyline in the third film is that he's redeemed by Rey, then goes to sacrifice himself to prevent the terrible threat at the end of the movie. Only then Rey steps in and solves the problem herself with no need for anyone dying, and tells him, "No, you're not getting out of this that easily. Your atonement is going to be spending the rest of your life helping the galaxy rebuild from all the damage you've caused." And then during the final montage we get a little vignette of him in, like, a really dirty field hospital somewhere doing good work. If the third film delivers anything less than this, I'll be sorely disappointed.

Something else I appreciated about The Last Jedi was that it was less obviously derivative of the original trilogy than The Force Awakens, with a few glaring exceptions. The Prime Climax in Snoke's throne room was the biggest of those exceptions, and it was laughably easy to predict exactly how it was going to play out.

That said, I think the throne room climax was one sequence which worked really well. It made perfect sense in story, and it managed to be exciting despite being so obvious.

It was also surprising in its own way, because even though it was so predictable, I didn't expect this particular major plot point so early in the trilogy. So there was a lot of tension for me, in the sense of "Oh my gosh, they're actually going through with this," and also wondering how this movie and the next one were going to handle the ramifications of this development.

In hindsight, it amuses me no end how much the filmmakers and Andy Serkis insisted over the past few years that Snoke was really a complex villain with his own personality and character. But in the end, the dear Supreme Leader died as he lived*: a second-rate Palpatine knock-off.

*And just as he came across in The Force Awakens.

I also find it hilarious that this leaves that little chump of a Darth Vader wannabe as the Big Bad for the final film. With him as their Supreme Leader, the First Order could wipe out the Resistance a thousand times over and they still wouldn't have a prayer. (And it's not as if Hux is any better. Palpatine might have been remarkably tolerant of fools and buffoons in high positions within his Empire, but he had a much better track record of promoting competent subordinates to balance them out.)

I thought Admiral Holdo was cool - though not nearly as eccentric as her younger version was depicted in the recent Leia-centric YA novel. I was very relieved when her plan for the Resistance was vindicated, rather than having her just be a straw commander figure. (Plus, it was pretty badass having Leia blast her way through the bridge door, stand there dramatically while Poe looks on in wonder and relief, and then stun him.)

However, this brings up a pretty major plot hole: why didn't Holdo just tell Poe the real plan? It's not as if there was any pressing reason to keep it a secret. Because of his previous insubordination? That might cut it in a real military, but not in the atrociously lax command structure among the good guys in Star Wars, where insubordination is practically standard operating procedure.

ptolemaeus pointed out that the decimation of the Resistance after they flee the command ship is entirely attributable to this lack of communication on Holdo's part. If she'd simply explained the plan, Finn and Rose wouldn't have gone to Canto Bight and picked up the sleazy programmer, and never would have been captured with him, so he wouldn't have been in a position to tip off the First Order about the cloaked escape shuttles, and they presumably would have safely made it to Crait as planned. As ptolemaeus put it: "Many rebels died to bring you this plot twist."

ptolemaeus also shared a point raised by her boyfriend (they saw it separately from us) about Yoda's comment to Luke that failure is the greatest teacher, and how each of the four main characters - three protagonists plus Kylo Ren - fails in their main goals for the movie. Which is pretty interesting, but I guess we'll have to wait for the next one to see if they do in fact learn and grow from their failures, and if so to what extent.

Looking ahead to the third movie, I'm concerned about the climax to the trilogy. Say what you will about the prequel trilogy, but in each of those movies, Lucas created climaxes which were unique to them, while still paying homage to the original trilogy. Both Abrams and Johnson, by contrast, have cribbed heavily from the original movies in their climactic sequences so far, and I'm worried about Abrams' ability to pull off something both new and satisfying for the grand finale of this now nine-movie film cycle. Don't let me down, JJ.

Also, I've been listening to Rogue Podron this year, even though the X-wing books were never my absolute favorites, because I find the hosts (mostly) very charming, and enjoy their interpersonal chemistry and their perspective on these classic books from the pre-Disney Expanded Universe era. Good stuff.
at 03:30 on 30-12-2017, Robinson L
Actually, from what little I know of Stalin, I suspect he was an opportunist and a congenital bully, who would have just as happily thrown his lot in with any authoritarian ideology. But the fact remains that the specific group he happened to join up with and exercise his authoritarian tendencies through was unquestionably left-wing.

On another note, Ibmiller, I just read "Watson and Holmes: A Study in Black," published by New Paradigm Studios. It's another modern day reimagining of the famous crime solving duo - in this case, modern day Harlem. Apparently, it's the first such reimagining ever to cast Holmes and Watson as African Americans, which is actually kind of incredible.

Anyway, the mystery is pretty good, as are the characters. You've got several interesting updates of the Holmesian cast - though I'm still wincing over Police Lieutenant "Leslie Stroud." And the humor gave me several good guffaws.

My only real complaint is that the first case ends on a very open-ended basis, setting up an arc plot for the series. Which would be okay, except that the comics are published irregular, and information about them is a bit difficult to find online, which is a bit frustrating. But otherwise, a very enjoyable comic.
at 22:45 on 22-12-2017, Robinson L
Ha. Ha, Arthur. I admit, it took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out what you were doing there.

@Ibmiller: I'm sorry you were so disappointed by the movie. Unless I'm mistaken, that puts the Disney canon at 0 for 3 in terms of films you've enjoyed. Tough break.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, my own thoughts on the movie are many and varied. I could probably write my longest article yet on the subject, but that would require gathering them up into some sort of coherent order, and I don't intend to go to that much effort.

For now, I'll just give my broad impression, and add a follow-up post where I go into excruciating detail after the holiday weekend.

Overall, I thought The Last Jedi was a good movie, and I mostly enjoyed it for what it was. I'll likely go to see at again in the theater, perhaps multiple times.

That said, something about it felt seriously off to me. On reflection, I believe what's going on is that the tone is unlike pretty much any other Star Wars movie. Everything is dark and brooding, and apart from Rey and Luke's interludes on island planet, it's all shot through with this underlying feeling of desperation as the First Order slowly blasts the survivors of the Resistance down to what looks like fewer than two dozen people by the end. Even with the (substantial) victories the heroes score over the course of the film, the overall tone is incredibly bleak.

Despite my reservations, I came out of The Force Awakens excited and energized. I came out of The Last Jedi feeling emotionally drained. I still don't know if I think that's inappropriate for a Star Wars movie, but I get why it would put fans off.

I had a few other major reservations - continuing lack of Billy Dee Williams; continuing inability to take Adam Driver remotely seriously; putting Finn in a romantic subplot with a character who 1) isn't Rey, and 2) isn't Rey or Poe; and some of the stuff with Luke - but for the most part, I thought the plot was good, the characterization was good, the humor was good, the story was thrilling when it tried to be and somber when it tried to be, and there were a number of well-executed surprises.

(And even if it wasn't good Star Wars, I've seen the saga done far worse: Lookin' at you, Legacy of the Force.)

Sadly, it doesn't surprise me about your co-worker; I've had the misfortune to encounter people who have even more creepily revisionist ideas about Stalin. However, you can tell this person from me that claiming Stalin as a conservative is just as ridiculous as Vox Day claiming Richard Spencer is a leftist.
at 10:55 on 20-12-2017, Arthur B
While we wait for Robinson to weigh in, here's my thoughts on this year's Star Wars holiday season offering:

- Luke's looking a bit different. I'm really not sure about the makeup job and the hair.

- Everyone loves Chewbacca but it remains to be seen whether the other fuzzy friends we get this time really endear themselves to people.

- We get surprisingly little R2, but what we do get is effective.

- They do some interesting worldbuilding here. Less lightsaber fights than expected.

- Of course there's a hacking sequence, there always is.

- That mercantile guy is an interesting addition, though his ultimate loyalties are a bit obvious.

- That particular pairing of characters - you know the one - will cause controversy.

- Attentive fans will appreciate the new details on Kashykk.

- The acrobatics sequence was pretty odd.

- Can Jefferson Starship please just drop the "Jefferson" and just call themselves "Starship" already? They're so distant from the Jefferson Airplane days now I bet they can't even remember how to play White Rabbit.

- I could have done without the blackface cooking segment. And the electronics lesson. And most of the variety act stuff, to be honest.

- I could have really done without Itchy getting off on erotic VR modules in his sleazy chair.

- Why did Bea Arthur need to sing a song to get all those people to leave her bar? "It's an Imperial curfew, they will kill you and me and all of our families for good measure if they find you here" should have been enough.

- The guy with the crater head should fuck off and learn to respect boundaries.

- Life Day is weird. Why are Leia and Luke and Han there in the interdimensional pocket realm if only the Wookies are celebrating it? Han even makes the point of leaving so the wookies can enjoy it by themselves, but then he shows up there. Are these just the wookies' conception of those characters?

- Why is there no wookie-language TV on Kashyyk?

- At least Carrie Fisher seemed to be having a good time.
at 16:14 on 19-12-2017, Ibmiller
Curious to know what Robinson thinks of The Last Jedi (I, personally, think it is terrible, but I also hated The Force Awakens, so I'm not representative of many people, I think).

Also, regarding your comment about "You don't see me going around trying to claim Stalin, Mao, and Castro were all actually conservatives, do you?" - I have had the misfortune of working with a fellow who did claim that Stalin was a conservative. So while I did assume that you were more honest than him, such folk do exist, sadly.
at 03:30 on 11-11-2017, Robinson L
Oh yeah, two other minor points I really liked, the first one a minor spoiler.

It turns out that Loki
stashed Odin in some sort of building that was subsequently torn down, and to me it looked like some sort of care facility. I've no idea if this was deliberate, but it reminded me of The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, where Odin spends all his time in an elder care institution

The second thing I really liked was the little bits of subversive social commentary sprinkled here and there, such as Hela's remarks about Odin papering over the more unpleasant parts of Asgardian history (much of which he actively participated in), or her asking Thor, when they're in Odin's throne room, where he thinks all the gold came from.
at 00:36 on 10-11-2017, Robinson L
Saw Thor Ragnarok with some of my family earlier today (as my stepmother pointed out, there was no colon in the credits; maybe it's their family name). There are many aspects to it I really liked and appreciated, but I could also write an entire thesis about the many and oh so varied ways it stumbles and sometimes outright fails, both on its own terms and as a concluding sequel to the original film and The Dark World. And it's really interesting, because on most of these points, Ragnarok isn't flat out bad, it just fails to synthesize parts which are mostly well handled on their own, or it has a good build up and almost lands the payoff. It's like an entire masterclass in how a series of mostly good parts can yield a whole which is less than its sum.

Special shout-outs go to disrespecting most of the characters, new and old, at some point or other, especially Heimdall.

That said, I did really like the character Thor, and the way it handled his arc with Loki, and some other pieces of the film. It's a really odd feeling overall.
at 20:00 on 08-11-2017, Robinson L
So, just to be clear, Arthur, when you answered "Yes" to my post from a month ago, I take it you were responding to the question

Was whatever magic you worked last year to stave off the annual blackout ... more of a one-shot?

In other news, I recently saw a screencap where Theo "Vox Day" Beale tried to disavow Richard Spencer by claiming that he's a leftist and no alt-right at all.

... Yeah, that's right Mr. Beale, as soon as one of your fellow-travelers starts getting a little too controversial for you, just go ahead and try to foist him onto your political opposition. You don't see me going around trying to claim Stalin, Mao, and Castro were all actually conservatives, do you?
at 13:36 on 29-10-2017, Arthur B
I've not run into any of those - will have to keep an eye open.
at 18:13 on 28-10-2017, Alasdair Czyrnyj
Arthur, I suspect that it is far, far too late in the season, but a director has come to my attention I think you might be interested in. A few weeks ago, I was reading Kier-La Janisse's House of Psychotic Women, which I have since discussed on my blog, and one of the things she talked about was the work of British director Andrew Parkinson. From what I've gathered he's only made three movies: I, Zombie (1998), Dead Creatures (2001), and Venus Drowning (2006). Janisse spoke very highly of the last two films (and I have since watched Dead Creatures myself), so I was wondering if you've ever heard of Parkinson or sampled his work before.