Mike Kaye: What’s up Geeks and Gamers? Hope you’ve all had a wonderful weekend! As you’re probably well aware, Star Wars: The Last Jedi is currently sitting comfortably at the top of the box office, earning over $220 million domestically, and $450 million world wide. So it’s safe to assume that you’ve seen movie at least once, and are ready to dive head-first into spoilers. Joining me in this discussion is one of my colleagues on the G+G writing team, Ty Rothermal.
Ty Rothermal: Hey, thank you so much for having me join you in this discussion, Michael. It’s been a long time coming for us to finally collaborate on an article and I am so glad that it’s going to be about my favorite franchise, Star Wars. Now, like Michael said, this is going to be a spoiler filled discussion, so if you haven’t seen Star Wars: The Last Jedi, move along! This is not the article for you. So with all the pretense out of the way, where would you like to start off?
*LAST WARNING, SPOILERS FOR THE LAST JEDI AHEAD!*
MK: Well, let’s start with general impressions. Why don’t you give us a summary of how you felt watching the movie?
TR: I couldn’t be happier. I was excited for this film but man, was I nervous that it was going to play it safe. However, I was thankfully proven dead wrong. The film makes the choice to have Luke be against the idea of training Rey to become a Jedi, and they stick with it. The only thing he does in terms of training is that he shows her what the Force is and why it doesn’t belong to any light or dark side, something I was so happy about. The rest of the film carries that same unexpectedness throughout, which, as I said, is exactly what I wanted. The performances are great, the structure, the direction; everything about this film works. How about you Michael; what are your general thoughts about the film?
MK: I agree with you, this is the Star Wars movie that I never even knew I wanted, from a writer and director who throws caution to the wind and takes the franchise in an exciting new direction! For the most part, I was satisfied with every character’s arcs, with Luke, of course, being the standout. I’ve been a fan of Kylo Ren as a villain ever since The Force Awakens, and he was even better this time around, proving to audiences that he’s not just a Vader rip-off, but an entirely new threat. The action was great, the music was some of John Williams’s best work, and the film ends with a new spark of hope. I know it’s cliché to call this “the best Star Wars movie since Empire,” but I’d be lying if I said I disagreed. Now, let’s dive deeper into the rest of the cast, specifically those not showcased in any of the marketing. Who would you like to spotlight first?
TR: Well, if you’re asking about characters who weren’t a focus in the marketing, then the standout for me is Kelly Marie Tran as Rose. Tran was an absolute delight in the film; she always managed to make me smile and her chemistry with John Boyega was fantastic. The two compliment each other as actors and characters. While yes, their subplot is arguably the weakest in the film, I still got a lot out of it and was never annoyed when they’d cut back to it. One thing that has been popping up slightly here and there is that she is the new Jar Jar Binks, which is the most ludicrous statement I’ve ever heard. The movie never came to a halt whens he was on screen like The Phantom Menace did with Jar Jar. It was all great character moments that just added more layers to this onion of a film.
As for characters that were heavily showcased in the marketing, the standout was, without a doubt, Adam Driver as Ben Solo. I really enjoyed everything about that character in The Force Awakens, but in this film he is dialed up to 11. There is so much weight and conflict that comes with the character. While yes, we do learn that his perspective on how things played out at Luke’s temple isn’t the whole picture, but his point of view is powerful. It makes Solo far more sympathetic than even the great Anakin Skywalker. I adore how he manipulated Snoke with his intentions during the throne room scene. It made us as an audience collectively think, “Oh he’s been turned back to the light.” However, as that scene plays out we realize that he is more than ever consumed by his lust for power and desire to live up to his grandfather’s reputation. Everything that was explored and answered about the character was undeniably satisfactory. Not only that but it set up an interesting direction for that character moving forward. What character moments worked for you in the film?
MK: Everything you said about Rose and Ben Solo I completely echo, so there’s not much I can add to those. But my favorite character moments come from Poe Dameron, who really steps up his game. Oscar Isaac continues to prove that he was born to be a star, and gains a much larger role in the story by working with General Leia to become the new leader of the Rebellion. At first I didn’t like how he was demoted and left to answer to Laura Dern’s Admiral Holdo, but as the story progressed, I understood the point of his arc. Speaking of Leia, we need to talk about the infamous scene of her floating in space. What did you make of that moment? Did you love it, or were you scratching your head in confusion?
TR: For me, than moment worked because it showed us that Leia, even though she doesn’t use it often, has trained herself to use the Force effectively. I can understand why people don’t like it, though, because the pose she takes is a little goofy. But I’m glad that we’re now talking about the Force because that is something I have loved about this sequel trilogy. It takes what we know about the Force and completely turns it on its head. There are so many new abilities that we have gotten to see that just make me a giddy ten-year-old. For example, I really enjoyed Snoke seemingly connecting Ben and Rey through the Force. I say “seemingly” because I think they already had a connection but Snoke simply used it to his advantage, as we see at the end of the film Rey and Ben are still connected. It is ideas like this that show us as an audience just how limitless the Force is and how much we have yet to see from it. What are moments that made you excited as a fan, that maybe changed your perspective on the universe as a whole?
MK: The moments that made me excited had everything to do with the Force. I’ve been on record saying that this new era of Star Wars feels subconsciously influenced by Avatar: The Last Airbender, a series that was definitely inspired by the original Star Wars trilogy. So when Luke was giving Rey his three lessons about the ways of the Force, it actually reminded me less of Luke and Yoda on Dagobah and more on Aang’s training with the Guru at the end of season 2 of Airbender. Much like the original trilogy, it’s always been fun to see new Force abilities displayed on screen, and this film gives us astral projection, which leads to Luke’s final moments before he passes away. Were you satisfied by how Luke went out, or did you want to see a more traditional last fight?
TR: Luke’s death was handled perfectly. It was so different than anything we had seen prior, which gave it that much more weight. Yes, it would have been incredible to see Luke Skywalker go toe to toe with Ben Solo, but ultimately I think this was more emotionally satisfying. It was a bold way to handle Luke, but I think at the end of the day it’s consistent with the Luke we saw in this film. It would have been out of place to have Luke suddenly disregard everything he had said and learned to just come back and fight Ben in the traditional sense.
Now, we’ve gone on for quite a while and we should start to wrap up, but there are two more big things that I think need to be addressed in depth, and those are Snoke’s death and Rey’s lineage. As for Rey’s parents, I was more than satisfied with how that played out. Most great people didn’t come from greatness; instead, they rose from nothing, and it makes them that much more interesting. I also wasn’t disappointed in her parents being no one as The Force Awakens addresses that it isn’t important and that Rey needs to move forward rather than looking back. Her potential history was so built up by the fanbase that it got out of control and no other answer would have been satisfying for everyone. The same can be said for Snoke, who in the end was just a red herring for the reveal that Ben Solo is the larger villain of this story. I do think, however, that we aren’t entirely done with that character and that there is a chance we’ll learn more about him and who he was in Episode IX. What is your take on these two monumental moments from The Last Jedi?
MK: First off, I’m so glad we’re on the same page about Rey’s lineage. Were people just not paying attention to Maz Kanata in The Force Awakens, when clearly she was trying to tell the audience that her past is not important, only her future? In fact, one of the brilliant things about this new trilogy is that nostalgia is just as much woven into the narrative as it’s taken over geek culture in general. Rian Johnson took that line of dialogue and ran with it the whole nine yards. For those who were disappointed in the reveal in The Last Jedi, you can only blame yourselves for setting your expectations too high. Same could be said about Snoke, who despite apparently being more powerful than Emperor Palpatine, was taken out halfway through the film by his own hubris. That was a genius decision, and it makes Kylo Ren that much more dangerous as the main villain. I agree that there’s still more to learn about Snoke, and I’m fascinated to see how J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio pick up where Johnson left off.
Now, I want to take some time to address the criticisms. Which ones are you aching to challenge, and which ones have at least some merit?
TR: I feel I challenged a lot of the big criticisms that I disagree with throughout our discussion today. The criticisms that have merit are few and far between for me. One compelling argument I’ve heard against everything involving Canto Bight is that they simply could have made Rose the hacker they needed and that they should have had their challenge be infiltrating the First Order to deactivate the tracking. Admittedly that would have been a more interesting and compelling direction but, again, I am fine with what we got. How about yourself?
MK: My only real criticism also has to do with Canto Bight. While I like what you wrote about Rose being the hacker, we would have missed out on visiting another new planet, one with a pretty healthy economy under the First Order. I didn’t hate the scene as much as other people, but I do think it could have been handled better. For example, Del Toro’s character should have just been the codebreaker they were looking for as opposed to a happy accident. Also, as fun as the “free the animals” chase scene was, the message did feel a little heavy handed. Other than that, I loved the film!
So Ty, do you have any final thoughts before we wrap things up?
TR: No, I think we hit a lot of great points and this was a fun discussion. There is so much to love about this film and I’m glad we took the time to express our thoughts on it. While we were very positive on the film and heavily disagreed with the majority of the issue people had, it’s important to remember that we don’t see what we said here as fact. Your opinion is just as important and as relevant as ours. Thank you so much, Michael, for having me join you in this discussion, and I hope we get a chance to work together again sooner rather than later. Thanks for reading, everyone, and take care.