Steve and Zack at the Movies: “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi has proved to be a controversial film, enjoying great popularity among film critics and slightly more than half of audiences. The other half of audiences, at least according to Rotten Tomatoes, seems to believe the movie is a travesty that betrays fans of the original trilogy. Steve saw the film the night after it opened and Zack has finally seen it, so the two square off to finally decide which opinion is correct.

Steve: I feel like I’m going to throw up.

Zack: Too much White Castle and root beer again?

Steve: No.

Steve: Let’s jump right in.

Steve: I’ve been waiting, dude, and you finally saw it. What did you think?

Zack: Rian Johnson is a great director, I want to get that out of the way right off the bat. I didn’t really care positively about any of the other Star Wars directors, but this is the guy who made Brick and Looper, two movies I thoroughly enjoyed.

Zack: He may not have a deep catalog of movies, but he’s an auteur which made him a really interesting choice to direct a mega-budget Star Wars movie.

Zack: It’s probably the closest we will ever get to having that David Lynch Return of the Jedi that was rumored.

Steve: Nobody spells Ryan with an “I”. The dude is messed up.

Zack: That’s your critique? He shouldn’t use the letter “I” in his name?

Steve: No, dude, that’s A critique. It’s one complaint.

Zack: What are the others?

Steve: I didn’t like Brick very much dude it had the 3rd Rock From the Sun guy talking like he was Humphrey Bogart in High School.

Zack: Too gimmicky?

Steve: Too much slang. I don’t care for slang.

Zack: You call me “dude” and talk about “babes” all the time.

Steve: That’s like regular slang. I don’t need some galloping gumshoe gams and gats type of stuff in my high school mystery.

Zack: So you went in there ready to hate The Last Jedi?

Steve: No! Not at all, dude, and he won me back with the opening crawl. It seemed a bit wordy, but as soon as that John Williams music started and the yellow text started rolling I was like “I don’t care who directed it I am down.”

Zack: The opening reminded me of the escape from Hoth in Empire but with the same sort of odd Poe Dameron humor that we saw in the opening of Force Awakens.

Steve: General Hugs?

Zack: Yeah, it was just as off-kilter here, but I think the General Hux character was great in The Last Jedi. He was played seriously in the Force Awakens and because of that he came across as ridiculous. In this one he is intentionally ridiculous and much more compelling.

Steve: Yeah, okay, sure, but I want my Imperial Officers cold and British or groveling. He was steamed and British, always yelling.

Zack: JJ established him as a Hitler like yeller in TFA. This just went full Charlie Chaplin in the Great Dictator with him.

Steve: I get it, Star Scream to Kylo Ren’s Megatron. Too goofy though.

Zack: So I’m getting the idea you didn’t care for The Last Jedi.

Steve: You know what, no, I’m not going to be one of those people. I love Star Wars and I have huge problems with some stuff in this movie, particularly relating to how it fits in with the others Star Wars movies, but I am grateful we got it, you know what I mean?

Zack: Beggars can’t be choosers.

Steve: I just wish all the books they keep releasing were anywhere near as good as like the Thrawn books.

Zack: That’s veering too far off topic, but I read a couple of the Thrawn books when I was a kid and there was way too much focus on psychic space cats.

Steve: Ysalamiri were lizards not cats.

Zack: Whatever. I remember those and clones.

Steve: Yeah, but dude, Mara Jade, Thrawn, the space battles! They ruled.

Zack: I guess, man. I thought the opening battle of this one was pretty solid. I loved the bombing run and Poe Dameron’s toxic masculinity getting a bunch of people killed.

Steve: I didn’t care for that stuff.

Zack: You’re not one of those “bombs can’t fall in space on steel beams” truthers, are you?

Steve: No, I don’t care about the bombs. They’re no crazier than most Star Wars tech. But they blew up one of those giant ships. That was badass. Poe Dameron’s plan worked and then they were all “too many people died on this mission” like where have you been General Leia?

Zack: Blowing up the Death Star was to save all of the rebels and the galaxy from tyranny. This just killed off all their bombers and a bunch of other pilots because Poe Dameron was angry and wanted a big heroic act to hurt the First Order.

Zack: And it accomplished nothing. The First Order absorbed the loss of their giant ship and continued on.

Steve: Yeah, that’s another thing that’s weird. Like, they have all these mega super giant ships, but at the end of Force Awakens it felt like they had suffered a crushing defeat.

Zack: It’s easy to forget (because JJ blew it imho) that the Death Star planet nuked the entire Republic. All their ships, their government, their army, everything was blown up. Nobody reacted to that happening for more than ten seconds, but it was calamity for the resistance.

Steve: Right, OK, but it felt like that instead of hurting the First Order, blowing up Starkiller Base only made them stronger.

Zack: They had the resources to turn a planet into a sun-eating cannon. They probably had a lot of ships.

Steve: OK fine, now the tracking device stuff.

Zack: Right, the First Order has a hyperspace tracking device that allows them to follow the rebel ships escaping their base.

Steve: I don’t have a problem that this tech exists. I saw it was hinted at in Rogue One. I just the thought the way it set up this sort of slow motion chase where they’re just waiting for the Rebels to run out of fuel was stupid.

Steve: They NEVER talk about fuel in star wars!

Zack: Oh, come on, so a movie about cars can’t have fuel be a plot point because all the other car movies didn’t talk about gas?

Steve: Everybody knows cars run on gas!

Zack: I thought the fuel issue was another way of showing the desperate attrition of the war the rebels had been waging. Imagine General Leia losing all her troops and barely seeming to hurt the First Order, she’s watching their fighters run out of spare parts, not enough fuel for her ships, not enough food and medicine probably.

Zack: Did you see the dump they were healing Finn in? It looked like an abandoned hospital from 28 Days Later. They put him in a Ziplock bag full of water and hoped for the best.

Steve: Alright, I liked that part. That was funny.

Zack: This continues all the way to the end when they desperately send a signal to their allies and nobody comes. Their allies want no part in what seems like the death of the Resistance.

Steve: My point dude was that the running out of fuel thing was stupid. They’re in space they wouldn’t suddenly pull over to the side of the road.

Zack: If we’re talking real space physics they would have stopped accelerating whereas the First Order and the remaining fueled rebel ships would have continued accelerating at the same rates. And maybe that little veering they do at the end is a last effort to try to get out of the way of the oncoming ships.

Steve: I don’t buy it.

Steve: But speaking of oncoming ships, dude, we have to talk about the big space kamikaze moment.

Zack: It was amazing.

Steve: It was both the best and worst moment of the movie.

Zack: Oh come on.

Steve: It was the coolest to look at, but it combined the canon-breaking idea of suicide hyperspace with my least favorite movie and TV trope which is characters who have information that could share it and solve all their problems but don’t share it for no apparent reason.

Steve: Why didn’t Holdo just tell Poe Dameron what her plan was with the derelict base? It would have prevented a mutiny and the stupid mission to the casino!

Zack: Holdo didn’t tell Poe Dameron because she didn’t trust him. He was an idiot who disobeyed orders and had been demoted. He didn’t deserve to be told anything.

Steve: He was a hero!

Zack: On the subject of your canon-breaking? I don’t care. Canon was made to be ruined as long as it serves a purpose.

Zack: I’ll give you another example of Rian Johnson sending a message about the movie and how much I loved it: The reverential handing of the light saber to Luke and him tossing it over his shoulder like trash.

Zack: How can you not love the audacity of that moment in such a by-the-numbers series? It was a perfect way to say right at the beginning that the movie was going to a) subvert expectations, b) be funny, and c) not necessarily give you what you thought you wanted. It was Rian Johnson taking the baton from JJ and throwing it off a cliff to the porgs.

Steve: Luke was a hero who overcame the temptation of the dark side to become galaxy’s most powerful Jedi knight. This crabby old hermit routine sucked.

Zack: He was doing the Yoda.

Steve: NO! They brought Yoda in with that weird ass lightning bolt scene but Yoda was the force teacher who believed in the force. He helped Luke. And Luke never helps Rey.

Zack: No, he doesn’t tell her what the audience wants him to, but he helps her and teaches her. I thought his routine on the island was great, I loved the island and the dinosaur nuns, the milking, the fishing, everything. It reminded me of the eccentric master from old kung fu movies just like Yoda. The master is never happy to see a new student.

Steve: I was OK with Luke’s take on the force. It had the whole “God is real but organized religion sucks” vibe to it that I could see an actual crazy old man getting into. What I didn’t like was the constant comic relief of it and then the story of what happened with Kylo Ren.

Zack: It added a lot of depth to Kylo Ren’s character.

Steve: Yeah, at the cost of Luke’s. Like, this is a dude who saw his Jedi dad turn from the dark side in his final moments and now he is going to murder his nephew because he had a bad dream.

Zack: It was a little more than a bad dream.

Steve: Well, whatever, that’s just more giving the Jedi a bunch of future-seeing/mind-reading powers they didn’t have in the other movies.

Zack: What did you think of Rey and Kylo Ren force-Skyping?

Steve: Same thing, more new powers, but I will say it was an oddly believable romantic connection.

Steve: Especially odd considering Rey really hit it off with Han Solo in TFA and now was getting horny for his murderer.

Steve: By the end I kind of wanted Rey to take his hand and the two of them to rule the First Order. Now that would have been an unexpected twist, even if she had turned him back to the light in the next movie.

Zack: He was manipulating her though and just a broken, messed up person who wanted her to be his crutch.

Zack: Good for her for staying out of that abusive relationship.

Zack: Were you mad about her parents?

Steve: No, I didn’t care about that, but I was mad about Snoke. What the hell? This super powerful evil Sith dude came out of nowhere? Weren’t the first six movies about the fact that there weren’t anymore Jedi.

Zack: They kept saying that, but it turned out they were all over the place. Maybe even anyone could be a Jedi.

Steve: BS!

Zack: Nah, that would be cool. Anyone can learn martial arts, it would be cool if being a Jedi wasn’t a genetic lottery like the Jedi Order thought in the prequels and actually it was more like the gnostic purity of just the Force concept that Obi-Wan and Yoda talked about.

Zack: You would rather it be passed down like nobility?

Steve: It wasn’t like nobility though dude, it could be passed down, but it would also just crop up. Anyone could be a Jedi, yeah, but not everybody IS a Jedi.

Zack: So you like the lotto concept?

Steve: We live with the lotto concept in reality, dude. It’s called genetics.

Zack: Get out the skull calipers, Eugenics Steve has some Jedi theory to discuss.

Steve: It’s like X-men. Not everybody is a mutant. Not everybody has powers.

Zack: Okay, so let’s jump to Canto Bight, the casino planet.

Steve: Failed attempt to recapture the Cloud City magic. No character as interesting as Lando. Pointless plot.

Zack: Canto Bight is the biggest missed opportunity, I’ll agree there. I loved the setting and I felt like it kept almost finding its potential and then falling short.

Zack: However, I will disagree that it was pointless. It was one of the central messages of the movie, that there are people profiting from the conflict, basically having a constant luxury party, and eager to keep it going. That the rebel fighters and the storm troopers that keep getting wasted are just pieces in a big game.

Steve: Well that and the whole the First Order made a machine that blew up five planets and so the resistance hates that.

Zack: War begets war and war is profitable. These guys like DJ are playing both sides and walking away clean.

Zack: And also DJ selling out the transports was maybe the whole point of the Canto Bight plot. That the desperate gamble by Poe backfired because he once again disobeyed orders.

Steve: Because Holdo didn’t say anything! She should have told him!

Zack: What did you think of Rose?

Steve: I liked her when she first met Finn but I liked her less on Canto Bight and all the horse stuff sucked pretty much.

Zack: What about the kid pulling the broom to him?

Steve: He needs his midichlorians tested.

Zack: You’re a prequel defender, aren’t you?

Steve: Do you mean do I defend good movies? Yes is the answer.

Zack: So where does this one rank in the canon?

Steve: If it were considered non-canon I could enjoy it. As a canon movie it is last.

Zack: Worse than Attack of the Clones or Phantom Menace?

Steve: Way worse. It looks better than those, it was better made because of the tech or whatever, but it was worse.

Zack: Is Star Wars dead to you now?

Steve: Heck no! I will eagerly go see IX and hope JJ fixes it.

Zack: I will eagerly see IX and hope it’s as good as this one.

Steve: So is this your favorite Star Wars?

Zack: Maybe favorite Star War is still Empire and the original created the entire mythology, so it has to be in consideration, but if I disentangle nostalgia I think The Last Jedi might be the actual best Star Wars movie.

Steve: So wrong.

Zack: It’s definitely the first one since the original that created something that felt new out of Star Wars.

Steve: Yeah, because it threw the old stuff in the garbage!!!

Steve: WORST!

Zack: BEST!!

Zack: What did you think of Star Wars: The Last Jedi? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!