Tag Archives: Star Wars

A Few Thoughts on Star Wars and The Last Jedi

The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi both receive ample criticism. The first new film was panned for being just a retread of A New Hope with fresh paint, while The Last Jedi was panned for being “too different” from all previous Star Wars installments. I won’t pretend that either of these movies is without flaw, but I liked that The Last Jedi felt challenging and self-critical. Not to mention stressful, with the Rebellion constantly a hair’s breadth away from total annihilation.

But one criticism that remains consistent with both films is that Rei, the main character, is a Mary Sue. Guys everywhere love to hate on her because she’s just so perfect and talented, whereas Anakin and Luke had to work to master their Jedi powers.

Well first, how does one define a Mary Sue? According to Wikipedia, “A Mary Sue is an idealized and seemingly perfect fictional character. Often, this character is recognized as an author insert or wish fulfillment. They can usually perform better at tasks than should be possible given the amount of training or experience.” As a connoisseur of bad fanfiction, I would also add that any flaws, imperfections, or tragic backstories displayed by a Mary Sue are usually exploited as ploys for sympathy, or pithy attempts to hand-wave away complaints of said perfection. And to be clear, the perfection is often relative to what other characters in the story think of the character; ex. the only people who don’t like the Mary Sue are either villains or portrayed as being bitter, immature, what-have-you.

I would argue that if Mary Suedom is true of Rei, it would be equally true of Luke and Anakin, but whatever. I’ll play your game.

Rei is impulsive, impatient, and honorable to a fault. She is also somewhat naïve regarding the First Order, while Finn is presented as something of a grounded coward. He knows the capabilities and cruelties of his previous employer, whereas Rei does not. Rei has an immediate, admittedly somewhat questionable aptitude for the Force, but the only difference between her and the Skywalkers, confirmed by The Last Jedi, is that she is a nobody. Her abandoning parents don’t pay off as great Jedi warriors; she’s not part of the grand space soap opera that somehow always designates Skywalker descendants to be chosen ones who are great at everything.

Personally, this makes Rei a more compelling character for me, and it makes sense that the Force would be less picky, and possibly more hurried, in this new Jedi-less era. Just like the darkness keeps coming back, the light side needs to regroup and come back as well, with or without practiced, spiritual trainers. Maybe Rei’s talent is all her own, or maybe the Force feels a sense of urgency in keeping the light’s influence from being effectively snuffed out forever, what with the First Order constantly bearing down on the Rebellion.

Either way, at least Rei’s not being hailed as a Messiah, and especially not before she’s even really done anything yet. *cough cough* Anakin *cough cough*

“I’m a pilot and a slave and a builder and a dreamer and poor and a racer and a Jedi and a chosen one who can’t act like any of those things!”

In the expanded universe, there exists the concept of the Light Sith; members who still supported the Sith cause while also caring about light and balance. There were also the Gray Jedi, who toed the line between light and dark without falling to the dark side or sucking up to the Jedi Council. Now in the movies, we are seeing a “good” character who can also lean towards the dark side, similar to Luke, and a “bad” character who struggled with being called to the light side, similar to later films’ Anakin. I like that it feels a little more fleshed out than the previous films’ general take of “light always good, dark always bad.” Not completely new, but heading in the right direction.

I think people get upset about Rei, Finn, Rose, and the trajectory of the new Star Wars films in general because they’re becoming less of a “boy’s club.” Outside of the expanded universe, female and other minority characters in the movies didn’t get a lot of lines or things to do, and now they’re taking the center stage away from overpowered white boys, who are basically there by the providence of Divine Right. The Skywalkers are cool because they just are, damn it, and no one else can be cool unless they know or are related to the Skywalkers in some way!

…Except for Leia, I guess. And sure, Leia saving herself from being blasted into space was kind of weird and awkward, but she’s a Skywalker and has been established in previous films as having a strong gift as well, even if it wasn’t really shown. Couldn’t Luke have given her some pointers before he ran off to be a hermit? Couldn’t she have possibly trained herself, or at the very least, have her great power triggered by distress or pure survival instincts?

I’m not saying that implying things offscreen can’t be cheap and lazy. I’m just saying that it’s odd and somewhat suspicious how so many people immediately got upset by a woman, even of Skywalker blood, displaying a mere moment of powerful Force ability, as if this came from absolutely nowhere.

Speaking of coming from nowhere, there’s a line in Rogue One about hyperspace tracking becoming a future possibility, so that wasn’t just a dramatic asspull either.

The prequel films, for all of their terrible writing, dialogue, story structure, direction, and overreliance on CGI, at the very least continued the story of the Skywalkers, and praised the Jedi blindly despite their many, many flaws while portraying the Sith as unambiguously evil and corrupt. The new films are still trying to capture the magic and fun of a galaxy far, far away, but they are being more inquisitive and critical of their own universe, and asking the audience to think a little bit. And also to be less exclusionary, guarding their precious franchise from newcomers and Disney! Oh, the horror!

So Luke made a mistake and became an old, grizzled bastard hermit to try and escape his failures. People try to downplay or escape their failures in real life all the time; it’s not just a dramatic plot device. So what if the casino scene ended up amounting to nothing? Not everything in life gets rewarded, even if you try really, really hard. So what if Porgs are annoying? They’re no more or less distracting than the Ewoks were.

At least the dialogue isn’t cringey. At least the new main characters only really whine when they have a reason to whine. At least Jar Jar Binks is gone.

So to those who say the prequel films are better than The Last Jedi, I’m going to have to disagree. Vehemently. Those things are terrible, and I can only look at them now as a cautionary tale about making men bury their emotions. Anakin’s whiny teenage impotence and sudden transition to violence is almost understandable when you look at it that way.


Rogue One: Self-Contained, But Solid



Plot Spoilers Below. You have been warned. 

So hey, did anyone watch Star Wars IV: A New Hope and wonder how the Rebellion got their hands of the Death Star schematics in the first place?…Yeah, me neither. And anyone who knows me even a little bit will know that is saying something.

That said, I found Rogue One to be a welcome semi-deviation from the main storyline. I think I liked it even more than The Force Awakens. 

Jyn Erso is the daughter of an Imperial scientist-turned-farmer Galen Erso, and she goes into hiding when the Empire finds and forcibly re-employs her father to work on their latest weapon, the Death Star. Thirteen years later, Jyn is picked up by members of the Rebellion, who enlist her to help negotiate with Galen’s old friend Saw Gerrera, who is holding an Imperial pilot defector with crucial information about the nearly completed battle station. From the pilot’s message, they learn that Jyn’s father quietly incorporated a fatal flaw into the design that can potentially completely destroy the Death Star.

From there, it’s some planet-hopping and a suicide mission to retrieve the plans and transmit them into the hands of Princess Leia, effectively preluding the fourth movie down to mere minutes.



I like that this movie is not a rehash, which was one of the main criticisms of Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens. It definitely feels like its own story, but unlike many spinoffs across many different genres, it’s not a much smaller story with small to laughable dramatic stakes. Look at something like The Hobbit series in comparison; Peter Jackson chose to tie those events in with The Lord of the Rings as much as possible, trying to make the conflict seem more epic, grand, and world-changing. But because the original work was meant to be a children’s bedtime story, much sillier and effecting far fewer races in the established world, any attempts to add Lord of the Rings-level weight came across as hollow, clumsy, and shoehorned, and it clashed with the movies’ lighter, downright childish tones.

Rogue One is a lot more balanced. It knows what it’s about and who its main audience is, but it hands out a few jokes that other viewers can laugh at just as easily. It is self-contained, but its impact (rather than the characters) can be felt more strongly now in the movies that it bridges.



The characters are all pretty likable, although, similarly to my issue with Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, I couldn’t remember almost half of the main group’s names and barely heard them when they were first introduced. In my mind, I dubbed them things like “Blind Kung-Fu Jedi” and “Machete in Space”, and because they are one-shot characters who die at the end and only really impact this story in any significant way, I didn’t feel as bad as I usually would.

My only real issue is that no one gets very well fleshed-out, character-wise. Jyn’s motivations are pretty clear for the most part, but even Cassian Andor, her new rebel friend, quips at one point that she basically went from not caring much about the Empire to “This isn’t right! We have to stop them!” pretty much at the drop of a hat. She does mention that her father’s message and the destruction of Jedha put her in shock, however, so she could have been shocked into caring more and I just didn’t think of that at the time.

Everyone else has their past or character lightly touched upon, but it’s all really shallow, and if you blink or run to the bathroom mid-movie, you might miss it. Unless it’s Chirrut Îmwe (Blind Kung-Fu Jedi)’s piety, because he has to mention his belief in the Force at least twice in any scene he’s in.



But hey, it’s a mini-episode with only so much time to work with, so I’ll give it a pass there.

I like the exploration of moral grey-area in a series that has often viewed power and morality in “light or dark” terms. While the Star Wars main series does frequently acknowledge that one side cannot exist without the other, the Dark Side is portrayed, at best, as misguided, and at worst, as pretty much evil.

Andor, neither a Jedi nor a Sith, talks about doing many bad things in the name of a good cause, and that the Rebellion giving up now will mean that he did all of that for nothing. We also see him struggle with himself when he is ordered to kill Jyn’s father, who may have actually done the Rebellion a huge service. Both Gelan and Jyn rationalize why Gelan didn’t fight back and allow himself to be killed, rather than contribute to a weapon of such destructive potential.



You could still argue with him, but he makes an interesting point that is definitely worth discussing. It reminds me a little of the dilemma when Alan Turing and his team have to keep their breakthrough with the Enigma a secret in The Imitation Game. Do you save the lives of those most immediately in danger (in Rogue One‘s case by refusing to work and risking someone else being just as capable in your place), or do you allow for strategic sacrifices that could win you the war?

The effects in the movie are very good, particularly the digital face-superimposing on Ingvild Delia (Leia stand-in) and Guy Henry (Tarkin stand-in).



The latter does an excellent job of imitating Peter Cushing’s original character (in all but facial expressions), while the former’s job is basically to stand still and then turn around, while an archived audio clip of Carrie Fisher plays one line synced to digitized lips. I feel a bit bad for Ms. Delia as an actress, but she and the production crew served this movie well, and the effect was unexpected, but pleasantly surprising.

Yeah, sorry guys, but we still have yet to master time travel. Maybe some day…

One a side note, when I saw Vader’s Fortress of Evil150px-u2122-svg, my first thought was, “Is that Mustafar?” Personally, I wouldn’t set up shop in a place with such traumatic memories attached to it.  My second thought, which I leaned over and whispered to my boyfriend in the theatre, was, “Meanwhile, back in Space Mordor…”



Speaking of which, Vader is just kind of there occasionally. He gets a cool scene where he force-chokes the Death Star’s chief architect, and another where he disarms and slaughters a bunch of rebels, but while his presence isn’t distracting per say, it definitely feels like a fan-service first, plot service second type deal.

It’s nowhere near as useless and insulting something like this is:



Wow. I keep bringing up Peter Jackson in this Star Wars review…but then again, he followed in the footsteps of George Lucas, whose best-known, best-loved property seems to be getting better without his grimy mitts on the reins. It’s funny in a bizarre sort of way.

The score is decent, although some chords are so similar to themes in past movies in the series that I found myself slightly distracted at times, hearing the notes that should have followed in my head. The ending is a bummer, but as I have said, the characters aren’t exceptionally deep, and the film does have a note of optimism amidst all of the death and explosions. I would have liked to have seen this before the original trilogy to feel its full suspense and drama, but that would be impossible unless I was born just recently…and didn’t have parents who might insist on watching the first-released installments first.

Even knowing what comes next, it still feels like Rogue One earned its right to exist. For any fan of Star Wars, casual or rabid, I would definitely recommend it. Some notable easter eggs are catalogued here.



*None of the images used in this article belong to me. They mostly belong to Disney and Lucasfilm.