Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

Director: Rian Johnson

Starring: Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Adam Driver, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac, Andy Serkis, Lupita Nyong’o, Domhnall Gleeson, Anthony Daniels, Gwendoline Christie, Kelly Marie Tran, Laura Dern, Benicio Del Toro

LastJediPoster

Continuing where The Force Awakens ends, Rey (Ridley) has found Luke Skywalker (Hamill) and seeks to have him train her to become a Jedi. The First Order is pursuing what is left of The Resistance, led by General/Princess Leia Organa (Fisher).

I finally had the opportunity to see this movie. Now that I’m a few hours removed from seeing it, I can understand and appreciate why this movie is so divisive with the fans. I was thoroughly entertained by The Last Jedi, but there were elements of this movie that I wasn’t all that crazy about.  My initial reaction is that this film is superior to the prequels, and for those who say it is by far the worst Star Wars movie need to go back and watch Attack of the Clones, and I’ll just leave it at that.

Following the prequels, The Force Awakens was a breath of fresh air.  When I saw The Force Awakens the first time, I walked out thinking “This was thoroughly entertaining and I’m interested in seeing where this story and these new characters go.”  I saw and understood more of the flaws of that film with additional viewings. I had a similar experience seeing The Last Jedi in the theater today.  There were more things that bothered me about this movie, but on the whole it was entertaining and I am interested in seeing where this story goes moving forward.

I get the sense that Disney and the powers that be want to move forward with this franchise.  It is a necessary part for a film franchise that has existed for this long. I grew up with the original trilogy, and I still watch them on a semi-regular basis to this day. I have and continue to keep an open mind with the direction of the franchise. They are still telling a very entertaining story, and I am ok with the fact that it’s not the same Star Wars I grew up with.

Connecting original series characters with this trilogies introductions can be tricky. I think Rian Johnson does a decent job with this. The scenes with Luke and Rey, and a lot that goes on at the island for that matter, were among my favorite. Leia’s scenes, especially knowing that Carrie is gone, were especially touching.  And yes, I got a little choked up when the tribute to Carrie showed during the credits.  She’s missed, and it will be interesting to see what happens moving forward without Carrie.

One of the things I didn’t like about The Last Jedi was all the additional characters and subplots. It dilutes what you can do with the main characters and the main storyline. There are a lot of parts to this story.  The fight between Resistance and First Order, Rey and Kylo Ren (Driver) figuring out their place in this universe, Luke and the future of the Jedi order, Finn (Boyega) and Rose (Tran) and their mission, Poe Dameron (Isaac) and his contributions, and on and on and on. I wasn’t crazy about Rose. Her story is compelling, and it was interesting to see how she came to be the person she is, but I feel like that back story is another side trail that distracts from the main story. Vice Admiral Holdo (Dern) was an ok addition to the cast, but it’s another character you have to commit some time to in developing for this story.

I also wasn’t crazy about how humor was used at times. There were a few good laughs, but some of the humor is what I expect from a Marvel movie.  At times I feel like humor was overt and overused. I enjoy Star Wars humor because it’s more subtle and less “hardy har har” humor.  I don’t need Tony Stark in this film.

The Porgs were a waste of time.

By comparison, in The Empire Strikes Back, the conflict between the Empire and Rebel Alliance is virtually non-existent after the Battle of Hoth, and that allows for the entire focus of the movie to be on character development.  The war wasn’t even in the backdrop for most of that movie. Also no porgs.

I don’t want to give very much away, but I will say that despite its flaws, I enjoyed The Last Jedi.  I may see this one again in the theaters, in part because I enjoy the Star Wars franchise.  I find it highly entertaining and an enjoyable escape from everyday life.

Is it perfect? Not even close.

Will I see it again? Absolutely.

Was it a waste of my time? Nope.

Do I recommend seeing it? Yes, and try going in with an open mind.  It’s a movie, it’s meant to entertain.

Another thing I enjoyed about this particular viewing:  I saw this in IMAX 3D on a Thursday afternoon and there were maybe 30 people in the theater.  As I was leaving, four guys probably late 50s to early 60s were speculating about certain characters and talking about the movie the same way my friends and I would.  Those kinds of things, to me, are what makes the Star Wars franchise great.  It can be enjoyed by people of all ages, and allows a nice escape with an entertaining story and interesting characters.

My Rating: after I watch it another time or two.

Advertisements

Movie #99: The Terminator (1984)

Director: James Cameron

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn, Linda Hamilton, Paul Winfield, and Lance Henriksen

terminatorposter

“Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.”

2029: the world is run by machines.  Having eliminated most of the human race through numerous nuclear strikes on Judgement Day decades earlier, the machines are still hunting and fighting the human resistance lead by John Connor.  They created a cyborg that walks, talks, looks, and acts like a human, The Terminator (Schwarzenegger).  Sending him back to 1984, Terminator is assigned to kill Sarah Connor, mother of the unborn John Connor.  The human resistance sends back Kyle Reese (Biehn) to protect Sarah at all costs, and also conceiving John in the process.

The Terminator, though simple in execution as a film that goes from chase scene to fight scene to shootout and back, explores the dangers of an over reliance on technology and the potential threats when that technology becomes self-aware.

They also blow stuff up,  a lot of stuff.

It’s interesting looking back on a film like this now and seeing how The Terminator was the first big break to giants in the industry.  Schwarzenegger had already done two Conan  movies, the Terminator has been his calling card.  No one else could have pulled that part off better, and really anyone else would have simply done that character a great injustice.

This was also James Cameron’s first major film, and as they say, the rest is history.

terminatorsarah  Linda Hamilton also does great and establishes herself in this film.   She had done Children of the Corn earlier that year, but The Terminator introduced her to a wider and incredibly passionate fan base.

The Terminator is the quintessential summer blockbuster.  It relies heavily on action, chase scenes, shootouts, and asks very little of the audience other than to sit back and enjoy.  Funny, though, since this film was released in October of 1984.

For it’s time period, a lot of the special effects work.  However, the things I didn’t care for were most of the scenes from the future, and after Terminator was nothing but a machine.  Though limited with the special effects in 1984, I still felt these scenes unintentionally made the film more comical and unrealistic.  While science fiction by nature pushes far past what’s realistic, the way the special effects were used in this film just didn’t work for me.

terminatorarnold

On the other hand, Schwarzenegger does great as a cyborg.  His Austrian accent and mechanical presentation seem believable throughout the film.

terminatorreeseI like how Cameron presented Kyle Reese.  It takes a while for the audience to realize that he’s actually one of the good guys.  Given that he comes back to the past the same way Terminator does, and his emphasis and one-track-mindedness in getting a weapon would make you think for a while that maybe he’s another bad guy.  His chemistry with Linda Hamilton in this film is great, and his genuine hatred and disgust with Terminator makes for some great action sequences.

There’s not much else to say about this film.  I’ve been a bit disappointed with where The Terminator franchise has gone past Terminator 2: Judgement Day.  I haven’t watched The Sarah Conner Chronicles, but for me Rise of the Machines and Terminator: Salvation were more of a yawn for me than anything else.  I also see that they’re making Terminator: Genesis, due out next year.  More like Terminator: We Can’t Come Up With Anything Original. 

The Terminator launched the careers of James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Linda Hamilton.  Though lacking at times with the visual effects, it’s still an entertaining movie that also presents a bit of a haunting message about our reliance on technology and the potential dangers of that dependence.  I could watch this one from time to time, and I’d definitely recommend it to anyone who likes or is interested in science fiction films.

My Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.