Wednesday, September 30, 2020

When You Watch The Last Jedi Three Times, It’s Not So Bad

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Adam Chmielewski
Adam Chmielewski is the latest Mid-Western transplant to take up residence in the City Of Angels. Aside from contributing to Nerdbot, he’s writing screenplays for film and television. Just like everyone else in Los Angeles.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi is on Netflix now. For some us, the news is good. For others… not so much. Definitely the most polarizing Star Wars film to date.

I’ve noticed throughout my life there are movies that seem to get better in the second and third viewings. Especially when you’ve had some time to absorb what you saw during your initial trip to the theater. It might take reading a bunch of articles on the internet trumpeting a film’s genius to sway your emotions. Or you got this one friend who’s been all in on Rian Johnson since he saw Looper. Maybe your drunken state prohibited you from seeing the genius that was right in front of you.

Yes, I saw The Last Jedi drunk, and six beers didn’t help make the experience more enjoyable. Plus it was also the first Star Wars movie I didn’t see on a Thursday night of opening weekend. In the three days it took for me to get to a Cinemark, I heard a mixed variety of good and bad reviews. Believe me, “bad” is a kind choice of words here. I’ll admit they were completely unexpected, usually critics line up around the block to kiss the ass of Walt Disney. Remembering all this, I felt I had to watch it again, see if maybe it was just the booze that shaped such a negative opinion of a franchise I’ve loved my whole life… except the prequels.

Turns out, I was half right. The second and third viewings went way better than I had thought. Don’t get me wrong, there are an abundance of flaws in the film, but overall it was infinitely more enjoyable.

I guess everything starts with acceptance. Star Wars is evolving. Granted Episode #9 is going to be directed by J.J. Abrams so I’d expect a little more throwback to the originals than The Last Jedi but after that, no more. If you’re expecting Disney to follow the path established by George Lucas over forty years ago, then prepared to be disappointed. But I will tell you, the evolution of the franchise is a great thing, as long as you can accept it.

Take for example how The Last Jedi was shot. Completely different than any of its predecessors. I swear I didn’t see one dissolve as a transition between scenes. It’s not a major thing, but noticeable. Omit a sort of signature style from the film and you create a disconnect with the audience. Something feels off. When Vice Admiral Holdo drives the rebel ship into Snoke’s, then there’s no sound, just crystal clear, beautiful space destruction. Never happened before in Star Wars. The cross cutting of imagery when Rey is learning about the force. That’s new too.

When you see the movie again, you know what you’re walking into. There might be a little bit of a disconnect still but the familiarity eases any confusion you may be experiencing. Leaving the door open for a more positive perception. Honestly, the third time around, the film feels incredibly unique. A standout amongst the others. We’re not talking the next Empire Strikes Back or anything but I’d put it above Jedi and the prequels on my “best of” list.

Another thing you spot when you see The Last Jedi multiple times is exactly how deep this god damn movie got with the characters. If a normal movie is like a typical backyard above ground pool, The Last Jedi is more like one they use in the Olympics. Personally I didn’t expect it at first. Luke describes the Force as something that exists whether the Jedi are around or not and it’s vanity to reserve such power for only themselves. I was like… okay, so I guess we’re going this route. Again, unexpected. However if adding dialogue that’s rich in metaphor enhances the intelligence of the film I’m all for it.

Kylo Ren has a similar moment after he kills Snoke. Ren expresses a desire to rid the galaxy of the old ways. Sith, Jedi, no more. Bring upon a new order. If you want to talk taking a character to new levels, they really did it in Kylo Ren. He’s always been a tortured soul but The Last Jedi I feel lets us know why. His conflict is internal (good v evil) yet external as well. Both he and Rey are struggling to find their place in the world. Instead of fighting with the status quo, Ren obliterates it, then assumes command of the First Order. Now he must face the consequences of his decisions. This level of depth was nonexistent in earlier Star Wars movies but is becoming a staple in modern blockbusters. Between Guardians Two and Infinity War, the game has changed.

Adam Driver’s monologue about moving forward Sith and Jedi-less has some truth it. In thinking big picture, Star Wars is going to have to occasionally abandon these plot drivers to keep freshness amongst the franchise. Such a change may send hardcore fans to the nuthouse, yet it must be done. The Last Jedi represents a first step in taking these movies to a new place. As more people get their own Star Wars projects, we kind expect all kinds of expansion of the universe. When D.B. Weiss and David Benioff get going on theirs I’m expecting to see droids bang. Maybe not that, it’s Disney.

So yes, watch The Last Jedi again. Even one more time after that. Take a moment to think about the future and then you will begin to truly appreciate the film’s genius.

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Have your thoughts on The Last Jedi changed at all? Let Nerdbot know in the Comments!!

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