The Last Jedi Review

Like a lot of people, we went to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi during its premiere week. Like many geeks, I’d been going over the trailers and watching YouTube videos analyzing them shot-by-shot in an attempt to gleam insights into the direction the story might be taken. Overall, I enjoyed the movie; there were many positives – I think the visual palette, cinematography, humorous moments, and the overall feel of the film were all well-executed.


My overall impression is that the film was beautifully shot. In particular, the scenes on Ahch-To were visually stunning with a sci-fi/fantasy look and feel that fit the Star Wars universe. The space battles were also well-choreographed and visually appealing. And while some people found the humor to be a negative, I liked it. The levity works well in Marvel movies and I think (overall) it worked here, especially when the overall tone of the film is darker than most Star Wars movies. It seems you either love or hate the Porgs; I thought they were cute and funny (especially the scene with Chewy just trying to have something to eat).

As the movie continued, I got more annoyed with the decisions the writers made. The reason I liked the Force Awakens was that it had a familiar tone to A New Hope while presenting interesting questions that The Last Jedi was set up to (presumably) answer – at least in part. This was going to be a different type of Stars Wars movie – which was exciting …and it was, but…

The Force Awakens set up the “big bad” of the second trilogy as a very powerful and old force user that had been plotting and manipulating things in the background – Supreme Leader Snoke. While it was certainly a surprise to me when Kylo killed him, my problem was how easily he was killed. If they had done everything the same (which was cool) but only injured him, setting an epic battle with Snoke on one side and Kylo and Rey on the other…now, I suppose anything is possible but it seems they’ve set it up for a third film confrontation between Kylo and Rey now that the all-powerful (not so much) Snoke (we hardly knew ye) is dead. Maybe we’ll see Snoke again as an evil Force ghost? His death didn’t seem to hint at that since he was sliced in half and his body did not disappear like a Jedi would. Again, good job surprising me; I just found it odd given how big the build up was with Snoke.

Who is Rey? There were several hints dropped in The Force Awakens that Rey’s bloodline meant something (like the way Han seemed to know who she was); the way we found out she’s the daughter of a couple of nobodies reeks of a gotcha moment. I’m all for the self-made person who’s in charge of her own destiny – in fact, that was a bit of a theme in the film which I liked a lot – but based on the previous film and her uncommon natural abilities, it seemed a little strange, especially how the reveal of her parentage was treated as an afterthought. Now, Snoke kind of explains the “Mary Sue” thing going on with Rey – that the Force seeks balance and that the shift of Ben Solo to the Dark necessitated the rise of Rey in the Light to meet it. Still, it left me feeling meh to the explanation of her abilities without any training.

Why did Ben Solo turn? Snoke had been feeding him lies and feelings of mistrust and doubt in his parents (abandonment) and teacher, Luke…okay. Much like the prequels’ poor job in showing Anakin’s transformation, I felt the same thing here. I could get over that; what I couldn’t look past was Luke’s intention – fleeting as it was – to kill his sister’s and best friend’s son because he felt Snoke’s influence taking hold. So, the same guy that when he was younger and less powerful, felt there was a chance to turn a mass murderer and a guy he never knew as anything but Vadar back to the light, thought there was no hope in positively influencing his nephew even though Luke was now older, stronger, and more experienced? I don’t buy it. I have a feeling Mark Hamill agrees. Oh, and where the hell are the Knights of Ren?

Why did Luke exile himself? The writers set Luke up as a broken man because of the guilt of failing his nephew. Okay; makes sense. But with the rise of The First Order, I just can’t imagine Luke sitting on the sidelines while Leia leads the resistance. But, I’ll concede that the guilt could drive him to that.

One of the things that really annoyed me and shows just poor writing was the whole subplot with Poe, Vice Admiral Holdo, and the mission Finn and Rose went on to find the codebreaker. So when Leia is incapacitated (after being blown into space and then consequently flying back to the ship without freezing in the vacuum of space or the need for breathing – huh?), Poe pleads with the Admiral to tell him that there’s some plan, any plan, as their fuel reserves dwindle and they prepare to board defenseless transports – nothing. Seeing the tactical error of the non-plan, Poe takes matters into his own hands, setting in motion a whole subplot for Rose, Finn, and Benicio Del Torro’s (meaningless) character. That whole part of the movie would be unnecessary if Holdo had just told Poe, “We’re going to this former rebel base that’s close by; the First Order won’t be able to track us because we have a cloaking device for our transports.” If she had just told him that, the whole subplot wouldn’t have been necessary. It’s not like he’s some private; he’s their number one fighter pilot and someone who was a close aide to General Leia. Oh, and the whole thing when they were setting up Laura Dern’s character to be a traitor but turns out she isn’t. Not a plot twist. Just a poorly executed trick moment.

Related to the Finn/Rose subplot is the writers’ treatment of Finn throughout. He had a purpose in the first film. Without the Holdo thing, what was his purpose exactly?…and since that whole mission was a nonstarter because of Del Torro’s character’s betrayal, Finn and Rose served almost no purpose (as far as main characters go); to me, that’s a missed opportunity with the actors, who I liked.

So, if a Force ghost – Yoda – can manipulate the Force in the physical realm and make lightning strike a tree, why don’t he, Qui-Gon, Anakin, and Obi-Won just materialize in Kylo’s room and take him out or at least take out the laser cannons firing on the the fleet? I understand that Force ghosts have done stuff in canon – Star Wars Rebels – but it just seemed odd and jarring to what had come before. With Mark Hamill slated to be in the next movie, perhaps we’ll see what every fan had been waiting for since really The Return of the Jedi — a scene of pure badassary ala Darth Vadar in Rogue One. Most of us were looking forward to that moment that never really came. I don’t have a problem with Luke becoming a Force ghost; I just thought it would be done in a blaze of glory taking out Snoke and a bunch of bad guys or something. Maybe we’ll have badass Force ghost Luke now that we know he’s in the next film and that Force ghosts can interact with the physical world…

It may seem like I hated the movie; I didn’t. I won’t be purchasing it, but I didn’t hate it. I just wonder if, in their effort to be different, they neglected to take into account canon and what we know about the long-standing characters. I also wonder if they actually had the whole trilogy written from the beginning. Based on what I’ve seen, it wouldn’t surprise me if all of the plot details hadn’t been worked out (BTW, that’s not a good thing when doing a three-act story).

Maybe the third movie will answer the questions posed in the first two. Maybe I’ll look back and say I was wrong. There are a lot of things to like about the new trilogy; unfortunately, there are an equal number of things that are troubling, I think. In my humble opinion, JJ Abrams has his work cut out for him.


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Cut the Cord (already)

Over the last year, more people cut the cord from their cable providers than ever before, and why not? Between the multiple streaming services, the move by networks to place content online – even original, exclusive content – and the different devices we can now use to watch said content (pretty much all home theater devices are “smart” at this point), there’s really no excuse unless you like paying all that money for channels you’ll never watch…or if you really do use most of those channels, go for it. I know a little about this because my wife and I were a little ahead of the curve when we cut the cord back in 2011. Home theater is one of my hobbies so after recently upgrading our set up, I thought it was time to write another post about how we continually enjoy our home theater without the “aid” of cable television. Continue reading

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Thank you, Korea

Last week, after 22 months of serving in the Republic of Korea, I relinquished command of the Eighth Army Band to a friend of mine and I’ve begun in-processing Fort Meade for my new job as the Deputy Commander of The U.S. Army Field Band. While it’s great to be back in the States and serving at the Field Band, it was tough to say goodbye to our home for the last two years.

We made a lot of friends and created many great memories that we will re-live through our thousands of photos (digital photography is one of the great inventions for travelers). While we were able to get some great travel in to Japan, Thailand, and of course Bhutan, the two things that made these last two years so special was the beauty and hospitality of Korea and the Korean People and the unique and important mission of the Eighth Army Band…and Korean fried chicken. Continue reading


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Happy Independence Day

This July Fourth, don’t read other people’s opinions on the meaning of Independence Day or what someone else thinks the Founders meant. Read the founding document yourself and come to your own conclusions. Read it and see for yourself why the United States is unique in the history of nations. Happy Fourth! Continue reading

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Review: Blades Grim Shave Soap and Pre-Shave Oil

Last October I wrote a post about wet shaving; you can check it out here. In that post, I mentioned a Kickstarter campaign I funded from Blades Grim that scored me a shave soap and a set of scented pre-shave oils. Well, in January I started using them. Bottom Line Up Front: I’ve really enjoyed using their soap and shave oils; it was definitely money well-spent. I’m sure you’d like a little more detail so let’s get into it. Continue reading

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Army Music – Honor Guard Ceremonies

In an effort to keep up my spotty track record of intermittent blog posts, I’d like to highlight one of the mainstays of the 8th Army Band’s mission – Honor Guard Ceremonies. These ceremonies, held on US Army Garrison Yongsan (at least until the four-star headquarters moves down to Camp Humphreys), are conducted on the gravel of Knight Field in front of U.S. Forces Korea Headquarters. Continue reading


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So You Want to Support the Arts…

There’s been a lot of chatter recently about the impending doom of civilization due to the possible defunding of the National Endowment for the Arts. If all of the people displaying social media outrage actually supported the arts – you know, with their actual time and/or money – there wouldn’t be an issue. If you want to “live in a country that supports the Arts” then…support the Arts.  Continue reading

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