Movie review (100% spoiler-free): Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Continued my now three-years old tradition of taking in a morning screening of the new Star Wars movie with my buddy John. Here are five very quick (spoiler-free!) thoughts about The Last Jedi. (There are spoilers for The Force Awakens though!)

It’s really good…

Yep, the reviews are all correct: It’s a very good movie. It’s long, but it’s well-paced. It’s surprising, but not in any way that takes you “out” of the Star Wars mindset—it’s very much a Star Wars movie. It’s very nicely shot, nothing feel like too much of a callback to the original movies that it takes you out of the film. There’s not nearly as much “fan service” as The Force Awakens or even Rogue One. The movie stands on its own very well. And the music and sound design are also excellent; I definitely recommend seeing it in the theatre. (We saw it in IMAX 3D, and although I typically loathe 3D, it is done quite well.)

…and yeah, I’d say The Last Jedi is the best Star Wars movie since The Empire Strikes Back

It’s obviously better than any of the prequels, and I would place it above Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens as well. Rogue One feels like the closest comparison, but the addition of the heroes we know and love, The Last Jedi definitely has the edge. But I wouldn’t place it above The Empire Strikes Back or Star Wars.

It is so wonderful to have Mark Hamill back on screen as Luke

I can’t even tell you the number of times I have popped in The Force Awakens DVD and just watched the last two minutes. That final scene still gives me chills! And his role in this film pays it off beautifully. I don’t want to say anything else for fear of anything spoilery, but every scene he’s in is great, and there are several in the film that gave me those same chills. I have been waiting for more Luke since I was six years old, and The Last Jedi doesn’t disappoint.

The performances were excellent

Sounds a bit odd to say about a Star Wars film, right? But everyone is really good, including Mark Hamill (although maybe let’s cool it a bit with the “best actor” talk, yeah? He’s still Mark Hamill!). Adam Driver is the highlight, I think; he shows wonderful range throughout the movie and you can really feel his emotions coming through. Daisy Ridley and John Boyega knock it out of the park again (as does BB-8, of course). The new cast additions all fit in nicely. And it was great to see Carrie Fisher again, one last time.

It’s not a perfect film

There are some goofy jokes that are too slap-sticky and fall flat. A couple of characters deserve more screen time and development. As wonderful as all the creature effects are—so much better than anything in the prequels—they may have overdone it a tiny bit (I could have used more BB-8 instead! Love that little droid).

And as much as understand it from a story perspective, I will always feel a little robbed that Han Solo was killed before we got a Luke-Han reunion.

—–

I don’t think I have to tell anyone to go see this movie; you’re going to see it if you’re into this stuff, you’re gonna avoid it if you’re not. But even if you’re not into it and you find yourself dragged out to see it, I don’t think you’ll walk away disappointed. The Last Jedi is extremely entertaining, and it’s a damn good time in a theatre. And if you are into it? I think you’ll be satisfied.

Five things that are worth your time: November 29

Five Things: November 29

For the past year at Brainrider my colleague Jon Kane and I have been putting together a weekly internal newsletter, sharing five cool things we’ve read (that generally have some relevance to what we do at Brainrider) with the entire Brainrider team.

At its core it’s just curated content with a little bit of commentary. We send it out on Friday and then we share one thing a day via our intranet the following week. The whole thing was Jon’s brainchild and I give him all the credit. But I like the idea so much I’m stealing it for myself! (OK, I asked his permission so it’s not really stealing. But it’s more fun to say it that way).

On to the things! This week they’re I have four fairly long long reads to share; you might want to settle in with a coffee. But I am very, very certain that all of them are worth your time. And I wrap it up with a video that I am also certain is worth your time.

Luke Skywalker Speaks

Dave Itzkoff, New York Times

I love how totally at ease Mark Hamill seems with his life; he became a mega-celebrity right at the start of his career, and it probably completely derailed said career but he’s just steered into it, owned it and enjoyed it. I think there’s an obvious lesson in there for all of us.

A quote: “Mr. Hamill isn’t bitter or jaded, and he isn’t Luke, though he has retained some of that character’s incorruptibility. He’s gone from a new hope to an old hand, with a lined, expressive face and a gray beard, beneath which lurks a mischievous sense of humor, a yearning to perform and a joy in sharing “Star Wars” war stories.”

Gal Gadot Kicks Ass

Caity Weaver, GQ

Super-hero movies have become pretty formulaic these days, and Wonder Woman isn’t really all that different… except for its star. Gal Gadot embodies that character in a way I don’t think any actor in a super-hero role has done since Christopher Reeve in Superman (whoops, just aged myself there). It’s like she was born to play the part. This profile seems to indicate she’s just as awesome in real life as she was on screen.

A quote: “Gal Gadot is very hands-on. As in: When you meet her, she will put her hands on you many times, in many different places. Israeli culture is so touch-oriented that guides for Americans traveling there warn they may feel their personal space is constantly being violated in formal settings… Even as Wonder Woman sequels and spin-offs propel Gadot to new heights of global stardom, she probably will not lose this habit of touching, because she is a charming, beautiful woman, and it will never occur to people to shrink away from her.”

“That’s My Justice”

Jordan Ritter Conn, The Ringer

Brenda Tracy was raped by four college football players in Oregon in 1998. It took her more than a decade, during which she battled depression and contemplated suicide, before she realized she had within her the power to effect change in the rape culture found among men’s athletics, and football in particular, on college campuses. This story is equally horrifying for what Brenda went through, and uplifting for what she’s trying to do now. My words can’t express how impressive this story is.

A quote: “Tracy realizes she may have offenders in her audience. She targets her message, though, to the vast majority of the players in the room who are unlikely to ever perpetrate a violent act but have the ability to shift the culture among their peers. At Houston, she says: “You might think to yourselves, ‘I don’t commit rape. I don’t beat on women. Why is this my problem?’ I’ll tell you why it’s your problem. Because if women could stop sexual violence, we would have already done it. Eve would have done it. The first woman on the planet would have done it. And do you think that rapists are going to stop it? No. Of course not. So it’s up to you, the 90 percent of men who would not commit rape, to put an end to it.”

Promethea Unbound

Mike Mariani, The Atavist Magazine

This is one of the best things I’ve read in a very, very long time. It’s the story of a child prodigy and the challenges she and her family had growing up. You’d think that a girl who started taking college classes at age 8 and earned her degree at 13 would have it made, but young Jasmine (later Promethea) encounters one challenge after another, climaxing in a tragic act of violence, that derails her future.

A quote: “Solomon posits that “being gifted and being disabled are surprisingly similar: isolating, mystifying, petrifying.” The Americans with Disabilities Act doesn’t cover prodigies, and the rationale seems obvious: These children are overequipped for normal achievement. Yet their unique requirements for learning and the extraordinary burdens placed on their families make prodigies resplendent doppelgängers to developmentally challenged children.”

When every word doesn’t belong to everyone

Ta-Nehisi Coates, YouTube/Random House

What do words mean to different people; different groups of people, different races or genders? And why are some words acceptable in some groups but not others? The amazing Ta-Nehisi Coates explains why white people using the N-word is problematic, and why, if you’re not black, you need to be OK with not using it.

A quote: “My wife, with her girlfriends, will use the word “bitch.” I do not join in! I don’t do that. I don’t have a desire to do it. The question one must ask, if that’s accepted and normal for groups to use words that are derogatory in an ironic fashion, why is there so much hand-wringing when black people do it? … Why do so many white people have difficulty extending things that are basic laws of how human beings interact to black people. And I think I know why.”

That’s all for this week! I’ll have five more to share next Wednesday.