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James Young
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STAR WARS EPISODE VIII: THE LAST JEDI is a thing I watched.
Going to try to keep this no-spoilers by sticking to themes.
Brace yourself for rambling, hopefully I'll have a point by the end.

What if you went through hell for nothing?
What if being a hero makes things worse?
What happens when hope dies?

I'm still thinking about it, which is good. I think.


Everyone went into this expecting Empire Strikes Back.
And why not? The Force Awakens was the reconstruction of Star Wars. The post-prequel return to the cosy familiar Star Wars we all know and love. Look, here is your old friend Chewbacca and your old friend R2-D2, and here are your new friends Rey and Finn and Poe.
Look, they're all here and all friends!
Remember Star Wars, you guys? Remember all the things from Star Wars?
Look, lightsabers! And X-Wings! And suspiciously familiar bad guys! And suspiciously familiar rebels! Where did the bad guys come from? Why another death star? Why is there a Resistance? Didn't the good guys win?
Shh. Stop. All you need to know is that it's Star Wars, and it's back.

But this is different. And new. And strange. And I think I like it, but unlike Force Awakens I need to see it again because I don't know yet.
I came out of Force Awakens thinking "yay star wars" and that's about it. There was nothing else to talk about.
I came out of this... thoughtful. Conflicted. Wanting to talk about it with people.
Not shallow surface thoughts like "what is Snoke?" or "is Rey a mary sue?", but "what does it mean? What are the themes? What is he trying to say?"


Visually it's a trip. A kaleidoscopic fast-paced onrushing film where it's all so new and strange and visually different that it's almost overwhelming.
If Force Awakens went out of its way to give us the same-old, the old familiar desert planet and the old familiar evil empire corridors and the old familiar Han Solo, this film goes out of its way to give us the new and fresh and unique.
Coming out of the film it was like the time we saw ROBOT and there were so many very very different scenes packed into the very long film that we started swapping anecdotes of "remember that time when this thing happened?" and everyone else went "oh yeeaaaa!".

It almost feels like a series of interconnected Star Wars vignettes. Each place so visually defined that it mentally partitions off that place and its scenes from the rest.
HERE is the zany casino planet and HERE is the grey blocky falls to nowhere and HERE is the sea planet with weird cute puffin porgs and HERE is the beautiful war planet with the rich red soil thrown up over the white salt.

It was like a fever dream.


Thematically, somehow this film both repudiates and plays off of our nostalgia.
Forget the past, move on, seize the future.
Let the past die. Kill it if you have to.

Who are Rey's parents? This movie says: who cares? The movie says: Why look back? The movie says: Why do Rey's parents have to define Rey?
The movie says: Fuck JJ Abrams and his mystery box.
The movie says: Even some nobody can become somebody.

Remember: when the original Star Wars came out Luke wasn't the son of Vader. He wasn't Leia's brother. He was just some orphaned loser from Tattooine who wanted to go to Tosche station for some power converters. He wasn't part of some chosen one narrative with a magic dad and a destiny, he was just a kid swept into the vortex of adventure by bad luck, a space wizard, and a hot chick in a hologram.

The twist here is that a main character CAN just be some kid from Jakku, swept into a vortex of adventure by bad luck, a space soldier, and a cute robot bearing a hologram map.

And so the film knows we know it knows about the previous films. It plays us like a fiddle. It has twists, and it has twists where the twist is that there is no twist.
At one point there are obvious plot holes, but the plot holes are a plot point.
There are noble sacrifices that go nowhere, and heroic last chances that turn out to be stupid, stupid ideas.
At many points, the narrative of "lone hero saves the day" is undercut.
At many points, the narrative of "plucky heroes disobey orders to save the day" is undercut.

Instead the narrative is "stick together and care for each other", it's "listen to expert advice", it's "we are more than the sum of our parts".
It's "sometimes, even with all that, we can't win".
Noble sacrifices achieve nothing. The chain of command exists for a reason. The Resistance is bigger than one man. We're up against the wall here. Don't risk everything on a throw of the dice. If we keep sacrificing everything, we'll have nothing left.

It's a film about unity in the face of overwhelming adversity. It's a film about growing beyond what came before.


But it's also a film about the death of hope.

Luke destroyed the Empire, and it came back more powerful than he could possibly imagine.
Finn and Rose go on a big high-stakes secret mission, take every lucky break they can get, and they lose.
Poe's self-indulgent heroism means the Resistance loses valuable resources for little strategic gain.
At every turn, the Resistance is whittled down. Over and over they lose and they lose and they lose. Every sacrifice is worthless, every sacrifice brings them closer to their inevitable end.

It's long, slow, brutal attrition. The thump-thump-thump of the explosions on the Resistance's shields, running out the clock, hoping desperately for a miracle. Thump-thump-thump as they lose everything. Thump-thump-thump as they are destroyed. Thump-thump-thump. Unable to fight back.


And to go back to Empire Strike Back, isn't that where it left off? Hopeless, staring into space? Luke almost dead, Han frozen in carbonite, Darth Vader with the upper hand?


I think I'm talking myself into thinking I actually really did like it.
When was the last time a Star Wars film gave you something to think about?


Rating:
I'll have to think about it porgs / 10.
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WONDER WOMAN is a thing I watched

I didn't post about it at the time because being a man going and seeing wonder woman and writing about what they thought is fraught with danger.

So thing 1 - This is definitely the best female-led superhero movie I've ever seen. It is also the only one. Flops and non-superheroes don't count.
Thing 2 - This is definitely the best movie named after a female lead character. Alien is named after the Alien. Mad Max is named after Mad Max even though we all know the movie is about Furiosa. Dredd is named after Judge Dredd even though we all know the movie is about Judge Anderson. This one is named after the woman the movie is about.
Thing 3 - please get women to direct films about women and PLEASE stop joss whedon from directing female-led stuff, his time is done. Back to quippy white men and loving genre parodies for you, Joss.
Thing 4 - sometimes you have to step back and go "this movie is not aimed at me" which is a strange thing to experience as a straight white man because all films are default aimed at me.
Thing 5 - Please don't hurt me but this wasn't the best movie ever
Thing 6 - spoilers obviously
That was a lot of things.

So the best best part of this film was the second act.

First act blah blah setup, dude does stuff in the war, blah blah Amazon backstory, Princess Buttercup from the Princess Bride is here being awesome, blah blah, Diana is the chosen one with arbitrary powers she doesn't know she possesses, blah. Weird pacing and exposition blah.

but WAIT. Holy shit is Gal Gadot the most prettiest person ever in the world. She absorbs every scrap of attention in every shot she is in because oh man.
And YET nothing is shot in that pan-up-from-the-legs-then-the-butt-then-the-tits-then-the face style that I can probably conjure up in your mind just by saying "Megan Fox washing that bike in the first transformers movie".
She looks cool as fuck basically.

anyway first act then BAM
The real deal starts on that fucking awesome beach battle. Nazis vs super-warrior amazons. Cool slomo shots. Deaths. Killing dudes with arrows.
Shot a bit like 300 because Zack Snyder's fell grip persists even now.
The main thing that rears its ugly head - weirdly bad CG. Maybe it's the colour gradients or the saturation or something, but nothing in this film feels "real".
Maybe they were going for mythic overtones? Because this 300-style muddy glowy colour stuff with not-great matte painting sort of works on Themyscira the magic island, but will go on to be the only thing taking me out of the movie as we transition to fake-real WWI London.

The other thing - Act 2 aka the best act begins with Chris Pine accidentally crashing through the Truman Show magic barrier.
I told a friend that Act 2 was the best act and she said "so you only gained interest in the story when the MAN showed up?!" which a) fuck great call and b) cements that the Chris Pine-Wonder Woman relationship is the subtle core of this whole goddamn movie.

Their relationship was deployed with so much fucking care.
He gets there and he's forced onto the back foot. She saves him. She is mildly interested that a man showed up instead of going full OH MAN A MAN TIME TO FALL IN LOVE AND BREEEEED like would happen in a male-directed only-man-on-the-island film (see: Passengers). NEXT SCENE we get some female gaze on Chris Pine and some "oh is that what a flaccid dick looks like how interesting" from our girl DIana. And on the boat we discover that men are useful but not necessary for sectsual pleasyuurree.
All looks to line up with the woman-emasculates-man narrative that the MRAs think is real.
But no, turns out they both have skills and mutual respect even though Diana is literally a fucking actual god who could crush him no problem. Chris Pine's chief ability in the film is to help her fit into society a bit and help her out so she can kill things more efficiently.

And this respect will go on to inform the final act. Hey, turns out men have the capacity to be Nazis even without a god mind-controlling them. BUT men also have the capacity to be Chris Pine and do good because they want to.

Later there is a sex scene where he goes to leave and her face and body language are all "actually some sex would be great" and he comes back into the room and it's a mutual attraction thing and all of it's done without words!?
But I get ahead of myself.

She gets to England. We get some excellent Thor-style "I don't understand how society works outside the magic kingdom" stuff. She sees a baby and is all HOLY SHIT WHAT IS THAT I WANT TO PLAY WITH IT. She sees dresses and is all "yes but how do you fight in this bullshit?"
And yes this is better than Thor because female fashion and social mores were even dumber a few decades ago.
Diana in a dress still holding sword and shield is a standout moment and also god damn is she pretty the WHOLE TIME.

Note pretty not necessarily sexy. She exudes control the whole fucking time it is a miracle. If she appears sexy it is apparent that this is her choice not just some dude catching her in an unwitting sexy pose (a la Megan Fox in Transformers).
This is probably the crux - she is always in control and badass without using beauty as a weapon.
The Bride or Ripley, not Black Widow.

We meet some Inglourious Basterds aka Captain America's Howling Commandos. The sniper is too fucked up to snipe and is basically the binoculars guy. The native american dude is aware that he's only in this war because the americans killed all his people. They're all super fucked up by war. But actually it's fairly subtle. They're just background characters with PTSD, you can engage with it if you want to. They don't take away from the main event which is always ALWAYS Wonder Woman.

BAM
We get to the coolest scene where she walks across No Man's Land and destroys all the Nazis.
Mid way she gets held down by machine guns because even though she has bulletproof everything, one person cannot face machineguns alone.
Oh here they are, our male support team in a supporting role. They help the hero out and she's back to killing Nazis.
She's the most powerful character in the room. We know it, they know it. All they can do is help the invincible superpowered woman kill everything. And they DO.
Weird CG as she walks through No Man's Land but fuck it.
Just perfect. She lets them help because one person can't solve all problems and sometimes needs an assist. She probably doesn't need them in the moment but she definitely needs a clean-up crew to kill/arrest all those Nazis after she's wrecking-balled everything.

Murder murder murder. Wierd CG. It's ok to kill Nazis because they're Nazis and thus basically robot evil enemies with no souls in movies. Murder murder.
Romance dance scene where Chris Pine remains respectful of the deity who's murdered hundreds of people in the last 24 hours and Diana gets some nice character beats.
Infiltrate the place to find the guy that Diana has decided is the problem. Nobody believes her (lol men) but she's half right.
Also much of the good she has done is undone by the villain. What a dick.
Maybe she will realise that nothing anybody does in this war has any long term good results. But no! Optimism prevails! With a sword down the back of your dress!

Winding down to generic superhero film finale as Act 3 begins. We go towards the standard superhero-has-superfight-with-supervillain mould.
Further action, we see more of DOCTOR POISON who I haven't mentioned but has the best name and a distracting half-mask. She's great.

Villain fake-out. Diana learns that people are jerks and the god of war hasn't been mind-controlling people into being jerks. Sometimes people are just jerks.
Heroic sacrifice. Sometimes people aren't jerks.

Hey it turns out that the Chris Pine-Wonder Woman dynamic is the crux of this movie who knew. He was a powerless man who tried his best to do good. She's a powerful woman who could be SUPER GOOD or SUPER EVIL or pretty much whatever she wants really.
She chooses good. Or actually even better, she chooses LOVE.

Oh shit is that the first optimistic hero choice in the DC movie universe I THINK IT IS! Good work! Turns out people like their heroes to be heroes!

CG final boss fight where not much is learnt and you're not sure of the stakes because nothing can harm Wonder Woman even 1000 stick grenades and there is lots of massive destruction and god-scale devastation.
Nothing can kill a god except apparently some lightning. Good to know.
Then everyone stops fighting because they've just seen actual gods fight and our petty human feuds are as nothing before the sheer energies unleashed in this monstrous battle.
But it is left unclear as to whether they stopped fighting because they just witnessed Deicide or because the god of war just died, sort of muddying the waters on the ol' "humans have capacity for good and evil" theme.

It wasn't the best ever superhero film but if it was a Marvel film it would rank somewhere between Ant-Man and the first Avengers film so definitely mid-top tier.
4/5 murdered human beings with skulls on their uniforms
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