Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Not the Last Word on THE LAST JEDI: Review of THE LAST JEDI

It’s been two years since THE LAST JEDI arrived in movie theaters. With the release THE RISE OF SKYWALKER just a few days away, it seems fitting that I should finally write a review of THE LAST JEDI. I preface all of this by saying that I have been a Star Wars fan for forty years. The first movie I ever saw in movie theatres was the original STAR WARS. I still own all of my original Star Wars toys that I played with as a kid. I spent more than three hours waiting in line for tickets to see THE PHANTOM MENACE when it was first released and that movie was the first movie I ever watched more than twice when it was still in theatres during its initial theatrical run. When THE FORCE AWAKENS was first released, I spent the entire day before seeing the film in a movie theatre with my brother watching a 24-hr marathon of the previous six films. While I wished that there would have been a moment in THE FORCE AWAKENS that re-united Luke, Han, and Leia, the end of THE FORCE AWAKENS provided plenty of hope and excitement about what was to happen next in the series.

Like that sign hanging above Hell in The Inferno, “Abandon All Hope Ye Who Enter Here,” that all changed when I watched THE LAST JEDI. We had purchased our tickets for that movie nearly a month before it opened and watched it in a sold-out theatre. Anticipation hovered in the theatre like early morning fog in the Smoky Mountains. An hour before the movie started, we spent time playing Star Wars trivia and watching a Star Wars costume contest. But finally, the lights dimmed, and THE LAST JEDI started. We watched in rapture as the fleet of The First Order (which should have been decimated after the destruction of Starkiller base) bore down upon the secret hidden base of the Resistance fighters. The mood was tense and dramatic. Then a lone Tie-Fighter appeared, seemingly to stand against the oncoming fleet. It was Poe Dameron! But, seconds later, the excitement that pulsed through that theatre completely evaporated when Poe made a “your mama” joke with General Hux. There were a few chuckles, but that was it.

Soon after everyone watched in devout rapture as Rey approached Luke Skywalker with his father’s lightsaber, the weapon he lost in Cloud City along with a hand. Luke took the saber, paused, and then chucked it over his shoulder. A man sitting with his daughter and son in front of me audibly yelled “What the f*#%?!!!” His words were echoed by many others throughout the theatre. Instead of getting better from that point on, things just got worse.

The previous installments of Star Wars fit together. The films built upon each other. Sure there was some hokeyness. There was also some terrible dialogue (“I hate sand”).  However, each of the previous eight movies fit together. They were a part of an established universe with a set of defined rules. Even though THE FORCE AWAKENS was kind of weak and basically a re-hash of STAR WARS but with different characters, that movie has an overall feeling of being a Star Wars movie. It introduced new characters and situations, yet, it felt a part of the Star Wars universe. Typical of J.J. Abrams, the movie also set up all kinds of questions that it didn’t answer. But, with this being the first movie in a “trilogy,” it was expected at least some of those questions would be answered in the next installment. But instead of answering any of those questions and actually continuing the Star Wars saga, THE LAST JEDI ignored almost everything that had happened in the previous films (particularly THE FORCE AWAKENS) and instead became set on “defying expectations.” Instead of watching a Star Wars movie, we were given a constant stream of “gotcha” moments that might be appropriate in murder mystery comedy, but not a Star Wars movie.

THE FORCE AWAKENS could have easily been entitled THE SEARCH FOR LUKE SKYWALKER. The main plot of the movie was all about getting this missing piece of a map that would allow whoever had the whole map to find Luke Skywalker. After years of waiting (and especially after teasing the audience at the end of THE FORCE AWAKENS), audiences finally were able to see Luke Skywalker and the first thing he does is throw his father’s lightsaber away. The character in THE LAST JEDI was not Luke Skywalker. Luke Skywalker was a hero of the Rebellion who became a Jedi. THE LAST JEDI would have audiences believe that the man who refused to give into his anger and strike his father down did not continue to grow and instead regressed into something less than he was before and attempt to murder his own nephew. You can talk about “subverting expectations” and making “bold” choices all you want, but anyone who has been a Star Wars fan since before 2015 knows that the person posing as Luke Skywalker in THE LAST JEDI was not Luke Skywalker. And what about the montage-like segments with Rey following Luke around; they look like a montage from a low-budget 1980s movie from him milking that alien for green milk to jumping around on giant stilts to go spearing for fish. It’s horrible

Then there’s the death of Admiral Ackbar and Leia Poppins in space. During a not-so-climatic space battle, the forces of the First Order decimate most of the remaining forces of the Resistance. Keylo Ren comes close to shooting the command ship, but then senses his mother, General Solo, is on board. However, others under his command do not and blast away at the ship’s bridge. Almost the entire remaining leadership is blown into the vacuum of space, including both Admiral Ackbar and General Leia. Fan favorite from RETURN OF THE JEDI, Ackbar’s death isn’t even acknowledged except in a quick throwaway line. Not only that, but in the two years since THE LAST JEDI arrived in theatres it has been revealed that Rian Johnson and his team used the character one last time for an off camera joke.

In the same scene where Ackbar is killed, General Leia is swept into space. As her body begins to freeze and crystallize, her hand suddenly starts to twitch and then her eyes open and she flies herself back to the ship. When I saw the movie in theatres, the audience burst out laughing at this moment. It was incredible; not because it was bold or revealed anything about Leia’s character but because how dumb it was. In terms of plot, the sequence does nothing. Viewers are led to believe that Holdo’s crazy scheme later in the movie was all her doing, but then it’s revealed (“gotcha” again) that it was something she and Leia had discussed. So, in terms of plot, what purpose did blowing up the bridge of the Resistance ship actually serve? How did it move things along? Well, in all honesty, other than to kill some other characters (such as Ackbar) off screen, it serves no real purpose.

Which sums up the entire movie of THE LAST JEDI: it’s only real purpose is that it doesn’t seem to have any purpose other than killing off or completely changing favorite characters. There’s Luke and Ackbar. THE LAST JEDI also turns Chewie into a vegetarian. Then there are the villains. THE FORCE AWAKENS brought us Captain Phasma and Snoke as two of the leaders of the First Order. THE LAST JEDI unceremoniously kills off both Phasma and Snoke and turns the other major leader (besides Kylo Ren) of the First Order, General Hux, into pure comic relief.

I could go on and on about how bad THE LAST JEDI is and how it has decimated Star Wars. For instance, while liquid fuel has sporadically had a place in Star Wars, it was never a crucial factor. However, in THE LAST JEDI liquid fuel (and the lack of it) turns the movie (and possibly any future Star Wars films) from being an exciting action adventure in space into a two-and-a-half hour car chase through space.

There’s about a forty-minute subplot to a casino planet that serves no real purpose and could have been completely axed from the movie (the place is called Canto Blight and blight is the right word). Instead, viewers are presented with lectures on the evils of capitalism while the heroes rescue some alien horses, but do nothing for the slave children the come in contact with. The Knights of Ren that were talked about so prominently in THE FORCE AWAKENS are never seen. Rey’s “training” with Luke consists of only two lessons over the course of just a few days and by the end of that time, Rey has become even more powerful than Luke. C-3POs red arm is gone and replaced with his classic golden one.

Then there are the classic moments that had been in every Star Wars movie (except Rogue One), that are absent in THE LAST JEDI. There is no lightsaber duel (there’s the red samurai fight scene, but that’s not a lightsaber duel). The Whilhelm scream is not used in the movie. And the “I’ve got a bad feeling about this,” is never heard (Rian Johnson claims BB8 says it, but that’s not a line of actual spoken dialogue and is just another way for him to be pretentious).

There are some moments in THE LAST JEDI that feature some great cinematography, but these moments would be better off seen in Rian Johnson’s version of a Terrence Malick flick instead of in a Star Wars movie.

It’s been two years since THE LAST JEDI was released. The movie changed Star Wars forever, but not for the better. Instead, with the release of THE RISE OF SKYWALKER, the franchise is on the verge of imploding. There will be some good things to come out of the Disney Star Wars (such as THE MANDALORIAN). However, for all intents and purposes, Disney has decimated the Star Wars universe with THE LAST JEDI and the franchise will never be able to recover from the damage that has been done.

Sunday, August 11, 2019


The continuing adventures of Heart and Brain continue in the Awkward Yeti’s HEART AND BRAIN: BODY LANGUAGE. There’s really nothing all that different in this book compared to the previous two volumes. Heart and brain are best friends, but sometimes at complete odds with each other. The second volume featured an expanded cast of characters (stomach, eyes, tongue, etc.) that sometimes joined up with either heart or brain or sometimes were in complete opposition to them. In BODY LANGUAGE, the comics have gone back to their roots and focus mostly on Heart and Brain. I really enjoyed this book and hope there is more in the series in the future.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Mamma Mia!

The latest production that I'm acting in opens next week. If you're in the Highland, IL area July 26-28 or Aug. 2-4, feel free to stop by. I have a funny role.

Monday, May 27, 2019


Heart and Brain, two characters within the Awkward Yeti are back in HEART AND BRAIN: GUT INSTINCTS. This time Heart and Brain aren’t alone and are joined by many other organs: Tongue, Stomach, Bowels, etc. Heart is carefree and lives for the moment while Brain is pragmatic and tries to plan for the future. Nick Seluk has once again humorously captured the ongoing struggle between our hearts and our brains.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Review: BIG NATE SILENT BUT DEADLY by Lincoln Peirce

Nate Wright is back again in another collection of “Big Nate” comics. In BIG NATE SILENT BUT DEADLY, Nate gets into lots of different shenanigans and comes up with several different schemes. Nate has an uncanny sense of smell and hires himself out as the Great Nose-ini to make a few extra dollars, he becomes the movie reviewer for the school newspaper, he once again wins Monopoly on New Year’s Eve against his friends, and he plays on his school’s basketball team. Personally, I think my favorite comics in the book are the ones at the very end when Nate visits the local comic book shop and runs into a guy in a Yoda mask and an old man sitting on a bench that talks to a puppet. BIG NATE SILENT BUD DEADLY includes a pull-out poster of the book’s cover.


The second collection of “Zen Pencils” comics, ZEN PENCILS, VOLUME 2:  DREAM THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM continues the same format as the first volume. Cartoonist Gavin Aung Than takes quotes from all kinds of famous people and then uses those quotes as written word for a series of different inspiring comics.  Some of the people quoted in this volume include Isaac Asimov, Maya Angelou, Robert Kennedy, William Shakespeare, Amy Poehler, Jim Henson, and Kevin Smith. Some of the comics continue adventures and stories from the first volume: the young boy who instead of playing sports wants to be a great dancer, the young woman who wants to be a wrestler, the boy who becomes a courageous knight, and the ancient philosopher.  Some of the comics fit quite well with the quotes that inspired the illustrations and story. Meanwhile, others just don’t seem like a very good match. Overall, I enjoyed DREAM THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM. I look forward to other books of “Zen Pencils” in the future.