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msw188
Wed, Jan 17, 2018, 1:39pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Dom,
Thank you for your responses! You're right of course, I haven't seen this movie in many years. But even back then, the main bit I never understood, which I think you sort of answer but not really, is the issue with the Feds still being around in Epi2. I THOUGHT I remembered them being arrested at the end of Epi1, but I definitely remembered them being in Epi2, so I thought maybe my Epi1 memory was faulty. So wait, they somehow got arrested at the end of Epi1 and were let off? Or somehow escaped?? And they're still making robots, and involved in making a death star! Even if there's some line in the movie making sense of this, to me this is just bonkers! How did that trial go? How was the hologram partner never brought up? Again, in a movie where characters>plot, this wouldn't stand out so much as needing more explanation.

"The reason why it was Naboo is because Palpatine wanted the sympathy vote in his bid to become Chancellor."
I get why Palpy would pick Naboo. I don't understand why the Trade Federation would agree to it.

"Why does Vader listen to Palpatine in ANH? Why does Kylo listen to Snoke? To some extent, TPM begins in media res and we just have to accept it."
I can accept individuals listening to their masters, even including the awful Darth Maul. I can also accept that, if someone somehow became the Emperor or "Supreme Leader", then the Empire or "New Order" would do what he says. But I just can't wrap my mind around an independent organization portrayed as taking orders from someone outside their organization for no clear reason.

"It wasn't a secret. That's why the Chancellor sent Jedi to negotiate with the Trade Federation. The invasion was secret. Even then, my understanding was that it was less that the invasion was secret and more that the human rights abuses were secret. The whole point was that a blockade was a tense situation but an invasion was beyond the pale."
This is beyond my understanding too. Like, if the Feds are just upset over taxes, why go beyond the pale, as you put it? Shouldn't they WANT to negotiate?

I keep returning to the Feds because an earlier post considered the plot of the prequels stronger than the newquels. In the prequels, we are supposed to have a master string-puller manipulating the people around him to eventually make himself emperor. But for manipulation to be engaging, the victim has to be compelling, or at least competent. Unfortunately, the Trade Fed's are portrayed as bumbling morons for the most part. For manipulation to be intellectually stimulating, the victim has to have some logical motivation that is taken advantage of. It's not an interesting manipulation if the victim simply does whatever the string-puller says! That's just giving orders, not manipulating someone. But in the prequels our only motivation for the Feds is a nebulous 'we don't like taxes'. This feels so disconnected from them agreeing to, say, killing Jedi negotiators and violently invading a planet, that it comes off as arbitrary.

Contrast this to the 'manipulation' that goes on in Epi8. Here, we understand that Kylo wants to be a badass but is conflicted because we've seen Epi7, plus we see him get talked down then fail to kill his mother. We also understand that Rey is noble and proactive, and we have the precedent of Luke saving Vader to mind. Apparently Snoke does too (not sure how he understands Rey to be honest, no one is going to call Epi8's plot amazing), so he sets up a situation where Rey is tricked into coming to him. We have independent characters with independent characteristics and motivations, and a 'master' is able to arrange things so that other characters think they are furthering their own goals, when in fact they are furthering his. With the prequels, do the Trade Feds really see killing Jedi negotiators, invading planets, and killing Padme as furthering their own goals?
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msw188
Tue, Jan 16, 2018, 9:29pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Peter G,
"Palpatine secretly stonewalled all efforts Valorum made to resolve it"
Is this mentioned or shown in the movie at all? Like ok, Valorum sent the Jedi (it would have been incredibly helpful to have a scene of him sending them off with an explanation and instructions). Were there other efforts of Valorum that Palpatine sabotaged? I remember him asking for time to send a ship to figure out what was going on. But wasn't Padme or somebody like, well whatever my people will all be dead by then?

"We're led to understand that Palpatine shouldn't have stood much of a chance against the like of Bail Organa - a hugely popular figure - but that this crisis gave him a timely boost to popularity exactly at the right time."
I don't remember this either. Maybe this was in Epi2? Also, how did this crisis boost his popularity? He didn't do anything! Padme and a couple Jedi fixed it without him! I understand it made Valorum look bad, but not that it made Palpy look good.

Dom,
Yes, I remember the opening crawl saying that the Trade Feds were upset about taxes, or tax routes, or something to that effect. But your example doesn't make sense for the movie because the movie doesn't make the goal clear. Was Naboo actually a hub for these trade routes, so that controlling it would allow the Feds to control the trading (like in your example)? But Naboo didn't look like a trading hub. Was Naboo the one in charge of collecting the taxes? They didn't look like tax collectors either. Were the Feds trying to show their displeasure to the Senate? If that was the case, why are they keeping the blockade a secret? Is the goal to keep the invasion secret until it is successful? Why are they listening to Palpy? What did he do, promise to keep the Senate busy until they were done invading? Well that didn't happen, so why do they stick with him after the movie is over? In fact, how are they not arrested after the movie is over?

None of these questions matter all that much if the rest of the movie is good, but it isn't. And I can't seem to get into the plot of this movie when there are so many details seemingly missing.
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msw188
Mon, Jan 15, 2018, 11:08pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

JPaul,
Man, it's great that you manage to get that out of Epi1. I just can't see it. The Trade Feds want profits, and somehow blockading and invading Naboo accomplishes this? For some reason the Gungans will be affected too? Palpatine originally planned on Valorum being kicked out without anyone from Naboo reaching the capital? Padme agreed to some plan of Palpatine's? I can't remember if he offered her anything or she agreed to anything, especially since, as you admit, she goes back and somehow saves her planet without his help. And the net effect for the Trade Feds is that they somehow are allowed to continue with some kind of vendetta against Padme?
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msw188
Mon, Jan 15, 2018, 3:45pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

JPaul,
I agree that the overall backdrop to the plot in Epi7/8 is bad, borderline awful. I don't think that's the same as the plot as a whole being bad in those movies, but if you can't get past the setup then yeah it's hard to get into the movies for sure.

Still, I think you're overselling Epi1 a bit. "A story about corruption in the government allowing Palpatine the opening he needs to manipulate the Trade Federation into starting a civil war that he leverages into becoming the Chancellor and eventually Emperor is compelling." To me, this sounds compelling, but Epi1 doesn't end up portraying this very well. You mention corruption in the government - I don't remember this being shown at all. You mention Palpatine manipulating the Trade Federation, but is manipulation really compelling when one of the parties seems to have no motivation or intelligence? Did he actually manipulate them, or does he just control them somehow? They pretty much just do whatever he says! General Hux and Phasma are pretty cartoony and dumb for sure, but those Trade Federation guys are just terrible.

There are more problems in the details as well. I don't think I ever figured out what Palpy's actual plan was, and whether any of the actions of the protagonists ever cause him to alter any of it. Did he want the Trade Federation or the Naboo people to win that battle? Or did he not care which, as long as there was some conflict? And how does this lead to civil war, anyways? Whom does Epi1 show as being sympathetic to the Trade Federation's claims? Or do they even have any claims, besides hating taxes...? If the Jedi had never sent anyone to Naboo, would there have been a battle at all? Does Palpy want the Senate to know there's something going on, or not? If not, how does he plan to get the vote of no confidence for the Chancellor? If so, why does he tell the Trade Feds to kill the Jedi who were sent to see what's going on?

Maybe the problem is best summed up as follows. A plot-heavy, character/emotion-lite movie can be okay, but if that's the case, the plot is going to automatically come under more scrutiny. Some good Star Trek episodes could probably be viewed in this way. But Epi1, if viewed in that way, does not hold up very well in my opinion.
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msw188
Mon, Jan 15, 2018, 1:18am (UTC -5)
Re: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

JPaul,
Of course everyone enjoys different things, but I think your claims about people's problems with Epi1 are off the mark. I mean yeah, all those things you mention suck, but they would all be overlookable in some other movie. The real problem with Epi1 (and Epi2 and Epi3 to a large degree) is that there are so very very few moments with any characters feeling like actual people with personalities and emotions. I can remember two total moments of genuine emotion from characters in Epi1, and one of them is JarJar getting excited that they're going back to Naboo. That's a bad sign. The other is Obiwan getting pissed when Liam Neeson is killed. He even gets a moment to stew about it behind the red energy thing. And then as soon as they start fighting, the emotion gets sapped out almost immediately and its back to being boring choreography.

So yeah, people get bored by the seemingly convoluted politics in Epi1, but that doesn't mean they just want mindless action. I mean, Epi1 has plenty of that as well anyways. I think people want characters that feel like real people. A movie focused on Jedis who control their emotions at all times is boring. Even Yoda in Epi5 had some genuine personality to him, and a sense of humor. When the characters in Epi1/2/3 occasionally let their emotions show through, the writing is so awful that it almost never feels like an actual person (lots of Anakin). A movie about political maneuvering can maybe work in any context, but the moves need to be made by, and/or affect, characters who feel like real people.

In comparison, Epi7/8 may have far more simplistic/familiar plots and emotional beats, but the point is that they have emotional beats at all. And the characters mostly feel like people, or at least archetypes of people instead of archetypes of monks. I've brought up Rey's excitement for the job offer numerous times, so I'll go with a different example this time: the escape scene for Finn and Poe. Mindless action? Some thin plotting? Maybe, but for many viewers this is overlookable when you have two characters that can feel genuine joy (Finn and Poe after shooting the canon) and can argue sounding like real people (Poe: we gotta get my droid. Finn: WTF).
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msw188
Fri, Jan 5, 2018, 3:23pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Peter G,
My previous comment was to address your specific examples. To your more global point, I think Rey is shown to have a bit more character than you have given her credit for, but at the same time I agree that she requires less character-growth than Luke does. And even though I think she does have to come to grips with the fact that she was wrong about Kylo turning, this is less her fault than Luke's Epi5 failures were his fault. She was 'foolishlessly optimistic', while Luke was foolishlessly arrogant and rash. Maybe she's a bit rash too, but she escapes with her hand intact. Maybe here is a problem - I will contend that Rey has character flaws, but I will agree that the films have not put her in a position where she has had to pay very dearly for them. This is in stark contrast to Epi5 Luke, and a big reason why Epi5 is much better than Epi8. But part of this is what makes these films 'new' as compared to the old ones - in these films, the antagonist is a child just like the protagonist is. In other words, even though I agree that Luke and Rey are different, I think the differences between Kylo and Vader may be closer to the root of some of your problems with these new movies.

I don't know, this all just sort of came to me now. Kylo can't make Rey pay for her big mistake in Epi8, as opposed to Vader easily making Luke pay for his mistake in Epi5. Curiously, while Rey's wrong when she thinks she can turn Kylo, when it's Luke's turn to believe that he can turn Vader, he's the one in the right. Another side to all of this might be - when Luke makes mistakes in training, he has the infinitely wise Yoda to make it clear to him (and the audience) that he fails. When Rey makes mistakes, she has the flawed Luke unsure of how to handle it. So even there maybe it is the difference between Luke and Yoda as teachers that contributes to making Rey appear 'too good'.
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msw188
Fri, Jan 5, 2018, 3:08pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

To Peter G:
Very interesting! We really have some opposite interpretations of several key aspects of Epi8 Rey:

"-She outdoes Luke in his 'first test' by going to the dark place successfully and scaring him, showing that she's braver than he is.
-She subsequently goes straight there again, mastering it, having some magical experience, and showing how much cooler than Luke she is."
See, I saw this as very similar (maybe too similar) to Luke failing in the cave. I mean, in the first bit, I got the impression that she lacks self-control. Luke tells her to fight the urge to explore this, and she doesn't/can't. Then when she goes down there, there's a cool visual sequence but it's not cool for Rey - she learns nothing, she "never felt so alone", ... to me this whole segment came across as failure. Not close to Luke's Epi5 arc, but definitely not epic hero either.

"-She then decides she knows better than him and leaves. In contrast to Ep 5, here she's shown to be right whereas in Ep 5 Luke's leaving was portrayed as a sad event."
Again, totally opposite here. In fact, she's shown to be wrong - her goal was to turn Kylo, and he does not turn. It's not as powerful as Luke's failure in Epi5, but nowhere in here did I get the impression that she was 'right'.

"-She personally dispaches Snoke - or at least that's what it looked like, since Snoke insisted he knew Kylo's every thought and I don't see how Kylo would sneak one past him."
Again, total opposite. I saw this as Kylo killing Snoke - like Snoke 'sees' that Kylo has made a choice to kill his 'true enemy', which is true - except that Kylo sees Snoke as his 'true enemy'. This is why Rey is surprised at the end - she thinks Kylo killed Snoke because he meant to turn, but in fact he killed him to supplant him as super-asshole.

"-Then in the fight against the Knights of whatever, she holds her own against fighters that even give Kylo (the best of them) a run for his money, and appears to be his equal."
Agreed, Rey is consistently shown to be equal to Kylo in terms of combat abilities. I'll just mention again though (I think I said this somewhere up the page) that I never got the impression that Kylo is some kind of master. He's just a brat who has spent most of his time being the only person in tune with the Force (besides Snoke).

"True, but that's because not very much happens in Ep 8. That's a story and plotting problem, rather than any statement about her inability to succeed. She comes out of every scenario in the film unscathed and generally looking better than everyone else. Even in her final encounter with Kylo she gets out ok while he's knocked out like a loser. Let's face it, she's the protagonist of a video game thus far."
I kinda agree with the first couple sentences here. Epi8 has a lot of stuff, but very little is 'accomplished' by anybody except Kylo (if you're like me and see him as killing Snoke) and maybe Luke (if you consider one-upping Kylo an accomplishment). And I don't like the idea that Kylo got knocked out, and she just left. We should have at least seen the scene of her making that decision. But with all of our differing interpretations of the events of the movie you posted, it makes sense that we can't agree on that final sentence.
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msw188
Fri, Jan 5, 2018, 1:27am (UTC -5)
Re: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Hi Peter G,
I think we're going to end up simply agreeing to disagree, but I'll try to answer some of your points.

"In Ep 4, yes, he begins the hero's journey to beat the bad guys and learns to harness his power for the first time. However here's one divergence already: he doesn't, and *can't*, do it alone."
As I tried to point out, Rey has, in some sense, less to do with destroying the new station than Luke did with destroying the Death Star. So right, he can't do "it" alone and she can't either.

"[Luke's] stuck on the farm with no life..."
Being stuck on the farm sucks, a lot like being stuck scavenging for old rusty parts to get shitty green food from your asshole boss. Epi4 does a 'better' job showing Luke as frustrated though, because Luke is (much) more easily frustrated than Rey is - he's a borderline whiner on occasion. She's not. I don't think being less whiny than Luke makes you a "Mary Sue", any more than I think being more whiny than Rey makes you an "unlikable character". In any case, Epi7 has the great scene where we see Rey looking at the old woman cleaning the parts - Rey never whines like Luke, but she does see that she is potentially doomed to a shitty life. In some ways (not all ways!), that scene is more powerful than a lot of the early Luke stuff for me.

"... doesn't have the success his friends have had at the Imperial Academy (where, btw, he dreamt of joining!!)"
I don't remember it this way at all. In fact, I remember it much more as Luke's uncle guilting him into staying to help on the farm one more year - I don't think it's ever implied that Luke failed at the Academy while his friends succeeded. He just was never able to get a chance to leave home. So I never thought of this as a failure on Luke's part, just being in an unlucky situation.

Moving on to the Epi5/6 stuff, I can't argue there. Luke's character arc in those movies is much stronger, or at least deeper, than Rey's is in Epi7. But I think you are pushing some knowledge of Epi5/6 onto your claims about Epi4. I like Epi4 a lot, and I like Epi7 a lot, because I think both are pretty good versions of a simple "Hero's Journey". I think Epi4 has a bit more going for it in some ways, and I think Epi7 has a bit more going for it in other ways.

Interestingly, Epi8 does try to make sure that Rey, having been established as a hero in Epi7, is no longer 'destined to win'. In fact, she doesn't accomplish much of anything on her own in Epi8. All she really manages is turning down Kylo and escaping, much like Luke is only able to turn down Vader and escape in Epi5. But Epi5 made this the climax, and it was amazing. Epi8 put this kinda in the middle, and it loses some power that way. That's why I (and others) have been complaining about the plot structure of Epi8.
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msw188
Sat, Dec 30, 2017, 10:34am (UTC -5)
Re: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

So I watched Epi8 again yesterday, and I'm happy to say it felt better on a second watch. It still has all the problems, sure, but somehow the silly humor is more overlookable when it's no longer unpleasantly surprising you. The early stuff with Luke, which i was slightly iffy on the first time through, came off better for whatever reason. I still wish the movie was arranged so that the climax was more about Rey, but maybe knowing that that wouldn't be the case allowed me to get more into the actual climax of the film.

So yeah, I still stand by all of my earlier complaints, but I ended up taking in the positives more on the second pass - great Yoda, conflicted Luke, Rey genuinely in search of belonging, Kylo desperate to be able to 'let go'. And as I think everyone agrees, great visuals.
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msw188
Sat, Dec 23, 2017, 11:19pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Skarfles:
Even though I disagree about some of your specific examples, I agree on the whole - there is not enough political backstory in Epi7. I don't care why Snoke is in charge any more than I cared why the Emperor was in charge, but I do consider it a pretty serious flaw that, when the First Order blows up a bunch of planets, I have no clue what planets they were or why it matters. That whole sequence, with Huxy giving his silly hate-speech and them firing, and then even down to Finn being like "the First Order did it!" and somehow not immediately deciding to run away even faster, this is probably the worst few scenes in Epi7 for me. When I rewatched to get excited about Epi8, that was the point where I stepped away to get a bowl of ice cream. Luckily, the ice cream was delicious.
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msw188
Fri, Dec 22, 2017, 11:48am (UTC -5)
Re: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

J Fenzel,
Yes, I very much liked the Rey-Kylo ideas in Epi8. I just wish that this was used as the climax of the movie, rather than Luke-Kylo + Rey can lift rocks.

I will probably watch Epi8 again in a few days, and I'm looking forward to it. Maybe now that the dumb humor won't catch me off guard as much, I can sink my teeth more into some of the movie's ideas.
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msw188
Thu, Dec 21, 2017, 6:49pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

More:
I tried to work in some answers to some of your other points, but that whole post is already kinda disjointed and all kinds of long.

"I'll parenthetically mention also that Rey regularly exhibits borderline histrionic behavior including anger, despair, and other emotions that would mostly be categorized as dark side force use the way we're being shown it."
This is something I really found myself wishing that Epi8 focused on. Maybe would be too similar to Epi5 focusing on Luke's failings, but I think it would have been the more natural way to go. Because I agree with you - Epi7 Rey is young and emotional. She beats Kylo partly using hate, I'd say. Even though she has a 'good' reason to hate him, it's still a Dark Side kinda thing. I thought this was what Luke would focus on with her, but that it would be tough because he would have to admit that it was his hate that helped him beat Vader in Epi6. This seeming contradiction would lead Rey to question Luke, etc etc, hey let's write our own script for Epi8!

"In Star Wars we're supposed to be learning that 'wars not make one great.'"
Yeah I agree. Wasn't Rogue One pretty bad? But yeah, Epi7 doesn't have a lot to say on that score. Similarly to Epi4. Epi5 had a lot to say; Epi8 seems to be trying to say something new along these lines, but I'm not sure how successful it is. People who like Epi8 more than Epi7 can say Epi8 at least tries to say something new at all, while Epi7 doesn't have much new to say. And yeah, I agree with that to a large degree. But I think Epi7 says it's old things better than Epi8 says its new things, at least as of now.
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msw188
Thu, Dec 21, 2017, 6:33pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

To Peter G.
Yeah see, some things I just can't agree with:

"We're also later led to realize that Obi-Wan could appear to him any time, which suggests that he was receiving regular training from a force ghost. That's speculative, but since we don't see Luke even pick up a lightsaber for practice ever (like we see Rey do here) it seems unavoidable to conclude that he did so off-camera and that the story isn't about that."
I never got the feeling that Luke saw ghost-Obiwan pretty much ever, besides what we see onscreen. I also never got the feeling that Luke got extra practice with anything offscreen during Epi4. Between Epi4 and Epi5, maybe a little bit?

"it takes hard work and perseverance (and yes, training) to become better-tuned into life around us and to connect to reality."
Well, I half-agree with this. I get the sense from Luke's time with Yoda that it is the balance, control, and "connecting to reality" that is the difficult thing that takes perseverance and training to master. But I don't see why the same has to be true for flying/combat abilities. Epi4 Luke's already good enough to fly an X-Wing and channel the Force - beats Vader with Han's help. Epi7 Rey's already good enough to wield a lightsaber and channel the Force - beats Kylo with the Chewie's help (shot injured Kylo).

"You don't just end up a lightsaber duelist because you "believe" or because you grew up on a scrappy planet."
So what makes Epi4 Luke a 'better' pilot than the other rebels, to the point where he can make it through the trench and aim without his computer?

"But with Rey and Kylo in Ep 7 the skill is all there is to see because she doesn't go through any change during or after the fight"
This is the real problem. It's not really about whether Rey is good at using a lightsaber or not, and whether or not that somehow makes more or less sense than Luke being good in an Xwing. It's about whether or not you find the Rey-Kylo duel as a natural conclusion to an arc, or you just see an already infallible character continuing to be infallible. I don't think either of us will convince the other.

The pro-Rey crowd (me) will claim that we do have an arc here, and that it's similar to Epi4 Luke's. Kid with shitty life is forced into grander tale, finds out he/she is special, and by the end proves it to himself/herself. Neither ever really 'failed' at all that much, but the arc is about overcoming larger and larger obstacles and believing in yourself more and more, until you learn to trust yourself completely and use your newfound badassery to beat the final challenge. For Luke, this is taking Ben's advice to turn off the computer; for Rey, this is seeing the lightsaber 'choose' her. There is still some challenge from each such point (actually finishing the trench, or actually fighting injured Kylo), but is it really in any doubt beyond that point what the outcome will be?

But is Rey's badassery really "newfound"? A key point for me is that Rey is continually surprised. She's surprised that her and Finn manage to escape Jakku, she's surprised that Han wants to offer her a job, she's surprised when the mind-trick works, and holy shit the actress nails the look when the lightsaber flies into her hand. So the character journey is one of self-discovery, which is a small kind of change when compared to the amazing Epi5/Epi6 duels, but I'm going to claim it's not that far off from Epi4 trench.

On the other hand, the anti-Rey crowd might claim that her 'surprise' that I'm praising is stupid - why is she surprised to succeed when she never fails? It's just an infallible Disney character winning all the time! Or they might claim that they never get a believable sense of surprise out of her, because the script doesn't focus on this. It's a surprise, oh okay we did it let's get moving escape now hug later etc. I mean, yeah maybe sort of. But how much does Epi4 Luke really fail at things? What is he bad at? Barfights, yeah. And look, I'm not going to claim that Epi7 is better than Epi4. There's lots of things Epi4 does better than 7, regardless of originality. But I still like Epi7 and I still like Rey a lot.
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msw188
Wed, Dec 20, 2017, 1:10pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

To Jason R:
The only other thing I'll say about Rey's abilities is, I never saw Kylo as some kind of expert dark Jedi. I think Epi7 paints him as a spoiled brat who has the Force and is surrounded by people that don't. And he's insecure to boot. And of course, he's got the injury during the Finn and Rey duels. But yeah, it doesn't matter that much. A person will draw the line wherever.

As to Rey "carrying" the story... yeah she does. She is the main character for sure. But I don't think the secondary characters are useless. Might be another perception thing, I'm not sure. Early on, she and Finn have to work together (pilot plus shooter in the Falcon) to escape. It's Finn's idea to use the poisonous gas - okay this ends up being unnecessary, but I think it shows early that he works as a useful sidekick. I'll agree he's useless in that awful Rolly-monster sequence.

In the second half of the movie, I don't know. It's easy to say, Rey resisted Kylo on her own, she escaped the room on her own, and was hiding just fine, etc. On the other hand, one could say that Rey was stuck on the base until Finn and Han show up. Furthermore, unlike Luke in Epi4, Rey has almost nothing to do with blowing up the planet. Finn is the one who singles out Phasma to lower the shields (perhaps comparable to Kenobi disabling the tractor beam), Han's the one setting the explosives, and Poe is the one shooting the stuff. But I'll agree that all of this stuff is secondary to Rey besting Kylo. But hey, that's what they are. Secondary characters.

That was all about plot. As far as character, Finn's a bit of a blank slate. Not super compelling. And Poe is a bit of a caricature, also not super compelling. Compared to, say, Ben and Han and Leia in Epi4, they fall flat for sure. I'd say Epi8 does slightly more Finn, and a bit more with Poe, but still not anything great. In any case, both characters feel more 'fun' than interesting, per se. But at the very least, I think they both feel human, with genuine feelings and emotions. This is better than the Prequels (which yeah I know, isn't really saying a whole lot).

To Tornado:
A friend of mine brought this up in connection with Finn's reaction to Rose's kiss. But I kinda wasn't buying it. I think you're right - Finn is portrayed as just a normal dude. It doesn't bother me personally all that much, maybe because we never really see how any other storm trooper acts. I'm also not sure if they're conditioned to be 'killing machines', or just obedient (after all, they're notoriously bad at killing if a character has a name). But mostly I think this is a case where the 'fun' factor is more important than the 'logic' factor. Happens throughout movies, and again it's where you draw your own line I guess. For me, this is overlookable.
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msw188
Tue, Dec 19, 2017, 7:41pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Sorry for the double post, just wanted to add:
What about Leia? Nobody 'teaches' her about the Force in Epi4/5/6, but no one questions it when she's able to feel Luke calling out to her. More than that, she knows roughly where to go. I'm going to claim that that moment in Epi5 is awesome. It's just so cool to me that she didn't need Ben Kenobi, she didn't need Yoda, fuck it when the time comes, it just happens. She can find Luke. Rey is that concept taken to the next level. But I can understand people who feel that Rey takes it too far. I'm just not one of those people. Maybe it helps that, like with Leia, I get the sense in Epi7 that she never grasps precisely what she has done. She's still missing "control, control, you must learn control!" At least I manage to get that out of it - the scene with the stormtrooper kinda contradicts this I know.
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msw188
Tue, Dec 19, 2017, 7:31pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

To Jason R:
Yeah I guess it's just a matter of perception in the end. I never saw Phasma as 'played up' during the movie, mainly because in my opinion, she never did anything! As opposed to Boba Fett who was actually clever enough to catch on to Han. Similarly with Snoke, I never got the feeling that Epi7 was 'playing him up' either, although it seems at least half the internet disagrees with me.

On Rey's Force abilities, I understand the Epi7 criticisms here, but I don't buy them. I guess it's all a matter of where you draw the line on magic having rules. Like, okay, we've seen Jedi in the past require training. But wait, have we really? Luke has the session with the ball, but even then Ben doesn't 'teach' him how to do it, just says to believe and then he can do it. He gets to the trench, Vader knows Luke's got the Force rolling with him, but Ben certainly never 'taught' him how to channel the Force while flying. It just happens. No one 'teaches' him how to call the lightsaber to himself in the ice cave. When we get to Yoda, there's a tangible sense that Luke's training is about belief more than 'how'. So what are the rules on begin good at using the Force?

HOWEVER it is certainly true that Luke needs help in believing. And maybe that's the reason some people don't like Rey - she doesn't need that help. She basically already wants to believe. And epi7 makes it out like, as soon as she starts believing in the stories, she can do them. And I was fine with this, and definitely did not expect some kind of 'explanation' for it. I don't think it contradicts any previous 'rules' of the Force. But I understand people disagreeing on this, especially if they took the Prequels' version of 'training' to heart (YUCK).

As for calling her a "Mary Sue", um I guess sort of? Like yeah, she doesn't have any serious flaws in Epi7. But I still think she has personality and spunk. And she selflessly tries her best to do the right thing most of the time (like Luke). Maybe most importantly, in my opinion the actress has charisma. All this is enough for me to enjoy her and root for her. It's infectious seeing how excited she gets at the thought that Han Solo will offer her a job. Like, after all the bullshit thus far, that's the most exciting thing for her! A job!
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msw188
Tue, Dec 19, 2017, 12:37pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

To Jason R:
Maybe we just have entirely different views of what constitutes build-up. For instance, you seem to take casting into account, while I do not. Del Toro and Dern were cast into this movie - should we assume that their characters have 'more to them than meets the eye'? I don't think so. But you said you wouldn't watch this movie, so maybe I shouldn't use them as examples.

I don't want to sound like I'm repeating myself too much. You assign importance to Snoke based on his appearance in Epi7 (and his casting) - I disagree. I don't find him any more mysterious in Epi7 than I found the Emperor in Epi5. Crucially, to me, no one questions the history/identity of either the Emperor or Snoke. Instead of comparing to the Emperor, you seem to compare him to Darth Vader, which I think is way off the mark based on his actual usage in Epi7. But maybe that's just me.

Or are you comparing Phasma to Darth Vader? If this is the case, I just can't see it at all. Phasma does almost nothing in Epi7, in my opinion. Even killing the villagers in the beginning is Kylo's command, not hers. She makes Finn put his helmet back on. Basically, she's a crappy boss for Finn to hate. Still, my original Tarkin comparison might not have been great. Maybe better would be Boba Fett. He 'looks' different and maybe mysterious. He maybe has some sort of grudge against Solo, or maybe he's just a bounty hunter doing his job? Like Phasma maybe has a grudge against Finn, or maybe she's just his boss doing her job? I'm curious if people think of Boba Fett's unceremonious death in Jedi as some kind of let down, as though we expected his character to 'mean something'.

"It's like Chekov's gun. It's just basic, elementary storytelling. It would be like if Darth Vader was gunned down halfway through ANH. Utterly pointless. A waste of tbe audience's time and an insult to their intelligence."

I'm not sure how to answer this. Maybe there's a reason it's called Chekov's gun, not Chekov's gunman. If the identity and backstory of every character who showed up was important and/or somehow tied to the main plot of the story, the characters very quickly become less believable as people. Like, Han Solo is believable as a character partly because his past is unexplained. The Kessel Run is not important to the main story! (In case it's not clear, I'm not looking forward to the solo Solo movie.) I'm claiming that Snoke/Emperor have clear purpose in the story, and that this purpose has nothing to do with their 'identity' or their past. I'm also claiming that Phasma sucks because her purpose is weak, and she has no personality to go along with it. I think that's different from claiming that the movie hints that she's a mystery and then fails to deliver.

For what it's worth, I DO think that Epi7 sets up some mysteries, and that some of these have so far failed to be delivered upon. The main one that comes to mind is how Luke's lightsaber was found. Another might be Rey's parentage, although I would like it if the answer of Epi8 IS the answer. Another might be the origins of the map to Luke, which I don't think they're ever going to address. In my mind, it's like there were people all over trying to find him, piecing together his path based on where he had been seen last - I don't think we're supposed to assume that Luke himself made the map. But the movie is very unclear on this.
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msw188
Mon, Dec 18, 2017, 12:30pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

In reply to Cmdr Jameson:
See, I think Epi7 had a handful of "magical" moments along similar lines as the originals. And they were about the new characters, not nostalgia with the old. Lightsaber choosing Rey. Kylo 'thanking' dad. Little things like Rey getting super excited about a job offer - silly but fun. You could complain that it's more stale and predictable this time around, which yeah I get it, but I think Epi7 really had its heart in the right place with a lot of this.

In Epi8, I tend to agree with you a bit more. However, see below.

In reply to B Adams:
I agree 100% about the plot structure. However, I disagree about "so much buildup" with the dead characters. I mean, take Snoke. Who cared in-movie who he was? Who cared in-movie who the Emperor was in the originals? Both characters are just plot devices, existing to advance the actual main characters (Luke and Vader / Rey and Ben). I'd say they both succeeded at this, but the Emperor was better because he had a bit more time to be a true asshole to Luke, and his death was, rightfully, a major part of the climax of his film (plot structure indeed).

Phasma is a dumb character for sure, but I don't think there was any sense of "buildup" in-movie about this character. She's just another jerk for the good guys to beat up. I guess kind of like GM Tarkin, but with way less personality? Nobody cared who Tarkin was back in the originals, and I'm gonna claim Phasma is no more 'mysterious' than he was.

All of this leads me to an obvious point that I'm sure others have talked about, but it's really hitting home now for me. THE INTERNET MAKES IT HARDER TO ENJOY SERIAL MOVIES. Like, it was only people on the internet that made Snoke out to have some kind of mysterious identity / past / etc etc. With so many people making textual 'predictions/theories' about various characters, it's easy to forget that, in the movie's universe, there was no build-up or mystery at all.

I mean look, if the original Star Wars and Empire were released today, would people go to town on theories? "Who is the Emperor?" "Where does Lando come from?" "When will we finally learn more about Wedge?" "Who is Boba Fett????"
"Obviously Leia is someone important too..." Okay so that last one would have been right. But would people have complained after Return of the Jedi, that so many characters were "built up" and then wasted? But they weren't built up! Boba Fett just came in and did his thing! Same with Lando. Like, I don't care who Maz Kanata is! But I do want to know how she got the lightsaber, and apparently Epi7 did too (I assume they wouldn't have Han ask if they didn't mean to return to this at some point). It would have been nice to address this in Epi8, but maybe it will happen in Epi9.
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msw188
Sun, Dec 17, 2017, 12:16pm (UTC -5)
Re: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Overall, this wasn't as good as Force Awakens for me. See, in Epi7 there's a clear (recycled, but I don't care) character arc for Rey. We see how shitty her life was on Jakku, we see her get caught up in other people's bullshit, then we see her become awesome. Maybe too easily, but I don't care. The movie's big moment for Han is big for sure, but is arranged so that the true climax is really Rey vs Kylo. These are the new characters, the ones who really matter. And holy shit, the light saber choosing her (with music to match) is just an awesome moment.

As opposed to Epi8, where the Rey vs Kylo vs Snoke moment is pretty great, but it's sort of in the middle? And afterwards Rey kind of barely matters? Her stuff with Luke, with Kylo, in the end it's irrelevant, she just has to do some flying and then move some rocks. I mean, she does a good job moving the rocks, sure.

You could say that Rey isn't really the main character here, it's all about Ben and fleshing out good and bad with some of the ancillary characters. Which okay, that's not terrible. And I don't think the movie's terrible at all. I think I liked a lot of the ideas, but the overall package and execution wasn't working for me. Examples:

(+) I really love the idea of the Luke fakeout at the end. But there were so many little problems:
(-) Making it the climax (see above)
(-) Why was Poe the one to recognize it was a distraction? I get that he was supposed to have learned his lesson, but shouldn't Leia be the one to make the declaration, then maybe Poe quietly realizes she's right?
(-) Did Luke guess, or know, that there was another exit? Maybe he had a great scene beforehand talking to one of those crystal-fox things.

(+) I really love the idea of the turnaround that the lady rebel wasn't actually an asshole, and Poe was in the wrong. But there were so many little problems:
(-) Was it ever made clear why she didn't tell Poe what was happening, especially once he took armed control?
(-) As cool as this turnaround is, it kinda invalidates all the Finn and Rose stuff from a plot standpoint.
(-) Stock complaint about lightspeed ramming not being a thing until it's a thing.

(+) I love the idea of Finn meeting someone like him, and then seeing the concept of the rebellion take shape 'out there'. I also like the idea of characters honestly trying to make things better, but inadvertently making them worse. But there were so many little problems:
(-) Do Finn and Rose ever actually realize they're the ones who made things worse?
(-) The casino was a kinda boring environment; their 'adventures' there didn't work for me.
(-) Why is Phasma?
(+) BONUS POSITIVE I liked the kiss scene though. Like, she's dying, could give a fuck, and just goes for it. And he's just totally surprised.

Another unfortunate bit was that the humor was a bit more 'noticeable', but was missing as often as hitting for me.

I guess I don't know how I feel about it overall. I do like that this one feels like it takes some chances here and there. A handful of great scenes, and some good ideas in the background. But too much silly humor, too many 'nick of time' saves, too many endings, and not enough of Rey mattering.

Some great Leia though! I loved watching her give Poe a look then shooting him like the dumbass he is. And I like Poe! It's really too bad that we won't get to see Leia anymore moving forward.
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msw188
Thu, Jul 23, 2015, 12:19pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: Darmok

Luke,
First, I just wanted to say I've enjoyed reading your reviews of TNG, even though I have close to the opposite opinion of yours of what makes Trek special.

Anyways, I think you're a bit harsh on the premise of this episode. You claim the idea would require the entire Tamarian race to be familiar with precisely the same stories. But perhaps other Tamarians exist who are not familiar with these stories. They just couldn't communicate as easily with the Tamarians we meet. But even though Picard has no idea about the specific stories, once he understands the concept, he is able to communicate simply enough.

Perhaps all Tamarians descended from a single community that never split off in ways similar to humanity. Perhaps their 'scientific' communication (to build a ship, etc) is handled purely symbolically/mathematically. We even see a hint of this when Picard looks at Dathon's record book.

None of this makes real sense when you probe for the details. But in my opinion, that's true of the vast majority of Trek. At the very least, the idea of the Universal Translator itself is far more difficult to swallow to me. But we allow it because it allows compelling stories to be told. Same with the political and military structure/scale of basically any of the 'majors' (Federation, Klingons, Romulans, etc).

In general, I think good fantasy/scifi fiction needs a premise. I think most fans of these genres have to be lenient on the premise. Then good stories feel as though they flow naturally/logically from said premise. I think this episode takes an admittedly absurd premise and runs with it in the best possible way. Even in the small details that remain unexplained, like Dathon's nighttime ritual.

All that said, I suppose 8/10 is a fair score to someone who values the 'world-building' of vast political/cultural landscapes over the concept of seeking out and trying to understand the unknown.
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msw188
Sun, Mar 1, 2015, 10:36am (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: Redemption, Part II

Data: "Perhaps she should try a different job."

In all seriousness though, I enjoy Crosby as Sela. In my opinion, she's better off playing an impatient, overconfident alien jerk than she is playing a human with complicated, conflicting emotions (Yesterday's Enterprise). Her whining about Vulcans in Unification2 is one of my favorite scenes in the series. 'Funny because it's sort of true', works for me because of Crosby's delivery as much as because of the writing.
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msw188
Sun, Feb 1, 2015, 4:23pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Let He Who Is Without Sin...

Jokes aside, I will respond to:
"they are not a form of artistic expression the way a good TV show or film can be."

"Spectator sports really are the distillation of the human tendency to put undue importance on competition that has no productive end result."

I think there is some truth to both these statements, but some oversimplification as well. At the highest levels of sports, I will claim that there are moments of beauty and artistry. The best players in any sport will have those moments on the ice (or the field, I guess) where their physical skills and intelligence seem so fine-tuned to the task at hand that they are able to make something seemingly magical happen, something that feels unique and impossible to either preconceive or replicate. This isn't so different from our usual notions about art (especially music). We cannot quite quantify what it is about the piece (or the play on the ice) that so moves us, but somehow we feel that something special, maybe even something genius, was achieved.

What separates sport is that the beauty is at least partially derived from the fierce competition of the opponent.
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msw188
Sun, Feb 1, 2015, 3:56pm (UTC -5)
Re: DS9 S5: Let He Who Is Without Sin...

Haha, where did all this come from? I'll just be a jerk and list all the boring things about all sports in the US:
baseball - everything... I will say it feels pretty unique though
basketball - basically everything, can't hit people, players can call timeout midplay...?
football - too much stopping and starting, feels custom-designed for television replay and midday naps
soccer - too much ground is covered too slowly, might be better if the field were a bit more compact and had boards to lower the amount of stops due to 'out of bounds'... also would be improved by more body blows, substitutions midplay (to allow higher frequency of 'all-out' physical play), and being played on ice, preferably with sticks and a puck, making it faster without losing the thrill and beauty of scoring a relatively rare goal

I think that covers all boring sports with major coverage in the US. :)
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msw188
Thu, Jan 8, 2015, 9:11pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: I, Borg

Skeptical,
We're all saying basically the same things at this point, I think. Allow me some defense of my 'logic'; really of my lazy oversimplifications.

My point(1) used the word "machine" in the singular for a reason. My claim is that previous episodes presented the Borg as a single entity, from which individuals cannot be 'saved' or reasoned with ever (not just at present). This isn't entirely true, since they do 'save' Picard after all. But I still maintain there is a difference; Locutus offers no reasoning and no 'real' individuality until after he considers himself Picard again.

So, if point(1) is 'strengthened' in this sense, I still stand by what I'm saying. Point(4) contradicts the 'eternal singularity' of the Borg entity. At least, I think this is the writers' intent. Thus we have the key scene where Picard almost cannot believe Hugh's behavior. This says to me that, prior to that conversation, Picard believed the 'strengthened' point(1), and was astounded to find Hugh contradicting this.

All that said, you are correct that this does not change the present state of the Borg threat. And for that reason, Picard's choice may still be viewed as wrong. But I deny the claim that Picard's choice, after the writers reinvent the possibilities of future communication with the Borg, is easy.

The Nazi Germany example is also difficult. The Allies knew they had to stop Nazi Germany, but 'at all costs' is questionable. If another time traveler handed the 1940 Allies a magic button that would immediately eradicate all Germans from existence, is the choice to use said button easy?
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msw188
Wed, Jan 7, 2015, 4:36pm (UTC -5)
Re: TNG S5: I, Borg

DLPB,
But see, the writers here don't force their views via Picard. Instead they force their views by changing the rules of the Borg by introducing 3of5. You yourself say it - it's the existence of Hugh that is the sign of the writers' opinions. Picard the character can't ignore in-universe facts that the writers force into his view. Again, all I'm saying here is that, once the writers 'retcon' the concept of the Borg, as you put it, Picard's decision can no longer be the simple one you would like to see. But that's the fault of the retconning, not the fault of Picard's decision-making.

A better example of what you're claiming to dislike about TNG (writers' liberal/idealistic tendencies coloring Picard's decision-making) would probably be the Crystalline Entity episode, which to be honest I don't remember very well.
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