Forget the Election - Did Russia Hack the Star Wars Reviews? *No Spoilers*

I'm not a conspiracy theorist - I promise, but after watching Star Wars: The Last Jedi, leaving feeling quietly disappointed, and then scrolling through IMDB, I think we have a bigger problem on our hands than Trump.

As of this moment, on 12/17/17, 1:03PM CST, Rotten Tomatoes has the film at a 93%, and IMDB at an 8/10.

At best, this film is a 5, but more concerning are the hundreds of IMDB user reviews that rate the film at 1 star in a seemingly useless attempt to bring the film down from it's 8/10 slot. So far, the collective effort has been futile (much like the many of the film's own plot points). 

Who is rating this film so highly that dedicated IMDB reviewers can't force the site to accurately reflect true audience opinion? Putin? Disney? The Snope-level evil behind the repeal of net neutrality? REVEAL YOURSELF.

The Last Jedi is the Very Last Thing We Needed

Look, I'm not going to harp on the frustration of seeing a film completely inaccurately rated without relating my own reasons for disliking it. 

1. Han Solo is Dead: but the script-writers are lost without a Han Solo-esque character to deliver pointed quips at the exact-right-but-wrong moment. Their solution? Everyone is dropping one-liners, all of the time. We're not sure who's supposed to take Solo's place as a tension-breaker, since everyone from Finn to Rey to Poe to Leia to Luke to new character Rose, takes a turn ramping up their swagger and dropping an unfunny catch-phrase at the expected times. The result is a film that is too highly aware of itself, and falls into the pit of bland, predictable humor many Marvel movies have found themselves in - looking at you, Thor Ragnarok.

Yes, audiences appreciate a well-timed joke, which the first Guardians of the Galaxy popularized and did so well. They do not appreciate script-writers taking every opportunity to add a punchline. The best jokes are unexpected and fresh; when you have Finn shouting "need a ride?" in the midst of a battle scene, it is both stale and unsurprising. 

You cannot replicate of the style of Guardians of the Galaxy without paying homage to the greater emotional spectrum which Star Wars was built on. We're talking about the ultimate battle between good and evil, here! Occasionally, we're going to need a moment to absorb the extreme stakes our heroes are supposed to be fighting for. 

If Rian Johnson had directed Revenge of the Sith:

Padme:  Anakin, you're breaking my heart. You're going down a path I can't follow.

Anakin: What if we use my light saber as a night-light?  

2. Overall, the script and the acting are out of place in a modern film. Imagine your favorite classic movie, take those actors and copy and paste them into any current film of your choice. Preferably one that you liked.  Does it work? Probably not.

For the same reason, the style of acting put forth by many Last Jedi characters feels stiff and outdated. I'm not sure if this was an attempt to elicit nostalgia from fans, but if so, it failed. I think Star Wars should have looked to more recent 007 films to study respectful nostalgia vs uncomfortable imitation. Actresses in newer Bond films no longer swoon and deliver unfortunate lines about love while 007 looks mysteriously away, off screen, into what we can assume is the image of ultimate masculine freedom. 

These melodramatic "kiss-me-before-I-die" scenes are rampant in the latest Star Wars installment. And so, I must repeat: this is not the 1970s. Both the physical and verbal vernacular in films has changed - which shouldn't be an issue, since we've moved forward in time within the Star Wars universe as well! 

To summarize: clunky scene changes that hearken back to the original trilogy are fine, and appreciated. Scenes which forgo a modern audience's ability to keep pace with nuanced characters and more subtle acting are not.

So now we've created a soupy disaster of melodramatic scenes broken by predictable jokes. What could be worse?

3. The plot goes nowhere, and neither do the characters. 

It's difficult to get into detail about this problem without revealing plot points, but I'll do my best. For those who haven't seen the film, maybe just read this part later.

There is almost zero character growth. Kylo Ren has the best go at it, but even he flips between lonely, torn-apart, abandoned boy and angry, hurt boy obsessed with power. 

Ray remains a hapless do-gooder whose lack of understanding regarding the force is routinely fixed with a snap of the mental-fingers and a dependency on inexplicably honed powers.

Finn maintains much of the same internal dilemma and fear of the First Order as he did throughout the Force Awakens, then has an adventure in a pointless side plot which reveals what he already knew: the First Order is very evil, and a lot of people really suck.

Poe is sort-of taught the never before heard of lesson that "true leaders aren't trigger happy." This lesson is briefly displayed in the final battle scene, when he opts to steer away from obvious suicide. Smart move, Poe.

Luke is a grumpy and near-idiotic version of himself who has gone from multi-faceted to singularly determined to do nothing. 

There are others, but I won't gain much by pointing out they similarly accomplish very little. At the end of the film, we are in a nearly identical position to the one we started in. None of the characters surprise us, or show enough growth to make the last 2.5 hours of film worth anything.

While there are some backstory reveals, they are minimal and unsatisfactory. Their revelation does nothing to deepen our understanding of main characters, and in fact trivializes many of their journeys. I began to internally debate who had the flimsiest justifications for current actions - Luke, Kylo, or Finn.

At the end of the day, only Leia stayed true to herself and embraced her latest leadership role, though her army sure gives her little reason to do so by involving themselves in uninteresting quibbles and frequent shit-the-bed mentalities. As for anyone questioning her newly-discovered powers, she's had years to practice. Luke had to have taught her something during all that time before he succeeded in raising the next super villian. Plus, if that's what you're focused on while Rey routinely continues to best Jedi masters that are supposedly light years beyond her, then you need to reevaluate your concerns about this film.

My hopes for the third film in this trilogy? Not high. But I'm guessing that, at a minimum, Rian's going to need about 4 hours of material, and the continued help of Russia's rating hackers, to clean up the mess he's made here. 

 

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