The Last Jedi

For those who have seen it, and for those who don't mind spoilers, a review.

Spoilers are likely in the comments, so if you don't want them, stay out of the comments.


Unknown said...

The whole family saw it on Saturday, mostly for my youngest just turned 11. I was never that "into" Star Wars, always preferred Star Trek. Seeing the new movies has therefore been more of a family event for the kids.

I thought Force Awakens was horrible, enjoyed Rogue One, thought Last Jedi was horrible.

As we walked out of the theater, I remarked to my wife that I keep hoping Star Wars will mature with its original audience, but it instead stays focused on the current generation of kids. I can respect that, even though it disappoints me. How great it could be if it matched the growth of Battlestar Galactica from the original to the reboot, but it seems that won't happen. It is what it is.

A movie with the depth of writing of the game KOTOR II would be heavenly, instead we get very tired reflections of the original films with all the moral clarity washed out into self-doubting shades of grey. Instead of bold and grand, they are trite nihilistic screeds more akin to navel-gazing teenage angst fiction but with special effects galore to keep the pre-teens entertained.

When I need a fix of good Star Wars - the Force, Jedi & Sith religion, and light/dark philosophical exploration I will play through KOTOR II again for the umpteenth time. When my youngest needs cool eye-candy and bizarre creatures to gawk at, we'll watch the latest Star Wars movie.

Grim said...

I thought it was better than I expected. The scene in which Yoda destroys the Jedi altar (and all its founding texts) represents a commitment to Zen Buddhism. That's authentic to the Jedi, whose lightsabers are an expression of Kendo. Nothing that anyone has said is of much importance; what matters is the experience you can have, right here, right now.

What I find of special interest is that Rey is much more like a Sith than they've advertised so far -- passion is the core characteristic of a Sith. Ben Solo / Kylo Ren is far more reflective, drawing out principles from his experience. That's much more like the Jedi, but he's presented as the evil character and she the good. Only time will tell if they are sophisticated enough to be drawing a philosophical criticism of what came before, or if they are simply defaulting to the SJW "man bad / woman good" mode.

But I think we have reason to hope. The new movie undertakes an examination of everything it inherited. It has its SJW moments -- purple haired Vice Admiral who is right about everything -- but it's not one sided. We'll have to see.

Unknown said...

I saw the destruction of the texts in a far less flattering light - that of the intellectually-capable but lazy student that decides they can just figure stuff out for themselves instead of learning from the past. Of a piece with don't trust anyone over thirty - and a reflection of the liberal disdain for the constitution. "Its just junk written by old dead guys, who needs it?" Better to just burn it and go with what we feel like doing, man.

The giveaway for me was the line where Luke admits he never even read them - this the supposed last Master couldn't be bothered to actually read the wisdom of the founders of the order he dedicated his adult life to. Like monks actually read the Bible, right?

As to the admiral and the pilot, that was one more liberal swipe at Tailhook which the wicked witch from the sixth district herself couldn't have written better.

As for SJWism, on the "good" guy side (the Rebels) we had two elderly females that were always right and in command, one young female that is the superstar at everything she does, then a stupid while male pilot that disobeys orders and is a mutineer, another white guy that is a criminal, a backstabber, and the betrayer of the hero black guy and his sidekick the heavy asian female. Lastly we have the elderly white guy that won't help anyone, and by-the-way he tried to murder his nephew and pupil in his sleep. The rich and affluent are only rich because they sell evil scary weapons and thus totes obviously the most heinous people in the galaxy. On the bad guy side, everyone is a white male. Again, obviously. Except for the man-sized white female that is always encased in armor and never actually seen as a female.

Did I miss anything? :)

Grim said...

It's kind of winked-at whether he read the things or not. There's a key point of dissent between Zen and Western Philosophy here: but the movie comes down on Zen's side, as it should given the way that the movies' philosophy has been set up. Kill the Buddha on the road, that sort of thing.

I also notice that the man works out as right even if the elderly women are in charge. The Dreadnought is destroyed at the cost of a few fighters and bombers -- Leia makes a big deal about the loss of life, but anyone who knows WWII history will see that this was a good deal. Leia and the other woman agree that they like the man although they can't be bothered to explain themselves to him. And in the end, it's him Leia authorizes as the final leader of the remnant: "Why are you looking at me? Follow him."

So I don't know. It's more sophisticated than I expected, and that's potentially good. The next installment may spoil it, but it isn't spoiled yet.

E Hines said...

I watched the first Star Wars movie to come out, and I thought it a good adventure/action story. So was Independence Day (I have got to get me one of these). Such movies, though, don't typically have decent sequels, and so I haven't bothered to drop the several dimes today's movies want in theaters (which also are too loud to suit me, anymore).

I'll wait until they hit the On Demand selections of my cable TV.

Eric Hines

Unknown said...

RE: Rey being more Sith-like

She's a force prodigy with no Jedi training, so it seems natural that she would not have the control expected of a light-side character. She does what works in the moment, demonstrating the danger of ignorance which was exalted by the burning of the texts.

The utility of the dark side was the lure, the wisdom of the Jedi was the counter. Luke and Yoda burned the wisdom. If we are to believe the movies, the only extant force user with Jedi training is now Kylo.

MikeD said...

Wow, so much here to address. I watched the movie Sunday and saw none of what bothered you about TLJ, Krag. I mean, obviously we saw the same film, but I didn't see any of that filter that you saw. Yes, Poe Dameron got chewed out for disobeying orders to destroy the dreadnought, but that is as it should be. Just because a commander succeeds doesn't give him the right to disobey orders. And I was given the feeling Leia had busted him down before for similar stunts. Her harping on the loss of life was more to remind Dameron that his actions don't just put his life at risk, and that as a good commander he ought to consider that in his calculations. Ultimately, his decision was the right one, and that's probably why she doesn't lock him up.

The Laura Dern Vice Admiral character I saw as being ridiculously flawed, but ultimately right. She was foolish not to share her plans with everyone ("trust me, I know what I'm doing" is probably the LEAST inspiring message any leader can deliver in lieu of actual plans), but at the end of the day, Poe was wrong and no flag officer is ever going to sit down with a line officer and explain what their plans are. And why should she? In what way would someone in her position be obligated to explain themselves to someone in his? Gender be damned, I'd feel exactly the same way about a female officer demanding such information out of a male commander. And I'm actually glad they subverted the trope of "having to go behind the boss' back to save the day". I like being surprised in films; it happens so rarely. I fully admit, up until Poe and Finn's plan fell apart, I actually suspected the Vice Admiral was a First Order plant.

And while I absolutely admit the whole Benicio Del Toro* part was probably unnecessary to the plot and dragged on a little long, I found the part refreshingly nuanced for Star Wars. Rather than everything being a childish "good guys" and "bad guys" (the outlook of both Rose and Finn) his character provided an adult nuanced view that things are always more complicated. The arms dealer whose ship they stole indeed sold arms to "the bad guys", but he also supplied arms to "the good guys" and Benicio's character even points this out for case anyone missed it.

* The actor named Benicio Monserrate Rafael del Toro Sánchez who you label as "another white guy that is a criminal, a backstabber, and the betrayer of the hero black guy and his sidekick the heavy asian female"... I wasn't aware that Puerto Ricans were considered "white" now.

Unknown said...

RE: I wasn't aware that Puerto Ricans were considered "white" now.

Not really a "now" thing, but an "always" thing. Unless there is some odd racial classification system that doesn't include Spanish Europeans as "white"?

Grim said...

I have no use for racial classification systems, but this is an unclear point for those who like them. Spaniards are sometimes called "swarthy," which is a Germanic word that translates as something like "black-ish." Not black exactly, but sort of "-ish." It's one of those hard cases that shows how weak these systems are.

I suspect that Puerto Ricans have a strong sense of ethnic identity, though. All the ones I've known have had.

Unknown said...

Regarding races, you present a body with soft tissue in relatively good shape an undergrad can tell you if its white, black, or asian pretty quickly. If you have blood you can then distinguish pacific islander and Amerind. If you have DNA it gets very simple with no ambiguity.

As to Puerto Ricans in particular, the local Amerinds died off almost too quickly for much interbreeding with the Spanish. Later immigration from the Carribean to PR brought new populations of Amerinds and mixed race groups. Puerto Ricans with long family records are usually quite proud to show their ancestry tracked back to Spain itself.

Del Toro is himself a Spanish citizen, so that would suggest strong familial ties to Europe and a primarily Spanish, rather than mixed, heritage.

For what all that is worth. I think I was taken a little too seriously with my SJWism paragraph, however. That was my very cynical view of the movie through SJW glasses, after Grim himself mentioned the topic. My dislike of the movie stands on grounds far removed from SJW identity politics.

MikeD said...

Like Grim, I never much cared for the idea that race was useful for anything other than a simple descriptor (like "blonde" or "tall"), but it seems to matter mostly to old time (Civil Rights Era) laws and modern liberals, almost to the exclusion of all else. Until George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin and became the world's first "white Hispanic", Hispanics were always considered minorities and "non-white" by most racial bean counters. Puerto Ricans are pretty much universally considered "Hispanic" and not "European". I'm quite sure that prior to Virginia v. Loving, a white person could not legally marry a Hispanic in much of the country. So to consider a Puerto Rican "white" (again, for those who feel such is terribly important, for whatever reason) would basically require the same mental gymnastics that states that Barack Obama (who is half white) is authentically African-American, but George Zimmerman (who is half white) is a racist white person and not a minority at all.

Oh, and I recommend against calling a Puerto Rican a "Spaniard" to their face. It's pretty much considered an insult.

Grim said...

Heh. I'm not trying to insult anybody; I was just examining the question you two were raising about racial classification.

The only good thing I have to say about racism is that Robert E. Howard used it to powerful effect in his storytelling. I'm a big fan of his, and so to some degree I can see the value in it as an explanatory vehicle. But I think of it just that way: as a kind of story that we tell ourselves. Of course the story makes sense -- that's what stories are for, making sense of things. That doesn't mean it isn't a story. It makes sense just because it's a story.

Unknown said...

@MikeD, Hispanic is not a *race* in any biological or genetic context, including the US census. Biologically you have the big five, which is really the big three with two late isolation offshoots (Amerind and Pacific Islander). Genetically you have the big three (White - H.Neanderthal mutts, Asian - H.Neanderthal and Denisovian mutts, and Black - no Neanderthal or Denisovian DNA).

RE: "Oh, and I recommend against calling a Puerto Rican a "Spaniard" to their face. It's pretty much considered an insult."

I find that quite odd, as I'm married to a woman whose mother was Puerto Rican, and still has quite a bit of family on the island. Certainly not an insult to any folks I know of that actually live there. Certainly not an insult to Del Toro himself as he is a Puerto Rican with Spanish citizenship he sought out as an adult....

Grim said...

Let's not turn this into an opportunity to explore what might cause offense, gentlemen. It's Christmas; let's be charitable with each other.

MikeD said...

I had no such ill intent, Grim, and I do hope you and Krag will forgive my ineloquence if such was taken. It had just been my experience in the past (which is never to be confused with "true for all situations" as Krag so politely reminded me), but I meant it only as a tongue-in-cheek attempt at wit. I apologize for it giving any offense.

Unknown said...

If my 'mutt' remark was the cause of your concern Grim, I apologize. I use the term endearingly for both my dog and my kids - my kids are (as far as we know, which is pretty far back) 1/4 Scottish, 1/4 Irish, 1/4 German, and 1/4 Spanish. When they each first asked what their ancestry was, my standard answer was "we are American mutts". We have no idea what mix our dog is, just that he's awesome and beautiful to look at.

I forget that not everyone views the term in the same positive light. Per my previous post, I happily call *myself* a H.Sapiens-H.Neaderthal mutt, and a Scottish/Irish mutt. Apologies for using the term without context first.

Grim said...

I wasn't thinking of any specific word, just a sense that we might be drifting towards personalizing the discussion in a way that could be explosive. I appreciate your mutual willingness to de-escalate.

Unknown said...

To return to topic, yet not risk derailing the second post about the movie:

These two quotes speak to what I was feeling as I watched the burning of the Jedi texts, and the repeated refrain to destroy the past from various characters:

both quotes from-

"Ironically, while postmodernism has posed itself as the great opponent of rationalist scientism, it shares the same basic impulse: Both have risen to dominance in the university in conformity with the modern definition of freedom as the emancipation of the will. In the humanities, this belief today takes the form of radical emancipatory theory that focuses on destroying all forms of hierarchy, tradition, and authority and making the enshrinement of the human will the aim of education."


"Liberalism further undermines education by replacing education in self-government with education that becomes a means to realizing autonomy, understood most saliently as the absence of constraint. In the humanities, liberatory movements based on claims of identity regard the past as a repository of oppression, and hence demand the displacement of the very object the humanities had come into existence to convey and to study."

I find this especially poignant as the Sith/Jedi split was usually described as an issue of emotions - the Sith embraced emotion as fuel for the utility of the dark side, the Jedi embraced non-emotion to allow sober use of power that took heed of second and third order effects resulting from that power.

The message of the movie is that now everyone (meaning Yoda, as icon of tradition, and Luke as failed neo-traditionalist) agrees with the Sith that everyone should do what they want, consequences be damned. The whole premise that the dark side seduced force users through its easy grant of power and loose moral thresholds is discarded. I think the writer/director just really didn't like Star Wars itself.

What kept Star Wars in my good graces was its retelling of Chivralic ideals and even some Christian themes in a positive light. Without that slim thread of a redeeming feature, Star Wars has nothing to offer me personally.

Grim said...

So, over against that I'd argue that the Jedi philosophy is not really a Western philosophy at all. It's a variation of Zen Buddhism, naturally enough in that the Jedi themselves are adapted from Japanese warrior-monks (who were Zen Buddhists). Everything from the kendo that was the original lightsaber techniques to the asceticism, the "let go and reach out," the 'connection between all life,' the sense that it was a kind of nothing that was also the source of everything -- these are all facets of Zen Buddhism, as freely interpreted by 1970s dope-smoking Hollywood.

If the Jedi were Western, your interpretation might be right. In Buddhism, though, attachment (of any kind) is the key philosophical problem. Zen Buddhists in particular think that the pursuit of enlightenment must entail, at last, losing attachment to the goal of becoming enlightened. It is impossible to know if you've ever experienced enlightenment, Taisen Deshimaru pointed out, because you'd have to drop out of the state of complete non-attachment in order to consider the question.

Thus the famous statement by Zen Master Linji, "If you meet the Buddha, kill him." Whatever you think the Buddha is, that's an image of the good to which you're attached. The real thing is letting go of all of that -- which means all passions, all thoughts, all images, of yourself and of being conscious of yourself. Anything that represents an attachment gets in the way.

In that sense, the Yoda seen really belongs. The books had gotten in Luke's way. Protecting them was protecting somebody else's images of the true path. That's worse even than protecting Luke's own images, as it sets up several levels of things being respected instead of the true thing: Luke's images of who mattered enough to protect, their ideas about what was to be protected, etc....

What Luke really needed was to destroy all that, and get back to doing the work of being a master. Letting go was the way forward.

The only similar Western idea is the opposition to idolatry, which serves as a similar bar to the Ultimate in a similar way. The problem with the golden calf isn't that it can't make your crops grow. The real problem is that it's serving as a false idea of what the Ultimate is really like. You have to let go of the idols to begin to approach the truth of the Godhead.