Snoke

GUEST REVIEW: Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2018) Blu-ray bonus features

We’ve already reviewed the movie ad-nauseum, so here is something fresh:  a review of the Blu-ray bonus features by guest writer Kovaflyer!

Guest review by Kovaflyer

STAR WARS: The Last Jedi (2018 Lucasfilm blu-ray)

Directed by Rian Johnson

If you enjoyed The Last Jedi or if you have mixed feelings about the newest instalment of Star Wars and are trying to make sense of the film, the bonus features are a great in-depth look at where Rian Johnson took the galaxy that is so very far far away.

 

The Director and the Jedi – Full length documentary feature

The Director and the Jedi is your first behind the scenes look at The Last Jedi and the hard work that went into making this Star Wars movie. This part of the bonus features takes you behind the scenes of the building of up to 120 different sets, the creation of all the creatures that we have come to know and love, the eye-pleasing costumes, as well as the amount of detail involved in the makeup artistry; like the work done to create Kylo Ren’s scar.

The Director and the Jedi also features discussions with Mark Hamill about Luke Skywalker and the direction that Rian took with Luke in the film. Mark tells us that he was going to play the Skywalker that Rian envisioned regardless of how he felt about his own image of Luke. Early footage of Mark and Daisy going over lines and choreographing the Luke vs. Rey scene was fantastic.

The interviews and interactions with Carrie Fisher are both heart warming and fun and showcase Carrie at her best; the only way that Carrie knew how to be. Carrie was excited about the direction of Leia’s character in the movie, calling her strong and in charge.

 

Balance of The Force

Rian Johnson really wanted to hit the re-set button on “the Force” and what it means. He wanted to show new Star Wars fans that the Force is not a super power, but a balance between all things, the light and dark, in all living things.  It is a gift, and not all about moving rock or things across a room.

When he started writing The Last Jedi he had a look back at Star Wars and the main characters in the story and what challenges they would eventually come up against.

Rey is looking to find herself and where she comes from; who her mom and dad are and where they have been, and what her new powers mean and how to use them. With Rey there are no easy answers and if she wants them she is going to have to find them herself.

Finn has just woken up on a ship after being injured in a fight on Starkiller Base while trying to save Rey and the Resistance. He wakes up with the ship under attack and Rey missing, and therefore he has to think fast and take action to save Rey, himself and the ship.

Leia, facing more and more loss is taking charge and leading the Resistance in the biggest fight yet.

Luke is fighting his own internal battle that the Jedi must end. In his view, the Jedi have done nothing but added to the problems of the galaxy, and if he were to bring back the Jedi, the Sith would rise again. Luke believes if the Jedi die, that a new light could rise and win. Therefore, Luke Skywalker has exiled himself; he is being selfless. Rian knew that there was a reason why Luke went into hiding, that it was a selfless act and that he was not just cowering away.

Yoda, yes that Yoda (the puppet version brought to life by Frank Oz), comes to Luke when he needs him the most. Yoda reminds Luke of the same lessons he once taught him, to stop with all the big plans and to focus on the here and now, to be the Luke Skywalker that everyone needs; to be the myth, to be the legend of Luke Skywalker and to not let the light burn out. So, Luke must train Rey and keep her in the light. The most important message Yoda had for Luke, was that failure is the greatest teacher of all. Johnson insisted to have the original puppet version of Yoda and his puppeteer Frank Oz for the film. He wanted Mark Hamill to interact with Oz and not a CGI version of Yoda, and even procured the original Yoda puppet mold in order to fashion the latest version of the Jedi master.

 

Scene Breakdowns

The bonus features also offer the following scene breakdowns.

Lighting the Spark: Space battles are massive undertakings. You get the big explosions, the visual and auditory effects. However, Johnson explains that he felt that in this space battle, he wanted to show the humans behind the spaceships; to make you feel connected to what is happening based on the relevance of the battle to the characters. It is interesting and fun to learn where some of the sound effects that were used in the battle came from (e.g. a roll of duct tape), how some of the spacecrafts and battle sequences were modelled after WWII aircraft and aerial footage (e.g. a B-52 bomber), and how Kylo Ren’s spaceship was of course modelled after Vader’s own tie fighter. In this battle, that saw so many Resistance fighters lost, Johnson chose to highlight Leia’s struggle with loss and grief and her deep love for her people.

Snoke and Mirrors: Rian explains that in bringing Snoke to life, he wanted to ground him in reality; make him have a physical presence. He was worried, however, about the complexity of creating a believable character completely out of CGI technology. In utilizing a complete motion capture suit for Snoke’s character, however, they were able to use every nuance that Andy Serkis brought to the character’s physical being; every facial expression, every twitch, etc.

Showdown on Crait: Johnson explains that the scene of the showdown on Crait was one of the first visions he had when he started working on the movie. To create the visual effects for the shots fired on the salt planet, the film crew went to the salt plains of Bolivia and filmed shooting sequences. It is amazing to hear just how many different options they went through when creating the red under the salt (e.g. shredded dyed red paper), how they reinvented the Walker from Empire into the Gorilla Walker using various sounds bytes to create its own unique ‘voice’, or how they used sounds from old beaten down cars in order to obtain the sounds for the Resistance fighter ships.

 

Andy Serkis Live! (One Night Only)

This part of the bonus features offers a look at the first meeting between Rey and Snoke with Andy Serkis in the full motion capture suit. It is amazing to see Andy’s performance in the raw without the CGI effects. To say that Andy’s performance was intense is a serious understatement!

 

Deleted Scenes

The bonus features also provide a look at some of the scenes that did not make the final cut for the movie; fun to watch but one can understand why they were left out for the most part.

 

In closing

In closing friends, I give this bonus footage 4/5 stars and highly recommend that you pick up the Blu-ray edition of The Last Jedi as you will enjoy some fabulous bonus features that will enhance your enjoyment of this Star Wars film.

 

 

 

 

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#625: The Last Fanboys [SPOILER WARNING]

SPOILER WARNING

 

This 2438 word rant is dedicated to lifelong pal Scott Peddle and the late George Balazs.

Looking for our SPOILER-FREE review of The Last Jedi?  Then click here instead.

 

GETTING MORE TALE
EPISODE DCXXV:  The Last Fanboys

If you are a Star Wars fan, there is a good chance that you are getting sick of social media right now.  No one has done more to ruin the spirit of the holidays than angry Star Wars fanboys.  Ever since the release of The Last Jedi on December 18, upset fanboys have been whining non-stop about the newest movie.  They have started a petition to have the film re-made by someone else.  Like a swarm of constantly moaning mosquitoes, they attack anyone with a positive or even neutral view of the film, using words such as “retarded” or “sheep” to describe those who liked it.  It’s like being friends with a Trump fan.  You can only take so much before you have to completely unplug.

Well fanboys, this is where you get yours.  It’s time for everyone else to strike back.  Line up, whiners — it’s go time!

Yes, The Last Jedi is deeply flawed.  It’s not nearly bad as The Phantom Menace or Attack of the Clones, but it has problems.  Let’s be realistic about this film and avoid crying in our cornflakes.  The biggest issue I have with the film is the disregard that Rian Johnson has for the original movies.  All Star Wars saga films are supposed to work as one long movie.  That means the visual style has to be consistent.  Out of nowhere, Rian Johnson introduced slow motion.  The Star Wars saga has never bowed to this trend before.  The Last Jedi is completely out of step every time this lazy film technique is used to artificially boost drama.  Johnson also uses flashbacks like nobody has before in Star Wars.  It’s not clear but these might be considered “Force visions”, something that both George Lucas and JJ Abrams used in their movies.  Yet the flashbacks and slow motion problems aren’t even the things that the butthurt fanboys are whining about.

The rallying cry of the fanboys is “Disney ruined Luke Skywalker”.  This is where we enter spoiler territory.


The Luke Skywalker of The Last Jedi is a broken man.  He is haunted by his failure with Ben Solo.  He realises what we fans always knew:  there is a cycle of conflict between light and dark.  Luke claims that a Jedi was “responsible for the training and creation of Darth Vader”.  He is referring to his old master Obi-Wan Kenobi.  But Luke may shoulder even more responsibility, with his creation of Kylo Ren.  We witness the moment it happens.  Ben Solo was already beginning to fall to the dark side.  Luke sensed this.  He peered into Ben’s mind and was shocked to find that he was already horribly corrupted.  In a moment of weakness, he ignited his lightsaber to murder his nephew.  This is the moment that changed everything:  Ben became Kylo Ren, killed some of Luke’s students, and left with the rest.  Skywalker’s failure was complete.  He retreated to the first Jedi Temple, intending to atone for his mistake by dying there in shame.

Consider this, and ask “did Disney ruin Luke Skywalker”?

I say the answer is “no”.  Disney did not ruin Luke Skywalker.  If you feel Luke has been ruined, it was the collective authors of the old Star Wars Expanded Universe who did the ruining.

When George Lucas re-launched Star Wars in 1999 with The Phantom Menace, he did it the only way he could:  with his own original story, not some re-hashed source material written in a novel by a third party.  Therefore we never had to endure some obscure adventure of Yoda aboard his Jedi ship Chu’unthor.  Why would Lucas want to copy a book he never read?  Of course he wouldn’t.  For better or for worse, he mostly ignored the books and wrote his own stories.  The only detail he took from the books was the Republic capitol city of Coruscant, which was actually ripped off from Isaac Asimov in the first place.  In his Foundation and Empire novels (a huge influence on Star Wars), Asimov described the capitol world of Trantor, a city-planet much like Coruscant.  “As the centre of the Imperial Government for unbroken hundreds of generations and located, as it was, toward the central regions of the Galaxy among the most densely populated and industrially advanced worlds of the system, it could scarcely help being the densest and richest clot of humanity the Race had ever seen.”  Since Lucas has always drawn from the wide palette of classic science fiction, it makes sense for an element like Coruscant be retained from the books.

The post-Return of the Jedi era of Star Wars has already been explored ad-nauseum in books, comics and video games.  Luke had a wife named Mara Jade.  He ran a Jedi school.  Han and Leia had three Jedi kids.  They had many many adventures battling the Imperial Remnant, Force witches, a cloned Emperor (twice!), a cloned Luke (named Luuke), and dozens of previously unknown darksiders.

Just like Lucas wrote his own original prequel stories, there was no way that fans should have expected Disney to recycle old material from novels.  Not for something as important as Star Wars.  It’s fine to do that with Marvel comics, but Star Wars doesn’t originate in books.  Therefore, there would be no Mara Jade, no clones, no reheated stories and no baggage.

Any Star Wars fan had plenty of time to enjoy the heroic and sometimes tedious adventures of Luke Skywalker in books over the last 25 years.  They started off well enough:  Timothy Zahn’s excellent Heir to the Empire trilogy could easily have been a film trilogy, if only made when the actors were younger.  Things got dicey after Zahn.  Proceed at your own risk.  Kevin J. Anderson’s Jedi Academy trilogy was one of the worst. The Black Fleet trilogy by Michael P. Kube-McDowell was good but perhaps a bit too “sci-fi” for Star Wars (and it discussed Luke’s mother long before the prequel trilogy, rendering it obsolete by the movies).

The Star Wars sequel trilogy could never be rehashed from books.  It had to be new, and it had to go in unexpected directions.  That’s what Rian Johnson tried to do.  Instead of the heroic Luke, one we’ve seen swashbuckling in those old books, he gave us something far more shocking:  a realistic Luke.  Not the legendary Luke, but a human being. Someone who responds like a real, flawed person.  What fanboy is to say they “know” Luke best?  All they think they know is what they gleaned from the books over the years.  It has become their “head canon”, and they stubbornly refuse to let it go.  As we’ve discussed, fanboys should have known the movies would have to go in a new direction as they always have.  All we really know about Luke is what we have seen on screen.  In his very first movie, he was trying to escape from his reality.  In The Last Jedi, he’s not that different, as Yoda himself points out.  The contradiction between the legend and reality of Luke is one of the most important themes of the movie, and one that Luke and Rey struggle with.

It’s true that Mark Hamill read the script for The Last Jedi and was immediately turned off.  Yet he went in there and played the best Luke I’ve ever seen.  Ruined Luke?  I just don’t see it.  All I ever wanted, ever since I was a kid walking out of that theater in 1983, was to see Luke Skywalker become the most powerful Jedi of all time.  There is no question that the Luke of The Last Jedi is exactly that.  He did things with the Force that we didn’t even know could be done!  Fanboys wanted to see Luke do prequel-style lightsaber acrobatics.  As if the most powerful Jedi of all time would need a lightsaber?  Think back to The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.  Did Yoda and the Emperor wield lightsabers in the original trilogy?  No.  Nor does Luke in the sequel trilogy.  Balance.  Besides, do you really want to see more somersaulting with laser swords?  Didn’t you get enough of that with the prequels?  What more could possibly be added to that?  They never really topped Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace for lightsaber action.

Let’s move on to another popular fanboy complaint.  “Disney is trying to kill Star Wars by killing all the old characters”.

Ludicrous.  From Ben Kenobi to Yoda to even Anakin Skywalker himself, Star Wars has a habit of knocking off the heroes.  It’s the only way to have any tension.  If you know nobody will die, the movie has no weight.  Disney is in it to make money.  Pissing off whiny fans on purpose probably isn’t in their business strategy.  It’s not personal, fanboys.  Lucas always said that the sequel trilogy would be about the next generation, with Luke having a “cameo”.  It’s kind of annoying that this has to be explained to you.

Next fanboy complaint:  “Rey is nobody from nowhere”.

Possibly.  We don’t know that for sure.  That’s up to JJ Abrams to confirm or deny in Episode IX.  But what is the problem with it, if it were true?  All we really know is that when darkness rises, so does the light to meet it.  Where did Obi-Wan Kenobi come from?  Mace Windu?  Hell, we don’t even know the name of Yoda’s species let alone where he came from.  It is OK if Rey is not related to a past character.  Kylo Ren is.  He carries the Skywalker blood.  If that blood dies with him in Episode IX, wouldn’t that be an appropriate end to the Skywalker saga?  It would mean the nine movies tell the complete story of the Skywalker line, from the start to the end.  Where is the issue?

Fanboys have similar complaints about Supreme Leader Snoke.  It’s unlikely we’ll learn anything more about him, leaving him as one of those dangling threads.  It would have been pretty cool to find out more about him, but it turns out he was just a red herring.  Misdirection.  And that has fanboys in a rage!  Every single fan theory about Snoke was wrong!  Fanboys have been hoping to find out that he was a cloned Vader, Emperor, Darth Plagueis or someone from the distant past.  Well, he wasn’t, and perhaps he wasn’t even as powerful as fans theorised.  This leaves Kylo Ren as the one true villain in the sequel trilogy.  Again, this upset all the fanboy theories, who expected Kylo to turn good, and Luke or Rey to go bad.

Without going full fanboy, I’ll put it out there that using Snoke as a red herring was a missed opportunity.  Andy Serkis was so good as Snoke in The Last Jedi, it’s a real miss that he didn’t amount to more.  Serkis is the one actor who gives Hamill a run for his money.  In their effort to thwart the fan theories, perhaps Johnson and Disney blew Snoke.  Any backstory to Snoke will likely be left to the realm of comics and books, which is unfortunate.  It is unlikely he’ll have anything to do with Episode IX, as there’s a new Supreme Leader in town and his name is Kylo Ren.

The last of the major fanboy complaints is regarding the big Leia scene.  Kudos to Rian Johnson for faking out the death of Leia in the movie, as I’m sure many thought she was surely dead.  Ejected into space, Leia uses the Force to pull herself back to the ship.  This scene takes a number of leaps of faith.  One has to assume that the Force “somehow” protected Leia, and kept her alive until she could regain consciousness, all without being able to breath.  In the freezing cold, radiation-rich vacuum of space.  Well, sure, I guess.  There’s nothing in the Star Wars films that excludes this from being possible.  It’s just one of the things about this movie that was not good.  Also not worth getting all butthurt about.  Did you fanboys even see The Phantom Menace?  Let me know how it’s possible to take a submarine to a planet’s core.

So now, the butthurt is so intense that fanboys are demanding The Last Jedi be removed from canon and remade.  This is more a sign of the times than the quality of the film.  Such uproar never happened in 1999.  In 2017, spoilt internet warriors are used to getting what they want when they cry.  Well, fanboys, you’ll have to learn a lesson they used to teach us back in the day:  suck it up, buttercups.

The Last Jedi could have used some work in the editing.  Shortening the Leia scene would have made it less outlandish.  Cutting the artificial slow motion would have made a huge difference.  The opening battle was way too long, featuring a nonsensical segment of fake tension with a new character called Paige.  There is a side mission featuring the characters of Finn and Rose (Paige’s sister) that had multiple issues, including a pointless chase scene and a wasted opportunity to spend time in a high-rolling Star Wars casino.  Their secret mission doesn’t even impact the outcome of the story.  All it really serves to do is find a role for Finn, who otherwise had no story in The Last Jedi.

There’s a lot to be enjoyed with Johnson’s direction.  His dialogue is an improvement, but less is often more.  Some of the best character moments are performed with no speaking at all.  His visual style is stunning (slow motion aside).  The big lightsaber battle with Snoke’s red guards is one of the best in the saga.  So fluid, so beautiful.

The real issue with the film’s reception has little to do with Finn and Rose.  It has everything to do with fans becoming attached to their own theories.  Remember what Ben Kenobi said?  “Let go”.  And Yoda?  “Unlearn what you have learned.”  That’s not a Deus ex machina, fanboys. You’ve been watching too much Youtube and spending too much time on Reddit. Discussion boards were flooded with talk of the Knights of Ren; a throwaway line from The Force Awakens that fans got attached to.  That the Knights did not appear and were not even mentioned in The Last Jedi has fanboys throwing tantrums like we have never seen.  Perhaps they’ll show up in IX, but if not, who cares?

Rian Johnson himself warned us about spoiling the movie for ourselves.  When the first trailer was released, he wrote on Twitter, “I am legitimately torn.  If you want to come in clean, absolutely avoid it.”  You should have listened.

Let go, fanboys.  Unlearn what you have learned.  You’re ruining this for everyone!

 

MOVIE REVIEW: Star Wars: The Last Jedi [Spoiler-free]

NEW RELEASE – SPOILER FREE ZONE!

STAR WARS: The Last Jedi (2017)

Directed by Rian Johnson

Writer/Director Rian Johnson brings his own slant to Star Wars with Episode VIII: The Last Jedi.  JJ Abrams played it safely to fans of the Original Trilogy with The Force Awakens, and he did so successfully.  He did little to expand the mythos, but Rian Johnson has certainly stepped up in that regard.  Some fans are already going apeshit.  The old “George Lucas ruined my childhood” has been replaced by “Rian Johnson and Disney have ruined Star Wars”.  They’re also upset because just about every single fan theory…was wrong.

Some fans will have difficulty accepting certain revelations about The Last Jedi.  There are also stylistic choices that are questionable, such as the return of lens flare, and lazy gimmicky slow motion.  Johnson also chose to tell parts of this story by use of flashbacks, something that Lucas generally avoided.  These factors, plus the recurring symbolic use of the colour red, make The Last Jedi feel like the odd man out of the saga.

Now, somebody hand Mark Hamill an Academy Award, because he earned it this time.  His curmudgeonly older and wiser Luke Skywalker is note-perfect.  Some fans have complained that this Luke is not the Luke they hoped for, based on the old Expanded Universe (EU) novels.  On the other hand, this previously unseen Luke rocks because it’s completely different from previously told stories, which is what the Sequel Trilogy needs to be.  Remember, Lucas never would have followed those old books any way.  He never has.  Regardless, Hamill has clearly done his best cinematic work in The Last Jedi, fulfilling the wishes of every fan who wanted to see the most powerful Jedi master in the history of the order.

This isn’t really a spoiler, but The Last Jedi does prove that Luke Skywalker has indeed fulfilled his destiny of becoming more powerful than any other.

Don’t worry, fanboys, there is lightsaber action to be seen; and don’t forget the original 1977 Star Wars had very little to start with.  Instead of prequel-esque lightsaber stupidity, Johnson gives us a more contemplative Skywalker.  The stories of Luke and his new student Rey (Daisy Ridley) are so compelling that other heroes are left by the wayside.  Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac), Finn (John Boyega) and newcomer Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) have their own mission on the side, to cripple the evil First Order.  Unfortunately, and perhaps just due to the gravity of Luke’s story, these side missions only prolong the wait for more scenes with Luke.  Or, Kylo Ren (Adam Driver), the Vader wannabe with the temper of his grandfather.  Ren has a strange connection through the Force with Rey, and the two are eventually brought together to face each other again.

The Last Jedi should satisfy some who thought The Force Awakens didn’t acknowledge the Prequel Trilogy enough.  There is a reference to Darth Sidious (better known as the Emperor) and the new setting of Canto Bight would fit in with Attack of the Clones.  Finn and Rose must find a master hacker in Canto Bight, a posh gambling centre frequented by rich weapons dealers making money off both sides in the war(s).  New character DJ (Benecio Del Toro) is sceptical of both sides, because he knows it doesn’t matter.  The same people are getting rich no matter what side wins.  This is a relatively new concept in Star Wars, although Darth Sidious did control both sides of the Clone Wars, he didn’t do it to get rich.

Poe, Finn and Rose are among those under the command of Princess Leia, still a badass, and so sad knowing that Carrie Fisher has gone.  Leia has her own moments in this movie, and we know that she was to be the main focus of Episode IX.  Now that Carrie is one with the Force, it is very unfortunate that she didn’t have a larger part of The Last Jedi.  She has a few good one-liners, and Carrie portrayed Leia as a strong and immediately charismatic leader.  There is also one Leia sequence that has fanboys destroying their action figures in anger.

Also noteworthy: Andy Serkis as Supreme Leader Snoke (via motion capture). Serkis makes Snoke more three-dimensional, and though his scenes are short, they satisfy. Laura Dern’s new character Admiral Holdo was memorable for the scenes she had. Unfortunately, Gwendoline Christie was wasted for a second time as Captain Phasma, in what was little more than a cameo. General Hux (Domnhall Gleeson) does a little better as the token second-in-command.

John Williams did it again with another fantastic score, although even here reviews are mixed.  Bass clarinettist and fan Kathryn Ladano was disappointed that there were not many new themes involved.  Radio personality Jason Drury on the other hand called the score “possibly the best of 2017” and “another triumph for John Williams”.  I was pleased to hear the return of Rey’s theme and a few other favourites from the olden days.

Expect the unexpected with Star Wars: The Last Jedi.  Don’t pay too much attention to the extremely negative or extremely positive reviews.  The truth is, as always, somewhere in the middle.  And that is part of the story of The Last Jedi.  The truth depends largely on your point of view.  The two other main themes here are hope, and the power of a symbol.  If the title wasn’t already used in another movie, you could have called it Episode VIII:  A New Hope.

3.5/5 stars

STAR WARS: The Last Jedi – Trailer #2

So much here to absorb and analyze. It’s clear that the danger this time is that Rey is headed down a dark path. Will be the beacon of hope for the galaxy be extinguished forever?

Find out December 15 2017.