Improbably, we’ve survived 2017 and now plough on into the brave new year of film, covering Three Billboards Outside Of Ebbing Missouri, The Last Jedi, Jumanji, and Bright. We also catch up with It, The Foreigner and mother! for your listening pleasure. It perhaps doesn’t demand your attention, but it will sit with its hand raised until you let it into your brainspace. Please let it in. It’s cold outside.
Netflix are no stranger to film production, of course, but it’s largely focused on low to mid budget dramas and comedies. Given that the distribution model is so different from the usual cinema / studio relationship, it’s hard to know if that’s been a huge success economically, but they’ve had more than a few critical successes like Beasts of No Nation and Okja. That said, they’re also funding Adam Sandler movies, so there’s no clear indication of which side of the fence their first big budget, effects heavy blockbuster attempt, Bright would fall.
And lo, it appeared, and critics loathed it. But Neflix can move a lot of eyeballs in a particular direction if it wants to, and just you try and avoid an ad for this film on logging in to Netflix since its release. I presume, given that they’ve announced plans for a sequel, it hit its engaugement metrics or whatever makes a Netflix-only film a success, but the more interesting metric for us is that audience reviews were, on the whole, quite positive. Curious.
The truth may be between those poles, but that’s getting ahead of myself. The essential conceit of Bright is that, basically, The Lord of the Rings was a historical documentary rather than a work of fiction. A Dark Lord rose to power but was overthrown by an allied force of humans, elves and rebel orcs. However, unlike Tolkien’s works, the other races did not decide to leave the picture. Elves stick around as the 1%, a pointy-eared elite, while orcs form a permanent underclass, still loathed for their backing of the baddies millenia ago. Humans are, in theory at least, sandwiched inbetween, although it seems there’s just as much inequality between the humans and the elite in this world as there is in ours.
Will Smith’s Daryl Ward is an LAPD officer who’s dismayed to be lumbered with a new partner, Joel Edgerton’s Nick Jakoby, the first orc copper. He’s forced to overcome his prejudices when, after some world-building preamble, they respond to a call to what turns out to be some sort of safehouse that turned out not to be all that safe, given the number of people turned inside out in it. Evidence points to the use of magic, presumed to have faded from the world, and indeed a magic wand turns up, a very rare and very powerful item, along with a dazed elvish survivor, Lucy Fry’s Tikka. It is unclear what overall percentage of elves are named after Indian food.
Unfortunately, no matter what multiverse you are in, the one constant is that the LAPD are staggeringly corrupt, so the backup Ward has called in decide they’d rather kill Ward and Jakoby and take the wand for themselves. This earns them all lead salads, but this does mean that Ward and Jakoby must go on the lam through a hostile Los Angeles with the wand and Tikka, chased by the cops, local gangs both orc and human, and most pressingly Noomi Rapace’s Leilah and her elite elf goons, looking to reclaim their wand in order to resurrect the Dark Lord.
So, a buddy cop cum chase film with a Dungeons and Dragons skin, then. Indeed, divested of all the fantasy trappings, this is a slender narrative indeed, but still one that’s just about up to the task of upholding the action sequences and partner banter that you’d expect from something plucked from the late eighties to early nineties, just with one of said partners under a tonne of makeup.
Director David Ayers keeps things moving along well enough, after an arguably touch too slow opening act, but, well, there is a decent amount of world-building exposition that necessarily needs to be front loaded, so I’ll forgive that. Thankfuly, overall it hews right up the middle between the Ayers penned Training Day (with which you could argue it shares some DNA) and the Ayers helmed Suicide Squad, the least said of which the better. Still, it must be said – there’s more than a few problems with Bright, more or less entirely from Max Landis’ script.
Oh dear. Max Landis. You know there’s some people you hear bad things about and think, “he just doesn’t seem the type”? Doesn’t apply to Landis. He very much seems the type, and seems to have gone to ground since sexual abuse allegations were levelled against him. It seems clear that Landis is a right old toley and no mistake, and some will want to boycott all thing associated with him. An understandable position, and looking through his IMDB page, you’re not missing out on much. But, in the interests of seperating this artist from the rest of them what done worked on this, let’s limit the criticism to his script.
In terms of overall enjoyability, the main problem with it is that it’s got quite a lot to squeeze in to make the scenario understandable, and I don’t think it’s got quite the right balance of pacing to it. There’s a bit too much at start, although I sort-of understand why that was done, and not quite enough at the end, where the chasing and the shooting and the fighting and all that does start blending into each other somewhat. It gives the film an unbalanced feel, although it’s not a film crippling offense, and there’s enough quips peppered throughout to have Will Smith’s charisma plaster over a lot of gaps.
There’s been a few more outre criticisms levelled at the script that I don’t think are worth getting into, but I will say if you watch this film and come away thinking Landis has equated working class Black and Latinx people with “sub-human” orcs, you’re assuming a great deal of bad faith of Landis’ part that I don’t think the rest of his career and character supports, even under his current clouds. He’s an arsehole in a very different way. That said, let me just check my privilege, yup, still set to auld white guy, so take my opinion for what very little it is worth.
This is a brave new world of film distribution, and we reviewers must change along with it. I’d be summing up very differently if this was out only in cinemas, but Netflix is such a different kettle of fish that the value propositions have changed entirely. It’s certainly not worth subscribing just for this film, or indeed any single film, but that’s not what Netflix is selling you on. Assuming you are already subscribed, is it worth watching at least the first half hour and seeing if it intrigues you enough to continue? Of course it is. At that point, the only cost is your time. But couldn’t you say the same about any film on Netflix? Of course. That’s how they getcha.
Instead, then, let’s say this. There’s a lot of world-building in here that takes a few more risks and has a broader scope than most Hollywood films, and that’s to be applauded (see also Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, an otherwise good film with the severe misfortune to have been infected with charisma vacuum Dane Dehaan). However, a lot of the more meat and potatoes aspects of the film, the dialogue, the action, the performances, so on, hover around the “fine” descriptor, bringing this down to a somewere-just-above-average mark, and there’s any number of outright better films out just now that makes it difficult to recommend dropping everything to watch. But it’s not a bad film, and those calling it the worst film of the year were, I suspect, looking only to boost pageviews at a time of the year when they start naturally tailing off due to the holidays. Not that I’m a cynic or anything. I just miss the days when Will Smith would provide theme tunes for his films.
In which Frances McDormand’s character Mildred deeply regrets her final conversation with her daughter.
Only the third film from writer-director Martin McDonagh, following In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, Three Billboards sees Mildred, a middle-age mother, take the local authorities rather publicly to task over their failure to advance the case of her teenage daughter’s horrific rape and murder a year previously. Having the sudden brainwave to rent the titular three billboards on a now obsolete road through the fictional town of Ebbing, Mildred sets about plastering them with a set of messages that directly target the popular town sherrif Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) for his perceived failure to uncover any leads in her daughter’s case. It’s a decision which proves incredibly divisive for the backwater town, and it leads to all manner of revelations, small and large, about a number of the characters who inhabit it.
Chiefly of course is Mildred, whose behaviour throughout the film is as unpredictable as it is human. For every moment of sympathy Frances McDormand masterfully claws out of her character there are typically two steps back, sometimes even two kicks to the genitals of school children who harass her son for his mother’s erratic behaviour. Most crushingly is the flashback to Mildred’s last conversation with her daughter that ends in her saying, under the circumstances, quite literally the worst thing any parent ever could to their child. No small credit then to all involved that we do not immediately dismiss Mildred as worthy of the hole she’s in. In a wonderful display of the ebb and flow of the nature of humanity, McDonagh steadfastly refuses to allow any of his characters to be painted in black or white, and its a decision that earns the film some credit, especially in the hands of this capable cast.
Harrelson is great as Mildred’s counter-intuitively admiring foil Willoughby, who bounces off our protagonist in a delightful way that unexpectedly leaves all of the hatred to the townsfolk, and whose corny attempt at heading trouble off at the pass with the revelation of his cancer invokes a far from predictable response.
Also first rate, as ever, is Sam Rockwell as Willoughby’s pathetic shambles of a deputy, Dixon. Once again Rockwell delivers a performance that ends up nowhere near where you’d expect from his character’s setup – a portrait of an ingrained, generational racist thug who, again, somehow manages to touch on something sympathetic about the human condition. It’s this character who seems to have fuelled a lot of backlash against the movie across social media, but if you want to know more about those opinions I’ll leave you to look into them and make up your own mind as to whether these people understand what a movie is or indeed does.
Three Billboards has all of the elements I really want in a movie, and McDonagh for the most part does a bang-up job of proceedings. I haven’t seen Seven Psychopaths, so I have a blindspot here, but this is certainly a much more mature piece of work than In Bruges, even if it perhaps isn’t as immediately accessible or rewarding. So why then did I not really enjoy it as much as I felt I should?
Three Billboards is certainly off to a flying start on the awards circuit this month, and it seems there is an awful lot of appreciation out there for it, a great deal of which I’d argue it deserves. But something kept me from loving this movie, and I still an’t tell you precisely what it was. There is some niggling dissonance in the character portrayals which I suspect is somewhere at the root of it, and I think that might be the result of the film trying for one too many dark moments of humour along the way. Certainly there are narrative foibles: why does Mildred seem to suddenly happen upon the billboards when, as we learn during the first of numerous scenes set on her veranda, she can see them clearly not 500 yards from her house? Picky I know, but still an annoyance.
I doubt in the end it is entirely down to either of these factors, more likely a combination of many smaller and largely individually undetectable failings, but I wasn’t able to escape the summation that Three Billboards was, in the end, less than the sum of its parts. I did enjoy it enough that I will commit to a second viewing in future, but I won’t guarantee when.
Sometimes I do fall into a trap of just assuming a film will turn out to be garbage and ignoring it from a very limited number of data points. Such as “Jumanji reboot / sequel / reimagining / whatever” and “Jack Black”. But, sometimes you just have to give the unexpected a chance, such as would be afforded, for instance, if The Greatest Showman had sold out, and not much else being out at the time. But sometimes, you just have to open your mind, and, yes, your heart, to find the greatest gift of them all – a watchable Jack Black performance. Blessed times.
This Jumanji, subtitled Welcome to the Jungle, presents a presumably updated setup from the Robin Williams vehicle of 1995, although having somehow contrived not to have seen that, I can’t really comment. A group of high school kids are given a menial task of clearing out an old room as a detention punishment, only to uncover a mysterious old video game system. Hooking it up in the absence of anything more interesting to be doing, they are surprised to find themselves transported inside the game, inhabiting personas very different from their real life counterparts.
Spencer Gilpin, an awkward, studious type, becomes The Rock’s Doctor Smolder Bravestone, who is, well, as you’d expect someone The Rock plays to be. Athletic football player Anthony “Fridge” Johnson, and somewhat estranged friend of Spencer is reduced to being his sidekick and weapons valet, diminutive zoologist Franklin “Mouse” Finbar, played by Kevin Hart. Martha Kaply, also the more studious type, but rather more spikey and standoffish, becomes Karen Gillan’s Ruby Roundhouse, a commando, martial artist, and dance fighter. Rounding out the squad is the popular, we’re told pretty, but self-obsessed Bethany Walker, who becomes Jack Black’s Jack Blackish Professor Sheldon “Shelly” Oberon, a cartographer, cryptographer, archaeologist and paleontologist. All the ologies and graphers, really.
So, after a period of adjustment and trying to get into character, they’re informed by NPC Nigel, Rhys Darby, that they must return a stone of power, the “Jaguar’s Eye” to the statue from whence it was stolen – which will presumably complete the game and allow them to return home. Unfortunately, they’ll be chased and hindered by said thief, Russel Van Pelt (Bobby Cannavale), Bravestone’s nemesis, who wants to use the stone to control all of the animals of Jumanji and profit, somehow, presumably.
Which is hardly the greatest scenario building the world’s ever seen, but perfectly serviceable for a bunch of action scenes, peppered with quips and occasional moments of character development and fish out of water behaviour that you’d expect from this sort of thing. And, wouldn’t you know it, it’s an entertaining enough watch. The casts, both young and old, play off each other well enough, and this is the sort of thing The Rock can charisma through in his sleep. The surprise actually comes from Jack Black, who I don’t actively dislike, but wouldn’t go out of my way to watch, who wrings an awful lot out of what would seem like a one-note joke. Well played, you sly dog.
And so it goes, with solid action and a few clever gags relating to video game mechanics, proving to be a very entertaining ninety minutes or so. Unfortunately, the film’s two hours long, and by the end of that time has probably outstayed its welcome, but not by too much, and I doubt many will come away from this film feeling it was a complete waste of money, unless you were expecting to seen an Ingmar Bergman revival and wandered into the wrong cinema.
On the other hand, I doubt anyone will come away from this film reliving the squad’s adventures in their mind’s eye, eagerly awaiting the home release. Nope, enjoyable as this was, I’m fairly sure it’s fate will be to be fade pretty quickly, to be stumbled across down the line on Netflix, at which point you’ll have forgotten everything about it, and can watch it again as if from scratch. So, in many ways, great value!
This has all been a bit back-hand complimenty, but Jumanji presents a perfectly valid slice of throwaway entertainment, and is worth a look on that basis. Three and a Half Whatevers out of Five.
I’ve never quite understood the popularity of Stephen King’s work; I’ve certainly read a lot of it, but beyond the age of, say, 15, I’ve struggled to really enjoy any of it. There was a certain point in my early teenage development where it was satisfying enough to read of a man running over someone’s head with a sit-on lawnmower, but as I struggled to keep up with the voluminous output amidst other literary concerns I increasingly came to realise that I, a young adult, was paying for an increasingly careless middle age author’s cocaine habit with both my time and money.
It was pretty much slap bang in the Venn overlap of age and reason that the TV adaptation of It came to my attention; the story in two parts told thirty years apart of a voraciously child-munching alien menace posing as a circus clown becoming the talk of our circle of school friends. As such it became something of a horror touchstone for my generation, and the reputation of Tim Curry as Pennywise the Clown has become enshrined in the annals of great genre performances.
Revisiting that adaptation recently (specifically following the first season of the vaguely similarly-themed Stranger Things), I realised as one so often does with the removal of rose-tinted nostalgia goggles that it was, in fact, a steaming pile of cack. I was, however, quite looking forward to Andy Muschietti’s big cinema take; I know enough people who rate his 2013 effort Mama as evidence that he has some competency at this filmmaking lark, and I do believe that It as a source novel does have enough raw thematic potential to make a great film.
Frustratingly, Muschietti does do a pretty decent job with a good deal of the movie, but also struggles terribly with others. The most satisfying aspects are almost all centred on the child cast and their antics, the authenticity of which forms a potent narrative and emotional core, easily the film’s trump card. Led by Jaeden Lieberher as Bill Denbrough, the clown-precipitated death of whose younger brother Georgie opens the movie, the band of school misfits are reminiscent in all the best ways of such outfits as the Goonies, and it’s no coincidence that Finn Wolfhard of the aforementioned Stranger Things has a major role here as Bill’s best friend Richie.
While the film is preoccupied with the non clown-related exploits of the gang it’s satisfying stuff; much of the dialogue was apparently improvised by the young cast, and it often works terrifically. Presumably Muschietti understands that the best way to get kids to act like kids is to…let them be kids. There is a convincing bond between the group which often seems to go awry in that fickle kid way, especially upon the integration into the group of Beverly, it’s sole female member. There is a beat in the film’s climactic scene where this sense of slightly uneasy alliance pays off beautifully with a surprisingly moving yet also hilarious line of dialogue that almost makes the film worthwhile in itself.
Unfortunately for all involved there is less competence in evidence around the antagonist Pennywise. Now, I’ve always had a problem with the ways in which Pennywise, or rather the creature who chooses primarily the form of Pennywise, manifests itself. True, it is a shapeshifter, but it overwhelmingly presents itself through supernatural means: integrating itself into projector slides and then lunging, grotesquely over-sized, out of the image, or translocating impossibly between spaces for example. It’s this refusal to play by the premise’s own logic that frustrates me the most, but it is not the reason why the horror element fails.
Muschietti and his team have made a number of poor choices in the presentation of Pennywise, and more egregiously so the appearance of the creature’s other manifestations, that serve to greatly undermine the moments where the director does admittedly pull off a genuinely unsettling trick. The form the creature takes that sits halfway between Slender Man and Edward Munch’s The Scream is a particularly bizarre and cartoonish example of this, and it is often inserted in the midst of scenes which might be quite effective otherwise. Bill Skarsgard does an admirable job as the dominant Pennywise incarnation, walking a fine line along the border of ludicrous and menacing, but most of his work is undone by such nullifying aesthetic choices as the aforementioned and his sudden “wibble-wibble” head wobbling dashes toward potential victims (none of which are ever successful, by the way, so give it up, clown boy).
There’s still enough of merit in It that if horror is your bag I’m not going to tell you not to watch it, and it’s certainly a step forward from the 1990 TV adaptation. I’m curious as to what the next instalment, due in 2019 and set, like the TV movie, thirty years later with the kids all growed up, will offer. It will be interesting to see whether, absent of that childish playfulness and camaraderie, part two is able to sustain itself in other ways. Not that the box office will mind much; this instalment is the highest grossing R rated horror movie in history, so who’s the clown now?
We all know and love Jackie Chan, of course, the zany Kung Fool whose inventive object based fighting style and apparent willingness to murder himself with stunts for our entertainment has endeared him to all but societies’ most disturbing monsters. You’d be forgiven for forgetting it, of course, but Chan also plays serious roles now and then, and I think I remember him voicing some frustration around the time of Shinjuku Incident back in 2009 that he couldn’t get more dramatic roles. But here, a scant eight years later, comes the Martin Campbell helmed The Foreigner, adapted from a rather less politically correctly titled novel.
Here Chan plays a restaurant owner, Ngoc Minh Quan, who’s life is ruined when his daughter is killed in a bank bombing, claimed by a hitherto unheard of IRA offshoot. Distraught, he leaves his business behind and resolves to kill those responsible. A tall order for a restauranteur, perhaps, but it will come as little surprise to find that there’s more to Quan than meets the eye.
Turns out he was a US Special Forces asset, who suffered his own set of tragedies before coming to the UK for a quiet life with his daughter, which gives him a particular set of skills that will make him a nightmare for certain people. People like Pierce Brosnan’s Definitely Not Gerry Adams Liam Hennessy, Northern Irish First Minister, ex-IRA member turned politician who Quan insists must know who’s responsible, despite his protestations of innocence and ignorance.
Turns out he actually is ignorant on this count, but not wilfully so, as, at least at the start of proceedings, he doesn’t know who is responsible, and sets about shaking down the old crews for news of whodunnit, leading him into a very tangled web that points back in his own families’ direction. All the while Quan proves to be a thorn in Definitely Not Gerry Adams’ side, going from “insistent” to “heavily armed with improvised explosives, and also still insistent” that Henessey provide him with the names of those responsible, while outwitting and evading his guards from the old firms.
Meanwhile, in London the terrorist cell is setting up for another atrocity, putting a clock on all of this investigation malarky that Quan will, and I trust we’re not spoiling anything here, ultimately bring to an end in a very final and bloody fashion.
Now, when you invoke the term “genre cinema”, it’s altogether too easy for people to get a bit sniffy about it. I know, because it’s exactly what I do when people start talking about horror films in those terms. It is, however, a useful shorthand to say that if you’re not a fan of, or just not in the mood for, an action flick with some martial arts flavouring (but perhaps surprisingly lightly flavoured, give the lead actor), then perhaps it’s best to let this one pass you by. Chan’s certainly capable enough of hitting the emotional notes required, and the plot’s strong enough to hang a revenge fantasy on, but let’s just say you’re probably not going to want to go into this expecting a character piece or a in-depth explanation of post-Good Friday political dynamics.
No, it’s unashamedly an action film, and one that feels more like it escaped from the late eighties or early nineties when they were still doing these things properly, and not making Fast and Furious films. The Foreigner has a number of, by today’s standards, pretty brutal action sequences, and Martin Campbell has the experience to keep things moving along crisply and efficiently.
The only thing that struck me as odd when watching this was that we’re now, apparently, far enough removed from the mainland IRA bombing campaigns to use them as background for mid-budget, B-schedule action thrillers, but I suppose this film would be a very different beast were it set on Val Verde, and there’s any number of equally damaging events worldwide that saw adaptation/exploitation sooner, but somehow this feels a little different, perhaps just with the background of the current political difficulties in Northern Ireland.
This is a solid little action film, and for genre fans, earns a pretty easy recommendation. If that’s not your bag, sail on through, but for us hankering after a little throwback action, it’s well worth dropping into your Netflix queue.
You know when you’re renovating an old decrepit house while your partner who’s a renowned but currently blocked writer procrastinates, and then strangers start showing up and insinuating themselves into your daily routine with little or no motive in an oblique biblical allegory? No, me neither, but apparently Darren Aronofsky does, or at least he thinks he does, and that’s mother!
Apparently. Or maybe not. When your mission statement is seemingly to wilfully obscure and abstract any attempt at audience interpretation it becomes something of a moot point.
I don’t have a lot to say about mother!, not just because I didn’t like it or I want to demonstrate my disdain, but because I genuinely don’t know what to say. Of the three of us on this podcast I’m comfortably the least fluent in the interpretation of cinema, but that’s not to say I don’t enjoy a challenge. When that challenge is a fundamental shroud of obfuscation masquerading as allegory, however, I lose the will and the incentive to pursue the matter further, and I’m not surprised audiences have been so split over this movie.
Jennifer Lawrence is the (presumably) titular homeowner, Javier Bardem her seemingly distanced husband referred to in the credits only as Him. We are to assume their relationship is loveless, or at least increasingly so as Him subjects them both to the misery of his writer’s block. Blah blah some precious glass thing Him keeps in a jar. Things take a dog leg when a strange couple (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer) turn up at the premises, at once ingratiating themselves with the writer and paying scant regard to his wife. Adopting the persona of the demure housewife, mother contents herself pottering about while the mysterious duo express adulation of the creator and occasionally slip off for some rumpy pumpy in various rooms. The house has a heart, by the way.
To cut a long story short this same scenario plays out multiple times as the mysterious couple are joined first by their two sons, one of whom murders the other, then in the wake of this act further, unidentified strangers, until such time as the house is overflowing with unwanted visitors and events transpire that most closely resemble the storming of the barricades at the end of Les Mis. It’s at this point that a couple of scenes play out which really upset some audiences, and I have to say I found them somewhat unsettling myself, not least of all because the film does not do much to earn the tonal shift. Like I said before I do like to be challenged, but on the proviso that I have been afforded the option of selecting a challenging movie. At no point prior throughout it’s running time or indeed its marketing does mother! suggest that its audience can expect it to become a Gaspar Noe movie, and if I was ready to give up on it at the hour mark then I certainly felt like slamming the door in its face as the credits rolled.
If Aronofsky is indeed to continue indulging himself in religious subtext then I fully expect his next movie to be 168 hours in length and feature Willem Dafoe walking up and down the aisles of a DIY store for six straight days before finally settling on a light switch he likes and then putting his feet up for 24 hours. At least with Noah he and star Russell Crowe had the good grace to troll the Pope into finally admitting the absurdity of the source material as he declared “it is as it was,” a gesture that left me chortling in glee for a good few days after. Heck, he even gave us rock monsters. I liked the rock monsters.
mother! has none of that incidental stupidity to supplement its cause, rather it just feels like a bad movie. But what do I know?
At this point, I’m as tired of writing about these new Star Wars films as you no doubt are hearing me complaining about them, so let’s try and rattle through this with some alacrity.
Following on from the patricidal events of The Force Awakens, we join the Rebels discovering a fleet of First Order dreadnoughts reverse parking into their orbital driveway, throwing laser rocks at their space swings, the fannies. Overmatched, the Rebels beat feet, while Oscar Isaac’s Poe Dameron leads an assault on one of the bigger fish with an ultimately doomed fleet of bombers that aren’t like any craft I’ve ever seen in my X-Wing video game training, grumble grumble, as well as being a showreel for Hollywood’s tenuous grasp of how gravity works in space.
The Rebels jump away through hyperspace, but are followed immediately by the baddies, tracking them through some technobabble means that will require someone to slip on board the enemy flagship and disable it, that duty falling to John Boyega’s Finn and Kelly Marie Tran’s Rose Tico, but first they’ll need to undertake some harebrained excursion to the planet of the dinosaur derby to find an obviously untrustworthy hacker in Benecio Del Toro’s DJ.
Meanwhile Daisy Ridley’s Rey is camped outside Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill)’s shack hoping to annoy him into training her like it’s Project Mayhem or something, to which he eventually sort of agrees, although any training that happens appears to be largely accidental. She will, however, uncover more of her connection to the Force and Adam Driver’s psychopathic emo-manchild Kylo Ren. She seems to think he can be turned from the dark side, but from the way Luke tells it, that doesn’t seem likely.
All of this leads into an ending that I suppose I’d best leave somewhat vague in case you’re one of the six or seven people on the planet that’s not seen this, but suffice to say it channels The Empire Strikes Back in tone and outcome, if not actual events, or quality.
There’s been a lot of whining from the usual manchildren about The Last Jedi, as there is about any film with women in it these days, but I’m not completely clear on what their complaint is. Neither, I suspect, are they. As best I can gather, it reduces to writer / director Rian Johnston introducing some small degree of subtlety into the Star Wars universe. Loathe as I am to admit it, they may have something approaching a point, as a franchise built on Laser Space Wizards is not the natural home for subtlety.
As such, when a couple of mysteries set up in The Last Jedi are discarded in passing like a piece of garbage, well, it’s the sort of trick that would work well in Brick or some other neo-noir piece, but in the valley of the Laser Space Wizards? Well, I can see why people are annoyed. I was annoyed. Not because of any threat to the patriarchy or whatever the nuttier of the fanbois are peeved about, but because the situation at the end of this film is essentially the same as the start of the film, and not moved on very much from the start of The Force Awakens, if we’re honest about it. So it all just feels like a waste of five and a whatever hours of my rapidly diminishing lifespan.
Also, there’s about a one hour stretch of this film where everyone acts like they’ve just woken up and groggily make the worst decisions possible, sometimes with a wilful lack of knowledge, because otherwise this film would have no plot at all. Particular anti-plaudits go here to poor Domhnall Gleeson’s General Hux, who not only is an idiot, but is described as such by his boss, Supreme Leader Diana Ross, who is also an idiot, because his reasoning for having an idiot as the commander of his Space Navy is that he’s easy to manipulate. You don’t need to manipulate him, dummy, you’re his commanding officer. Order him. Unless chains of command work differently for Space Fascists.
Now that we’re firmly in the Star Wars-a-year groove, it feels less and less necessary to give y’all much of a review for them. You pretty much know what to expect, and this, despite the few aforementioned wrongfootings that aren’t all that important in the grand arc of things, pretty much delivers what you’d expect. It’s fine. I can no longer muster the enthusiasm for this franchise to either love or hate anything it does. It’s just more background noise, and this is as good as I can reasonably expect background noise to be.
I hope that we’ll look back in a few years and say that this was the permission slip given to every director and production team that follows to do something completely different to the established Lucas-based Star Wars films. I’m not holding my breath, though. Meh out of five.
Thanks to everyone who has got in touch with us on this, or said kind words about the show – it’s all very much appreciated.
If you’ve been affected by any of the issues discussed today, please hit us up on Twitter (@fudsonfilm), on Facebook (facebook.com/fudsonfilm), or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to receive our podcast on a regular basis, please add our feed to your podcasting software of choice, or subscribe on iTunes. If you could see your way clear to leaving a review on iTunes, we’d be eternally grateful, but we won’t blame you if you don’t. We’ll be back with you on the 1st with a look at Sam Rockwell’s other work, but until then, take care of yourself, and each other.