Carrie Fisher (General Leia Organa): Forget it Poe! Get your squad back so we can get out of this place. Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron): No General we can do this! We have the chance to take out a Dreadnaught! These things are real killers, we can’t let them get away! Leia: Disengage now commander, THAT is an ORDER! Take that look off your face 3-P0. Anthony Daniels (C3P0): I certainly can’t general. Poe: Let’s go BB-8 its now or never…
STAR WARS THE LAST JEDI has fulfilled every fan’s dream. There are epic battles upon epic battles. Just when you think they’re done another action packed sequence comes at you. In a lot of ways this is better than FORCE AWAKENS, which introduced characters in the vein of A NEW HOPE.
This latest release STAR WARS Episode 8, reminds one of EMPIRE STRIKES BACK with even more action, battles in different environments sometimes happening at the same time. For hardcore fans they’d recognize the older vehicles, Dreadnaughts and the land based AT-AT (All Terrain Armored Transport), which also figured prominently in EMPIRE only with the clashes taken several notches higher.
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From the dialogue above there’s the X-Wing and Tie fighter dog fights in orbit/space. There are more spacecraft from both the rebellion and the First Order. Newer androids, BB-8 has an evil twin in all black. One thing that distinguishes this movie from the previous versions is the injection of humor straight from the opening sequence. This was noted by screenwriter, filmmaker, actor and life long fan Kevin Smith in his youtube review.
According to Scott Mendelson of Forbes.com, “the Rian Johnson sci-fi sequel has sold more tickets than any other December release aside from Beverly Hills Cop ($234m in 1984/$599m today), The Force Awakens, Titanic and Avatar. 3D bumps notwithstanding, The Last Jedi is way ahead of the inflation-adjusted totals for all of the Lord of the Rings movies.” It’s currently projected for $630 million for U.S. and has already breeched $1.2 billion worldwide.
The numbers in my mind seem to suggest that the torch has again been successfully passed from the older generation to the millennials. This is no mean feat especially for the young stars in Daisy Ridley (Rey), John Boyega (Finn) and Adam Driver (Kylo Ren). This definitely bodes well for upcoming STAR WARS films such as Ewan McGregor’s return in KENOBI set for 2019 and of course STAR WARS Episode 9.
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John Williams’ Milestone
Its not just all about ticket sales but awards too. Reported by VARIETY, legendary composer, musical director John Williams may break the record for most number of Oscar nominations for two of his movies in the running THE POST and THE LAST JEDI. THE POST is directed by Steven Spielberg who has worked with Williams in all of his movies. Williams has also scored 8 of the STAR WARS films.
If he is nominated for both it would be the 51st and 52nd respectively. His five Oscar wins include: for Best Musical Score SCHINDLER’S LIST (1994), ET THE EXTRA TERRESTRIAL (1983), STAR WARS A NEW HOPE (1978), JAWS (1976) and Best Scoring adaptation and Original Song Score for FIDDLER ON THE ROOF (1972). Oscar nominees will be announced February 5, 2018.
Carrie Fisher’s Farewell
The confrontations and action takes place on multiple fronts but there is an even more important reason for a lot of fans to go to cinemas especially in the U.S.. Carrie Fisher who played Leia Organa in the STAR WARS series, has her last living performance in THE LAST JEDI. Fisher passed away December 27, 2016 after suffering from sleep apnea on a commercial flight from London to Los Angeles. Although, traces of cocaine, heroin, were found in her system, they were not conclusively determined as the direct cause of her death. Soon after Carrie, her mother (and Hollywood legend) Debbie Reynolds also passed away from a stroke about a day later while planning funeral arrangements.
Carrie’s daughter Billie Lourd referring to her mother said, “She battled drug addiction and mental illness her entire life [and] ultimately died of it. She was purposefully open in all of her work about the social stigmas surrounding these diseases… I know my Mom, she’d want her death to encourage people to be open about their struggles.”
Stigma on Mental Illness and Drug Addiction
Among the cast she is the one who evolved the most creatively. She skyrocketed to fame in 1977 with STAR WARS A NEW HOPE. Apart from being an actress she became a successful novelist, screenwriter, script doctor and playwright. She used her own struggles with mental illness (she was diagnosed as bi-polar) and drug use as material for her best selling novels: POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE and THE BEST AWFUL THERE IS and one woman play she performed WISHFUL DRINKING. Her openness with her own struggles was a means for her to shed light on the stigma of those diseases.
Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds (“Star Wars” Moments)
Writer / director Rian Johnson, shared that he worked in the lines that Carrie Fisher pitched during rehearsals and ended up being the funniest moments in the movie. Her humorous touch may be her lasting legacy here in this installment. In a January 2014 interview, Fisher confirmed her involvement and those of the original cast in the upcoming sequels by saying “as for the next Star Wars film, myself, Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill are expected to report to work in March or April. I’d like to wear my old cinnamon buns hairstyle again but with white hair. I think that would be funny.”
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In 2016, Harvard College gave Fisher its Annual Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism, noting that “her forthright activism and outspokenness about addiction, mental illness, and agnosticism have advanced public discourse on these issues with creativity and empathy.” From https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Carrie_Fisher#/2000s
In STAR WARS Episode IX, Fisher was supposed to play an even bigger role in the story. Producers have had to change the script since her death. THE LAST JEDI has become her farewell performance on screen.
What Carrie Fisher fought for concerning mental illness and drug use is particularly relevant for us Filipinos. There are those of us here who believe Carrie should have been killed as an incurable drug addict early in her career. If that happened we, the world would have lost so much, not just her performances but mostly her writings. Whether its her novel, screenplays or one woman act plays which drew a lot of the humor and insights from her experiences with addiction.
Sam YG… Rexona New Pinoy Mover
Luke Skywalker’s character played by Mark Hamill has truly come full circle in this movie. In NEW HOPE and original trilogy he had the brash aggressiveness of his youth, at this point and realistically he is the older, more reluctant, even cowardly hero. Which only seems more believable, that’s why fans were able to relate with his character from the beginning. We understand how and why he’d feel as a mere mortal. At the same time we’ve seen that evolution in him.
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My own favorite scene from the STAR WARS franchise is in the climax of RETURN OF THE JEDI, (maligned by critics when it first came out). Luke was about to be executed by Jabba the Hutt walking the plank, about to fall to his death into the mouth of a gigantic monster called the Sarlacc in the Great Pit of Carkoon. In what seemed like the most desperate clutches, he was still able to extricate himself through his use of the force. Without ruining too much THE LAST JEDI has its moments in that vein, I think that’s why the loyal fans of the franchise appreciates that from writer / director Rian Johnson.
Sarlacc Pit Battle
Rectifying Past Mistakes
Knowing what worked in the past, like the scene above, writers were also conscious of what didn’t work. PHANTOM MENACE was largely criticized for its racist overtones. They had an alien race, Neimoidians that had an Asian accent combined with inordinately large eyes. Jar Jar binks on the other hand had a Jamaican sounding accent. Since ROGUE ONE, that perception has been rectified with the casting of Donnie Yen as a blind Jedi monk Chirrut Îmwe and Wen Jiang as Baze.
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LAST JEDI has put the spotlight on a new Asian character in Rose Tico played by Kelly Marie Tran. But the story also goes beyond rectifying old mistakes by exposing current problems in the world. The plight of modern day slavery is also dealt with here. Rose herself was a victim of it and attempts to damage the gambling haven of Canto Bight that exploits them.
Benicio Del Toro and Laura Dern
There are more cool characters introduced in THE LAST JEDI. Among them code breaker and bounty hunter DJ played by no less than Benicio Del Toro. He has had a lot of critically acclaimed performances. He was a vengeful prosecutor turned vigilante in SICARIO which has a much anticipated sequel called SOLDADO set for release in June 2018. Benicio gives all of his characters that dark, morally ambiguous feel, that gives this film even more texture.
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Laura Dern as Vice Admiral Holdo is no stranger to a lot of sci-fi fans as she has figured prominently in JURASSIC PARK (1 through 3). Her scenes with the late Carrie Fisher, Oscar Isaac (Poe Dameron) are among the most memorable and dramatic in this movie. Most fans will identify Dern as Renata Klein in BIG LITTLE LIES that recently won a lot of awards at the Golden Globes.
Game of Thrones actors
GOT fans have given FORCE AWAKENS a thumbs up with Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma. Her character is given even more screen time in this installment. Gwendoline is the tall warrior/ knight who won our hearts as Lady Brienn or with the ironic name of Brienne The Beauty.
Tim Yap… Rexona New Pinoy Mover
Since then she was not the only GOT actor to be given a prominent role in THE LAST JEDI. Not a lot of GOT fans may remember Ralph Ineson because he only played a minor role in Dagmer Cleftjaw and similarly here as a Senior First Order officer. But Ineson has actually worked in several Hollywood blockbusters: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY1, KINGSMAN1 and HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HOLLOWS.
Kate Dickie who played Lysa Arryn was almost unrecognizable as Hux’s First Order Monitor. She had a cap and black uniform on annotating / reporting to First Order General Hux played by another prominent British actor Domhnall Gleeson.
Apart from lead star Daisy Ridley as Jedi in training Rey, the British influence is certainly felt. Prince William and Harry’s cameo roles were not cut out along with Tom Hardy, Garry Barlow. Other big Hollywood names include director Edgar Wright and Joseph Gordon Levitt as Storm troopers.
Big Screen Goodbye
What writer /director Rian Johnson has done is to give long time fans of STAR WARS what they want with more battle scenes, more action, more intergalactic beasts that are both familiar and strange. The Fathiers are bigger, hairier, faster more powerful versions of racehorses in a galactic casino city. Apart from the epic battle scenes are the individual Jedi vs dark side duels, which may be the best ever. Whether a long time admirer OR NOT it’s the best two and a half hours you can spend in a movie theater.
Besides, how else can you say goodbye to a Princess known in the whole galaxy? She made us love her even more admitting her weaknesses with drugs, medication and alcohol through her humor, wit, words and memorable performances. Farewell Leia, ‘May the Force be with you.’