Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Part 6)

This brings us to Canto Bight.  Canto Bight is the big gambling city (planet) where we see a bunch of wealthy elites hobnobbing and living the good life.  We learn that Rose hates Canto Bight because she may have grown up in similar surroundings.  She shows Finn that behind the shiny and ritzy glamour hides a darker side.  There are racing animals being abused and slave children being used to work as caretakers for those animals.

The Star Wars universe of the prequels and new trilogy apparently have a pretty big problem with slaves.  Given the number of slaves we see in the prequels and in this new trilogy it makes one wonder if the galaxy wasn’t better off during the Empire.  There aren’t really any slaves during the Empire with the exception of Leia for about a day and a half.

Rose says she wants to put her “fist through this big beautiful town.”  The whole thing just feels kind of cheap to me.  We have never hear anything about this place but then it just sort of gets thrown at us.  Here’s this thing for you to hate!  Aren’t the people here terrible!  This is the root of all the problems in the galaxy!  Don’t you want to see this place trampled?  They may as well have called Canto Bight MacGuffin City.

There was a brief point in the theater where they were wandering through the casino looking for the master code breaker where I thought, “Whoa, wouldn’t it be amazing if Lando was the master codebreaker?”

I started to get really excited.  I was actually almost nervous, waiting to see one of my favorite (indeed, everyone’s favorite) characters make his glorious return to the franchise!

Sadly this was not the case.  However I was pleasantly surprised when they revealed the master code breaker.  The character seemed like he was going to  be amazing.  We see him deliver a line of dialogue and then we never see him again for the rest of the movie.

Right after we meet this character Finn and Rey are arrested for a minor parking violation and thrown into prison.

Bach on Ahch-To Rey is practicing swinging her staff around and stopping just short of a rock on the edge of a cliff on the island.  After a minute of this she switches to a lightsaber.  She becomes a little too excited and accidentally slices the rock apart where a two ton section of it slides off the cliff and destroys a cart that two Force Nuns are pushing.  They already hate Rey for blasting a hole in the rock hut earlier so they are even more annoyed with her after this.  This whole scene is played off as a comedic break but in reality Rey almost killed those Force Nuns.

Later Luke is grumbling to Rey about how horrible the Jedi are.  “The legacy of the Jedi is failure, hypocrisy, hubris.”  Luke seems to forget that the only Jedi he every knew personally are ones that he personally trained.  It seems a little presumptuous for him to assume that all Jedi and there should never be another.

Luke Buzzkiller goes on to state that it was a Jedi who created Darth Vader.  I’m not really sure I understand the logic on that one but Rey adds that it was also a Jedi who saved Darth Vader.  Luke then gives her a look of annoyed acceptance.

Luke then goes on to deliver some of the most powerful dialogue in the movie.  He describes the night that he went to confront Ben Solo, having sensed the darkness in him.  He went to confront him, in the middle of the night when Ben Solo woke up, got he wrong idea, then somehow destroyed his hut, pushed Luke, and destroyed the temple.  He took some students with him and killed the rest.

Luke opens up about his failure to Rey and we see the pain in his eyes.  We see why Luke wants to give up.  Unfortunately I’m also left hoping that Luke would be stronger than that.  I’d always assumed that the Luke Skywalker I knew and loved would not have let a setback, albeit a large one, just make him give up.

It seems to me that he legacy of the Jedi according to the prequel trilogy and the new trilogy is a legacy of giving up and running away.  Yoda did it.  Obi-Wan did it.  Now we see Luke doing it.   I just have a hard time accepting that these Jedi who were such fearless warriors in the face of overwhelming odds would just give up.  How would the end of Return of the Jedi have been if Luke had just bolted out of the throne room and gone to hide on a remote planet for twenty years?

Sadly, the Rebellion/Resistance may have been in better shape by this same time had he done that.

Next up . . . The Great Escape!

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Part 5)

Elsewhere on the ship Finn is sneaking through the engine room toward an escape pod.  There he stumbles upon a young woman who is crying as she clutches what looks to be the other half of a necklace worn by the buyer we see die in the opening scene of the movie.  We learn that she’s there to stun people who are deserting.  She quickly figures out that’s what Finn is trying to do and stuns him.  She must be held in some extremely high regard by Resistance leadership as she is there alone with no one to stop her from running should she choose to.

After Finn comes back to consciousness he explains to her that they’ve been tracked through hyperspace.  This sparks a conversation as to how the First Order could possibly have done this previously impossible feat.  Within about 30 seconds they offhandedly mention something that would work and not only figure out how the First Order did it but what they’d need to do to undo it so that the Resistance could escape.

So there you have it.  Two low level functionaries of the Resistance seemingly invented anew technology and a counter to it just by being told it had been done.  Here’s how this scenario would play out in today’s military:

Scene: Aboard USS Navy Destroyer USS Sullivans (DDG 68)

Petty Officer Third Class: Hey, did you hear that the enemy was able to destroy up our aircraft carrier by going back in time and blowing up the shipyard it before it was even built.

Petty Officer Second Class: What? That’s impossible.

PO3: Unless they could stabilize the dimension of timespace . . .

PO2: And create a sub-dimension that allowed them to . . .

TOGETHER: leapfrog the normal time process function!

PO3: But how do we stop them?

PO2: Well, we could always initiate a particle deceleration field around their base.

PO3: Then they wouldn’t be able to super charge the linear bypass dampers!

PO2: Now we’ll just need a master code breaker!

They bring this plan up to Poe who likes it so they contact Maz who tells them where they can find this master code breaker.  I’m not so sure that Maz is a character that really needed to be reprise their role in this movie but we see her in a holo as she’s firing a gun at unnamed foes.

Back on Ahch-To Rey suddenly wakes up and sees Kylo Ren.  She immediately grabs her blaster and fires a hole in the side of her stone hut.

He is not there, however, they are merely mind connected.  He seems just as surprised as she is and states that she could not be doing this because the effort would kill her.  This sets us up for the end of the movie.

Eventually he vanishes and the tension is broken by angry Force Nuns who we suddenly learn inhabit Luke’s island.  The weird milk creatures and Porgs are not Luke’s only company, there are also some very agitated Nuns.  They grumble in some alien language but it is not subtitled.  You have always been able to tell Star Wars’ respect for alien creatures by whether or not they are subtitled.  Apparently Force Nuns didn’t make the cut.

The next morning Rey is given her first lesson by Luke.  He tells her to reach out, she does, and then he taunts her for being an idiot.  Things quickly get out of hand as Rey tries again then immediately goes to a “dark place.”  Stones rise, rocks crack, Luke yells at her to resist and then it’s all over.

Luke says he’s only seen this once before, with Ben Solo, and that it didn’t scare him enough then but it does now.  Meanwhile, back on the Millennium Falcon, Chewbacca is trying to call the Resistance while the ship is being overrun by Porgs.  I really thought they were setting this up to be a Tribble Trouble sort of situation but that subplot never materializes.

This segment ends with Kylo Ren telling Rey about the night that he destroyed Luke’s temple.  He see a maniacal Luke drawing back his lightsaber to kill Kylo Ren and Kylo responding by somehow demolishing the temple and pushing Luke back through the wall.  It appears that Rey is beginning to sympathize with him as she hears his story and presumably shares in some of his emotional memory of the event.

Next up . . . it’s high stakes action in Monte Carlo Canto Bight!

 

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Part 4)

Kylo Ren’s decision to not fire upon his own mother’s ship is a touching scene but ultimately meaningless as a group of fighters swoops in right behind him and blasts the the ship enough so that the bridge is destroyed and Leia gets shot out into the vacuum of space.

When watching this for the first time I thought that was it.  I thought they’d killed off Leia and I watched in sadness as they showed her motionless body floating through space.  Then we see Leia’s fingers start to move.  It becomes clear that this is not the end of Leia.  Then the unthinkable happens, she begins floating through space back toward the ship.

I don’t have any issue with Leia using the force to get back to the ship.  However, the way it happens is just silly.  Upon a second viewing I will admit that it looked a little better but when I saw it for the first time my immediate reaction was an uncontrollable chuckle.  Maybe if she had glided more horizontally but the fact that she was upright, her dress unmoving in the zero gravity, just looked comical.  To me it was the “first kiss” moment of the new trilogy.  In the prequel trilogy we see Anakin and Padme have a first kiss and as she pulls away the swelling music cuts out.  The result is hilarious and I know that’s not likely what hey were going for.

We then return to planet Ahch-To to see Chewbacca slowly roasting a Porg over an open flame.  As he goes to eat it he is stopped by a sad-looking Porg staring him down.  Chewbacca scares away the growing number of guild-inducing Porgs but then is left with no appetite to eat he roasted one.  The scene appears to be a comedic lift after what we’ve just watch but to me it played like two simultaneous comedic scenes.  It also left me a little disturbed about the wasted roast Porg.

As this scene unfolds Luke enters the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon and we see him have a solitary reunion with the old ship.  He even takes the gold dice hanging in the cockpit seemingly as a souvenir.

After sitting a moment he noticed R2-D2 and it’s the only moment of joy we see Luke experience in this movie.  He looks genuinely happy and smiles like the Luke we all grew up with.  He tells R2 that he’s not going back and that nothing can make him go back.  R2 then plays the famous Princess Leia hologram from the original movie which Luke tells him is a cheap shot.

Luke emerges from the Millennium Falcon and tells Rey that tomorrow, at dawn, he will begin her training with three lessons.  “I will teach you the ways of the Jedi and why they need to end.”

We then return to the Resistance ships being fired upon and learn that all the Resistance top leadership was killed in the blast that ejected Leia into space.  This includes Admiral Ackbar.

One of the problems I have with these new movies is that they’re sad.  I know it’s fine for there to be sad elements in a movie.  It’s just very depressing to see all of your old heroes growing old, suffering loss and heartache, and dying.  I was pretty happy with where Return of the Jedi left things.  I just imagined Leia worked together with Mon Mothma to re-establish the Republic as we see in a lot of the expanded universe books, and that they rose above all the conflict and devastation they’d seen.

Unfortunately, the truth of it is that Han and Leia didn’t live happily ever after.  They broke up.  They had a son who betrayed them.  We see Han die in heart-breaking scene at the hands of his own son.  Presumably we will see or hear about Leia’s ultimate fate as it looks unlikely she’ll be in the final movie for any more than a few stitched-together scenes.

I don’t like it.

Seeing Han Solo die affected me more than I’d like to admit.  Knowing that Admiral Ackbar dies is also a bummer.  Who knows what happened to General Madine or Mon Mothma?  Likely they were killed in other pointless battles the Resistance had with the First Order.

The information about Admiral Ackbar and the others’ deaths is delivered by Vice Admiral Holdo, a purple-haired military officer in a dress who gives a not-so-reassuring speech to everyone about Leia’s status.  We learn that there are about 400 resistance fighters left on three ships.  We also learn that Poe had no idea what Holdo looked like or who she was despite the fact that she was a senior member of the leadership.  I’ve worked for companies and locations which hundreds more people than that and I can tell you I knew who the top people were.

The dwindling of the Resistance just shines a light on the continued problem I have with the new movies.  The First Order is not the Empire.  The Resistance are not the Republic.  But they sort of are.  It was dumb to create these two new fictional entities rather than just have it be the remnants of the Empire vs. the New Republic.

In the first expanded universe books Timothy Zahn creates a compelling struggle between the diminished remnants of the old Empire being helmed by the military genius of Grand Admiral Thrawn.  Despite the Republic’s advantage in size, Thrawn manages to make them underdogs in this new fight.

We don’t need the Resistance to be down to twenty people to make it seem like all could be lost.  That could be achieved without having concocted this weird new military/political struggle between these two new groups.

At a certain point the struggle becomes too much.  How will this tiny remaining group of fighters win against the Empire at this point?  Earlier in the movie Luke asks Rey,  “ You think what? I’m gonna walk out with a laser sword and face down the whole First Order?”  I liked this line.  I like the realism of the lightsaber duels.   The prequels are just highly-choreographed dance sequences.  In this new trilogy it looks like an actual struggle when two people are fighting.  In the prequels it would be taken for granted that Anakin or Obi-Wan or whoever would simply just take on an entire army alone.  In the new trilogy the Jedi are strong warriors, but not super heroes, and not invincible.

That’s the refreshing point of these new movies.  It’s something I really enjoy.  The downside is that the corner they seem to have painted themselves into is that they need an unrealistic hero to seemingly win this fight.  They need a Neo or an Anakin Skywalker, or a Goku.  Rey is strong but, much like Luke, she won’t be able to do it either.

Next up . . . Finn meets Rose and sets out on another adventure!

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Part 3)

Back on Ahch-To Rey discovered a stone hut which houses the original Jedi texts which, as we know, are 1,000 generations (or approximately 20,000 years) old.  This means that Master Skywalker did not choose this remote island planet for its remoteness but rather to stand watch over the Jedi texts.  One wonders whether this planet’s location is common knowledge.  If so, why haven’t the Sith or some of history’s past bad guys showed up and destroyed it?  Also, why wouldn’t anyone have thought to look for Luke here before?

Luke lets Rey know in no uncertain terms that he will never train a generation of new Jedi and that he came to this island to die.  We briefly see his X-wing submerged in the water which seems to indicate that he has no way of leaving the planet except that we are all familiar with the fact that X-wings are more than capable of being removed from water and being flyable.  The only question is that of duration.  In Dagobah his X-wing was submerged for likely a few days, on Ahch-To it could have been a few years.  At any rate it’s also likely that a spaceship designed to survive the rigors of space travel would likely be able to survive a while underwater as well.

On the Resistance ship Leia slaps Poe Dameron in the face and demotes him.  I’d have to say that Poe got off pretty easy in this situation.  I’m not a military man but personally I think anything short of court martial followed by immediate execution is a pretty light punishment for what he did.  Maybe it’s my age but I can’t help but think that Poe is a reckless fool and not a hero.  He needlessly lost a squadron of bombers and valuable lives.  As we see throughout the course of this movie the Resistance’s numbers seem to be best measured by the dozen.  This is not a move that should have left Poe Dameron anywhere other than the brig or the morgue.

Finn is waking up from his injuries in some sort of comical bacta suit.  I didn’t look it up, that’s just what I’m imagining it is.  I’m surprised they didn’t go for the bacta tank callback since these movies seem to be so fond of such things and I can’t decide if the suit with all the tubes is better or worse.  For some reason the scene is filmed in a comical way before Finn returns to action.

Meanwhile the rebels have found a new base they can retreat to. Leia reveals that she has a “binary cloaking beacon” which is Star Wars speak for a homing device which will allow Leia to keep tabs on Rey’s whereabouts.

The Resistance then jumps into hyperspace only to find that the First Order has tracked and followed them through hyperspace.  It’s well established law in the Star Wars universe that this is impossible.  It is not explained how they have done this just that they have.  While I have no problem with them changing the rules with such things it seems to only be delivered to advance the plot.  We have no idea why or how this happened.  It just seems like a convenient fact for the First Order.

It’s then revealed that they only have enough fuel for one more jump and that if the First Order follows them again they will be sitting ducks.

Now this does bother me.  Why?  Because nowhere in the Star Wars movies has the word “fuel” ever been mentioned before.  People love to say that Star Wars is fantasy and not science fiction.  I don’t necessarily agree with that one hundred percent but it’s not an entirely wrong statement.  Fuel, science, technical explanations, these are all things generally reserved for Star TrekStar Wars always seems to focus more on the story than that sort of thing.  The same way that no one in Star Wars has ever had to load their blaster or recharge their lightsaber.  Presumably these technologies have evolved beyond the batteries and gas pumps of our current day technology.

Please don’t start telling me about some nonsense you read in one of the EU novels published in 2004.  I’m talking Star Wars canon here, nothing else.

Some energy source somehow propels them through the stars but I always imagined it to be something more along the lines of Red Dwarf where they’re accumulating particles in space or regenerating matter or something.  Something more advanced than pulling up to the Dantooine Shell Station for a fill up.

When they decide that they can’t go into hyperspace they decide to simply outrun the First Order but this is a problem because it also reportedly burns fuel which they imply will eventually get them caught.  This makes even less sense.  I was watching and fully able to buy their fighters’ space maneuvers, “dropping” bombs in space, etc.  Now that they’ve brought up fuel I’m in science-mode.  Obviously you don’t burn up fuel in space.  You go as fast as you can go then stop burning fuel because inertia will allow you to travel for an infinite amount of time at top speed in a frictionless environment.   They may run out of food or supplies but they will never run out of fuel.  If they’d made it more of a space siege where their supplies were dwindling that could have made this scene have a little more impact though, admittedly, would have taken a considerably longer time to pull off.

I guess the idea of fuel isn’t that big a deal it’s just that it took them over forty years to bother bringing it up.  Fuel is the midichlorians of the new trilogy.  Don’t make me think about the science of all of this.  If I want science I’ll watch Star Trek.

Next up . . . Leiaaaas in Spaaaaaace!

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Part 2)

After the unnecessary, casualty-heavy battle against the First Order we return to the planet Ahch-To, where we last saw Rey handing Luke his old lightsaber at the end of The Force Awakens.  Waiting the last two years to find out what happens next was excruciating.  Even during the space battle it was hard to not think about what was going to happen next.  What would he do when he took the lightsaber?  What would he say?

Well, as we all know, Luke takes it and tosses it over his shoulder as he blows past Rey to leave her standing dumbfounded.  I have to say, this was pretty surprising.  With all the things we’ve all thought and wondered about what would happen I don’t know anyone who guessed this.  While it’s shocking and surprising I’m not really sure why it happened.  Sure it sets the tone for the rest of the interaction we’ll see between Luke and Rey but it is still a pretty big letdown after all the anticipation.

While all this is going on we see Porgs everywhere.  They are like an infestation on this planet that we somehow missed at the end of The Force Awakens.  They’re like Ewoks if Ewoks were cuter and served far less of a point in the plot.  While I avoided all spoilers, trailers, and fan theories going into this movie it was impossible to avoid that the Porgs would be coming so when I saw them I expected them to have some sort of purpose to the story.  Apparently the only thing they were there for was to almost kill each other with a lightsaber and to make Chewbacca feel guilty about being a carnivore.

Rey then follows Luke around the island a bunch.  He sort of meanders around the island, balances on a super long stick, and catches a comically large fish.  He’s like Goku in the first episode of Dragon Ball if Goku was 50 years older and really grumpy.

Eventually Chewbacca meets up with them much to Luke’s surprise.  He is also completely unaware of Han Solo’s fate.  This sort of bothered me.  Han Solo is Luke Skywalker’s best friend, right?  He’s also the husband (estranged or not) of his twin sister and father to his nephew.  How did Luke not sense Han’s death?  Either he was willfully “turning off” his Force sensitivity or he just didn’t have the ability to sense it.  I don’t like any of those answers.

I’ve heard that Mark Hamill was not entirely happy with the direction Luke Skywalker took in this movie and early on in the movie it becomes apparent why.  Luke Skywalker was a whiny, annoying kid in the original movies but by Return of the Jedi we’ve seen a huge amount of maturing and he turns into someone you would think would be worthy of being called a Jedi.  In The Last Jedi Luke is annoyed, grumpy, sarcastic, and exhausted.  We are left wondering if Rey can be the one that turns him around and makes him back into the man he once was.

One thing is for sure, the Jedi seem to be quitters.  Yoda’s self imposed exile seems fine during The Empire Strikes Back but when we see how he came to that exile in Revenge of the Sith we can’t help but wonder why Yoda is so lame.  We were told Yoda was a great warrior.  Apparently the way he shows that is by trying to stop a bad guy one time, failing, then just giving up and going off to die on a remote planet.

Apparently this is something Luke learned from his old master.  If things don’t go your way in the epic struggle against evil just leave.  Run away, give up, leave your friends to die, let your sister tirelessly fight alone without your help.  After all, you’re a Jedi, how could you possible help?  Why don’t you just drink blue milk out of the teat of some grumpy, vaguely humanoid alien for the rest of your life instead of standing up for what you believe in?  That’s the way of the Jedi.  Fight to the death?  No way!  That’s too dangerous!  It’s much easier to run away and feel sorry for yourself for the rest of your life.  That’s’s the classic hero’s journey.

I’m starting to think that a better ending for Obi-Wan in A New Hope would have been Obi-Wan simply sprinting down the hallway in the Death Star and jumping in an escape pod to get away from Darth Vader never to be seen again.

Apparently Obi-Wan would have benefited from the ancient Jedi texts that Yoda and Luke both had access to.

Next up . . . The chase is on!

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Part 1)

The Last Jedi opens in media res, the standard Star Wars way.  We see a small rebel (sorry, Resistance) fleet gathering above an unnamed planet, preparing to evacuate their base ahead of an imperial (sorry, First Order) attack.

Very quickly we see the Star Destroyers, and a dreadnought blink out of hyperspace above the planet.  It’s an extremely well done shot as we see the ships appear from the point of view of those on the planet’s surface looking up into the sky.  We then see more ships appear from space.

One of the commanders of the First Order ships says something about “rebel scum” because, of course, you need to throw in references to past movies wherever possible.

It’s less than a minute into the movie and we already have a great deal of tension built up.  Will the Resistance escape?  Will the base be destroyed?  Something you can’t take for granted in the new Star Wars movies is that the good guys will always be safe.  Nothing is guaranteed.

As the tension continues to build we see Poe Dameron come into site and place some sort of phone call directly to General Hux on the bridge of his Star Destroyer.  This isn’t something I was aware could be done easily, or at all for that matter.  Poe’s voice is just echoing through the bridge with presumably every low level First Order functionary just listening in on the call.

Poe then asks to speak to General Hux and then pretends he doesn’t hear Hux’s responses in an oddly cheeky scene bookended by a tension building escape on one side and a harrowing space battle on the other.  I’ve heard a lot of people didn’t like this scene.  Honestly, I find the humor in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi to be pretty well written.  While it can be perhaps a a little too comedic at times it’s a welcome reprieve from the “humor” in the prequel trilogy.  My first thought when laughing for the first time during The Force Awakens was, “Oh my God.  I’m laughing with a Star Wars movie and not at it.”  This was a great feeling.

Laughing at Hux is also welcome since he’s such a prissy little sycophant he’s just designed to be hated.

After this exchange tricks Hux into buying time for the Resistance we are briefly introduced to another General/Admiral aboard a dreadnought who is annoyed at Hux’s stupidity throughout this situation.  I really liked this character and was disappointed he was killed off so quickly.

It’s then that Poe attacks the dreadnought, taking out all but one of the surface cannons before sustaining damage to his weapon system.  Since all damage to ships seems to happen within poking distance of a droid BB-8 is able to comically jam his head into a motherboard and get Poe’s guns working in time to take out the last cannon so that the Resistance can begin a bombing run.

General Leia orders Poe to escape since their mission at this point is survival.  Poe, however, cannot pass up an opportunity to take down a dreadnought and orders a bombing strike.

There are a couple questions about the Resistance strategy here.

Firstly, why is the fleet of bombers at the ready if they were just planning on escaping?  Secondly, why are the bomber pilots ignoring the orders of their General and listening to Poe who just thinks it would be really cool to take down a dreadnought?

So the wave of bombers comes in at a ridiculously slow speed and, naturally, are all sitting ducks for enemy fighter fire.  Many complain about the idea of a bomb being “dropped” in space.  This is a fair complaint but the idea of bombers in Star Wars was established in The Empire Strikes Back and I’m willing to accept that they use some sort of magnetic force or something for dramatic purposes.  Still doesn’t seem to make sense why they’d be at all preferable to attaching the same payload to a missile but for the purposes of the story I can accept it.

Resistance strategy continues to unravel as we see that it takes a squadron of 8-12 bombers to get just one to survive to get close enough to actually bomb anything.  Then we also see that apparently the payload of one bomber is more than adequate to take out a First Order ship that is eight kilometers in length.  It seems that stashing a dozen or so bombs on a number of fast-moving X-wings may be a far more effective technique in using these things and cost far less in equipment and lives.

This whole scene is action packed, is well done, and makes little sense.  I’m willing to suspend disbelief but it’s hard to understand why any of this would happen.  All the elements were laid in place for a great, and likely similar, space battle but instead we’re left questioning Poe’s leadership, Leia’s authority, and the overall strategy of the Resistance.

Next up . . . The Return of Luke Skywalker!

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Introduction)

In 2001 I set out to create a definitive list of gripes (or “Reasons to Hate” as I called them) Star Wars: Episode I.  The eight part series of 78 Reasons to Hate became the most read thing I’ve ever written resulting in millions of hits, spawning a vibrant online community, and continuing on through Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

The attention these articles lead to a mention in Entertainment Weekly, a BBC documentary called Generation Jedi which I still haven’t seen, thousands of emails of praise and condemnation, and a fun interview for the movie The People vs. George Lucas.  They even lead to me meeting my wife.

It’s hard to imagine that my criticism of The Phantom Menace would indirectly lead to the birth of my three children.  Nothing else I’ve ever written has had such an impact on my life.  Much like Darth Plagueis, my criticism of these movies had the power to create life.

In the twelve years since Revenge of the Sith I’ve had time to reflect and think about these movies more.  While I stand behind all my gripes, I do not stand behind the word hate.  I have no hate for any of them.  One thing I told Alexandre O. Philippe while filming The People vs. George Lucas is that I don’t enjoy the hate that’s risen out of the prequels.  Sure, I have my problems with them, I even used the term “hate” which in retrospect I wish I hadn’t done.  However, things got pretty ugly with the way that George Lucas, and unfortunately his family, were treated because people simply didn’t like the movies.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t like these movies.  I think that is clear.  I also don’t mind some goodhearted poking of fun at Mr. Lucas.  However, he is George Lucas.  He didn’t kill or do anything to your childhood by making movies you didn’t like.  He simply disappointed you.  He disappointed me too.  For that I will always be happy to make a lighthearted joke at his expense.  At the same time I realize my “hate” came from love.  Love of the original movies and love of the man who was behind them, creating something that was so important to me and so many others of my generation.

When The Force Awakens came out I was bombarded with tweets and emails from people asking me what I thought, asking me to review and give new reasons to hate this new movie.  I answered everyone simply that I couldn’t do it.  I honestly really enjoyed the movie.

I am baffled by people who say that The Force Awakens was terrible or the worst thing they’d ever seen, etc.  I’m past that.  I had nothing invested in The Force Awakens.  I refused to watch any trailer, read any review, or look at any fan theories.  I went into the movie completely blind and was pleasantly surprised by what I saw.

With The Force Awakens I simply had no energy to make a list of gripes with it.  It was fun.  I laughed, I was touched, I was entertained, it moved quickly.  Sure, I could pick apart every little detail about it but at the end of the movie I was happy and satisfied.  That seems to be what it all boils down to.  I could poke holes in A New Hope, Return of the Jedi, or even The Empire Strikes Back.  No film or piece of art is without its problems or inconsistencies.  To me it’s all about the balance.  Was the film fun enough, good enough, or entertaining enough to allow you to let go and ignore the small distractions?

I could probably write a 10,000 word essay about my problems with “The First Order” and “The Resistance” and how they relate to The Empire and The Rebellion and all those odd political things going on in the film.  However, getting to know Rey and Finn, seeing Han Solo back in action, and learning about Kylo Ren were all well worth those distractions to me.

So it was that I never publicly talked about or wrote about The Force Awakens.  I simply waited patiently, ignoring all trailers, fan theories, and potential spoilers for The Last Jedi.  Even with that it was hard to ignore the general sense of elation and joy coming from the media and critics who seemed to be in love with this movie.  Many compared it to The Empire Strikes Back or even called it the best Star Wars movie yet!

I was starting to get excited.

 

When I finally saw the movie on December 15 I felt much the same way I did after seeing The Phantom Menace.  This is not to say I though it was at all on par with The Phantom Menace as far as quality.  The Last Jedi is a much, much better movie.  The feeling I felt was that of confusion.  I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not.  I didn’t want to say anything bad about it but at the same time I was disappointed.  I was confused.  Was there something I was missing?  Everyone else seemed to love this movie!

I had to sit on it for a few days.  I had a chance to talk it out with some people and I could feel those same wheels turning, the ones that in 1999 eventually lead me to write my 78 Reasons to Hate articles.  I didn’t write those articles to be funny.  I didn’t write them to get people to praise me or to wish death upon me via email.  I wrote them because I had to.  There were so many things swirling around in my head and I had to get them down on “paper.”  I had to make a comprehensive list for my own sake, to get it out of my system.

And you know what? It worked.  I felt much better after having done so.

Now I find myself in the same position with The Last Jedi.  I must personally feel that here are enough distractions and inconsistencies with the movie that they outweigh the overall feeling I got from the film or I wouldn’t feel this way.  I know a lot of people who loved it, a lot who feel the way I do, and still others who hate it well beyond anything I feel.

I don’t hate it.  But I have a lot of problems with it.  After having a couple of weeks to think about it I think I’m ready to get them out in the open and discuss them.

Unlike my previous articles, which were written in their completion before being broken up, I have nothing written at this time.  All I have is the thoughts in my head.  I have no schedule and no timetable.  I will no doubt have to watch the movie again to take some notes and I will try to get my thoughts out in as close to chronological order as possible.

I’m ready to talk but I don’t wish to debate.  I have three more children and one more wife than I had when I wrote my original articles.  I don’t have time for that.  Enough people have asked for my thoughts that I will get them out there.  If you agree with any of them, great.  If you don’t, even better.  That means you’re a self-aware human being with your own thoughts and ideas.  Cherish that and be yourself.  Like and enjoy what you like and enjoy and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

2018 will see the beginning of my feelings.  In the meantime if you wish to read any of my previous reviews of the movies you can do so here.

Here we go . . .

Pokémon GO Generation 3: Round 2

After the initial launch of Generation III Pokémon GO has now seen the addition of more ice and water type creatures into the game.  The introduction of more Pokémon has definitely been exciting.  More exciting still is the new weather system which means the possibility of catching more powerful (up to level 35) Pokémon in the wild as well as overall higher IVs.

Delibird has been released and if most players are like me then most players are already sick of catching them.

Exciting for me is that I managed to finally get my steel gold medal, catching 200 steel Pokémon in the game.

The next day I rounded everything out by finally getting my gold fighting type medal.  This is largely thanks to the influx of new fighting types in Generation 3 such as Makuhita and Meditite combined with them spawning more often in the frequently cloudy weather here in the Midwest.

This leaves me with dragon type being the only gold medal I need.  Unless Generation 4 releases some common dragon type Pokémon I shouldn’t see that until some time in 2021.

Wailmer raids have started showing up in the game.  This is exciting as Wailmer’s evolution, Wailord, takes 400 candies to evolve.  There is a great nest nearby but with temperatures in the negatives it’s unclear whether I’ll be able to spend any time there to eventually evolve my Wailord or if it’ll take me several months like my first Gyarados.

Only 3 million XP stands between me and level 40.  So basically I only have to do the entirety of level 38 again and I’ll be there.

I have about 12-14 evolutions ready to go for the Pokédex at this point.  So far the pacing of this generation has been pretty good.  It’s not taking as long as the first two but still a challenge.

At this point recent updates have left a few annoying things with the games, some of them bugs.  These things desperately need to be addressed in a future update.

1.) The transfer/appraisal bug.

On the surface this sounds minor but it is a huge hassle once you get to playing.  Any time you appraise, transfer, or evolve a Pokémon it takes you all the way back to the top of your Pokémon storage screen.   If you have maxed out your storage to 1500, or even at any amount, it means a lot of scrolling, searching, and wasted time.

2.) Scrolling between battle teams, Pokémon, and eggs.

For some reason scrolling between them now requires an extremely delicate touch.  It’s easy to be on your battle party then slide all the way over to eggs.  It’s not the end of the world but it doesn’t match the scrolling in any other section of the game and is frustrating when you’re just trying to get to your Pokémon.

3.) Battle parties not allowing additions.

Some battle parties I have will not allow me to add a sixth Pokémon.  This didn’t happen when the feature was initially released, it only started happening with the recent update.  It pretty much makes some of my custom parties useless.

4.) The Pokédex page.

With nearly 400 Pokémon currently accessible this page is a mess.   With images loading server side it takes forever for them to all populate.  The ever-so-slight color variance between generations makes it difficult to figure out where one ends a new one begins.  Tabbing them by generation seems like a very easy and minor fix to implement.  Additionally a search feature or ability to select by type may be in order.  Anything to make finding who you are looking for easier.  Additionally there seems to be a bug where an additional Barboach shows up after Groudon is unable to be clicked on even though that is not the correct spot in the Pokédex.

It’s been pretty common place that with every new update comes a handful of new and frustrating bugs but as we approach the year two mark for Pokémon GO I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect some of these things will be changed for the better.

I anticipate two things from 2018: a fix for some of these frustrating bugs and finally hitting level 40.

Happy New Year!

Slakoth Mega Spawn?

Slaking is the Pokémon everyone playing Pokémon GO wants right now.  Even though plenty of information has come out about it being extremely overrated, it is hard to resist the Pokémon with the highest CP in the overall game.  Since the Gen 3 launch nearly a week ago I’d only caught a few Slakoth leading up to today so I was preparing for a months long journey to getting my first Slaking, much like my time working toward Dragonite and Tyranitar.

Imagine my surprise when I was on my way to work and stumbled upon a small neighborhood which was bursting at the seems with Slakoth.  Everywhere I turned there was another and another.  I just kept catching them over and over.  With it being party cloudy everything I was catching was weather boosted and I caught a few with decent IVs.

I also stumbled upon my first Vigoroth, Slakoth’s evolved form.  I’d seem a silhouette of one on day one of the Gen 3 launch that I passed up, not yet realizing what it was.  He had a really high CP but, not thinking anything of it, I used a Pinap berry and caught him on the first throw.

It turns out he had IVs of 96% and was level 34.  It turned out from all the Pinap berries I’d used and all the Slakoth I’d caught I was already ready to evolve my first Slaking.  I did not delay and was not disappointed.

Slaking instantly became my most powerful Pokémon in the game by almost 1,000 CP (I never power anything up).  After evolving him I still continued to catch Slakoth on the rest of my afternoon journey to work.

So, what happened?  Why was a Pokémon so hard to find all of a sudden spawning like Pidgeys?  I was under the impression that Slakoth nests didn’t exist, much like Dratini and Larvitar.  Momentarily I thought I’d simply stumbled upon a nest.  After more thinking I’m wondering if some weird switch was accidentally flipped and suddenly they were spawning everywhere in the game for a brief time.

At any rate it was a pretty remarkable hour or so of playing the game.  On the one hand it’s exciting to have my most powerful Pokémon without even needing to use any candy or stardust to power up.  On the other hand some of the thrill of the hunt is now suddenly gone.  I can’t remember any Pokémon that I’ve desperately wanted that took me so little time to catch.  I walked Larvitar for well over one hundred kilometers to get enough candy to evolve right before raids came out.  I walked and hunted Dratini for months.  Even Abra and Machop took me forever in the days before Pinap berries.

I don’t know if there’s any truth to my theory of an accidental mega spawn but I’d be interested to know if anyone else experienced any similar situations today.

With Slaking out of the way so early I’m not setting my sights on Ralts and eventually Gardevoir.  Ralts has been another rare find in my area.  I’m not sure if another Mega Spawn is possible but I’m intrigued to find out what exactly happened today.

In the meantime I’ll be putting my Slaking in gyms where, apparently, it will be nowhere near as effective as I’d hoped.

It doesn’t get much better than that.

Pokémon Go Gen 3 Launch and Real Time Weather

Generation 3 is upon us in Pokémon Go.  Well, at least one third of it is.  I’ve been saying for some time that the launch of a new generation of Pokémon is exciting but that excitement will be shortlived.  After the first weekend of playing through the game I am already sick of Zigzagoon and Gulpin, however, there are plenty more of the new generation that I haven’t caught.

The excitement of registering a new Pokémon to the Pokédex is always exciting.  In the 90’s when the card game was huge I was always more interested in collecting all the Pokémon.  Once you catch ’em all, there needs to be something to keep you playing.  In the case of Pokémon Go it is certainly a lot more affordable than the hundreds of dollars I spent on those damn cards.

Weather, on the other hand, is a new game play element.  This is the sort of thing the game has desperately needed for a while.  The introduction of weather is so much more than I originally thought.  It’s not just a cool effect thrown on top of what’s already there.  The introduction of weather influences spawns of certain types, it makes them stronger, it improves their IVs, and it strengthens their attacks.  Raiding in weather is even better as you have the opportunity to catch higher level Pokémon (up to level 25) and deal more damage in those battles depending on what Pokémon you select.  There is now more strategy in raiding and gym battling.  Sometimes the strategy is just cursing up at the few clouds in the sky so that you have a chance to catch a level 25 Ho-oh.

I didn’t know about the weather boost at first so when I came upon a 836 CP Eevee in the wild I was shocked.  I thought maybe they’d done a CP rebalance again as the max CP for a level 30 Eevee is 830 CP.  I’ve never encountered one beyond 800 CP in the past.  Now I’ve caught several even higher than this one.  The max level for wild spawns is now level 35, something that makes the weather effects that much more interesting.

Increased Pokémon storage is another great feature.  It seems crazy but my storage was constantly filling up with only (only?) 1000 slots.  With 1500 I can now bank a heck of a lot more Pidgeys for the next double XP evnet.

Adding Waterfall as a quick move has just made Gyarados the strongest water type attacker in the game as it should be.  Eevee, at least where I play, are extremely common and having a dozen overpowered Vaporeon is relatively easy.  With the 400 candy needed to evolved a Gyarados it only makes sense that it is more useful in the gym and raiding systems.

The introduction of Slakoth (evolving eventually into Slaking) makes for a fun hunt.  It took me forever to accumulate enough Dratini to evolve Dragonite or enough Mareep to evolve Ampharos.  It’s nice to have something challenging to work toward.  The bonus is that this time it will be a Pokémon which could be extremely important, if not just fun, to use in gym battle and defense.

Overall this new update has been a breath of fresh air.  It’s great to get out there, find new Pokémon, and see this game take an interesting strategic turn.  Ultimately releasing all seven generations would be fun but it would be short lived.  What this game needs is more little tweaks like the one we just witnessed.  More stats, more strategy, and more nuance in the game play.

I’m very excited for what this new update has brought.  This is the biggest rework to the game since the new gym system and raids were introduced.   I hope Niantic does not sit back for too long before rolling out nice new features like these again.  The game has taken a great step forward with depth but there is still more work needed to increase the overall percentage of time I, and many others, spend playing this game.