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See It Again or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love "The Last Jedi"

It seems sort of shitty to say you need to see this movie more than once, but I believe you will absorb more of the subtlety and the detail on the second viewing, and for that reason I think this is something that you should watch, discuss, and then watch again and then formulate an opinion—good, bad, or otherwise.

For this discussion, we are joined by Ashley Camper, my best friend who actually flew in from Richmond, Virginia, to see “The Last Jedi” with Mark and me. So we're just sitting around talking about our reactions to the film. We've seen it twice now, which was definitely necessary because our opinions and feelings from the first viewing to the second viewing are pretty much a 180. So Mark do you want to start us off?

 

Mark says

Yeah. So the first thing I want to talk about here is our expectations before we saw the movie. I had written a blog recently about my sort of 40 year history with “Star Wars,” and how it's the first film I ever remember seeing. One of the first memories I have is seeing “Star Wars” and how that's affected my life. But first, for Ashley and Candice, I think it would be interesting to hear a little bit of their history with “Star Wars.” And then what they expected to see or what they expected to feel going into the first screening of “The Last Jedi.” We'll post the pictures, but they were dressed up in costume as Rey and Kylo Ren and very excited, and there was a lot of high energy in the house about this movie. So I will start off with Ashley. So, Ashley, what's your “Star Wars” history?

 

Ashley says

So I'm the youngest of the group. I was adopted by older parents who when Star Wars came out they were already well into adulthood. They weren't like most people our age where the parents were teenagers and they were really swept up by this. But I think it all started with my early fascination with Harrison Ford that my dad instilled in me. If anyone can remember when the box set of "Star Wars" came out, and it was the black one that slid in and out, and it had three VHSes with Darth Vader on it. Dolby Digital surround sound had started to come out, and they remastered all these films in preparation for Episodes I, II, and III to come out.

 

Mark says

So Ashley's early “Star Wars” experiences was the Special Edition.

 

Ashley said

Yeah it was the Special Edition all because they released them in the theater and my parents had this nostalgia that I didn't quite understand at that time, but they said this would be a great opportunity. And they already knew I was a big fan of the “Alien” movies. I had watched “Indiana Jones,” so they knew I was in it for a good story, and I could have some endurance about it.

      So they took me to see those, and once I saw it on the big screen, it was just around the time of Jurassic Park and stuff like that was out. But it was pretty comparable to the coolest thing I've ever seen in theaters at the time. There really wasn't a lot of the competition with CG or special effects that we have now. So for me, I had never seen anything like that. It was the first time that I was exposed to it. So my first “Star Wars” experience was handed down to me, but I didn't really take hold of it until I had the first experience in the same venue they had, which was the theater experience.

 

Mark says

And that's one of the powerful things about “Star Wars” is even though they had added digital effects to the special edition, I'd say those movies were 80 percent or 90 percent original. And what you were seeing on the screen was literally the 20th anniversary of “A New Hope” or “Star Wars,” as we called it back in those days. So you are watching mostly a 20-year-old film and feeling like it was the coolest thing that you had seen.

 

Ashley says

Oh definitely.

 

Candice says

So my introduction, and I've said this before to Mark, “I was not born into geekdom. I married into it.” So I was aware of having watched “Return of The Jedi” in theaters when I was a kid, because I remember Ewoks, and I remember that we got the Ewok village play set when I was a kid, but I honestly did not know how “Return of The Jedi” played into the other films or I don't even know if I was aware that there were other films when I saw “Return of the Jedi.” So I think maybe through most of my life I had maybe seen bits and pieces of Episode IV and “Empire,” but I couldn't have given you a plot summary of what was happening. When I met Mark and I realize through going to his house the first time and him swinging a lightsaber around that I was like, “Oh, OK, this is serious.”

 

Ashley says

I'm in deep!

 

Candice says

He's really deep into this movie. So I think we had probably been married for a while. We were living in Richmond, I think, when we did the “Star Wars” trilogy marathon.

 

Mark says

I think when we did them back to back. I believe we tried to watch them separately a couple times and then we finally just decided ...

 

Candice says

No, I said the magic words that you had been longing to hear, which were “Baby, can we watch the original trilogy? Can we do a marathon?” And you were like, "Yes we can. I've been waiting for you to say this the whole time that we've been married." But I think we had been married six years at that point.

 

Mark says

It may have been because they began to announce Episode VII.

 

Candice says

When we watched it that time, and we had a projector at our house and a screen, and it I felt like I got a cinematic experience, even though I was watching it at home, and I really, really loved the story once I saw it all together. And I was like, “Oh, this all makes sense now.” But it wasn't like the same fanboy love that Mark felt by any stretch of the imagination. But I was excited mostly for him when Episode VII came out. And I didn't realize what ownership I was going to take in that movie, and I feel like that's when my real “Star Wars” love began was with Episode VII because I just watched that movie over and over and over. I cannot watch it without quoting it along with the film.

            So going into Episode VIII, I was so ridiculously excited. Ashley and I just rewatched Episode VII. Mark and I had been talking for pretty much two years straight about what we thought was going to happen in Episode VIII, and we had been listening to this YouTube channel called “Star Wars Theories,” and we had our own theories in mind for what we thought.

            So I feel like on my first viewing of Episode VIII that I was watching the movie waiting for things that I wanted to see and not as much watching what was actually on the screen. And I think that because of that, I’ll put the onus on myself,  I missed a lot on that first viewing that really diminished my enjoyment of the first half of the film.

 

Mark says

And to sort of carry on that, obviously Candice and I lived together, we’d have one of these conversations about how do you think it's going to happen. What do you think needs to happen? But what was going on in your brain?

 

Ashley says

So going into it, I don't have nearly as much “Star Wars” support at home. So my ability to pass dialogue between someone else about what I think is going to happen wasn't there. So I think I probably enjoyed the movie a little bit more on the first screening because I wasn't thinking quite so much about it, but after we got home and talked about it, I started to think, “How do I make myself satisfied in this?” Because I didn't know I had questions about what was happening because I just hadn't thought deeply about it.

            I really enjoyed “The Force Awakens,” and I think there was just something about Episode VIII where at certain points in the movie it's just cruising along, and it's just like Candice said, you're waiting to get back to that character that you most wanted to see in the movie or the plot line that you most wanted to hear about. So you sometimes are a little bit impatient with the parts of the movie that aren't getting to what you thought was going to happen. So Mark, what did you think about the first viewing?

 

Mark says

So it's a little different when you're somebody who's been in it for this long. You're literally in a situation where the last film that was in the theaters when I was a kid was 1983 with “Return of the Jedi.” It was from ’83 to ’97 until they rereleased the original films as Special Edition. So that's 14 years. And then in ’97 they announced, “Hey, we're working on Episode I. We're going to go back and tell the story of the origin of Darth Vader.” And so it wasn't until 1999 that I saw the first new “Star Wars” movie. So I had from ’83 until ’99 to sit and think about how did Darth Vader becomes Darth Vader. And I remember my dad and I had all these conversations talking about how he had to have killed Luke and Leia's mom as a sacrifice to the Emperor, and he has to have done this, that, and the other thing, because they were the only things that made sense. And I think the disappointment in the prequels was partly because we had these ideas and it wasn't told that way and then also because there are some pretty widely accepted quality issues in those films. Progressively I felt like they got a little better each time, but I never felt like they were on a par with the Original Trilogy. For me, they weren't as inspiring. They weren't as groundbreaking.

            It was 2005 when “Revenge of the Sith” was in the theaters. I was in the art school at the time. And then between 2005 and 2015, it's another decade of my life wondering, “Well, now what?” And there have been so many books and comics and video games about what happens to Luke Skywalker after the battle of Endor that I had from ’83 to 2015 thinking about what old Luke Skywalker would be like. So that's a lot of time. Then we saw “The Force Awakens,” and I enjoyed it. The thing I enjoyed most about that film was watching Candice love it. That was the part of that movie that spoke to me the most. It wasn't that I didn't like the movie. I enjoyed it a lot. But I think what I enjoyed most was watching her discovery and her passion for “Star Wars.” And we saw it a whole bunch of times in the theater.

            So now, for the first time, the closest person in my life is sitting here with me, and we're talking about “Oh my god, so this is what we think. This is who we think Snoke is, and this is who we think Rey is. And this is what we think has to happen next and this is why.”

        The beauty of “Star Wars” is the community of people that love it.

    And so there's a lot of weight. It's several decades of thinking. It's a lot of me hoping it's going to be a certain way for your sake and to see how much you love it. It's me hoping it's going to be a certain way so that we don't ever end up the way it was during the prequels—the dark times. So it's a lot of time and a lot of thought. So I went into the theater with that burden. I think that's what affected my viewing is maybe not watching the movie so much for it is itself but for how this affects Episode I through Episode VI, which if you're a longtime “Star Wars,” fan the whole idea of the Jedi versus the Sith seems to be the most important thing.

            And then in interviews, Rian Johnson and J.J. Abrams have been very clear that Snoke is not really a Sith, you start to wonder what is he. It's important to know what he is because we've had this theme for six movies that is so based on a historical thing and a big part of the mythology. And so he seems to be the biggest, most important question. And I kid you not, they weren't messing with us when they said, “Actually, it's not the most important question.” They are more interested in talking about a lot of other things than about who Snoke is.

 

Candice says

I think we're all pretty much on the same page of the reasons why didn’t enjoy the first viewing. I think we were more in our heads, and this is a story more that's heart driven. And I think my biggest issue on the first viewing of the film had to do with story structure and pacing.

            The first time I watched it, I thought the movie seemed messy and that things were happening, but I felt like I kept getting pulled away from certain stories, because, for me, the most interesting part of my first viewing of Episode VIII was Luke and Rey, because I thought there was going to be a whole bunch of training, and I was like, “I am ready for this. I can't wait to see like him train her.”

            And then when I kept getting pulled back to these other, what I felt like were less important, subplots at the time, I kept getting really frustrated, and it wasn't until the second half of the movie where more of the plotlines came together that it actually started to relax because I was like, “OK, well, I'm actually seeing more of the characters that I wanted to see.” But I was projecting my wants onto a story that had already been written.

 

Ashley says

Yeah. And I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that there was a certain pattern that we saw in Episodes IV, V, and VI. And for whatever reason, whether or not we realize it, we go into this knowing that there is going to be this this period that Rey has, because the Force Awakens makes such a big deal of “We gotta find Skywalker.” Rey finally finds him, and we're like, “Well, we know ‘Star Wars.’ We watch ‘Star Wars.’” There's got to be some epic 80s montages training that happens right now. So unfortunately when you don't get what you're expecting because you think that “OK, I'm ready for this. This is why I came to see,” that's when the subplots that start to take up that time that you thought was going to be allotted for something else, you start to lose heart and lose interest in it. And almost you question, “How do I feel? Is this really part of the story or is this filler time?” I started getting angry at the director.

 

Candice says

I did too. 

 

Ashley says

I was taking it personal. I was like, “I'm here for Luke and Rey and Kylo, maybe a sprinkle of Finn, and I need Poe Dameron to blow up everything on this starship.” That's what I expected out of this movie. That's all I wanted, and when it didn't happen. I definitely could feel myself losing interest.

 

Mark says

And it's a combination, especially, because you guys loved Episode VII so much, you have the weight of the earlier stuff, and it's like, “I want a continuation of that feeling from Episode VII, which was everybody and the critics said, “It's basically a rehash of “A New Hope” with new people. It's very similar all the way down to there being the new Death Star that they have to blow up.

 

Ashley says

You think it's going to be like you expect. Like this is going to be the new “Empire Strikes Back.”

 

Candice says

Which it does fill the same narrative purpose that I think “Empire” does. 

 

Ashley says

I think I know you're trying to say, which is there's definitely an overtone and a big lesson in how to approach the future. And the lesson gets taught and learn by not the people you would expect or in the order you would expect it.

 

Candice says

And I think it has a similar idea that you learn through failure. And so I think in that way it's like “Empire,” but like not in a shot for shot way.

 

Mark says

Yeah and I think that's intentional because they took the criticism so to heart of everybody saying, “Well, I don't even know if I want to waste my time on Star Wars if VII, VIII, and IX are just going to be IV, V, and VI with different people in different locations. But I also think one of the things that that definitely occurred to me as we were walking back to the car after the second viewing is that “Star Wars,” for its 40 year history, one thing it is not known for is subtlety. Big explosions, bright green and red lasers swords. The bad guy is a dude in giant armor with a skull for a face. It's very on its face. Everything is what it seems. The thing that got me about this film during the first viewing that I wasn't prepared for on the second viewing is that I began to appreciate is that subtlety and nuance are something new in “Star Wars.” The idea that there are small things going on, small gestures, on screen that, if you aren't paying attention, you will miss. I think that some people are going to dislike the movie on that level because they will have missed things and not want to have somebody be an asshole and tell them, “Well you missed something.”

 

Ashley says

It's really important to understand that if you're just walking away from the film and not feeling satisfied, the answers is to go wipe the slate clean and see it again.

 

Candice says

Right. With an open mind and being receptive, not that you're thinking, “Well, I hated it the first time, and I'm going to hate it again.” Because when we went back the very next day, I sat down hoping that my opinion would be changed because I was so sad the night before, because I walked into this movie wanting to just love it so much.

 

Mark says

Literally wearing the costume.

And even though we had that initial negative experience with this, we persisted, we went back, and we tried.  And I think that's probably the most “Star Wars” thing you can do.

Candice says

And I was sad that I didn't love it, especially the fact that I had heard so much hype and there was so much critical response that said, “This movie is amazing. It's the best since “Empire.” And I was sitting there like it was one of those 3D pictures from back in the 90s where you had to unfocus your eyes in order to see it. And I was like, “What am I not seeing?”

            And so the second time when I when I went back to see it, I was like, “OK. I'm going to completely open my mind to this and see what was different.” And I think that this time, not having my own expectations that I was projecting on the film because I'd already seen it and I knew it was going to happen, I could actually watch it on a deeper, more emotional level that had me just inconsolably sobbing during last the five minutes of the film. Because I was surprised actually on the first viewing. I had expected to feel a lot more feelings about seeing Carrie Fisher on the screen and knowing that she was gone, and I didn't feel that the first time, because I was just way too much in my head. And the second viewing, I lost my shit. Every time I saw her face, and as the movie started nearing the end, I felt like I was losing her more and more even though she's been gone for a while, but I just had this overwhelming feeling in my heart of how much I love Carrie Fisher and I miss Leia already and I just could not stop crying.

 

Mark says

I think the thing that I appreciated most about her on the second viewing is, those of us who grew up with Carrie Fisher, she was the first person I ever felt like I had a crush on. She was the most beautiful woman I could imagine. And whatever you think about the original trilogy, for all the good things that they do, a lot of people have pointed out in recent years that there is definitely some sort of misogyny around her character. There are some instances that as much as we love the Han and Leia’s romance, and I hate to ruin it for you, there are some instances where he basically treats her pretty terribly. And you look back on that with 2017/2018 eyes, it changes for you a little bit. It prickles a little bit. I'm not saying that we should rewrite or change the past, but I'm saying that one of the things that's amazing about this movie is that the evolution of Leia also reflects our growth. And so what she is given to do and to be in this film, in particular, she had such small parts in the last film, but in this film the person that she gets to be, I think that adds to your feelings because this is who Carrie Fisher is, and in a lot of ways, what she means to us now as opposed to then, and this is who she wanted to be and become.

 

Candice says

Especially just knowing how big a role she played in helping Rian Johnson with a script. This is very much also her story.

 

Ashley says

Yeah. So I'll definitely agree with you and picked up on that, because when you go to your first viewing you shouldn't be shocked if you feel like the good guys aren't as smart as I would like them to be. And I feel like sometimes the bad guys are the ones who are getting the big picture. There's times where you feel like the normal, very crisp line between the good guys and the bad guys and me knowing which side I'm on is something I can really understand. What happens is that you start to feel like I don't know which direction this is going. But the only person who consistently in every single scene that she's in is when Carrie Fisher is there. She's been a little bit of fuel that the rest of this resistance has been floating on. It's not like she's there doing it because she's making all the right decisions or anything like that, and I'm not saying she doesn't, she makes flawless decisions, but you get this understanding very quickly that she's a still water runs deep kinda deal. You don't need to know all of her motives, you just need to know that she has a sense of hope that people still have even when they're really messing up, and there will be times when they're really messing up. Carrie Fisher's character is rock solid. She sees through the fog, and she can still make her clear choices. It's perfect.

 

Candice says

Another thing I want to mention, and I don't think Rian Johnson is going to be listening this, but I feel this need to apologize for not trusting that he knew what he was doing. I've seen other films by Rian Johnson. I think he is a really good writer. I've met him before, and he is the nicest person. But on that first viewing, I was not trusting that he was the right person to take stewardship of this story. And I was also worried because they've given him a new trilogy that he's going to be writing. I think part of that is because I've spent like the last 15 years of my life as a book editor, and I have two degrees in creative writing. I think it's partly my own pride, and it's partly my experience with trying to deconstruct story to improve other people's writing that I look for flaws in a story. And I think rather than looking in my first viewing for what was he trying to do, I was definitely looking at it as coming up short of what I had anticipated that the story was going to be.

            My first reaction was, “This story is messy.” I didn't realize on the first viewing that this was a story structure that I have never actually seen in a movie before and that it's actually quite genius what he accomplished and that it's actually a testament to what a good writer he is. Two of the criticisms I've seen from people who didn't like it are that it had a pacing problem and that it had a writing problem insofar as the story structure, and actually I feel now that those were two of the biggest attributes of the movie. The timing of everything was so precise. Like ridiculously precise, and, like I said, the story structure is something that you've never seen. At least I don't think I've seen ever it in a story before. And, wow, what an interesting take to see something new when you think how many stories have been written.

 

Mark says

And I think from the perspective of a longtime “Star Wars” person, remember again when George Lucas started with these, he was inspired by the Saturday morning serials. So Buck Rogers and all those old black and white things that used to play in cinemas as they would just run as reel with old Republic pictures and all this sort of serialized 45 minute to half hour long episodes. You might never find the end of the story of what happens to Buck Rogers, but you would see several episodes of different adventures, and George Lucas was a huge fan of that and pulp writing from the 1940s adventures men magazines that inspired Indiana Jones, Doc Savage, and Alan Quartermain and books that were written that were considered disposable entertainment of the era. So even back then, that type of story structure was not considered the height of the art of storytelling. And so the structure that we're used to from “Star Wars” is very simple although there's also those references to Joseph Campbell’s ...

 

Candice says

The hero's journey. 

 

Mark says

You know all of that stuff. And obviously they use it in “Rick and Morty” that story structure. But this is not that 1940s very predictable beat.

 

Ashley says

It's now very linear. So what happens is that because you go out of “The Force Awakens” into “The Last Jedi” thinking that you already have all these ducks in a row and there's a way that you would like to see them played out, what ends up happening is that very linear storytelling structure that you expect to see actually comes more at you like a spider web. And that's very unusual to see in the middle of a trilogy.

 

Mark says

Right. Especially because visually this picks up the second the last one ends.

 

Ashley says

Exactly. 

 

Mark says

So you expect it's going to be the same way and the same process, and it's not. It's very different. Candice and I did this too long ago, but we sat down and watched Rian's two episodes of “Breaking Bad” that he directed, which I would say arguably are two of the best hours of any television ever.

 

Candice says

It's the “Fly” and the “Ozymandias” episodes 

 

Mark says

They both are amazing, but Ozymandias I think is one of the best character studies of a character who, at that point in the series, was fairly well understood and known. But it is watching Walter White in what he's dealing with and that episode is an amazing revelation of the character. And I think we should have seen that maybe more recently, because I think it’s that television story structure, that way of telling something that's part of that longer television epic like we see in “Game of Thrones.” And we've seen “Breaking Bad” and we've seen a lot of stuff that's going on now that we enjoy. I think that's more of a sensibility that Rian is approaching storytelling with, and it's challenging. It's not expected. It's meant for you to watch and discuss and later think about the pros and cons. It's not to go in and just absorb it and then walk out.

 

Candice says

Yeah. I also think on the first viewing I saw this story as entirely plot driven. Certain things were supposed to happen and they just basically plunked people into the roles. And then, as you said, understanding more the connections between what was happening, I saw a much more character driven story the second time around. So I just hope that people will give it that second viewing.

 

Ashley says

Yeah. I think what the second viewing one of the things that really you latch onto that you don't get in the first one is that there's not just character changes, there's not just differences that you thought there would be in story, but there's actually a different tone to “Star Wars.” If somebody comes out of this movie and they don't express that “I think we're going in a totally different direction. The third movie is going to be a whole different type of theology to 'Star Wars' than we ever started with,” then I would argue to say that they didn't get what they needed from the movie. Because if you get the subtleties that Mark was talking about, you see that, “Star Wars” is professing its own evolution.

 

Candice says

I agree. Totally agree. 

 

Mark says

What you see in the story that you've never seen before is meant to be a support to that idea. And I think one thing that’s also coming out of this, now that we've seen it twice and we have yet another couple years, is I will probably not spend a quarter of a time theorizing about what's going to happen in Episode IX. 

 

Candice says

I’m going to wait and trust that they know what they're talking about.

 

Mark says

Not just because it was so fruitless this time, but also because I don't want to. I don't want to walk into Episode IX, even though it's not being directed by Rian but he has had a hand in patterning some of the things that will be a part of that story, and I don't want to walk in with those expectations and then whatever happens on the screen have them dictate my response the way it did this time.

 

Candice says

I agree. I totally agree. I'm not saying that this is a perfect movie by any stretch of the imagination. It's not perfect, but it's so good that the things that I do have issues with after the second viewing all seem very nitpicky now, and I really don't even want to talk about them because they are so really small relative to all the things that work in the movie. But I think the thing that worked on both viewings for me, because he was just so incredible, is that Mark Hamill gave the best performance I think I've ever seen him give in anything. I knew that he had grown as an actor just from his voice work doing the Joker and also from seeing the very small role he had in “Kingsman” in the first film. His acting style seems like it's so vastly improved from when he was playing Luke Skywalker in the original trilogy and coming off a bit whiny.

 

Ashley says

He's almost got this regal Dos XX man thing about him like toward the end where I thought he was such a playboy. And he's got gray hair. 

 

Candice says

I was falling in love with him throughout the movie. The performance he gives in this movie is just incredible.

 

Ashley says

Absolutely yeah. 

It's really important to understand that if you're just walking away from the film and not feeling satisfied, the answer is to go wipe the slate clean and see it again.

Mark says

I've heard complaints from people saying that they don't like where Luke goes, and I remember watching with Candice a documentary where they were interviewing Patrick Stewart acting in “Star Trek.” And this is a man who came from the Royal Shakespeare Theatre background in England which is understandably a very old tradition and very sort of regal tradition. He was talking in his Patrick Stewart way about how the secret to acting is, without dialogue, showing everything that the characters is thinking on your face. And in watching this film, there are scenes where Luke is saying nothing, and yet I can see on his face what he's going through internally, and again that is a level of subtlety that we're not used to in “Star Wars.” We're used to the lines talking about hyper drives and trade federations and all that. We're not used to a character going through so much without blurting it out.

 

Ashley says

Yes. So to piggyback on that, there's something unique about the cinematography in this film and I thoroughly enjoyed it because I love looking at Adam Driver, but …

 

Mark says

… Or Adam driver's butt. 

 

Ashley says

This film has a lot of shots in it where all you're seeing is the person's face. It's going to feel like they subbed out a lot of what you're used to seeing in a lot of the starship battles and stuff like that. It's very up close dialogue, and it's just like what Mark was saying, whenever a character is on screen it's like there's almost no time where people just have half themselves. It's either a full body and they're showing everything that's happening or it's just the face. There was a very intentional effort for them to create a good emotional connection with the audience because there's times where nothing gets said on the screen. It's just the character's face. 

 

Candice says

I totally agree with you. 

 

Ashley says

I was shocked. I was like “I'm seeing a lot of faces.”

 

Candice says

I honestly think it's because of Rian Johnson's background with noir filmmaking. His history of having done “Brick” and “The Brothers Bloom,” and “Looper” all have that same film noir feel to it. And there's one moment in “The Last Jedi” where he does a push pull with the camera. I was shocked. I was like “Really … in a sci-fi film?” You never see that. It’s something that's so Hitchcock that I was really surprised that it found its way into a sci-fi movie, but I think that's just Rian Johnson bringing his experience and what he does best to another genre. It was really actually interesting to see like that focus on character instead of necessarily always focused on … 

 

Ashley says

…. a character's action or some like that.

 

Candice says

…rather than always the long shot. I also loved the performances that Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley give; they're are incredible. Daisy Ridley’s acting is just effortless. I don't know how she can just evoke those intense emotions. The quiet crying she does. She's just so good at what she does.

 

Mark says

And Adam Driver too.

 

Ashley says

I definitely saw a jump with the acting level that they were asked to produce on this one and it has to go back to all of the face shots. I think what is so powerful about it is that was a technique used because, whoever did it, understood the skill of the actors or the skills the actors had to bump up to meet that technique, because there are times in the movie where you feel like you're totally sold on whatever that person's feeling. And it doesn't even have to be associated with the words that come out of their mouth. And I definitely noticed Daisy Ridley has within her facial expression bank the tendency, like when she winces or anything like that, for her face to go from being very adult to very childlike. She's just got one of those cute cheek faces, and she never breaks it in the entire movie. And Adam Driver, you watch him, and he knows exactly which Kylo Ren he is supposed to be in every scene. He's probably the character that has to play different characters the most throughout the movie, and every single time, he can be in the same scene, and the camera can never leave his face, and he can go from one Kylo Ren to the other and it just by his acting.

 

Candice says

There's some help that he got from makeup, but, just the amount of torturedness that you can tell that supposedly going on inside this character, he just plays it beautifully.

 

Mark says

Yeah, I think anybody who complained about Kylo Ren as a petulant emo fanboy character in the first movie, this movie not only delves more into …

 

Ashley says

…his complexity. 

 

Mark says

… his complexity, and like Ashley was saying, he has so much more to do in the scenes rather than just being sort of an asshole but actually communicating who he is. Again sometimes nonverbally communicating what he's been through and things that we may never even see them talk about onscreen. But it goes unspoken. 

 

Candice says

I had watched a small featurette that they had posted showing Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver in training for this movie, and I think hands down for me these are the best lightsaber fight scenes I've ever seen in a “Star Wars” movie.

 

Mark says

Easily the most practical.

 

Candice says

It is amazing the fight choreography and the amount of skill that they have.

 

Mark says

The other films, especially the prequel films, they decided to go much more flowery with the fighting styles. There's a pretty famous gif that shows Obi wan and Anakin in their big fight scene for “Revenge of the Sith,” and it loops, and it just them, for an endless loop, swinging the lightsabers around in these complicated patterns and never hitting anything. I'm a big martial arts movie fan. I watch a lot of kung fu, Chanbara, and samurai films. It's very intentional how the fight choreography is here. There is some flower to it. You have to have that in cinematic fight scenes. But it is much more brutal. And to the point, and there's a number of reasons for that given the story that we're in and the generation that we're in with these characters, but it also says a lot about what Rian Johnson and the people who are working on “Star Wars” now feel about that. Those stylistic choices from before that if you have a sword made of invincible laser light that maybe you aren't going to just stand there swinging it around your body like crazy, but you are going to look for the quickest and fastest way to hack somebody up and be done with it.

 

Ashley says

Yeah and what else I liked about it, now that we're talking about the fight scenes, is that I spent years working in sports and in training, and I'd been following Daisy Ridley’s training on the Internet, and she actually was not quite as fit as she needed to be for this role coming in off the street as an actor when she first got taken up for the part, and she actually, when she went into her training for this, she hit it like an athlete. And it's really amazing because you watch somebody like Adam Driver who's got this build where he's already tall and muscular and he's got really long arms, and every time he makes a movement, it's a super exaggerated movement. And he's very heavy footed and heavy arms.

 

Candice says

I feel like they even exaggerated it at one point.

 

Ashley says

He's very powerful, but at the same time very wasteful in his movement. And then Daisy Ridley has no wasted movement whatsoever, so to watch them in their fight scenes, it's actually really aesthetically pleasing that they didn't try to make it look perfect, because you’ve got Daisy Ridley who you can tell she's on the balls of her feet. She's really light on her toes and quick with her actions. And you got Adam Driver who looks like he's out there chopping wood, but when he hit, that that's it. You're done.

 

Mark says

Yeah, I noticed in this film that they played up more the Adam Driver lightsaber draw—his way of igniting his lightsaber.

 

Ashley says

Oh you feel his hate.

 

Mark says

Where he stomps and flicks his torso and ignites it all in one motion, and the blade, rather than being up and pointed at the enemy, it's always angled down when he lights it, and it's a signature now.

 

Ashley says

He shoulder postures people before he fights them.

 

Candice says

It was hot.

 

Mark says

This isn't the cool Playboy dark side anymore. This is someone who is really recklessness that everyone wants to peg for his emo-ness is going to be a really big problem.

 

Candice says

I laughed when I first saw the second trailer that came out, because they use the word “raw” twice. And I was thought, “That's weird to make such an emphasis on the word ‘raw.’” But I feel like their fighting style is very indicative of the fact that the Jedi Order is gone. There's no children growing up from being a paduwan and training their whole life in this. And I think that that style would be less flowery. It makes sense that that would be reflected in the way that they fight.

 

Mark says

Yeah this isn't Errol Flynn swashbuckling fencing. This is hack hack hack, scramble on your ass away from the bad guy because you fell down fight scenes. There is an emotional realism to that I think. Again speaking from watching those prequels when they came out, you become detached from the fight scene when it's so flowery and so choreographed and so artificial.

 

Ashley says

Yeah it's definitely not always about the lightsaber in the fight scene, and in all the other movies, it was always about the lightsaber. And then when you watch these fight scenes, they have those points where I don't even think that they fully keep the lightsabers in some of these fight scenes, and the fight scene never loses you, whereas in the past it was like, “Oh my God, use the force! Get that lightsaber back, because you're fucked,” excuse my French. 

 

Mark says

It's literally again the characters. It's a life or death fight. You use everything you can. Like Bruce Lee used to say, “If you have to bite somebody, you bite them. This is life or death,” and this is what you see that’s in a character's expression. This is the miracle of film and acting and cinema is that suddenly it becomes more real to you that these guys are at risk. They're fighting not because it's in the script but because they are at risk, and they're in danger and it's in a lot of ways it's going to be much more engaging and open to the audience than I've got a five-step pattern that I'm going to do with my lightsaber before I connect with anything. 

 

Candice says

I liked that we got new creatures in the movie and that they seemed very alien. It wasn't like you have these humanoid looking things and they are in a different planet.

 

Mark says

One thing even on the second viewing that I still had some difficulty with is the design choices and the feel of Canto Bight. 

 

Candice says

I knew you were going to say that.

 

Ashley says

Yeah. 

 

Mark says

And that is one case where there are a lot of weird humanoid looking things bopping around. There's several instances in the history of “Star Wars” where you've seen a whole bunch of aliens and you've been like, “Holy fuck!” The one that everybody remembers is Mos Eisley Cantina in “A New Hope” where they walk in and everything in the background is crazy. When you actually see the costumes they had, most of them were unfinished and they're terrible looking, but they put them in just the right light and just the right location and you see just enough of them that you're like, “Who is that guy? And what does that guy do?” And of course as a result, for years, fans have written, paid or unpaid, detailed stories where every one of those little things that you see in the background and they have these crazy biographies and backstories. And again when you see the bounty hunters on the bridge of the executor in the “Empire Strikes Back” and Vader is hiring these guys to go after Han Solo, and, of course, Boba Fett is the one that we all know by name. But you have Dengar, Zuckuss, 4-LOM, and IG-88 also standing there and you're like, “Who are these guys? They look crazy. They look like dangerous.” And IG-88 is this big robot whose head was the alcohol dispenser in Mos Eisley Cantina is where they got the part for that.

 

Ashley says

But like I just wonder if you were kinda not supposed to like those characters, because they're bad guys and an obnoxious unsavory bunch.

 

Mark says

Well, in Jabba's palace those characters were obnoxious and unsavory. 

 

Ashley says

That's true. 

 

Mark says

And again back stories were written about so many of those weird looking guys in Jabba's palace. I just feel like there's something that happened visually there that didn't quite sink in.

 

Candice says

On the second viewing, I still had issues with the CGI in Canto Bight that looks unfinished as hell, and I don't know if they got to a point where they just decided they couldn't get it any better and were just like that's good enough.

 

Mark says

They're difficult shots. I'm not going to take the credit away that it wasn't ambitious. But my question is is it necessary if it did not work.

 

Ashley says

On the second viewing, even if you didn't like the aesthetic look of the scene, there was some stuff from the characters that you pulled out of that scene.

 

Candice says

Yes definitely. The first viewing I thought that you could cut this whole segment and I would be fine. And then the second time I watch it, I understood why this is in here, but I still had some issues.

 

Mark says

There are several important things that come from that not only affect the trajectory of the characters in the movie but definitely “Star Wars” as a whole. So it's just a sort of ambivalent feeling I have about that. I think it’s important, but I also blame the designers who created that stuff and weren't necessarily on their on their shit. “Star Wars” has never done well when they create things that seem very terrestrial, and my best example is when you watch the pod racing scene in Episode I “The Phantom Menace.” They have the announcers in the pod racing scene. It's a two headed alien, and the one head is speaking in some alien language and the other head is like, “I don't care what planet you're from, that had to hurt,” and it's like listening to some weird 90s Tim Taylor/Tim Allen skit.

 

Ashley says

There was one who had like a country accent. 

 

Mark says

Wearing tuxedoes and opening champagne. These are all very earthly things. It's not like blue milk or strange smoking drinks like you saw in the Cantina.

 

Ashley says

Right. I think the fact that it's a casino scene, and you have your own known real-world knowledge of what that looks like when you walk into it because it's an experience that you have on Earth. It's not a wholly “Star Wars” experience.

 

Mark says

And that maybe takes you out of the fantasy. 

 

Ashley says

Exactly. It's like you're not buying this scene.

 

Candice says

I feel like although the art direction in that one particular section of the movie left something to be desired, I would still say that the design they did on other planets was just gorgeous.

 

Ashley says

Oh the white and red. Yeah that's true. 

 

Candice says

It was gorgeous. So I can't just completely to shit on the art direction. It was that one scene that I'm like, “Eh, that's kinda questionable.” But also I want to straight up give kudos to whomever came up with the costume designs. I need that structured coat that Leia wears. I love that. She looked gorgeous. Just throughout the entire movie. They just need to make an entire “Star Wars” collection dedicated to her clothes.

 

Mark says

Carrie Fisher in the film is beautiful, and it reminds you that she's royal, but it's not gaudy in any way. And the same thing with Laura Dern's character in the film, the way her costumes are.

 

Ashley says

Yeah, I like Snoke's Liberace robe 

 

Mark says

And slippers.

 

 Ashley says

He just needed some scotch on that throne.

 

Candice says

There was so many supporting ideas that went along with this movie that were really strong. But does anyone have a final thoughts they want to make?

 

Mark says

I think it's important to remember that this is a good film but not perfect. If you are coming from the perspective of someone whose whole life in one way or another has been touched by “Star Wars,” none of them are perfect. You know when you watch these films, “A New Hope” was way over budget. Things were incomplete. Obviously that's why George Lucas went back to do special edition. You have people bumping into things and scenes with storm troopers that shoot each other when Han Solo is escaping Tatooine. Just bizarre things happen in all the “Star Wars” movies. And so it's important to remember that while nostalgia makes us remember them as perfect, none of these films are perfect. And no piece of art is ever done. If you're a fine artist, if you've ever drawn or painted, you can always look back at your painting and see things that maybe didn't turn out the way you had imagined or planned and you wish you could go back and fix.

            The important thing to remember is that whether or not it's good enough to you, It's part of your internal response to it. They're going to do the best job that they can do. Obviously it's in Rian Johnson's best interest and Disney's best interest and Lucas Films’s best interest that this be a story that more and more people can love and enjoy and relate to. So their goal wasn't to turn out a terrible movie, and their goal was to make the best movie they could. So if they went into it with that mindset, then even if it wasn't perfect, we have to ask ourselves when we watch these films, “What am I getting out of it?” I'm not saying that if you're a Star Wars fan you have to love this movie. In fact I'm saying quite the opposite, but you should ask yourself as you do with any piece of art or a painting or a picture or a dance or anything that you might see, “Why am I having the response that I'm having?” and that's the conversation that we had. We were going to review this immediately after the film, and we decided to wait, because we first needed to sit down and discuss what the reactions were and why we were having them and then go see it a second time and see if we felt the same way. It seems sort of shitty to say you need to see this movie more than once, but I believe you will absorb more of the subtlety and the detail on the second viewing, and for that reason I think this is something that you should watch, discuss, and then watch again and then formulate an opinion—good, bad, or otherwise. I think this just requires that.

 

Candice says

Yeah, I would say for my final thoughts on this that it took two viewings for me to see the love in “Rogue One” too. The first time I saw “Rogue One,” I was just not feeling it. I think you can’t go into a “Star Wars” movie in too much of a head space, especially the new trilogy. These are stories that are about heart and love and hope, and they're emotional and they are attempting to connect with viewers on these highly emotional levels. I’m not saying that you have to turn your brain off in order to enjoy them, but if you go in guarded, if you go in with a preconceived idea of what it should be, you will most definitely be disappointed by the movie. If you go in receptive and with your guard down and you allow the emotions to really have their effect on you, then I think you're going to love it. You can't help it. I couldn't help but love it. And I think that was really the difference between the first viewing and the second was me not projecting so much of what I thought and just allowing the film to be what it was and appreciating that.

I went back the second time and instead of being so emotionally attached to that old nostalgia, I became very invested in the Resistance. 

Ashley says

So my final thoughts on it are in line with what you guys are saying. I definitely think that I had to mentally prepare myself that this wasn’t going to be like “The Force Awakens.” When Rey says, “The piece of junk ship will do,” and the screen pans and you see the Millennium Falcon, I had to be OK walking into this movie knowing that I wasn't going to be able to have the same level of nostalgia excitement, because we know what's going on with Han and Chewie, the Falcon's there already, and R2D2 is there already. Luke just came in at the end of the other movie. So there was a lot of comfort in “The Force Awakens” when you watch it to accept new characters and new storylines, because for every new character and new storyline, you got a big dose of nostalgia to get you through it. Versus this one. It's just not that much nostalgia. So it's almost like meeting a new person. And that comfort level that you have to break through that doesn't grow on you until the second time because you're so used to hanging out with that old friend. In “The Force Awakens,” even though there was Kylo and Rey being introduced, half that movie was nostalgia. You go into this one knowing, “OK I can't experience that same thing.” There is something that is almost like grieving that you do when you watch it the first time, not because you're disappointed, but just because you walk away with the feeling this is a new “Star Wars.” It isn't that it's not paying homage to the nostalgia, it's that you have to understand that people are eventually going to die. The droid will have nothing but its hard drive left anymore and just can't keep up with repairs. So how do we set this new pace? And I think when I finally figured that out of I'm just not going to get the same feeling I did the first time I saw the Falcon, I went back the second time and instead of being so emotionally attached to that old nostalgia, I became very invested in the Resistance. 

 

Candice says

Yes. 

 

Ashley says

Whereas before I was so invested in what Han was doing.

 

Mark says

In 40 years of love of “Star Wars,” reading books, playing videogames, collecting toys, reading comics, going to films going to premieres. I've now been to six of the seven premieres for “Star Wars.” I have stood in line. I have costumed as best as I could and I could afford. I have done all these things for love of “Star Wars,” and I would say sitting down and talking to you guys and having this experience this year is different than any other “Star Wars” experience I've ever had, including going to see “The Force Awakens” and “Rogue One” with you.

            So I think this for me will always be in my “Star Wars” memories really unique and really beautiful that we went and saw this movie once, then we talked about it. We saw it again, and we had this conversation. The beauty of “Star Wars” is the community of people that love it. It's different than “Star Trek” fans. It's different than a lot of other fandoms, because it is so based on heart. It is so based on our love of adventure and our love of sort of this aesthetic of things being worn down but still hopeful. And even though we had that initial negative experience with this, we persisted we went back and we tried. And I think that's probably the most “Star Wars” thing you can do. To give it another chance, to talk about it, to process it. And I encourage anybody who loves “Star Wars” to have these experiences. So regardless of whether or not Episode IX when it comes out in a couple of years falls flat on its face, maybe J.J. Abrams is going to do amazing, maybe he won't. Maybe this will be a sad thing for us, but I feel like as long as I continue to have these experiences with people I love, seeing the film, talking about it, and making my “Star Wars” experience about the people in my life and not about the film, that I will still have a very beautiful memory to go with seeing it.

 

Candice says

I think that's a great note to end on. 

Mark and Candice

Mark and Candice

Sometimes the best part of reading an article online is engaging in a conversation in the comment section. However, discussions involving opposing points of view between strangers can devolve into a toxic environment. So what if these conversations were had between two people who loved each other?


At Cheek to Geek, our contributors consist of a diverse group of couples who are steeped in geek and popular culture. Our reviews reflect the back-and-forth, opposing or concurring, debates that geeks are notorious for having. But our founders, Mark and Candice Roma, have always felt that the love and respect felt for certain fandoms should carry over into the way we discuss them. Candice hopes that by modeling fruitful and productive discourses in our blogs, vlogs, and podcasts that we can show our readers the value in having disparate opinions and that differing perspectives don’t have to lead to hostile confrontation. “Mark and I have been together almost nine years, and every time we go see a movie, read book, go to a new restaurant, or see something awesome, we immediately ask what the other one thought. We don’t always agree, but having a conversation with my husband is my favorite part of experiencing something new.”


Although Cheek to Geek focuses on the opinions of specific couples, Mark believes that our vision for the site will extend far beyond that. “Ultimately the goal of art is to communicate, and the goal of communication is to build a community.” Our mission is to create a positive, inclusive, and safe environment for the appreciation and discussion of popular art in all its forms. 

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