She was thirty-two, her name was Aurelia, and she had been married eleven years. One Saturday afternoon, she looked through the kitchen window at the garden and saw the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. Men of the world, those four horsemen of the Apocalypse. And good-looking. The first from the left was riding a sorrel horse with a dark mane. He was wearing white breeches, black boots, a crimson jacket, and a yellow fez with black pompoms. The second one had a sleeveless tunic overlaid with gold and violet and was barefoot. He was riding on the back of a plump dolphin. The third one had a respectable, black beard, trimmed at right angles. He had donned a gray Prince of Wales suit, white shirt, blue tie and carried a black leather portfolio. He was seated on a folding chair belted to the back of white-haired dromedary. The fourth one made Aurelia smile and realize that they were smiling at her. He was riding a black and gold Harley-Davidson 1200 and was wearing a white helmet and dark goggles and had long, straight, blond hair flying in the wind behind him. The four were riding in the garden without moving from the spot. They rode and smiled at her and she watched them through the kitchen window.
In that manner, she finished washing the two teacups, took off her apron, arranged her hair and went to the living room.
"I saw the four horsemen of the Apocalypse in the garden," she told her husband.
"I'll bet," he said without raising his eyes from his paper.
"What are you reading?" Aurelia asked.
"I said they were given a crown and a sword and a balance and power."
"Oh, right," said her husband.
And after that a week went by as all weeks do--very slowly at first and very quickly toward the end--and on Sunday morning, while she made the coffee, she again saw the four horsemen of the Apocalypse in the garden, but when she went back to the bedroom she didn't say anything to her husband.
The third time she saw them, one Wednesday, alone, in the afternoon, she stood looking at them for a half hour and finally, since she had always wanted to fly in a yellow and red dirigible; and since she had dreamed about being an opera singer, an emperor's lover, a co-pilot to Icarus; since she would have liked to scale black cliffs, laugh at cannibals, traverse the jungles on elephants with purple trappings, seize with her hands the diamonds that lay hidden in mines, preside in the nude over a parade of nocturnal monsters, live under water, domesticate spiders, torture the powerful of the earth, rob trains in the tunnels of the Alps, set palaces on fire, lie in the dark with beggars, climb on the bridges of all the ships in the world; finally--since it was sadly sterile to be a rational and healthy adult--finally, that Wednesday afternoon alone, she put on the long dress she had worn at the last New Year's party given by the company where her husband was assistant sales manager and went out to the garden. The four horsemen of the Apocalypse called her, the blond one on the Harley-Davidson gave her his hand and helped her up onto the seat behind him, and there they went, all five, raging into the storm and singing.
Two days later her husband gave in to family pressure and reported the disappearance of his wife.
"Moral: madness is a flower aflame," said the narrator. Or in other words, it's impossible to inflame the dead, cold, viscous, useless, and sinful ashes of common sense.
If you meet her on the street, cross quickly to the other side and quicken your pace. She’s a dangerous lady. She’s about forty or forty-five, has one married daughter and a son working in San Nicolas; her husband’s a sheet-metal worker. She rises very early, sweeps the sidewalk, sees her husband off, cleans, does the wash, shops, cooks. After lunch she watches television, sews or knits, irons twice a week, and at night goes to bed late. On Saturdays she does a general cleaning and washes windows and waxes the floors. On Sunday mornings she washes the clothes her son brings home—his name is Nestor Eduardo—she kneads dough for noodles or ravioli, and in the afternoon either her sister-inlaw comes to visit or she goes to her daughter’s house. It’s been a long time since she’s been to the movies, but she reads TV Guide and the police report in the newspaper. Her eyes are dark and her hands are rough and her hair is starting to go gray. She catches cold frequently and keeps a photo album in a dresser drawer along with a black crepe dress with lace collar and cuffs.
Her mother never hit her. But when she was six, she got a spanking for coloring on a door, and she had to wash it off with a wet rag. While she was doing it, she thought about doors, all doors, and decided that they were very dumb because they always led to the same places. And the one she was cleaning was definitely the dumbest of all, the one that led to her parents’ bedroom. She opened the door and then it didn’t go to her parents’ bedroom but to the Gobi desert. She wasn’t surprised that she knew it was the Gobi desert even though they hadn’t even taught her in school where Mongolia was and neither she nor her mother nor her grandmother had ever heard of Nan Shan or Khangai Nuru.
She stepped through the door, bent over to scratch the yellowish grit and saw that there was no one, nothing, and the hot wind tousled her hair, so she went back through the open door, closed it and kept on cleaning. And when she finished, her mother grumbled a little more and told her to wash the rag and take the broom to sweep up that sand and clean her shoes. That day she modified her hasty judgment about doors, though not completely, at least not until she understood what was going on.
What had been going on all her life and up until today was that from time to time doors behaved satisfactorily, though in general they were still acting dumb and leading to dining rooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, bedrooms and offices even in the best of circumstances. But two months after the desert, for example, the door that every day led to the bath opened onto the workshop of a bearded man dressed in a long uniform, pointed shoes, and a cap that tilted on one side of his head. The old man’s back was turned as he took something out of a highboy with many small drawers behind a very strange, large wooden machine with a giant steering wheel and screw, in the midst of cold air and an acrid smell. When he turned around and saw her he began to shout at her in a language she didn’t understand.
She stuck out her tongue, dashed out the door, closed it, opened it again, went into the bathroom and washed her hands for lunch.
Again, after lunch, many years later, she opened the door of her room and walked into a battlefield. She dipped her hands in the blood of the wounded and dead and pulled from the neck of a cadaver a crucifix that she wore for a long time under high-necked blouses or dresses without plunging necklines. She now keeps it in a tin box underneath the nightgowns with a brooch, a pair of earrings and a broken wristwatch that used to belong to her mother-in-law. In the same way, involuntarily and by chance, she visited three monasteries, seven libraries, and the highest mountains in the world, and who knows how many theaters, cathedrals, jungles, refrigeration plants, dens of vice, universities, brothels, forests, stores, submarines, hotels, trenches, islands, factories, palaces, hovels, towers and hell.
She’s lost count and doesn’t care; any door could lead anywhere and that has the same value as the thickness of the ravioli dough, her mother’s death, and the life crises that she sees on TV and reads about in TV Guide.
Not long ago she took her daughter to the doctor, and seeing the closed door of a bathroom in the clinic, she smiled. She wasn’t sure because she can never be sure, but she got up and went to the bathroom. However, it was a bathroom; at least there was a nude man in a bathtub full of water. It was all very large, with a high ceiling, marble floor and decorations hanging from the closed windows. The man seemed to be asleep in his white bathtub, short but deep, and she saw a razor on a wrought iron table with feet decorated with iron flowers and leaves and ending in lion’s paws, a razor, a mirror, a curling iron, towels, a box of talcum powder and an earthen bowl with water. She approached on tiptoe, retrieved the razor, tiptoed over to the sleeping man in the tub and beheaded him. She threw the razor on the floor and rinsed her hands in the lukewarm bathtub water. She turned around when she reached the clinic corridor and spied a girl going into the bathroom through the other door. Her daughter looked at her.
“That was quick.”
“The toilet was broken,” she answered.
A few days afterward, she beheaded another man in a blue tent at night. That man and a woman were sleeping mostly uncovered by the blankets of a low, king-size bed, and the wind beat around the tent and slanted the flames of the oil lamps. Beyond it there would be another camp, soldiers, animals, sweat, manure, orders and weapons. But inside there was a sword by the leather and metal uniforms, and with it she cut off the head of the bearded man. The woman stirred and opened her eyes as she went out the door on her way back to the patio that she had been mopping.
On Monday and Thursday afternoons, when she irons shirt collars, she thinks of the slit necks and the blood, and she waits. If it’s summer she goes out to sweep a little after putting away the clothing and until her husband arrives. If it’s windy she sits in the kitchen and knits. But she doesn’t always find sleeping men or staring cadavers. One rainy morning, when she was twenty, she was at a prison, and she made fun of the chained prisoners; one night when the kids were kids and were all living at home, she saw in a square a disheveled woman looking at a gun but not daring to take it out of her open purse. She walked up to her, put the gun in the woman’s hand and stayed there until a car parked at the corner, until the woman saw a man in gray get out and look for his keys in his pocket, until the woman aimed and fired. And another night while she was doing her sixth grade geography homework, she went to look for crayons in her room and stood next to a man who was crying on a balcony. The balcony was so high, so far above the street, that she had an urge to push him to hear the thud down below, but she remembered the orographic map of South America and was about to leave. Anyhow, since the man hadn’t seen her, she did push him and saw him disappear and ran to color in the map so she didn’t hear the thud, only the scream. And in an empty theater, she made a fire underneath the velvet curtain; in a riot she opened the cover to a basement hatchway; in a house, sitting on top of a desk, she shredded a two-thousand-page manuscript; in a clearing of a forest she buried the weapons of the sleeping men; in a river she opened the floodgates of a dike.
Her daughter’s name is Laura Inés, her son has a fiancée in San Nicolás and he’s promised to bring her over on Sunday so she and her husband can meet her. She has to remind herself to ask her sister-in-law for the recipe for orange cake, and Friday on TV is the first episode of a new soap opera. Again, she runs the iron over the front of the shirt and remembers the other side of the doors that are always carefully closed in her house, that other side where the things that happen are much less abominable than the ones we experience on this side, as you can easily understand.
The news spread fast. It would be correct to say that the news moved like a flaming trail of gunpowder, if it weren't for the fact that at this point in our civilization gunpowder was archaeology, ashes in time, the stuff of legend, nothingness. However, it was because of the magic of our new civilization that the news was known all over the world, practically instantaneously.
"Oooh!" the tsarina said.
You have to take into account that Her Gracious and Most Illustrious Virgin Majesty Ekaterina V, Empress of Holy Russia, had been carefully educated in the proper decorum befitting the throne, which meant that she would never have even raised an eyebrow or curved the corner of her lip, far less would she have made an interjection of that rude and vulgar kind. But not only did she say "Oooh!," she also got up and walked through the room until she reached the glass doors of the great balcony. She stopped there. Down below, covered by snow, Saint Leninburg was indifferent and unchanged, the city's eyes squinting under the weight of winter. At the palace, ministers and advisers were excited, on edge.
"And where is this place?" the tsarina asked.
And that is what happened in Russia, which is such a distant and atypical country. In the central states of the continent, there was real commotion. In Bolivia, in Paraguay, in Madagascar, in all the great powers, and in the countries that aspired to be great powers, such as High Peru, Iceland, or Morocco, hasty conversations took place at the highest possible level with knitted brows and hired experts. The strongest currencies became unstable: the guarani rose, the Bolivian peso went down half a point, the crown was discreetly removed from the exchange rates for two long hours, long queues formed in front of the exchanges in front of all the great capitals of the world. President Morillo spoke from the Oruro Palace and used the opportunity to make a concealed warning (some would call it a threat) to the two Peruvian republics and the Minas Gerais secessionist area. Morillo had handed over the presidency of Minas to his nephew, Pepe Morillo, who had proved to be a wet blanket whom everybody could manipulate, and now Morillo bitterly regretted his decision. Morocco and Iceland did little more than give their diplomats a gentle nudge in the ribs, anything to shake them into action, as they imagined them all to be sipping grenadine and mango juice in the deep south while servants in shiny black uniforms stood over them with fans.
The picturesque note came from the Independent States of North America. It could not have been otherwise. Nobody knew that all the states were now once again under the control of a single president, but that's how it was: some guy called Jack Jackson-Franklin, who had been a bit-part actor in videos, and who, aged eighty-seven, had discovered his extremely patriotic vocation of statesman. Aided by his singular and inexplicable charisma, and by his suspect family tree, according to which he was the descendent of two presidents who had ruled over the states during their glory days, he had managed to unify, at least for now, the seventy-nine northern states. Anyway, Mr. Jackson-Franklin said to the world that the Independent States would not permit such a thing to take place. No more, just that they would not permit such a thing to take place. The world laughed uproariously at this.
Over there, in the Saint Leninburg palace, ministers cleared their throats, advisers swallowed saliva, trying to find out if, by bobbing their Adam's apples up and down enough, they might be able to loosen their stiff official shirts.
"Ahem. Ahem. It's in the south. A long way to the south. In the west, Your Majesty."
"It is. Humph. Ahem. It is, Your Majesty, a tiny country in a tiny territory."
"It says that it is in Argentina," the tsarina said, still staring through the window but without paying any attention to the night as it fell over the snow-covered roofs and the frozen shores of the Baltic.
"Ah, yes, that's right, that's right, Your Majesty, a pocket republic."
Sergei Vasilievich Kustkarov, some kind of councilor and, what is more, an educated and sensible man, broke into the conversation.
"Several, Your Majesty, it is several."
And at last the tsarina turned around. Who cared a fig for the Baltic night, the snow-covered rooftops, the roofs themselves, and the city of which they were a part? Heavy silk crackled, starched petticoats, lace.
"Several of what, Councilor Kustkarov, several of what? Don't come to me with your ambiguities."
"I must say, Your Majesty, I had not the slightest intention--"
"Several of what?"
The tsarina looked directly at him, her lips held tightly together, her hands moving unceasingly, and Kustkarov panicked, as well he might.
"Rep-rep-republics, Your Majesty," he blurted out. "Several of them. Apparently, a long time ago, a very long time, it used to be a single territory, and now it is several, several republics, but their inhabitants, the people who live in all of them, all of the republics, are called, they call themselves, the people, that is, Argentinians."
The tsarina turned her gaze away. Kustkarov felt so relieved that he was encouraged to carry on speaking:
"There are seven of them, Your Majesty: Rosario, Entre dos Rios, Ladocta, Ona, Riachuelo, Yujujuy, and Labodegga."
The tsarina sat down.
"We must do something," she said.
Silence. Outside it was not snowing, but inside it appeared to be. The tsarina looked at the transport minister.
"This enters into your portfolio," she said.
Kustkarov sat down, magnificently. How lucky he was to be a councilor, a councilor with no specific duties. The transport minister, on the other hand, turned pale.
"I think, Your Majesty...," he dared to say.
"Don't think! Do something!"
"Yes, Your Majesty," the minister said, and, bowing, started to make his way to the door.
"Where do you think you're going?" the tsarina said, without moving her mouth or twitching an eyelid.
"I'm just, I'm going, I'm just going to see what can be done, Your Majesty."
There's nothing that can be done, Sergei Vasilievich thought in delight, nothing. He realized that he was not upset, but instead he felt happy. And on top of everything else a woman, he thought. Kustkarov was married to Irina Waldoska-Urtiansk, a real beauty, perhaps the most beautiful woman in all of Holy Russia. Perhaps he was being cuckolded; it would have been all too easy for him to find that out, but he did not want to. His thoughts turned in a circle: and on top of everything else a woman. He looked at the tsarina and was struck, not for the first time, by her beauty. She was not so beautiful as Irina, but she was magnificent.
In Rosario it was not snowing, not because it was summer, although it was, but because it never snowed in Rosario. And there weren't any palm trees: the Moroccans would have been extremely disappointed had they known, but their diplomats said nothing about the Rosario flora in their reports, partly because the flora of Rosario was now practically nonexistent, and partly because diplomats are supposed to be above that kind of thing.
Everyone who was not a diplomat, that is to say, everyone, the population of the entire republic that in the last ten years had multiplied vertiginously and had now reached almost two hundred thousand souls, was euphoric, happy, triumphant. They surrounded her house, watched over her as she slept, left expensive imported fruits outside her door, followed her down the street. Some potentate allowed her the use of a Ford 99, which was one of the five cars in the whole country, and a madman who lived in the Espinillos cemetery hauled water all the way up from the Pará lagoon and grew a flower for her which he then gave her.
"How nice," she said, then went on, dreamily, "Will there be flowers where I'm going?"
They assured her that there would be.
She trained every day. As they did not know exactly what it was she had to do to train herself, she got up at dawn, ran around the Independence crater, skipped, did some gymnastic exercises, ate little, learned how to hold her breath, and spent hours and hours sitting or curled into strange positions. She also danced the waltz. She was almost positive that the waltz was not likely to come in handy, but she enjoyed it very much.
Meanwhile, farther away, the trail of gunpowder had become a barrel of dynamite, although dynamite was also a legendary substance and didn't exist. The infoscreens in every country, whether poor or rich, central or peripheral, developed or not, blazed forth with extremely large headlines suggesting dates, inventing biographical details, trying to hide, without much success, their envy and confusion. No one was fooled:
"We have been wretchedly beaten," the citizens of Bolivia said.
"Who would have thought it," pondered the man on the Reykjavík omnibus.
The former transport minister of Holy Russia was off breaking stones in Siberia. Councilor Sergei Vasilievich Kustkarov was sleeping with the tsarina, but that was only a piece of low, yet spicy, gossip that has nothing to do with this story.
"We will not allow this to happen!" Mr. Jackson-Franklin blustered, tugging nervously at his hairpiece. "It is our own glorious history that has set aside for us this brilliant destiny! It is we, we and not this despicable banana republic, who are marked for this glory!"
Mr. Jackson-Franklin also did not know that there were no palm trees or bananas in Rosario, but this was due not to a lack of reports from his diplomats but rather a lack of diplomats. Diplomats are a luxury that a poor country cannot afford, and so poor countries often go to great pains to take offense and recall all the knights commanders and lawyers and doctors and even eventually the generals working overseas, in order to save money on rent and electricity and gas and salaries, not to mention the cost of the banquets and all the money in brown paper envelopes.
But the headlines kept on appearing on the infoscreens: "Argentinian Astronaut Claims She Will Reach Edge of Universe," "Sources Claim Ship Is Spaceworthy in Spite of or Because of Centuries-Long Interment," "Science or Catastrophe?," "Astronaut Not a Woman but a Transsexual" (this in the Imperialskaya Gazeta, the most puritan of the infoscreens, even more so than the Papal Piccolo Osservatore Lombardo), "Ship Launches," "First Intergalactic Journey in Centuries," "We Will Not Allow This to Happen!" (Portland Times).
She was dancing the waltz. She woke up with her heart thumping, tried out various practical hairstyles, ran, skipped, drank only filtered water, ate only olives, avoided spies and journalists, went to see the ship every day, just to touch it. The mechanics all adored her.
"It'll work, they'll see, it'll work," the chief engineer said defiantly.
Nobody contradicted him. No one dared say that it wouldn't.
It would make it, of course it would make it. Not without going through many incredible adventures on its lengthy journey. Lengthy? No one knew who Langevin was anymore, so no one was shocked to discover that his theory contradicted itself, ended up biting its own tail, and that however long the journey took, the observers would only perceive it as having lasted minutes. Someone called Cervantes, a very famous personage back in the early years of human civilization--it was still debated whether he had been a physicist, a poet, or a musician--had suggested a similar theory in one of his lost works.
One autumn dawn the ship took off from the Independence crater, the most deserted part of the whole desert republic of Rosario, at five forty-five in the morning. The exact time is recorded because the inhabitants of the country had all pitched in together to buy a clock, which they thought the occasion deserved (there was one other clock, in the Enclosed Convent of the Servants of Santa Rita de Casino, but because the convent was home to an enclosed order nothing ever went in or out of it, no news, no requests, no answers, no nothing). Unfortunately, they had not had enough money. But then someone had had the brilliant idea which had brought in the money they needed, and Rosario had hired out its army for parades in friendly countries: there weren't that many of them and the ones there were weren't very rich, but they managed to get the cash together. Anyone who was inspired by patriotism and by the proximity of glory had to see those dashing officers, those disciplined soldiers dressed in gold and crimson, protected by shining breastplates, capped off with plumed helmets, their catapults and pouches of stones at their waists, goose-stepping through the capital of Entre Dos Rios or the Padrone Giol vineyards in Labodegga, at the foot of the majestic Andes.
The ship blasted off. It got lost against the sky. Before the inhabitants of Rosario, their hearts in their throats and their eyes clouded by emotion, had time to catch their breath, a little dot appeared up there, getting bigger and bigger, and it was the ship coming back down. It landed at 06:11 on the same morning of that same autumn day. The clock that recorded this is preserved in the Rosario Historical Museum. It no longer works, but anyone can go and see it in its display cabinet in Room A of the Museum. In Room B, in another display case, is the so-called Carballensis Indentic Axe, the fatal tool that cut down all the vegetation of Rosario and turned the whole country into a featureless plain. Good and evil, side by side, shoulder to shoulder.
Twenty-six minutes on Earth, many years on board the ship. Obviously, she did not have a watch or a calendar with her: the republic of Rosario would not have been able to afford either of them. But it was many years, she knew that much.
Leaving the galaxy was a piece of cake. You can do it in a couple of jumps, everyone knows that, following the instructions that Albert Einsteinstein, the multifaceted violin virtuoso, director of sci-fi movies, and student of space-time, gave us a few hundred years back. But the ship did not set sail to the very center of the universe, as its predecessors had done in the great era of colonization and discovery; no, the ship went right to the edge of the universe.
Everyone also knows that there is nothing in the universe, not even the universe itself, which does not grow weaker as you reach its edge. From pancakes to arteries, via love, rubbers, photographs, revenge, bridal gowns, and power. Everything tends to imperceptible changes at the beginning, rapid change afterward; everything at the edge is softer and more blurred, as the threads start to fray from the center to the outskirts.
In the time it took her to take a couple of breaths, a breath and a half, over the course of many years, she passed through habitable and uninhabitable places, worlds which had once been classified as existent, worlds which did not appear and had never appeared and probably would never appear in any cartographical survey. Planets of exiles, singing sands, minutes and seconds in tatters, whirlpools of nothingness, space junk, and that's without even mentioning those beings and things, all of which stood completely outside any possibility of description, so much so that we tend not to perceive them when we look at them; all of this, and shock, and fear more than anything else, and loneliness. The hair grew gray at her temples, her flesh lost its firmness, wrinkles appeared around her eyes and her mouth, her knees and ankles started to act up, she slept less than before and had to half close her eyes and lean backward in order to make out the numbers on the consoles. And she was so tired that it was almost unbearable. She did not waltz any longer: she put an old tape into an old machine and listened and moved her gray head in time with the orchestra.
She reached the edge of the universe. Here was where everything came to an end, so completely that even her tiredness disappeared and she felt once again as full of enthusiasm as she had when she was younger. There were hints, of course: salt storms, apparitions, little brushstrokes of white against the black of space, large gaps made of sound, echoes of long-dead voices that had died giving sinister orders, ash, drums; but when she reached the edge itself, these indications gave way to space signage: "End," "You Are Reaching the Universe Limits," "The Cosmos General Insurance Company, YOUR Company, Says: GO NO FURTHER," "End of Protected Cosmonaut Space," etc., as well as the scarlet polygon that the OMUU had adopted to use as a sign for that's it, abandon all hope, the end.
All right, so she was here. The next thing to do was go back. But the idea of going back never occurred to her. Women are capricious creatures, just like little boys: as soon as they get what they want, then they want something else. She carried on.
There was a violent judder as she crossed the limit. Then there was silence, peace, calm. All very alarming, to tell the truth. The needles did not move, the lights did not flash, the ventilation system did not hiss, her alveoli did not vibrate, her chair did not swivel, the screens were blank. She got up, went to the portholes, looked out, saw nothing. It was logical enough:
"Of course," she said to herself, "when the universe comes to an end, then there's nothing."
She looked out through the portholes a little more, just in case. She still could see nothing, but she had an idea.
"But I'm here," she said. "Me and the ship."
She put on a space suit and walked out into the nothing.
When the ship landed in the Independence crater in the republic of Rosario, twenty-six minutes after it had taken off, when the hatch opened and she appeared on the ramp, the spirit of Paul Langevin flew over the crater, laughing fit to burst. The only people who heard him were the madman who had grown the flower for her in the Espinillos cemetery and a woman who was to die that day. No one else had ears or fingers or tongue or feet, far less did they have eyes to see him.
It was the same woman who had left, the very same, and this calmed the crowds down at the same time as it disappointed them, all the inhabitants of the country, the diplomats, the spies, and the journalists. It was only when she came down the gangplank and they came closer to her that they saw the network of fine wrinkles around her eyes. All other signs of her old age had vanished, and had she wished, she could have waltzed tirelessly, for days and nights on end, from dusk till dawn till dusk.
The journalists all leaned forward; the diplomats made signals, which they thought were subtle and unseen, to the bearers of their sedan chairs to be ready to take them back to their residences as soon as they had heard what she had to say; the spies took photographs with the little cameras hidden away in their shirt buttons or their wisdom teeth; all the old people put their hands together; the men raised their fists to their heart; the little boys pranced; the young girls smiled.
And then she told them what she had seen:
"I took off my suit and my helmet," she said, "and walked along the invisible avenues that smelled of violets."
She did not know that the whole world was waiting to hear what she said; that Ekaterina V had made Sergei Vasilievich get up at five o'clock in the morning so that he could accompany her to the grand salon and wait there for the news; that one of the seventy-nine Northern States had declared its independence because the president had not stopped anything from happening or obtained any glory, and this had lit the spark of rebellion in the other seventy-eight states, and this had made Mr. Jackson-Franklin leave the White House without his wig, in pajamas, freezing and furious; that Bolivia, Paraguay, and Iceland had allowed the two Peruvian republics to join their new alliance and defense treaty set up against a possible attack from space; that the high command of the Paraguayan aeronautical engineers had promised to build a ship that could travel beyond the limits of the universe, always assuming that they could be granted legal immunity and a higher budget, a declaration that made the guarani fall back the two points that it had recently risen and then another one as well; that Don Schicchino Giol, the new padrone of the Republic of Labodegga at the foot of the majestic Andes had been woken from his most recent drinking bout to be told that he had now to sign a declaration of war against the Republic of Rosario, now that they knew the strength of the enemy's forces.
"Eh? What? Hunh?" Don Schicchino said.
"I saw the nothingness of everything," she said, "and it was all infused with the unmistakable smell of wood violets. The nothingness of the world is like the inside of a stomach throbbing above your head. The nothingness of people is like the back of a painting, black, with glasses and wires that release dreams of order and imperfect destinies. The nothingness of creatures with leathery wings is a crack in the air and the rustle of tiny feet. The nothingness of history is the massacre of the innocents. The nothingness of words, which is a throat and a hand that break whatever they touch on perforated paper; the nothingness of music, which is music. The nothingness of precincts, of crystal glasses, of seams, of hair, of liquids, of lights, of keys, of food."
When she had finished her list, the potentate who owned the Ford 99 said that he would give it to her, and that in the afternoon he would send one of his servants with a liter of naphtha so that she could take the car out for a spin.
"Thank you," she said. "You are very generous."
The madman went away, looking up to the skies; who knows what he was searching for. The woman who was going to die that day asked herself what she should eat on Sunday, when her sons and their wives came to lunch. The president of the Republic of Rosario gave a speech.
And everything in the world carried on the same, apart from the fact that Ekaterina V named Kustkarov her interior minister, which terrified the poor man but which was welcomed with open arms by Irina as an opportunity for her to refresh her wardrobe and her stock of lovers. And Jack Jackson-Franklin sold his memoirs to one of Paraguay's more sophisticated magazines for a stellar amount of money, which allowed him to retire to live in Imerina. And six spaceships from six major world powers set off to the edges of the universe and were never seen again.
She married a good man who had a house with a balcony, a white bicycle, and a radio which, on clear days, could pick up the radio plays that LLL1 Radio Magnum transmitted from Entre Dos Rios, and she waltzed in white satin shoes. The day that her first son was born a very pale green shoot grew out of the ground on the banks of the great lagoon.
Luke is funnier than we’ve ever seen him — a personality change that betrays how “Star Wars” has been influenced by industry trends. Though the series has always been self-aware enough to crack jokes, it now gives in to the same winking self-parody that is poisoning other franchises of late, from the Marvel movies to “Pirates of the Caribbean.” But it begs the question: If movies can’t take themselves seriously, why should audiences?Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter -Fresh
Harrison Ford was a good enough actor, and Han Solo an aloof enough character, that he could get away with it, but here, the laughs feel forced — as does the appearance of cuddly critters on each new planet.
General Hux, who's goofily played by Domhnall Gleeson as if he were acting in a Monty Pythonesque parodyStephen Whitty, Newark Star-Ledger -Fresh
humor is not only prevalent but often turned, mockingly, on the self-serious mythology of the whole saga. Sometimes there are too many jokes; certainly there's an overabundance of cutesy aliens.Niall Browne, Movies in Focus -Fresh
It’s Finn’s mission which takes the film off on a diversion where it didn’t really need to go. There’s a lot of comedic hijinks involved in all of this which George Lucas would have excised from the first draft of anything he ever wrote.Rendy Jones, Rendy Reviews -Fresh
There’s more humour in The Last Jedi than previous Star Wars movies; some of it hits, some of it doesn’t. The much publicised Porgs work for a moment or two, but they outstay their welcome. The film drew to a halt too many times to show-odd cute creatures. I didn’t care for the crystal wolves during the climatic battle and the aforementioned space Llamas feel like they belong in a Disney movie (wait, this is a Disney movie!)
"The Last Jedi" is a movie that follows elements of other Star Wars movies that works on its own but feels so similar to a Marvel film because the first half of this movie is a comedy. Seriously a lot of the first half of the movie has a silly vibe amongst all the death and destruction that surrounds it. It desperately tries to be a parody of itself by making serious situations comedic.Ruben Rosario, MiamiArtZine -Fresh
Much has also been made of “Jedi's” jarring tonal shifts. Johnson inserts broad humor, then abruptly makes things serious, then back again to goofy content.Christopher Llewellyn Reed, Film Festival Today -Fresh
[Kylo's] partner in evil, Domnhall Gleeson, as General Hux, is less fine, though much of the problem stems not so much from the actor as from the tonally strange, abusively co-dependent relationship between the two men; their jokey rapport feels like it belongs in a very different movie.Alex Doenau, Trespass -Fresh
However, from the beginning there’s a discordant sense of humour that’s somewhat counter to the series’ ethos to date: rather than funny situations rising organically in the script, many of the characters openly seem to be making jokes. It’s how we introduce Poe this go-round, and it feels slightly off.Owen Richards, The Arts Desk -Fresh
There’s a surprising amount of comedy in the film, quite a bit at the expense of beloved characters or series law; it’s funny, but not respectful.Tim Brayton , Alternate Ending -Rotten
The Last Jedi has an impressively poor batting average for its jokes: it opens with a vengefully dumb "I have a bad phone connection" bit that put me on the movie's bad side basically as soon as it had a side to be on, and it's not exactly all uphill from there.James Kendrick, Q Network Film Desk -Fresh
Sometimes, however, his proclivities come at the film’s expense, such as his penchant for inserting quippy humor, sarcasm, and sight gags at odd times, which often undercuts the drama or simply smacks of too much effort.Craig Takeuchi, Georgia Straight -Fresh
Weak points come with awkward humour that lacks comedic rhythm and an unnecessary casino escapade, where a disposable underworld character DJ (Benicio del Toro) is introduced, that subsequently soft lens into what is essentially a children's adventure tale about animals.Rob Dean, Bullz-Eye.com -Fresh
Further pushing the disconnect is that the script is far too self-aware, constantly making the sort of jokes that nerds have been making about “Star Wars” for decades, as if it’s too cool to purely accept itself on its own merits. The comedy works about half the time, but there are a ton of jokes in this film that underscore all of the overly serious talk of hope that populates the movie.Sonny Bunch, Washington Free Beacon - Rotten
Johnson tries too hard on the humor front. Just one, brief, example: The whole opening sequences involves Poe doing conference call shtick while trolling Admiral Hux (Domhnall Gleeson). It's weirdly un-Star-Wars in the sense that it feels like something you could see on any dreadful sitcom here on planet Earth; this sequence is more fit for The Big Bang Theory than a supposedly dark entry in the Star Wars canon. The Star Wars movies have always been funny, of course, and there are moments when Johnson makes it work in a Star-Wars-sort-of-way. On the whole, though, it feels desperate and forced.Avi Offer, NYC Movie Guru - Rotten
Johnson's screenplay awkwardly blend action and drama with comedy and little bit of tacked-on romance. One particular scene involving an image that's not what it initially appears to be comes out of nowhere and feels like it belongs in a parody of Star Wars even though it does generate laughter.Tom Glasson, Concrete Playground -Fresh
With more gags, one-liners and quirky moments than all the other Star Wars films combined, The Last Jedi introduces a levity to the staid franchise in the vein of Roger Moore's turn as post-Connery Bond. At times it works, even to the point of guffaws, but ultimately the humour feels misplaced. In a story where loss abounds and crushing defeat looms large at every turn, the repeated cutaways to doe-eyed porgs purring like extras from a Pixar film distract more than they entertain. So, too, does Domhnall Gleeson, whose character General Hux plays more like a parody of a Star Wars villain. As a result, both the New Order and the film itself are robbed of their most enduring menace: the Empire.Brian Orndorf, Blu-ray.com -Fresh
In “The Last Jedi,” we watch Poe poke at Hux, who’s been turned into a buffoon for the new film, teasing him by faking communication issues and sharing an opinion about his mother. It’s the first of many awkward attempts at humor from Johnson, who isn’t known for funny businessKevin McCarthy, WTTG-TV -Fresh
The first act of the film features major pacing issues combined with unnecessary comedic moments that ultimately hurt the tone of the film. Unfortunately, a lot of this comes from Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker character.Jonathan W. Hickman, Daily Film Fix -Fresh
I found myself frustrated that the tone was comedy and sometimes almost veered into parody.Ray Greene, CineGods.com - Rotten
Everything else is jokes and comedic references with a side of cheese. I found myself shaking my head more than laughing along.
But it also doesn’t feel quite right — the language, the iconography, the weirdly campy humor at the beginning — it doesn’t feel a part of the Star Wars universe.Josh Bell, Las Vegas Weekly -Fresh
The less said about the awkward attempts at comic relief, the better.Matt Looker, TheShiznit.co.uk -Fresh
the comedy - and there is plenty of it - is spread out more evenly across the whole cast. In the case of Domhnall Gleeson's Hux, this becomes a good opportunity to poke fun at the horribly hammy performance he gave in The Force Awakens. But when he is playing those laughs off against his only foil - Kylo Ren - Johnson threatens to undermine their status as epic villains.Christian Toto, HollywoodInToto.com - Rotten
Johnson drops plenty of cutesy comic moments into the mix, some of which would make even George Lucas blush. What was passable in 1977 no longer flies as easily today. And a franchise as esteemed as this one deserves richer comic relief.Mark Hughes, Forbes -Fresh
The first act's humor is the shakiest, with some gags seeming more like something out of a Star Wars satire. The tone and irreverence of it was out of place, and a couple of bits went on one or two beats too long.Scott Menzel, We Live Entertainment -Fresh
Speaking of laughs, the jokes and humor just fall flat. The jokes seemed out of place or were just so “on the nose” that I couldn’t help but be annoyed by them. I feel like the modern day humor didn’t feel the tone of the story and yet Johnson kept trying to lighten the mood by adding in cheesy jokes that weren’t even remotely amusing but instead were rather cringe-worthy.Kevin Jagernauth The Playlist -Fresh
In the pursuit of providing some buoyancy to the picture, Johnson wields comedy like a sword, but it’s unfortunately the weakest element of the film. “Star Wars” has always been home to plenty of cornball one liners, and comedic passages, but there’s a delicacy to how they’re employed and delivered that allows them to land….or simply fall flat. Far too often, it’s the latter outcome in this picture, with some of the laughs feeling underwritten or simply shoehorned in. There’s a distinct lack of cleverness to the wit employed here — think something as seemingly spontaneous as BB-8’s “thumbs up” in ‘The Force Awakens’ — and while the gags don’t grind the picture to a halt, there are certainly some awkward patches where the expected laughs don’t materialize.Rob Hunter, Film School Rejects -Fresh
The film is a series of points both high and low, and it’s nowhere more clear than in the humor. Several beats work well to bring a smile, but others fall tone deaf to the carnage and pain surrounding them. From the very beginning Hux’s scenes are made to feel like lost reels from Mel Brooks’ Spaceballs, and poor Boyega can’t catch a break as Finn is saddled with lame one-liners at every turn.Alex Godfrey, GQ Magazine [UK] -Fresh
It’s funny, though not always when you want it to be – perhaps fearing too much gravitas, Johnson undermines it a little too often.Robert Kojder, Flickering Myth -Fresh
Rian Johnson has crafted an installment that largely defies saga standard narrative structure and tone. There is a quick comedic dialogue exchange in the beginning between Oscar Isaac’s fighter pilot Poe Dameron and Domhnall Gleeson’s First Order General Hux that falls in line with the brand of humor Disney and Marvel inject into that particular cinematic universe.John Serba, MLive.com -Fresh
Some stabs at comedy feel overwrought and clunky, including a stint on a ritzy planet of war profiteers, an extended sequence of skillfully directed silliness destined to be beloved fodder for apologists only.Up next is Part II: Canto Bight.
Johnson overplays his hand occasionally — most notably an unnecessary sequence at the casino city of Canto Bight that goes straight from a political sermon into a plot holeEthan Sacks, New York Daily News - Fresh
The bad news is, this involves an unnecessary trip to a kind of casino planet that doesn’t really advance the story.Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic - Fresh
A scene in an opulent casino is easily the most painful yet in this new generation of Star Wars flicks, eliciting images of the green screen busy set pieces of the early-2000 franchise additions, enticing to the youngest members of the audience who need their stories overly padded with shiny spectacle.Matt Oakes, Silver Screen Riot - Fresh
Boyega is a loveable hero, and his new compadre Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) is a nice addition. However, as much as it isn’t overbearing, their entire sub-plot is when the adventure loses steam. This moves the film away from where all the interest is – Luke. At this point, it becomes a little disjointed and unnecessary, never reaching a point of excitement required for a chunk of plot of this degree.Cameron Frew, FrewFilm - Fresh
an extended digression with Finn and Rose that doesn’t end up counting for much plotwiseBob Chipman, Moviebob Central - Fresh
Sadly, Boyega's Finn -- still an appealing character -- is saddled with a go-nowhere plot-line that has him and Resistance mechanic Rose show up at a space casino and cross paths with a rogue with a heart of a gold (or maybe just rogue?) played by Benicio Del Toro. There's the kernel of interesting idea there as we glimpse the socioeconomic underpinnings of this galaxy far, far away in a way we've never seen before, but it's a digression whose payoff doesn't warrant the build-up. And when you're already the longest Star Wars ever made (two and a half hours!), some snipping here and there might not have been a bad idea.Zaki Hasan, Zaki's Corner - Fresh
I’m not a big fan of Finn and Rose’s side adventure, which has the air of a spinoff story being tacked onto the main narrative (probably to give Finn a purpose, since Rey is doing her own thing with Luke). Apart from showcasing the power of hope on a younger generation, it’s not as well integrated into the seams of the larger story as it could’ve been.Tomas Trussow, The Lonely Film Critic - Fresh
It’s Finn’s mission which takes the film off on a diversion where it didn’t really need to go. There’s a lot of comedic hijinks involved in all of this which George Lucas would have excised from the first draft of anything he ever wrote.Niall Browne, Movies in Focus - Fresh
Much of the Canto Bight sequence feels unnecessaryMolly Templeton, Eugene Weekly - Fresh
First, both prominent new characters Rose and DJ seemed shoe-horned in, and Rose especially doesn't seem to have a real place in this film nor does she add anything to be hopeful about in the future. And while both Rey and Poe fans will probably be pleased with where their characters go, Finn sort of takes a step back, as he is sent off on a side adventure that seems like second-tier Star Wars. It's a diversion that takes up a good portion of the film and really serves no purpose to the overall story...worse yet, it seems to contain some heavy-handed political messages not commonly found, at least not this blatantly, in the Star Wars universe. These are more than just quibbles too: Most fans will not be used to the slow, lumbering pace or the general unevenness of this film...especially coming on the heels of the action-packed pacing that JJ Abrams brought in Episode VII.Tom Santilli, AXS.com - Fresh
There’s some stuff that feels extraneous (the whole Canto Bight sequence, which seems to exist to set up a new Lando-like character played by Benicio del Toro), and the cycle of attack and retreat — mostly retreat — gets a bit monotonous.Rob Gonsalves, eFilmCritic.com - Fresh
Muchas de las situaciones se sienten forzadas e innecesarias (por ejemplo, la aventura de Finn y Rose, me parece innecesaria).Ruben Peralta Rigaud, Cocalecas - Fresh
Their jaunt to the casino planet of Canto Bight serves little purpose besides introducing Del Toro, updating the cantina scene, and offering up a tired CGI chase scene that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Attack of the Clones. Kudos (maybe) to Johnson for introducing income inequality to the Star Wars universe, but the entire sequence feels rushed and shoehorned into an already long movie.Pete Vonder Haar Houston Press - Fresh
The weakest of these is Finn's. It's briskly paced and full of action yes, but let's just say a casino is no cantina... Worse, it also sees him interacting with Prequel Trilogy levels of CGI critters.Karl Puschmann, New Zealand Herald - Fresh
But the worst distraction “The Last Jedi” has to offer involves erstwhile Stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) and a Resistance maintenance worker named Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), a subplot every bit as visually and narratively inept as Lucas’ prequels were taken as.J. Olson, Cinemixtape - Rotten
Finn’s entire storyline could be cut and the film would be better off. As Finn was one of the driving-force leads of The Force Awakens and also a charming character, this is a disappointing development. His adventure is such a low point that it would not seem out of place in one of George Lucas’ efforts from between 1999 and 2005, and it serves little purpose to the film’s overall plot.Alex Doenau, Trespass - Fresh
there’s too much going on in The Last Jedi, and a lot of it feels like filler. Besides the aforementioned, stalled-out space battle, there’s a clunky sequence in a casino that goes on far too long, a lot of distracting cameos, and new characters inhabited by Laura Dern and Benicio del Toro, who bring close to nothing to the proceedings.Bob Grimm, Reno News and Review - Fresh
Finn and Rose (a new addition to the principal cast) distract the audience with an overlong and ultimately unnecessary side plot.Richard Dove, International Business Times - Rotten
And this plotline feeds right into the absolutely unforgivably terrible subplot, which is the adventures of Finn (John Boyega) the cowardly ex-storm trooper, and Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), the class-conscious engineer, who go on a fetch quest that is every bit as pointless as the whole matter of the military nonsense, only even worse, because it hinges on terrible comedy, bad CGI, and a spectacularly horrible moment when Johnson stops the film in its tracks to provide a ruthlessly on-the-nose lesson about economic inequality and the military-industrial complex.Tim Brayton, Alternate Ending - Rotten
Some of what happens on the casino planet — called Canto Bight, and sure to figure in the next film — is goofy on a level as cringe-inducing as things we saw in the prequel trilogy; like, Jar-Jar Binks–awful.MaryAnn Johanson, Flick Filosopher - Fresh
Johnson does his best to hustle from one location to the next, but the narrative has a tendency from time to time to drag. The biggest example of this are the scenes on Canto Bight. Which is a shame, because a huge chunk of the film’s message is established on these scenes. But the very nature of the story, with its many moving parts, inadvertently makes this section of the film feel like a diversion.Chris Evangelista, Slashfilm - Fresh
The humour is kind of sour in other places, too, such as the silly neo-cantina scene as Finn and Rose track the whereabouts of a mysterious encrypter, who might be the rebellion’s last hope, into a sort of galactic Monte Carlo. The abundance of slapstick there and in other parts of the film doesn’t click and feels forced.Diva Velez, TheDivaReview.com - Fresh
In an unnecessary and quite frankly preposterous third subplot, Finn (John Boyega) and a new character, Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), race against the clock to locate an underworld figure who can help them neutralise the First Order’s tracking device, thus allowing the diminished rebel fleet to escape.Vicky Roach, Daily Telegraph (Australia) - Rotten
Weak points come with awkward humour that lacks comedic rhythm and an unnecessary casino escapade, where a disposable underworld character DJ (Benicio del Toro) is introduced, that subsequently soft lens into what is essentially a children's adventure tale about animalsCraig Takeuchi, Georgia Straight - Fresh
Unfortunately, we keep getting dragged away from the only emotionally resonant portion of the film to watch Finn and Rose engage in sub-prequel hijinks on the casino planet. Everything here is forced and awful, visually uninteresting and often dark to the point of unwatchability, lousy with mawkish little kids making bug eyes at the camera as we marvel at the horror of economic inequality, and drowned in an atrocious patina of truly terrible CGI. It calls to mind the droid factory in Attack of the Clones and the pre-podrace sequence in The Phantom Menace. Most offensively, the whole Finn/Rose diversion has absolutely no importance to the forward momentum of the plot—it's utterly irrelevant, even nonsensical.Sonny Bunch, Washington Free Beacon - Rotten
Not everything in the film works: a few of the goofier comic moments fail to land and true to the legacy of Lucas there’s a fair amount of eye-wincing dialogue. More importantly, the second act bows under the weight of too many narrative strands; Finn’s away mission comes off as a bit superfluous, as does Laura Dern’s Vice Admiral Holdo, and both Rose and the beloved Chewbacca (Joonas Suotamo) are sadly underwritten. In a trade-off that brings scope and complexity, Johnson has sacrificed narrative efficiency.Christopher Machell, CineVue - Fresh
I didn't like the sequence in a casino--a callback to the Star Wars Cantina, of course, but also a chance to discuss the evils of war profiteers and the 1%. There are creatures there, there's slapstick, there's a heist of sorts, and it all harks back to my favourite of Johnson's films, The Brothers Bloom, in the interplay between the characters, in the lightness and clarity of the scheme. But it's tonally disruptive, and it introduces a trio of children who seem like part of a different film.Walter Chaw, Film Freak Central - Fresh
Finn and Rose’s trip to a gambling planet – basically a space Monaco – flits between light fun and on-the-nose political narrative.Richard Whittaker, Austin Chronicle - Fresh
It also begs the question why the space casino sequence, arguably the least relevant to the core story, wasn’t dramatically trimmed back. Aside from a throwaway final shot, this section of the film is the weakest – designed to depict profiteering space-capitalism run rampant (ironically, also depicting a stable of space-horses also running rampant).Patrick Kolan, Shotgun Cinema - Fresh
But as ingenious as this setup may be, it also gives rise to the film's most pointless subplot. After waking from his coma, Finn (John Boyega) contrives a means by which he can disable the New Order's tracking device, albeit one that requires him to sneak off the fleeing vessel, travel to a Monaco-styled casino planet, track down a master codebreaker and infiltrate the enemy's warship undetected. This enormous MacGuffin sees Boyega partnered with the charming Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico, a Resistance engineer low in status but high in pluck. The problem is that their side adventure does absolutely nothing to advance the actual story.Tom Glasson, Concrete Playground - Fresh
Unfortunately, John Boyega’s Finn, Oscar Isaac’s Poe and Kelly Marie Tran—as Finn’s new partner-in-rebellion Rose—are given the equivalent of busywork while the rest of the cast moves the plot along.Simon Miraudo, Student Edge - Fresh
A detour to a casino planet where Finn and a resistance mechanic named Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) search for a codebreaker to help them disrupt the First Order's tracking of the retreating resistance ships feels like a trip into another movie. The stakes here seem far lower than the live-or-die scenario facing Poe, General Leia Organa (the late Carrie Fisher) and the others trying to make their getaway.Greg Maki Star-Democrat (Easton, MD) Fresh
The only characters not doing a huge amount of growing are Finn (John Boyega) and mechanic Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran), and not for nothing, their subplot opens up a momentum drain that is the only weakness in The Last Jedi. Boyega and Tran are perfectly enjoyable, and their subplot isn’t a complete waste of time, but you start to feel the length of The Last Jedi when it veers off with them, and Finn’s arc is a pale echo of Poe’s so it’s not like much is being accomplished.Sarah Marrs Lainey Gossip Fresh
Rey’s journey toward learning the ways of the Jedi is far more entertaining than Finn’s convoluted (and ultimately pointless) storylineJosh Bell Las Vegas Weekly Fresh
Rose’s character is front and center in the film’s weakest sequences. We’re diverted to a city where the worst of the worst frolic. No, not the usual hives of scum and villainy. It’s a casino where the very, very rich cavort. The evil One Percenters! If you’re not immediately yanked out of the story here you deserve a prize. The accompanying dialogue is equally clunky, as is the reason all these vapid souls gained their fortunes.Christian Toto, HollywoodInToto.com - Rotten
Far less successful is the time spent with the rebels on the run from Hux and the First Order. Not only is it centered on the slowest space chase in sci-fi history, but subplots featuring Poe, Finn (John Boyega), and Rose (newcomer Kelly Marie Tran) go absolutely nowhere. Sure we get introduced to DJ (Benicio Del Toro) and Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern), but it’s with actions that fail to connect either through sheer stupidity or the simple truth that their absence wouldn’t change the story in the slightest. They’re obvious filler, and as is the Disney way (witness their Marvel films) the studio’s never met a character that couldn’t be jammed into a movie for no reason other than the misguided belief that more is better. Finn and Rose’s adventure in particular offers some additional action beats and a visit to a casino — think the Mos Eisley Cantina scene from Star Wars, but for the 1% — but it is meaningless noise.Rob Hunter, Film School Rejects - Fresh
Meanwhile, what feels too much like the “B plot” side adventure has Finn and Rose on a mission that takes them into another film entirely, a sort of intergalactic James Bond-meets-Free Willy. It’s hard not to feel that their entire subplot could be axed in order to make The Last Jedi stronger and tighter, which is unfortunate.Kaila Hale-Stern, The Mary Sue - Fresh
There is a whole section that feels out of kilter and harks back to the CGI naffness of the prequels — and is also virtually pointless to the plot.Jamie East, The Sun (UK) - Fresh
The film’s epic 150-minute runtime allows plenty of room for Johnson’s inventiveness, but there’s also a tiny bit of fat in the middle of the movie, specifically in the Canto Bight scenes with Finn and Rose. The casino city itself is gorgeous and has some crazy-cool characters, plus Finn and Rose’s presence there shines a light on some new, worthwhile themes for the Star Wars franchise. However, in terms of the overall story, the whole escapade feels a little pointless and small. It doesn’t help that Benicio del Toro’s new character, DJ, who is part of the same storyline, is largely insignificant.Germain Lussier, io9.com - Fresh
Star Wars: The Last Jedi does have a clear weak spot -- specifically the side plot that develops between Finn (John Boyega) and newly-introduced Resistance member Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran). Following a genuinely funny meet-up between the two characters, they are given their own special mission searching for a codebreaker who can assist in the battle against the First Order. But this storyline never feels particularly inspired or impactful as everything else going down in the movie. While it is constructed to fit with the larger themes of the film, features its own interesting expectation-flipping turns, and does eventually have a key impact on the macro scale, it's also the only part of the feature that ever feels expendable, and not helping anything is that it features the weakest visual effects of the blockbuster (especially during a second-act chase sequence).Eric Eisenberg, CinemaBlend - Fresh
Finn and Rose’s mission takes them to Canto Bight, a kind of Monte Carlo peopled by extras from Babylon 5, and feels like it is just ticking the Weird Alien Bar box started by the Cantina. A ride on space horses also feels like a needless diversion, as does Benicio Del Toro’s space rogue, whose strange, laconic presence never really makes its mark.Ian Freer, Empire Magazine - Fresh
It’s a shame, then, that the righteousness of Finn and Rose’s place in the film is undermined slightly by the limpness of their mission. Perhaps feeling there had to be some kind of Mos Eisley–esque sequence in the film, Johnson sends the pair to a casino city full of all kinds of creatures. It’s fun, sure, but the whole operation ultimately turns out to be a red herring. At least there’s some nice musing on liberation during this stretch, reminding us of the real stakes of this long story—freedom is, after all, what the Empire denies and the Rebel Alliance promises. And in a gorgeous third-act sequence—which includes the film’s true Empire Strikes Back homage—Finn and Rose finally get the emboldened moments they deserve. I just wish they fit more integrally into the central thesis of the film, that they were just as special, in their way, as Rey is, glinting with messianic power as she ascends.Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair - Fresh
Of the three simultaneous plots, it’s Finn’s that sometimes drags down the energy, particularly with an introduction of a shady thief played by Benicio del Toro, the only new addition to the cast that doesn’t quite work; he seems to be acting in his own private movie, and it’s not as good as this one.Will Leitch Paste Magazine - Fresh
Where the film struggles the most is on Canto Bight. Taken on her own, Rose isn’t a bad addition to the Star Wars mythos, and the movie definitely needs someone to play against Finn. Unfortunately, they lack the electric chemistry we saw between Finn and Rey in The Force Awakens, and their secret mission in a casino feels like it should be far more entertaining than it actually is.Matt Goldberg, Collider - Fresh
Some action sequences are superfluous and unengaging. Benicio del Toro all but cameos as a sort of hobo hustler, while John Boyega’s Finn is sidelined, relegated to relatively inconsequential hi-jinx.Alex Godfrey, GQ Magazine [UK] - Fresh
Finn (John Boyega) and newcomer Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) attempt an espionage mission that takes them to what is the Star Wars equivalent of the French Riviera. It’s a casino city named Canto Bight, and their adventures here push the Rick’s Café sensibilities from the original Star Wars’ cantina sequence to their limit. Nevertheless, this entire subplot amounts to a whole lot of padding while the real tough and revelatory decisions are made on Ahch-To.David Crow, Den of Geek - Fresh
Plot-wise, I felt the entire side story at the casino world of Canto Bight was unnecessary. If you cut the entire sequence out of the film, it would have little impact on the core narrative.Scott Chitwood ComingSoon.net - Fresh
Finn (John Boyega) wakes up, meets a admiring fan down in maintenance named Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran) and they head off on their own adventure, a detour that somehow combines the louche slickness of Cloud City and moralizing at its most Disney.Joe Gross, Austin American-Statesman - Fresh
But The Last Jedi’s two-and-half-hour sprawl still includes an awful lot of clunky, derivative, and largely unnecessary incidents to wade through in order to get to its maverick last act. This is especially true when it comes to the plausibility-straining mission of stormtrooper turned Rebel Alliance fighter Finn (John Boyega) and puckish series newcomer Rose Tico (Kelly Marie Tran).Sam C. Mac, Slant Magazine - Rotten
There are a couple of big names that fail to deliver much aside from, perhaps, realizing their childhood dreams of being in a “Star Wars” movie. A trip to a city that might as well be called Space Macau also fails to pay many dividends.Christopher Lawrence, Las Vegas Review-Journal - Fresh
Case in point is the plot involving Finn (John Boyega) and new hero Rose's (Kelly Marie Tran) McGuffinesque mission to Canto Bight, which is of the ashtray-on-a-speederbike variety, and takes away from the tension cranked up elsewhere.Harry Guerin, RTÉ (Ireland) - Fresh
The remaining 20% is made up of two different locales, one of which is entirely superfluous to the story. Essentially, there is a subplot that introduces Benicio del Toro’s mysterious work of eccentricity, except it doesn’t really do much of interest with him. Admittedly, it feels as if the character could be destined for bigger things in the final chapter, but I can only go off of what I watched, and well, the middle portion of The Last Jedi is stuck in the furthest setting from lightspeed. The journey expands to a space-Vegas full of various alien life forms and inhabitants, but it’s not as visually striking as previously explored planets. Additionally, by design, there seems to be filler injected simply because the other characters need things to do while Rey accomplishes what she needs to with Luke.Robert Kojder, Flickering Myth - Fresh
The scenes on Canto Bight seemed like an unnecessary divert for Rose (a new character I actually really like) and Finn. This “casino planet” was like a scene right out of a low-budget Sy-Fy channel movie shot in Vancouver. It felt too familiar and earthbound to be a scene in an other-worldly scene in a Star Wars movie. The Rose/Finn alien horse race through the casino that ruined the galactic one-percenters good time and did some property damage was just ridiculous and should have been cut. Rose and Finn flopping around on the alien horse just looked like a bad theme park ride.Chris Gore, Film Threat - Fresh
There’s a lengthy diversion to the casino planet of Canto Bight that feels pointless and tacked on just for the sake of giving us a cool new corner of the galaxy to feast our eyes on.Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly - Fresh
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