Friday, February 9, 2018

For Better or Worse, George Lucas Didn't Have to Answer to Anyone

*Notes: I refer to George Lucas basically creating the first six Star Wars films entirely by himself. Of course, this isn't true as hundreds of people, including other directors and writers, created the films. My main point is that he had total creative control over the series and could change anything he wanted. 
Also, while I posit that it might be better if Lucas had not sold to Disney, overall, I am still optimistic about the future of Star Wars because, as a true fan, I think that more Star Wars is ultimately better than no Star Wars...for now.

“I think the fans are going to love it. It’s very much the kind of movie they’ve been looking for.” This was George Lucas’s response to The Force Awakens, and after seeing both that film and The Last Jedi, two things have occurred to me in regards to that quote. One, the new Star Wars films are essentially fan films, made by fans attempting to give the fans what they want. And two, I wish Lucas had never sold Star Wars to Disney.

That quote explains exactly why I have issues with the new movies. They were made in an effort to give the fans what they want. The problem is what fans want isn’t necessarily good for the film, not to mention that Star Wars fans are notoriously divided about what they like in the series. Most of all, fans are meant to wait for new material, not dictate it. This is why George Lucas should have held onto Star Wars. Like it or not, what he made was Star Wars. He told the stories he wanted to tell how he wanted to tell them, and he did not seem to care about fan feedback. Lucas didn’t create perfect films (he obviously agrees with this since he had a habit of going back and altering the original films), but he made the films he wanted to make.

It feels like Disney is just placating fans, and plenty of people seem fine with it. But I’m disappointed. My biggest problem (which is likely never to be fixed) is that these new films do not feel like Star Wars films. Sure, they look and sound like Star Wars movies, but something is missing. I cannot point to anything specific aside from the fact that Lucas is not involved. Without Lucas, these are fan films, and fan films, while at times impressive, are never as good as the real thing. That’s not likely to change, and I’ll have to accept that. But part of me wishes Lucas had never sold to Disney. Part of me wishes the series stopped for good after the prequels. I can’t believe I even partially feel that way, but The Last Jedi has really left me disappointed with this series. Star Wars was still sacred to me before the new films, and now it’s quickly turning into just another bloated franchise.

As I pointed out in my previous articles, I did not think that The Last Jedi took Star Wars in a new direction. I wish it had, but I saw far too many similarities to Empire and Return of the Jedi to consider it a very original entry in the series. I don’t blame writer/director Rian Johnson completely for this. It seems to me that he was also disappointed with The Force Awakens, which is why he dismissed so much of it while also speeding through the inevitable retreads of Empire and Return of the Jedi. For doing this, Disney is giving him his own trilogy, which I look forward to since he won’t be beholden to anyone but himself. This situation is exactly what’s wrong with Disney’s approach to the series.

Lucas had total control over the series. Of course, total control leads to a few issues. Lucas obviously didn’t do everything by himself, but he was the final decision-maker, and he did not have to answer to anyone. That led to Jar Jar Binks and some truly abysmal romantic dialogue, but it also led to some amazing lightsaber action and a totally fulfilling character arc for Obi-Wan Kenobi, among other things. It led to a singular vision for the series. Disney threw that out the window when they decided to hire different directors for each film, but there is hope.

Disney saw something in Rian Johnson, but it seems like they also realized that he messed with the direction of the core films. How else do you explain giving Johnson his own trilogy while also handing Episode IX back to J. J. Abrams? It’s possible that they regret not having Abrams write and direct the entire trilogy. At this point, I wish they had. Sure, it’s likely that Abrams would have continued on the rehash path he started, but at least it would have been consistent. Now that he’s back in charge, we might see the mysteries and plots abandoned by Johnson revisited. If that’s the case, then this is going to end up being a sloppy trilogy. (And that’s how I will refer to it: there’s the original trilogy, the prequel trilogy, and the sloppy trilogy.)

This is something you never had to worry about with Lucas’s films. If a mystery was set up in the original trilogy, it was explained. And everything you still had questions about was explained in the prequels. The Lucas films may have their inconsistencies, but at least he never set up a bunch of mysteries, and then handed off the next film to someone else.

Perhaps the biggest problem is that the story wranglers at Disney obviously did not come up with a master plan for all these writer/directors-for-hire. Lucas took six films to tell the complete story of Darth Vader. Where do you go from there? How do these new films fit into that aside from his children and his grandchild still being around? And if we are moving on from Star Wars being about Skywalkers primarily, then what is the overall story arc for the new trilogy? Does anyone even know?

My biggest concern is Disney. Lucas may have been all about toys and allowing people to create new Star Wars books, games, cartoons, etc. But it was all separate from the core movies. In other words, you could ignore all the side stuff if you wanted, or you could take a deep dive in the expanded universe for more Star Wars. How long before Disney makes it seem like a requirement to play the games, read the books, and watch the cartoons? This already happened on a minor scale with C-3P0’s stupid red arm in Force Awakens. He mentions the arm, but it’s dismissed and never explained...unless you read a comic book that explains it. It’s fine if there are books and whatnot that fill in the blanks between Jedi and Force Awakens, but to point out some stupid little detail in a movie in the hopes of selling a few comic books is distracting, stupid, and troubling. It starts with a red arm, but it might lead to an entire character’s fate being left to some other media you have to buy. Lucas would create extra characters just to make toys of them, sure, but it wasn’t as obvious and/or distracting as the red arm.

The Last Jedi didn’t introduce any red arm nonsense, but by abandoning so many mysteries, it did leave the door open for major story details to be hashed out in other places. Is there going to be a Snoke comic book origin? Will the Knights of Ren be explained in a video game? If so, then fuck Disney. Also, fuck me for being stupid enough to read that comic book and play that videogame. Lucas allowed you to dork out if you wanted to; Disney might be making it a requirement.

Finally, Lucas being a one man show meant something else: there were only so many movies he could make. Since he was unwilling to let other people completely take over new films, he only made one at a time. And he took his time. Each release was special and exciting. Now, we’re looking at a yearly Star Wars movie forever. How long before this turns into Marvel fatigue? Sure, Marvel is chugging along just fine, but personally, I haven’t felt that need to watch the last four or five Marvel movies in the theater because it’s all getting too familiar or convoluted. Can I watch Thor: Ragnarok if I haven’t watched Doctor Strange? It feels like homework. Is this going to happen to Star Wars? I sincerely hope not. But one thing’s for sure, if George Lucas was still in charge, this isn’t something I would have to worry about. There probably would never have been another Star Wars movie if that was the case, but right now that seems better. Too much of a good thing is can be bad. Too much of a mediocre thing is much worse.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

You Have to Kill (and Apparently Copy) the Past to Move on in the "Star Wars" Universe

In my previous article, I went into exhaustive detail about my mostly negative opinion of The Last Jedi. One of those issues concerns Kylo Ren’s line: “Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to.” I have no issue with this line from a story standpoint as it works for Kylo Ren’s motivation for many of his actions. I take issue with people pointing to this line as a defense of the plot of the film both on the surface level and on a meta level.


On the surface, the line about killing the past is used to defend the massive death count of the film. From Snoke and Luke Skywalker to nearly the entire Resistance, the reasoning is that things can’t move on until people die.

That is a bit ridiculous. First, since when does it make sense to use a line from an unstable villain as an explanation of an entire plot of a film? Kylo Ren is clearly struggling with his actions and uses this line as an excuse for the evil that he does. He feels trapped by the past and the expectations of people older than him. This is why his parents and his current and past master must die. Now, in his eyes, he can become who he is meant to be. I’m okay with that, but that doesn’t mean it should apply to the story overall. It’s okay for a villain to be wrong.

I don’t think Kylo Ren’s line is what writer/director Rian Johnson had in mind as he killed off so many characters. But defenders of the film would have you believe this. Many defenders think that people hate this movie because Snoke is killed off or because Luke dies. I don’t dislike the movie simply because those characters are dead. In fact, I liked that Snoke was killed off (I just wish his character had been fleshed out before his demise). As for Luke, I suppose I wanted a more memorable death (and I think he should have been the last of the old three to be killed off), but his character’s death is not that big of a deal to me. I don’t get why Force-projecting himself is lethal, but whatever. Maybe it’s a rule about using that skill.

The character deaths that bother me are those of the entire Resistance save about twenty people. The argument here is that just like the Jedi have to be reborn so does the Resistance and, per Kylo Ren, you can’t move on from the past until it’s dead. If that is truly why Johnson decided to kill off nearly the entire Resistance, then that is weak storytelling. I know that the point of the Resistance being decimated is to set up the scene at the end showing that a new generation of Force-users and rebels is on the horizon. That would be fine if this was the end of a trilogy and not the second chapter. Where do we go from here? Do the twenty Resistance members just hang out for a decade while all the new younglings hit puberty? And why is no one faithful to the Resistance, anyway? Sure, a lot of planets were destroyed, but so was the weapon capable of destroying said planets. When the Death Star destroyed a planet in A New Hope, it strengthened the resolve of the rebels. They didn’t give up and go home. Not to mention we’re dealing with a generation of people who saw the Empire destroyed. They know that good can conquer evil. Have they really forgotten so soon, and now we need to wait on the stable children to save the day?

This annoys me because it felt unnecessary for people to need a new event to inspire them to fight evil. There have been plenty. Have we not moved beyond whether or not evil is worth fighting against in this galaxy? I guess not. Fine, but does the Resistance need to be so decimated to prove this? It just seems implausible. The entire Resistance just hangs out together all the time? They don’t have members throughout the galaxy? And I’m not talking about Resistance supporters. I understand that the supporters are the ones who don’t answer the call at the end, leading to the need of a new group of rebels. Once again, fine. But even the old Rebellion didn’t travel all together all the time. There were soldiers and spies working throughout the galaxy. Have they abandoned that game plan? That seems unlikely since it worked for them the last time.

Maybe there are members of the Resistance left throughout the galaxy (how can there not be?), but this film makes it seem like both the entire First Order and the entire Resistance are involved in the chase throughout. And if that wasn’t the case, why didn’t any smaller First Order ships show up to finish the job that the slower main ship could not? And why didn’t any Resistance fighters show up to create a diversion or aid them in any way? As far as this film is concerned, the two groups fighting for control of the entire galaxy are in the same place. Is that the goal of the Resistance? Keep the First Order occupied while the rest of the galaxy minds its own business?

I know this is becoming a copy of my previous post, so I’ll just finish with this before I move on to the meta issue: you can introduce a new generation into the Resistance without destroying it. Also, maybe have the characters care a little bit about nearly everyone they know dying.

Now, onto the more infuriating defense of Kylo Ren’s line. Defenders claim that the killing the past line is in reference to older Star Wars fans unwilling to see the saga go in new directions. This is a weak argument on many levels.

First, where was this defense back when a large portion of the fanbase hated the prequels? The prequels truly took Star Wars in a new direction. There are similarities, of course, but the two trilogies are wildly different in many ways, and I’m not talking about the use of CG vs. practical effects. I understand why people hate the prequels (I loved them), but no one can claim that they just copied the original trilogy. I’ve said many times before that some people hated the prequels because they weren’t enough like the original trilogy. I don’t think that’s a legitimate complaint. What’s infuriating about people invoking that argument with the new films is the fact that they are like the original trilogy!

It’s accepted that The Force Awakens is a rehash of A New Hope, but, for some reason, people seem to think that The Last Jedi is a wholly original creation. It’s true that The Last Jedi is not a retread of The Empire Strikes Back; actually, it’s a retread of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. I’m not going to list all of the similarities between Last Jedi and those two original trilogy films, but to prove my point, here are a few. The salt planet is basically Hoth all over again. Snoke is killed much like how Vader killed the Emperor. Rey thinks she can save Kylo Ren just like Luke thought he could save Vader. Luke is now Yoda. Rey abandons her training too early just like Luke did in Empire. There are many more, but I think those major plot points and sequences are evidence enough that The Last Jedi borrows heavily from the original films. So how can you say this film is killing the past when it is copying it? Maybe you have to “copy the past to kill it.”

I will concede that by lumping in plot elements from Return of the Jedi, The Last Jedi has moved on from the original trilogy. In that way, yes the past is dead. But that’s something I’m looking forward to. My least favorite element of the new films is that they have not gone in a new direction. Now they can. I think that some other characters could have survived to go on the journey, but whatever. We’re moving on, and that’s what I want. People who think fans hate this film because it’s too different from the original trilogy are blind to the fact that it is not different from the old films, and they don’t realize that many fans don’t want to see remakes of the original trilogy. It’s dismissive of actual critiques of the film. To hate this film, according to defenders, is to hate change. That is not the case.

The meta argument is mainly annoying because fans use it to claim that this film has broken new ground in the Star Wars universe. New powers have been revealed. The big bad villain is dead already. Random stable kids can be Jedi. The Jedi don’t have to follow the old rules, etc. But that is simply not the case with this film. There are new powers on display here, but force projecting and surviving exposure in outer space does not upend the Force as a whole. And the claim that only certain families can produce Force users was never a rule of the old movies. It’s made very clear that the Force is within everyone, but some people, the Jedi and Sith, are able to harness that power. Nothing was stated about particular bloodlines being the only ones to do this.

This brings to mind two other lines in the film used often to defend it: “This is not going to go the way you think” and “It’s time for the Jedi to end.” A very changed Luke Skywalker says this. It’s important to defenders of the film that Luke says these lines because people who love this film seem to think people hate it largely because of how Luke was presented. They claim that fans hate the film because it subverted their expectations of what Star Wars is supposed to be. Kevin Smith recently singled out the treatment of Luke as an example of why fans hate it. The argument is that people who hate this film hate it because it wasn’t what they were expecting. This is pure bullshit, at least for me. I don’t think it’s in keeping with Luke’s character for him to be where he is in this film, but I could accept it. And as far as subverting expectations, as I’ve stated earlier, this film recreated multiple elements from both the prequels and original trilogy, but for some reason people are ignoring that and claiming it is subverting the tropes of Star Wars. Wow, people cannot accept the possibility that some fans hate this movie because they found flaws in the storytelling (and also, in my case, the action). According to fans of the film, the movie isn’t flawed; the fans just can’t accept it.

Once again, I’ll bring up the prequels. When people trash those films (I imagine many who trashed them are the ones defending this film so ardently), the argument can be made that they didn’t like them because they subverted expectations, but no one makes that argument. At least, they didn’t make it as loudly as fans are now. (Of course, who knows what reaction to the prequels would have been like if the internet was like it is now back then.) This is annoying since the prequels actually did subvert expectations. But they also used a lot of CG, introduced concepts people hated (midichlorians), featured some bad dialogue (“Sand…”), and introduced annoying characters (do I even need to name a certain Gungan here?), among other gripes. But it’s okay to hate those films, because those are flaws. Fine. I disagree. Despite some of the flaws in the prequels, I still love those movies for the other elements that I thought were amazing (Obi Wan, the action, the world building, the moments that tie in directly to the original trilogy, etc.). But I understand that some people can hate them. I’ll write an occasional article defending the films, but I try not to dismiss fan hatred completely by saying, “Oh, it didn’t meet your expectations.” People who hate the prequels, and people who hate The Last Jedi, have more reasons than that for their hatred. Why can’t people accept that? And if you love the supposed subverting of expectations in this film so much that you ignore any flaws, why couldn’t you approach the prequels in the same way? Why do the flaws of that film outshine the new places the series went? Even if this movie did go in new places (which I it doesn’t, not that much anyway), that doesn’t excuse the other issues.

It just doesn’t make sense to me why people are bending over backwards to love this film while they were so quick to hate the prequels. Is it really all just about George Lucas? Does CG bother people that much? I’ll delve into this in much more detail in my final article, which will be about George Lucas. But I’ll just state here that the prequels had their faults. I rewatched them recently and cringed many times. But they also had some of my favorite moments in the entire saga. The action alone makes them worth watching, but more than anything they still felt like Star Wars to me. Sure, it was a vastly different Star Wars, but it felt right nonetheless. With The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi, I felt like I was watching fan films with huge budgets, which is what some people want. I thought it might have been what I wanted, but so far, it’s not.



Before this becomes even more of a rant, I’ll finish with this. I wish the people defending this movie were right, and that it was a bold new step in the saga. But it isn’t. Introducing a few new powers doesn’t rewrite the rules of the Force. Something tells me there are still going to be lightsabers and Force pushes and whatnot next time around. So there’s not going to be a new school or Temple in the next film? Fine. No one ever said that was needed. Plus, Rey still took the old Jedi texts, so she obviously doesn’t plan on doing things much differently than the old Jedi. So maybe they won’t call themselves Jedi, and maybe they won’t play by the same rules. Once again, the original trilogy did that already. Luke was too old to start training and there damn sure wasn’t a Temple. You can like or even love The Last Jedi, but don’t claim that you do because it’s something wholly new in the saga. It has elements that are new, but overall, this is still far too similar to the original trilogy. We’ll have to wait for Episode IX to see if they truly want to take Star Wars somewhere new. As for now, it all looked very familiar to me, no matter what the characters say on any level.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

I Didn’t Like "The Last Jedi," and I’m Not a Sexist, a Hater, or a Fanboy Who Can’t Handle Star Wars Being Taken in a Bold, New Direction.

*Warning: I cuss quite a bit in this article. Normally, I would edit it out, but it felt right to leave it in this time. So head's up if that sort of thing bothers you.

I am a fan, however, and fan is short for fanatic, which is good description of my relationship with Star Wars. I take it quite seriously, so when, halfway through The Last Jedi, I thought to myself, “I fucking hate this,” it caused a disturbance within me. I had never felt that way watching Star Wars (yes, even the prequels). I’m not alone, and there have been plenty of articles and videos stating most if not all of the problems I’m about to list. I still wanted to write about this film, though. Mainly, I wanted to work out for myself why I was so disappointed with this movie. Secondly, I’ve become increasingly annoyed with the dismissal of critics of this movie.

Fans of it seem to think there must be some problem with anyone who didn’t love it as much as them. I honestly do wonder how I could feel so differently from others about this film. It’s as if I watched a completely different movie than they did. So I felt obligated to explain that I don’t hate this movie because of women (strong women have been part of the series since the beginning), subverting tropes of the series (it only speeds them up), changing the Force (new Force powers and details were added in every film), or any other stupid reason that allows people who love the film to dismiss me. I didn’t like it because I found some plot elements weak and/or pointless, I found it lacking (despite a couple of great moments) in action, and it was simply boring too often. This doesn’t make me a hater. It means I didn’t like this movie. There’s no conspiracy or agenda here, and I’m not boycotting the series. I plan on buying this film, for God’s sake. (I may even review it again after I’ve rewatched it, especially if my feelings have changed.) I’m still a fan. I just don’t like this movie very much. It is allowed.

I’m just going to go through every issue I had with the film, every part I liked, and every issue others had that did not bother me. There won’t be much order to this, as I’m just going to write about each issue as I think about it. I will keep it organized into those three categories, though.

Also, I will be bringing up the prequels a few times, as I think a lot of stuff people claim The Last Jedi introduces was actually in the prequels. I loved the prequels, by the way, which makes me sad that I found The Last Jedi disappointing. For years, I’ve been defending the prequels making claims that people who hated them “just wanted to see the original trilogy again” and “don’t like change.” Now since I don’t like The Last Jedi that much, I’m being lumped into that very group as people seem to think the only reason to not like this movie is because we wanted it to be like the other films. That is not the case. And this film is still very derivative of the original trilogy, even if it upends a few things. Anyway, I’ll get to all that. Here goes.

*Final note: I reference fan reactions and quotes from Rian Johnson throughout, but I was too lazy to go back and link everything up. The quotes are legitimate, but as for me speaking for people who love the movie, I'm taking that from YouTube debate videos, comments on articles and Facebook, etc. Not exactly stuff I can source properly anyway. Just know that I'm not making up fan reactions.

SPOILERS

Issues I had with The Last Jedi (in no particular order)

So much death, so little caring

I get that this is the darker entry in the trilogy, so things aren’t going to go well for the Resistance. I kind of like that, actually. I mean, the entire resistance can fit on the Falcon at the end! It doesn’t get much darker than that. My issue is that no one seems to care. I like Poe Dameron and his desire to go blow stuff up, but shouldn’t he have at least one scene of remorse for all the pilots that die because of his plans? I know he gets called out for it, but he doesn’t care.

This applies to everyone in the Resistance. Everyone seems very jokey and happy-go-lucky even though almost everyone is dead. Were the other Resistance fighters hired guns? Sure, Rose has her sister that she mourns, but everyone else is unfazed by it all. Ackbar died, for God’s sakes! No moment of silence or something for him?

Defenders of the film might point out Kylo Ren’s line about having to kill the past to move on, but do we really need to kill off every single Resistance member except the notables to move on? And for those that use his line (which I’ll delve into in my second article about the meta bullshit of this movie), since when does one character’s line, especially that of a villain, justify anything that happens in a movie? Oh, the bad guy said it, so that’s why it happened? What?

All I’m asking for is a little emotion. Trash the Ewoks all you want, but who doesn’t get a little teary-eyed when that one Ewok dies and the other Ewok tries to wake him/her up and realizes what happened? At least the Ewoks value life. Poe wants to lead as many people to slaughter as possible and doesn’t think twice about it. But hey, they have to die so the Resistance can be reborn. Because those losers weren’t true believers or something.

Yoda looked weird

I don’t really have much for this one. I just thought he looked weird. I thought they would have done a better job of making him look like Empire Yoda instead of prequel Yoda. Not that big of a deal, but I’m covering everything. But I have read where others think Yoda looked amazing. Maybe my eyes are messed up...

Luke’s weird island life

The milking scene was meant to be funny, I guess? Was that alien enjoying it, by the way? And Luke couldn’t come up with a better method for fishing? That seemed needlessly complex. And what’s with the comic-relief nun-creatures? Why did they just suddenly show up after one of those Rey-Ren talks?


Luke’s attitude

I’m not going to make some sad fanboy “You ruined Luke!” claim here, but I didn’t buy that Luke would be like this after failing as a teacher. So the Jedi have to end. Fine. But does that mean you fly off and hide while the galaxy is taken over again? And if he didn’t want to be found, why did he leave clues to his location? And how did Max von Sydow have that clue in The Force Awakens? And, and, and, and...so many questions, so few answers. I know that a film doesn’t have to answer every question, but with the two new saga entries, it seems like mysteries were created to be answered in other places, like books, videogames, comics, etc. And that is complete bullshit. For everyone claiming this movie stands on its own, I will point out every unanswered question that was only left unanswered to sell more shit to us. Which brings me to…

Snoke!

The treatment of Snoke in this film left me the most conflicted. I liked that they killed him off, but hated the lack of any explanation of his identity. Writer/director Rian Johnson recently explained that it simply didn’t make sense for his film to stop and explain who Snoke is, but that it might be picked up in the next film or elsewhere. If it comes up in Episode IX I’m okay with it. If Snoke is only explained in a video game or book, then it’s Disney cash grab bullshit.

I’m not crazy about Snoke as a character, but the mystery of him kept me interested. You can’t introduce this powerful Force user out of the blue and kill him off without telling us where the hell he came from. Sure, the Emperor was simply there in the original trilogy, but that’s acceptable because we didn’t know what happened before the first film. Then the prequels thoroughly explained where he came from.

You’re telling me that Snoke, who appears to be very old, just sat out the previous intergalactic war between good and evil, telling himself, “I’ll wait this out and swoop in when it all falls apart”? I don’t care if this guy does have the ability to see in the future and could have stayed in the shadows the whole time because he knew how he could rise to power. Even if that is the case, there has to be at least one scene setting that up at some point.

And it’s not like The Last Jedi doesn’t have flashbacks. There was a flashback showing what happened between Luke and Kylo Ren. So why not a quick flashback for Snoke. According to Johnson it didn’t make sense for the story of the film, but when a sizable portion of the audience is wondering who the fuck that all powerful being was that just got cut in half, I think it might make a little sense to tell us who he is and how he was able to stay hidden so long. It doesn’t need to be a flashback, even. Vader’s backstory was covered with exposition in A New Hope. Why couldn’t Luke explain who Snoke was to Rey? Maybe cut out that stupid fucking milking scene and have Luke say, “By the way, Rey, let me give you some info about Snoke before you head off to his spaceship.”

The problem is that they felt the need to bring back the original characters, so they had to have some villain already there since the films have to take place thirty years later. The issue there is that this creates so many questions it seems like we need prequels to these movies. I know they won’t do that, but something tells me there will be plenty of comics, games, and books that fill in these backstories.

Would it have been so bad to have the past thirty years be peaceful? For the First Order to have immediately come to power makes the original trilogy pointless. Why not start Episode VII with the origin of the First Order thirty years later? Snoke could be given an origin. The Luke as a teacher scenes could have been the plot rather than a flashback. You can still have Kylo Ren and Finn and Rey. They would just be introduced differently or later. This way, instead of creating mysteries that would be abandoned, there would be answers and the saga could move forward. Obviously I could flesh that out a bit more, but I’m not trying to start some fan fiction here. I’m just throwing out other possibilities that might have worked a bit better and led to less fan rage.

Instead, we were introduced to needless mysteries by J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson said, “Fuck those mysteries.” I can’t prove that he literally said that, of course, but it’s not hard to imagine him thinking that as he wrote the script.

Wait, isn’t that just a complaint about The Force Awakens?

Yes, it is. And I think the missteps taken in that film forced Johnson into a corner. He had to try and move away from just copying the original trilogy and he had to try to dismiss the mysteries he had no interest in revealing. But in doing that, he jammed plotlines of Empire and Return of the Jedi into this film to get it over with, which is annoying if you didn’t care for the rehashed elements of Force Awakens. And he did away with the most interesting mysteries of that film, which is also annoying because those of us that hated the rehash plot clung to those mysteries in the hope that they would come up with some great answers in this film.

The lack of a unified vision for the saga

And that brings me to Episode IX. So if Johnson was all about doing away with things Abrams introduced, is Abrams just going to re-introduce this stuff in the next film? If so, that’s way too sloppy. I’m fine with different directors taking a crack at Star Wars, but is Kathleen Kennedy and the Star Wars team not controlling the story? They’re willing to fire directors over creative differences, but they also allow writer/directors to completely abandon story elements of the previous film? That is why I prefer the Lucas films. He was the sole creator, for better or worse. But he had a singular vision, and we didn’t have to wonder from film to film if he was going to abandon or revisit elements from previous films. At least this means all the movies coming forward will be surprising. But some stability would be nice.

With that in mind, I’m actually interested in Johnson’s announced trilogy that will be separate from the saga. I think Johnson could make some great Star Wars films if he was given complete control from start to finish, and he didn’t have to work around another writer’s material. Fingers crossed.

That fucking casino

This issue has been beaten to death by the haters, so I’ll keep this as brief as I can. This entire sequence was pointless and boring. It was pointless mainly because the mission would not have been necessary if Holdo would have just told Poe the plan (more on that later).

It was also pointless because Finn and Rose just bumblefuck their way to this casino and immediately get arrested...for a parking violation. They never even speak to the guy they came to see, and instead pick up a stuttering Benicio del Toro, who I assume only stuttered because del Toro insisted on doing something weird to keep himself interested in the character.

This is where lovers of the film will point out that the mission is not the point. The point of the scene, and the entire movie, is that Finn learns about the evil of war, and finally embraces the Resistance. Okay, but didn’t that happen in the last film? Being ordered to kill innocent villagers didn’t convince him? And when he joined the fight in that film, was that not him making a choice? I’ve read arguments that in the first film he was only acting to help Rey, and now he’s acting to help the Resistance. I disagree. When he fights the “Traitor!” trooper, was he only doing that to help Rey? Because that seemed like a moment to me; a moment in which he realized he needed to choose a side.

Finn’s arc aside, the argument is made that the casino sequence was about introducing hope to the stable children, which represented hope in general spreading to a new generation in the galaxy. Again, did this not happen in The Force Awakens? Did no one tell the stable kids about Starkiller Base being destroyed? That wasn’t impressive enough? But a couple of fuck-ups freeing some stupid-looking horse-creatures really gives them the rebellious spirit? And at the end, they’re recreating Luke’s fake-out fight with Kylo Ren. First off, how did they even hear about it? Second, that motivates them, but Starkiller Base blowing up doesn’t? And finally, let’s say Luke is what creates this new...ugh...hope in the children. (By the way, can we retire or at least tone down the theme of hope in Star Wars? I think hope was covered quite a bit in the first six films. Let’s just assume everyone is now very hopeful in the galaxy and move on to something new.) So these kids are in awe of Luke’s confrontation, but that confrontation was a lie. Do they know he was a Force projection, or do they think he’s truly invincible? If they know he’s a Force projection, why do they find that so impressive? And if they believe he’s invincible, then isn’t that creating hope on a lie? Wasn’t Luke’s whole goal to stop making the same mistakes of the old Jedi order?

People also point out that this is the first time Star Wars has looked into people profiting from war and whatnot, because Finn sees the rich people and DJ points out that one of them provides for both sides. Hate the prequels all you want, but you can’t deny that those films delved into the politics (the Senate debates) and economics (the Kaminoans creating the clone army) of war. Hell, most people complained about the movies being boring for doing so. But now that it happens in a non-Lucas Star Wars movie, it’s brilliant? Fuck off.

I just don’t see how Finn learning that rich people are bad, deciding to fight for the Resistance (which he seemed to have already done anyway), or learning about war profiteering excuses the fact that he and Rose carried out their mission with the adeptness of Jar Jar Binks. And I certainly don’t see rehashing those three existing elements as an excuse for creating an uninspired, boring setting and sequence.

Maybe I’m wrong, and the casino sequence does represent the soul of the film or whatever. That doesn’t makeit okay that the entire sequence is unforgivably boring. The wannabe Cantina sequence in the casino was a wasted opportunity to add something interesting. Instead, we get bland aliens doing goofy shit, like putting hundreds of coins into BB-8. I can remember damn near every alien from the Cantina scene, but all I can remember from the casino is the weird Justin Theroux cameo and that stupid drunk alien putting coins in BB-8.

Even the freeing of those stupid horse-things was lame. Say what you will about the prequels, but Lucas created great action sequences. The pod racing sequence, for example, is insanely lengthy, but I’m okay with it because it was done so well. The freeing of the horse-goats and the ensuing escape sequence, on the other hand, was forgettable at best.

So much for being brief, right? I can’t help it. This was the moment in the film that turned me against it. This is the sequence that prompted my “I fucking hate this!” response. There are moments in nearly every Star Wars movie that I’m not crazy about (the Muppet performance in Jabba’s Palace in Return of the Jedi, the terrible child acting in Menace, the abysmal "love" scenes in Clones, etc.), but I’ve always been able to shrug it off because of all the other awesome stuff going on. I couldn’t do that this time, and that makes me very sad.

Those fucking horse-things

Yeah, I covered this already, but I wanted to mention them one more time. I just hated their stupid faces...


For the first time, a nobody can matter (bullshit!)

This falls into the defense of the casino sequence, as people point to the stable children as the future of the Jedi. “You don’t have to be a Skywalker to be a hero!” This was never the case, anyway! These films have always been “about” the Skywalker family. Skywalkers have been heroes because it’s been their family story. Even with that, however, plenty of other people have been heroes. Han Solo was just a smuggler. Luke was a farmhand. Anakin was a child slave. Obi-wan and Qui-gon were just Jedi Knights. The whole idea behind the old Jedi system was about nobodies becoming Jedi. Jedi aren’t allowed to have kids, so how could the Force be limited to one family?

This is what annoys me the most about people defending the film in this way. They take shit that has either never been an issue or has already been established and act like this film broke the mold of Star Wars and started everything over. I don’t care if you like this movie, but don’t claim you like it because it’s the first “Star Wars” film to do this and that when this and that have already been done in the previous films.

Force projections - AKA the Star Wars version of the overused mask gag from Mission: Impossible

I am very worried about this new power. Hopefully, it can only be done once and then you die or something. Otherwise, every scene from here on out involving a Force user will have the question, “Is he/she really there?” Please let this be a one-off power.

Luke had to die because…

...oh yeah, because Ren said so. Sorry, I forgot.

Come to think of it, though, this is in keeping with one of the weakest story elements in the prequels: Padme’s death. In Revenge of the Sith, Padme dies pretty much because the story needed her to. Even the doctor droid couldn’t explain why she was dying, aside from her losing the will to live. I get that Lucas wrote himself into a bit of a corner in that situation, but wouldn’t it have been much more powerful of a scenario if Anakin’s force-choking of her really did lead to her death? I suppose Lucas wanted to leave the guy slightly redeemable, but come on, he was killing younglings minutes earlier in the film! Go for it and have basically murder the love of his life. I know he’s still responsible for her death because she doesn’t want to live after what he has done, but that makes her final moments weak.

The point is that Luke’s mom died seemingly for no reason, so it stands to reason he would die that way too. I’m joking, but that at least makes a little more sense to me.

Holdo refuses to tell Poe the plan

I mentioned this earlier, but I’ll point it out again because I have yet to hear an argument for her withholding the plan from Poe. Some have pointed out that Poe got demoted or was being punished for his actions. So your plan for dealing with the hothead who always goes off and does whatever he wants is to leave him in the dark, forcing him to go off and do whatever he wants, like stage a mutiny. Good idea, Holdo.

The whole point of the film was to show that the Resistance will stand no matter how much loss they endure, and that will inspire the people

Again, hasn’t this been covered in previous films? I don’t care about the whole “kill your past” bullshit. It’s ridiculous that the Resistance is down to a couple dozen people. Are the stable children going to be ready for the fight in the next film? I hope not, because using a broom and using a lightsaber are two very different things.

Knights of Ren

Rian Johnson has said that he didn’t include the Knights of Ren because he would have just killed them off because they would have been Snoke’s guards. Fine, go ahead and kill them. I just want to know who they are. Not having them in this film at all just makes me wonder what the hell they are doing since chasing the Resistance seems to be the only thing that matters to the First Order. Are they all just hanging out somewhere? It’s just another example of something being set up that Johnson didn’t want to pay off. That is lazy storytelling. I’m worrying more and more that Episode IX is going to be a spiritual sequel to The Force Awakens rather than the end of a trilogy. You cannot deny that these two films have lacked overall focus. I guess you can claim that lack of focus is actually a “bold, new” direction for the series. Starting to use your bed as a toilet would be a bold, new direction, too (for most people), but that doesn’t make it a good idea.

Snoke has no peripheral vision

I’m no Jedi, but if something starts moving next to me on the arm of the chair I’m sitting in, I’ll notice it.

The misplaced humor

The humor didn’t bother me overall, but it did feel like they were worried about being too dark, so every time something remotely serious happened, a cutesy gag had to follow within a minute. I don’t understand how people who claim this movie works a standalone film can give it a pass for the jarring tonal shifts. Any other movie would get (rightfully) called out on that.

Luke’s chance to be a badass

Man, when Luke showed up to face down all those Walkers, I thought, “Finally! Grumpy bitch boy Luke is about to redeem himself.” And I expected to see him Force push a Walker down and start a domino effect. But no, he was only projecting himself there. Sigh.

The (mostly) weak action

I started watching the Star Wars movies again recently to get out of my Last Jedi funk, and I started with the prequels (I know, blasphemy!). Especially after watching Revenge of the Sith I feel the need to point out that despite whatever issues you have with the plot and acting and whatnot of those films, you cannot deny that George Lucas delivered the action. Revenge has multiple huge, amazing action set pieces, like the opening long take space battle, Count Dooku vs. Obi Wan and Anakin, the General Grievous vs. Kenobi fight, and the showstopper: Obi Wan vs. Anakin. Not to mention multiple smaller action scenes throughout. Some might complain about the use of CG, but I honestly think it holds up. So far, the new Star Wars movies have failed to hold up to that standard. I’ll give you the throne room fight in Last Jedi, but aside from that the lightsaber action is almost nonexistent. Some of the space battles are okay, but they lack the scale of the prequels. It’s hard to watch Last Jedi and compare it to the prequels and think that the budgets were similar. Lucas puts every penny on the screen. Where did the money go for Last Jedi? Let me guess, they painstakingly created practical costumes for most of the casino patrons that we barely see.

This brings me to my biggest issue: The Last Jedi is a boring film, and that is unacceptable as a Star Wars fan. Some people love it, and I wish I did. But I do not understand how anyone could consider the majority of this movie entertaining. I love Star Wars for the mythology it created, and for the awesome sci-fi action. The two new films can’t decide if they want to copy the old films or subvert them, or make a statement about the franchise, or whatever. Along the way, they forgot to make these movies fun to watch.

Do I want an empty action film? No. And I don’t consider the prequels to be empty action. But if you’re going to create subplots that exist only for character development, at least go to the trouble to create some memorable action.

Parts I liked

Believe it or not, I liked quite a bit of this movie, although I’m leaning more towards overall hate the more I think about it. Hopefully focusing on these elements will get me back to the “like, but had severe issues with it” category.

The beginning space battle

An honestly thrilling and tense opening. Heads up, I’m going to be shorter in my praise than my rage. It’s just how I am.

The killing of Snoke

I hate that they didn’t explain his origin, but I loved that they killed him off. The more I look back to The Force Awakens the more it annoys me that it’s a remake of A New Hope. So I was prepared to sit through a rehash of Empire followed by a rehash of Return of the Jedi. By killing Snoke now, as implausible as it may seem, the story can now go into uncharted territory. I was truly surprised in the moment, which is always welcome, and it opens up the story.

The lightsaber battle

The ensuing battle after Snoke’s death is easily the highlight of the film. I’m starving for lightsaber action in these films, so it was nice to finally see some great action. Even though it doesn’t make sense to me that the guards would fight after Snoke died… Wouldn’t they just start working for Kylo Ren? Maybe if we had any info at all about Snoke and these guards… Anyway, great sequence.


The hyperspace ram

I pretty much hate the character of Holdo because she needlessly withholds info, but using a hyperjump as a weapon was badass. That coupled with the lightsaber fight nearly redeem the movie for me...nearly.

Some of the humor

I didn’t hate the humor in the movie, and I found quite a few moments genuinely funny. I think there is humor in the wrong place at times, but overall this movie is actually funny a few times, whereas other Star Wars films usually feature cutesy, weak humor.

The surprising nature of the movie

This goes back to Snoke’s death, but after that moment, I had no idea where this movie was going, and it made the last hour much more interesting than the first hour. Sure, they ended up redoing the Hoth sequence for some fucking reason, but overall all bets were off and anything could happen.

The fact that I have no clue what Episode IX will be like

This leads us to the next film. Will Abrams revisit element Johnson dismissed? I hope he does a little bit, but one thing’s for sure, he can’t remake Return of the Jedi because Johnson beat him to it. I’m very interested to see where this series goes. It’s just unfortunate that they had to make a weak ass Star Wars movie to get to that point.

Parts other people hate that didn’t bother me (that much)

Women

I believe the sexism involved in some critiques of this film (some dildo even made an edit that removed all the women from the film) is simply a loud, pathetic minority of fans. As mentioned at the beginning, this series has always featured strong women, so I don’t even understand how a fan could be upset with the role of women in this film. That said, it’s still okay to hate the actions of female characters without being sexist. Holdo’s decision to leave Poe in the dark would have annoyed me just as much had she been a man, for example. I only point this out because I don’t like that people who dislike this film sometimes get lumped in with the idiots who are mad because the main character is a woman or that the bad guys are all men (which has also always been the case in the series). Some of us didn’t like the film for legitimate reasons.

Leia’s spacewalk

I’ve seen this referred to derisively as the Mary Poppins moment, but it didn’t bother me all that much. Aside from issues with surviving in space, I didn’t see what the big deal was. I will say that in light of Carrie Fisher’s death, it would have made much more sense for Leia to die in this moment, especially since her character was very inconsequential this time around. And if the plan is to kill off the main three (Han, Luke, and Leia) one film at a time, why would Leia be the last to go?

Finn and Rose’s love story

This could be about Rose’s character in general too, I suppose. Either way, it didn’t bother me that these two fell in love, even though they seem to fall in love simply because they share screen time. What I don’t get is people claiming that Rose steals the film and immediately cements herself as a great Star Wars hero. I thought she was pretty bland.

The porgs

Look, ever since the Ewoks, there are going to be animals or aliens that are just there to be cute for the kids. I didn’t mind them.

Phasma

I’ve never understood the hype of this character. She was given nothing to do in either film, so it doesn’t bother me that she appears to get killed...again. It’s no major loss because aside from being a female trooper with chrome plating, Phasma is a very minor, inconsequential character.

The “running out of gas” plan

It’s a pretty weak plot element, but fine, they’re running out of gas. Why not? It’s fantasy/sci-fi, you can go anywhere you want with it. They needed a ticking clock, and this is what they came up with. Now, whether or not this needed to be a ticking clock movie is another matter...

Rey becoming badass seemingly overnight

...which is why a lot of people have issues with Rey’s sudden abilities. If we’re doing the math, she was with Luke for a day or two. If they didn’t have the running out of gas plot, Rey could have spent much more time there. Either way, it’s unclear how long Luke stayed on Dagobah in Empire, but it definitely didn’t seem like a long time. So if we’re cool with that, we have to be cool with this. Also, Snoke mentions the light side rising to meet the dark which explains it, but as stated before, I don’t believe plot holes can be explained away by villains.

Final thoughts...finally

Okay, I hate this fucking movie. I do. I hate that I hate it, but I do. I plan on buying it (because I’m a stupid nerd) and watching it again, though. Hopefully, I see something different the next time out. As it stands, this is a shitty Star Wars movie with a handful of decent moments, but at least it sets things up for

Episode IX to be its own film. There’s always...ugh...hope.