Hey, it’s me! I’m alive, though you may not have been able to tell. Just here, desperately looking for a job. That old Maslow’s basic needs hierarchy is keeping YOU from enjoying movie reviews. But certain social issues must be addressed, such as whether Last Jedi is good or bad. Sure, I’ve seen Call Me By Your Name (it’s good!) and Phantom Thread (it’s really good!), but yes, this is the one thing I must carve out time to write about, because we must rectify this deep and lasting schism in our culture, before the rot inside destroys us.
Okay, now I have seen it again. And this time I was able to go in with the attitude that whatever it is, someone intended to make a good movie, not just scrawl graffiti over everything these films had built up. And I can see that within its all-new framework, it is a fairly good movie. And in terms of filmmaking, and a striking visual sense that wants to create fantastically beautiful sights, this is by far the best-made Star Wars film of all time.
But I was wondering about my own strong reaction, and one I’ve seen echoed on the Internet, that this film makes me stop caring about Star Wars entirely. It makes me feel insulted, and makes me want to say “fuck you” to its creators. And I think the reason is:
This is not a sequel. This does not continue the storyline. The last movie ended with the rebels enjoying a historic victory—but here they are, inexplicably, back to their lowest point. That is the first, and biggest, non-sequitur. Then there’s those bubble shields that we have never, EVER seen in a Star Wars film before. Then there’s the issue of running out of fuel, which we have never, ever considered in a Star Wars film before. Then the force itself connects Rey and Kylo, which we have never, ever seen the force do before (and so… does the force have a mind?). Then there’s that in the last movie, Luke left a detailed map exactly so the rebels could find him… and here he says he doesn’t want to be found.
So this is many things, but it is not a sequel… it is not continuing the same story. It’s a new story in a similar, but not same, universe. And the entire premise of this whole thing is that they are telling me one continuous story, that somehow matters and is building on itself, and if they’re not… if they’re just making it up as they go along… then why am I watching? Kind of makes me into a chump, right? Hence the feeling of not caring about Star Wars as a whole anymore.
I can see that, considered on its own, this is a pretty good movie. But it’s a big, unexpected re-jigging of the entire thing (which JUST HAPPENS to render it more appealing to millennials and continued product sales), which was sold as a continuation of a previous series. One expects this kind of thing when Doctor Who goes off the air and comes back as an entirely new series, but this breaks our contract with Star Wars by giving us something else under the same name. I actually suspect that Rian Johnson had an idea for the Star Wars movie he wanted to make, long before this opportunity came along, and he made that movie, whether it worked or not.
Not that I’m against change, but I thought Abrams set up a great amount of good new stuff with his film, created a bunch of new possibilities and handed them off to someone… who threw them out. We’ll see what happens in the next one, but Star Wars has broken its promise to us, that this is one story we should have some interest in because it’s going somewhere. Nope. It’s just make-up-as-we-go-along time, and I guess we should care accordingly.
Okay, now we’ll give this up and get to Phantom Thread eventually. But go see it in the meantime.