Kylo Ren is all about letting the past die, and killing it if necessary.
I think Rian Johnson and the rest of Lucasfilm might be buying into it.
Fans have already had to watch our beloved characters age and pass away, both on and off the screen, and now it seems the people steering our destiny have either forgotten or don’t care about what’s most important to keep alive.
With this movie, Star Wars has become a mockery of itself. It’s difficult to take a film seriously when the only things left unmocked are its visual effects and Chewbacca. Don’t get me wrong: I will always love Chewbacca, and Star Wars would not be itself without stunning effects… but The Last Jedi has brought about a new level of laughability beyond its intended humor, of which there is much. Too much.
Poe’s snark is amped up through the first 30 minutes of the film, and if it had stopped after the rush of the opening sequence it would have been fine. It didn’t. BB-8 amazingly manifests a ton of fingers out of a single metal arm/rod to fix mechanical issues, but with the help of slapstick ends up using his head (literally) to fix it. He also runs into a bunch of walls while under a document filing box in “disguise” later in the movie. Oh, I forgot to mention the obvious merchandising sales grab that was BB-8’s mechwarrior moment, saving two characters from their useless plot atop a torn-apart AT-ST.
Leia (and furthermore, Carrie) almost receives a beautiful death scene… but then she force-propels herself through the vacuum of space like Peter Pan so that what… she could do nothing the rest of the movie? And Finn and some rebel girl spend a majority of the film off in a useless plot about rebellion that ends up not benefitting anyone: the rebellion or us as viewers.
Luke’s now a stir crazy old man painted to look like a buffoon while milking weird creatures (why? … why?) who is later joined by a Yoda; a Yoda who is even more silly than his initial Empire Strikes Back self. Yoda made light of issues outside the Jedi and the Force in ESB, he didn’t mock the teachings themselves.
Sure, many will attempt to rationalize Episode VIII’s goofiness and ill-timed humor by bringing up the missteps and childish nature of the prequels. However, referencing the prequel movies does the opposite of supporting this argument.
I understand that comedic forms change over time, but can we honestly say it has changed for the better since the time of the original trilogy?
Scenes that hold a significant weight, like Luke standing unscathed after a barrage of laser fire possibly takes him out, should not be punctuated with him brushing his shoulder off. Nor do we, the audience, need to be distracted in a heavy scene where Kylo and Rey are connected through the force by her asking him to put a shirt on. These things are unnecessary and cheapen the moment.
Oh yeah, and then there’s the scene where we’re shown a close-up shot of what appears to be funny looking ships descending, but then the camera pans out to reveal that they’re irons being used by droids on wrinkled clothes. Really… this is Spaceballs now?
“Permission to get in my ship and blow things up?” … If the characters aren’t even going to take their predicament seriously then why should I? In Rogue One and the original trilogy the characters knew how dire their situation was. They had faith in hope and took it seriously. In the Last Jedi, the weight of these situations is boiled down to sarcasm at an alarming degree.
Yaaay, let’s shit on all the things!
Comic relief and sarcasm are now aimed at the force, too. Rey is asked what she understands the force to be, to which she provides a silly answer about ‘making things float’. She is then guided by Luke to close her eyes while he tickles her with a blade of grass, and she exclaims, “I can feel something!” Hardy har.
Even the saying ‘may the Force be with you’ is mocked in a scene where two characters awkwardly say it over one another. I understand the good intentions of the characters being on the same page in the moment, but are we supposed to believe people in this galaxy are saying it so much that it just becomes a sheepishly-passive throwaway, its meaning conceded by one character and no longer holding the weight it should?
The handling here is careless, and should be concerning to anyone with an interest in the heart of Star Wars.
Most of the cringey moments occur in the first half of the movie, but by the time we get to stuff that demands to be taken seriously the sour taste in the mouth is hard to ditch. It also doesn’t help that most of the second act is filled with throwaway characters and plot.
Snoke is killed before we can learn anything substantial about his character. DJ the codebreaker enabled two main characters to accomplish nothing. And the purple-haired Vice Admiral Holdo felt the need to keep her plan from someone who ended up being 100% on board with it, opting to call him ‘flyboy’ instead. Going out in style with the lightspeed suicide was visually spectacular and all, but if capital ships can be taken out like this then why haven’t the Rebels been doing it at the end of every out-gunned losing battle?
Let’s talk about good things for a (brief) moment: The overall story arc with Kylo and Rey is good, and has some excellent surprises!
The same can be said for Luke and Kylo’s mishap story. It’s nice to get some decent background on what happened between them, and explanation of why things are they way they are at this point. It is also one of the film’s stories that plays into its messages.
Star Wars has transcended fandom to become somewhat of a religion for many of its followers. It has always aligned itself with a pseudo-biblical philosophy of light and dark that is easily identified with, and should be applauded for its truth. The messages being spread now include only some of the original preachings: the newer ideas are more reckless.
The issue of failure: this movie addresses it repeatedly. Luke fails Kylo. The resistance fails against the first order. Individuals fail small tasks in the story’s plot points, like Rose’s sister at the beginning, or she and Finn getting the intended code slicer from the casino. But the message of moving past it is a good one: perseverance and facing down overwhelming odds, which Star Wars has always been about. Being determined in the face of failure, which is good. And there was a small message about having faith in what you believe in, in the form of Rose sharing her necklace pendant and then getting it back once a good deed was performed with it. They continue to stand for what they believe in, and it pays off.. sometimes. Finn and Rose didn’t really accomplish anything with all their perseverance, so where’s the payoff to the lesson?
If only the film had stuck to this message alone…
Undercurrents of other messages muddy the waters and make the film stuffy. For example, there is a strong message of rebellion aimed at children. We are fed this message on Canto Bight when Finn and Rose are watching the horse-like creatures being acted upon with violence, to train them into obedience. The characters then free the creatures from their stalls and ride them through the establishments, trashing the whole place. We’re reminded of it at the end when we see the young boy with his new rebel ring.
But there’s a problem with the execution of this lesson. We are shown one act by one person, and were just told about the rest of the wrongdoing. So we should also think that it’s okay to destroy industry in general based upon one person’s word and another’s action? A whole building or town should suffer? “Keep what you love, don’t fight what you hate” right? So how is this a good example of the balance preached about in other parts of the movie? Our modern society faces issues like this all the time, where a single person overreacts in retaliation to something a small segment did. (Ex: disgruntled employees burning down buildings, teenagers committing acts of violence, etc.)
[Side note: it’s hypocritical that such a message would be exemplified in this way, where individualism is ignored in order to fit a haphazard message, when Disney and so many others go out of their way to fight for social individualism, by overcoming generalizations and stereotypes through political correctness and casting choices.]
The original Rebellion was about fighting oppression and death, and the characters as well as ourselves bore witness to extreme acts that justified countering. Luke’s family was killed. Everyone on Alderaan was killed. The Jedi lead the resistant forces of good against evil, not a band of overreaction. Its supposed to be about justice and defense: mindfully controlling reactions and manipulating energy to work in positive ways.
Also, why is it so hard for the movie to choose a stance on death? Was being shown Snoke’s goofy dead face in a close-up shot supposed to get laughs? Because it did in my theater. We’re shown that death should be revered by Rose’s actions in the moment she saves Finn from flying into the cannon. However, just moments before that we were hit with “Hey, you’re not dead!” from Poe when they showed up unexpectedly, followed immediately by “where’s my droid?”. And we wonder why people pay so much more attention to their phones than things that might preserve human life, like driving responsibly. This film isn’t actually mature, it only thinks it is.
So don’t take anything seriously. Mock the force. Rebel without proper justification.
If we listen to Yoda’s words to Luke after he burns down the sacred Jedi texts, understanding that those we teach should grow beyond us, then let’s ask ourselves, “are these messages really what we want younger generations to carry into the world that comes after us?”
I think not.
Here’s to the hope of a decent fan edit.
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