I have an intense passion for movies, and I believe that film critics help people think better about the media they consume.
I really expected this to be a bad movie. I thought The Force Awakens was dumb, because it leaned too heavily on references to the old Star Wars saga. It wasn't about telling a new and different kind of Star Wars story. But, this movie actually is.
I want to talk briefly about all the cultural politics here. I want to talk about it as a film, but everyone else on the internet seems to want to talk about it as if it were a propoganda poster. So before I address it as a film, I need to discuss its politics.
A lot of people hate shoehorned diversity. I do too, but I like that no originally white or male characters were recast with a different race or gender. I think it's best to add diversity to a film/franchise without changing any original characters, which can piss off the fans of those characters. I've talked about issues I have with diversity being pushed into movies before. My main points are:
- A fictional character does not represent his or her entire race or gender.
- Token characters can be poorly written, which is insulting to the people they're written to help. They can also appear decorative, rather than having an important role in the story.
- A black child can have a white role model, a woman can have a male role model, and so on. You don't need every character to physically resemble yourself. It even helps empathy-building if children learn to care about people who are not like themselves.
- Fiction, in my opinion, should put entertaining the audience first, and political commentary second.
- This is still a majority-white country. Minorities also have their own cinema in other countries. Bollywood does not get pressured to cast non-Indians. Why is it only American/Western films that get pressured to cast racial minorities? There's not a lot of diversity I see in Chinese films. What about BET? There's actually a lot of movies black entertainers make for their own community. Every major racial minority group in this country has their own cinematic industry, with their own films, where over 90% of the characters "representing" that group. The push for Hollywood diversity is really just Hollywood-centric arrogance, failing to recognize all the diversity of film outside of itself.
- I hate it when they change the race and gender of an original character to feed the desire to diversify entertainment. This just happens because Hollywood seems allergic to the idea of a new story. It happens because of lazy writing, and wanting to cash in on the popularity of old franchises.
In The Last Jedi, it kind of did feel off-putting that the bad guys where all male and all white, while the good guys were racially diverse and female-led. (But also notice that the rebels' female leaders were still all white.) Anyway, all this stuff has to do with what's going on outside the film, and while my critic-crush Lindsay Ellis is great at that, I prefer to think about what's going on inside a film.
Plot Summary - May Contain Spoilers!
Episode 7: The Force Awakens ended with Rey on Planet Lord of the Rings trying to get Luke Skywalker to take his cool magic laser death sword, with the longest continuous outstretched arm I think I've seen in a film, ever.
In The Last Jedi, the rebels (working against the dominance of a new political faction, similar to the Empire the old rebels in the old Star Wars movies fought) are trying to run from the space cops, when they find that the space cops can track them at light speed. And they're running out of fuel.
The boss lady's plan is to evacuate everyone, which is a safe (because the space cops can't track escape pods, apparently?) but boring plan. So Han Solo 2, the new "lovable rogue guy" for this franchise, comes up with a bolder plan, that would do more damage to the enemy, but is more dangerous.
This plan ends up involving Finn, the defected Storm Trooper from The Force Awakens, and a new character, who is the sister of an Asian female character who dies heroically in combat in the beginning of the film. This girl is awkward and nerdy. The thing I liked about her character was that she was the one who made me actually see the rebels as the more sympathetic side, instead of just one of two factions in a pretty-looking space war devoid of real meaning.
Writing a movie script isn't about packing in cute robots or franchise in-jokes; it's about meaningful conflict. And to me, the fighting in Episode Seven seemed like it didn't have a lot of meaning other than 'those guys look and act like the old bad guys, and are led by an ugly dude, so WE MUST KILL THEM ALL'. It didn't have either the questioning of the rebels nor the buildup of the audience's sympathy for them that this movie does a good job with. It felt way too black-and-white morally, like we were supposed to unquestioningly support all the actions of all the rebels and condemn the villains, and this movie kind of breaks down that dichotomous way of thinking.
Speaking of the villains, back to what Rey is doing. When she meets Luke Skywalker, he doesn't want to hear her out, let alone train her. It turns out he wants the Jedi way to die. Why? Because he failed to train Kylo Ren (Ben Solo), pushing him inadvertently on a path to the Dark Side. When he finally agrees to train Rey, she grasps The Force quickly.
Kylo Ren is using his powers to Skype with her. Interestingly, he doesn't seem angry or confident like Darth Vader was. He's not talking about crushing his foes or conquering systems or uniting the Galaxy under his will. He's more like an ordinary teenage boy; misunderstood, afraid, wanting to be heard. He knows Gross Foot-Shaped CGI Dude is using him, but he knows no other way to deal with the hurt and conflict inside himself. Rey is the one who is needed, to reconcile Luke and his past conflicts and hopefully turn Kylo Ren back to the good side. That doesn't happen in this film, but it seems likely to in the next.
Of course the ending is a big epic showdown. It's a battle to save the remnants of the rebels, for them to escape through tunnels while the remaining forces hold off the enemy. I won't spoil exactly what happens. Go see it!
The Last Jedi is undoubtedly a stronger film than The Force Awakens, but as a member of this new JJ Abrams trilogy, it contains almost all of the same flaws. Is Rey a Mary Sue? Some argue she is, others say that that term has been stretched beyond all meaning to simply mean "teenage girl protagonist I don't like". But I do think Rey as a character is just a tad boring and predictable, much like Luke Skywalker was in the originals. The predictable, archetypal hero type. I don't think there's anything wrong with that character, they're ubiquitous and popular for a reason, but it is a character type that is somewhat cliché, not really interesting to someone who has seen many movies.
The interesting thing here is Kylo Ren, his past, and Luke Skywalker's internal conflict over it. Luke doing something bad and feeling guilty, so bad in fact that he wants to destroy the whole idea of Jedi, is to me an interesting development for his character. Luke was to me a male Mary Sue, or Marty Stu, in the original films. His failure to train Kylo Ren, and his reaction to that tragic event, make him feel more human and flawed. Some fans didn't like seeing their wonderboy as anything less than saintly, but I don't mind because I think it adds dimensionality to what was once a one-dimensional character.
Overall, the film is an enjoyable watching experience. I felt emotionally moved by this movie, in a way that I was not by The Force Awakens. I wouldn't call it as good as the original trilogy, but it's a decent, competent film that offers good entertainment value.
Εμπαθεων on July 30, 2018:
6. Even evil should have some standards, but not according to Rian Johnson. Playing cartoony type of violence just for fun at somebody's expense.
Not only Luke Skywalker has been disrespected with this film. Some of new characters were disturbingly and distastefully debased too. Let's talk about making a laughing stock out of general Hux.
It was low, it was very low. I was so ashamed by it.
I would never ever imagine seeing something like this in Star Wars franchise movie. Things like these simply don't belong here. You're making "Star Wars", not "Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner", and if you can't see the difference, you shouldn't get that job, Rian.
"The Last Jedi" feels to me rather as twisted parody of Star Wars, than legitimate instalment of it, partly because of these awful, cruel jokes and tone shifts. I consider it vile, nasty and autistic movie. Genuine Star Wars movies have much more class than this; they should be written as epopee which takes itself quite seriously. If one can't treat Saga as adventure with some profound mythological undertones, and pick right tone for it accordingly, that person is not qualified to create Star Wars - it's simple as that.
And it's not only tone issue. It goes deeper to suspension of disbelief matter. Can you imagine any hierarchical organisation (like military) which allows ridiculing its commanders and by doing that, potentially harming whole chain of command? What if everyone above Hux would have been killed and he was obliged to assume command as highest ranking officer? Could he count on respect of any personnel witnessing, how he's been bullied continuously by his supervisors?
You can rule by fear and intimidation, like Vader did, you can choke them, space them out, replace or demote them, to keep discipline, but ridiculing doesn't make sensible option. In fact, it's least logical option. First Order is total joke faction. And joke factions don't belong in Star Wars. Star Wars aren't Spaceballs.
If you want to create serious film about space wizards, you need to get every drop of suspension of disbelief from every other relatable aspect of your story. People can relate to military procedures, tactics, strategies, or rules of conduct, because we have all these in our mundane world. We know how military would normally act and so we want all these things replicated in fictional universe of our space wizards.
I guess "Wars" in "Star Wars" should stand for something, therefore military should be portrayed as reliable, as it is only possible, even though it's fictional military. Old SW movies nailed it perfectly, but maybe it's too unhip for today's standards, where battles are expected to look more like rides in amusement parks, than complex operations demanding coordinated cooperation of many participants, trying to get a job done.
To conclude: that's my general take on "The Last Jedi". I don't remember any other movie, that would offend me in so many ways at once. My intelligence was offended, my emotional sensitivity was offended, my notion of integrity and cohesion of fiction was offended. As well as my good memories of that classic Star Wars feeling I hoped Lucasfilm will resurrect after poor prequel movies. It's utter and complete storytelling disaster from my personal point of view, and feels like an attempt to make my life miserable.
I agree wholeheartedly with David Stewart and his analysis: "The Last Jedi: A Hate Letter to Star Wars and its Fans". Even title is perfect; reading death threats would have been more enjoyable, than watching this film once more. Yes, it was a hate letter, and its message has been received and understood quite well by fans.
I will never go back to see this despicable trash of my free will ever again. Fortunately, it's rather dull, uneventful dramaturgically and forgettable, so harm done isn't that big. In fact, this sad experience was valuable for me, so my general ideas of what Star Wars story should really represent, respect and how you can conceive it, have become clearer in a process.
As a "gotcha" film it's one trick pony. It works only once. Once you've seen it, you know what to expect, it can't surprise you for a second time. Beyond shock/surprise value it's empty shell with messy plot. It doesn't represent anything meaningful, timeless, can't evoke any special feelings you would like to relive. I don't expect people returning for multiple screenings in 10 years ahead from this day. Quite opposite; I think it's doomed to fall into obscurity. The question is, will it pull rest of Star Wars franchise along?
Εμπαθεων on July 30, 2018:
We go with Luke, thinking something is impossible, but Yoda proves otherwise, hence moves limits of impossible further away. This scene is so marvellously executed, not only because it has a proper build up, but also accents important stage of character's arc. Learning. That's why it matters and is so memorable - because it nails the underlying context.
And this is, what you should strive for, when you want to create decent Star Wars story. Keep Force profound, mysterious and hidden, let it manifest itself only in important moments, and then let it transform conceptions of your protagonist and audience. That's why they do go to cinemas, you know... to get a taste of meaningful, benevolent magic which can help you change your life. Even if it's only on a screen. TESB shows you how the Force should be treated in your Star Wars story. It should be rewarding, to actually see it in action.
Personally, I don't even think Original Trilogy is a ultimate pinnacle of this sort of storytelling and nothing better can't be done within universe. Maybe it's possible to show even more dramatically and aesthetically pleasing Force manifestations, underlying even more memorable character arcs. But then you need some restrictions on how you are able to show this phenomenon, to not play it cheaply. It's not some random superhero power, it supposed to be sacred!
And how "The Last Jedi" ends? Well, Rey lifts stones in totally anticlimactic way, after Luke gave her lesson about Force, which isn't about lifting stones... Yeah. I guess, we should be grateful for that irony...
5. Non-existent exposition / world building.
I don't get this world anymore. It's another movie and still, we've not being told, what's happened to the Empire, Rebel Alliance (did it form New Republic like in old canon?), how these new factions: First Order and Resistance came to existence, how strong they are in comparison to older factions and so on.
TFA has very weak exposition, but TLJ is even worse in that regard.
We can assume First Order and Resistance are some puppet factions of former Empire and reborn Republic, fighting in a proxy war. We can assume, they are getting resources, weapons from bigger players. We can assume they are more or less equally balanced, because otherwise this proxy war would have ended or escalated to bigger conflict.
But why should we care about them? What they are fighting about this time? What they want to achieve? We are witnessing conflict we don't understand, we don't know how strong are these factions, what are their political capabilities.
In final of "The Force Awakens" it turns out, they are not so equally balanced, as FO shows off with Starkiller Base and destroys some republican planets. But then, they immediately lose their planetkiller, so I guess they are even once more. Who's on the back foot? Who is winning this conflict now? Resistance? Right? Wrong? Nobody knows.
And then at the opening crawl of "The Last Jedi" we can read:
"The FIRST ORDER reigns.
Having decimated the peaceful
Republic, Supreme Leader Snoke
now deploys the merciless
legions to seize military
control of the galaxy."
WAIT, WAT, WAAT, WTF is going here? What's wrong with this universe? How, how it's even possible that some puppet, ISIS-like faction, can just in few hours after losing their main hidden asset - Starkiller Base, reign whole galaxy? If First Order is that powerful, so how strong is former Empire which supports it? Why this Republic even exists in first place, if it's so weak, it can't repel aggression of some proxy side? I don't buy the whole premise of this movie. It's complete nonsense to me at this point. And it's barely opening crawl...
The exposition of this crap is abysmal. I guess it's rubber universe now. If story demands First Order to be weak and Resistance strong, it happens. If it demands otherwise, it happens as well. Nothing is established, nothing is of consequence and screenwriters can pull everything out of thin air. There are no logical constrictions to general history of this fictional universe. Everything can turn upside down without any reason.
It's ultimate death of drama, if writer can change the rules during game. OK, then I don't want to be a part of that game anymore. You've lost me there for good.
Prequels were drowning in lore and exposition, up to the point when intricacies of galactical politics consumed whole adventure and fun. But here in contrast exposition doesn't exist or is so nonsensical, so even the fun makes no sense in bigger picture. This movie is totally unbelievable to me, as it destroys my suspension of disbelief right in the first paragraph of title crawl.
I get it, they wanted to give us Empire/Rebels impression for nostalgic reasons, just to milk us dry out without worrying about reasonable build up of lore. That's why First Order/Resistance conflict doesn't make much sense, as it is shoehorned without respect for fiction cohesion. Nevertheless, it's terrible storytelling.
Εμπαθεων on July 30, 2018:
4. Undermining of mythological foundations of Saga. The Force sacrilege. Destroying potential for escapism.
My other grudge with this movie is rather unique, since I haven't found any simillar critique on exact same angle as mine. Lots of people hate Canto Bight segment of TLJ, but I think they are not quite aware, why it's even more rotten and detrimental to Star Wars than they could ever think.
And it's all about mythology.
Canto Bight not only introduces suspicious moral priorities of Rose Tico and Finn (rich are evil, save animals, forget slave children!), but also something more: direct social commentary made by D.J., considering our real, modern world. Problem is, direct social commentaries don't belong in fantasy escapist fiction. They pollute and ruin it, as it becomes less escapist.
Star Wars stories are unique and fun because of their mythology. They depict completely different societies to our modern, hence the escapist attraction. You have plenty of tribal communities there, you have some feudal planets as well as: princesses, monk-knights, counts, emperors, thus fully fledged monarchies and conflicts about ascension. All of these don't belong to modernity. Yes, they have some pretty advanced technology, super-weapons and spaceships, but in it's core many societies portrayed there are closer to these of "Lord of the Rings" than to our own. That's why, if you are tired of modernity in which you're living, you can sink in SW movie, comic book, computer game and change surroundings and problems completely.
In Star Wars there is no place for social constructionism with thousand ideologies, modern political stances, sociological explanations, rallying around social problem solving. Star Wars are more traditional, organic, archaic and individualistic. Evil happens, because of somebody's lack of virtues. Good happens, because of somebody's specific virtues. Extraordinary, meaningful and magical things are possible, because the Force is active. That's how SW worlds and stories work. They could be told in our medieval period or antique and get perfectly understood. In this simplicity lies most of charm and allure. Either you get it, or don't. Either you like Star Wars, or not. Just don't change it, because you're gonna break it.
It's impossible to modernize mythology. Mythology by design is archaic. It belongs to pre-modern world. World without political rights and postulates, social critique and progressivism as such. In fact, there is nothing more conservative than mythology itself, as it is built on spiritual and religious foundations, dogmas and taboos you can't change. And if you try, you will be banished out of interpretative community or sacrificed as heretic, as you don't respect tradition or honor the natural law.
And you have this strong spiritual undertone of that universe in Star Wars - the Force, sects of Sith and Jedi Order. Nothing modern about it. The question is, as a storyteller, what you are gonna do about all of this?
Well, let's see what Rian Johnson did with the Force in his movie:
In his Canto Bight segment, he introduced this hacker character - D.J. who teaches the lesson on neutrality to Rose and Finn. That would be fine, if he didn't lay it down in this kind of overwhelming sociological narrative. For D.J. it is all systemic: the wars of Star Wars aren't run by some mystical power ruling over destinies, they are not run by virtue or vice, powers of Good and Evil, but by military-industrial complex. It's not the Force which runs Star Wars universe anymore, but capital or if you prefer - dirty, bloody money. This cynical, secular worldview is kinda overpowering, if we think about it. Because what's then the role of Jedi and Sith in all of this? They're just useful idiots; while they may harness special powers, they're still fighting in staged wars, just to profit some borgoise overclass, which can have a fun in casino later. This logic is hard to repel.
Why it's overpowering narratively? Because we never get any good counterargument or counterpoint for it. "Sacral" side - Force-users - is shown as totally broken and bankrupt in this movie. We have Luke Skywalker living as a recluse, far from his friends, hideously drinking brown milk from a tit of some awful creature, talking about dying and finishing whole religious tradition. Then there is Yoda burning the tree of Jedi Temple (just imagine Pope destroying Vatican, because why not, your own history is pointless joke, anyway, so to hell with it). We've got Rey, who can't get any sort of guidance on sacred island. And of course we have unsteady, unstable Kylo Ren and victim of his own arrogance - Snoke. No one of them has any real charisma. It's pure nihilism.
So I guess, after all D.J. has a point. "The Last Jedi" is very inspiring movie, if you pursue a career of weapons dealer. I think I've found my new life purpose after all - I'm gonna sell some kalashnikov machine guns to Jihadis - thank you for that, Rian Johnson.
But what is this anyway: "Star Wars" or "Lord of War"? How dare they cram this modern social nonsense to our escapist fiction? This self sabotage is beyond my comprehension, please explain me; why anybody could want to strip his own franchise of one of its famous trademarks?
II. The Force is used as lazy plot device.
Another part of Star Wars charm is lost, because these are not character driven stories anymore - they are now plot driven instead. Things happen, because plot demands it and so the Force is being used like a cheap tool for screenwriters convenience. Every coincidence can be explained by it's doing. There is no reasonable inner growth of characters, that could influence their changing motivations, yet they do things, they wouldn't normally do, because of the Force. Because of that this movie feels like Marvel superhero nonsense to me, not like genuine Star Wars production.
The general portrayal of the Force in this movie is totally uninspiring, lacklustre, flat, unmagical. I would be more uplifted by a scene in which thrash truck is dumping all the garbage to a river.
I guess you can call this take on subject in "The Last Jedi" naturalistic, but that poses problem, as Force is supernatural; it's basically God of Star Wars universe. Therefore, it should be some weight of importance, profoundness, in scenes of Force manifestations. As viewers we should feel uneasy in these moments; sometimes creepy, sometimes overwhelmed, sometimes awe-struck or wonderous but it should be trip into something deeply mystical and unusual.
TLJ fails to evoke all of that. It's rather disrespecting in tone and often plays Force for joke and irony. By doing this, it profanes Star Wars sacrum, let's put it simple: it's sacrilegious to the spiritual core of SW. Now I'm really curious, how Rian would have portrayed God in biblical stories, or plagues of Egypt in Exodus; I guess all that stuff would be as mundane and trivial as possible and riddled with poor jokes as well.
That's another big difference between Original Trilogy and this parody dumpster. If you look closer, how the Force was handled in first three movies, you will see, it was either mystery or something special. Force wasn't overused and there was a lot of build up, before it was fully manifested. For example in "The Empire Stikes Back" there were strange visions, oniric notions of deja vu, dreamlike atmosphere, disturbing precognitions. And it was just a beginning. Check soundtrack when Luke is practising with stones - the music is far from mundane, it's rather eerie. You can feel, he's harnessing something otherworldly. Force powers can be also manifested, if you want to picture culminating stage of inner growth of your character. Luke finally tries to pull out his X-Wing from a bog, but fails, as he doesn't really learns Yoda's lesson. Then his master pulls out that fighter and we have one of these special magical Force-using moments. Not because Yoda won some kind magical weightlifting challenge, but rather he tackled some of Luke's preconceived ideas, which were wrong; thus he made him completely surprised and astounded.
Εμπαθεων on July 30, 2018:
3. The characters from Old Trilogy are being cannibalized yet again, this time more disrespectfully. Everybody [we love] from classic Star Wars is a failure.
Our ordinary life experience teaches us something about normal distribution. When you attend to your school reunion after decade or two, you can be pretty sure, most people of your former class are gonna be doing so-so, on average, there will be some exceptions: greater success achievers and some who are miserable in their existence. And that's natural, organic - that's how life works.
Hey! But not in Star Wars anymore! In Star Wars everyone you knew from past is now a complete failure with wrecked life!
Sequel Trilogy for most of the people who went to watch it, was something like reunion with childhood heroes. We were interested in what and how they've been doing all these years. Sure, I didn't expect it would be bed of roses for each of them, yet I was wondering who's gonna earn satisfying and happy life and who will end it rather sadly.
It turns out, everyone from a big trio is life wreck. Luke can't teach. Han and Leia are terrible parents and marriage. Nobody of them can sort own life in positive manner. Their arcs from previous movies are undone. All fail also as friends and there is no interactions between them, as they are all separated from each other without important reason. What kind of nightmare is this?
What was main intention when they were making these movies? To make all of us, who were so enthusiastic about SW in the past, completely depressed and catatonic about these new instalments? Or maybe they want to get rid of us and kill our emotional investment in this franchise? If so, they're doing great job!
Even second plan characters, like Ackbar are being treated like garbage. Broken paragon trope was one thing, but it goes beyond that. Suddenly everybody from OT are cursed now, which is absurd.
I guess, if Rian Johnson would've been asked to create sequel Harry Potter story, in his book Harry would turn into paedophile, Ron - long term unemployed, Hermione - drug addict, Luna Lovegood into patient of asylum for mentally ill and Neville Longbottom would be after second suicide trial. Yeah, then our expectations would've been properly subverted... And after that Rian would explain, he can't create fiction which will please everybody and it's problem of fans and their wishlists, if they don't like his work.
WHAT'S WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE? Is Holywood being run by clueless sociopaths these days? Why they wouldn't let Luke react properly to the news of Han's death? Why they didn't respect even that moment? I would gladly watch how Mark Hamill acts that part, but no, if something purely human can actually happen in your movie, cut it out! I get it: now Luke doesn't give a damn about Han...
Oh, dear. This movie is so misanthropic, it hurts...
Εμπαθεων on July 30, 2018:
2. Dreadful execution of broken paragon trope for Luke. #JakeSkywalker #NotMyLuke
OK. So Luke doesn't have anything to work with Rey on personal level, because she obviously needs no character development at all (Mary Sue!), only some professional, technical info about Force. That's kind of cheap, boring and naive, as one could think the ability to harness the Force should take some toll on anybody, especially someone young, undeveloped, who could misuse it, to achieve goals in dangerous shortcut, without moral responsibility, patience or other virtues and generally speaking - inner growth. Exploration of that theme is actually focal point of many Expanded Universe stories about Jedi Order, padawans and masters. But no, that would create some points of interest and certain dynamics between mentor and pupil and Rian Johnson wants his marvelesque psychologically and ethically flat and plain as he could even get, so we can't have it. Besides, this way he can subvert our expectations and lately that somehow is a big thing.
Then it gets even worse! Not only Luke has no mentoring to do whatsoever, because of uninteresting characterization of protagonist of this story, but also his 'broken paragon' trope is played totally disrespectfully to his character. If you can't grasp the idea how inappropriate that portrayal is, maybe you should watch another movie taking same theme and playing it well. Comparison could be helpful in that matter.
Actually, there is one movie that can be directly compared to TLJ. It's "Dragonheart", directed by Rob Cohen - a fantasy movie from 1996. I deeply encourage anybody interested in critcal examination of Rian Johnson's work to see "Dragonheart" just after TLJ, because it shows how you can stage "broken paragon" theme in much more meaningful, heart-warming, emotional way. Way, which is very in vibe with oldschool Star Wars.
Main paragon-protagonist of "Dragonheart" is Bowen (played by Dennis Quaid), Knight of the Old Code, teacher of young prince. He tries to transmit moral norms to his pupil, along with swordsmanship skills, but he fails in role of pedagogue completely. When his student comes to power, becomes terrible tyrant.
Sounds famillar so far? Good.
Bowen becomes disheartened by this, abandons not only court, but also his moral principles he tried to preach all those years, as he feels these are outdated, not relevant and useless. He takes job of mercenary and kills dragons for money. Meanwhile another wave of oppression starts. Kara, young daughter of previous peasant rebellion's leader, tries to rally another rebellion, but she fails, as has nothing to back her intention: no skills, no army, no leader. Bowen is her only hope, but he's bitter and uncooperative, just like Luke for Rey.
So what's the main difference between these stories? Well, for once: Bowen never loses our respect. We know why he acts like that, why he compromises his own values and denies what he always wanted to represent with himself. But saying same about Luke is questionable. Bowen gets one of the most memorable scenes of redemption I can think of, when he recites abandoned Old Code at Camelot and thus renews connection with his former self, with his true beliefs, commitment and former mission. He's not broken anymore, bitterness is gone, purpose is clear once more. This scene is simple, yet beautiful and played so well. That's how effective storytelling looks. [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQXy84W2AZU]
I haven't seen "Dragonheart" for ages, but I remember it to this day, simply because of strong feelings it evoked in me years ago. In comparison, Rian's movie falls short as autistic and mean. It's somewhat ironic, that much more influential character, in terms of history of pop-culture, doesn't get proper redemption. Instead he's being ridiculed, brutalized, shown in disgusting manner, and then emasculated by femsplaining Rey, who beats him with his own lightsaber to get him more compliant.
Really? Do you really want to portray Luke Skywalker, inspiring hero of generations, protagonist of the biggest franchise ever, in this utterly disrespectful way? He didn't deserve all of this. We, as fans, didn't deserve this.
The actual problem of Luke in Sequel Trilogy was simple: he was stealing the show. J.J. Abrams once told it, when he was explaining, why he did put him only in final scene of TFA. This issue was also present in TLJ - Luke was main point of interest of audience. So many people went to cinemas only to check what was happening with him since last time, which is completely normal and predictable.
Presenting him in that abused state, without proper backup, decent backstory is suicidal affair to any storyteller. Luke is Star Wars symbol - you don't toss him into mud, and if you really intend to do it, then you have to work much harder to sell it, than Johnson ever did with his crappy "Rashomon" take. He decided to give us ambiguous, subjective "he said, she said" type of backstory, which makes things even worse for Luke. Instead of giving reliable information on Skywalker's past and mistakes, which would be psychologically sound, we've ended with this mess, which really is weak. Realistically speaking, if you're so desperate to put Luke on "broken paragon" arc journey, you need at least a whole movie about it, not part of somebody else story.
So, would it be so awful, if "The Last Jedi" had focused on Luke Skywalker and his story mainly? If Rey would have landed on that island, found Luke uncooperative and tried to befriend him? They could work by day, and spend nights by fireplace on his retrospecting. She could ask him about episodes of his life after Endor, so we could get proper exposition finally, and get some info on state of affairs in galaxy far far away; we could hear out how he tried recreate Jedi Order, some of his teaching experiences, maybe part of it even quite lighthearted and funny, because rarely one's life is only doom and gloom... and then Rey would ask him; what went so wrong? Where did lapse of judgement happen for him? If that was done properly, we could really sympathise with Luke and support Rey of getting him out of this mess. Her part of story would be to find a way of helping him in reconciling with his former self and getting him ready for the challenges ahead. They could kill him off in next movie, after he would repay his debt to Rey.
But no, Luke is portrayed in this movie as total douchebag, who he never should be, and never was. He would never decline anybody asking for help. Not this way. Character assassination, that's what they've done to him. In this form he was insulting not only to Rey, when he tossed that lightsaber out, but to fandom as well. Not my Luke, indeed...
Εμπαθεων on July 30, 2018:
Ugh... So how does one start an autopsy? I've had so many issues with this one, it's hard to find starting point... But since we were talking about monomyth lately, let me begin with that.
1. Poor protagonist - undeveloped Rey. / Broken Hero's Journey.
The most unprofessional thing about "The Last Jedi" is Rian Johnson's mix up of Rey's established knowledge/motivation with audiences knowledge/motivation, therefore inflicting harm to protagonist character and puting her on pointless adventure / routine / path of self knowledge. Terrible blunder.
If we watch "The Force Awakens" closely and get to Rey's vision scene, we can see her outcrying: "Come back!" towards ship of her folks, who left her with Unkar. In this scene she clearly knows, who her parents are - but WE, as audience DON'T. J.J. Abrams has set up this mystery for us, not for Rey. We don't know reasons for all of this, maybe our protagonist does or doesn't, but we can be pretty sure, at this moment she has pretty good idea on who are her parents.
Rey also measures time, runs her own DIY calendar, supposedly from the day she was abandoned. She wants to stay on Jakku through a movie as well, in case they would return for her. She wouldn't do any of these things, if she couldn't remember her parents. If not the case, she wouldn't show any emotional investment, could move on with her life and give a damn about the past.
Even if we stretch this thing some more, and assume she somehow lost her memory during all these years spent on Jakku (but then she should lose motivation to stay there as well), the vision in Maz Kanata's castle should bring memories and knowledge back. Rey did relive this moment of her life once more, when she touched the lightsaber, so for me it's clear, when she's with Finn and Han, she knows exactly who her parents are. She doesn't know why they left her, she doesn't know where they are, she can't have idea on what are they doing now, but she should be able to recognize them or have pretty good idea on identity. But we, as audience don't have a clue, who they are. Our knowledge isn't identical to Rey's knowledge at this point.
The past/parents issue of Rey was actually resolved, when after destruction of Starkiller she accepted her task and started her quest to find Luke Skywalker. Why? Because parents were her Refusal to Call, true reason, why she declined Maz's expected ordeal for her. These are Kanata's words:
Maz Kanata: Dear child. I see your eyes. You already know the truth. Whomever you're waiting for on Jakku... they're never coming back... But... there's someone who still could.
Maz Kanata: The belonging you seek is not behind you... it is ahead."
Then Refusal to the Call happens, as Rey declines. She isn't ready to go on The Holy Quest of Lukesearchin'... instead she is choosing past, maybe even tries to shake off idea she's really being orphaned and preferes to live in denial. But when "The Force Awakens" goes to an end, she puts past behind her, and decides to find Luke. From this point the case of her parents is irrevalent to her later motivation. She has grown enough to put it behind her. Good for her!
So why the hell in next movie, her parents become the big thing once more, and Rey is suddenly obsessed about getting some intel on their identity and whole thing becomes redundant? Is protagonist of "The Last Jedi" still our Rey, or is it her lost twin sister, who doesn't posses same knowledge? A doppelganger? Alternate universe? Why?
Well, answer is simple. Because Rian Johnson is postmodernist jerk, who likes to go full meta. The only reason, he retcons everything we know about Rey, are our real world fan theories about her lineage on the Internet. Rian tosses to garbage what has been established in TFA, including part of Rey's character arc, only to tackle our expectations. Rey becomes oblivious of her heritage from one movie to another, only because we as the audience are oblivious of it. Rey suddenly hopes her parents will be revealed rather as bigger figures, than some drunkards and Kylo hurts her by deflating her supposed expectations. In fact that is Rian, trying to piss some fanboys on Internet. "Your Snoke Theory Sucks" sort of a thing. From story perspective of two movies it doesn't make much sense. It's just intertextual trolling. Edgy po-mo, nothing more.
If there would be any consistency between movies of Sequel Trilogy or simple respect for characters and information, Rey wouldn't act this way. Of course, she could search for other father figure candidates, but past would have been buried, at least to the point of something unexpected occurring (parents live or Rey finds out they were killed for some reason, she needs to investigate, whatever...). Since revelation about her parents is pointless and doesn't bring anything of value anyway, it's a lost time. Dead end. So even this retcon is useless - it doesn't bring anything new, just messes up our protagonist journey and doesn't give anything new to us on her.
In fact, after we eliminate this redundant part of story which shouldn't take place, I don't see what's Rey's real problem with herself at this stage, actually. Kylo tries to make a point about her dependence on other people and living in the past that she should kill, but she isn't dependent at all - she's been living on junkyard planet all alone these years in solitude on survival mode. She also doesn't really have past, she could be longing for, so there is nothing to be killed. I guess that living almost animal life should take a toll on her trustfulness, manners, ability to work in team and other behavioural patterns.
You could bring some more of her problems, to give Luke something to do about her, but no. She doesn't need any mentoring help from anybody, because... feminism I guess (that would be so offendingly patriarchal, if young independent woman would have to learn something from old, grumpy man), so she doesn't undergo meaningful transition in this whole movie. She's only plot pusher, not a human being deserving some of our attention and care. I didn't care about Rey in this film. But I actually did in "The Force Awakens".
Susie Lehto from Minnesota on February 18, 2018:
I haven't seen The Last Jedi, not sure how many Star Wars movies I have not seen. I'm not a big movie buff, but I have like the Star Wars movies that I have seen. Thanks for the review.
Rachael Lefler (author) from Illinois on February 15, 2018:
I'm sorry the bot thought your comment was spam.
As far as Rey is concerned, well isn't Annakin Skywalker also nobody? Is it really that hard to imagine that Rey has no major biological connection to the main characters and yet still has a big talent in the Force? I think the movie, by showing the scene with the orphan boy, is showing that there's a lot of untapped potential in certain "diamond in the rough" characters who are overlooked or unseen because of their background, but who may have real talents for the Force, for piloting ships, for leading armies, etc.
Stephanie Janiczek from Military family. on December 28, 2017:
its shit. Stop defending this garbage. Rey Nobody? Are you kidding?