by Adam M. Wilcox
It has been over a full year since The Last Jedi came out, and unfortunately for everyone, the dust has not settled, and the wounds of fans around the world have not yet healed. There are fans of this film, but there is not enough excitement around the next chapter of this new trilogy from anyone, which is curious.
As I said in my editorial 2018, THE YEAR THAT POP CULTURE DIED, I mentioned that at first I was very blaze about my feelings towards the film, but that I had experienced some things, that I never felt in a Star Wars film before, confusion, boredom, and frustration. After a full year of arguing with people about what works and doesn’t work about The Last Jedi, I really don’t want to write ten paragraphs about plot holes, and failed set ups and pay offs. Also, this film has been on Netflix forever and if you haven’t seen it by now, you are probably not even interested, but just know that going forward with this review without spoilers is impossible so you have been warned.
In spite of what you feel about Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it was a commercial success, that generated a lot of fan buzz and theories. It ended on a cliff hanger, that actually took place on a cliff, which I have to admit even now, is kind of Meta and a nice touch. Strangely, the next chapter in this new trilogy of films was handed to a man with some shorts, some TV episodes and 3 mediocre reviewed films under his belt. Rian Johnson may or may not be a fan and I refuse to question his fandom, because it annoys me to the ends of Earth when I have to explain that I spent most of my natural life worshiping something that made me happy as a kid. I won’t do it. The thing here though, is that Johnson is very much a part of social media, and followed closely the fan theories. He even made a point to poke fun at the fans, by posting up a picture on social media of him holding up a sign that said “your Snoke theories suck”. Regardless, he had a daunting task of building the middle act of the trilogy, and further developing the new characters established in the previous entry.
Now since it is so late, and several articles and reviews have been written on The Last Jedi, what can I possibly say that you have not read already? You may predict that I am going to spend the next several paragraphs shitting on a Star Wars film. Well maybe I will write something original, and subvert your expectations! Well that is what Rian Johnson did.
I hope I am the only one that is going to use a food term to describe an aspect of Star Wars, but stay with me here. Why would I do this? I like to cook, and I plan to become a chef someday. This brings me to my term “deconstructed food”. Deconstructed food, is when you take a particular dish, break down the ingredients that make up the dish, and try to repurpose it as something new. This may work for foodies and chefs, when you take a perfectly good pizza and turn it into a low carb deconstructed pizza casserole. Essentially it IS technically pizza it has many of the same ingredients. It has tomatoes, sausage, mushrooms, even mozzarella cheese. It may even look like a pizza from a first glance. This deconstructed pizza has successfully subverted your expectations. A glass baking dish with pizza ingredients however, is not what you get in your car and drive to your favorite pizza place and order. You go to that pizza place, because they have put all of those ingredients in the order that you like it, on top of a hot crust of your choice, and cooked it at exactly the right temperature.
I believe that Rian Johnson took all the fan theories, and studied what makes Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back so popular, and began there. He probably wrote all of these things down in a notebook, and started from there. I believe his thought process probably went something like this:
“Let’s see, they like when the rebel base got attacked, so we will do that…we’ll have a big giant dreadnaught thingy. I know George used old WWII stock footage for his space battles, but he never used the bomber ones. I’ll do that. I will have like big space ship like B-17s dropping space bombs! You know, that General Hux guy really made me laugh, he reminds me of Col. Sanders from Spaceballs. Let’s have some witty banter between him and Poe Dameron! They like that space chase where the Millennium Falcon is trying to outrun the Imperial Fleet…we have to do that—wait…shit! The Falcon is on Ahch-To with Rey! Fuck! Well, we’ll just have the fleet run down the rest of the rebels until they run out of gas, and that will be the entire middle chunk of the movie. It will be like basically the same thing. They like Yoda, so we’ll bring him back as like a ghost. They like those big walking thingies, so we’ll make bigger walking thingies again, but we will put them on a white planet, that is covered with SALT, because the fans think it will be snow! Let’s see, they like the Cloud City bit, why don’t we do a space casino! Let’s do that throne room scene….wait was that in Empire? Doesn’t matter, let’s do that anyways. They introduced a new hero…Lando, I will introduce Rose Tico! I’ll even have her fall in love with Fin, and then Rey will start having feelings for Kylo! Let’s see… Luke and Vader were kind of sensing each other across the stars at the end of Empire, so we will kind of do that… What other magic Force powers can I come up with? How about have Leia fly through space like Mary Poppins? That will be funny I wonder if anyone will get that reference? We will have to do something cool with Luke…hmmm. Maybe he’ll just astral project himself in front of all those walky things! I can even make him younger! Disney wants me to do some kind of tie in for Solo…so I will throw the dice in there someplace. This is a darker story, so I will put a LOT of jokes in it to make it easier. Also, have a bigger audience now than I ever had in my entire life. I need to get some messages out. Let’s see, something about animal abuse, I will have a racetrack near the casino and Fin and Rose will set them free. Also I want to get some kind of anti capitalism message out there. Might be kind of heavy handed, but it’s my movie, and there will be a lot of adults out there watching. Oh shit…forgot kids will be watching. What do I do? Oh man, they loved those Ewoks. How about I make some animals kind of like that, and just sprinkle them around the story. Let’s have some cute little things that looked kind of like a Ewok fucked a penguin and had a baby…we’ll call them Porgs! We can sell them like Furbies that will be the hottest new toy! We’ll even have them doing a bunch of funny shit with Chewy like they did in Empire Strikes Back. We’ll have a sea cow, and Luke will milk it…that will be hilarious! Ya know this Luke Skywalker thing is getting old. In fact he’s getting old, and making it hard to write around him. How about we have him sacrifice himself for everybody else like Ben Kenobi? Nobody bitched about that. I got some ideas how to make that work. And I will do it at the very end so it’s not too upsetting. Ok now for some shit I WANT to do. I think it would be badass, if we had a ship jump to lightspeed right through the center of a group of spaceships. It will be an awesome looking effect too! Let’s see…fans expectations…they think Rey is this or that…how about she’s just nothing, a random nobody, and Kylo tells her that. They got like 50 million Snoke theories…what if we just fucking kill him and don’t tell anyone? HAHAHA. Also, I want Kylo to say some shit to Rey about letting go of the past, because I am so sick of these fans that idolize Star Wars. What if Luke almost did something bad? Maybe he’s been hiding out because he feels like a failure? I’ll have Rey set him straight. Let’s see did I forget anything important? Nah. We’ll have the ending be Rey saves the day, and a smaller group of rebels sail off into the stars like Empire. One more thing….this might be the last Star Wars movie I ever do, so I will have something really fucking Meta at the end, where kids are playing with Star Wars Figures in the Star Wars Universe, and looking up into the stars. That will be cool! I bet Kathleen will love it! I got all of the elements here, but it will be like my own thing.”
Is it hard to believe what happened here? This is a fictitious account of what probably went down. See what I believe is Rian Johnson wanted to impress his friends and filmmakers, and subvert expectations by making a “deconstructed Star Wars” we have spaceships, laser swords, and magic and from a distance it does look and sound like Star Wars. What it really is however is one man wanting to make his own movie by deconstructing the elements that made the franchise popular, and building his own thing. As I said before with my pizza reference, people don’t go to pizzerias to eat low carb deconstructed pizza casserole. See back when The Empire Strikes back, came out, George Lucas was still very much part of the story making process. It was his script, but he brought in another director, and had help making the final product. With the Last Jedi, the only chief in charge is a film producer who does not write scripts, or direct films. She is somebody that puts people in places to get the job done. Sadly though, she has no passion for the source material, and that is why you get this deconstructed mess of a film. It is a common trend I see these days, were we keep bringing in young film makers to try and give us fresh takes on something that has already been established and entertain people for years. Sometimes it works. You take a film like Creed for example. You respect what makes the Rocky franchise work, but you build a foundation of new characters, on that old premise, and you respect the source material. Creed feels very much like a Rocky movie, but it is also something different. Blade Runner 2047 is another example of something written by a younger director that respects the source material so much, that he goes through pain staking detail to make sure that his characters and motivations feel like they belong in the same universe, while respecting the source material. I believe that very little thought was put into The Last Jedi, I feel like it was just a committee chasing trends, and decided that deconstructing a franchise would not matter at all since the last two movies made so much filthy gobs of money. The thought they could take risks, they didn’t take into consideration the ramifications of what these risks would bring. What we ended up with, is a movie that was written by someone inexperienced, for all of the wrong reasons.
The Last Jedi failed to resolve any of the cliffhangers set forth by the first movie, and also failed to leave us with any hint of what was to come. At the end of The Empire Strikes Back, Luke had learned that his worst enemy was his father, and Lando and Chewie had already made plans to go rescue Han Solo from the clutches of Boba Fett. The Last Jedi leaves you with absolutely no questions, or reasons to come back and see the finale. It did nothing to further develop the characters set up by the first franchise. The only thing it managed to do was deconstruct the universe by separating the parts that made it work, and then reassembling them on a plate and calling it art work. The Last Jedi is in fact the foodie’s version of Star Wars. It’s the Star Wars equivalent of that Low Carb Pizza Casserole. It is not made for the original fans of Pizza, or Star Wars. It is not assembled in an order of what makes something work, or good. In the first Star Wars movie, it was the combination of music, visual aesthetics, and strong characters with clear motivations that made the whole thing work. It was further developed in the second movie with a proper cliff hanger, and it was paid off in the final installment, where everything came together cooked just the way we like it. For foodies, The Last Jedi may work, but for people that went out to see a Star Wars movie, it left the massive fan base divided right down the middle. One of the biggest arguments I read about constantly, is that Star Wars is a kid’s movie about Space Wizards, and that we are picking apart this movie from the perspective of adults. A group of movies that taught us about good, evil, love, death, betrayal, hard work, sacrifice, learning to overcome insurmountable odds through faith and wisdom? I understood these things even as a child when I first watched these movies.
Roger Ebert once used the term “mean spirited” in reference to Predator 2. I have thought long and hard about that term. Unlike The Last Jedi, I left Predator 2 absolutely entertained and satisfied. I left the Last Jedi, bored, annoyed, and confused. I believe Rian Johnson only sees Star Wars from a visual perspective, I find it very difficult to believe that he does not understand its cultural significance or the importance of the characters on pop culture nor does he care. He wanted to make his own movie using the assets he liked in Star Wars, but not make a proper Star Wars movie. The Last Jedi is a mean spirited sequel that celebrates 50 years of pop culture by ignoring the fans, the previous films, failing to set up future films, tells you not to question authority, not to believe in religion, capitalism is bad, animal abuse is bad, trust no one, love is better than war, sacrifice is meaningless unless you are old, and that sometimes you are just born with The Force, you don’t necessarily have to earn anything at all. This is a kid’s movie? My ass! 1 out of 5 cheese curds only for Mark Hamill trying to do his best with this deconstructed script.