There’s an underlying kernel of irony at the center of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The film is the freshest film in the Star Wars franchise since George Lucas decided to add to the original trilogy. For all its flaws, it pushes the boundaries of the universe in many different directions, intent on being something new. At the same time, it is the tenth film in the franchise (three originals, three prequels plus the Clone Wars animated film, and the two Disney films). The routine solution for the tension between old and new has always been to side with the established lore of the franchise, occasionally to ridiculous levels. To the chagrin of many fans of the franchise, writer-director Rian Johnson (Brick, Looper) bucks this trend violently.
Today the benevolent overlords at Disney™ released the first trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi and I feel it is critical that I describe the things that I saw in that trailer. This is so other people that saw things in the trailer can read about the things that I saw and decide if they saw the same things that I saw. Hopefully, discussing this hopelessly commercial product of corporate group-think delivered by a media empire can give me and my readers a fleeting sense of connection in this unfeeling world, and also sell some toys.
In the biggest news since the last time the title of a Star Wars movie was revealed, the title of the next Star Wars movie has been revealed. Disney’s Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi – A Star Wars Story promises to be the next best film in the Star Wars saga for the three weeks after its December 15th release. Me, personally, I love the new title. But what can we predict now, 11 months before opening night, with nothing to go on but the title, a red outline, and the phrase, “the next chapter in the Skywalker saga”? Basically everything.
It is a tricky thing to tell a good story when practically every audience member knows the ending. It is trickier still when you pack your story with abject fan service, telegraphed plot choices lacking any inspiration, and under-developed characters delivering wooden dialogue. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is guilty of all these failings and many more. It is not a complete disaster, though it coasts off the strength of an exciting third act and a near-fatal dose of nostalgia. As a result, though the initial hoopla will be to declare Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as an utter triumph, extra consideration of the film (perhaps with your gender-neuter fanperson beer goggles off) will reveal its many disappointments.
In the Northern Hemisphere, darkness insists upon our waking hours earlier each day. The country is full of crybabies and fascists, and nothing in between. It’s cold. But at least there’s a new Star Wars movie to over-appreciate.
You can’t really call Star Wars Episode VII– The Force Awakens a bad film with a straight face. The script is entirely serviceable with few logical inconsistencies or plot holes. Almost every character is well-established (Captain Phasma notwithstanding), and the performances are certainly on par with the original trilogy (especially with regards to the leads). Thematically, this is nothing that surprises us: it is the Light side vs. the Dark side, an allegorical simplification of the struggle between good and evil. But, from the get-go, there is a haunting echo: this doesn’t merely remind of the original trilogy, it outright pilfers its structure in hopes of re-capturing its magic. As plotpoint after familiar plotpoint falls into place, it becomes clear that this new trilogy is just calculated nostalgia.