Bad films can be infuriating, particularly when they are from a beloved franchise or series… but so fascinating too- so how could I resist buying The Last Jedi on disc?
In all honesty, I felt like writing a long list of issues that I still have with this film, really, but the more I thought and the more I wrote, the worst I felt it was largely pointless. I doubt I’ll ever make peace with this fim. So I scrapped most everything. But I still felt the need to write something. So instead of an opus of pain, here’s this:
Imagine if you will, a (motion) picture:
1979, or the early ‘eighties, it doesn’t really matter, it’s an alternate universe, think of it as a Black Mirror episode for geeks: Paramount are launching a trilogy of Star Trek films, based on the old 1960s tv series and rebooting it for a new saga/crew. Old creator Gene Roddenberry is gone, replaced by a new creative team eager to reboot Star Trek with new values. Bringing the old crew back to placate fans whilst introducing a new crew for later adventures, the first film brings back Mr Spock and Dr McCoy but leaves the appearance of Kirk until the very last scene, used to tease film number two. To the fans consternation, Mr Spock dies during this first film, so fans never see a proper reunion of the three main stars of the old show.
The second film features a rather older and rebooted Kirk. This Kirk has retired from Star Fleet and gone off to some corner of the galaxy. He thinks the original Trek’s five-year mission was a waste and that the Federation of Planets and its human-centric organisation was a mistake and wants nothing more of it, wants it to die.
Imagine how the Trekkies would have reacted. Imagine how the film-makers would have exalted in their ‘out with the old, in with the new’ policy. Imagine William Shatner fundamentally disagreeing with the new direction and this new interpretation of Kirk. Imagine fans pining for the good old days of creator Gene Roddenberry’s oversight.
Imagine if you will, another trilogy:
Its one hundred after Return of the Jedi. The New Republic still stands, but is under threat from a new outside force- a resurgent Empire that has lingered in the remote Outer Rim for the past decades, remnants of the Old Empire gathering and scheming and now further rejuvenated by a new Sith.
The old heroes are gone now. The descendants of our old heroes are separated by fortune and distance. Some are bureaucrats in the Republic, others driven with wanderlust, trying that luck in the trade-routes as entrepreneurs or rogues, and perhaps there is still a Skywalker in the fledgling Jedi Academy. The disaster that befell the Old Republic when the Emperor seized power has left the Jedi Order marginalised by this New Republic wary of old mistakes. Jedi remain few and far-flung through the galaxy.
A restless grandchild of Solo and Leia, curious about past glories and lessons that could be heeded, searches out the places and events of those old adventures. He finds Vader’s old helmet, and Luke’s old lightsaber. His curiosity leaves him open to manipulation and he is found and seduced by the Sith, clearly a prime asset to their schemes to overthrow this infidel Republic and return to the days of Empire.
But Disney chose a different path….
A VERY different path.
I mean, this thing no longer even functions as a trilogy- if IS still a trilogy, it’s a dysfunctional one, most of the set-up from The Force Awakens being ditched and arcs abandoned. It feels a bit like Justice League following BvS, something is of, something has changed as if there’s a whole new creative team without any oversight. Look at how well that’s turning out for DC.
Ignoring all that, it still feels ‘off’. For one thing, the tone is all over the place. The opening portion with General Huxx is like a Spaceballs farce. The film from the start undermines General Huxx and shows him up to be an incompetent moron and makes Huxx throughout the butt of too many jokes (casting Eddie Hitler as his assistant just exacerbated the issue and makes me wonder if that casting was actually deliberate). Imagine 1977’s Star Wars making Tarkin the comedy relief. Exactly.
Characters do contrary actions all the time and there are holes all over the place. In just the same way as teleporting from Earth to Klingon moon, or from Vulcan moon to in-warp Enterprise in the Star Trek reboots contradicts everything established in Star Trek of old and makes Starships obsolete, so too does Star Destroyers tracking Rebels through Hyperspace. I mean, think about it, it’s now out of the bag- they’ll be able to do it all the time in every future Star Wars film because its been done (and if they don’t do it, then why not?). Good luck escaping the bad guys in future, Rebels, they will be tracking you across the galaxy. Straight back to your rebel base, too, I should imagine.
If Rian Johnson had thought it through, he just had to have a plot device about a bug or tracker hidden by a spy on the lead Revel ship. That’s all he had to do (and has been done before in Star Wars with the Death Star tracking the Falcon, and Rey and Leia are doing it all the way through the bloody movie). Instead he has to weave this preposterous plot device of having to travel to a casino planet to get a code-breaker to get onboard the bad guys ship and then disable the tracking machine without anybody noticing a rebel droid hiding in a waste paper basket? As if only the one ship was bothering to track the rebels- wouldn’t all the ships be doing it as a matter of course if they all have the technology now (so if one tracker failed or was disabled, the others would offer redundancy)?
Hell, at least hunting down a spy and tracking device in a race against time would have given Poe something to do.
I get that Rian Johnson was trying to shake up Star Wars and spin it off in some new direction. I admire the intention, but I abhor the execution.