Sunday, December 31, 2017

Star Wars: The Last Jedi - A response

A guest post by Marcus A. Roberts
Barely a day goes by when I don’t rant about TLJ so in the public safety interest of my friends and family over the holidays, Stefan has kindly allowed me to put down an (edited) version of my take on this. 

*Spoilers*


The good

Yes, the porgs are cute, the throne room fight scene is really cool and the Rey/Ren interaction has real humanity, tension and humour to it. In fact, the jokes as a whole work. I also agree with Stefan’s argument that Finn has a good character arc and Rose is a welcome addition to the cast (she even has backstory of which more later on the competitive lack thereof). 

And the final fight scene between Luke and “more guns” was an immensely satisfying realization of fan fantasy as to the ‘true power’ of the Jedi. And Mark Hamill’s shoulder brush was a blissfully iconic moment. 

So, before we attack let us take a moment and be thankful for these things? Yes? Good. Now, here we go. 

The bad

The opening attack: A missile hits. Ackbar dies (😢). Aaaaaand, Leia floats. Hmmm. Guess I’ll just leave this Armada card here and move on then:

The Supremacy fleet versus Raddus fleet chase: From conception to conclusion this was so critically flawed it should never have made it out of an editors meeting. So let’s keep this short. First, Leia doesn’t countenance trading a bomber wing for destroying a planetkiller? Huh? Second, why not have a Star Destroyer or two just jump to light speed and appear in front of the Raddus? (I swear to god, half of Thrawn’s reputation as THE MASTERMIND simply stems from the fact that unlike every single other Imperial Commander his AI difficulty level is not set to ‘Stupid). Third, the hyperspace attack deus ex machina begs the question, why not call up a (Hammerhead) Corvette earlier in the movie and order it to sacrifice itself so that the Raddus can escape? In fact, why not destroy the Death Star each time with such an attacking? In fact... I’ll stop there. You know what I mean. 

The Last Backstory... for all the celebrating of how TLJ liberates the franchise from Skywalker-family Force domination it’s worth noting that it continues to be the case that you only warrant a backstory in the Star Wars universe if you are in fact a Skywalker. Rey? TFA teased us that there was a secret history there. Actually, there was nothing? Snoke? Goddamnit but my YouTube feed is overloaded with Snoke/Mace, Snoke/Plagueis, Snoke/Tag&Bink theories and in the end... NOTHING. 

...and the ugly

So. We need to talk about Luke. Oh no we don’t, we can just let Luke talk about Luke (albeit in the guise of Mark Hamill): 

“I almost had to think of Luke as another character. Maybe he’s Jake Skywalker – he’s not my Luke Skywalker.”

and:

 “Jedis don’t give up. I mean, even if he had a problem, he would maybe take a year to try and regroup, but if he made a mistake he would try and right that wrong, so right there, we had a fundamental difference, but, it’s not my story anymore. It’s somebody else’s story, and Rian needed me to be a certain way to make the ending effective.”

Quite. 

And finally, “All I know is... the derivativeness has to end.” I mean seriously, how many more times are we going to fight Hoth? How many more times is there going to be a “Death Star” weapon reference? When racing the animals I half expected Force Ghost Anakin to appear and shout: “Now this is podracing!”

There is a difference between homage and the copy/paste key. Between a signature Star Wars moment and rampant repetition. For a two hour case study on how to achieve the former without falling foul of the latter just rewatch Rogue One (the best Star Wars movie ever). 

For Star Wars to grow, for Star Wars to prosper it needs more than just the grumpification and killing off of our childhood heroes like Han and Luke, it needs compelling new characters with interesting backstories, a plot that possesses a certain basic internal logic and the creation of new things. I know that’s a lot to ask, but with all the money and talent Disney can draw on, it’s no less than the fan deserve. 

- -

PS: Yoda wouldn’t burn books. Ok? He just wouldn’t. Look, good guys do NOT burn books. I don’t want to make too big a thing about this but it would just be nice if we could just go with Lucas and Indy on this one please:

5 comments:

  1. Yoda didn't burn any books. Rey has them. And he knew she had them.

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  2. My challenge to anyone ranting about tlj: take a critical look at any other film in the series and make a pro / con list. I think tlj far out performs the prequels amd probably does better than hope or rotj.

    Like:why does kenobi hide luke with the one family on tattoine annakin knows he has met?

    Why does kenobi leave annakin burning to death instead of giving him a quick mercy death?

    How does kenobi fight annakin so well if he has "already far surpassed me"?

    Why does falling an unspecified distance kill the emperor in jedi but doesn't kill kenobi countless times in the prequels?

    How does padme find time to fall in love with annakin when all he does is throw temper tantrums ?

    Why did Natalie Portman forget how to act?

    Jar jar talking.

    Jar jar fighting.

    Why does Droid technology decline so completely between 3 and 4?

    TL has issues, most of which you nailed. But it's still easily one of the 2 to 4 best in the series.

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  3. Grego,

    Yes, even the original trilogy is easy to nitpick. I'll do A New Hope:

    -- Why do the Imperials ignore the life pod containing R2 and C3PO? Surely they aren't unaware of the existence of droids, or the possibility that they can be used to deliver messages/plans.

    -- Seriously, the "best pilot in the galaxy" doesn't know the difference between units of distance and of time?

    -- If Vader has Force Powers like Obi-wan, then why can't he simply use them on Leia to get the location of the Rebel base? Why all this messing around with interrogation droids?

    -- The entire second act is a fake-out. Luke, Han, and Chewie aren't pulling off some dramatic rescue against all odds -- they're being ALLOWED to escape with Leia, because Vader has figured out what's going on and put a tracking beacon on the Falcon. Which also means that Obi-wan's supposedly heroic sacrifice (using his lightsaber battle with Vader to distract the Imperial troops and allow the others to board the Falcon) is all for nothing

    -- Obi Wan tells Vader that "if you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can imagine," but all we see him do is tell Luke to "use the Force" -- what's so powerful about being a ghost? Is Obi Wan lying? Good guys don't lie!

    -- Leia, one of the leaders of the Rebellion, is so sloppy that she takes no precautions after escaping the Death Star? She doesn't go somewhere to switch ships, doesn't check for a tracking device on the ship that's been in Imperial custody for hours, just leads them straight to the secret Rebel Base? I don't buy that this woman is a serious resistance leader.

    -- So after a couple of hours of training during the journey from Tatooine, Luke becomes good enough with the Force to use it to fire his ship's weapons better than the computerized tracking system? I'm sorry, that's some Mary Sue stuff there.

    -- Oh, and how is a smuggler's "hunk of junk" ship good enough to fight effectively in a battle with the best Imperial ships? Even if it's the "fastest hunk of junk" and Han really is a great pilot, how are his weapons and defensive systems even close to being sufficient, especially considering how broke he is?

    -- Seriously, Chewie doesn't get a medal at the ceremony? That's some B.S. right there.

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    ReplyDelete