Rants tag

Rants, ruminations, and rambling remarks from my mad, muddled, meandering mind.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

The Last Spoiler

Or

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Porgs


So Scooter and I went to see The Last Jedi on Thursday, a week after it opened. Because I wanted to view the movie with as few spoilers as possible, I managed to avoid the online backlash (39 point negative critic/audience gap) and the backlash against the backlash. I have a few things to say about it myself. But to avoid spoiling anyone who still may not have seen it, I will hide it behind a break.

BE WARNED: THAR BE SPOILERS AHEAD!

By no means am I trying to convince anyone that the movie was great. I liked it. But I loved Cloud Atlas, so what do I know?

Belghast has a post out listing his grievances with the latest chapter of the Star Wars saga. While I agree that some of the questions I have had since The Force Awakens were not answered—or the answers were not satisfactory—I disagree that the movie is completely about jettisoning our childhood memories. For example:

Rey's Parentage


All but one of the fan theories regarding Rey have been obliterated. Naturally, much like Harry Potter/Hermione Granger shippers, fans who had theorized about Rey Skywalker or Rey Kenobi were vocally disappointed. While I initially thought Kylo may have been lying to Rey about her nobody status, after reading a few different takes on the themes of the movie, I remembered that George Lucas once said something about Star Wars being the story of the Skywalker family. I remembered that, when I heard or read that, I thought it was a terrible misunderstanding from the creator himself about why the saga is so important. Star Wars is not some crappy soap opera about the Skywalkers. That sort of thinking is part of what ruined the prequel trilogy. I think it is fitting that Rey not be a scion of one the Great Houses of the Force.

Snoke's Origins


We want Snoke to have a story. I want Snoke to have a story. He was Plagueis; a fallen Mace Windu; "Darth Jar Jar." He is The Emperor to Kylo Ren's Vader impersonation.

No, he is just another puppetmaster who got his own strings cut. We forget that we really don't know where Darth Sidous came from either. Not based on the movies themselves, anyway. And despite the fact that unaligned Force users have been shown thoughout the canon and legends, we cannot accept that Snoke is not Sith. But this is not Snoke's story, it is Rey's and Kylo's and the new generation of rebels and so on. Much like the matinee serials from Lucas' youth, we are not given all the answers to episodes we missed, we are given just enough in the opening crawl to understand what is about to happen in this one. And Snoke's origins are not important to that.

Also where did Admiral Holdo come from? I'm sure there's some non-film media that address that, as perhaps there will be about Snoke. However, here Johnson does something that is a long tradition of the Star Wars Saga, introducing new people important in only one movie with out a proper introduction. We fans were spoiled by Lucas' obsession with going back and explaining character origins. Need I remind you, though, that this is how we ended up with Kiddo Vader and Jar Jar Binks?

And the female fighter pilot that figured so prominently in the beginning of the movie; I thought she would be way more important. Then she got blown up before even taking off as the fighters scrambled just after the hyperspace jump (I may be misremembering the plot sequence).

Poe's Gambit


The whole franchise is founded on the idea of the single decisive battle turning the tide of a rebellion—in the original film it was a single shot by the soon to be legendary Luke Skywalker. But wars are rarely won in decisive battles. Especially rebellions. Wars are won when the losers run out of resources or the will to fight. The Resistance, and Poe in particular, are depending on a spectacular finale, but the First Order apparently has enormous resources, while the Resistance no longer has the backing of a Republic.  The flight of the Resistance is a microcosm of the slow grind of real war.

There are some story beats that I find I agree with Belghast to some degree. Whether it was the result of toxic masculinity or youthful impetuosity, Poe's gambit at the beginning cost a lot of Resistance lives and equipment and may or may not have been pointless.  But for the more seasoned leaders, Organa and Holdo, the sacrifice was too great and the payoff not great enough. Poe's secret plan to disable the hyperdrive tracker on Snoke's flagship was also in vain, even leading to DJ revealing Holdo's plan to the First Order.

As always, the filmmakers seem to be playing fast and loose with concepts of distance and time in this movie (see also, Rey's training vs. the limited space chase). The First Order dreadnought might have destroyed the Resistance cruiser after the first hyperspace jump, or maybe they were able to move beyond its effective range as well as the lesser star destroyers. The point is that we only know what we are shown. The film does not really give us enough information for what-ifs.


Canto Bight


Many people apparently have an issue with the casino planet. I actually liked the stampede through the gaming tables. My only issue is, why did Finn and Rose think it would be okay to park their shuttle on a beach outside the city instead of—pretty much anywhere else, really? That led directly to the ultimate failure of the mission when DJ betrayed them. I also didn't quite make the connection between Rose's background on a mining planet and the resort city. I mean, it fits in a general, haves and have-nots, sort of way. But she seemed to have a personal animosity toward the gamblers even before having seen the children on the racetrack or the obvious abuse of the animals. However, in the broader theme of the movie about nobodies rising to be heroes, it makes sense. The filmmakers show who is ultimately profiting off the conflict between the Reistance and the First Order. (Hint: it's obviously not the rebels or the stormtroopers.) The Empire was not just the Emperor, just as the Nazis were not just Hitler (hello Godwin). Evil regimes give evil men (and women) license to commit evil. But the Darkness is there already.

Plus, Canto Bight gives us the context to understand the force sensitive boy at the end, inspired by the mechanic and the former stormtrooper who led the fathiers to freedom (at least until they get rounded up again off screen).

Grumpy Old Jedi


Even Hamill himself initially had issues with the direction Rian Johnson took with the iconic Luke Skywalker (though he clarified that he'd come around to the director's view of the character). Much of Luke's development into the curmudgeon we see in The Last Jedi happens between the Ewok celebration and the moment Rey finds him on Ahch-To. Much like Snoke's origins, we don't get to see it. We see a little of it through flashbacks from both his and Kylo's perspectives. But I would imagine that coming off the high of being the Hero of the Rebellion to the sense of failure that followed the collapse of his new academy at the hands of Kylo Ren and his Knights may have broken him. Of course he didn't respond to Rey's pleadings for herself and in the name of the Resistance; he had cut himself off from the Force.

Luke has convinced himself that the Jedi were wrong. And I can't say I disagree with him. The Jedi were arrogant, and their methods of taking babies from their families never sat well with me. Nor did their initial rejection—and subsequent mistreatment—of Anakin Skywalker. (I won't go into the failings of the prequels themselves here, suffice it to say the Jedi leadership deserved their fate, if not the younglings.) In fact, I believe depiction of the First Order practice of kidnapping children and brainwashing them into stormtroopers was a direct commentary on virtually the same practice by the Jedi, and their complacence regarding the clones. Jedi were so sure of their own righteousness that they didn't see the ways in they were rotting inside just like the Republic.

Luke's fear of Ben Solo's power led directly to his failure as a teacher. And his fear of Rey's power almost leads to disaster as well. Ultimately, it is Rey who saves Luke. Along with some sage advice from Force ghost Yoda, reminding Luke to focus on the problem at hand rather than dwell on some horizon whether in front or behind.

Remember the Cave


Entering the Cave on Ahch-To, Rey learned what Luke never had—and what we, audience never did either. We thought that Luke seeing his own face behind Vader's mask was a foreshadowing of his parentage (which, as a storytelling device, it was). But Yoda told him that he would find in the cave "only what you take with you." As Rey discovered in the cave, the Dark Side does not have any answers. It is empty of everything but what you bring to it.

That's not to say that emptiness might not lend power, temporarily. Powerful winds occur at the margin between atmosphere and vacuum, enough to shred living flesh and even break metal bulkheads. Almost all canon use of the Dark Side seems to have led to some sort of physical deformity of the user, either directly or indirectly. The Dark Side only takes, it never really gives.

Rey tried to convince Kylo of that, even as he tried to tell her that only with him, a scion of the Skywalker legacy, could she achieve greatness. But the Force-sensitive Skywalkers occupy a mere 70 years of the millennia that intelligent beings existed in that Galaxy Far, Far Away. Could it be that bringing balance to the Force may involve getting rid of the family line that was apparently started by some Dark perversion of it?

Lost Childhood?


I feel that both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi are far superior to any of the prequels. And have no more flaws than the original Star Wars. I love that film, the whole original trilogy, in fact. But I wonder how they would hold up if released today? We still talk about inadvertent problems that arise from the story evolving as they went. The Kiss, anyone?

Letting go of the old is not the same as killing it; as Kylo tried to do with Han and then failed to do with Leia. We can learn from the past—appreciate it—but then shed the unnecessary and even harmful traditions to forge something new and, hopefully, better.

After all. Star Wars is and always has been about Hope.
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6 comments:

  1. I was fine with the movie and enjoyed it. I honestly think that it's social commentary on the world today.

    We are all waiting around for someone to come save / fix the world, but in reality, we all already have that capability. We just have to believe and do it.

    Luke literally says this with his "whst, I waltz in with a lightsaber and fix everything?" Lines and he admits everyone has the force - it's not reserved for the gifted or special.

    This is further reinforced by Rey's parents being common folk.

    Either way - I am a huge Selection fanboy and am glad they are making their own future. This is why the SWTOR Jedi story line fell a bit flat for me.

    Oh, I'm the most important person in the galaxy too / again?

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  2. "Selection"? I agree that there is room for social commentary in and about the film. The prequels were seen as applying to the Bush era, as well.

    I prefer the non-Jedi SWTOR stories, as well. Though My favorite is the Sith Warrior line. Except for the fact that I couldn't toss Quinn out an airlock. But that's a whole 'nother discussion.

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    1. "selection* - wow, that was the autocorrect on my phone for "Star Wars"! Happy Holidays! :)

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  3. Necro-posting lol.

    Rey is a Shan. They have been beating people over the head with it for two movies now, including setting her up for a saberstaff by cutting her lightsaber in two to close the movie and putting the Old Republic logo on one of the Jedi manuals in the tree. Kylo is about killing the past because he thinks he can see all of it - but its a deeper well than he realizes, and the idea that history that we had no part of shapes and defines us is very much a theme of the franchise.

    And we did know more about Sidious - we knew his *motivation*. And that's really what has puzzled people about Snoke. His tradition and origins can rightly be shrouded in mystery - but *why* is he doing what he is doing? We don't have an answer for that.

    The female pilot was Blue Leader (I don't recall the character's name, its in the encyclopedia for the movie), and she was sorely underused. I would have put her within the small group of survivors - as Poe transitions from hotshot pilot to Rebel General, you need someone to pull off the crazy combat still, and she would have been great for that.

    Anyway, minor nitpicks aside, I agree with a lot of what you have said here, and I have thoroughly enjoyed the new movies, despite some flaws. I never expected them to be perfect, just to be interesting, and they have delivered!

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    1. I can see the parallels with Satele, so I suppose it's possible But, Rey's skills with a staff notwithstanding, I really do hope that she is not part of some long lost legacy.

      I should have been more specific about Sidious. We knew nothing of his background from his first appearance in The Empire Strikes Back. He was simply the Emperor; perhaps, we could add that he wanted Vader to destroy the son of Skywalker. By the third movie movie, the best we say about his motivation was the very two-dimensional galactic conquest, couple with perhaps the more subtle have Luke replace his father as Sidious' apprentice. I would submit that most of our impression of Sidious' subtlety is due to Ian Mcdiarmid's glorious performance, rather than anything in Lucas' script. (Again looking only at the films, not any ancillary material.)

      I knew the pilot was Blue Leader, but I'm not she ever gets a name in the films. And I agree, it was disappointing that she was killed like that. On the other hand, sometimes that how stuff happens in battle. Individual survival is often down to luck rather than skill.

      Frankly, I am far more disappointed in the underuse of Gwendoline Christie as Captain Phasma. She is truly turning into this trilogy's Boba Fett, we are told how badass she is without ever really seeing it. I saw an article that asserted she should have been the one to fight Finn in the ruins of Maz' castle in the first movie. Apparently, the novel or some other backstory had that stormtrooper as a member of Finn's old squad. Hence the rather personal animosity he has for Finn. But the movie audience knows nothing of that. I agree with the assertion that Phasma would have been better than the randotrooper.

      I do agree that the movies, while not perfect, have delivered on fun and excitement.

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