Come on, Lucas Film. We all know that there isn’t going to be an end to the Jedi for as long as you want to keep squeezing the Star Wars franchise by its balls to get out every last drop of coin you can. And if that metaphor was a little too explicit for you, all I can do is apologise and say that the metaphor is probably as shameless as the storyline of the newest movies is.
Which isn’t to say that I didn’t like the movie. It’s just… well, like I said, it’s a shameless retelling of the previous trilogy we got. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either, and I’m not going to pretend that they aren’t at least trying to spice it up a little and add new spin to it; something I credit them for doing. After all, it wasn’t like Star Wars had a bad story, though I’d certainly accuse it of being hammy and melodramatic and the same applies here.
Overall, though…? It’s Star Wars all over again, but without the same characters. No Obi Wan, no Darth Maul, not even Han Solo for two out of the eventually-will-be-three movies. Beyond that, we also actually lose a cast of characters that arguably made the worlds feel more alive: we don’t have villains any more that work their own gigs and have their own schemes like we saw Jabba the Hut had in previous movies. I’ve seen so few aliens in these two sets of Star Wars that sometimes I forget the story is set in fucking space across several planets. The new Star Wars films are… actually rather lacking in those aspects, and I feel that they hurt more because of it – especially because the story really hasn’t changed. They even fucking kill General Ackbar – now how will we know if things are a trap?
If you don’t believe me about the story being the same, by the way, I’ll break it down for you (so be prepared for spoilers for the first two newest movies and previous ones, too:)
A Jedi Master trains a student only for that student to be seduced by and eventually fall to the dark side of the Force.
This teacher later decides to battle his student in a final showdown, and willingly gives his life in order for his allies and friends to escape capture.
There are still two prominent Jedi who become the embodiment of the dark side of the Force and the light side of it. Just this time, they aren’t related! Or are they? Nah, just kidding, they’re totally not related – but the movie really makes you consider the possibility that they fucking might be for a goddamn long time before brushing of Rey’s heritage entirely.
The Jedi that embodies the light side of the Force comes from nothing and starts as nobody, regardless of their heritage. They both also exist and grow up on fairly hostile desert planets, Tatooine and Jakku respectively.
The Jedi that embodies the dark side of the Force kills the would-be Jedi in training (either as Younglings or as Padawans) and destroys the Jedi Temple they trained in.
The bad-guy Jedi has a change of heart that saves the good-guy (good-girl?) Jedi and kills their own master, having been “shown the way” by their counterpart.
The bad-guy Jedi loses everything he could have had through his own personal actions and through his own misguided beliefs on the direction he feels the universe should go. This only serves to fuel the upset/sadness/pain/whatever that caused him to turn to darker forces in the first place and leaves us with a dysfunctional whiny crybaby manchild who is determined to destroy everything he might have loved because, well, fuck it – he can’t do much worse than he already has right?
See? The building blocks aren’t just similar, they’re the very same. The only credit I can give Lucas Film for this story is that the third entry in the series has to take some manner of new turn. As of The Last Jedi (bullshit, bullshit I tell you, it was never going to be the last Jedi for as long as the cash cow produces milk) the story has left at the same point that the original trilogy ended on. Except rather than kill Anak-I mean, Be-shit I mean Kylo, they’ve left him alive and whiny and brooding and please just kill him and end the story. Anyway, basically they left the small, sad, lonely boy alive to continue to project his guilt onto everybody else as blame, gave him a slightly unwilling army and we’re delving into, dare I say it, new territory. Where Pint-Sized-Vader-Cosplayer goes from here is anybody’s guess, and that is at least refreshing. (And don’t worry, I might pick on Ben Solo a lot, but Rey is just as much a caricature of Luke to the point she could be called Luke-But-With-Boobs. See? I’m an equal opportunist nit-picker.)
It would be nice to see Lucas Film continue to explore the grey area of morality that the Force clearly has room for in more detail. It would be great if Anakin-Version-Two could actually become his own character, rather than being a rabidly fanatic little fanboy with authority issues and a bad attitude – and he has the room to be that. He has the potential to grow into something actually interesting, based on his desires to destroy everything to do with the old war. No Republic, no Resistance, no Order, no Empire. It’s an interesting ideal that could be seriously expanded on in a genuinely interesting way – though I have little hopes for this due to the obvious lust for power problem he has going on. Additionally his slight power struggle between himself and the other Wimp-Man-With-Hat has gotten very boring, but that could always also potentially play out into interesting drama, too.
Rey has just as much potential to be so much more than she is. She’s perhaps the most neutral of all Jedi we’ve ever seen, actually dismissing Luke’s ideas to his face and correctly accusing Luke of giving up on his prodigy too early, showing initial resistance to wanting to join any kind of a side, and actively displaying the kind of critical thinking that developed characters should be capable of at any given point in time.
That’s probably what kills me so much about this newest couple of films. There’s so much potential for them to be more and better than they are, and so far they’ve rejected outright exploring that in favour of retelling a hammy old story that is no less hammy and no less badly written. They’ve injected nonsense characters with no motivation into the story through General Snoke, who we literally know nothing of and is arguably a worse grand arch-nemesis than Palpatine/Sidious ever was because we’ve seen nothing of how he came to be where he got to. He just was all of a sudden, presumably because he saw the raw potential of Ben Solo and said “Man that’s the next Anakin Skywalker. I could use that to make myself the newest Sith on the block.”
It’s a shame. It’s a shame that there’s so much room to explore the idea of the Force, the impact it has on Force-sensitive people after such huge wars caused between many splits of ideals about how to deal with the power Force-sensitive people have over those who don’t, and the ordinary people’s opinion on the likes of those Force-sensitive people too. Sure, a Jedi might have saved the galaxy, but it was also an entire order of Jedi that allowed things to get that bad quite willfully. The idea of balance in the Force has been a staple of the story, but never has the idea of neutrality been so hinted at as it was in The Last Jedi, and yet also so untouched. The McGuffin of the strange hall-of-mirrors scene with Rey, having gone to confront what Luke claimed to be “darkness” only to find images of herself that went on seemingly forever, will remain forever a stupid McGuffin because at the end of the day it was given no actual significance. Nothing about it was ever actually explained – why did Luke consider it to be an embodiment of the dark side when there was, in fact, nothing inherently evil or dark about it at all? Was that perhaps supposed to speak of Luke’s character now, how afraid he was at the simple notion of the dark side of the Force to the point he could not confront it and discover it was, in fact, nothing but himself?
And see, just by me even posturing the idea of that, the scene becomes more interesting (to me at least) and suddenly holds more weight. But the movie never bothers to, and never cares to, actually elaborate. At all. The McGuffin hall of mirrors is never seen again, and any significance it could have had – and it could have had so much importance and this is why it bothers me – is lost because it’s decided that it just isn’t important enough to elaborate. How utterly disappointing.
Which is… also what the movie utterly boils down to being. The fight scenes are amazingly choreographed, the CGI is extremely well done, the goofy comedic moments are not too invasive and they’re timed appropriately so as not to become unwelcome or intrusive, there is some fantastic acting. And there’s so much potential – but that’s the kicker, because it’s potential you never see used or even aimed for. It just sits there, looking sad and upset, because even it knows it could have been more than what it wound up being. And for as fun as the movie was to watch when action was going on, the story is too much of a shameless rehash to be worth giving my care or attention to, and the new characters are still far too much caricatures of their original incarnations in the previous trilogy for me to actually appreciate them as being new. Po is Han Solo, BB-8 is R2D2, Finn is kind of Chewbacca, Rey is Luke Sky Walker, Ben is Anakin Skywalker. Even the old characters somewhat turn into different old characters, with Luke Skywalker becoming a shadow of Obi Wan when it comes to the relationship between him and Ben.
Lucas Film needs to stop trying to make the new characters into the old ones, and just needs to let the new characters grow to be themselves. Shit, remove all the old cast of characters if that’s what will let you develop the new ones into their own dream team. In the biggest twist of fate of them all, Kylo Ren is the character whose words are the wisest to heed: let the past go, and kill it if you have to.