As of the time of this writing, the new Star Wars movie will debut in about a week.
And I can’t decide if I’m even going to see it.
Anyone who knows me knows that this is said with great trepidation. I am so firmly a stereotypical Star Wars fan that at this point I’m a living meme.
I am too young to have been part of the first wave of Star Wars fandom. My journey with the galaxy far, far away began in the ’90s, not the ‘70s.
I saw the original trilogy on VHS, and then a couple of years later I spent my ninth birthday watching The Phantom Menace. I loved that movie as a child. I spent all summer playing with the toys. My prized possession was a green plastic lightsaber as Qui Gon Jin was my favorite part of the movie, and despite his demise, on-screen, he remained alive in imaginary adventures in my backyard.
On subsequent viewings, I would realize that this movie was not as good as I thought as a nine-year-old, but it’s a rare occurrence for something to make it through the lens of childhood unscathed. Though, I maintain that the lightsaber battle, while perhaps a little too choreographed accompanied by Duel of the Fates stands the test of time.
As I made my Star Wars journey and watched the Prequel Trilogy, I came to terms that while they were not great movies, they felt like Star Wars.
Which brings me to the point of this article.
I saw The Force Awakens, just like everyone else. While it was derivative it was largely unoffensive. It was easier to justify, “well they have to introduce the story to a new generation, of course, they had to work some of the old stories in.”
And so, I walked in The Last Jedi thinking that at worst I would be in for a rehashing of The Empire Strikes Back.
I was oh so very wrong.
I got a movie doing its very best to destroy a story I’d loved as a child.
I left the movie dazed, as though I couldn’t quite figure out how I thought about it. I didn’t like it at all. But it was hard to say why at first.
I saw the movie with my brother and sister, and they didn’t get it. They went with me to humor me and couldn’t understand why I didn’t like it. They also didn’t like it, but they aren’t Star Wars fans they were mostly bored and confused by it.
Afterward, I learned that I wasn’t the only one who thought this and the movie caused a bit of a schism among the fans.
A disturbance in the force if you will.
It is my contention, and many other’s that it wasn’t a good movie. Nor was it a good Star Wars movie.
It seemed to distance itself from Star Wars. I watched a film run away from what it was, as though it was ashamed of the title it bore.
No, it was a movie that was trying to be anything other than Star Wars.
There was of course, a narrative forming. The reason critics and journalists and professional thinkers put forth for the wide discrepancy between critics and the general populace.
They said that it wasn’t shoddy writing or incoherent storytelling, but because it had more female characters and people of color.
Of course. I am not naive, I know that to be the case with a section of the movie’s detractors. Perhaps a bigger section than many people would want to admit.
However, this is not the reason I disliked the movie. Should the Star Wars movies have people of color other than Lando, and more women, as well as people of different sexual orientations? Yes, absolutely.
That was never my issue.
Put more diversity in there. I want everyone to like Star Wars feel like they’re represented. Make Finn and Poe a couple if you want. They certainly have more chemistry than Finn and Rose who had all the spark of a dead battery.
No, these were no problems for me.
The problems were with Mr. Johnson and his writing.
Rian Johnson is the smarmy rich kid who comes to your house and while playing with your favorite toy breaks it and insists it’s better this way, and that you might be dumb if you don’t agree.
He turned our favorite story into a pretentious two-hour exercise in self-indulgence.
It also raises the most annoying aspect of this movie and the narrative that rose around it. If you didn’t like it it was because you didn’t get it.
It was over my head.
As though the majority of fans that had problems with it were uncultured rubes straight off the moisture farm.
And I disagree.
One, it’s a movie, not differential equations. Even the thinking-est of thinking man’s movies does not require the application of grey matter that critics and film school students seem to think.
I assure you this move isn’t nearly as smart as Mr. Johnson and his cohorts think it is.
For instance, there is no end of articles meditating on the subject.
Star Wars Fans Don’t Deserve The Last Jedi
The Last Jedi Is the Most Intellectual Star Wars Movie
Articles like these can be found ad infinitum.
There are several issues here though. First, it predisposes the idea that complexity is inherently good.
The assertion that complicated always equals good doesn’t hold.
What they call complex I call convoluted, and what they deem intellectual I say is an overture of bombastic excess.
It is okay like simple things. We covet the refined palates of chefs who bring forth dishes that allow ingredients to shine.
I’d argue the simplicity is what made the original movie so good. It is the hero’s journey in a science fiction setting. It doesn’t need adornments as it THE STORY. It speaks to our primal sense and it resonates still to this day.
Instead, The Last Jedi wallows in its own meandering devices. Each storyline wastes the talent of the actors with bad writing and terrible pacing. Instead of a Star Wars movie, it feels like a bottle episode of The Clone Wars.
Rian Johnson decided to raise questions and handle them with intellectual prowess of a first-year philosophy student. If we wanted to produce a story meditating on the inherent dualities of the Force then I’m sure many Star Wars fans would love it. But, the movie is so overwrought we only get a superficial discussion on any one of the dozen themes Johnson throws at you.
And to make matters worse, the destruction wrought in this movie will have ripple effects. Star Wars Episode 9 will have to do some legwork to get the story back on track, as well as serve as the capstone to one of if the biggest movie franchises in the history of cinema.
In closing, cut some Star Wars fans a break. They watched a movie franchise they loved get broken in a dozen pieces and then were called dumb for not liking it.
And in about a week, I’m sure the whole cycle will begin again with The Rise of Skywalker.
Originally published at https://vocal.media.