Not-A-Review — Star Wars: The Last Jedi

A franchise’s necessary and fiery demise before being reborn

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Mark Hamill brings a fitting close to the story of a farm boy who hoped to become a Jedi, like his father before him.

So many people will dissect this movie so I will not. Some will even be honest. This is my way of dealing with what has been apparent to me since Rogue One. I don’t intend to argue with you over my feelings on this subject, they are my feelings and likely mine alone. But I needed to process them just the same.

Turn back. Please. What I will say in the following paragraphs will probably hurt you. It may even enrage you. I take my role as the Tenth Man very seriously. I will say what few people will acknowledge. If you love Star Wars, go no further.

Your last warning…

It has done that effectively. Look at the differential between what critics said and how fans felt. That’s what it was designed to do.

  • It is designed to appeal to an audience who does not know Star Wars and has little emotional attachment to it; an audience with a short attention span; an audience who does not need nor want to handle the complexities of the former Lucas property.
  • It is designed for a modern audience not in need of a significant plot; an audience where sound and fury signifying nothing is the preferred movie-going experience.
  • An audience who says: keep it fast, keep it simple, make it loud, make sure the lights and colors are as stimulating as possible. An audience forgiving of plot holes, if they even see them at all.
  • Star Wars was murdered by its new owner, stripped of significance, plundered of any allegory, any message, and remade in the image of Disney’s ultimate mandate as a media mega-giant.
  • The Last Jedi is a spectacle of epic proportions, it spares no expense in terms of its visual messaging, it’s hidden meanings, its racial overtones, its diversity and self-awareness of its failings.
  • After the success of Rogue One, Disney made plans to strip-mine this franchise and to do that, they had to kill, ignore or replace everyone the previous generation had loved. What time had not done, Disney would do.
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Not economically, of course. At it’s current rate, it will likely make over a billion dollars in movie receipts alone. It will spawn dozens of toys, porgs, salt-wolves, space ships, mega-star destroyers, action figures, droids and who knows what else.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi does not fail for a lack of ambition. It is certainly ambitious. It is not a failure because insufficient funding or effort were made on the part of the film or cinematography teams. The movie is visually stunning in almost all of its most important scenes. It hits all the emotional cues, and plays them perfectly. Yet what the movie lacks is heart, soul and meaning. I found myself watching a magic show where I knew all the tricks, knew all the magic and as a result was underwhelmed in every way that mattered.

The movie failings include being over-long, rambling, disjointed, strangely structured — almost like a video game, filled with meaningless quests which amount to nothing, a collection of scenes, pasted together, with little meaningful connective tissue.

  • It’s filled with failures of character, fears and doubts, failures of story-telling, failures of pacing and most importantly, an abandoning of the people who carried the torch for Star Wars, its adoring fans, who were given a hero’s send off and a bum’s rush all at the same time. Kinda like they did Luke Skywalker… Yer a hero! Now get out of the way, thank you very much.
  • The Last Jedi is a cash grab, a nostalgic enigma machine, preying upon the hunger of fans who have dragged this story along for the last three decades plus, hoping to see their titular hero Luke Skywalker realize his dream of being a Jedi Knight, like his father and role model, Ben Kenobi.
  • Both men were ultimately failures along with the Jedi Order. Does this invalidate Star Wars in any way? Of course not. Failure is part of living. It is the most important part of everything you do. To live is to fail, eventually. Anyone who says otherwise isn’t living, they aren’t striving and they aren’t clear on what life is really about. Life is about seeking goals bigger than oneself. If you haven’t failed, at least some of the time, your goals weren’t big enough, or you were already too close to the finish line…

How Rotten Tomatoes critics could move their mouths to say it is the best Star Wars movie ever (when, to the fans it’s clearly not) is a testament to the power of Disney and their fear of angering the House of Mouse.

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Cruel and unthinking you say? Au contraire. I have sat on this for a full day to give myself time to think about the death of the Star Wars we used to know. Disney the Machine, the House of Mouse has one simple directive: If we can’t make money merchandising from a product, it has no use to us. Yes, movies make money, lots of it, but Disney makes its long money from merchandising. Never forget this.

  • We don’t need conflict unless we can sell it. We don’t need depth unless it creates a product line we can scrub of all meaning, unless you are eight to sixteen years of age with parents who are willing to devote a significant part of their disposable income to bringing kids to Disney’s theme parks, buying toys and tee-shirts and anything else Disney can slap their new minority faces on.
  • I am not going to haggle over the merits of each movie until this one. Star Wars has never been my favorite movie franchise. It promotes individuality over the idea of community, it promotes Empire-building and futile Resistances which break down society instead of building it up.
  • The Star Wars Universe has always been in my eyes, a fantasy-driven operatic story with Jedi as wizards and everyone else as less-effective muggles meandering along with the Chosen One.

Star Wars has been a tool of incidental patriarchy; whether it was intentional or not is open for debate — it’s possible White men cut and pasted themselves into the Chosen One tract seeing the Star Wars mythos as an enabling theme they could embrace — hence White men have felt empowered by the franchise’s unspoken messages.

So much so, when Rogue One, which did not highlight White men, but placed women and minorities center stage, the most rabid of the fan base proceeded to show their Dark Side, attacking the actors, the movies, the directors and releasing their vitriol on this series.

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FN-2187, (later named Finn) a formerly faceless First Order trooper who develops a conscience and defects tentatively, to the Rebel cause.

Finn, space janitor, former trooper, turned reluctant rebel was part of a bait and switch, causing those rabid super-fans to believe he was going to be a Jedi in this, the Star Wars saga. It drove the Internet wild. It generated buzz. It made fans angry or happy depending on who you were.

It made Star Wars socially relevant; something it had never truly managed to be before now.

The franchise’s subsequent dismissal of this character, turned him into little more than comic relief, without actually being funny. He was not a Jedi. He was not Force-sensitive. He was athletically-inclined — a charming and inadvertent stereotype, I’m sure).

Instead of a lightsaber being uniquely a Jedi’s weapon, it became possible for him to use it because he had been trained to use a variety of weapons. And in an instant, he was no longer relevant but the die of diversity had been cast. He was a red herring. But Disney would take this relevance and experiment with the cast of Rogue One by introducing a quantity of minority roles previously unheard of in a Star Wars movie.

The economic shockwaves would be heard around the world revealing there were other people hankering for a chance at the role of hero, who were not the Chosen one, a White man-child, or the many enablers of said hero over the decades of this franchises existence.

Women, denied for decades, except in roles as rescued princesses or sexual slaves, were now empowered in a lead role in Rogue One. Felicity Jones as Jyn Erso was a welcome departure from the Star Wars formula. Leia went from a princess to a leader and a general.

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The primary players in Rogue One: Felicity Jones (Jyn Erso), Diego Luna (Cassian Andor), Donnie Yen (Chirrut Imwe), Wen Jiang (Baze Malbus) and Alan Tudyk as K-2SO (not shown)

Is this an unfair statement? Perhaps, but Star Wars had been a Skywalker family affair far too long and Disney appears to have had enough of it. They recognized to free the franchise from its attendant baggage, they had to get rid of the past, casting it out. Books written before Disney’s purchase were relegated to a Legendary or Legacy status, and they were no longer considered canon. See article on Star Wars canonical works:

On April 25, 2014, after a year of ownership by the Walt Disney Company, a StarWars.com press release confirmed that the films of the sequel trilogy would not adhere to the post–Return of the Jedi Expanded Universe,[12] with further comments from LucasBooks Senior Editor Jennifer Heddle confirming that the EU as a whole is no longer considered canon. The EU has been re-termed “Legends,” with related publications remaining in print under that banner.

Since then, the only previously published material still considered canon are the six original trilogy/prequel trilogy films, the Star Wars: The Clone Wars television series and film, and the stand-alone Dark Horse Comics arc Star Wars: Darth Maul — Son of Dathomir; which was based on unproduced scripts from The Clone Wars TV series. Most material published after April 25 — such as the Star Wars Rebels TV series along with all Marvel Star Wars comic books and novels beginning with A New Dawn — is also considered part of the new canon, on account of the creation of the Lucasfilm Story Group, which currently oversees continuity as a whole. Characters under the Legends banner are still available for use as needed, even if events concerning them are no longer canon.

Only products created after Disney were canon. Books, games, stories, themes, ideas, heroes, villains, only those chosen by Disney would continue to exist. This should have let everyone know what Disney was doing. They were erasing Lucas from the work. His vision, his stories, his methods of telling those stories.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi gave you its message in the very title. The message of this movie was made clear by Emo Vader, Kylo Ren’s summary dispatching of the main supposed super-villain, Emperor Snoke, and his statement to Rey as they stood after disposing of the Old World Order.

“Let the past die. No more First Order, no more Empire, no more Rebels.”

Disney is throwing away everything you have ever held important in the Star Wars franchise. The message of the Mouse is: Anyone can use the Force. The days of purely Jedi and Sith are over.

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Okay, maybe not everyone can be a Jedi or Sith. I’d guess these porgs won’t ever qualify for the job.

Disney, in its capacity as a mega-purveyor of advertising, product placement and toy branding, will use this franchise, not as a place to create or enhance the dreams of fans who have stood by this property for over forty years, but to prepare a new generation of consumers to mindlessly hanker for whatever soul-less tripe they can put on the market, commodifying the Star Wars properties in ways George Lucas was never able to. Not for lack of vision but for lack of capital.

For Disney, their merchandising reach is limitless and the most important part of their purchase of this already powerful toy-generating franchise.

If you came to this movie hoping to find the resolution to the Star Wars saga, Luke Skywalker and his family and how one ambitious farm boy could change the galaxy, you did not quite get what you hoped.

Instead, you watched a story you have loved, followed all of its iterations, the Clone Wars, Rebels, books, and eight movies of varying quality to an unsatisfying conclusion which you know in your heart, no matter how much you liked this finale, was not true to the story you were hoping for.

Our era of fandom is over. A fandom we have carried for forty years. We can now lay it to rest. The Mouse has roared. Luke Skywalker is dead. Long live Disney’s version of the new and improved ‘Star Wars!’ now with extra diversity. Maybe one day we can even get a story we care about.

Only you can decide. But I know what a speeding bus looks like and I can recognize what a fan thrown in front of a speeding bus looks like. It resembles what happened to modern-era Star Trek.

Complete with more lens flares than any movie has a right to show, a bridge which looks like an Apple Genius bar, a love-lorn Mr. Spock, a lukewarm retelling of Wrath of Khan, replacing him with Benedict Overexposed, interplanetary beaming, augmented super disease curing blood and completely automated ships, capable of fighting at warp. ‘How it Should Have Ended’ parodies it spectacularly.

Perhaps if you live long enough, you get to see your fandom burned in effigy, partially in mockery, partially in tribute. And if you live long enough to see this, it might be time for you to let it go.

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.”

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Thaddeus Howze is a writer, essayist, author and professional storyteller for mysterious beings who exist in non-Euclidean realms beyond our understanding. He writes on science fiction media as the Answer-Man on Kryptonradio.com.

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Author | Editor | Futurist | Activist | http://bit.ly/thowzebio | http://bit.ly/thpatreon

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