Anticipating the release of The Rise of Skywalker, Episode IX of Star Wars, this might be the right time to join the chorus and have a last rant.
Before The Last Jedi, Rian Johnson had been quoted as saying that he didn’t write in isolation but bounced ideas off of something called the Lucasfilm Story Group. I thought wow, they must be the cream of the dramaturgical crop to be in that circle of experts! We could speculate about some great writers that might be consulting there. In the aftermath of The Last Jedi, Star Wars fans went on a mission to expose each member and examine the credits and education of each Story Group hired by Kathleen Kennedy.
Like JJ Abrams’ wife Katie McGrath who went on to found the TimesUp movement on the heels of MeToo blowing up, Kathleen Kennedy is driven by identity politics. In a movie like Lincoln or Schindler’s List, a social message is so central to the story that there needs to be no labored imposition of it. Looking at something like Star Wars, is someone is not genuinely a fan of it and looks down on the genre at all, it might be seen as nothing more than a delivery device.
At no other time in the history of cinema has it been easier to find out what the core built-in audience for a brand wants to see. By 2012, the bitter aftertaste of the Prequel trilogy meant that Star Wars fans could see room for improvement and the possibility of a fresh take if George Lucas was not 100% in control and jaded about his creation. All Disney had to do was get the main characters back together. The worst thing to do would be to sideline or disrespect them and taint the Original Trilogy.
Let’s look at intentions and whether the logic works.
They wanted to lure audiences with the possibility of getting the band back together. Mark Hamill was paid a bonus to say nothing about how drastically Luke Skywalker was sidelined in The Force Awakens, being a destination more than an active participant.
Harrison Ford’s career as a leading man had a lot of longevity, so his agreement to play Han Solo again opened the door to certain mischief. They would want Chewbacca to be in the movie, which is fine. Chewie died in a much publicized Lucasfilm-approved novel called Vector Prime, being on a planet when it exploded, around the time Han would have been 55. This opened the door to totally abandoning over a hundred previously approved novels and beyond that also comics that were now branded Legends instead of canon. Many fans, especially post-Last Jedi, would prefer to consider those novels as representing what “really happened” after Return of the Jedi as seen in 1983. Some remember the old Marvel comics run that somewhat extended the story, and most refer to Timothy Zahn’s Heir to the Empire trilogy.
What we got had the priority of setting up a few new heroes for the future, propped up by the classic Star Wars characters. Rey, Finn, Poe, Rose Tico, and Kylo Ren were functional enough ciphers and the actors are talented but the writing – thanks largely to the priorities of the Lucasfilm Story Group – ring false.
Finn was raised as a storm trooper and chose humanity and abandoned the First Order, but The Last Jedi portrays his character as if he is an all-round deserter. This partially through Rose Tico a mechanic who takes it upon herself to spend her hours loitering around escape pods looking for people to stun and drag to to the brig – including a known Resistance hero surely outranking her. And for this, she is allowed to tag along on a mission. The whole way, she is the person in the know about the meeting point Canto Bight and informing Finn about where he is wrong and sending them on a wild goose chase or two. She has to be in power and leading because TimesUpMeTooGirlPower.
Princess Leia / General Leia Organa says no to a magnetic bombing run Poe wants to do, so Poe switches off his intercom…. thus making sure he can’t hear her, but why the hell doesn’t the GENERAL have direct communication on the open line to all of the fleet, including the BOMBERS she could call off?
After Poe’s demotion, and aiding a covert mission that fails, and finally leading a mutiny, Leia asks people why they are looking at her and “Follow him.” Which confuses the woke narrative a bit. Admiral Holdo decides that only she should be left in the rebel flagship, which is known to be a flagship and a one way trip whether she thought of ramming initially or not. How brilliant is she that she couldn’t pick a droid to sacrifice itself? Rose Tico the mechanic who likes to zap war heroes considers saving the Fartiers (Neverending Story type horses) from the abusing racetrack by helping set them free gets onto a ship with Finn and leaves them in the fields to be easily rounded up again and brought back to their stables.
General Leia is sidelined by recuperation from FLOATING IN SPACE without oxygen. Her replacement is Vice Admiral Holo, and one would think there would be great comedic potential if a great leader had to be replaced by an incompetent one but that can’t happen because she ALSO has to appear to know better than Poe and keep him in his subordinate place as a male.
Finn is reduced to pining for Rey, ostensibly concerned for her safety but – especially in this universe – isn’t she capable of looking out for herself?
Rey gets to be the enlightened and optimistic, right, and sympathetic one compared to Luke Skywalker’s ret con as a grumpy old Jedi gone to seed. This is the most disappointing change to Star Wars. IT ONLY went that way because Rey can’t be mansplained (what we used to call trained) by a white old male. Master, schmashter. It strains credibility on the script level by finally having Luke (once his force connection is restored) collapse a shelter using “force-push” technique only to have Rey chase him down and fight until he lands on his back supposedly helpless and lets Rey stick her (formerly his) light-saber in his face to pin him down. He could use the very same force-push to flip the saber from Rey’s hand and then suspend her upside down. Instead he gives us his side of the most useless backstory about himself and his nephew.
If he thinks Ben Solo (Kylo) is going to turn to the Dark Side, WHY CREEP to his bedside in the night with a light-saber ready to kill him? Why not ask his mother, Leia, to go talk to him?
And no mention of what uproar happened politically when Luke and Leia’s parentage (Darth Vader) was outed ? There is a Disney-era novel called Bloodline that covers that, but they couldn’t be bothered to make that a pivotal point in the movies. It makes sense if Ben distrusts his parents and his uncle for keeping a big secret from him. But if it makes sense, it could not belong.
So there is much to account for. The woke Lucasfilm Story Group, their boss Kathleen Kennedy, and Rian Johnson especially but also JJ Abrams. When Lawrence Kasdan was co-writing The Force Awakens, at least the Han Solo material had humor and focus and felt like Star Wars. And that movie at least flowed, even though it had its own share of head-scratchers and questions never to be answered.
And now they say retroactively that Luke trained Leia in the force and swordsmanship before the events of these new movies. Okay, fine. But we know it was not the plan all along because in The Force Awakens Leia refers to Luke as “a Jedi” when talking to Han. That might have been an opportunity to give SOME hint that she is also one. Maybe Luke is a “better” or “lesser” jedi than her. But even THEN, I’m sorry but I can’t buy even a Jedi waking up in the vacuum of space and force-pulling herself to safety.
I don’t know if the Sage – or what’s left of it – can force pull itself to safety now. Too many of the most ardent fans already see Star Wars in a vacuum. That is to say that – other than the unaltered Original Trilogy – it sucks.