Why Star Wars: The Last Jedi Was Disappointing (For Me) – Spoilers

Disclaimer: Some media outlets and social media platforms are attributing backlash towards The Last Jedi to rabid White Un-PC fanboys, who decry how the franchise is over-run by SJWs and Feminazis. I don’t qualify as a rabid White Un-PC fanboy: none of these labels applies to me. I’m open-minded enough to say I’m glad people enjoyed the film and that they felt uplifted by it this Christmas (humanity needs a Star Wars film every Christmas from now until the end of time if that were possible!). Fair enough if you disagree with me about the following points about to be made; as alluded to in the title, these are my personal opinions.

I left the cinema feeling disappointed. I knew very well TLJ wasn’t going to be a new-Empire Strikes Back, so I was prepared for some adventurousness with the characterisation and overall themes.  What actually occurred, however, was a complete out-of-character portrayal of Luke Skywalker himself. In RotJ, Luke comes face-to-face with Darths Vader and Sidius. He is intent on turning his father, a mass-murderer and an abusive boss, back to the light. He endures a lightsabre showdown and force-lightning to achieve this. This is someone endangering his life to save a relative.

It would make more sense that he would at least try to save Ben before wallowing on Ahch-To for some years than be overcome by the fleeting desire to kill Kylo/Ben. Again, Luke momentarily courted the dark side during his showdown with Vader. He still came back to the light, intent on saving his father. Furthermore, Rey arrives to inform him that the galaxy (and his sister) need him. His best friend was murdered by his own son and Luke’s nephew and former student. Despite his shame and depression over failing his nephew, those factors should have been enough to spark something of the old Luke. It takes a hologram of Leia from ANH to make him agree to train Rey but still doesn’t answer the call to help his sister.

A point flagged by fans of TLJ is that people change, especially over decades. I agree, however, for the sake of characterisation, it’s important to retain some elements of familiarity. The Luke Skywalker of ¾ of TLJ feels barely recognisable. Granted, he does eventually reunite with Leia and the old Luke seems to be returning. The magic of their reunion is marred by the fact that he’s sent a force-double version of himself. Perhaps his rescue would’ve had more emotional bearing if he sacrificed himself in his physical form (there would be no twin sun imagery to close Luke’s legacy).

Regarding the Rey Skywalker theory: to be honest, I hoped that would be the case. The thought of Rey as Luke’s daughter appealed to me and the theme of two grandchildren fighting over their grandfather’s legacy. The heirs of Darth Vader, if you will. The lightsabre splitting scene would’ve been the perfect embodiment of this. Alas, according to Kylo, Rey is the child of no one special. Personally, I think he is lying; her ignorance would serve him well to mould her into his apprentice, and he did embellish the tent situation regarding Luke trying to kill him. Rey’s question of her parentage was her weak spot and he constantly dangled it in front of her. We’ll find out in Episode 9. I’m aware that many are against Rey Skywalker because they don’t want the protagonist to be another Skywalker. They want new, unrelated heroes. I maintain that the new trilogy will grant their wish, but this trilogy is still about the Skywalkers and their legacy. But this is personal taste.

Another disappointing example is the casino planet Canto Bight. While dazzling and inventive, scenes involving this new setting went on longer than required, slowing the pace. While the storyline added layers to Rose Tico, it didn’t quite mesh with the urgency of the Resistance’s fuel crisis. I also felt that the chilling dictator speech delivered by General Hux in TFA was undone during the opening exchange between Hux and Poe Dameron. Hux was reduced to a tool for humour and that affected his characterisation. Mild humour involving Hux is, of course, acceptable. Nevertheless, the length of the scene damaged his intimidating and unhinged personality.

Of course, there were many positives to be extracted from the film. BB-8 is the star of TLJ. Almost every action scene has BB-8 taking charge of the situation. A spunky droid besting the humans at times is entertaining and fresh; an example of the better humour in this instalment. I also liked the closing message with the slave boy; nobodies can be force sensitive/resistance fighters. Moreover, the mise-en-scene of the throne room scene was almost perfect, particularly the red and black contrast.

Those opposed to TLJ are unfairly labelled as resistant to change: the problem doesn’t lie in the changes, but the execution of them. As a standalone film unaffiliated with a franchise, this is a promising piece of cinema. As a piece in the Star Wars puzzle, it ignores unanswered questions in TFA and itself has questionable character directions. The vitriol spewed from both sides consumes the fandom. Whatever we think or feel about this film: we have one more. It could confirm the plots and themes of TLJ or subvert them completely. 2019 will provide us with the why.

The Mystery of Rey: Clever Marketing from Disney

Following the revitalisation of the Star Wars franchise with Episode 7: The Force Awakens, one question emerged out of many: who is Rey?

Scores of articles appeared on Google daily, litigating Rey’s parentage. Some championed Luke Skywalker as her father, attributing similarities in character arcs, while others suggested Han Solo or even Obi-Wan Kenobi. Or some other theory entirely. The debate borders on fierceness, but one thing has gone unnoticed. The question of Rey’s background has sustained our interest in the upcoming Episode 8, and the franchise itself.

This isn’t just because they can’t cram everything into one film, this is because they want to hook us and keep us hooked. And it’s worked. Not only do we look forward to finding out what culminates following the drama of the Solo family, we itch to receive more hints (because we know the writers wouldn’t just have a character blurt out that they’re someone’s Father – oh wait…hehe) about Rey’s backstory. They have fed us tidbits in the form of the lightsabre discovery scene, which tells us that Rey was left with Unkar Plutt for her own safety. That entire montage has inspired countless minds to go into thinking overdrive.

In this way, Disney can be rest assured that this unrelenting ‘Who is Rey?’ question carries most of the marketing weight. All they need is a tantalising teaser and an exciting official trailer, and they’ve ensured that the Disney coffers will always be filled up. Conventions also provide the opportunity for fans to present their questions and theories: those end up making news.

Still don’t believe that story-crafting is more than just creativity? I present Exhibit-I’ve-forgotten-which-number: J.J. Abrams’ Mystery Box. In Abrams’ view, the mystery box symbolises opportunity; it’s imperative to keep it closed until the right time. Think delayed gratification. Whether you think the mystery box is gimmicky or lazy, in the case of Star Wars, it has worked. The number of articles, blog posts and youtube videos attests to that.

So, don’t have much money for promoting your film? Hold back on key details and promise to unveil them at the right moment. Then the reveal pays off. That applies to novels, too. Don’t worry about boring your readers and stuffing exposition all at the beginning. Toss a meat drumstick with the promise of a massive feast.

RebelCaptain a.k.a. Why I’m Emotionally Ruined by Star Wars: Rogue One (Spoilers)

[Re: the featured image. Don’t they look like a couple there?]

Almost a week after viewing Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and I still haven’t gotten over the ending of the standalone film in the Star Wars franchise. RebelCaptain is the explosive ship name for Jyn Erso and Captain Cassian Andor that is steadily accumulating libations in the name through fanfiction and fanvids. In changing the ending, Disney has snatched away a happy (for once) ending and has chosen to devastate us – it’s not enough that we were forced to watch Alderaan blow up in A New Hope – with the death of The Ship.

Jyn and Cassian’s scenes together are so intriguing. One is impulsive, the other is methodical. One is a girl of action, the other observes until the opportune moment to act. When they clash, their scenes are not only emotionally-charged, there’s also another sort of heat. Even K2-SO picks up on it when he comments on Cassian allowing Jyn to have a blaster. Jyn and Cassian’s lingering looks morph into giddy excitement for the sh**-bomb they’re about to drop on the Empire, and we joined in on the anticipation. Why wouldn’t we? Both have been screwed over by The Man and want justice; now that they’re over the adjustment period, they’re ready to do it as a team.

Alas, the fans have spoken, and RebelCaptain lives once more in our minds and on our screens. Like Hell we’re going to accept that the two are dead. Nope. Absolutely not. Why should we? You can’t make them all cute and adorable and fighting alongside each other like a true power couple to then have them meet their end before they’ve even had a chance to be a couple!

rogue-one Doesn’t this look like a family to you?? Papa, Mama, sassy teenager.

I don’t buy this: they couldn’t survive because they would have to have their absence explained in the Original Trilogy. Firstly: it was decided last minute that Leia would be Luke’s twin sister. Not a lot used to make sense in Star Wars; things just happened. Secondly: Jyn’s father retired (hid) as a farmer when he was done being Empire Scientist. Jyn and Cassian could’ve decided that their purpose was complete: plans were delivered to kick start the end of the Empire and Jyn had reconciled with her father in a way. I could see them retired somewhere. That’s not being a dreamy, stupid fan. That’s a reasonable conclusion. Thus, fanfiction to the rescue.

Don’t tell me to let go I’LL NEVER LET GO.

Star Wars Rogue One (No Spoilers)

Everyone likes a rebellion, don’t they?

I viewed Rogue One believing certain aspects of the storyline, costuming, locales and particular scenes (grenade porn, anyone?) relate to elements of the world today. Freedom fighting or terrorism? Science and technology or ethics? These binaries were certainly appreciated and prevented the film from being a pointless action film reliant on CGI and action sequences. I can safely say that the global mood at the moment is gloomy, unsure and weary, with only those benefitting right now prancing around on a high. The very first Star Wars film achieved nationwide success based on word of mouth before heavy marketing campaigns and social media existed, then creating enough stir to capture the rest of the world. It also helped that the US population was discontent with the war in Vietnam and demonstrated that throughout the 1970s. It may be Christmas 2016, however we’re currently witnessing tragic waves from Syria and other areas of the Middle East which were conjured in my mind when I watched rebels fighting against the Empire. Having said that, the conflict in the Middle East is far more faceted and difficult to draw the lines. Of course, a film doesn’t need to be released during major conflict, and viewers don’t need to bring their own “baggage” if you will, to enjoy it.

Disney has the unenviable task of simultaneously appeasing original Star Wars fans and drawing modern children into the franchise, so they went to great lengths (as did The Force Awakens) to emphasise Rogue One’s link to the Original Trilogy. The Force is maintained as a vital theme, with Donnie Yen’s character Chirrut Îmwe filling the void of Yoda by providing Jedi-related wisdom. Every perilous narrative needs a grounding character who provides serenity in the chaos. Robots still exhibit quirkiness and know it all. Alan Tudyk’s comedic timing as K-2SO was perfect. C3PO can’t be the only sassy (mouthy) android in the galaxy; K-2SO is quite obstinate at times, yet he has more warmth. Yavin 4 comes out of retirement, as does the Death Star. There are some departures from the original films we all love. A sweeping, urgent John Williams soundtrack is noticeably absent, and with little opportunity to emotionally connect with the characters a powerful soundtrack can assist in forcing a few restrained tears. Additionally, there’s less cutesiness in Rogue One that Star Wars usually leans towards to counter the peril. Rogue One is dark, possibly darker than Empire and Force Awakens.

I’ve read a complaint that there wasn’t enough chemistry between Felicity Jones and Diego Luna. I certainly noticed chemistry, only once the plot had developed mid-way. It’s important to remember that their characters exist in uncertain times. They are both guarded and occupied with their own goals: one to rebel against the Empire and the other to locate her father and feel like she has some family in the galaxy. They have to be closed off to each other because they’ve experienced such cr** in their lives respectively that they’re hardly going to start making eyes at each other within minutes of meeting. Any overspilling romantic feeling would overcast the plot; they have a mission and their thoughts centre around it. When the two characters overcome their clashing, they warm to each other and that’s when the lingering looks and charged energy commences. Not every opposites-attract couple are going to be like Han and Leia, and I appreciate the way they handled the pairing.

Problems: the beginning jumps from one location to another which makes the pacing chaotic. The exposition is the most important moment in the film as it makes or breaks audience reception. It takes a while to understand what the hell is going on, especially jerking us away from attaching ourselves to the characters and their individual situations. I do wonder if a novice screenwriter would’ve gotten away with that when soliciting an agent. Rogue One eventually calms down and we’re afforded the chance to get to know characters, but still at some distance. I’m not sure what the purpose of Forrest Whittaker’s character was (apart from his relation to Jyn). I’m also not quite satisfied with the ending: I feel like they were trying to avoid accusations of predictability, yet I still felt like a bit of a presant needed to be thrown my way. Maybe I’m a romantic/too soft; the bittersweet ending was leaning a little heavier on the bitter side.

Alan Tudyk as K-2SO steals the show. Reception of his character was far superior to any other human character. The audience loved him and he provided much-needed humour in such a dark film.

Stray Observations:

  • Someone came into the screening room as a Jawa. You can’t beat that.
  • I feel like I’ve been weaned on the 20th Century Fox logo. I expected it at the opening and it was greatly missed. Although: the opening shot felt like it was harking to the opening shot of A New Hope, so you’re immediately sucked back into the Star Wars universe.
  • In the press and promotion of Rogue One, the cast seems so tight knit, more so than TFA (I feel). They’re just like a family; perhaps because Rogue One is an indie film.
  • God bless Donnie Yen. He was a breath of fresh air; his action sequences rescued the film when it felt like the characters weren’t developed enough at that stage or the scene was floundering. Did it feel like I was watching a Kung Fu film? Hells yeah. Is that a bad thing? Absolutely not.
  • Diego Luna: you’ve earned yourself a new fan.
  • Peter Cushing. Carrie Fisher. That is all.
  • Darth Vader.See above point.
  • Audio. Audio. Audio. Please don’t elevate sound effects and space battles whilst allowing dialogue to be so muted. The actors were at times difficult to understand and I only found out about some of the names when I went onto Wikipedia after the screening. Not great when you’re trying to relate to them.
  • What I was thinking throughout the climax: I can’t wait to see this in Lego.
  • THAT ENDING WITH THE LIGHTSABRE THOUGH (I did promise not to spoil).