Inverarity (inverarity) wrote,

Star Wars: The Last Jedi was not good, but not for the reasons everyone is bitching about

Pre-review: AQ update - I have been writing. I got about two more chapters finished in the last three months. Yes, it's still slow going, but progress is happening (slowly).

Now I'm gonna talk about Star Wars, because everyone else is.

First of all, I'm old enough to have seen the original Star Wars in theaters. So I am of the fanboy generation for whom this was my beloved childhood classic, my cultural touchstone, the monument against which all future sci-fi movies would be compared.

That said, it has never mattered to me that much. I'm not going to get unhinged by Disney "shitting on my childhood" because my expectations were never that high to begin with.

Splinter of the Mind's Eye

He's not Luke's father, and the Ewok-things are not cute.

I've always been fond of Star Wars, but not a huge Star Wars fan. Sure, I collected the cards and action figures as a kid, and I've seen all the movies, but I've never waited in line at midnight wearing a Wookie costume to see an opening, and I haven't seen or read any of the Clone Wars or Expanded Universe. I did read Splinter of the Mind's Eye as a kid, and a couple of Brian Daley's Han Solo novels.

I have no sympathy for all the fanboys complaining about the studios ditching the Expanded Universe, because twelve-year-old me was disappointed that The Empire Strikes Back completely ignored Alan Dean Foster's novel. (Foster, a decent writer in his own right, has made a living writing movie tie-ins, and Splinter was written when they didn't know if there would be a Star Wars sequel at all.)

Even as a kid, I was more into literary science fiction than cinematic, which is why I have always appreciated, but never been a hardcore fan, of Star Wars and Star Trek.

(Did you know there is an entire site dedicated to arguing about who would win if Star Wars and Star Trek got into a fight?)

Books go much deeper, tell more layered stories, can indulge in character development that movies never can, and most importantly, are (usually) under the control of a single creator who can guide a vision to its completion.

But Star Wars is still cool. I really like the Star Wars: Armada boardgame.

Star Wars: Armada

Anyway, The Last Jedi is out, and there is controversy because fans are divided, critics like it more than the people who spam Rotten Tomatoes, and somehow this has all become part of the Culture War.

Like, people are writing essays about how Star Wars is really about "toxic masculinity" because Admiral Purple-Hair tells off cocky pilot Poe Dameron for shrugging off the wisdom and instructions of his superiors. He successfully destroys a dreadnought, which like all Bad Guy ships in Star Wars has convenient buttons that say "Shoot here to blow me up," but gets chewed out and demoted because Leia apparently forgot how her ass got rescued off a Death Star.


"Toxic masculinity"

This is bullshit, of course - those same people thought it was awesome when cocky pilot Kara Thrace was shrugging off the wisdom and instructions of her superiors.

But my reaction to The Last Jedi was basically a big "meh." And it has nothing to do with whether it departed too much from the original canon or wasn't original enough, or whether there are too many non-white leading roles or not enough, or if it got weird or if it "deconstructed" the Star Wars mythos.

Simply put, The Last Jedi is, like all previous Star Wars movies, a movie primarily aimed at selling merch to twelve-year-olds. It is, like previous Star Wars movies, bad science fiction. I know a lot of people have argued that Star Wars isn't science fiction at all, it's science fantasy, or really, just a traditional "Rescue the Princess, defeat the Dark Lord" epic fantasy with light sabers, and that's true, but with or without the trappings of science fiction, it just fails to make sense except as a gosh-wow extended advertisement for the PlayStation game. Every single plot point is not so much a twist or a storytelling device as a MacGuffin for the kids playing the SW:TLJ game to figure out the next stage of their quest.

Rose and Finn

"So, we have to sneak off the ship, go to the Casino Planet, find the master codebreaker, bust out of prison, run a race through the city, then get to the Star Destroyer where we have to do another quest to unlock the thingamajigger that lets the Rebel fleet jump to safety, and defeat a couple of Minor Bosses, all within 18 hours. Cool, then do we level up?"

And, more than most of the previous movies, it's just stupid. It's pretty and exciting and adds some interesting things to the SW universe, though in ways that totally screw with the mythos, but at no point is it an intelligent or innovative film.

When Admiral Purple-Hair turns her ship around to point it at the First Order fleet (hey lady, maybe you should have thought of that earlier instead of staring at them for half an hour while they used your transports for target practice?), and they freaking ignore it, I just face-palmed. I know, Star Wars bad guys have always been pretty inept, but this movie took it to a new level; everyone from Großadmiral Carrot-Top to Inexplicable, Expandable Force Master Snoke can't see weapons literally being pointed right at them because having the foresight of a twelve-year-old would complicate the story. We have an entire planetary battle scene set up just to foreshadow the significance of red footprints, and Darth Emo "Why do I look so much like Snape?" can't figure it out.

Am I being harsh? Yeah, probably. Star Wars movies are things you watch for the special effects and the space battles, not for the acting or the plotting. As far back as 1977, my dad told me "It doesn't really have a plot," and while he wasn't entirely right, the original movies were basically Campbellian journeys with Lucas's Kurosawa-influenced touch and the best SFX money could buy.

Now, none of the "twists" have kept fans from speculating, and a lot of people are dissatisfied with Rey's "nothing" origins. Did she really come from nobodies, or did Darth Emo lie to her?

Here is my speculation: the scriptwriters did indeed mean what they said - their big idea was the twist that Rey doesn't have some secret Jedi parentage or come from a long line of Force masters; she's just a kid who happened to be born with a lot of midichlorians Force potential, like cute little tow-headed Anakin.

But, because Disney owns Star Wars and every new movie committee is free to screw with continuity, they'll probably retcon this in the next film and the next screenwriter will make her Luke's daughter after all, or something.

I am not terribly invested in Star Wars for the same reason I no longer read comic books much - I still love Marvel and DC, especially the lines I followed as a kid, but 40+ years of cruft and an endless carousel of writers who are free to toss out and retcon everything that came before means there aren't any really big epic moments that matter. Sure, Superman died, but no one thought he wasn't going to come back. What, the Beyonder in Secret Wars wasn't omnipotent enough? Introduce an even more omnipotent omnipotence! Man, I was a huge X-Men fanboy, but I can't even keep track of which ones are currently dead right now, which ones are villains, which ones still have their powers, etc.

(Like, last I heard Jubilee is a vampire and has a son - what??)


As a statue collector, I'd buy that except then I'm afraid I wouldn't be allowed within fifty feet of a school zone.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter. The Star Wars mythos is not a consistent epic with a planned storyline and a fixed endpoint. It's going to go on for as long as it continues to sell toys, passed from one group of hands to another, and inevitably pissing off the older generation of fans in order to appeal to a newer one.

This is why I prefer book series controlled by a single author who has a Plan. It's one of the things that drew me in to a silly series of children's books about a boy wizard. It's one of the things that keeps me hacking away at my own (delayed, oh so very delayed) series even while I try to work on some other writing projects as well. But knowing that Rowling is no more perfect than Disney, it's also one of the things that has kept me from ever being totally invested in anyone else's creation - because it's their creation, and their decisions are not yours, and if you want total control over the direction of a story, your only choice is to write your own.

Merry Christmas, y'all.
Tags: alexandra quick, science fiction, soapbox, star wars

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