Ivy Allie

Everyone is wrong about The Last Jedi

Ivy vs. Star Wars, part VIII

Posted 20 Jul 2020

“Do you know what the definition of a hero is? Someone who gets other people killed.” - Zoe Washburn, “Firefly.” (Which is better than Star Wars and that’s a hill that I’ll die on.)

I really don’t like to throw in my lot with the rabble of malcontents who have poisoned the discourse around this film. Especially since some people have made pretty fair arguments for it being not only a good film but possibly the best Star Wars film. But on second viewing I have to admit that I really just don’t like it very much.

There are things I like about it. It has some of the most arresting imagery ever to appear in a Star Wars film, for one. The battle in the red throne room and the incredible sequence on the crystal planet particularly spring to mind. I get really tired of Star Wars planets generally, seeing as most of them look almost indistinguishable from Earth, which is odd given how much creativity these films invest into aliens and starship designs. But Crystal Planet (whatever its silly name is) is brilliantly conceived both as a plausible yet surreal environment, and one with built in cinematic potential as the red minerals spray across the pristine white surface layer. And the Porgs and the Crystal Critters (which both sound like supporting characters from an educational PBS show), while no doubt conceived with an eye toward Mattel, are pretty fun.

Also, I have a lot of respect for the way this film attempts to subvert a large part of the normal Star Wars thematic landscape. It demolishes both the idea of heroism and to a lesser extent that of the legendary bloodline (thanks for screwing that up, Rise of Skywalker), a shaking-up that these films badly needed. And it’s not just heroics on the Luke Skywalker level that are called into question; the more amateur form of heroism inherent in Poe’s consistent devil-may-care renegade attitude is also depicted as foolhardy and careless at best.

But that said, the film is unwilling to commit to that shakeup. In the final act, Luke is prevailed upon to be the hero one last time, and the number of times Poe gets chewed out is about equal to the number of times he is asked to go do some hero stuff. There’s hardly a named character in the entire thing who doesn’t at some point do something incredibly heroic. The film wants to say heroism is bad, but at the end of the day it’s still a Star Wars film and essentially wouldn’t function at all if there wasn’t tons of heroism going on.

And, on a very subjective note, I just got really bored while watching this. I had to do it in two sittings because I just didn’t have the patience to hang in for the full runtime. There are some genuinely good character moments in here but there aren’t enough of them. The chemistry of Rey, Finn, and Poe doesn’t really get to happen because they spend most of the film apart from each other. Rose seems nice but we don’t really get a very full picture of her here (and never will apparently; thanks for screwing that up, Rise of Skywalker). It’s primarily a plot-driven film of course but the plot tends to be very flimsy, typically just taking the form of coming up with some contrived excuse to send the characters to one place or another. “Go to Casino Planet and find the Master Codebreaker” sounds more like an objective from a videogame than anything. (The whole casino sequence was a particular trial of my patience; the jokes didn’t land for me, the setting felt like something out of the prequels, and the “moral” was ridiculously overwrought. But setpieces, oh joy!)

I think I’m just tired of Star Wars at this point. The blush is off the rose. You probably could tell an endless number of stories set in this universe, but to do so and make it interesting they’re going to have to stop using this exact framework all the time. And the framework is much of what people expect out of a Star Wars film, so that isn’t going to work either.

I’m beginning to think the reason Star Wars fans are never satisfied is that it’s not even possible to make a good Star Wars film. It’s possible to make a pretty good one (and arguably they don’t get a whole lot better than this one by any metric), but the fanbase wants nothing short of absolute perfection. Star Wars means you’re going to see lots of aliens, lots of heroics, and things going boom. If you get really lucky, it might include some likable characters, but let’s be honest, this franchise isn’t exactly batting 1000 there.

I dunno. I think the Star War is over, and if you insist on continuing the fight, you’re going to lose.