What is that Star Wars fans want from a new Star Wars film?
Simple right? They want something simplistic. Good versus evil. Good guys versus bad. The Light side of the Force versus the Dark. Space Battles. Lightsaber fights. All that stuff. It’s like a burger, chips and a milkshake. Uncomplicated. Easy. Yummy.
How hard can it be to mess it up right?
Lesson 2: you can’t just make the same thing over and over and over again
But here’s the oh-so-obvious thing: a story isn’t like burger, chips and a milkshake. The best definition of a story I’ve ever heard is that it’s something about things changing.
So they start off in one state (So for example: The Evil Empire rules the Galaxy and Luke Skywalker is nothing more than a simple farm-boy) and end up someplace completely new (The Evil Empire is defeated and Luke Skywalker is now a Jedi Master). And once it’s done, it’s done. The state has changed. Entropy only goes one way. You can never go home again.
You’d think that (if you’re a big corporate entity making films say) that you can’t just remake the exact same burger, chips and milkshake again. That the customers wouldn’t stand for it. You’ve got to give it a hot cool fresh new take. You know – make it new again – make it change.
Of course The Force Awakens is the single best come-back to this line of thought that could probably ever exist. It’s like they put A New Hope in a photocopier and then fed the results straight into the projector with only the barest few extra bells and whistles on top (its biggest creative breakthrough = they made R2D2 into a ball).
And well shit – it made a butt-ton of money: so who am I to complain? (altho if it had been up to me – I’d have got Gus Van Sant to do it… lol)
And obviously the whole drama online (with petitions and etc) would seem to confirm this theory. The problem with The Last Jedi is that it wasn’t enough like Empire. It wasn’t enough for the True Fans™.
I’m obviously coming from a place of heavy bias here seeing how I wasn’t really a fan of The Force Awakens (like I said – I’m not a True Fan™): but the thing I found really strange about it was how goddamn boring it was. And seeing how this is a film that is full of spaceships and things exploding and cool young sexy people doing crazy things: I mean – maybe that’s an achievement in itself?
Again with the binaries: lots of people like to say – “The Force Awakens is so much better than the prequels!” But that’s a weird way to approach things… Two things can be the opposite of each other and both be equally shitty you know? Drinking a cup of piss doesn’t get more appetising just because it’s not… I don’t know…
Of course Hollywood logic is such that every new film has to be a reaction to the old one: so The Force Awakens was designed to be “The Star Wars Film that’s not the prequels” so it gives us everything we want from A Star Wars film: A New Hope structure with every character working as part of the design we’ve already know and love. The Last Jedi acts as a corrective to The Force Awakens: so this time instead of rehashing all the things we’ve already seen before – it’s all about playing against your expectations – doing the things you didn’t see coming *yawn*
And here’s the thing: I wonder what would have happened if Disney had taken the safe option and done what the True Fans™ seem to all be crying out for: which is just you know – to remade The Empire Strikes Back the same way The Force Awakens remake A New Hope.
But oops: maybe that just isn’t possible for the following two reasons:
First up: Rian Johnson is a better film-maker than JJ Abrams. Which *ahem* probably just makes things worse. I can’t escape the feeling that the reason The Force Awakens cribs from A New Hope so much is just because JJ is just so darn eager to please. The True Fans™ want Star Wars served up just like they’re used to – right? Well… yeah.
(Altho – oops – controversial opinion alert: but I think the second half of Mission Impossible 3 is actually pretty cool – but whatever: that’s obviously a topic for another day…).
Asking Rian Johnson to just do an Empire rehash doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that’s possible. Not because Rian is some kind of genius or something (the only film of his that I’ve actually really loved was Brick. Everything else has kinda been – “oooh: that could have been so good – if only….”). But he’s obviously a guy that likes to think about things – and even tho his shots don’t always land: he seems like a dude that’s always willing to try. To take whatever envelope has been handed to him and – push it.
In fact: that’s kinda part of my problem with him. He’ll take something simple like a con man film or a time travel thing and instead of giving you something that’s pure pulp satisfaction: he’ll interrogate the conceit and give something that comments on the very thing it’s supposed to be delivering.
Or to put it in the crudest possible terms: he’s seems like the kinda guy who while he’s fucking you would whisper in your ear about how “isn’t this sex thing kinda crazy huh?”
Something as simple as The Empire Strikes Back Again (But This Time It’s The First Order Or Whatever) just isn’t in his nature. It would be (LOL) too simple.
(Altho another brief side-note: can we just take a minute to note that Kylo’s killing of Snoke is a very JJ thing to have done? Like: imo it’s a very Season 3 of Lost thing to do. Oh you thought that character couldn’t possible die did you? Well – HOW”S ABOUT THIS!? Also it feels pretty JJ in that: when it happens the effect is that you instantaneously go “Oh wow! I can’t believe they did that!” and get that excited rush – but then when you stop to think about it after you’re a little – hmmm. Maybe that didn’t make that much sense? Like isn’t Kylo more fun when he’s hitting his head against someone more powerful than him? If he’s in charge of the whole shop – then where’s he going to get the impetus for his cool little impotent rages from?).
Second reason (and you’re very welcome to decry this as being spurious bullshit or whatever – but if you start pulling on that thread then this whole thing might start to unravel): is that maybe remaking the Original Trilogy beat for beat for beat is commercial suicide? The Force Awakens is a trick that you can only really pull off once: and after you’ve done it – well… then you need to start branching out otherwise the geeky hordes are going to start getting restless.
Also (and yeah ok I’ve got nothing real to base this one upon from anecdotal evidence and just general stuff floating around online): but the afterlife or whatever you want to call it of The Force Awakens doesn’t really seem to be burning as bright as it should have done. In fact – it’s a bit like Avatar (do you remember Avatar?) which came – made an absolute butt-ton of money and then kinda disappeared from the cultural consciousness. Show me someone who says they’re really excited to see the Avatar sequels continue the adventures of errr *googles it* Jake Sully and I’ll show you a liar (Lol – anyone remember when Sam Worthington was a thing?).
If anything The Force Awaken’s main stake in the culture was the thing about how all the Men’s Rights Activists were pissed off that there was a Star Wars film that wasn’t starring a White Guy: but yeah – that kinda stuff kinda plays itself out after a while… Maybe there’s still hominids out there that still think like that: but the internet kinda wore that song out with the last two Star Wars films… Doing it again now for The Last Jedi would just kinda seem – a bit redundant – no?
But as has been said before (and will be said again) Disney are planning to release a Star Wars film every year until you die (and beyond). Which means – even if they re-did the whole Original Trilogy again (Episode 9: Return of the Jedi – Again!) that only gives them three films and these guys are in it for the long haul. It’s like a shark – they have to keep moving: otherwise they’ll die. And they can’t keep swimming in circles because surely not even the True Fans™ are that stupid – right?
At some point you need to start producing the Soylent Green in different flavours.
At some point you need to start changing the meal.