Being an ongoing series wherein CSW host and presenter Brian holds forth on news of the day, idle thoughts, and such like.
See the Film for What it Is
No One Ever Made a Movie AT You
I have always said that what I want from Star Wars is the unexpected. Since the time I was shocked by the reveal of Luke’s father, I have always asked for, and commonly gotten, exactly that. And Rian Johnson delivers. But let’s back it up. Lucasfilm has been delivering surprises since they launched the new canon with The Force Awakens.
I did not expect Kylo to murder Han Solo. I was expecting them to “Maul him” as I said, since he was given the Maul treatment in the promotional material prior to Force Awakens. Everywhere you looked: Maul’s face, Maul’s lightsaber. Every poster, every fast food tie in, every cereal box: Maul’s face, Maul’s lightsaber. And there we were again, everywhere we looked: Kylo’s helmet, Kylo’s lightsaber. So I was expecting what we got from Maul. I thought he’d be a menace, an imposing figure, and he’d be dead after 12-14 minutes on screen. Dead or redeemed, I should say. So I was amazed, and excited, that Kylo Ren was neither killed nor redeemed. Quite the contrary: we lost a major hero and the villain achieved his goal.
I didn’t expect the heroes of Rogue One to die. I was expecting them to ride off into the sunset. Not because I thought that would make sense but because I didn’t have faith that Lucasfilm would do what -would- make sense: kill them all. We knew we never heard from them again. Leia doesn’t even mention them in A New Hope, so what would happen? The cynic in me expected that one or two would valiantly fall but the rest would go into hiding and live out their lives. Or they would be handwaved away and said to have been present in the Rebellion but just not mentioned. So I was amazed, and excited, that they all died. Because they were heroes. They died saving the Rebellion. They died so that Hope could go on. The guttering flame of hope which Leia is still keeping kindled at the end of The Last Jedi. And far better that they did die. I did not want those characters who I came to love even in the running time of the film to live out their lives in ignominy and cowardice, always looking over their shoulders until they died. I did not want them to be aboard the starship Lampshade, pretending they had always been there. I wanted just what we got, and I hadn’t dared to hope for it.
So to The Last Jedi. I did not expect several things they did. I did not expect them to subvert our expectations and tell us Rey was descended from no one special. I had hoped. But I didn’t think they would go through with it. Because of all the Jedi in the Prequels, ten thousand of them, how many are descended from someone who used the Force? Zero. It would seem that one does not need to inherit the Force. Yoda, Qui Gon, Obi Wan, Palpatine, Windu: none of them did. It seemed needlessly reductive for us to expect Rey would have to. More, it seemed to rob her of something. If she had to be descended from someone it meant she was not her own power, not her own agent. She was a retread and a recycle and I really didn’t want that. I was amazed, and excited, that my hope and my theory were rewarded. At least for now.
I did not expect them to discard Snoke, but I loved that they did. The only thing I hoped for out of Snoke was that he had no connection to the Bane lineage of Sith. He was not Plagueis nor Sidious nor some rehash of either one. But I never thought they would kill him in the second film of the trilogy. And I loved it. We were all so happy to accept the Palpatine/Vader paradigm we’d come to expect and Johnson flipped it. You simply never see the Big Bad killed by his Dragon in Act II. Vader killed Palpatine as an act of heroic sacrifice to save the Galaxy and Luke from Palpatine. But not until ten minutes before the credits roll in Return of the Jedi. Kylo kills Snoke as an act of rebellion; of usurpation. And it is, beyond even killing his father, the act of the true villain taking charge. I was amazed, and excited.
I did not expect them to show Luke as a tragic figure, broken by his own failure almost as Yoda and Obi Wan were by theirs. Both of his mentors blamed themselves for the rise of Vader and the fall of Anakin. They expressed it in different ways, but one thing was the same for both of them: they went into exile on remote planets and hoped for a better day to come. Here is where many fans lose their own faith in Lucasfilm. They wanted the Luke of the Extended Universe. They wanted the invincible hero we have read about. And instead we got this old and bitter man, blaming himself (rightly, as it happens) for Kylo Ren in every way that mattered. To allow him to fall to the Dark. To indeed push him over that edge himself. And that’s who we get to remember as he fades into the Force there at the end. We’ve waited too long. Mark Hamill isn’t young. Luke cannot be, either. We have to see him at the end, before we recast him and see him at the beginning when his Jedi Order was new. I was amazed, and excited. Not what we thought we would get. Not what we expected. Nor should it have been.
We as an audience should expect from our films what we do not expect. None of us would enjoy a film made by consensus by the internet. It is that sort of crowdsourced filmmaking that gave us “I’m tired of these MFing snakes on this MFing plane” and “I’m the Juggernaut, bitch.” Terrible. Tripe. And beneath every single one of us.
You may be disappointed with the path they have taken. I’m sorry if you are. You’re not wrong, because it’s your opinion and you get to hate what you hate without anyone arguing you out of it, or trying. But I hope that you will come to appreciate these films as what they are. They are not fan service made to make us happy. They are art, made to challenge us and tell us a story that we can’t see coming two years down the road.