The Last Jedi was a very flawed film. Multiple film critics, including popular Youtube group RedLetterMedia, have dragged it across the ground for its incessant amount of logical leaps, goofy theatrics, and horribly uneven tone. All of these are issues I, too, found to be distracting when I watched the film. With all of these swirling opinions surrounding the film, which includes a harsh distaste from the general populace of Star Wars fanatics of the past, I went into my second viewing rather pessimistic that I would enjoy it as much as I did the first time.
Something strange happened: I didn’t like it any less, nor any more. My opinion stayed more or less the same, and the reasoning came from a quality most fans hissed at quite prominently: change.
Contrary to popular opinion, I liked the treatment of Luke in this film. I liked the themes presented through Poe and purple-haired Laura Dern. I… okay, I didn’t like Rose or her relationship with Finn, but I had an emotional response to the general story! I liked that The Last Jedi did something different. I like that it tried. I like that it did a complete 180 from The Force Awakens, which felt safe and a complete rip-off of A New Hope. This is what I want from Disney—I want them to let their directors do their job and assert their creativity. I want Disney and their profit-first, money-hungry hands off of the films. They still had some say (Porgs, random comedy, subtle progressive messages), which I think ruined the film, but the fingerprints of Rian Johnson shown through moderately, at least. For that, I’m thankful, no matter how messy it ended up being.
Yesterday, a teaser trailer for Star Wars: Episode IX dropped. Its official title was revealed to be The Rise of Skywalker and heavily implies in the ending seconds that Emperor Palpatine will return. Also noteworthy, Luke narrated the entire trailer, and his final line goes something like, “No one’s ever really gone.” I think this decision is both smart and dumb. Let’s go over why.
First of all, it’s smart of returning director J.J. Abrams (director of The Force Awakens) to lean the series back into the direction of overwhelming good versus overwhelming evil, while (presumably) retconning the emotional triumph of Luke’s death by having him be a spiritual parrot for Rey and bringing back the biggest antagonist the Star Wars series has ever seen. People, in general, like things straight in front of them, to cheer for good and to boo at bad. They like nostalgia, that nice callback to years prior when life was nice and things seemed so much bigger, greater, and important. The Force Awakens incorporated all this and more for a new generation, and it sold like hotcakes to overwhelmingly positive fanfare. Why the fuck wouldn’t Disney try and go back to this route? It’s good business.
However, it’s dumb because I am in the minority of those who liked The Last Jedi for doing something different and didn’t like The Force Awakens for copying someone else’s homework. It’s dumb because I like when movies try to be movies for the sake of sharing stories and not to sap every dollar away from me with epic memes, overindulgent nostalgia, and pretty lightshows. It’s dumb because to do this upon the heels of the previous film having an “underwhelming” $1.32 billion box office revenue (Force Awakens had over $2 billion) feels all the more vapid and putridly corporate. The more it happens, the more it convinces me that profit is the antithesis of soul. The moment one creates in the pursuit of profit, the soul is dead. This might be why I tend to empathize much more with indie developers than big-name companies.
Granted, this is only a teaser trailer, and it didn’t really show much from the film itself, particularly with any sort of story or a tone outside of “whoa epic omg.” It’s possible (Disney, J.J. Abrams… not likely) that it won’t end up as another safe and profit-friendly storyline that “celebrates” the history of Star Wars through reviving old characters and using old conflicts. This post could end up biting me in the ass a year from now, or it could serve as another indication of my cynical taste in various art forms. Whatever the case, I’m left pessimistic of the final film in the mainline Star Wars franchise. I probably should’ve assumed so, but again, hope is a nice thing.
The Rise of Skywalker will be interesting no matter which direction it takes. If it decides to be different, it’ll be interesting to see where it goes. If playing the same-game, it’ll be interesting to see the public opinion on it, even if it seems easy to predict that the majority will love it because the majority are—Alright, I think I better stop there before I say something I’ll regret. I will probably see it in theaters, but likely not right away because I don’t like giving Disney money and I suspect debut showings to be super pricey, much like The Last Jedi was. Until then, I look forward to getting mad again at any and all future trailers for the film closer to its release this Christmas.
What did you think of the teaser trailer? Do you think you’ll see it day one?
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Thank you for your time. Have a great day.