Jedi Fallen Order Part 15: Disney Broke Star Wars

By Shamus Posted Thursday Nov 26, 2020

Filed under: Retrospectives 247 comments

Like I said last time, Rian Johnson used The Last Jedi to explore and mess with Star Wars tropes. I found it frustrating, but other people loved it because it gave them wonderful moments that weren’t possible in the old framework.

If you listen to the folks who love / appreciate the movie, you’ll find all sorts of comments like, “Star Wars never showed us [thing] before, and it’s exactly what I’ve always wanted to see!” My favorite is this video from Jill Bearup, who basically went out and pursued stage fighting as a new career / hobby based entirely on her love for the throne room fight against the Praetorian Guard in The Last Jedi. I didn’t appreciate the movie, but I do appreciate how much other people appreciated it, if you see what I mean.

In any case, Johnson’s fondness for punking the audience with their own genre expectations creates room for a sort of meta-level analysis that pokes fun at the genre itself. “Yes, you expected A to happen because A is what these stories always do, but really B makes more sense, except it feels like it doesn’t because we’re used to A, but doesn’t B sort of render the whole thing nonsensical? But does that mean the genre itself is nonsensical?” It’s a style of movie that draws attention to its own genre and deliberately breaks your immersion to think about the fact that you’re watching a movie. See also: Spec Ops: The Line

Q: Why do I have to stupidly drop white phosphorus on these people? 

A: Because you always do this kind of thing in these sorts of games, except here you’re getting a “more realistic” outcome.

Okay, fine. You don't want to train her. Can you at least not be a complete asshole about it?
Okay, fine. You don't want to train her. Can you at least not be a complete asshole about it?

I love this sort of thing. I think it’s fun to examine a genre through trope perversion / subversion. Heck, half the jokes in DM of the Rings were pitting the tropes of High Fantasy against the completely incompatible tropes of tabletop gaming.

Having said all of that…

Genre demolition is not the sort of thing you do in the context of the second act of an ultra-traditionalist story, you absolute LUNATICS!


So on one hand we have traditionalists that find these genre-twisting tricks to be frustrating and off-putting because they just want their heartwarming adventure with the characters they love doing all the archetypical things we love them for. On the other side are people that have been waiting for a breath of fresh air like this and who found the slavish mechanical imitation of The Force Awakens to be obnoxious, distracting, and boring. These are both perfectly valid reactions to these moviesAnd I feel a little of both!, and the only reason we’re at odds is because Disney pulled this change mid-story.

What Was Disney Thinking?

Okay, stop me if you've heard this one before...
Okay, stop me if you've heard this one before...

Disney’s handling of the sequel trilogy is incomprehensible to me. They began with handing the series to J. J. Abrams. Abrams directed, and the script was written by Lawrence Kasdan. Kasdan was a writer on both Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Disney began this series by very deliberately embracing a sort of ultra-traditionalism that bordered on orthodoxy.

I’m not the biggest fan of Abrams, even though he’s an amazing imitative and technical filmmakerInsert worn-out lens flare joke here.. In Super 8 he did an incredible job of capturing the look and feel of early-period Speilberg. That’s not easy! Countless starry-eyed hopefuls have tried to imitate the Spielberg styleThe first Transformers movie has a lot of quasi-Spielberg moments that don’t work at all because Michael Bay is far too crass and cynical to sell it. and wound up creating cringy schlock. In fact, I think Abrams is the only filmmaker besides Robert Zemeckis to successfully capture Spielberg’s particular gift for manipulating the mood and attention of the audience. 

Abrams gets the surface-level stylistic details right, but Super 8 lacks the heartfelt sentimentality that powers so many of Spielberg’s whimsical creations. 

The Force Awakens is a similar kind of deal. On the surface level it looks and sounds like an amped-up version of the original movie, down to the relentlessly methodical recycling of plot points. But beneath the surface it’s lacking in conviction. It doesn’t have anything to say about the world or its characters. It’s the cinematic equivalent of someone posting “Yeah! I agree!” It was technically spectacularMan, those X-wings flying in over the water still gets me as something that never happened in the original trilogy, and yet somehow looks SO RIGHT. and emotionally shallow. It’s not a terrible movie, but also not something I’d watch more than onceFor contrast, I’ve watched the originals dozens of times.

Search your feelings, BB-8. I am your father.
Search your feelings, BB-8. I am your father.

So the fans complained, and Disney immediately over-corrected in the most extreme way possible. They went from slavish imitation to merciless deconstruction. Those two ideas are completely at odds, and you can’t construct a story when different parts of it disagree on such a fundamental level. 

Then when some fans didn’t like the deconstruction, they tried to jump back to ultra-traditionalism. But you simply can’t make a traditionalist story using the deconstructionist foundation that Johnson left behind. It’s like trying to make Shazam a sequel to Watchmen. I love both of those movies, but they’re ice cream and chili. They aren’t designed to go together.

Worse, they didn’t even bring Kasdan back to write it. Disney left (or allowed) Abrams to write the thing. I can imagine very few pairings that are more incompatible than Demolition Man Rian Johnson and the mechanical style-over-substance traditionalism of JJ Abrams.

Fans complain that The Last Jedi didn’t leave any plot hooks for the third movie. Other people counter that no, you could totally do a third movie where Kylo is the main bad guy and both the Resistance and the First Order are in tatters. I think both sides are right. Someone could indeed make a good story out of what The Last Jedi left behind, but J.J. Abrams is not that someone. TLJ takes the universe in a new direction, and thus J.J. couldn’t continue the story by copying scenes and plot points from earlier films. 

For Johnson, tropes are constructs to be questioned, subverted, or obliterated. For Abrams, tropes are a crutch that he uses to fill in the bits where emotions and logic would go. This pairing is like having a Frank Zappa / Rebecca Black double act. One flouts formulaic constructs and the other is constructed entirely of formula. It’s not just dissonant, it forms a feedback loop of ever-amplifying dissonance that tears everything else apart. 


Link (YouTube)

The other curious detail is that the movies don’t even do a good job of following through on character arcs. It would be one thing if Disney was experimenting with tone and style while sticking to some tried-and-true formula. I would understand if they took one of their standard story templates and fiddled with making them “darker” or “more nuanced” or whatever. But the trilogy seems to fumble on the basics. Our three leads Rey, Finn, and Poe don’t have particularly strong motivations, and the motivations they do have aren’t linked to the overall story of overcoming the First Order. This is something that Disney usually gets right, even if they fail at everything else.

This means that even if we could untangle all of the odd structural problems of the trilogy and fix the strange pacing issues, and even if we could get all the movies on the same page tonally and thematically, we’d still have this oddly unsatisfying story where it’s not clear what our characters needParticularly Poe and Finn. and the needs they do express aren’t always served by the overall plot of fighting the bad guys.

Note to people reading this article from the archives: It’s not part of this retrospective, but earlier this week I had a post on Rise of Skywalker. It’s not required reading here, but it does tie into this discussion of Disney’s handling of the franchise.

I think a deconstructionist take on Star wars is a fine idea. I might not personally dig it, but I’m old and I’m not in the 18-34 target demo here. Maybe the kids don’t want more of grandpa’s Star Wars. In a broad sense, experimentation isn’t just good, it’s necessary for the long-term survival of the work. Just, you know, do that experiment as a standalone movie, show, or trilogy and not in the middle of something completely incompatible. 

Different is Good!

All I can remember is that the end of this game was an unfinished patchwork, and there was a really annoying section with a droid that was totally pointless.
All I can remember is that the end of this game was an unfinished patchwork, and there was a really annoying section with a droid that was totally pointless.

In a lot of ways, Knights of the Old Republic II was exactly that sort of isolated departure, and that game has tons of fans that love the game despite the rough edges and technical problems. That game challenged the established black-and-white simplicity of the Jedi and the ForceDisclosure: It’s been years since I played through KOTOR II and I’m SUPER hazy on the particulars of the story now. I’m just repeating the impressions and discussions I remember having in decades past.. It’s fine that it doesn’t agree with the idealism of the first KOTOR game, because the second one wasn’t trying to fulfill character arcs and story beats created by the first. Each story could stand on its own.

In short, Rian Johnson did his job. Disney hired a demolitionist, and he dutifully demolished The Force Awakens. Imagine if they hired Zack Snyder and he made a slow, colorless mope of a movie where the heroes don’t believe in anything and there’s no joy in victory. Do we blame Snyder for doing what he always does, or do we blame Disney for hiring the wrong person at the wrong time? I lean towards the latter.

I think it would have been better if they’d given Johnson the whole trilogy instead of just the middle. I might not have liked it, but someone would have liked it and Johnson’s trilogy would at least be tonally and thematically consistent with itselfOkay, I know one of the main criticisms with TLJ is that Johnson was wildly inconsistent when applying his themes. Based on the success of his other work, I’m sort of assuming this wouldn’t have been a problem if he wasn’t playing tug-of-war with Abram’s traditionalism. This is all speculation and your mileage may vary. rather than being this oddly unorthodox middle chapter in an otherwise hyper-orthodox story.

They over-corrected in the jump from Force Awakens to Last Jedi, and then again when going from Last Jedi to Rise of Skywalker. Both of these moves were gutless and fickle, and revealed a profound lack of artistic integrity. In trying to please everyone, Disney made a trilogy that couldn’t please anyone. 

If You Fail to Plan…

Here the Mass Effect 2 writer is blowing up the premise established by the Mass Effect 1 writer. This is also how Rian Johnson treated J.J. Abram's setup, and how J.J. Abrams treated Johnson's contributions.
Here the Mass Effect 2 writer is blowing up the premise established by the Mass Effect 1 writer. This is also how Rian Johnson treated J.J. Abram's setup, and how J.J. Abrams treated Johnson's contributions.

I hear people defend Disney saying, “Lots of good series (like the original trilogy) aren’t planned ahead!” I heard the same defense regarding Mass Effect. It’s also true that George Burns smoked cigars and lived to be 100, but that doesn’t mean smoking is a good way to increase your life expectancy. Just because some people have successfully improvised  trilogies doesn’t mean that doing so is a smart way to run a billion-dollar franchise.

Moreover, the original trilogy had freedoms that no subsequent story can ever have. Back then, the universe was a blank canvas. Did Darth Vader really kill Luke’s dad? Can anyone – like Han Solo – learn to use the force, or does it require some special gift? Are there any other Jedi hiding elsewhere in the galaxy that could join us in the second or third movies? What other powers can Jedi have? How many Jedi were there in the Republic? What did they do? Did they get married and have families? Is Vader the only evil Jedi, or is that a regular thing in this universe?

Each new entry in the series adds another block of continuity and lore that must be respected by later stories. It gradually becomes harder to find places to add new things that don’t contradict what came before. Like a game of Jenga, the longer it goes on, the less freedom you have. Which means you need to take your time and make careful plans before you do something, even though that sort of caution wasn’t strictly necessary when the world was new.

You can do a re-creationist story like Abrams was originally going forI mean, if you HAVE to. Not my first choice., or you can do an iconoclastic story like Rian Johnson madeTastes vary., or you could try to do something evolutionary like Rogue OneNot that Rogue One didn’t have its flaws, but it was a story that felt like it was trying to take the existing material in a slightly new direction rather than just repeating itself or flipping the table. or The Mandalorian, but you need to pick one of these and stick with it during a story. You don’t need to write out every script and plan out every merchandising tie-in ahead of time. Just… have a destination in mind. Figure out what kind of story you’re trying to tell before you film the fucking movies.

I can understand why some people embraced the way Rian Johnson switched things up, and I can also understand why some people found it off-putting in ways that were difficult to articulate. So many criticisms of The Last Jedi focus on the relative power levels of the characters, the nuance of chain of command, and the technical details of what Star Wars technology can and can’t do. I think these criticisms are symptoms of a more fundamental tonal problem that’s harder for folks to identify. If the movies had nailed the expected feel of Star Wars, then fans would have been far less inclined to focus on the mechanical details of the story. 

It’s a bit like Commander Shepard suddenly working for Cerberus. Sure, there are lots of plot holes and contrivances with that setup, but the real killer was the fact that the writer changed the thematic and tonal thrust of the story so that Commander Shepard was no longer an explorer trying to solve an ancient mystery, but a soldier trying to prepare an apathetic galaxy for war. That shift blew the story apart, and all of the gripes about Cerberus are just collateral damageAlthough the fact that the Cerberus stuff was sloppily constructed didn’t help.. Most of us would have (very grudgingly) accepted the retcon of Cerberus if the writer hadn’t changed the direction of the story and the goal of the protagonist in the opening of the second act.

So What IS The “Feel” of Star Wars, Shamus?


Link (YouTube)

Shit. Did I just plow through two entries and I still haven’t gotten to the point? Let’s just pretend I’m doing a deliberate nod to Mass Effect / Sequel Trilogy by wasting the second entry on things that ultimately go nowhere. In the third entry I’m going to somehow pull everything together and it’ll all suddenly make sense and result in a satisfying resolution and everyone will be happy and it’ll all be worth it and people will love me again. 

I promise!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to consult with a focus group and ask them what sorts of things I should put in this final entry.

Hang on, this is the wrong video game. Oh well. Whatever.
Hang on, this is the wrong video game. Oh well. Whatever.

 

Footnotes:

[1] And I feel a little of both!

[2] Insert worn-out lens flare joke here.

[3] The first Transformers movie has a lot of quasi-Spielberg moments that don’t work at all because Michael Bay is far too crass and cynical to sell it.

[4] Man, those X-wings flying in over the water still gets me as something that never happened in the original trilogy, and yet somehow looks SO RIGHT.

[5] For contrast, I’ve watched the originals dozens of times.

[6] Particularly Poe and Finn.

[7] Disclosure: It’s been years since I played through KOTOR II and I’m SUPER hazy on the particulars of the story now. I’m just repeating the impressions and discussions I remember having in decades past.

[8] Okay, I know one of the main criticisms with TLJ is that Johnson was wildly inconsistent when applying his themes. Based on the success of his other work, I’m sort of assuming this wouldn’t have been a problem if he wasn’t playing tug-of-war with Abram’s traditionalism. This is all speculation and your mileage may vary.

[9] I mean, if you HAVE to. Not my first choice.

[10] Tastes vary.

[11] Not that Rogue One didn’t have its flaws, but it was a story that felt like it was trying to take the existing material in a slightly new direction rather than just repeating itself or flipping the table.

[12] Although the fact that the Cerberus stuff was sloppily constructed didn’t help.



From The Archives:
 

247 thoughts on “Jedi Fallen Order Part 15: Disney Broke Star Wars

  1. MerryWeathers says:

    I feel like if Disney had stuck the landing on TROS then it could have at least the whole trilogy could have been decent, not as great as the OT, but something like the new Planet of the Apes trilogy. It’s such a shame really.

    Well, at least The Mandalorian will serve me well for future SW content.

    1. Amstrad says:

      The Mandalorian has done good *so far* but I’m constantly on edge about it. It feels like an inevitability that the other shoe drops and we end up with a mess. I really hope I’m wrong and I think we’ll get through this second season just fine. But if it keeps getting renewed it seems like something will go wrong and spoil it.

      1. stratigo says:

        Favreau has started adding in his own wider universe from the cartoons into the show. It’s not too too obtrusive yet, but I’ve seen some people worry about the expanding scale

      2. Bubble181 says:

        I’m very worried – I love it so far, but adding in characters from other shows I haven’t seen, like Ahsoka, is a dangerous balancing act. I assume she’s already had a buncgh of character development, an arc, etc etc in Rebels (or whatever show it was). I’m sure she’s a great character, or she wouldn’t be a fan favorite. But just like in an NCIS/NCIS LA (or whatever) crossover, you have to manage to introduce these “new” characters to half your audience, while also making sure not to bore those who already know them; stay true to their characters and motivations yet achieve something worthwhile in 1 or 2 episodes; and make sure not to mischaracterize anyone by being too brief or cutting a corner because the other fans will eviscerate you.

        1. Kamica says:

          I haven’t quite finished Rebels yet, but Ahsoka is mostly from Clone Wars, and features moderately in Rebels, and I suspect she won’t feature super commonly in Mandalorian. I think having cameos from other shows is fine, as long as they don’t become main characters, but remain support characters or even just occasional encounter characters.

          1. Lino says:

            Yup, my dad hasn’t watched either Clone Wars or Rebels (I myself don’t watch Rebels), but I’m sure he won’t have any trouble following the action in this episode. If anything, I think this chapter served as more of a pilot for Ahsoka’s own series. This is why it had so many references to Clone Wars and the EU – to get the hardcore fans hyped up. As a whole, I really liked it.

  2. Joe says:

    I liked both TFA and TLJ. One can enjoy chili, then ice cream. Some may even like ice cream first, I’m not going to judge. But here’s something funny. Apparently Chris Avellone didn’t like TLJ. Which is odd, because it touches on some of the same deconstructionist themes. Luke is in the Kreia role. Someone who’s had it up to here with the Jedi philosophy and the Force in general. Also, Avellone is on the MeToo naughty list, so going forward we can safely ignore his contribution.

    Oh, and Rian Johnson came on board before TFA was released. That’s why he made the Falcon dice a thing. They were supposed to have a bigger part in TFA, but it got cut.

    As for Kazdan, he apparently chose not to come back. He got Star Wars out of his system with Solo. Instead we got Chris Terrio, who wrote Batman vs Superman and Justice League. JJ said that he’d admired Terrio for a while, and wanted to work with him. Assuming that’s true, and Terrio wasn’t forced on JJ by Kathleen Kennedy, I’m baffled. Maybe Terrio has some really good unproduced material.

    Anyone seen Johnson’s other movies? Is he deconstructionist there? Like I said last week, I saw about a half hour each of Brick and Looper, and the trailer to Knives Out. I’m idlly curious as to his normal style.

    1. MerryWeathers says:

      Which is odd, because it touches on some of the same deconstructionist themes. Luke is in the Kreia role. Someone who’s had it up to here with the Jedi philosophy and the Force in general.

      I do think a fundamental difference between Luke and Kreia was that the former was cynical while the latter was a pessimist. Luke only criticized the Jedi (while still being attached to it deep down) and accepted the Force for what it was. Kreia meanwhile, despised the Force and seeked to free herself and the galaxy of it.

      Anyone seen Johnson’s other movies? Is he deconstructionist there? Like I said last week, I saw about a half hour each of Brick and Looper, and the trailer to Knives Out. I’m idlly curious as to his normal style.

      I’ve only seen three (Looper, The Last Jedi, and Knives Out) and out of all of them, The Last Jedi is the closest to being a deconstruction (I personally consider it a reconstruction instead which is why I don’t fully agree with that classification), Looper is a standard drama story and Knives Out is more of a subversion (which is to be expected in a whodunnit film).

      1. Daimbert says:

        I do think a fundamental difference between Luke and Kreia was that the former was cynical while the latter was a pessimist. Luke only criticized the Jedi (while still being attached to it deep down) and accepted the Force for what it was. Kreia meanwhile, despised the Force and seeked to free herself and the galaxy of it.

        She’s also actually the VILLAIN, so we don’t need to accept her view as being ultimately right, nor do we really need to redeem her of it. She’s also a new character and so the game itself can show her fall without having to deal with her having a fundamentally different attitude that needs to be adjusted to fit the new one.

        This is speaking as someone who hates the character, mostly because in the day-to-day interactions with her none of my characters would be able to stand her and would ignore her as much as possible.

        1. John says:

          She’s also actually the VILLAIN, so we don’t need to accept her view as being ultimately right, nor do we really need to redeem her of it.

          I don’t think Kreia is wrong. I mean, yes, her plan is stupid because that’s not how the Force works and she ought to know better given that, as an ex-Jedi master and current Sith master, she should be an expert in these things. But the central tenet of Kreia’s philosophy is “the galaxy is a horrible, doomed place and everyone sucks but me”, and this is exactly how I feel every time I play KotOR II.

          1. Thomas says:

            That’s the choice of you as the player and interpreter though. The thing about Kreia is you can decide.

            1. John says:

              I’m not sure what you’re getting at. I can agree or disagree with a fictional character in a movie just as easily as I can agree or disagree with a fictional character in a game.

              1. Daimbert says:

                Well, following on from my point, Kreia is the villain of the piece, not a hero, so we don’t need to accept her view. We can reject it wholesale, as many do. We can accept the idea that the galaxy sucks except for the player character but think she’s going about it the wrong way. We can accept her view that the Force is the issue without accepting that her solution is the right one. We can, therefore, accept all of her views excluding that we should just let her finish her ritual or not as we so choose. And even if we reject all of her thinking, we don’t need to redeem her and bring her back to proper thinking. She’s a villain, so we can simply stop her and kill her.

                Luke is a hero of the OT. He’s presented as a hero in TFA. So either he is right and we should think he’s right, or he’s wrong and should be redeemed and converted back to proper thinking. That leaves less room and makes it all the more difficult, because he has to be reasonable in some sense, and yet wrong in a way where he can be convinced that he’s wrong and acknowledge and act on that acknowledgement. That’s a lot more difficult to pull off.

                In essence, we can think that Kreia was pretty much right or completely full of it and the ending would work equally well. It doesn’t really matter that much who we agree with, and again her being completely wrong in our eyes arguably works best. For Luke, him being completely wrong begs an explanation for how he could go so wrong and yet be able to be convinced of how wrong he is and return, which then suggests his wrongness should be more nuanced, which then runs the risk of us thinking he is right and that the others — and, ultimately, the movie — are idiots for convincing him otherwise.

                1. John says:

                  While I haven’t seen The Last Jedi, it seems pretty clear to me that Luke isn’t the hero of that film and that the film doesn’t expect you to agree with him. Also, while Luke is in the film, the film is not entirely about Luke. If there’s a problem there, it doesn’t seem very serious to me. Knights of the Old Republic II, by contrast, has a very serious Kreia problem. The game is entirely about Kreia. You can’t get away from her. She follows you telepathically even if you try to leave her on the ship. The rightness, wrongess, and general plausibility of her views are therefore central to whether the game works for you or not. You’re right that it really doesn’t matter if you agree with her or not, but it should and that is a major failing on the game’s part.

                  1. Daimbert says:

                    Luke is a hero. Yes, he’s not the focus, but he’s a hero, and as a hero we’re, well, expected to in some way like him. TFA makes it clear that the Resistance has a great deal of respect for him. This gives his ideas and views respect as well, and forces us to think about them and so either conclude that he is right and then that by extension the other heroes talking him out of them are wrong, or else that he is wrong but wrong in a way that he can be shown the light. That, again, narrows what you can do.

                    As noted, Kreia, while more prominent, is an antagonist and villain. That means that while you have to disagree with some part of her ideas, it doesn’t really matter when you do. You need to at least think that her approach is wrong, but you can agree with her philosophy and still oppose her. Or oppose her BECAUSE you disagree with her philosophy. Either way, the game works.

                    And I think that this freedom of thought is one thing that people LIKE about Sith Lords. You don’t have to agree with the subversions in order to enjoy the game, and can enjoy even if you strongly disagree with them. This is what was lacking in TLJ, and part of the reason is that the subversions were happening between heroic characters, leaving less room for nuance and ambiguities. You can agree with one side and then the other side looks stupid, or agree with both and then both sides look stupid for not realizing that they can compromise and are both right. In Sith Lords, you don’t have to agree with anyone … even yourself.

                    1. John says:

                      Eh, I think that the people who like Knights of the Old Republic II mostly like it for the subversions. It somehow has a certain reputation for sophisticated writing. That’s my impression from reading comments about it here and elsewhere over the years anyway.

                      Having not seen The Last Jedi, I will leave off arguing about the film. I still think you are wrong about Kreia, however. It would be one thing if Kreia was, like Malak, simply a bad person who occasionally shows up to try to kill you. Her views wouldn’t matter in the slightest then. But Kreia is your first companion, your mentor whether you like it or not, and she stays with you–and lectures you–for the entire game. The game may not necessarily expect you to embrace Kreia’s views, but because the game spends so very, very much time relating them they become central to her credibility and suitability as the central antagonist. If you agree with Kreia, it should be a tragedy when Kreia forces you to kill her. If you disagree with her, then killing her should be a relief or a vindication or possibly even a tragedy again, depending on your attitude. No matter where you come down on Kreia’s philosophy, she has to be a compelling character with compelling, even if misguided, views in order for the game’s climax to work to its full potential. In that sense, her views absolutely matter and, as far as I can tell, she suffers from exactly the same sort of problems you’re describing with respect to Luke in The Last Jedi.

                    2. stratigo says:

                      Luke is wrong. The movie makes it clear luke’s wrong. He suffered a defeat and let it crush him. Rey helps build him back up.

                      The text of the film doesn’t agree with luke, he doesn’t end the film with the same ideas he started, and, like, Rey walks away with the jedi order texts.

                  2. Thomas says:

                    Luke is the hero/mentor of The Last Jedi and it’s the intent that you believe he’s right about the force, but nit the grumpy stuff and the paranoid moment he has when training Kylo.

                    There’s not much in-narrative space to believe Luke is wrong.

                    1. John says:

                      From what you just said, it sounds like you have enough space to believe that he’s about 50% wrong.

                    2. Thomas says:

                      Yes, but not about the deconstructions. The stuff he’s wrong about, he’s textually wrong about.

                    3. MerryWeathers says:

                      I would say Luke does have a point in what he says about the failures of the Jedi and how the Force requires balance but he’s wrong in how he went about dealing with the issue which is something he learns to accept in the movie.

                    4. Nate says:

                      “There’s not much in-narrative space to believe that Luke is wrong”

                      Unfortunately the whole structure of the movie – or large parts of it – also argues that Luke’s stance of strict non-interventionism is correct

                      That is, Poe and Finn’s arcs *directly* parallel Luke’s exile. Both Poe and Finn see what they think is a problem (Holdo, the codebreaker), do something they think is heroic (mutiny, go to Canto Bight) to solve the problem and save others – and are immediately harshly punished by the movie for doing this when they should have stayed isolated and not intervened. This was preceded for Poe and Finn at the beginning (Finn tries to leave and is tasered: Poe bombs the FO ship and is demoted) and is repeated again for Poe and Finn on Craig: Poe has to pull back the speeders, Finn is prevented from ramming the laser. The constant theme of the movie is “don’t act. Acting is bad”.

                      Even Rey’s act of confronting Kylo fails, and merely makes Kylo stronger.

                      So when Luke states as a philosophy that “acting is bad”, it doesn’t feel like the director disagrees with him, since all the other heroes also have to learn this ” lesson”.

                      (But Holdo’s suicide goes against this pattern yet is celebrated, so the movie isn’t completely coherent on this theme.)

                    5. krellen says:

                      Acting for the sake of acting is bad. That’s what Poe, Finn – and even Luke, in the flashbacks – were doing. They had no idea what to do, or what was actually wrong, but decided to act just so they weren’t doing nothing. And that’s what the film said was bad.

                2. Mr. Wolf says:

                  Luke is a hero of the OT. He’s presented as a hero in TFA. So either he is right and we should think he’s right, or he’s wrong and should be redeemed and converted back to proper thinking.

                  When you put it like that, it’s kind of creepy. Like an 80’s cartoon where the kid with legitimate concerns or earnest queries gets shouted down for being non-conformist.

                  1. Daimbert says:

                    Well, it’s not against everything he is thinking, but if a heroic character falls into a strong disagreement with the current heroes, then even if the two sides have valid concerns at least one side of them has to admit they were wrong about something. We can have compromise where both sides admit they were wrong, but at the end our heroes have to be right and if they weren’t right in the beginning they have to be convinced of what’s right. The only other way to go is to make it a tragedy with a fallen hero, and that would have been even worse for Luke than what we got.

                    1. Sartharina says:

                      Why though? Why do your heroes have to be flawless and infallible?

            2. Gautsu says:

              Considering if you listen well enough with high enough stat checks you can break Kreia of her own beliefs in the end, I am pretty sure that her whole system of belief isn’t the way the galaxy actually is.

    2. John says:

      I’ve seen Brick and Knives Out but I haven’t seen Looper, The Brothers Bloom, or The Last Jedi, so I can’t make definitive statements about Johnson’s entire body of work. That said, Shamus is overselling the “Johnson is a deconstructionist!” angle. The Last Jedi may or may not be a deconstruction of Star Wars, but neither Brick nor Knives Out are deconstructions of their respective genres. Brick a straightforward love letter to hard boiled detective fiction and film noir. There’s nothing unusual about it at all except for the age of the characters. Johnson is more interested in playing with audience expectations in Knives Out, but I’ll point out that even that film begins and ends in classic murder-mystery style.

      I think that if you’re interested one of the specific genres that Johnson is working in–so far he seems to like detectives, con men, mysteries, time travel, and possibly sci-fi more generally–it’s probably worth checking out his work. I have so far declined to watch The Last Jedi because it’s the sequel to The Force Awakens, but if I ever do break down and watch one of the sequels that’ll be the one I start with.

      1. Gethsemani says:

        Johnson to me seems more like the kind of film maker who likes to play with both audience expectations and the components of movies. He wants to prod at things, twist them around and shake them up to see what happens both with the movie itself and with the audience reception. What he doesn’t like to do is just tell plain story by the numbers, at the very least he wants something unexpected to happen.

        1. John says:

          I don’t know why I have to keep typing this–I’ve been doing it for days now!–but I’ll repeat myself once again. Brick is a plain story told by the numbers.

          1. evileeyore says:

            And Looper is a paint-by-the-numbers-stay-within-the-lines Grandpa/Father/Grandson time travel paradox movie. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a mildly clever and amusing take on the “you caused all your problems and solutions” time travel movie, but that’s exactly what it is.

        2. Joe Informatico says:

          Basically, he’s a big fan of mysteries, and likes to bring mystery tropes into genres where maybe it’s not very common (high school movies, time-travel stories) but unlike JJ he also likes to resolve his mysteries.

      2. Darker says:

        If you want to see a good time travel movie that actually makes sense then avoid Looper.

        1. Syal says:

          If you want to see a time travel movie make sense you should avoid time travel movies as a whole, really.

          1. Kathryn says:

            I dunno, that one with Denzel Washington was pretty good.

          2. kincajou says:

            I dunno, i still stick with “Primer” as the best time travel movie i’ve seen to date

          3. Darker says:

            On the contrary, the good ones definitely do make sense. Something like 12 Monkeys, Tenet (except for a few minor inconsistencies), or the obscure indie Timecrimes and Triangle. My jury is still out on Primer, I feel I will need to rewatch it a few more times to understand what is really going on.

            1. Christopher Wolf says:

              If you want time travel stories to make sense the time machine needs to have incredible ability to travel both in time and space. The most famous time machine that works in that regard is the Tardis.

              Otherwise you go back a year and the planet Earth is no where near where you plop out. Heck you go back a few minutes and you either are in space or somewhere deep in the earth.

              1. Darker says:

                The actual physics of time travel is beside the point, it can be always assumed that whatever mechanism is used for time travel also accounts for earth rotation and universe expansion and whatnot.

                All I require is that time travel depicted in the movie has some fixed rules and the movie sticks to them. Either there is only ever a single timeline and the past is immutable despite the time travel (thus creating time loops where future affects the past which in turn affects the future), or alternately each visit to the past creates an independent timeline that no longer has any effect on the original timeline (no time loops here). A lot of time travel movies tend to muddle the two approaches in a way that makes no sense. In Looper specifically it’s implied that Bruce Willis by travelling to the past and trying to kill the kid version of the future villain actually caused the kid to become the villain in the first place. This would would be a classic time loop, except the loop is immediately undid by Bruce Willis’s younger version killing himself (and this only results in disappearance of Bruce Willis with no other impact on the rest of the reality which makes even less sense).

                Anyway to steer the discussion back to Star Wars let me express a wish that the next SW trilogy would be directed by Christopher Nolan with Force time travel being a major plot element :)

              2. Zagzag says:

                Primer does solve that particular problem, if I remember correctly. The time machine in Primer is basically just a box where time runs backwards on the inside, so you have to physically set it up in the time/place you want to return to and then leave it for a while before you can do any time travel with it (and you are then limited to only being able to go back to a very specific starting point). There’s no magical popping into existence (and associated geographical problems) at the press of a button, and the box itself obeys all of the usual physical laws (on the outside at least) the whole time.

                It’s definitely worth a watch if you’re at all interested in time travel stories, and has a well deserved reputation for having extremely consistent rules that avoid a lot of the usual time travel tropes, and also being too complicated to follow without watching it three times and then consulting a diagram.

      3. Syal says:

        I had a very mildly positive view on Knives Out. It’s a heavily subversive murder mystery; the audience knows all the answers to the mysteries at the end of character introductions, with the exception of the final mystery (which is not who the murderer is; that one’s revealed halfway through and it really takes the steam out of the second half).

        Looper is classic “time travel doesn’t have to make sense” dream logic silliness. There’s blunderbusses and gold bullion and psychic powers and Emily Blunt and it’s silly.

        I saw The Brothers Bloom a while back but don’t remember much of it. It was conmen so subversion is formula.

      4. The Puzzler says:

        Knives Out begins and ends as a traditional murder mystery, but is something else in the middle act.

        Is Knives Out a metaphor for the Disney Star Wars trilogy?

        1. John says:

          Eh, no, because, now that I think of it, while the movie is fairly Agatha Christie-ish at the beginning and end it’s virtually an episode of Columbo in the middle. Arguably, then, it’s classic murder-mystery all the way through.

      5. GloatingSwine says:

        I mean playing with the audience’s expectations, setting up misconceptions and misdirections, and then pulling it all together at the end is what a murder mystery does….

        The whole point of the genre is to put the clues in front of the audience but make them misguess anyway due to the manner of the presentation.

        1. Rho says:

          To which point, Knives Out was pretty obvious at least for me. I picked the right person and method and realized it really made no sense before the halfway mark. Checked tvtropes to confirm and then turned the movie off, because the plot just wasn’t good enough without the mystery. I liked everything about it except the actual story being told unfortunately.

    3. Dotec says:

      If Avellone and Johnson don’t see eye to eye, I’m guessing it comes down to execution. KOTOR 2 feels like it manages to respect the source material while also giving it a firm interrogation. Kreia is a little bit of a self-insert for the writer, but she still comes off as an actual inhabitant of the universe with an ideology somebody could plausibly hold in the setting. By comparison, in TLJ it feels like I’m constantly seeing Johnson’s hand, performing tricks HE thinks are clever and likely to rile the audience. TLJ’s subversions feel mechanical and High School-tier, and KOTOR 2’s feel earned and consistently built up. It certainly doesn’t hurt the game that it’s a more “talky” affair with room to breathe, and the pedigree inherited from Planescape Torment does a lot of heavy lifting.

      Also, PSA: Chris Avellone isn’t gay.

    4. BlueHorus says:

      Also, Avellone is on the MeToo naughty list, so going forward we can safely ignore his contribution.

      Eesh. I hope that you’re joking.

      Not that I’m endorsing what he did, but there is something very creepy about the the idea of dismissing someone’s creative work because of something bad they did in a different sphere of life.

      1. John says:

        Given the use of the phrase “naughty list” and the contents of the link, I’d be surprised if Dotec is serious about any of that.

      2. LoneLizard says:

        I’d be careful to assume the spheres can be separated, in practice. Being difficult to work with can have knock-on effects on other workers.

        But I believe this site at least can agree to stick to his work and respect the quality and ideas of it.

    5. Topher Corbett says:

      it’s because KOTOR 2 was actually good, hth

    6. Joe Informatico says:

      Oh, and Rian Johnson came on board before TFA was released. That’s why he made the Falcon dice a thing. They were supposed to have a bigger part in TFA, but it got cut.

      This is why it’s nonsense for Shamus to suggest that Johnson and Disney were responding to the backlash from TFA when making TLJ. TLJ’s script was finished and approved and already in production before TFA was even released! Johnson wrote TLJ, and wrote an ending that allowed Star Wars to go into a future direction without centering the Skywalker family, and everyone at LucasFilm liked it, and it was the only live-action Star Wars shoot to happen without significant drama or production issues (until the Mandalorian, I guess).

      And would they have really responded to the TFA “backlash” anyway? TFA still has the biggest domestic gross of any film and 4th-highest worldwide. Were they going to upturn the apple cart for a few grumblings? Or was their main concern building a future for the Star Wars brand that didn’t require Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford?

      1. wswordsmen says:

        While I agree Disney was unlikely to have altered course for the criticism of TFA, it would be quite clear to them the next movie could be as close to ESB as TFA was to ANH. The biggest nexus of criticism of TFA was that it was a reskinned ANH. Now that isn’t a bad thing, necessarily, TFA’s job even beyond telling an interesting story or being a good movie, was to convince the audience that Disney could do Star Wars in the OT style. That said TFA was rightly a one and done event in that respect, so TLJ needed to be different, which it likely already was.

    7. INH5 says:

      I liked both TFA and TLJ. One can enjoy chili, then ice cream. Some may even like ice cream first, I’m not going to judge. But here’s something funny. Apparently Chris Avellone didn’t like TLJ. Which is odd, because it touches on some of the same deconstructionist themes. Luke is in the Kreia role. Someone who’s had it up to here with the Jedi philosophy and the Force in general.

      I’ve never actually either played or watched LPs of KOTOR 2 so I can’t speak to that directly, but the obvious difference is that Kreia is a completely new character, so she can be whatever the writer wants her to be. Luke is an established character, so trying to push him into a new, deconstructive direction runs a serious risk of the new material not fitting with what came before. And feeling that it didn’t fit with what came before is pretty central to the complaints of people who didn’t like what they did with Luke in TLJ.

  3. Rariow says:

    This piece triggered something in me that finally made me be able to vocalize why I liked TLJ so much, and why RoS was such a crushing disappointment. I loved TFA too, but it was the one pass I was giving Disney. They were allowed to play it safe and feed me a reskinned Original Trilogy for one film. After that it had to be something new. I’ve been a life long Star Wars superfan, I’ve watched the films more times than I can count, and I’ve delved deep into the EU. Star Wars is really good, but there’s a lot of it and it’s not got that much variety. With the new trilogy I wanted something different but still Star Wars, and that’s what I felt TLJ gave me. KotOR 2 is my favorite bit of Star Wars other than Empire, and TLJ had that same spirit. More importantly, I think TLJ was a promise: “This is Star Wars, but not the same Star Wars. It’s still got all the tropes and feels the same, but we’re taking a completely new perspective.”. What hurts me most about TRoS isn’t that it fairly predictably walks back a lot of the more controversial aspects of TLJ, but that it reads as Disney cancelling that promise. It’s like if as a child your parents bought you the console you’d been wanting for your birthday and you got excited thinking about all the great games you could play on it, only for them to take it away the next day and give you a console you already owned, except it was sticky and dirty and had a weird unpleasant smell coming off of it.

    1. wswordsmen says:

      I hate TLJ and I agree with you about RoS, while I wouldn’t put it as the main reason it is bad, every time it tried to walk back something from TLJ it was without exception a low point in the movie.

    2. Duffy says:

      Same, I was riveted through most of TLJ and while some of it landed better than other bits I thought the whole “force” centric components with Luke Rey and Rey Kylo weren’t just deconstructions and inversions, they were very good call backs to the OT and some of the possibilities hinted at, not to mention blatant hypocrisy of some past characters.

      Was some of Luke a bit over the top at first? Yes, but he did a good job of channeling Yoda’s behavior in ESB with a dash of Obiwan. They covered the “certain point of view” (which Obi wan used as a total cop out of responsibility originally) without ever having to repeat the line itself – those were great bits.

      Then having Yoda appear later to kinda scold Luke and also refute his past self is great. If you recall Yoda was expressly against Luke going to Bespin, so much that he considered it straight up automatic failure and comments to Obi wan they may need to rely on the “other”. This was Yoda’s arrogance and it was a failure of judgement. Without going back to save his friends against Yoda’s advice Luke would not have been who he was and had the connections he needed to overcome the dark side later when confronting his father and the emperor. Yoda basically admits this with his “they surpass us” line in TLJ and his refutation of tradition – which many SW fans see being a leading reason for the Jedi’s downfall via the prequels and related shows.

      Finally the whole throne room scene is great as it’s almost identical to the RotJ one in framing – except it turns out your watching the version where Vader assumed Luke would join him in striking down the emperor and “ruling the galaxy as father and son” but played out with their respective stand ins. It shows how far Kylo has fallen by breaking his connections to other people and how Rey who has lacked them has built them up. It’s a great setup for making Kylo the real villain of the third movie and leaving you open with two options: redeem him and he survives but Rey doesn’t or redeem him but he dies to save Rey (kinda what we got).

      My really big gripe about TLJ? The dialogue was not written in the Star Wars style for the most part and it detracted enough from some of the less quality bits to make them seem even worse than they were, cheesy even in a series that is inherently cheesy.

      1. Falling says:

        Funny. I really did not like the Throne Room scene.
        I already had a total story collapse, but the one thing that I still kinda enjoyed was the Luke-Rey dynamic. (I have some serious problems with how they handled Luke’s character, but it’s hard not to like seeing Hamill and Ridley play off each other.)

        But the throneroom was the tipping point where I disliked absolutely every plotline. I think it’s because Return has such emotional weight that led to getting to that scene. Whereas TLJ copies the mechanics of the scene, but narratively I didn’t think they had earned it. I was watching a lesser mimicry of a far greater scene and I resented the film for it. The dance-like choreographed fight at the end didn’t help matters. Also visually, the throne room looked like Star Wars’ equivalent of the blue screen or the green screen is the red screen- like this was Snoke’s film production studio or something. Didn’t work for me,.

        1. Duffy says:

          I agree it felt rushed, there were two movies of build up and connective tissue to the RotJ throne room showdown. TLJ had half a movie to get there which weakened the connection quite a bit. But the thematic results and character decisions felt fairly good to me (for the force centric plot) they echoed but adjusted what came before without totally abandoning what came before either.

          But while I enjoyed the callbacks and references without them being total copies of the OT like TFA and I’m still a little miffed they didn’t go farther down the grey Jedi concept they appeared to be hinting at and may finally kinda embrace on The Mandalorian – we’ll see.

    3. Zekiel says:

      This is a great comment. I think it sums up quite a bit about why I like the Last Jedi, in spite of its flaws, and why I felt so betrayed by TRoS.

    4. Nate says:

      TROS… It’s like if as a child your parents bought you the console you’d been wanting for your birthday and you got excited thinking about all the great games you could play on it, only for them to take it away the next day and give you a console you already owned, except it was sticky and dirty and had a weird unpleasant smell coming off of it.

      That’s a great analogy and it’s really funny (and speaks to the weird blue-dress-gold-dress part of this whole thing) because that’s EXACTLY how I feel about TLJ!

      I was expecting a cool new Star Wars episode that opened new doors, and instead I got an almost literal scene-for-scene remake of Empire Strikes Back plus a well-worn scene from Return of the Jedi, but with all the characters replaced by angry, unlikeable failures who can’t work together, and a director who deliberately tricks the audience into liking “the wrong characters” just so he can laugh cruelly at their pain when the audience’s hope all goes wrong and many characters die.

      This is my real, actual feeling. I can understand intellectually from your words and my assumption of good faith that you must actually have the exact opposite feeling about TLJ, that it really was the game console you hoped for and filled you with true delight — but, man, our two emotional readings of this movie could not be further apart!

      That’s an interesting thing for a movie to do. Not *good* for a fandom, but sure interesting.

  4. EOW says:

    I think the worst thing of the sequels is that they effectively left us with nothing.
    In the end all characters were either pointless or dead. No character entered the public conscience for better or worse.
    Actors hated working on it, fans had ultimately nothing to chew on and all the characters people cared for are dead.

    Honestly Disney should’ve never tried to do the skywalker saga. I heard they plan for a new time period which i’m curious about, they might be able to do what they want free of expectations

    1. Cubic says:

      It seemed kind of funny-peculiar, at least from a distance, to bring back the old favorite characters and actors for a nostalgic reunion, and crap on them and kill them.

      If they really wanted to have freedom to do something new and less constrained, it would have been easier to just set the last trilogy something like 50 or 100 years after the middle one, right?

      1. Daimbert says:

        And the saddest thing about it is that fans would have been okay with what would have been nothing more than “pass-the-torch” cameos, but the movies made them too central to the plot to get away with that but also needed them out of the way so the new characters could take over.

        1. Falling says:

          Yeah, I would’ve been perfectly fine if the old cast were in the upper echelon’s of power to be seen from time to time, but not the focus of the film. (Your Yodas and Mace Windu’s of the Prequels.)

          Seeing them all turn up as colossal failure personally, occupationally, etc made me rather not have the Sequels at all. Better to go out when you are on top like Calvin and Hobbes:
          “It’s a magical world, ol buddy.’
          “Let’s go exploring!”

          And they are still out there to this day.

  5. Steve C says:

    Yes, you expected A to happen because A is what these stories always do, but really B makes more sense, except it feels like it doesn’t because we’re used to A, but doesn’t B sort of render the whole thing nonsensical?

    This is good summary of Rian Johnson’s movies. Importantly that’s it. He points it out, then claps himself on the back as a job well done. Johnson just likes it when narrative elements crash into each other. That’s enough for him. That is not enough for me. Something has to replace the void that was pointed out. It needs filling.

    The Hero’s Journey is the oldest monomyth. It is the story humans have told across cultures throughout all of history. It has been deconstructed countless times. But it cannot be deconstructed and just left. Like if the Hero gets to “Part 3. Refusal of the Call” and just refuses the call, and nothing else happens… well that isn’t going to be an enjoyable story. Like if Luke decided not to leave Tatooine and decided to farm moisture… that’s a deconstruction. But only if Luke does something or something else happens. It could become a comedy. Comedies and deconstructions pair really well together. (eg. Ghostbusters) But it cannot be an unfunny comedy. It has to still work on its own merit. It cannot just be Luke repairing condensers for another hour. That’s not a story. Thor: Ragnarok is a deconstruction. It is also a comedy. Both of those aspects work on their own. And they work together.

    Rian Johnson subverts the genre, breaks it into pieces then IMO doesn’t do enough with it after that point. JJ Abrams is the other side of the exact same coin. Johnson breaks things apart, and doesn’t do anything with them. While Abrams creates things, then doesn’t do anything with them. I agree they are diametrically opposed. I just feel exactly the same way watching both of their movies. Disney screwed up picking them as directors. They should not be allowed near any existing IP. They are like that bad neighbor kid you should never let near your toys. One will deliberately break them, and the other will forget them on the beach.

    1. Khwarezm says:

      I disagree, I think that overall Johnson clearly was building towards something with more meat to it, I think this is especially the case with Luke, its meant to give him a kind of character arc that shows weaknesses that would be unexpected and off-putting to the audience, and a lot would argue that that interpretation is cynical and doesn’t amount to anything, but fundamentally the film tries to show how Luke changes over the course of events and reclaims his heroic status, but in a slightly different way that’s meant to catch both the characters and audience off guard.

      From his other work, as much as Johnson likes to break things I think he’s pretty good and pulling it all back together to be thematically coherent with proper arcs for most characters. The big issue I have with his Star Wars work is that its ultimately sillborn, he only directed the middle movie in a 3 part trilogy and both other movies were diametrically opposed to whatever he was trying to do in his one, which fundamentally cripples the outcome. If they were smart about this they simply should let Abrams or Johnson have significant control over the entire trilogy personally, at the very least Lucas’s presence, for all its foibles, keeps the other movies mostly dramatically coherent. Without that it was a bizarre ping-ponging between tone, plot points, character interpretations and structure that wrecked the franchise overall.

      1. Daimbert says:

        I disagree, I think that overall Johnson clearly was building towards something with more meat to it,

        I’m not convinced, mostly because he didn’t even manage to put meat on the things that he could have completed — Poe’s arc, for example — so I’m skeptical that he would have had a plan for things to work out better in the last movie.

        You could say that maybe if given the entire trilogy he could have done that, but he did here wasn’t really that.

      2. Steve C says:

        But it does not show Luke. All that change happens off screen. All of the fall from heroic status is told, not shown. All the heroic rise back isn’t even that. It is just implied. Pulling it all back requires more than it just being present.

        1. MerryWeathers says:

          I disagree, the movie does show his fall from heroic status in flashbacks where we see the event that made Luke and Ben the way they were in the present.

          Same with the heroic comeback, throughout the movie he comes close to returning with Rey to the Resistance but changes his mind after witnessing her force bond with Kylo. He tries to recommit to his vow to burn the Jedi Order before being set straight by Yoda, that just because he failed before doesn’t give him an excuse to give up the role he’s meant to fulfill. On Crait, he presents himself as his old Jedi Master appearance in his Force projection, we see him telling Leia that it isn’t too late to redeem Ben, and he displays what a true Jedi would do by resolving the situation non-violently without a shed of blood.

        2. Gethsemani says:

          Arguably the problem of Luke’s fall from grace being told not shown was a problem created by Abrams in TFA as a way to set up the mystery box of where Luke is and what he’s doing. Johnson had to work with the fact that all we knew was that Luke trained Kylo, Kylo turned dark and Luke ran away to a secret planet that is not on any map.

          We are shown Luke rising to the occasion though in his appearance at Krait. That’s Luke overcoming his cynicism and self-pity and owing up to the mistake he made with Kylo. In doing so he also inspires the rebels and creates the Legend of Luke the Jedi Master (which RoS then pisses away like everything else in TLJ) who defeated Kylo Ren without shedding blood.

          1. Nate says:

            In doing so he also inspires the rebels and creates the Legend of Luke the Jedi Master

            But what Luke does on Craig isn’t actually inspiring.

            He appears, fights Kylo, *loses and is fatally stabbed by Kylo*, and dies.

            That’s the opposite of creating a legend. He’s just created a legend for *Kylo* as the Sith greater than Luke, because he killed him. The First Order can cut the biggest propaganda video ever from this encounter, and the Resistance can’t bring Luke out to show he’s not dead – because he is really dead, Kylo really did kill him, really did win that duel.

            (Never mind that Luke trying to fake the galaxy and prop up his reputation with a lie, even if it did work, is really not a Light Side act.)

            If Luke *hadn’t* died from this duel, then yes, he could still be the legend. But Rian killing off Luke inverts his legacy to total failure.

            1. Nate says:

              Further:

              The “Luke dies creating a lie, but a hopeful, important lie” ending of TLJ strikes me the same way as the ending of The Dark Knight – “Bruce covers up Two-Face’s crimes to create a hopeful lie about a noble politician, because the people need big hopeful lies about their leaders or society will fall”.

              I have a VERY strong negative reaction to this trope in both films.

              I guess Hollywood insider, who see the dark side of their industry but need to still find a way to justify it as a force for good, might find themselves attracted to this idea that ” heroes don’t really exist, but the people need a hopeful lie”.

              But me, I’m not. Very not. After MeToo, even more not. I think we’ve had far too many hopeful lies about powerful leaders, and we should stop doing it.

              I don’t have the words to express how forcefully I disagree with the concept of “it’s okay to create fake legends about real people to inspire courage” and so that’s why the uplifting” ending of TLJ did not uplift, but viscerally repulsed, me.

          2. wswordsmen says:

            In doing so he also inspires the rebels and creates the Legend of Luke the Jedi Master

            No he doesn’t because the only people who will spread that lesson are 20 people in a YT-1300. The problem with spawning the “Legend of Luke Skywalker” that way is that there aren’t enough people to spread the lesson, in a reasonable amount of time, and besides that act is far less legend building than what he had already done. The man who destroyed the first Death Star and single handedly defeated the Emperor and Darth Vader is already a way better story to build a legend around than “he showed up and stalled some walkers for a bit while I ran the **** away.”

            One interpretation by TLJ proponents that really bugs me is that Luke sacrificed himself to start a legend and save the galaxy. He didn’t, he did it to save his sister and her friends. That is totally a Luke thing to do and something he would willingly do without question, but it is a much smaller thing than it is made out to be.

        3. Khwarezm says:

          No, this doesn’t take account what they were trying to do thematically, the film is meant to mostly be seen through the eyes of Rey and the other main characters, and as such they aren’t privy to first hand knowledge of the events in question. This is quite deliberate, because it becomes a question of differing interpretations of the same event, as given to Rey by Luke and Kylo. That’s designed to introduce significant ambiguity to how it should be digested, who do you believe about how exactly crucial events went down and why?

          It has to happen off screen for that to work, the audience is as much unsure about the true nature about what happened as Rey is, which makes it hard to know exactly where Luke stands on all of this, and it also further highlights Luke’s self doubt and uncertainty that plagues him through the movie. But then it turns a corner when Luke offers an account that seems more likely to be the honest version of the events that happened when he almost killed Kylo, with a full appreciation of his own weaknesses and failings. That then comes to head with his encounter with Yoda when he understands his role again and realises that he must directly involve himself in events as they happen.

        4. Lati says:

          Very much this. The moment Luke “fell” was when he decided to sneak into Kylo’s room, which is before the flashbacks. For me, Luke’s core character trait is his willingness to do anything to help his friends and family. So if a story is going to show him acting against this trait then it needs to explain why (and that explanation be convincing) and TLJ doesn’t. Instead Luke has already “fallen” by deciding to take the actions the movie shows. Not to mention that Luke has access to 3 force ghosts all of whom wish for him to rebuild a Jedi order and none of whom would advice Luke to take the actions TLJ show’s he took (and we know Yoda at least is still around).

          1. Radkatsu says:

            “The moment Luke “fell” was when he decided to sneak into Kylo’s room”

            Fell? No, that was the moment he was assassinated by a writer who doesn’t understand the first thing about the character or heroism. Luke would never have done that, end of story. Rian Johnson was told to destroy Star Wars and especially Luke, and he did. It’s no more complicated than that. He didn’t care about the character, or telling a good story, or the established lore, or anything else.

            1. MerryWeathers says:

              Fell? No, that was the moment he was assassinated by a writer who doesn’t understand the first thing about the character or heroism. Luke would never have done that, end of story.

              What happened at the hut was what also happened to Luke back in ROTJ, he starts getting influenced by the dark side when his loved ones are endangered by someone he’s related to. He has the choice to kill that relative which could save his family and friends but he doesn’t go through with it because that’s not who he is. It follows the same points except this time he even realizes and regrets what he was about to do much sooner on his own without an evil bad guy pointing it out.

              Rian Johnson was told to destroy Star Wars and especially Luke, and he did. It’s no more complicated than that. He didn’t care about the character, or telling a good story, or the established lore, or anything else.

              You’re doing it again. You’re projecting malice which is literally what Shamus warned everyone against doing in these posts.

              1. Falling says:

                “You’re doing it again. You’re projecting malice which is literally what Shamus warned everyone against doing in these posts.”
                Just as importantly, I think it weakens the point. The first two sentences could stand alone as is.
                In the end, ‘why’ something happened doesn’t really matter and is largely based on speculation. CS Lewis writes about this in his essay on criticism. Critics say a certain passage is bad because it is ‘rushed’. But Lewis points out they have no idea whether it was rushed or not. Perhaps it took a long time to create- but if its poor writing, they have failed to locate ‘wherein lies its badness’.

                Same thing when people accuse the character of Jar Jar Binks as only being their to cater to children. We don’t necessarily know if that is why he is included, but it doesn’t matter. It’s speculation and it’s not identifying WHY Jar Jar is a bad character. He could have been added for purely artistic reasons and yet the badness remains the same.

                Professor Corey Olsen (The Tolkien Professor) calls this ‘Crit fic’ meaning Critic Fiction and it’s very easy to fall into.

                1. MerryWeathers says:

                  Same thing when people accuse the character of Jar Jar Binks as only being their to cater to children. We don’t necessarily know if that is why he is included, but it doesn’t matter. It’s speculation and it’s not identifying WHY Jar Jar is a bad character. He could have been added for purely artistic reasons and yet the badness remains the same.

                  Ironically I feel Jar Jar had more purpose in the story of TPM than Anakin. His character just sucks because I don’t find the whole “aliens doing wacky or stupid stuff in the background” shtick funny so he becomes obnoxious.

                  I don’t even think his role was inherently bad, the “alien character reunites and reconciles with his species” concept is a neat concept. Had ROTJ used Kashyyyk and the Wookies instead of Endor and the Ewoks then that role could have been given to Chewbacca and then finally he would have had something important to do in the OT.

                  1. Falling says:

                    Well, that’s exactly it. Whether or not Jar Jar was included for the children, his role was executed poorly. And that’s what makes him bad.

                    As for Anakin… yeah. I think they started the story in the wrong place. I know Lucas really wanted it, but I don’t think we need to see kid Vader. We needed to jump in media res with the clone wars already going and Anakin as a 20 year old hot shot pilot with a touch of arrogance who is discovered during the war and brought in to become a Jedi.

                    I still like the Separatist idea, but I’d like them break away as a third party (Clones, Republic, Separtists) and keep Dooku as Jedi turned political- therefore a failed Jedi, but also not a Sith. I think that’s way more interesting.

            2. Lati says:

              That’s what I was trying to say. Luke has clearly “fallen” in TLJ but the movie never actually justifies his fall as it happens before the movie. He just has. Thus TLJ assassinates Luke’s character as you say.

      3. MerryWeathers says:

        If they were smart about this they simply should let Abrams or Johnson have significant control over the entire trilogy personally, at the very least Lucas’s presence, for all its foibles, keeps the other movies mostly dramatically coherent.

        Disney did try to get J.J. Abrams to direct the whole trilogy and later Rian Johnson for Ep. IX. The directors rejected the offer to pursue other projects and because they didn’t want to deal with the pressure of heralding a new Star Wars trilogy that was also a sequel to the beloved OT.

      4. Geebs says:

        I disagree, I think that overall Johnson clearly was building towards something with more meat to it,

        I’m afraid I don’t think Johnson would have stuck the landing, because as far as I can tell, he’s a lot less clever than he thinks he is.

        I mean, clearly he thinks that “it’s the Empire Strikes Back…. but backwards!” is pretty darn clever – “it’s salt” is him patting himself on the back in the smarmiest fashion possible. He also clearly thinks he’s above having his movies make any sense – see Looper. He’s not the guy you hire to wrap things up.

        For the record, I didn’t much like TFA either and think Rogue One wasted a huge amount of money telling a story that was better left to the imagination. I also couldn’t care less about who Rey’s parents were, or any of the other mystery box nonsense which was never, ever, going to pay off whoever directed those movies.

        1. BlueHorus says:

          …any of the other mystery box nonsense which was never, ever, going to pay off whoever directed those movies

          I’m not convinced. A lot of stuff left over from The Force Awakens could have turned out good. Sure, I absolutely would not trust JJ Abrams to make anything good out of his mystery boxes…but someone else?
          Explaining the rise of the First Order, exploring Rey’s parentage and what that does/doesn’t mean, Kylo Ren deciding between Light and Dark…

          I (and others) have positied alternate (better) takes on these plot points here – takes which aren’t revolutionary or hard to think up; they’re even somewhat predictable or cliched. But it just wasn’t done that way.

          TL;DR I think The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker were actively fucked up, not doomed from the beginning.

          1. GloatingSwine says:

            No, nobody could really have done anything with the mystery boxes. JJ Abrams Mystery Boxes are not there for the benefit of the story they are in, they are there to get the audience to speculate about their contents. The contents themselves are not important, they are not considered when the box is created, the important thing is that the Internet is talking about what they might contain.

            But when you define a mystery without a clear idea of throughline to the reveal, you doom yourself.

            Take “who are Rey’s parents?”. That was a mystery box set up in TFA which, by the end of that same movie, could not have any answers that mattered to the narrative. For the answer to matter to the narrative, it would have to be something that would affect Rey when it was revealed, something that would make her behave differently from that point onwards in the story.

            Every character who it could have been had been introduced and the mystery had not only not been advanced in any way by their introduction, but their other roles in the story made it impossible for it to satisfyingly been them.

            That’s why people were speculating dumb shit like she was a Kenobi, which couldn’t possibly have mattered because all Rey could ever say to that is “who?“.

            So when that mystery box got opened in TLJ and it was empty. That was the only possible answer. (And when JJ tried to retroactively shove something in it it turned out to be the dumbest thing ever, because there were no good answers)

            And that’s always the problem with JJ Mystery Boxes. They’re always empty. They’re empty because he doesn’t care what fills them, only that the Internet talks about them. Twitter now, forums back in the days of Lost.

            1. BlueHorus says:

              Take “who are Rey’s parents?”. That was a mystery box set up in TFA which, by the end of that same movie, could not have any answers that mattered to the narrative.

              I think ‘Your parents aren’t some well-known heros, but you’re still powerful enought to make an influence in a galactic war’ would have been great for the narrative. The main character goes looking for stability and a sense of purpose, and ends up getting neither as well as learning that she’s been living a lie. Cue an understandable motive for her turning to the First Order.
              Hell, the reveal doesn’t even, in a sense, need to matter to the story; it just needs to matter to Rey in order to be worth it.
              (well, and for us to care about her, too…but hey, one thing at a time)

              On top of that, the story then says ‘forget the Skywalker family, why can’t some random kid living on a backwater be the new hero, y’know, like Luke Skywalker‘.
              Or even: ‘here’s a direct descendant of the Skywalker clan who let the surname get to him and started worshipping Darth Vader’s helmet and throwing lightsaber tantrums. Maybe what you do is more important than who you were born to?’
              It’d work for me.

              Sure, JJ Abrams made an empty box like he always does. But that doesn’t mean that it had to stay empty, especially with someone else making the sequel to his film.

              1. Falling says:

                They were clearly throwing everything at the wall in TFA- even bothering to clip a part of Alec Guinesses speech to say ‘Rey’ in that vision. Remember when that was supposed to foreshadow something? Sound and fury, signifying nothing.

                However, I thought a fairly tidy explanation for Rey’s quick uptake on Force abilities despite never training, nor even having an explanation for how to do anything would be if her parents were survivors from when Kylo burned down the academy (or whatever happened there- Disney canon keeps changing to make Kylo seem not so bad). So Rey would have some previous training as a child, suffers movie amnesia (parents’ protecting her?) but her visions are her old memories trying to break through. And Bob’s your uncle.

                Probably her parents were killed by Kylo or some such. You tie up a few things and you don’t need to make her descended from anybody particularly important but you can explain her leg up in TFA all in one go.

        2. evileeyore says:

          “He also clearly thinks he’s above having his movies make any sense – see Looper.”

          Looper makes sense. It’s a time paradox, ye olde “you are your Grandfather, Father, Son” paradox in the “you caused both all your problems and all your solutions, now live through the next two hours by the skin of your teeth, but really it’s already happened so the meta-savvy int he audience are just here to see how it happens” movie.

          1. Steve C says:

            I’ve heard that defense of Looper, “It’s a time paradox.” It doesn’t hold water with me. I’m even a fan of time travel stories. “Time travel” isn’t an excuse or a hand wave for the rest of a story. It still needs to make narrative sense.

            The problem I have with Looper is that I don’t know what it trying to say about the characters and themes. Questions like “Why are these characters doing what they are doing?” “Why are they not doing something else?” I can give a broad strokes description / summary of Looper. I get the time travel part. It still does not make sense as a story. I have no idea what it was trying to tell me about humans and/or what humans care about.

  6. Mephane says:

    I want to take this moment to apologize to everyone. It is all my fault.

    See, back when J. J. Abrams made the alternate timeline (or whatever) Star Trek movies, I kept saying that the movies aren’t bad per se, just bad Star Trek. I said, foolishly, I wish they game him Star Wars, that would be awesome.

    Apparently someone must have overheard me and through a chain of unlikely events this wish of mine ended up on the table of some Disney executive and now we are here.

    Sorry.

    1. MerryWeathers says:

      I am highly confident TFA was designed around the Plinkett films, the movie basically addresses all the problems the review had with the PT.

      So I’m sure it wasn’t your fault, it was actually Mike Stoklasa’s fault. Something he lampshaded in the Half in the Bag TROS review.

    2. Ninety-Three says:

      I remember a lot of people making exactly that criticism circa 2009, you can’t bear more than a small fraction of the blame.

    3. Moridin says:

      Honestly, had Abrams made the entire trilogy, I would have watched it and likely not been too disappointed. I’m not a big fan of TFA, but as Shamus points out, he absolutely nailed the “Star Wars” feel and with Rogue One (and probably Solo) in-between I would’ve been happy enough. Instead we got TLJ and I pretty much gave up on the entire franchise for reasons Shamus articulates better than I would have.

  7. Khwarezm says:

    Shamus! When are you gonna talk about Fallen Order again?!

  8. Steve C says:

    Fans complain that The Last Jedi didn’t leave any plot hooks for the third movie.

    There are too many plot hooks. That’s the real problem. It is everything that did not happen in the movies that made it on the screen.

    * Lando went off and had his own Hero’s Journey to bring the alliance fleet at the last moment. There’s a story there.
    * Palpatine got defeated in Return of the Jedi, had a kid, built a secret underground fleet and did all these Palpatine things. There’s a story there.
    * Luke became disillusioned with the Jedi, wanted to murder his nephew, then turned it all around after Rey came for a chat. There’s a story there.

    The problem with the New Star Wars movies is they are crammed full of all these other interesting stories that happened off screen. On screen we were shown the convoluted backdrop to those other movies. We got tropes, callbacks and subversions of tropes and subversions of callbacks. Which aren’t actually stories.

    I’m not a fan of exploring those missed stories. (Though I do think it will happen since both Rogue One and Solo got green-lit.) But at least you can explain what they are. The Prequel Star Wars was George Lucas very deliberately telling “The Story of Darth Vader.” You can’t do anything that with the 3 New Star Wars movies. There’s no short summary elevator pitch. Let’s try:

    * It is the story of Rey going and… {mumble mumble}
    * It is the story of the Jedi. {Video not found.} Jedi Rising? Falling? Sine waving?
    * It is the story of Poe learning valuable lessons about… ..?
    * It is the story of Kylo Ren. How he learned to step out from the shadow of others (see prequels to these movies yet to be made) and… step… into… the… shadow… of Rey.

    Any Star Wars movie has to work first as a narrative or it is doomed from the start. The trappings are just trappings to me.

    1. jurgenaut says:

      Well, yes and no. Until the title crawl of RoS Palpatine was dead. Luke was a force ghost. Kylo being in control of the first order actually means the first order is less of a threat than it was under Snoke. Kylo is rather incompetent and easily manipulated.

      If you take a look at what happened in between Empire and Jedi, there’s a book about what happened (Shadows of the Empire). Loathe as I am to praise the prequels, there’s an entire tv-series and an animated movie about what happens between Clones and Sith. Plot balls had been set in motion in movie 2, that lead through a side story into movie 3.

      Just because there were no hooks, Abrams had to…
      1. Pull Palpatine out of behind the curtain – both as a main villain and to have someone that Rey could save Kylo *from* – that’s the only thing left by TLJ “save Kylo”, but Kylo once free said he wanted to genocide everything
      2. Pull an entire doomsday weapon fleet out of nowhere – literally – to raise the stakes
      3. Pull an entire rebel fleet out of his ass – so that the doomsday fleet could be defeated in the manner established by the rest of the movies
      4. Revert the big reveal in TLJ in that Rey’s parents actually mattered again
      5. Create an obnoxious plot line concerning an ancient sith dagger carved to match the curvature of a crashed death star that crashed 20 years ago

      None of those things were signalled or even hinted at in TFA or TLJ.

      1. MerryWeathers says:

        I feel like whenever people say “Kylo Ren isn’t intimidating”, they try to see him as a Darth Vader archetype than what he actually is, which is a more human character who makes terrible choices that pushes him farther away from any chance of redemption and puts him essentially in a far more compromising position than before.

        Any good director/writer not actively trying to retcon The Last Jedi can make “Kylo as Surpreme Leader” an interesting storyline. Maybe his incompetence or behavior incites infighting within the First Order leading to mass defections to the Resistance or maybe we get to see a more cunning side of Hux where he takes advantage of the situation and supplants Kylo.

        1. jurgenaut says:

          I agree, that type of story direction would be pretty cool, but it would work mostly towards a “peaceful dismantling” resolution to the core struggle between the republic/sistance and the first order – that could have been a great story.

          Hell – you’d even have to consider the “evil side” as humans too (or, you know, sentient).

          But the setting dictates that large scale conflicts are resolved with starships and doomsday devices. That’s part of the problem with Star Wars.

          1. Daimbert says:

            Not really. The most meaningful conflict in RotJ was settled by a simple “Father, please!”. It’s entirely consistent with Star Wars to end this trilogy with a similar appeal.

            1. Syal says:

              And Cloud City ends with Lando just deciding to not help the Empire anymore, all on his own.

        2. Daimbert says:

          I think this is more difficult, though, in a Star Wars with the PT movie, because Kylo as you envision him — and as I saw him in the movies I did watch — seems an awful lot like the essentially whiny teen Anakin from the PT, and to make him a Supreme Leader runs the risk of, well, having a whiny teen in command which is generally not all that interesting. And while having him there might allow for some small interesting scenes, it’s not going to make him an interesting character and as you see his behaviour as being akin to incompetence it’s not going to make him or the First Order intimidating, which the villains would need to be. So either he grows into the role or he gets supplanted. For the former, we needed that to be well underway by the end of the second movie, and the latter ends up taking a character that we focused on and shunting him aside. And Hux was set up as comic relief in the second movie, I believe(?), so he can’t really take over either. So, suffice it to say, the first two movies failed to give us any credible villains for the last movie.

          1. Henson says:

            I think the petulant nature would work if it were paired with scenes of Kylo wrestling with his own inner conflict, paired with flashbacks to his childhood and the events that spearheaded his rejection of the light. Put his erratic behavior in context of ‘this guy is trying to deal with his own problems, and not in a healthy fashion’.

            1. Daimbert says:

              This would work best if you paired it with him feeling that he needs to rule by destiny, either by inheritance or by his being a Sith. Then he could be torn between feeling he needs to rule but knowing or at least worrying that he wasn’t really ready, giving us a more nuanced villain and an explanation for the incompetence. Ultimately, you could make him the person wrestling with the tiger, knowing that staying where he is is bad but knowing that he can’t let go or it will go even worse for him.

              But then that would work better with the link to his trying to be Vader or with the First Order being more explicitly the Empire or heir to it, which TLJ mostly dropped.

          2. Syal says:

            having a whiny teen in command which is generally not all that interesting.

            That’s Joffrey Baratheon in Game Of Thrones.

            1. Daimbert says:

              Yeah, that’s the same character I thought of when writing that. I didn’t care for that either [grin]. But at least that is used to show how bad the character is and how disorganized such a thing would be, and it doesn’t really last that long.

        3. Zekiel says:

          Yes, this. Kylo Ren is my favourite character in the new films, hands down (and I like all the others too) because he is so fascinatingly human. Darth Vader is not human, really. He gets about half an hour of humanity towards the end of RotJ but apart from that he’s more like a force of nature. Kylo Ren is literally a Darth Vader wannabe – that is his whole thing – and I find it absolutely believable.

          I also find it utterly *weird* that kids (and adults) have him on T-shirts. Darth Vader was cool. Kylo Ren is not cool, he’s not intended to be cool. Having hm being the Supreme Leader in Episode 9 would have been really, really interesitng. It makes the final confrontation personal in a different way to Luke vs Anakin. It is way, way more personal than Rey vs some person who apparently turns out to be her grandfather and who she’s never ever met before.

        4. Nate says:

          a more human character

          I’ve heard this before and it boggles me. I don’t see how Kylo is “more human” than Vader in any way. If anything, he’s far more weird and unsympathetic to Mr than Anikin or Vader ever were.

          Vader was introduced as just a soldier. He wears armour because he’s been in many battles. His heart has grown hard and he’s lost his faith (though not all of it, he still believes in the Force when his colleagues have lost even that). But he’s recognisably human. He’s driven by duty, vengeance, fear, a desire for order… All recognisable, if bad, human emotions.

          Kylo, though… He’s just a totally weird sociopath, there’s absolutely nothing likeable or even emotionally understandable in him. Born to rich war heroes, he decided to become a traitor to everything he knew was right because… reasons? He was bored? Kids at school teased him? (I have no idea how or why – his parents are heroes!) He wanted “more”, somehow, than being *literal and figurative royalty* in a galaxy that both loved and desperately needed him?

          There’s just no understanding Kylo, to me. He is just an unreadable monster to me, a petty, foolish, utterly repulsive, hateful little brat. Nothing that makes me want to see a moment of him on screen. But then the movies keep telling me I must love him and sympathise with him, poor poor sad mistreated Kylo, and I’m like… What???? No! This guy is no Vader, I don’t know what he is, but he’s just awful. Yet the whole trilogy is his story.

          Kylo, human, relatable? At all? Not in the least, to me. He’s Patrick Bateman from American Psycho, in Star Wars.

          It actually kind of scares me how many people *do* like Kylo. Is this something normal now, a normal way of being? How many other Kylos are out there walking around, with the same kind of weird motivations in their head? And are they Vice Presidents of things, like Patrick Bateman?

          1. jurgenaut says:

            A lot of people have a hard time growing up the child to biggest-achievers (president, sports stars, entrepreneurs). No matter what you do, you’ll never do as well as your father (or mother) did – but you still have to try. The children of let’s say Bill Gates or Obama will not grow up to live a life of their own. From their first steps, they have to be readied to take over the company, or break that world record, or lead the country – knowing full well they will most likely never measure up to the expectations.
            The only way out is to rebell and walk your own path – and the further away from your parent’s success the better.
            Hence Kylo.

      2. John says:

        Create an obnoxious plot line concerning an ancient Sith dagger carved to match the curvature of a crashed death star that crashed 20 years ago.

        What? Ugh. I hate it when the spinoffs do stuff like this. That’s generic medieval-style fantasy material, not Star Wars material.

        1. Lino says:

          You know, you ma be kidding, but head-cannoning the entire ST as a spinoff is actually a great idea!

          1. John says:

            I am not even slightly kidding. I have never regarded the sequel trilogy as anything other than spinoffs. If it’s not a movie by Lucas, it’s a spinoff. The only difference between the Disney stuff and all the other spinoffs is that Disney decided to buy Star Wars rather than rent it.

  9. Daimbert says:

    The Force Awakens is a similar kind of deal. On the surface level it looks and sounds like an amped-up version of the original movie, down to the relentlessly methodical recycling of plot points. But beneath the surface it’s lacking in conviction. It doesn’t have anything to say about the world or its characters. It’s the cinematic equivalent of someone posting “Yeah! I agree!” It was technically spectacular[4] and emotionally shallow. It’s not a terrible movie, but also not something I’d watch more than once[5].

    This, I think, is the most damning thing that can be said about the Sequel Trilogy: a good number of Star Wars fans who watch the OT and even the PT repeatedly are saying that they have no interest in watching the ST again. For me personally, I tend to rewatch the PT and OT fairly regularly, at least once a year (often around Christmas). Last year, I set out my plans for rewatching the Star Wars movies and set up my schedule and … forgot to include any of the new movies that I owned (even Rogue One). And then when I considered it decided not to bother with any of them, and Rogue One was the one that got the most consideration (but was rejected because I watch them in in-universe chronological order and really can’t imagine going from Rogue One to Star Wars because a battle where you lose all your ships is NOT a victory!). Just recently, I sorted through my closets — that’s where I store my games and DVDs and stuff like that) — and stuffed a bunch of things into boxes to free up room there for the stuff I want to watch. Rogue One made it into the “I might watch this again at some point” box, while TFA and TLJ ended up in the “Stuff this in my basement and maybe sell it at some point” box. That’s pretty sad for someone who watches even the PT at least once a year.

    The big issue I have with TFA is the same as I had with the “Get Smart” remake: it apes the memes and plot/character points of the original (in TFA’s case, ANH) but doesn’t get why those things were interesting. So it feels like it introduces points just because they were IN the first movie without understanding what they did to make the movie work. Almost the entire movie is an example of this — eg we need to save a droid that has vital information, but then we don’t know why that information is actually important — but the biggest one, perhaps, is Starkiller Base. It’s there to be a superweapon, and yet it doesn’t seem to do anything else in the movie except be a superweapon. We can see this in its introduction, as I commented in a post of mine on the topic:

    Even the superweapon is shallow. There’s no mention of this weapon at all … until, at the end, with a kind of “And, oh yeah, they have a superweapon and are going to wipe out the Republic. Look, there it goes!” which comes across as nothing more than an attempt to set-up the final battle scene. In “A New Hope”, the Death Star was the key component of the movie, and when it is activated we see, through Princess Leia’s eyes, how devastating an impact it has. But while the weapon in “The Force Awakens” is more powerful, the emotional weight just isn’t there. It’s really just a test, and a demonstration that something must be done to stop it … but there’s no emotional gravitas there. Finn even cares far more about Rey than he does about the weapon firing off, despite being there and knowing exactly what it can do.

    Now, it turns out that the first firing was far more important than that … but the movie doesn’t express that in any way, nor does it have the emotional connection, nor is it the driving force of the entire plot like the Death Star was. It’s there to be … there. And that holds for pretty much all of the elements of the movie, including Han’s death and the Falcon and the lightsaber fight, etc, etc.

    So TFA dies ironically because it’s ANH but not as good. TLJ suffers because it’s trying to deconstruct and subvert ESB, which leads me to my next comment:

    In any case, Johnson’s fondness for punking the audience with their own genre expectations creates room for a sort of meta-level analysis that pokes fun at the genre itself. “Yes, you expected A to happen because A is what these stories always do, but really B makes more sense, except it feels like it doesn’t because we’re used to A, but doesn’t B sort of render the whole thing nonsensical? But does that mean the genre itself is nonsensical?” It’s a style of movie that draws attention to its own genre and deliberately breaks your immersion to think about the fact that you’re watching a movie. See also: Spec Ops: The Line.

    The issue with doing this is that you have be RIGHT about that. So if you feel that you’re providing a more realistic option or subverting something that’s merely a genre expectation, you have to get the audience to agree with you on that. As you yourself noted wrt Spec Ops: The Line, a lot of people reacted badly to that very scene you reference here not because they felt that they were only following a genre expectation, but instead that the game forced you to do it and that any time when you could have broken the chain the game didn’t bother telling you that you couldn’t. In short, the game presented itself in a way that pretty much told you that this was the way the world worked and then changed the rules on you without telling you, and then chided you for following the rules it had set out. You don’t get that with a movie as much, but the issue with TFJ is that for the most part the audience isn’t only buying it because that’s how Star Wars is, but because that’s how the world works. As noted in the discussions last week, a lot of the things that people are reacting against are changes in how the world was established to work. The Rebellion was never as formal as needed to treat Holdo as correct in enforcing proper Resistance military discipline and procedure, and neither Abrams nor Johnson ever showed that it actually was that sort of organization, so it looks like he’s bending the world to fit his subversion rather than simply showing us how it should work in that world. Poe’s entire arc starts off badly because in both Star Wars and even real-life terms the trade-off of fighters and bombers for that capital ship that was presented as a threat to their escape seems reasonable, and Johnson never takes the time to establish any reason why the decision was clearly wrong at the time and/or clearly wrong in hindsight when those pilots/bombers would have hugely benefited the Resistance if they still had them. Luke’s subversion of the mentor role could have worked, but Johnson never really showed how he turned into the man he became from the man he was at the end of RotJ, so again it seems like bending the world so that he can make a point. So ultimately a number of those more “realistic” options don’t seem all that realistic, and so anyone who didn’t enjoy the movie finally taking aim at some of the conventions didn’t buy that it was more realistic.

    They over-corrected in the jump from Force Awakens to Last Jedi, and then again when going from Last Jedi to Rise of Skywalker. Both of these moves were gutless and fickle, and revealed a profound lack of artistic integrity. In trying to please everyone, Disney made a trilogy that couldn’t please anyone.

    I haven’t seen it, but one of the biggest issues with RoS is that it tried to finish off the trilogy in the same manner as RotJ. It needed instead to do something similar to RotS: end with the First Order still ascendant, but with the hope that they can be overcome. For RotS, that hope was, well, A New Hope. Here, they would have needed to do that themselves, but forming new alliances and showing how the First Order was cracking through in-fighting would be the way to go.

    Also, bringing in Palpatine was a big mistake. Regardless of how they were presented, they needed to go with the villains they had, since they didn’t have the time to sideline them.

    This would have given them the time to pay-off some of Johnson’s arcs and set-up to resolve the galactic conflict in another trilogy or at least movie/set of movies. But Abrams wanted his story back and, in the end, the tug-of-war ruined all of it.

    1. houser2112 says:

      “a battle where you lose all your ships is NOT a victory!”

      The Battle of Scarif was indeed a tactical disaster (although not ALL the ships were lost, and I’m not just referring to Tantive IV). However, the primary objective of the raid was to get the Death Star plans, and they accomplished that, so it was a strategic victory. If they didn’t accomplish that primary objective, it doesn’t matter how many ships they would have managed to escape the battle with, the Rebellion is doomed. Hence the title of Episode IV, “A New Hope”.

      1. Daimbert says:

        This is the opening crawl from ANH:

        It is a period of civil war. Rebel spaceships, striking from a hidden base, have won their first victory against the evil Galactic Empire.

        During the battle, Rebel spies managed to steal secret plans to the Empire’s ultimate weapon, the DEATH STAR, an armored space station with enough power to destroy an entire planet.

        Pursued by the Empire’s sinister agents, Princess Leia races home aboard her starship, custodian of the stolen plans that can save her people and restore freedom to the galaxy.…

        The spaceships didn’t really win that battle, and the crawl presents the plans as an aside during the battle. Again, getting most of if not the entire fleet wiped out is, as you noted, a tactical defeat. And it was so easy to fix. Simply have them try to jump away to draw off the Imperial Fleet and have Vader use the Force to sense which is the right ship to follow and they get to keep their victory AND get the plans during the battle.

    2. Ninety-Three says:

      As you yourself noted wrt Spec Ops: The Line, a lot of people reacted badly to that very scene you reference here not because they felt that they were only following a genre expectation, but instead that the game forced you to do it and that any time when you could have broken the chain the game didn’t bother telling you that you couldn’t.

      My pet peeve with that scene is that the game actually cheats. There’s infinite respawning enemies to stop you from progressing forward the normal way, but worse, once you get into the mortar section you have a good minute or two of gameplay during which you get a very good feel for exactly how big your blast radius is, and then at the end you don’t actually have to shell the big blob of civilians, if you’re paying attention you can see that the last three armed enemies are all clustered around a jeep which you should be able to shell and end the mission. It’s exactly like the other dilemmas the game puts you in, where the obvious thing to do is terrible but you can be clever to avoid it. Except this time you can’t be clever, if you aim away from the civilians and hit the couple soldiers then your blast radius magically increases and they all die anyway, oops!

      The worst part is it didn’t have to cheat, it wouldn’t have been hard for them to design the sequence so that you’re just forced to actually put crosshairs over civilians to end it but for some reason they decided to go with the railroadiest solution imaginable.

    3. evileeyore says:

      “but was rejected because I watch them in in-universe chronological order”

      If you watch them in publication order the movies tend fair better*. Later movies are //informed// by the movies that came //before// them, not vice-versa.

      * I find this is especially true for book series.

      1. Daimbert says:

        It works for me, and proper prequels should be able to be watched ahead of the original movies so that you can get the full story in order.

        1. Radkatsu says:

          Proper prequels? So you’d watch Fire Walk With Me before Twin Peaks? Or In the Beginning before Babylon 5? You could do that if you already know the stories, but I’d put you on the ‘actually more evil than Vader after blowing up a planet’ list if you tried to get a NEW viewer to do that.

          1. evileeyore says:

            Yeah… I get doing it once you’ve caught up with a series (I reread long winded series this *cough*Dresden Files*cough*), but reading/watching a series the first time should always be publication order to maintain any surprises.

            1. Daimbert says:

              Which is exactly what I do, so I’m not sure how that is relevant to anything that’s been said in this comment sub-thread.

          2. Daimbert says:

            No, I wouldn’t recommend watching prequels before the movies that inspired them for new viewers. However, once you’ve seen them all and know the story then you SHOULD be able to watch them in chronological order if they are proper prequels. And that’s what I do, and that’s what evileeyore said that I probably shouldn’t do, hence my defense that if the prequels are proper you should be able to do that, which is why I don’t think I can watch Rogue One as part of my Star Wars run.

      2. Kathryn says:

        I always read Narnia in publication order. It doesn’t work to read Magician’s Nephew first. It just doesn’t.

        1. Falling says:

          It really doesn’t. Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe introduces Narnia, Aslan and the whole thing for the reader for the first time. It is the entry point to the series. Aslan is a mystery to the children when they first hear the name and also to the reader. The book is structured to draw you in with the mystery of what everything is. Doesn’t exactly have the same impact if you’ve already read Magician’s Nephew. Plus I don’t think you care as much about the creation of Narnia if you haven’t experienced Narnia in Lion, Prince Caspian, etc. The Witch bringing in the lamp post provides answers to a question that has never formed, whereas if you’ve already read Lion, that moment is ‘ooooh, so that’s how come there is a random lamp post in the middle of the forest.’ But in reading Lion first, the lamp post creates an extra feeling of mystery. Snowy forest, lamp post and a faun. What an intriguing introduction to a new world! Yes, publication order is the only order for a first read. On re-reads it could be any order at all, but publication order is still the best.

    4. Alpakka says:

      the issue with TFJ is that

      TFJ? The… First… Jedi? Now _that_ is something I would watch! =P

      Thanks for the well crafted post, I did not have anything meaningful to comment but now I can’t get the idea of the start of the Jedi order out of my head. Although I don’t know if it could be done in a way that would actually work.

      1. Lino says:

        You could read Dawn of the Jedi. It was written by Dark Horse comics, before Disney made the EU non canon. It’s about the very first Jedi, and is actually not that bad! Although, I personally prefer Tales of the Jedi: Golden Age of the Sith which takes place long before KOTOR, and it’s about the Republic’s first contact with the Sith. Who at this time are a race of angry aliens with swords and Force powers. Visually, this is probably my favourite era of Star Wars. With lightsabers having their crystals jutting out of their hilts, and being connected to a power pack on their user’s belt!

        After that, they did some sequels in that era, which I remember not really liking all that much.

        1. Alpakka says:

          Hah, I should have guessed that somewhere in the depths of the Expanded Universe someone would have made this already :D

          Thanks for the recommendation, I have read a few stories from the Star Wars EU (e.g. the Thrawn trilogy was good). I will consider this after the first 50 reading recommendations currently on my list =P

    5. Nate says:

      In short, the game presented itself in a way that pretty much told you that this was the way the world worked and then changed the rules on you without telling you, and then chided you for following the rules it had set out.

      I had this reaction in TLJ most of all to the crazy Canto Bight subplot.

      “Magic technobabble generator? Weird codebreaker guy? You have to hyperspace, which you just said you can’t, so that you can hyperspace? What are you doing, movie? This is all nonsense. There’s no way the characters would know any of this, or jump to this conclusion at all. Oh…. we’re really actually doing this, movie? Sigh. This is stupid. (one subplot later) Oh, so it WAS all nonsense and it didn’t work out and now we’re killing characters because of that. No really. Well movie, YOU’RE the one who made us do this, while I was smart enough to notice it was stupid, and now you’re punishing ME for going along with you. Even though I had no option short of walking out of the theatre. That’s not just stupid, that’s cruel AND stupid. So I’m both smarter and kinder than you, movie, and I would have been even smarter and kinder if I had decided not to watch in the first place, because then I wouldn’t be morally complicit in cheering on a disaster.”

      as opposed to

      “Wow! That’s so cool! I had a great time hanging out with fun characters doing exciting things!”

      “I’m morally part of the problem by watching this” might be an “edgy” sentiment in an indie film/game, but it’s not really what you want the audience to be feeling in your big feel-good franchise tentpole epic, I think.

  10. Michael Anderson says:

    As another fogey who saw Star Wars in theaters with my own money (I was 11), it feels like a part of my soul – but I embrace new entries by default rather than talking about ‘ruining my childhood’ or whatever. So Phantom Menace? Fine – flawed start with some really cool stuff, uneven middle with more cool stuff, really good ending getting close to the originals (and solidified Ewan as THE ObiWan). These were the ones that came out when my kids were young and ultimately “their Star Wars” even though they prefer the originals now.

    So when Force Awakens came out, I really liked the leads and found the movie itself to be a great thrill ride that “felt like Star Wars” (as intended of course). BUT … even then there was the ‘killing of EU and stealing stuff out of context’, and ultimately the nullification of the entire efforts of the original trilogy. That stuff didn’t ever sit well, and while many of those elements were touched upon in the EU books (Kevin Anderson’s ‘Jedi Academy’ trilogy) and video games (Jedi Knight II), they were done at a level that fit within the scope of the world at the end of the OT.

    Regarding TLJ, this quote grabbed me: “ It’s not just dissonant, it forms a feedback loop of ever-amplifying dissonance that tears everything else apart”.

    There was plenty of stuff to like in TLJ, for sure … but also stuff that I was questioning in the theater initially and certainly on the second viewing a few days later. As I try to put everything in context, that dissonance just could never resolve – I could never put things aside the way we could in the OT and Prequels.

    And Rise of Skywalker had at its core the ultimate FU to the Original Trilogy – we’d already learned Darth Maul survived, and now that the Emperor survived and became this mega powerful interplanetary… oh jeez I can’t even. It is a movie that threw so much stuff at you that it was exciting in the moment but that by the time you’re walking to the car you can only think ‘WHAT?!?’

    And thinking about it more just leads to that feedback loop blowing up everything. The entire sequel trilogy ultimately added nothing of value to Star Wars, but instead devalued the accomplishments of the originals and made everything about them seem small. I don’t tend to be one of those who looks across the series, nor do I tend to feel like a sequel can impact my love of an original (I.e. Ghostbusters II, Caddyshack II, etc.) … but because of the destruction of TLJ and RoS it is now unlikely I will ever watch Force Awakens again of my own choice. (Yes I own all three)

  11. MerryWeathers says:

    Based on the success of his other work, I’m sort of assuming this wouldn’t have been a problem if he wasn’t playing tug-of-war with Abram’s traditionalism. This is all speculation and your mileage may vary.

    And it shall. Another unpopular opinion I have is that Rian was also traditionalistic like J.J. Abrams, he just wasn’t as “in your face” about it. Instead of celebrating Star Wars by just waving member berries around, Rian Johnson went straight for the saga’s themes and reaffirmed they were and still are important as ever.

    I think it’s fair to criticize Rian Johnson for not trying to doing anything truly new in the movie but I feel he was just working in the confines of what J.J. Abrams set up in TFA, which is essentially the same Rebels vs Empire conflict, which may be difficult to twist before it definitely becomes something unlike Star Wars. Maybe if Rian Johnson’s SW trilogy, where he has direct freedom over the setting and characters, gets made then it could be something truly new.

    1. Topher Corbett says:

      No, he was really in-your-face about just plagiarizing ESB and ROTJ the way Abrams did with ANH and ROTJ. He put the Hoth battle (with walkers) at the end instead of the beginning, he made the reluctant mentor Luke, and he put the throne room (with looking out the window at the space battle) in the middle, but it’s all bits and pieces of stuff that we’ve already seen before.
      As for themes he did the opposite of that, he repeatedly crapped all over the very concept of heroism. That was the point.

      1. zackoid says:

        He didn’t crap over the concept of heroism, he questioned what it means to be a hero and then reaffirmed that heroism is to risk yourself to help others.

  12. Lino says:

    Typolice:

    Moreover, the original trilogy had freedoms that no subsequent story can never have. – should be “ever”

    Should be “ever”.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Also Typolice:
      Is it Lawrence Kazdan or Kazden? You’ve got both, at different points.

    2. krellen says:

      Footnote 11 has “Rogue one”, when both words should be capitalised.

      In the paragraph following that, Rian Johnson’s name is spelled the more-traditional, but incorrect, “Ryan”.

      1. wumpus says:

        Spielberg or Speilberg?

  13. ContribuTor says:

    I think part of the problem with ST boils down to the notion that everything needs to be a trilogy.

    You can argue that trilogy’s were essential to Lucas’ original vision of the world, because he sketched out a nine part arc. Or that these were just some background sketches he had in mind when he went to make his first movie in the universe with no expectation he’d ever make another, so they hardly constitute “planning.” But at the end of the day, the notion of trilogy came to define Star Wars in both fans and apparently filmmakers’ minds.

    The nice thing about MCU is that you have multiple connected stories, but they don’t have to have a fixed number. And they don’t have to happen in order. They can connect without having a direct through line or a rigid three act one-act-per-film narrative structure. I’m not saying I think the MCU films are perfect by any means. But they offer a LOT more freedom to tell a collection of cool stories in a cool world that are interconnected without the need to have everything marching in rigid lockstep to a specific place and time.

    One thing that’s immensely to Disney’s credit with Star Wars is that they recognized this. They made Rogue One. They made Solo (which is not IMO a great movie, but a VERY MCU-like character piece in an established world). They made Mandolorian. They recognized that Star Wars had become a universe ripe for storytelling, and they could tell some interesting ones without worrying about deep through lines at first.

    But they also made a trilogy. Because they thought they had to. And they had no idea how to handle it. They underestimated the story planning. The character arcs. The thematic consistency needed. The artistic consistency needed. They wanted callbacks to the extent of bringing back most of the OT cast, yet other than being the origin story for a few characters they didn’t really have a plan for how to use them to stick a three act landing.

    Trilogies are a more rigid art form than movies are. Disney underestimated it.

  14. Lino says:

    Thank you for making this series, Shamus! Now I finally have something balanced, yet critical to link my friends to whenever we want to gripe about TLJ. Can’t wait for the next entry!

  15. John says:

    Can we be done talking about the sequel trilogy now please? I don’t know how much more of this I can take.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      I LOL’d at this comment coming right at the heels of someone with the exact opposite opinion. This is the Star Wars fanbase alright. Oh, Disney.

      1. John says:

        I’m all for in-depth discussions of Star Wars more generally, but thinking about the sequel trilogy too much just makes me sad.

  16. Adam says:

    The idea of Commander Sheppard and crew being a Star Wars focus group amuses me. I now want to play a game where you have a gang of diverse functional characters (like Poker Night At The Inventory) as a focus group, and you have to do a choose-your-own-adventure style assembly of a TV series episode-by-episode that will make money from the general population.

  17. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    Typolice : “With a driod”

    I think The Mandalorian informed us well on what is the feel of Star Wars : a blend of old adventure serials in space. Put some western, samurai movies, WW2 aerial fights, rocketeers, medieval fantasy… Put it all in a sci-fi blender and you should get proper Star Wars.

    Note that this definition excludes KOTOR 2 which, despite being an amazing story, doesn’t feel like Star Wars. By the way for anyone who wants to discover KOTOR 2’s story without enduring the awful gameplay, I strongly recommend this excellent Let’s Play by Scorchi starring Jedi Jesus (no, not Obiwan, the other Jedi Jesus).

    1. Mr. Wolf says:

      Ah, I remember Jedi Jesus. Literally the last time Bioware did decent facial hair.

      1. Mr. Wolf says:

        Oh wait, that wasn’t even Bioware. I guess they’ve never done decent beards then.

  18. Dreadjaws says:

    One of Rian Johnson’s most beloved works was his directorial stint in a couple of episodes of the last season of Breaking Bad (he also directed an earlier one, but that one was pretty much filler). In them you can see Johnsons’ penchant for playing with the audience’s expectations, but at no point he felt the need to do a complete tonal shift in the story, destroy previously established lore or mock the audience for expecting things to develop in a certain way, and I think the reason for all of this is that he wasn’t given free rein.

    What I think happened with TLJ was something akin to what happened with George Lucas and the prequel trilogy. People made a mistake in letting the man do as he pleased without offering any kind of constructive criticism (or, in the case of Johnson, outright stopping him from going too far), as both seem to work better when restrained.

    It’s very obvious that the problems with the sequel trilogy started with Abrams, but Johnson made them too clear for everyone to see. I know it’s a bit of a meme to say that Star Wars fans are never happy, but the absolute reality is that there simply hasn’t been such a division in the fanbase up until TLJ, even with the prequel trilogy, and really most of it seem to stem from expectations generated by TFA. If that movie had taken a few more risks then Johnson’s changes might not have seemed so striking (though I maintain that at least a few of them are still outright stupid) and therefore more forgivable.

    It all comes down again to consistency, which is a major issue with this trilogy. Story wise, at least. Let’s not even start about the whole deal behind the cameras.

    1. John says:

      TV directors almost never write the episodes they direct. If Johnson directed some episodes of Breaking Bad, then I’m 99.99% he didn’t write the scripts. Consequently, I’d be careful about assigning him to much credit or blame for whatever those scripts contain.

  19. krellen says:

    I want to point out that KOTOR2 did not introduce the questioning of the black-and-white of the Force and Jedi/Sith dichotomy: both Jolee Bindo (who questions whether the Jedi are “good”) and Yuthura Ban (who questions whether the Sith are “evil”) were in the original KOTOR.

    1. Rob says:

      I don’t know if I’d count those two. Jolee Bindo claimed to be grey but was unquestionably light side, he just disagreed with the Jedi’s dogmatic adherence to tradition and inability to adapt (and point to him, the KOTOR-era Jedi Council were even worse in those regards than the one in the prequels).

      And Yuthura Ban was there to show that Jedi can fall due to idealism, but the Dark Side washes that away until eventually they can’t remember their original motivations. If a light side PC doesn’t remind her of her forgotten goal of abolishing slavery, she remains cartoonishly villainous until the end.

      1. John says:

        Yuthura Ban might just be my favorite character in Knights of the Old Republic. I don’t know if it was idealism that caused her fall so much as her desire for vengeance, but, either way, once you know her backstory she becomes a very sympathetic character. I also like the way that the game implies that her fall was the result of a conscious and considered choice on her part rather than some sort of traumatic mental break. Best of all, despite her sympathetic background Yuthura has nevertheless become a typical scheming, villainous Sith rather than an “I’m a cool, rebellious Grey Jedi who uses the Light Side and the Dark Side, so take that you stuffy old Jedi!” fanfic monstrosity. If you want to create a sympathetic Force-using villain while still respecting the spirit of Star Wars then this is how you do it.

        Also, she is totally Anakin Skywalker if he was female, a twilek, not The Chosen One, and less of a basket case. I dunno what that signifies.

        1. Rob says:

          A lot of content released around the time of the prequels clearly recycled Anakin’s plotline. It felt like every writer wanted to prove they could do it better than the movies.

          Even Revan was described as a brilliant mechanic and warrior who built his own droid, clashed with the Jedi Council, and fell to the Dark Side to save others (before the MMO retconned it into mind control, ugh).

          1. John says:

            I believe that when Knights of the Old Republic was released, only The Phantom Menace had reached theaters. Yuthura’s origin may have been inspired by Anakin’s, but her fall can’t have been because that part of Anakin’s story hadn’t been told yet.

            1. krellen says:

              Attack of the Clones came out in May 2002; KOTOR in July 2003.

              1. John says:

                Well, I stand corrected. But as long as KotOR came out before Revenge of the Sith, my point still stands.

                1. krellen says:

                  It did; ROTS was in 2005.

    2. Henson says:

      I don’t think that’s accurate. Jolee Bindo doesn’t question if the Jedi are ‘good’, only if they always make the right decisions. He blames himself for his actions concerning his wife, and he blames the Jedi for not punishing him for it, but he doesn’t question the Jedi being ‘good’, only ‘wise’. Similarly, Yuthura Ban acts in evil ways as part of the Sith, but leaves the Sith when you break down why she joined them in the first place; Yuthura may not be an inherently ‘evil’ person, but she acts in evil ways as a Sith, and then can be redeemed to the Jedi when she finds peace (basically, like Anakin).

    3. BlueHorus says:

      Jolee Bindo was the old man you met on Kasyyyk, right? I loved that guy.

      He managed to add a great deal of humanity and nuance to the Light Side / Dark Side dynamic without being some bold, iconoclastic deconstruction; he did it by just being a person with a bit of depth.

      Nor was he a rampant monologueist, which apparently Kreia is.

    4. John says:

      Does Knights of the Old Republic II question black-and-white morality? I’d say that for the most part its moral choices as expressed in gameplay are exactly the same as in the original game. You can be selflessly kind, cartoonishly cruel, or take a non-committal middle way. I agree that the game is critical of both the Jedi and the Sith, but its principal criticism seems to be that neither of them are sufficiently nihilistic.

      1. Daimbert says:

        Kreia calls you out on a number of occasions if you are selflessly kind or cartoonishly cruel. I also think the companions have more nuanced notions of what they like you to do and don’t like you to do.

        1. John says:

          Kreia calls you out unless you do exactly what she says. That’s not a moral critique. That’s Kreia trying to micromanage you. It’s true that the companions express opinions from time to time, but so did the companions in the first game. Unlike the companions in the first game, however, most of the companions in Knights of the Old Republic II are moral sponges. They’re just as happy to follow you down the path to the Dark as they are the path to the Light. I think that the droids and the wookie are the only exceptions.

          1. Daimbert says:

            But Kreia’s demands to you are based entirely on not being selflessly kind or cartoonishly cruel, as seen in the rather poorly done beggar scene, where she gets mad at you no matter what you do and shows you that acting good only brings on evil and acting cruel only encourages cruelty to others. While she is demanding that you do what she says, what she wants to do and advises you to do is in line with her overall neutral stance, and thus it does come across as challenging that sharp divide, which is what people like about her character.

            Not me, though. None of my characters could stand her.

            1. John says:

              Kreia’s stance is anything but neutral. She’s not officially Jedi or officially Sith but she’s very clearly of the Dark Side whether she thinks so or not. She’s against helping people but not against hurting them. She may think that being mean to beggars is crude and vulgar, but she’s 100% in favor of lieing to people and exploiting them for your own benefit. If people like Kreia it’s because she’s a reliable zinger machine and unstoppably cool in the cutscenes.

    5. Topher Corbett says:

      The other thing is that KOTOR 2 still respected the black and white dichotomy. There’s literally a force power where you can see exactly how good (blue) or evil (red) people are.

  20. Thomas says:

    The part about “feel” is so right. That’s really what rubbed me up the wrong way. I’m curious what you’re next post will be though, because my guess is that there are so many different entry points into Star Wars now that there is no universal ‘feel’.

    I’d point to the quasi-buddhist mysticism, large expansive galaxy and general feeling of wonder and awe as quintessentially Star Wars. To some extent I’m sure those things are, and they run through games like KOTOR1/2, the original trilogy and the prequel trilogy.

    But is that quite what the Mandalorian captures? Or Rogue One? Or the Clone Wars? Not really and they’re all Star Wars.

    And on the other hand, there are themes of adventure, hope, good versus evil, samurai knights and full archetypal characters that are part of Star Wars and I’m sure other people put more stress on.

    1. Syal says:

      The quasi-buddhist mysticism is quintessentially Jedi; Han’s half of Star Wars had none of that.

    2. Topher Corbett says:

      You’re talking about aesthetic.

  21. OldOak says:

    Hang on, this is the wrong video game. Oh well. Whatever.

    Hmm, someone romanced Liara (again?! :) ), and failed to invite Kaidan/Ashley, and Miranda to the party.
    Oh, and “Citadel” without “From Ashes” (missing Javik), why even bother? Not to mention Kasumi and Zaeed …

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Zaeed died in a fire, and good riddance to him.

      …at least, in all my games. I hated that guy so much, on two levels: firstly he was a dickhead, and secondly he was a walking bundle of the action movie cliches that I despise.

      You couldn’t even talk to him on the ship. You just wandered around his room, looking at his stuff, and everything you clicked on started another monologue about what an ‘Ard Bastard he was.

      1. OldOak says:

        You’re right, but because of him you could get both the “planet name” and the “Volus fleet” in ME3 :-D
        Not to mention in Citadel at the party he’s funny when trying to hit on Samara.

  22. Rob says:

    Since you compared The Last Jedi to KOTOR2, I’ve heard that Knights of the Old Republic II had its own Rise of Skywalker equivalent in the Old Republic MMO. Apparently SWTOR’s Revan storyline butchered the returning characters and discarded the themes set up in previous games, but since I don’t play MMOs I don’t know the details. Can anyone who has played it go into detail on what happened?

    1. Rob says:

      And another KOTOR2/TLJ comparison: the first Knights of the Old Republic was, much like The Force Awakens, a formulaic Star Wars story in the vein of the original trilogy (this is not a bad thing – execution matters, and if you removed all of the fetch quests and RPG padding and turned it into a movie, KOTOR would easily be my pick for the best Star Wars film).

      KOTOR 2 discarded almost everything set up in the first game and wiped the slate clean in order to tell the story it wanted (the Old Republic was explicitly designed as a setting where Jedi and Sith were commonplace, and KOTOR2 wiped out the Jedi Order offscreen between games). I’ve heard rumor that Bioware’s writers hated what Obsidian did to their setting and indulged in a little tit-for-tat when the property returned to them.

      1. John says:

        One of the worst things about Knights of the Old Republic II, and possibly the source of many of its problems, is that it tries to be the sequel to both endings of the first game. It’s difficult for me to imagine why someone thought that might be a good idea. The result is a game that doesn’t work, thematically speaking, as a sequel to either. Either ending of Knights of the Old Republic can work as a prequel to the movies because Knights of the Old Republic is set thousands of years before the movies and there’s plenty of time and plenty of ways for the galaxy to get from either Point A or Point B to Point C. (Jolee Bindo even says at one point that even if the Sith win now they won’t win forever.) Knights of the Old Republic II, on the other hand, is set maybe ten years after the first game, and so the first game’s very different endings ought to have very different implications for the state of the galaxy. If Obsidian wanted to tell a largely unrelated story, then they should have picked a point on the timeline farther from the first game.

        1. Syal says:

          …yeah, for KOTOR 2 to work it requires KOTOR 1 to not have mattered at all; the Republic was already past the point of return, and the Sith were too self-destructive to ever last, so everything the player did in KOTOR 1 was filler.

        2. Topher Corbett says:

          The difference here is Revan. Revan is allowed to be a world-changing self insert character because he’s the player character. The important part of KOTOR is Revan’s journey and decisions, and that continues in KOTOR 2. The Exile was Revan’s right hand, and the game ends with following him again.
          It’s actually really clever because Revan left to go find the “True Sith.” Light side Revan is doing it because that’s what good guys do, and dark side Revan is doing it because they’re threats to his power.
          They let you fill in the details in dialogue options very early on. Carth and Bastila appear in the game. It’s not like the first game doesn’t matter at all.

          1. John says:

            It’s actually really clever because Revan left to go find the “True Sith.”

            Is that supposed to be from KotOR II or is it from the MMO? Because the only explanations I remember getting about Revan in KotOR II were super vague. He remembered “something” and so he had to go. No one ever says what the something is, and it was implied if not outright stated that Revan didn’t actually tell anyone anything meaningful or useful about it. It’s always reminded me of Poochie being written out of Itchy and Scratchy in its sheer perfunctoriness. If Obsidian really wanted Revan out of the way so badly all they had to do was push the date of the game back far enough that the audience would reasonably assume that Revan was dead.

            1. Syal says:

              Kreia expressly claims Revan left to go find the True Sith. Whether she’s making that up to convince herself her pupil is still following her lead is up to the player.

              1. John says:

                Does she? I don’t remember that. I was thinking of what you can learn from Bastila’s recording on Korriban about Dark Revan and from talking to Carth about not-Dark Revan.

  23. Joshua says:

    Each new entry in the series adds another block of continuity and lore that must be respected by later stories. It gradually becomes harder to find places to add new things that don’t contradict what came before.

    To get a bit Tropey, a lot of people have heard of Early Installment Weirdness, but I think there’s Late Installment Weirdness (not just Seasonal Rot) too. There’s a point where the writers are so desperate to come up with new stories that they write things that contrast with existing lore, as opposed to when they first started out and wrote things that were quietly left unaddressed or retconned because they were still trying to figure out the story they were telling. It’s usually the broad middle section that seems more consistent. I saw this quite a bit in the Buffyverse. My $.02.

  24. ChrisANG says:

    I partially-but-strongly disagree with this diagnosis of the problem people have with TLJ. I think a big part of it is that the movie is just bafflingly poorly written. This is especially disastrous in light of this:

    It’s a style of movie that draws attention to its own genre and deliberately breaks your immersion to think about the fact that you’re watching a movie.

    If you’re actively trying to pull people out of the moment and make them think about the movie while they’re watching, your script had better be able to withstand the scrutiny, and TLJ’s script mostly isn’t.

    I think the clearest example is the Poe/Holdo stuff. Enough contradictory signals are sent to make the viewer think that something more subtle may be going on, and that they need to pay close attention (at least, that’s what happened to me), but that plotline actually falls apart with the slightest scrutiny. Is it possible to escape the chase, or not? Is Poe trying to help the fleet escape, or get everyone killed in a glorious last stand? Why doesn’t Holdo just TELL everyone what her plan is (it can’t be because she’s scare there’s a spy, a spy would blow the whistle the moment everyone started loading into the transports)? If Holdo’s plan is for everyone to live to fight another day, why do the other captains go down with their ships rather than evacuate with their crews? Not to mention, the whole thing is resolved by the ridiculous setting-breaking contrivance of the hyperspace ram. It’s a really pretty scene, no question, but if it’s possible to wipe out a whole fleet like that no one would ever build fleets!

    The gradient of plot holes stuff seems to apply here. I think the script is pretty far down the gradient, and so for a lot of people what the script is trying to do is mostly-irrelevant since it collapses in the moment from all the holes (and because it’s not all the way down the gradient, the people who make it past all the holes end up in another discussion/argument, because what the script is trying to do is actually quite divisive, as you noted).

  25. Groboclown says:

    Perhaps I’m late to the TLJ discussion, but I just rewatched the ST, and further cemented some of my thoughts on it. For the most part, I think the plots are weak and only work to set up the conflicts where Rian Johnson wanted to inject his ideas.

    However, I really, really like what he did with Luke / Rey. Especially with making Rey nobody special in regards to her geneology. The PT set up the Force as though it’s all genetics, but this one brought back what I like about ANH and the Dagobah bits in ESB. The Force not as a thing that allows cool special effects, but as more of a spiritual thing.

  26. evileeyore says:

    “Demolition Man Rian Johnson”

    I have always taken issue with this. When Rian first said it in interviews while making TLJ I literally asked the screen “When have you ever played with audience expectations? I’ve watched your movies, they are love letters the genre tropes you’re shooting in!” To me “I’m famous for subverting expectations” was an excuse being used by Rian to make a Star Wars movies that wasn’t a ‘Star Wars movie’.

    Granted I’d only ever seen Brick and Looper before TLJ, in my defense those were 2 of his 3 most successful movies of the 5 he made, so if he was ‘subverting audience’ expectations, it wasn’t something he did consistently.

    In fact, as far as I can tell, The Brothers Bloom was the only movie he did previously that did so. Maybe he ‘became famous for subverting expectations’ in the handful of tv episodes he directed? I don’t know, I’d have to watch them to see if those singular episodes stood out as “subverting” compared to the rest of the series…

  27. Falling says:

    In regards, to deconstruction vs traditionalism, I think you are entirely on point.

    I heard this comparison before in other contexts, and I think it’s useful.
    Disney vs Looney Toons
    followed by
    Disney vs Shrek

    Traditional Disney storytelling tends to tell cohesive worlds that commit to the bit of their story. They are secondary worlds played straight.
    Looney Toons and Shrek break the fourth wall, deconstruct various ideas and are just generally winking at the audience the whole time. They are not played straight.

    Both have their place. But I prefer Disney-style storytelling. Also deconstruction depends on something for which to deconstruct. If everything is deconstruction, at a certain point there’s nothing left but navel gazing. So for deconstruction to stay fresh, it depends on fresh waves of imaginative works played straight.

    TFA was waaaay too safe, but traditional Disney. (It was Lion King 2 where they replay the plot of Lion King 1 but with the next generation. Pretty boring all things considered.) But the solution isn’t to switch to Looney Tunes/ Shrek style. Certainly it’s surprising and ‘fresh’. You ‘couldn’t tell what was going to happen next’. But I don’t think it’s ultimately good because it turns the series into what it is not. The solution is to tell a better, more imaginative story in the traditional Disney way- secondary worlds played straight. I mean in regards to meta-analysis there are even homages to Space Balls in TLJ, which again Space Balls has its place, but ultimately not a good replacement for Star Wars.

    I even found a number of statements like ‘your parents were nobody’ make little sense within the narrative and makes more sense as a fourth wall break/ meta-narrative. Nowhere has Rey expressed a desire that her parents be Somebody. She just wanted to be WITH them- whoever they happened to be. It was the audience that had ideas that her parents were Somebodys, not Rey. Therefore, either Rian doesn’t have a handle on character knowledge (possible given a great number of other serious errors in this regard) or it’s a meta-narrative directed to the audience, but it is not something that makes sense within the scene itself.

    Also, I found the ‘freshness’ and ‘surprise’ depressing in another way. Star Wars was a deliberate reaction against the typical morose sci fi of the day: Zardoz, Logan’s Run, and even Lucas’ own THX 1138 etc. It literally was a “new hope” in the wake of depressing dystopias. TLJ pulls Star Wars into what every other sci film already is. It’s a failure of the rebellion against the more pessimistic branch of sci fi. Don’t get me wrong. I also like pessimistic sci-fi too. But we have that in spades already. Star Wars stood for something different. Or at least it did. And the really frustrating thing is they had to break Luke’s character to get there. There’s a great 5 minute video that never got much momentum from voice-actor/writer Crispin Freeman that I found soon after watching TLJ that put to words some of what I felt:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6EjsuZ54614

    1. Topher Corbett says:

      You hit it right on the head. It’s written to be deliberately insulting to the audience. “Oh, you like heroes?” “Oh, you wanted to know the answer to a mystery from the previous movie?” “Screw you.”

      1. Shamus says:

        From the previous post:

        “It’s fine if you strongly love / hate TLJ, but before you comment make sure you’re at peace with the fact that many people in the comments will Hate / Love it for reasons that will feel alien to you. If you don’t know how to do that, just try to express your frustration / appreciation in terms of how it made you feel and don’t project motives onto people that disagree. (Also, resist the urge to tell people their feelings are wrong, because That Would be Silly.)

        Hate on movies, not on fans and critics. (Or the director. Look, Rian Johnson really got on my nerves in this movie, but that doesn’t mean he’s a bad guy that hates me / Star Wars.) Art is tricky. Don’t make it personal.”

        MAYBE Rian Johnson made this movie to insult you, and MAYBE the folks at Disney said, “To hell with money! Let’s tell our fans how much we hate them!”

        OR…

        MAYBE in a work this large and complex different people will have different ideas on where the story should go and what sort of things would be interesting.

        There’s no need to insist on malice, and doing so will just start a big dumb angry thread where you angrily psychoanalyze Rian Johnson through his work, and I’m not interested in moderating that.

  28. The Big Brzezinski says:

    I remember another movie; “Coming to America”. I remember a scene early on, where prince Akeem tries to get to know a woman his parents have arranged for him to marry. He becomes frustrated when she refuses to evince any will or ideas of her own, instead farcically deferring to him in all things. So he resolves to travel to New York an find a woman whom he can respect and loves him for himself, not his crown.

    These three movies could have been anything their writers wanted, and a vast majority of the audience would have happily signed up for the ride (both figuratively and literally). What they couldn’t be and succeed was trio of cinematic doormats willing to saying, do, or be anything that makes you love them. They needed something to say with confidence on their own rather than just chase whatever idea the audience seemed to like

    1. Radkatsu says:

      Coming to America’s a great movie. I miss when movies were good.

    2. Wangwang says:

      While I agree with you, remember that the prequel trilogy is the result of George Lucas refuse to listen to anyone and just do what he think is right.

  29. ivan says:

    In the picture at the end, from Mass Effect 3 (I presume), who is that dude, second from the left in the middle row? I’m not verry familiar with the second and third games in that series but I don’t recall his weird mopey face anywhere. Maybe he’s a DLC character?

    1. Taellosse says:

      That’s Jacob, the 1st companion you get in ME2.

      1. ivan says:

        rlly? Thought Jacob was the middle dude in the second row there? Who is that, then?

        To clarify at least for me that pic is fairly low quality and blurry, but I think of Jacob as being a very uptight military dude, and the middle dude of the second row fits that a lot more than the second from left dude of second row, who is standing in somewhat of a slouch, or a slump, there.

        1. Darker says:

          The middle one would be Steve Cortez, a romance option for male Shepard in ME3.

  30. Topher Corbett says:

    It’s possible to do deconstruction well, and like you said KOTOR 2 is proof of that even within Star Wars. The problem is that it wasn’t done well.
    I don’t know where you get the idea that people can’t articulate what they don’t like about TLJ. There are dozens upon dozens of hours-long videos on the subject.

    1. Shamus says:

      “I don’t know where you get the idea that people can’t articulate what they don’t like about TLJ.”

      I’m referring to the usual pattern of complaining about fuel, or how ships work, or doing a long analysis of Holdo’s plan. You end up in an argument with someone who wants to defend those things, and you get in a pointless argument about what this technology can and can’t do.

      “Holdo’s plan is dumb!”

      “No, Holdo’s plan was / would have been fine if not for X! And besides, situation Z from the original trilogy falls apart under similar analysis. You’re just looking for things to complain about!”

      My position is that the REAL source of the problem has nothing to do with how dumb / smart Holdo’s plan is, but the fact that Johnson’s script requires us to analyze the plan in the first place. Most people itemize lists of plot holes, which leads to the annoying arguments about “watching movies wrong”, when the real source of the problem is thematic or tonal, where the movie stops “feeling” like Star Wars because Rian is flouting the tropes.

      1. Topher Corbett says:

        No, lots of people talk about the movie’s themes, its characters, etc. and how they weren’t done well either.

        1. Shamus says:

          Imma need you to pay attention real hard here:

          I said:

          “I can also understand why some people found it off-putting in ways that were difficult to articulate.”

          So now you come in an say:

          “No, lots of people talk about the movie’s themes, its characters, etc. and how that wasn’t done well either.”

          Great. But what I said is still correct. You’re agreeing with me. “lots of people” means “not everyone”, which means I was correct when I said “some people”.

          1. Topher Corbett says:

            Then you changed it to “most.”

            Whatever, doesn’t matter.

            As an example, one common topic lately is how badly Finn was handled. John Boyega himself talked about it. His character had some of the most potential to be interesting and new (for the movies anyway) – a stormtrooper defector.
            He went through a character arc in The Force Awakens where he overcame his cowardice and desire to run away, and he was ready to fight the First Order.
            The Last Jedi erases this and has him go through the same arc again. He tries to run away again. Then at the end, when he goes to make a heroic sacrifice and save everyone, he gets blocked (the way he gets blocked by Rose and the nonsense she says afterwards are two separate issues I won’t get into here.)
            You could say that Johnson is making a statement here, or “flouting the tropes” as you call it. He’s saying in effect that heroic sacrifices are dumb and not worth it, or unrealistic, or something. The problem is that he’s already shown twice in the movie (Rose’s sister and Holdo) that he doesn’t think this; heroic sacrifices are completely effective and appropriate as long as you’re… not Finn, apparently.

            One thing that received universal praise in The Force Awakens was the chemistry between Poe and Finn, or between Oscar Isaac and John Boyega. There was a perfect opportunity to have more of them together on screen. Johnson chose not to do this, because he felt that there was “no room for conflict between them” so it would be uninteresting, so he created Rose instead… even though Finn and Rose barely have any conflict with each other either. This is not subversion, it’s not deconstruction, it’s not flouting the tropes, it’s just simple incompetence and lack of creativity. There are so many ways you could have Poe and Finn at odds with each other. You could literally delete Rose and swap her out for Poe, and the movie would be immensely improved.

            Johnson did the same thing with Rey and Luke. He chose not to portray Luke as optimistic and heroic because “that would just be older Rey.” He went with the Screenwriting 101 logic that you would use for a standalone film, instead of using a modicum of creativity to figure out why two plucky optimists that are two different characters would have a conflict with each other. The contrast would even help you develop Rey more, Rey’s lack of development being another common criticism of the whole series.

            He wasn’t doing a clever deconstruction, in fact he played it very safe in many ways. He plagiarized Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi just as heavily as Abrams. The battle of Hoth is set at the end of the movie instead of the beginning, the throne room scene is in the middle, and the reluctant mentor character is Luke instead of Yoda, but it’s all familiar stuff.

            1. Gethsemani says:

              Regarding “Heroic Sacrifices”:
              Both Rose’s sister and Holdo are shown as necessary because someone put them in an impossible position (Poe, both times whether that is accidental or not I don’t know). Tico dies because Poe pushes the attack and while she dies a hero her sacrifice accomplishes nothing, because the Dreadnought is quickly replaced by a new one. Holdo sacrifices herself because the plan to get everyone out from underneath the FO’s nose was spoiled by Poe’s mutiny so she has no choice but to sacrifice herself. The movie obviously wants us to see them as heroes but their deaths as needless, because they could both have lived had Poe followed orders.

              So heroic sacrifices are bad when there’s no need for them, is what the movie is saying. Luke does sacrifice himself (as much as someone who lives on as a force ghost is truly dead), but he does so as a way to atone for him turning his back on the galaxy and as a way to rally the Resistance and return hope. That’s not a futile sacrifice for no gain (Tico) or temporary reprieve (Holdo), nor is it suicidal rage (Finn) but the redemption of a man who overcomes his shortcomings and gives his life to inspire others.

              But as with all things TLJ, the movie is doing too much and isn’t very good at showing (or telling) the audience what it does. Hence why I think this symbolism, like so much else in TLJ, gets lost in the noise.

              1. krellen says:

                I dunno. I saw the movie exactly once, in the theatre, and I got all that from my one viewing. It can’t be all that bad at conveying its meaning.

                1. Daimbert says:

                  My biggest issue with TLJ wrt its themes is not that they weren’t there or that there wasn’t evidence for those interpretations, but more that the messages were a bit ambiguous. I think I know what Johnson was going for, but in almost all cases there’s plenty of evidence for the exact opposite interpretation. You can, for example, easily side with Poe over Holdo or Holdo over Poe and there’s plenty of evidence in the movie to support either side. The same thing applies to heroic sacrifices, because they only end up being unnecessary or pointless for reasons no one knew at the time, which is hardly an argument against them. And so on.

                  1. krellen says:

                    There is no evidence to support siding with Poe. Poe is a reckless idiot who gets people killed the entire film. I honestly have no idea where everyone’s love of Poe comes from.

                    1. Daimbert says:

                      Well, first, there’s the fact that the typical trade-off of those fighters for that huge Dreadnought is usually considered a reasonable trade, and it’s only arguing that the Resistance can’t replace those resources as easily as the ones the FO lost that makes that in any way doubtful. Second, from what I recall there is no situation where those additional fighters and bombers would have made any difference. Third, the Dreadnought is indeed presented as an immediate threat, and it isn’t clear that its long-range turbolasers wouldn’t have caused more casualties on the Resistance side if it hadn’t been destroyed (really, the way to set that up is to show that while Poe et al were setting up for their attack run that the fighters that they should have been engaging were causing havoc within the fleet itself. This is common in these sorts of movies and in Star Wars itself). Fourth, what prompts Leia to chew him out comes from her watching the casualties mount, but her expression there is more mourning than anger, which could reflect her being broken by all the losses rather than solid strategic thinking, especially since later she gives up on Kylo with the same despondent air. Fifth, Leia’s reaction is over the top (from what I saw, she slaps him while demoting him), suggesting that it’s more emotional than simply strategic. Sixth, as noted Holdo is presented as more of an obstructionist officer rather than a competent one throughout. Seventh, as others have noted no one other than Leia in any way resists Poe’s mutiny, suggesting that they aren’t that happy with her either. Eighth, as also noted in other comments Holdo does a poor job of convincing the wing commander that she actually has a plan, even if she doesn’t want to share what it is. Ninth, as others have noted the plan seems to have a few holes in it. Tenth, the movie presents a pressing need to take out the ram, making Poe’s action there reasonable and his calling off the attack a bit dubious and not the proper completion of an arc. And finally, all-in-all Poe’s actions only don’t work, as far as we see, for reasons that he could not have foreseen. To keep him for being an, at least, simple idiot, the movie had to give him reasons that made sense and that could convince other people. Those reasons then, can indeed be convincing to the audience as well. Hence the ambiguity.

                    2. Lino says:

                      Yup, pretty much what Daimbert said. I was rooting for Poe the entire time. And up until the last minute, I was convinced that Holdo was a villain. Not least of which because almost none of her plans actually worked.
                      1. Her plan was to launch a bunch of undetectable transports. Which the FO detects, and then proceeds to the destroy the vast majority
                      2. Hide the people in said transports in a super well defended base. Which is then, again, destroyed.

                      Her only successful act in the entire movie is the kamikaze. But in terms of idiotic decisions that kill people, Holdo’s killed a lot more people than Poe. And I’m also willing to argue that if he hadn’t done the bomber attack in the beginning, they’d all be dead. The way the situation was presented, we see no other choice. Only in hindsight do we see the (arguable) case that it may not have been the best move.

                      At least that’s how I felt when I watched the movie. The entire time, I treated Holdo like a villain.

                    3. Falling says:

                      Daimbert detailed many things well, but to add to it.

                      The framing of the story arc makes me think the writer wants me to think Poe is a reckless fool.
                      But there is a problem of execution. Everything else in the movie shows me that Poe made some fairly reasonable trade-offs and if under the amazing conditions that those bombers had and they still got called off, Leia never should have signed off on the bomber flight in the first place. It’s impossible to have better conditions.

                      Furthermore, to properly run this story where Poe the maverick has his comeuppance there needed to be a moment later in the film where it is very clear that everyone is thinking (or outright saying), ‘sure would’ve been nice to have those bombers about now, but you wasted them.’

                      But given how fragile those bombers were portrayed there is no point of the film where I could see them being useful because after that there were TIE pickets flying around and those bombers can’t handle any opposition whatsoever.

                      It’s like the Eragon book series where the author frames the main character as the hero, but doesn’t realize that many of the hero’s actions are villainous (torturing a father from the village.) If the story had some awareness that these actions are bad, it would work. But because the story has no awareness then ‘good’ in that story is whatever the hero happens to do, it ends up failing in execution. So to, here. RJ wanted to flip the script and show Poe to be the idiot, but he failed because Holdo’s own plan was foolish (though everyone seems to think it’s great) and her own actions are supremely foolish. Intent vs execution.

      2. Bloodsquirrel says:

        My position is that the REAL source of the problem has nothing to do with how dumb / smart Holdo’s plan is, but the fact that Johnson’s script requires us to analyze the plan in the first place. Most people itemize lists of plot holes, which leads to the annoying arguments about “watching movies wrong”, when the real source of the problem is thematic or tonal, where the movie stops “feeling” like Star Wars because Rian is flouting the tropes.

        See, I disagree with this. Plenty of movies/series/episodes get away with “flouting the tropes” precisely because they pay enough attention to their story’s basic logic to make sure that it can withstand the level of scrutiny that drawing attention to it will require. There’s no reason why TLJ’s plot had to be so full of logical inconsistencies. A better writer could have very well challenged some of Star War’s basic conceits without turning all of the characters into irrational idiots.

        Case in point: There’s an episode of Star Trek: TNG where Captain Picard is captured by the Cardassians, and a new Captain is assigned to the Enterprise. Captain Jellico is given the same kind of “villain coding” as Holdo- he comes on board, changes a bunch of stuff, and butts heads with Commander Riker. But unlike Holdo, the things he does make sense, and he turns out to be a highly effective captain who accomplishes his mission (without getting most of the Enterprise’s crew killed in the process, no less). The episode pulls of the subversion that TLJ is trying to pull off far more successfully, and the reason it does so is that it the basic logic of Captain Jellico’s actions and the plot in general actually holds up.

        Captain Jellico demands more formality on the bridge than the crew were used to under Captain Picard, and even demands that Troy puts on a proper uniform when she’s on duty. These things make him unlikable if you’re used to sympathizing with the crew- which triggers the audience’s “villain sense”- but when you stop to analyze his actions it becomes apparent that they’re entirely reasonable given the situation. “Analyzing the plan” works in the episode’s favor, not against it, because the writers made sure that the plan made sense.

        TLJ’s plot being too nonsensical to stand being looked at closely wasn’t an unavoidable fact of nature. It could have easily been tweaked to better withstand scrutiny. A single line from Leia, for example, could have told us that the problem with Poe’s attack on the Dreadnought was that he’d taken too long to take out the surface guns, and that their window of opportunity to get in and drop the bombs before the tie-fighters were scrambled had passed.

        Even taken on its own terms, TLJ fails for reasons which are entirely its own fault.

  31. Allen Gould says:

    Maybe I’m the weirdo, but I always thought Last Jedi set up a pretty solid question for the third trilogy.
    4-5-6: Empire is terrible, rah rah Alliance!
    1-2-3: Oh… turns out the “good guys” were pretty shitty too and kinda had it coming.
    7-8-9: What happens when both “sides” aren’t that great? And hey, who has been bankrolling all this?

    1. RFS-81 says:

      9 could have been about killing the shady dark web dealer that is selling battleships and deathstars to anyone.

      (Zombie Palpatine wants to give them away, he doesn’t count!)

      1. Nate says:

        (Zombie Palpatine wants to give them away, he doesn’t count!)

        The galaxy could probably set up quite a nice economy based on farming the various megapowered Sith Lords that spawn every few years in the Unknown Regions and all their massive invasion fleets that they always magic out of nowhere.

        Even if all the fleets eventually blow up, that’s still a heck of a lot of refined metals, structural girders, modular components that could be scavenged. They might be a little bit cursed/haunted but I’m sure there’s technological ways around that; a strong testing regime, trained Force-sensitive technicians, sealed and warded disposal vaults for power couplings or droid motivators that try to Force-strangle anyone.

        One dismantled Xyston Cruiser could provide lighting, power and industrial automation supplies for an entire colony, and its Miniaturized Death Star Laser can help dig tunnels for safe, emission-free planetary inter-urban transport.

        Please give generously to the Omelas Farms Foundation for Sith Upcycling. We treat all our Sith Lords humanely, giving them a short but happy lifespan in a small closed asteroid ecosystem which they can display all their normal evil behaviours, before allowing them a final villain’s speech and a dignified death in combat with a fully qualified Light Side hero, as is nature’s way.

        1. Lino says:

          I don’t know. Sounds a bit expensive. An dangerous! I mean, what’s keeping you from letting a Rian Johnson in the enclosure to subvert our expectations by letting them loose on the galaxy?

    2. Lino says:

      In order to successfully explore that theme in 7-8-9, we need to know something about the world (or unicerse) this conflict takes place in. And for that you need worldbuilding. Which is something all three movies in the ST never even try to do. It never feels like the characters and their struggles are part of something bigger. Instead, it feels like their struggles take place in a bubble, and the universe contorts at every turn in order to accommodate them. The characters never react to the world around then, and the world never feels real.

  32. MithrilGear says:

    You don’t have to be a “fan” of Rebecca Black to see that citing a vanity song commissioned by her mother when she was 13 as an example of her work instead of a recent song recorded after she actually learned how to sing is doing her a disservice.

  33. JDMM says:

    It’s like trying to make Shazam a sequel to Watchmen. I love both of those movies, but they’re ice cream and chili. They aren’t designed to go together.

    Deconstruction-Reconstruction switches (to borrow tvtropes lingo) can work, Hot Fuzz, Kick-Ass, Unforgiven are all fine movies and to some degree ASoIaF has done it with knighthood in the first three books and Brienne and Jaime in book four. What each has in common, though, is that in the deconstructionist phase rules are put in place so that the climax can abide by those rules

    Rian Johnson demonstrated that rogues cannot be trusted, that a plan sometimes goes awry, that bad guys can turn away from their masters and still be bad on their own? Well have a climax where all of that is true and it’s still climatic

    The problem seems twofold, one is that Abrams is not a follower of that sort of story-logic, (your point about hiring the right sort of person) the second is that I’m not sure Star Wars is a setting that can tolerate that sort of establishment of rules. If you ask me to look closer at character motivations I might also look closer at the logistics and at that point if you haven’t established the rules the whole setting might cave in. You can’t have both random superweapons everywhere and a plea for reinforcements mattering.

  34. Joshua says:

    It’s like trying to make Shazam a sequel to Watchmen.

    I may be in the minority, but apart from the sentimentality of the foster family, I found the world presented by Shazam to be oddly cynical at times and where most of the inhabitants are complete assholes, not just the super hero. So, maybe not as far apart as you might think.

  35. Alpakka says:

    Again, I had a lot of fun reading this post. I wrote in the Last Jedi post comments that I also thought that the biggest issue in the trilogy was that the movies were all trying to pull into different directions. Of course, Shamus wrote it much better (and in much more detail, just the way I want it).

    When going to watch Rise of Skywalker on the opening night, I had made a point of not reading any reviews before it, but then made the mistake of checking on my phone how long the movie would be. Of course I ran into some review mentioning how there was much hate towards it… I would have liked to enjoy the movie in peace, and only later find out that I was supposed to hate it.

    I seem to be in the minority since I still enjoyed each of the new trilogy movies, even though they had their flaws, and really should have had a better plan. They each still got that hard-to-define “Star Wars feel” for me, and had me walking out of the theater thinking “there was that *whoooommm* and then the *bleepbleepblop* and *pewpewpew* and *roaaaarrrrr* and all the other cool stuff!”.

    Oh, and you totally can make chili ice cream! Just google “chili ice cream” and you get a lot of recipes, some of them sound delicious. A friend once told that he had made some ice cream with really hot chili peppers/sauce when he was a teenager. Apparently it was great while you were eating, since the coolness of the ice cream offset the burning of the chili. But then you had to continue eating to keep the burn away, and knew that at some point you will run out of ice cream, and would be even worse off since you kept eating more chili with the ice cream…

    I can’t tell if that fits the metaphor in the post or not. =P

    1. Taellosse says:

      Sounds perfect to me, as a metaphor.

      “It’s great so long as you never stop to consider the ramifications of anything going on right under your nose, and keep focusing solely on instant gratification.

      Unfortunately the universe doesn’t care about your reality blinders, and eventually consequences arrive regardless – a bad taste in your mouth, debilitating nausea, or both.”

  36. Redrock says:

    I still think the lack of an actual story is the ultimate downfall of the sequel trilogy. I can see why some people – not many, mind you – started saying that they actually like the prequels more than the sequels. It’s part nostalgia, of course, and it’s totally bonkers when you compare the visuals, cinematography and moment-to-moment writing. But the PT had a story and a setting that was well-suited to the telling of that story. Lucas ultimately failed to realize its potential, but the potential was there, which was proven beyond a shadow of a doubt by the Clone Wars series.

    With the sequel trilogy, I think this whole “era” was a failure from the get-go, on a conceptual level. And that’s very much on Abrams and whoever was in charge of the ST on the whole. They wanted this weird state of Rebellion vs Empire and they had to bend all the original characters to the point of breaking to get everyone where they needed to be. Knowing Abrams, he probably didn’t even initially have any answers of his own as to how Luke and Leia and Han all failed so spectacularly in their own ways after the fall of the Empire, but even if he did, I doubt that his were much better than what Johnson came up with.

    The way I see it, and I really hate to say it, but The Force Awakens would have benefited from trying to be a new Phantom Menace rather than a retread of Episode IV. As in, a flourishing New Republic and a growing Jedi Academy facing a new and shadowy threat. Instead we got “your heroes fucked everything up in the years since their big win, and they did it in spectacularly stupid and mostly poorly explained ways”.

    1. Daimbert says:

      It’s part nostalgia, of course, and it’s totally bonkers when you compare the visuals, cinematography and moment-to-moment writing. But the PT had a story and a setting that was well-suited to the telling of that story.

      As someone who doesn’t really say that the prequels are better but has to logically conclude that from the fact that I’ll rewatch the PT and didn’t even finish the ST, I think this is the proof that production values don’t necessarily make things entertaining. Yes, the visuals and cinematography are better and things like the dialogue work better, but overall there’s not much that’s entertaining in the ST. For all its flaws, as you note, the PT had a story and a story that at least tried to tie itself into the OT movies that it was supporting. In short, it badly captured what people liked about Star Wars. The ST, on other hand, never really seemed to get what people liked about Star Wars in the first place. TFA was a shallow copy of ANH, and TLJ seemed to try to subvert everything people liked about Star Wars and ESB. That doesn’t leave much room for entertainment.

      They wanted this weird state of Rebellion vs Empire and they had to bend all the original characters to the point of breaking to get everyone where they needed to be.

      When I first watched TFA, my thought on how to do it better was to nod to the Thrawn Trilogy and have the Imperial Remnant and the New Republic in a state of balance against each other, because of Thrawn’s return and how he managed to carve out that spot for them. Then you have Leia’s group being an unofficial and unacknowledged guerrilla group trying to bring down the Imperial Remnant. In two simply sentences, we understand everything, and it would even explain why destroying the capital world would be so devastating. You can argue that they wanted to ditch the EU … but then they brought Thrawn back ANYWAY, so it would have made more sense to do it here.

      Yeah, Abrams needed to find a way to explain that, and he never did and, presumably, never cared about it. And neither did Johnson. And that’s why the ST makes no sense.

      1. Thomas says:

        Whilst that is a logical fix, I would have much preferred them to have the story take place from the perspective the New Republic in that world. This is an area where the ST were too slavish to the OT. If they’d gone for the ‘balance of power’ thing, then we’d have had one trilogy with a powerful (but dying) good organisation, one with a powerful bad organisation, and one with a balance of power between the two.

        It’s just an interesting setting in general, trying to set-up a new organisation from the chaos of a bad one. We know in real life how difficult that transition is, and it makes excellent story telling material. If they want to bring some grey into Star Wars, it’s a good place to do it.

        1. Daimbert says:

          I wouldn’t expect them to be that brave.

          But you could easily add on more movies or a new trilogy on after this to explore the reconstruction and the potential issues around that. So you could have: Death of a good organization->Rise and defeat of a bad organization->final collapse of the bad organization->Finally building a new good organization from the bad one.

  37. Grimwear says:

    I always considered Johnson to be a pointless AA/AAA director for Disney. Someone who did a fine movie for Looper and that’s all they saw. My personal headcanon is that I think the Disney execs signed off on Johnson and then left it to Kennedy to finish the movie. This is in the era where Marvel is scooping up as many directors that they can get their hands on in order to make their movies. But they don’t want the cream of the crop. They want directors that will tow the line. They got burned with Edgar Wright with Ant-Man and figured they wanted competent directors who wouldn’t rock the boat or have enough pull/audience goodwill to make their own decisions (honestly I’d never even heard of Johnson prior to TLJ even though I had seen Looper). So Disney signed off on him, thought everything was golden, handed it all to Kennedy and left her to it since in their mind Star Wars can’t lose.

    At this point I break off and slightly disagree with Shamus as I believe TLJ was not a correction on Disney’s part. Force Awakens was generally well-received and the gripes were mostly “this is A New Hope all over again”. I don’t think Disney had any intention to make some crazy diversion, but rather to make something unique that isn’t a rehash but still fits comfortably in the Star Wars Universe.

    So anyway Kennedy has full control over Star Wars and next to no oversight and here I have no idea what went down. Maybe Rian Johnson is just extremely forceful and wanted to make his own movie his way screw everyone else. Kennedy, while being a producer for Spielberg has never had free reign with no one above. Maybe she was scared that if Rian didn’t get his way he’d walk off the project and Disney would get involved which would reflect poorly on her. Or maybe she really is just that inexperienced and didn’t realize that the movie Rian was making was such a huge diversion from what has been done before. Either way it seems that Johnson had full creative control and went wild with it. I’m not sure what the thought process was. Again I think he was hired to just…do a simple Star Wars movie. But now there are talks of Johnson getting his own trilogy so he wants to do a brand new take on Star Wars. Something to WOW audiences and just goes wild. And again Kennedy doesn’t reign him in and we’re left with the disaster that Star Wars has become.

    1. krellen says:

      Or maybe The Last Jedi was good, actually, and the problem was reacting to “fan backlash”.

      I really get sick of reading all these comments talking about what a horrible person Rian Johnson is for “ruining” Star Wars. The Last Jedi is the only movie that explicitly knew the lesson of the rest of the entire series and it really gets on my nerves how so many “fans” insist on clinging to the idea that the Jedi were good and right and perfect and admirable.

      Star Wars is a series about how noble intentions can lead to dark endings and about how love is the Force that binds us that you ignore at your own peril. Rian Johnson explicitly said this in a way no other film dared to, mostly because I don’t think George Lucas actually knows the story his films told.

      Leaning into that theme would have ended up with a film that satisfied at least part of the audience. Balking from it lead to a film that satisfied basically no one.

      1. Daimbert says:

        Well, the comment you’re replying to just says that Johnson split from what had come before. And that’s clearly true. It’s particularly true if you compare TLJ to TFA, and there is good reasons for thinking that he split from the OT in particular. For example:

        The Last Jedi is the only movie that explicitly knew the lesson of the rest of the entire series and it really gets on my nerves how so many “fans” insist on clinging to the idea that the Jedi were good and right and perfect and admirable.

        But most of the fans aren’t holding the idea that the JEDI were good and right and admirable, but that LUKE was good and right and admirable. And RotJ explicitly says this, by having Luke go against both Yoda and Ben — and even Leia — who think that Vader cannot be redeemed and must be killed, and instead uses the good he senses in Vader to ultimately redeem him and destroy the Emperor that way. That seems inconsistent with his gut reaction of killing Kylo instead of trying to turn him back from or keep him away from the Dark Side, or him going into hiding and becoming a bitter hermit. And even then, many of the people complaining about that would have been okay with it if it had just been developed properly, but it seems to come out of nowhere and have no purpose other than to present Luke as flawed in a way that neither he nor the other Jedi had been presented (Obi-Wan, for example, while concluding at the end that Vader had to be killed, himself couldn’t bring himself to do it and kept trying to turn him back to the light, and so his conclusion is based on personal experience, not mere hubris or rigid philosophizing).

        Poe’s arc has the same issue, as if we interpret it as an actual arc in line with what you said seems to suggest that the freedom-loving Rebels would be better off with a far more rigid, controlled and compartmentalized military structure, when that’s never how they were. Again, people wouldn’t have minded it so much if it had been properly developed, but it was never really shown that Poe was wrong except by fiat. It’s perfectly reasonable for him to take the actions he takes based on what he knows, and the only reason it’s wrong is because of things he didn’t know and couldn’t have known, and so he’s taking actions that were reasonable that turn OUT to be wrong, but that’s not sufficient to anchor an arc that contradicts the idea of plucky Rebels out-thinking and out-passioning their hidebound and rigid enemies.

        And Finn’s arc with Rose fails in a similar way — and is the one that ties directly to love — because Finn had been struggling with cowardice the entire movie and finally is willing to sacrifice his life for a cause and taking an action that he wholeheartedly believes is necessary and useful, to buy the Resistance time for their allies to arrive or to come up with another way out. And Rose stops him from doing that, with the line about love. But this takes a swipe at the idea of individual sacrifices mattering and perhaps argues that we shouldn’t do that (in line with the bombers at the beginning of the movie) … but in the previous movies the sacrifices WERE justified, and these ones seem justified as well. It would be easy to set it up as them reacting based on outdated ideas if they didn’t have to make Finn and Poe seem in some way REASONABLE. And when they seem reasonable, then we ask the movie to show us why they aren’t. And it fails to really do that in all of these cases.

        Also, I think you’re being too harsh on the comments, especially this one. Yes, some are saying that Johnson ruined the trilogy. And some are saying that he did the only interesting thing in it. And some are saying that he didn’t pull off what he wanted to do. And some, like the comment you’re replying to — and Shamus’ post — are mostly commenting that the clash between the two different visions made things hopeless, especially when the two directors seemed to want to undo what the other did as soon as they could (the explicit line about Rey’s parents being nobodies strikes at Abrams’ making them important in TFA and the speculation about them being important). So there are lots of comments expressing lots of opinions across the spectrum on this one, and most of the comments are more reasonable than you present them here.

        1. krellen says:

          Luke is presented as flawed in a way he has been represented as flawed in the past; Luke has let his emotions get the better of him, and has been shown to resort to violence as a resolution to threats in the past. May I remind you of this moment in RotJ?

          Just because someone has overcome their instincts once does not mean they never struggle with that issue ever again. Luke pulling his blade on Ben – and Ben waking up at the worst possible moment – is entirely in-character with ways Luke has struggled in the past.

          1. Daimbert says:

            These have been long threads, and so you can be forgiven for not remembering my comments where I make, well, the exact same argument that you make here [grin]. But the other people aren’t really complaining about that singular moment or that he is simply reacting with violence. They are reacting more to the implication that Luke GAVE UP on Kylo, as that’s why he is tempted to attack him. It’s not him going into a rage there. Luke is implied to see that as, in fact, the real solution. The man who didn’t give up on his father is seen to give up on his nephew. That’s seen as indeed inconsistent, and the movie doesn’t really restore that Luke (except maybe at the very end, although my interpretation of Leia and Luke’s conversation was that both had given up on Kylo at that point).

            Again, I do think his reaction there is a split second one that is consistent with his getting the Force vision and seeing that as perhaps the best solution to the horrors he thinks Kylo will unleash. But it is inconsistent with Luke as portrayed at the end of RotJ, if for no other reason than it implies that he didn’t learn anything from that. And since the movie doesn’t in fact call back to that moment, it does come across like that character is forgotten rather than an explicit link to tie things back to that specific flaw.

          2. Redrock says:

            Here’s the thing – I don’t think that any of the basic ideas Rian Johnson wanted to realize in TLJ are inherently terrible – it’s just that they were handled poorly and weren’t sold enough to the many people who are really invested in those characters. For instance, can I imagine Luke, in a moment of weakness and fear, seriously contemplate killing someone who he fears might become a new Darth Vader? Possibly, but you have to convincingly show me how he got to that point. You also have to explain to me just why the hell Ben Solo was pulled towards the Dark Side in the first place, because that’s something that’s NEVER explored in the ST in any meaningful way. Hell, those movies go as far as to suggest that morality is somehow actually genetic, like being related to Vader or Palpatine by blood can make a person inherently evil. Which is an utterly horrifying idea to even hint at. Anakin had actual reasons, fear and trauma that led him to the Dark Side. Ben? I still have no idea, other than “the script demanded it”.

            And even if Luke “sensing the evil in Ben” somehow made sense, Luke’s behavior afterwards still wouldn’t. And yes, neither did Yoda’s sels-imposed exile. In the end, the flaws in TLJ lie in poor plotting and characterization, and in the fundamentally false idea that to build up new heroes and subvert genre tropes you need to actively tear down old heroes.

            1. krellen says:

              Those are all faults of The Force Awakens, not The Last Jedi.

              1. Redrock says:

                Well, no, not quite. Knowing Abrams, he probably didn’t have any satisfying answers to all the mysteries he presented in TFA, sure, but then it was Johnson’s job to give those answers, and instead he just went “fuck it” and threw out the baby with the bathwater. Like I’ve said elsewhere, I actually do think that the basic premise of TFA was flawed to begin with – but TLJ just made everything so, so much worse.

        2. Syal says:

          but in the previous movies the sacrifices WERE justified

          They weren’t sacrifices in the previous movies, they were either dying in failure or surviving in victory. (I guess maybe Rogue One had suicide missions, but that’s a spinoff.)

          I was irritated by the suicide run at the beginning of TLJ because Star Wars is not about suicide runs. So I saw Rose’s nonsense at the end not as a condemnation of previous Star Wars, but a condemnation of the current movie’s change of direction into noble sacrifices being the strategy.

          1. Daimbert says:

            I don’t think that it was specifically meant to be a suicide run, but instead a desperate attack like at the first Death Star or like them sticking around waiting for the shield to go down in RotJ. Or the snowspeeders desperately and mostly futilely attacking the AT-ATs to buy time for the transports to get out (actually, in thinking about it, EXACTLY like that). They DID all die, but I don’t think they were supposed to nor that Poe intended it. He does still seem to think that the losses were worth it, but I don’t think he planned for them to not come back.

            As for the current movies making noble sacrifices the strategy … I don’t see it. The battle at Starkiller Base is deliberately the same sort of thing as the first Death Star or the fighter attack on the command ship in The Phantom Menace. Han dies not as a noble sacrifice, but as a last attempt to turn Kylo back to the good through an appeal from his father. Poe might have tried that in getting Finn and the droid out but lived. So I don’t really see “heroic sacrifices as strategy” as a trend in any of the movies.

            1. Syal says:

              “Current movie” was singular. The Last Jedi has the scenes of dying people using their final moments to take their enemies with them; it introduces the concept, then refutes it with Rose (in the second-dumbest way possible. So dumb.)

      2. Grimwear says:

        I wasn’t making a comment on the quality of the film or what kind of person Rian is. Rather trying to determine what led to TLJ being made because honestly there’s no reason execs would want it. Did people think Force Awakens was a rehash of a previous film? Yes. But it was a rehash that net the execs 2 billion dollars (I still maintain it could be the worst movie ever and still make all the money but from an exec perspective they would think they were so smart for having the movie made as is and it’s perfect). They’re very risk averse which is a reason why I assume that if they were to make any changes it would be something minor. Just a “don’t remake Empire beat for beat”. I also believe the Disney execs don’t know Star Wars or care which is why they have Kennedy to run that and keep it running.

        Which is why I circled back to Kennedy being responsible for the diversion that was TLJ. Either through her own inexperience or Johnson being very persuasive in presenting his vision. Heck maybe Kennedy thought his movie was the greatest thing of all time and thought everyone would love it. But the fact is that TLJ is a much different film from what came previously and I can only imagine how angry the execs were when it came out to conflicting results. This is a supposed guaranteed cash cow and now you have a divided fan base with no idea how to correct it. And someone in Kennedy’s position should have known to stay the course (which is what her bosses want) rather than take a big gamble. Especially with a franchise that cost billions to acquire. Especially for the second film in a trilogy. Save it for a stand alone. I maintain that the people hiring Johnson do not care at all about him as a director or for his creative vision. They just want someone who can deliver milk toast and not make waves. But somehow he was able to make his personal mark on Star Wars and I bet the Disney execs hate him for it.

  38. Adamantyr says:

    Lack of cohesiveness between the three sequel movies was the big issue. Star Wars needs it’s Kevin Feige. Disney’s biggest mistake was not appointing one to handle the entire sequel trilogy.

    People have said Favreau should take over the whole thing, I’m inclined to think he doesn’t want the job though. He enjoys his small corner of the SW universe and the level of control he has. Plus with a TV series he can tell a different kind of story in a different way from a big cinematic movie.

    Dave Filoni would be my 2nd choice, the guy just KNOWS Star Wars. Watch his impassioned speech in SW: Gallery about Episode 1. All the other directors fall silent as he in seven minutes will convince you “Hey… maybe episode 1 isn’t so bad.”

    Star Wars has a different feel for everyone, but I think there are consistent elements you can latch on to. One of the reasons I stopped reading the expanded universe books and comics was I found that invariably, what most writers wanted to do was turn SW into Dune. Especially when it came to the Force and the Jedi. And that isn’t Star Wars, not to me anyway.

    1. Agammamon says:

      What was Kennedy there for then?

      1. Adamantyr says:

        A good question. She doesn’t seem like she has the talent to really direct the creative side of it. She DID pick up Favreau for Mandalorian so maybe she needs to step back and let others direct the direction.

  39. “You can do a re-creationist story like Abrams was originally going for[9], or you can do an iconoclastic story like Rian Johnson made[10], or you could try to do something evolutionary like Rogue One[11] or The Mandalorian, but you need to pick one of these and stick with it during a story.”

    You’re singing my song!

    1. Syal says:

      Now I’m trying to imagine a second verse matching rhythm and rhyming with that.

  40. Agammamon says:

    I would have to disagree that Johnson’s TLJ is a *deconstruction*.

    He doesn’t seem to do that. What he does – and has done in several movies – is ‘subvert expectations’. Sometimes it works. Most times it doesn’t. But that’s his ‘thing’ in the same way Shamalyan has the ‘twist ending’. You can see this in his other works. ‘Subverting expectations’ is his thing. Granted, you have to be familiar with the genre to know what the expectations are in order to know what to subvert. But it never seems to get past the ‘subverts’ stage.

    Nothing in TLJ felt like tropes were being deconstructed. It simply felt like someone saying ‘you thought it would be one way, but SURPRISE! something different is happening’. And then it doesn’t matter because the ‘something different’ would lead to a real deconstruction story – and those are hard – so we’ll go ahead an nullify the unexpected thing to get us back on the expected track.

    Anyway, that’s why I found TLJ to be really annoying.

    1. Adrian Lopez says:

      This is very true and I completely agree.

    2. Falling says:

      I’ve heard it described as a series of ‘gotcha’ moments, and I think that’s accurate.
      Gotcha moments are indeed surprising, and this seems to be one of things that TLJ get’s praised for: the unexpected twists and turns. But surprise via ‘gotcha’ isn’t inherently good because negating everything that happened before would also be a ‘gotcha’ but it also breaks the story. It was unexpected because it was impossible to expect if half way through, Frodo throws the Ring over his shoulder and we spend the rest of the book watching him play cribbage. Very surprising indeed. They ‘got’ us. But doing so breaks a lot of promises given at the beginning of the story.

      Which, I’ll admit can work if you replace it with something more interesting, but if it’s more mundane than the original promise then that makes the story a real bummer. Empty boxes are surprising too. But not great birthday present unless you prefer disappointment over satisfaction.

    3. Ultrapotassium says:

      The nullifying of the unexpected thing was definitely one of the things that I really disliked about the movie. There were many times when I thought, “Oh, this is interesting, let’s see where it goes”, and then it goes nowhere and everyone goes back to the way they were before.

  41. Adrian Lopez says:

    “I can understand why some people embraced the way Rian Johnson switched things up, and I can also understand why some people found it off-putting in ways that were difficult to articulate. So many criticisms of The Last Jedi focus on the relative power levels of the characters, the nuance of chain of command, and the technical details of what Star Wars technology can and can’t do. I think these criticisms are symptoms of a more fundamental tonal problem that’s harder for folks to identify. If the movies had nailed the expected feel of Star Wars, then fans would have been far less inclined to focus on the mechanical details of the story.” NAILED IT SHAMUS!!! This is the truth, plain and simple. Thank you for saying it so succinctly.

  42. Ebenezer_Arvigenius says:

    I still think they should have handed the writing to Timothy Zahn. Pretty much the only good tonal tie-in I’ve seen over the past decades.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      That’s the upside, and there’s no debate that Zahn’s Thrawn series was the best fiction of the EU. The downside is he’s never worked in film, so he was probably never a serious contender for the lead writer.

  43. Ultrapotassium says:

    Genre demolition is not the sort of thing you do in the context of the second act of an ultra-traditionalist story, you absolute LUNATICS!

    This is EXACTLY how I felt about TLJ! As a standalone movie set in the Star Wars universe, it was fine. it was a shakeup in the formula with amazing special effects, scenes and fights. As the second movie in a trilogy, it kinda sucked.

  44. Jeff says:

    I have to point out the Throne Room Fight is objectively terrible. Yes, objectively. I’m not talking about themes or story or whatever, I’m talking about chorography/direction. I’m talking “How did this make it into the final cut of an AAA movie?” terrible.

    The most egregious moment is where one guard swings at Ren and just doesn’t complete his swing, rather than decapitate her. There’s no “Force deflection” or whatever excuse either, because a beat later Ren ducks. Except the guard had already aborted the swing to avoid actually hitting her, so she’s literally ducking under literally nothing. How the heck was the best take? How did that make it into the final cut?! They screwed up the fight chorography!

    It’s fine and all cool on a casual first look, but if you rewatch (because hey, cool fight scenes) it gets worse and worse as you notice all sorts of errors and nonsensical moments.

  45. Shamus, idk if you get alerts for comments, but thanks.souch for.sharing the video. I posted a thank you on the video’s pi ned comment, but didnt realize I didn’t submit.my thank you here. Since you shared it, it has grown a ton, being my first video to clear even 3k (now at nearly 60k). It means a lot a writer I respect would think to put my little passion project into one of their pieces. Thanks so much!

  46. Bruno says:

    Shamus, you explained how I felt about the Mass Effect trilogy better than I ever could and now you did the same with this Star Wars trilogy. This is a fantastic analysis. Next time someone whats to talk about these movies with me, I will just send the link for this article.

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