This past winter break, my girlfriend and I had our annual visit to the cinema to see the latest Star Wars entry. If I’m being brutally honest, this time felt more of a chore than a genuine wish to see the next instalment of my childhood franchise. And after watching The Last Jedi, I’ve been left bitter and disappointed towards Disney’s treatment of Star Wars.
I recently rewatched the Force Awakens and realised just how unremarkable it really was. The story was a retread of A New Hope. I hated the new characters. And while I thought it successfully captured the visual essence of the franchise, it lacked the charm and magic that I continue to love about the original trilogy. Oh how my thoughts have changed since my initial, wide-eyed delight back in 2015. 2016’s Rogue One is my favourite Star Wars film since Return of the Jedi. It took the setting and did something that was memorable and enjoyable. The Jedi were mentioned in passing, we explored more of the Rebel Alliance and the Empire, and it surprisingly concluded it’s own story. It was by no means perfect, but it restored some of my faith in Disney’s acquisition of the franchise.
The Last Jedi isn’t a “crime on humanity” or “the worst Star Wars film ever” (cue Comic Book Guy clip). But it wasn’t the film that was so lauded by the critics. Through the course of my viewing, I experienced excitement, boredom, frustration, anger, surprise and then a lasting dissatisfaction. I could whinge and moan about the plot-holes, questionable narrative choices and the inconsistent pacing. But so many others have done that to death. My main problem with this “generation” of Star Wars is that I simply don’t care about any of these new characters. And that’s not based on the actors’ performances, though I’m still not convinced by Daisy Ridley. Instead it’s their actual characters and personalities.
My affection for the likes of Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia and Han Solo may have been from a child’s instantaneous wonder during my youth. But it was still earned through the course of the story and the characters’ actions. Luke went from a whiny 20 year-old, to losing his foster parents, becoming a war hero, learning the true identify of his father, and then laying said father to rest. Each character had a narrative arch that made sense and was justified. Meanwhile Rey, meets a bunch of war heroes, gains ridiculously strong force powers, and “defeats” the lead villain in both films. The surrounding mystery and intrigue created by The Force Awakens, either by incoherent writing or JJ Abram’s genuine intentions, is swept under the rug. Thus leaving us with a wide-eyed yet bland lead. And it’s this squandering of opportunities that has left me annoyed with The Last Jedi. Christ, they killed off Admiral Ackbar like he was nothing!
If LucasArts and Disney were serious in their endeavour to essentially reboot Star Wars for a new generation, then why have the story and characters so entangled in those of the previous. It’s great to see the likes of Luke and Leia return to the big screen, but it distracts from where the focus should be; Rey, Kylo, Finn and the rise of the First Order. That’s the problem with pushing the franchise into “newish” territory. Nostalgia and memories have been quintessential in Star Wars’ continued success. That’s why the franchise is arguably more important to it’s older generations of fans. They are the generation that is far more vocal and protective of their own treasured attitudes towards Star Wars. Disney will see the profits, but after the storm The Last Jedi conjured up, it’ll take some magic to sway the devastated masses.