By Daylon Bonner, Staff Writer
“Star Wars”: a cultural phenomenon of epic proportions and a source of people taking things way too seriously. In all fairness, I do enjoy “Star Wars,” but I will not lose any sleep over not digesting every piece of lore associated with the property. Which brings us to the latest and most divisive entry into the franchise “The Last Jedi.”
As of January 17, Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 91% approval rating. The audience rating on site sits considerably lower at 49%. According to Box Office Mojo, the film has made upwards of $1.27 billion so far. It has been talked to death by YouTube personalities, debated in online forums and has started a ludicrous petition. The critics enjoy it because of how it progresses the story and new characters, while the audiences are less receptive to it because Luke did not receive the send-off they were hoping for and the force evolved in a way they were not expecting.
Personally, I think the film is pretty good. The film is undeniably flawed, but the positives in the film are too numerous to make me not dislike it.
For the five or six people who have not seen the movie and still want to, this is a preemptive spoiler warning.
Let’s address Luke Skywalker. The “true” Star Wars fan will have to get over his role in this trilogy and his death. There are two main reasons for this: the first is while he basically cameoed in “The Force Awakens,” he features prominently in this film and affects the overall conclusion; the second is the trilogy is not about him. “A New Hope,” “The Empire Strikes Back,” and “The Return of the Jedi” were the intertwining narratives of Luke, Leia and Han. To be fair, I doubt the fans would have accepted the death of Luke in any way, shape or form. Furthermore, I like the arc Luke is given. It feeds into him truly embracing his status as a legend during his final confrontation with Kylo Ren. He becomes the symbol everyone believes he is at the end.
However, the new crop of characters does not escape justified criticism. In fact, some of them have been relegated to pointless storylines that serve no purpose. While these points of contention are justified, people have claimed that these problems have tainted the lore of Star Wars. I do not think that this is the case.
What fans need to realize is that the problems embedded in “The Last Jedi” are problems that you find in the process of making any film, and not exclusive to the lore of Star Wars itself. Characters in the film make decisions that ultimately have no bearing on the conclusion of the narrative and function merely to keep a prominent character, specifically Poe, involved in the proceedings. For instance, the decision to hide the escape plan from Poe, detracted from the logical coherency of the plot. Ultimately, it was the decision that led to an unsuccessful mutiny and Leia telling Poe what is going on anyway which incites him to relax and go with the plan. In other words, our time was wasted.
Flaws such as these are embedded in the script. Truth be told, I see one or two more script rewrites and possibly one extra year between the releases, immensely helping “The Last Jedi” to iron out the narrative flaws in its script. Rian Johnson, the writer and director of the film, can produce quality work, as evidenced by his films “Looper”, “Brick” and his work on the television show “Breaking Bad: endeavors that reflect his aptitude as a writer and director.
Where the movie falters the most to me is how the script feels as if it shoe-horns characters into either bland or unnecessary situations such as the arc for Poe or whatever the arcs for Finn and Rose were supposed to be. Based on his filmography, Rian Johnson makes art at his own pace, and, to some degree, it would seem that this movie’s two-year crunch shot him sorely in the foot.
Disney knows that a Star Wars movie is going to make serious bank during its theater runs. That is how ingrained it is in pop culture. When even the prequels made close to $2.5 billion collectively at the box office, with “The Phantom Menace” raking in over one billion, Disney is not worried about the petition against “The Last Jedi” or a Star Wars movie not doing well at theaters. At the end of the day fans need to realize what Star Wars is: a franchise that has been stroking people since the late seventies.
“The Last Jedi” did not deserve the hate it has received because the hate has been misplaced on the effects to the lore as opposed to problems embedded within the script and the choices made by the characters. Yes, the film took risks with the original and new characters, but for the most part they paid off. The film did not damage the lore of Star Wars. It does not need to be scrubbed from canon. People are taking this too seriously.