So Star Wars: The Last Jedi came out a few weeks back, which means the saga’s fanbase is at war as well, half hailing Jedi as “the best Star Wars film ever,” while the rest grumble disconsolately from their collective grandmas’ basements. (Or so those who disagree with them would have us believe).
I thought it was fine. Not great. Not terrible. But I enjoyed it thoroughly. As I told a coworker shortly after the film dropped, if you thought The Force Awakens was derivative, its plot essentially the product of throwing a collection of character archetypes and plot points from the previous films into a blender and hitting “start,” this one isn’t going to change your mind. If you’re just here to be entertained, however, you could do a lot worse.
See, I don’t personally expect all that much from the Star Wars films. I prefer the new ones to the prequels, but after six and a half hours of watching Hayden Christensen and Ewan MacGregor fight haphazardly animated Looney Tunes characters — ironic, given the franchise is now owned by Disney — almost anything would have been an improvement. As long as they’re fun and entertaining, I tend to give each new entry the benefit of the doubt.
That being said, I understand some of the gripes people have. If you’re going to make a movie set 20 or 30 years before Star Wars, it makes sense to tell the origin story of Darth Vader. And the downer ending of the prequel trilogy is smoothed over somewhat by the fact that we know Luke Skywalker will eventually save the day in Return of the Jedi.
If you’re doing a sequel to the original films, however, your job is a bit tougher. Just as those wishing to see Anakin Skywalker’s fall to the Dark Side dramatized in the prequels might have hoped for more than the story of a whiny emo kid nursing a creepy lifelong crush on his childhood babysitter, those who grew up with the originals must have wished for better than a future where Han and Leia have split up, their son lost to the Dark Side; one where Luke’s new Jedi Order is in tatters, Luke himself skulking around his little island like the neighborhood curmudgeon, treating the new films’ heroine with all the consideration of a grumpy old man giving the bright, smiling Mormon missionaries who keep showing up at his door the bum’s rush. And if you would’ve liked to see Luke do something cool for more than the last ten minutes or so of the film’s two-and-a-half-hour runtime, well, I can’t really argue with ya there.
Most egregiously: whereas the crowd-pleasing ending of Jedi once softened the downbeat conclusion of the prequels, future generations rewatching the originals will know that the Rebellion’s victory over the Empire is destined to be short-lived; that Darth Vader may be redeemed, but his grandson (likely) won’t be; that the Jedi never really returned after all. And even if the Empire (sorry… “The First Order”) takes a dive at the end of Episode IX, we’ll know it’s just a temporary victory, with the Bad Guys always waiting in the wings somewhere, ready to take the reigns when their hour comes ‘round yet again.
Talk about a downbeat ending.
Tony Baker is an avid film, TV and (popular) literature buff, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to contact him with any opinions, complaints, or suggestions for future columns! Viewpoints expressed in the article are those of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.