I didn’t like ROGUE ONE.
I REALLY didn’t like THE LAST JEDI.
How cutting edge. How falling in line with everyone else.
It doesn’t matter if your opinion matches that of the masses. It doesn’t matter if you’re the only one who feels the way you do about something. Honesty isn’t up for a vote, and the least-cool thing is changing your beliefs to get in line with someone else’s.
Seeing STAR WARS a.k.a. The New Hope, Which Was In The Opening Credits Starting With The Re-Release Back in ’79, was one of the transformative experiences of my life. Everyone knew John was the sci-fi guy, so he definitely saw STAR WARS right when it came out.
Except I didn’t. I didn’t see it until six months after it came out. By then I read the novel (ghostwritten by Alan Dean Foster), the comics, probably collected the cards. Movies weren’t so readily available as they are now.
Time flies. You can find my thoughts on the newer editions of STAR WARS around here. (Not SOLO. I’m pretty much done with this Property.)
I don’t like STAR WARS now.
It’s not about having a new tone or direction. It’s not about tossing in characters that seem to have started with their genitals and were built up from there. It’s not about it not being MY STAR WARS. (I let that go with the disappointing RETURN OF THE JEDI.) I don’t like STAR WARS now because STAR WARS is boring, lifeless, repetitive and just plain stupid now.
I’m also a lot older. These movies are for kids. I am a believer in letting go of some interests even though you enjoy them, if those interests are keeping the world at arm’s length.
Why is STAR WARS dead to me?
Freshness, a new tone, new characters, stories, directions–those things are necessary for a franchise to live and breathe in its time. The new characters aren’t bad because they’re new, they’re bad because they’re terrible characters. Daisy Ridley is well-cast, I WANT to follow this character and see what happens to her. But after two movies, she’s flat as paper, and goes where the writers push her. One minute, her ideas about the villains are shattered and she has a chance to end a war; minutes later, she’s whooping it up and having a ball shooting down TIE fighters. The villain is the most interesting character, a spoiled brat who’s finding his place, but who’s willing to end a war one minute, and unable to figure out how his walking buildings can be shooting at one person and not make a dent.
That’s not ‘more sophisticated storytelling.’ That’s not ”subverting expectations’ dear God I’m sick of that term, which went from zero to cliche without stopping at relevence.
That’s not something new. That’s a mess.
The failure of these new movies isn’t about me being old, it’s about tossing aside the elements that bind the series together, the core elements that make it what it is. There’s no reason to continue watching or reading a series if it is just repeating itself, but there’s also no reason to continue following a series if it’s no longer part of the whole. I didn’t like RETURN OF THE JEDI mostly because it was the same old thing. I didn’t like 1 and 2 because by then i was much older, and the movies weren’t aimed at me anymore–but I didn’t ‘hate’ them, i just had no interest in them, they weren’t my thing, and to a man of my age they struck me as mediocre adventures. I liked that kids liked them.
I was surprised at how much I DID like SITH–it felt like part of the whole, at least as much as JEDI. I no longer got so into movies as I did when I was a teen, but I enjoyed it, while recognizing I wouldn’t have liked it much if it came out soon after JEDI. It was just a 2 hour part of a franchise now, and life moved on.
ROGUE ONE was shockingly bad. It was STAR WARS gutted of the elements that made Lucas want to tell his story in the first place, replacing those organs with an unearned nihilism and phony ‘adult’ trashing of characters. It’s spectacular, it celebrates nothing but destruction, and follows glum characters to their predictable doom. “It’s STAR WARS, but GRITTY STAR WARS.” That reflects a profound misunderstanding of the value of a story meant to take people away on a fun adventure.
This isn’t a Vietnam war movie in space, except to someone whose only experience of Vietnam isn’t through books or documentaries, and definitely not lived experience or oral records; it’s a sarcastic teenager’s idea of “gritty” filmmaking, all drudgery in search of a reason for existing beyond taking money from people who can’t handle dramas without lasers in them. Yes, I’m being pissy, I’ve got tons of work to do today.
But the movies in the Disney era just feel like someone’s reanimating a corpse without adding anything. And to me ROGUE and LAST were shockingly bad moviemaking. They’ve removed any sense of thematic connection to the originals, like they’re embarassed of the things that inspired Lucas in the first place.
The moviemakers spent a lot of time and effort trying to keep a cohesive look to the series. There isn’t another movie series that has maintained this level of visual integrity.
But if it’s not telling an interesting story, so what?
It’s not a big deal. I get a little bummed that some folks my age (old) hold on to childish things, and STAR WARS is childish. The attempt by Disney to make it ‘edgy’ is cynical and, I think, a failure. But folks are welcome to like it, no one’s forcing me to watch this hollow, depressing stuff.