Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

In calling the new Star Wars movie “The Last Jedi” are we meant to go into a panic about God/LucasFilm ending the entire mythology? Because without the Jedi, what do you have but strormtroopers, wisecracking rebel soldiers, and someone meditating in a corner (of the Universe)? But there is no reason to worry because even if the franchise decided to end it all right now (which I would applaud, even though it would make me sad) there would be endless underground fan fiction (which I guess there is anyway). Star Wars is not going away in any of our lifetimes and is on much firmer ground than longtime institutions like the NFL and the USA.

I approached this movie with fresh eyes, as it is my habit is to avoid any reviews (and trailers, as well, ideally) of movies I think I'm going to see for myself. I thoroughly enjoyed this new episode (VIII) as a Star Wars thing, while not really liking it as a movie. It helped that I was in a comfortable seat, had popcorn, christmas candy, and people around me shut the hell up—and my migraine pill kicked in just as the last, dreadful trailer was over. The news headlines I did see about this movie were about how divisive it's been among fans—which I suspect is just a successful internet marketing campaign. This is a movie that tries to please everybody, and does a pretty good job of it, often even pleasing those who are not happy with it trying to please everybody.

I have been a Star Wars fan since I saw the first one when I was 17. I liked about 90% of that movie, but was pretty excited about what I liked. It still felt like a mishmash of the Westerns, the war movies, and the swashbuckling adventures I despised while growing up. But I guess I was won over by the dime-store zen, and also the blue milk and other sci-fi innovations that really did seem fresh (and we've been seeing in every sci-fi movie for the last 40 years). It's as pointless for me to wish they'd ended it after that first movie as it is to make suggestions on how the franchise could improve, but I do hope they have some kind of writing continuum from episode to episode, and also some supreme being who can eliminate the budget for movie star cameos in the future, which are just distracting. It would also be nice if the wisecracking could have died with Han Solo; there was not a single funny moment in this movie that didn't involve cute animals. And with that kind of budget, couldn't the cute animals look like live action animals, and not look like cartoons?

If I was allowed to speak at the big meeting about the direction of the franchise, I'd argue that we should crank out one movie per year (hey, an old guy like Woody Allen can do it) on a strict schedule, with the premier each Christmas week. New characters should be unknowns who are contracted for the few films (with few exceptions) until they're killed off. Try to come up with something each time—sci-fi-wise—at least sightly innovative. The focus of the work, year after year, should be on the writing, which does not rely on a production schedule or excessively paid technicians who can't put together a sentence. The story should be painfully born, evolved, revised, debated, and ironed out several years ahead of any digital cameras rolling, or whatever digital cameras do. Also, and most important, all the films should be either shorter, or have intermissions built in. I think ALL MOVIES that are over two hours should have intermissions, but more on that later. In the case of Star Wars, the ideal running time would be 90 minutes.

Ultimately, I like to see one crappy, excessive fantasy movie a year, and if it doesn't have to be Marvel or what James Bond has become, I'm kinda happy, and this year it was a Star Wars. Though I was pretty bored at times, there was one really cool bit (which I won't relate, because if you haven't seen it, it will ruin it!) and that was enough for me. Oh! Also, that part where Adam Driver took his shirt off, and opened the little control panel in his CGI abs?—that was so Star Trek: The Original Series!

But seriously, I do like that there is the hint of a future direction that examines the dark side of goodness, and the reason for what is misguidedly called evil. Because the whole black and white, good and evil thing gets a little simplistic to anymore over six years old (and I might be underestimating six year olds). Now that we know that you and I might be Jedi, who knows what the future holds—because, as we now know, Jedi could possibly be punk rock girls, Stormtroopers, annoying orphan stable boys, robots, bucket-of-bolts spaceships, penguins, (hopefully not) aging rock stars, ghosts, blobs of protoplasm, and hopefully—when we finally explore the bending of the universe a little more—a barista at Starbucks.

Randy Russell 1.9.18