I have tried twice to write a review of The Last Jedi and the only thing I can say at the present time is that my initial feelings upon leaving the theater were positive, not that I was happy, but that it surprised me and put me through the wringer emotionally. That is no small feat for a franchise this stale. At the same time, kicking Star Wars fans out of their comfort zone comes at a heavy price. My conflicting feelings revolve around whether the tradeoff was worth it. It may not be possible to answer that question definitively for another two or so years when Episode IX is released. I felt a similar amount of frustration and confusion after Empire Strikes Back way back in 1980. But Empire mostly built on top of what came before rather than invalidating it (other than the whole contradiction about Vader being Luke’s father vs. having killed Luke’s father).
I feel that there is such a thin line between fandom and creators that when a film like this comes out it becomes a sort of national dialogue of sorts. Everyone feels like they want to make their vote heard. When the original trilogy was being put together there was an official fan-club but there was no fan-industrial-complex ala ComicCon and there was no massive global social-network. Geek culture was still just geeks and nobody were experts in Star Wars lore hence no fan backlash that this or that is violation of canon.
There was a time when I considered myself evenly split between being a Star Wars and being a Star Trek fan. I don’t really want to document the rise and fall of my Star Wars obsession but like most, Episode I pretty much stuck a fork in it. So by the time Force Awakens came out, it had a lot of heavy lifting to do to make me give a crap anymore, and the retread quality of it just left me feeling like I just watched a Led Zeppelin cover-band. I was upset for how unmoved I was over Han’s obligatory death-scene, despite the fact that Harrison Ford had made the film watchable up to that point.
I think had Last Jedi just continued along those lines that I would have been equally bored. But since they didn’t go that route, we can only speculate. Instead Disney took a very unusual detour. Considering how adept I am at predicting story-beats and recognizing callbacks, I have a strong admiration for plots that zig instead of zag. At the same time, I just don’t know if Star Wars is the right tapestry in which to play these sorts of games. Apparently, professional critics think it is and die-hard fans don’t. I, as a lapsed fan, therefore sit in the middle vacillating between one side or the other, similar to Kylo Ren deciding whether or not to turn.
My twin (yes twin) sister isn’t ambiguous. She really liked it. So we’re planning to see the film a second time. I won’t work out a full essay about it until then. And it really has to be more of an essay for a property this near and dear to my heart.
I have actually written a college-level essay about Star Wars before, and was big on the whole Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth deal before Episode I killed my childhood. I think there may be enough going on here to justify analyzing it at that level rather than treating it just another crass popcorn movie.
In the meantime, the negative word-of-mouth seems to be making it tank at the box-office and I am tracking how this disturbance in the force is rippling back through the various personalities’ twitter-feeds. It seems like this is really an evolving phenomenon.
When you factor in the Trump-like musical-chairs that has been going on with the Star Wars movies for some time, and how now supposedly Disney is expecting the Solo movie to fail, Disney could shake things up further. Could they bring in someone else other than JJ to do Epixode IX? Maybe postpone Episode IX for a year and write the story over again? Offer some alternate cut on the Last Jedi blu-ray that incorporates deleted scenes and comes across as more traditional? I’m not really advocating any of these things because I’m still torn, but this is definitely the #1 thing going on in the industry outside of #MeToo. It’s just amazing to watch one movie kick up such a dust-storm.