I have a somewhat strange relationship with TLJ.
Taken separately on their own, I love nearly all the disparate elements of TLJ. The A-plot, Mark’s fantastic acting, the B-plot and the themes in it (well, except the TIME thing----it would’ve been better if they hadn’t tried to create a sense of urgency by putting the number of hours on it—more on that later), even the change in Luke’s character is something I found credible and true to a path he could’ve walked after the end of ROTJ. Hell, the ending they gave Luke was BRILLIANT.
But taken as a whole, the film fills me with bitterness and disappointment, and although I really did try not to let it be so, at this point it’s safe to say that it’s soured me off the franchise.
IX can still salvage my love for Star Wars if a miracle happens (might be hard, because apparently they had no plan in place for the sequel trilogy----a horrible slapdash method of planning out the sequels to the fandom with the highest fan involvement of all time, tbh, but not impossible), but my problems with TLJ ran a bit deeper than a few plot elements here and there. It’s just…I found it to be hypocritical, as a piece of the franchise. As a film it does fine. But as Star Wars, it very much wants to have all the cakes and eat it too.
For a film that tries very much to say that it’s a new (and better) kind of Star Wars than what Star Wars was, what it does, ultimately, is to reset things to the beginning of the franchise so Disney can play with the pieces of the old Star Wars game without worrying about continuation and also be able to claim it revitalized everything. We’re back to Empires and Rebels, even though the reason why the New Republic is gone in 2 days is flimsy at best. We’re back to the sole Jedi who can save the universe and train new Jedi. And I hate all the critics who say it democratized the Force…the Force was ALWAYS democratized, anyone could’ve had it, it’s just that not everyone could use it…and yet the circus hailed that piece of old canon like it’s new. The only thing that it freed us from Star Wars-wise is the continuation of Skywalkers----but it does that in the least interesting fashion ever, for a trilogy that’s supposed to be the family’s swan song—have the last Skywalker be manipulated into a problem child of a space Nazi because he was…influenced in the womb by a baddie. Oh, and life’s pressures, but almost every discussion about that seemed to agree that his life’s pressures weren’t enough to justify being a genocidal space Nazi by itself without that one niggling plot detail.
That’s right up there with the death-in-childbirth-in-an-age-of-spaceships plot in the PT, but I thought that was stupid then, and this is stupid now.
(I’m going to say here that I found Kylo to be an effective villain and an interesting character, but I do not find him particularly redeemable, and thought that Rey rejecting his offer to BURN IT ALL DOWN means that the series is actually interested in honoring the old and growing things from it rather than tearing the old apart to build the new—but I digress.)
I also have an issue with the idea that everything everyone’s built in the OT ultimately fell apart. Everything. That’s my problem. Everything. I could take Luke’s life being a failure (it was brilliant). Han’s marriage to Leia failing (it was quite foreseeable). Leia being forced to leave the Republic (it made sense). The Republic being destroyed. The Jedi school being the cause of the new problems plaguing the universe (if there’s anything the old EU taught us…). Nothing that anybody did managed to have a long-lasting positive impact, aside from the new things they do in Disney’s new trilogy. I can take one or two or even three of these things, but EVERYTHING? To me, that only reinforces the annoying trope Hollywood has that age is worthless, and that the old only exists to pave a path for the younger and dreamier, the newer and shinier. And that. That is not something you do to some of the most iconic pieces of film ever.
To me, its ending promises to honor the old. To reject Kylo’s offer and instead uphold the idea of taking the flame of the old saga and bringing it forward. I love that promise. I came out of the theater being filled with that promise. But as the months passed and it’s revealed that they had NO plans, that Solo came out to be what it is (it’s a decent film, but)-----it struck me as more and more cynical and hypocritical.
And after months of waffling, that’s what TLJ becomes to me, in the end. A cynical, hypocritical movie that wants to be----and is—a good movie on its own, but wears the franchise like a wolf wearing sheepskin. It’s a movie that wants to create urgency so much that it completely ignored the ramifications to its own integrity, or to the greater stories to come before it and after it. It wants its own identity so much that it’s willing to walk over the identity of everything else. It wants to be seen as a praiseworthy thing on its own so much that it ignores what was made before it, and what is to come after it. (I mean TFA with all its ignored ideas and IX, which only has two hours to rebuild everything enough to bring the trilogy to a positive close, what with TLJ leaving far fewer pieces to the heroes than ESB ever did.) It is a praiseworthy thing. But as part of the franchise? It’s selfish. It’s very, very selfish. A cynical clean slate-wiping of the setting that’s hypocritical enough to ask to be praised for being ‘something new’.
I don’t want anything to do with Star Wars after this, although I’d still watch IX, just to get some closure for the characters of the new cast, who I do love (yes, even Rose, I love Rose!)—and because I wanted to know what they would do with Leia.
I don’t think anyone should have to share my feelings on it. Certainly I have friends who both love TLJ unabashedly (for reasons that I totally understand even if I don’t share the feeling----I mean, it’s a good film! And some of them just likes angsty stuff…) and friends who hate it from the bottom of their being (for reasons that I don’t always get despite sharing some of the sentiment----I don’t find the B-plot to be that bad, except for the sheer carelessness displayed in plotting—and I certainly am not stuck on Rey being powerful with the Force). It’s just…my personal feelings on it.
And I honestly don’t want my feelings towards Star Wars to be like this, but after nearly a year of reading discussions and articles from both ends, I don’t think it’s going to change.