I gotta say, man…this comment really sounds like you think your judgments on TLJ are so obviously correct that anyone who contradicts them isn’t just mistaken, but must suffer from self-contradiction in their own views. Needless to say, I take a different perspective, not just on TLJ but on our disagreements about it. Neither of us is spouting an “arbitrary mass of contradictions,” just valuing different things to different degrees. If you can’t see that, it doesn’t give me much hope that continuing this conversation will be fruitful.
For those not already tuning out...
Maybe we could sort out one issue by clarifying what “signifiers” means. Talking about “signifiers of evil” doesn’t at all imply that a character or movie is non-literal. Every movie ever made uses visual signifiers to convey things about its characters.
Imagine that in Snoke’s first scene, his only dialogue had been something innocuous, say, ordering space pizza. You’d still immediately know he’s a Big Bad villain, because of all the visual signifiers I mentioned earlier. Now add back in the actual snatches of dialogue and action he has in the movies, and they don’t add a lot in character terms; we still have no significant understanding of Snoke beyond his name and title. No history, barely any understanding of his motivations/goals, not much in the way of actual personality. But from moment one, we knew he’s meant to be EEEVIL from the visual signifiers we’re given. By saying that, I’m not reducing him to a metaphor for anything.
In a well-written story, every character is there for a reason; they add something which should be clear, at least in retrospect. In super-metaphorical movies like Mother! or (to pick one I’ve actually seen) The Lobster, that reason can be entirely about theme. But in most movies, it’s more about their role in the plot and/or their effect on other characters. Snoke played a role in setting the new trilogy’s plot in motion. I can understand the desire to see him continue to play a growing role, only being defeated in a grand confrontation after his secrets have been revealed.
But I was genuinely satisfied with the writers’ decision to have him abruptly taken out. As explained above, I liked what that brought out in the other characters. I liked that they addressed the possibility of leaving the Light-Dark dichotomy behind, and while it would have certainly been even more impressive if the writers had successfully followed through on that (though damn, can you imagine the level of fan outcry?) I think it was just fine for Rey to point out that Kylo was just talking about labels, not actually letting go of his army of galactic domination. A Sith by any other name…
Going forward, I like how the plot looks without a mysterious inhuman supervillain in it, just humans with known motivations, relationships, fears, and flaws. For a trilogy that so explicitly echoes the OT, I think it creates interesting possibilities to have us heading into Episode 9 with no Palpatine and a Vader who has already rejected redemption. We’ll see what they do with those possibilities.
Like you say, Snoke has a mysterious past and a severe disfigurement that begs for explanation, and I understand the desire to see those resolved. There were similarly plenty of reasons why (to return to GoT) Martin’s readers were gutted every time he abruptly killed another major protagonist. Those characters had stuff left to do, dammit. It was a painful subversion of expectation every time. Plenty of other good movies introduce mysteries that stay unresolved or ambiguous–what’s in the briefcase, how did he get his scars. I don’t think it’s bad writing in any of those cases.
As you’ve guessed, I do appreciate movies that make clever variations on a formula, whether the formula is a set of genre tropes or a specific, iconic story. TFA rang a bunch of minor variations on the original Star Wars’s plot, and I thought it was fine. Too many of them were “Star Wars but bigger,” notably Starkiller Base…but things like the Obi Wan/Vader confrontation playing out as Han vs his son changed things up enough to be fun.
TLJ’s variations on ESB were I thought much more interesting. It makes a meaningful difference that the old mentor is a haunted, disillusioned wreck who has his own character arc within the movie. The shocking reveal of parentage was of course exactly the opposite of what the formula (and JJ Abrams) had led people to expect. When Rey goes to confront Kylo/Snoke, it was plainly referencing the end of RotJ rather than Cloud City, and the ensuing death of the Supreme Leader is a wild divergence from the formula.
Tastes vary a lot on stuff like this. I’ve seen people arguing that those changes are a total betrayal of the ongoing Star Wars saga, and I’ve seen people arguing that TLJ should have been more original and not hewn so closely to the ESB template. Am I right to read you as basically arguing both of those at once? Because that would be a first.
Finally, let’s not go overboard on the prettiness of Adam Driver. “Prettier than Snoke” is a reeeeally low bar, and I like that Driver’s kinda goofy-looking compared to all the more conventionally attractive past heartthrobs in a galaxy far far away (Hamill, Ford, Williams, Christensen, Jackson, Neeson, McGregor).
@hustlertwo, on Killmonger: what Shoelip said.
I actually don’t think either Loki or Thanos are all that interesting as villains, though Tom Hiddleston’s charm and acting skill do a lot to cover the thinness of the Odinson family melodrama. If you want to debate that, shall we do it on the Marvel movies thread?