Was I Too Hard on the Last Jedi?The Dark Herald
I have come to what is for me an absolutely shocking conclusion. There are people who like The Last Jedi that aren’t being paid by Disney to say they do.
Most of these, unsurprisingly, weren’t Star Wars fans. I know it seems odd but you have to remember, while there are Millennial fans of the franchise, it’s not as universal to them as Harry Potter is.
And I had also underestimated the rabid fascination of the Reylo fanbase. Although I sure as hell wasn’t the only one.
Star Wars was a Gen X thing. We liked a masculine adventure where the hero is physically over matched in the beginning then throughout the plot crises he faces, grows strong enough to finally face his antagonist. The OG trilogy certainly delivered on that. Heck the OG film delivered on that. Luke was a slacker farmer kid who couldn’t keep his mind on job at hand. He just wanted to get out of that one Dewback town and get to The Academy.
Then he begins his hero’s journey as pretty closely defined by Campbell’s Monomyth.
Luke gets the Call to Adventure by Obiwan. And refuses because change is scary and adventures, typically speaking, are somebody else in deep shit far, far away.
External force impacts Luke’s world and destroys it. There was nothing left on Tattooine after the Stormtrooper’s Beru-bacue at the Lars family farm. Luke journey’s to the Underworld is represented by Mos Eisley. There Luke begins a transformation that will strip him of his pride, sins and weaknesses. He receives Supernatural Aid in the form of the Force and represented by his father’s mystical weapon (remember, his father wasn’t Darth Vader back then). He begins his Road of Trials aboard the Deathstar. He reaches the Abyss when his mentor is killed, thus paying the price for his rebirth.
Luke only got into this with the hope of meeting a hot girl above his social status level. He wanted to impress her by rescuing her because Luke clearly had a crush on Leia (so damn awkward). But now that he is Transformed, he has a higher purpose. The survival of the Rebellion is more important than his own life. He thus ascends out of the Underworld when he fires his proton torpedo and Ascends into the Light.
It’s been used a few times since. Most explicitly with The Matrix.
However it has recently been refined by the Harmon* Story Circle.
And it is this oversimplifed version of the Monomyth that was used to create Rey.
The thing to remember about Rey is that she is supposed to be a heroine that appeals to women. And believe it or not, she does. Oh, not the women who liked Star Wars, most of them hate her as much as the rest of us men. But the core of Rey’s support comes from women who never were all that into the OG trilogy.
Women generally speaking aren’t going to be into the story of a guy that goes to some martial arts temple and spends fifteen years learning to be the Kung Fu Beast. If you are interviewing a twenty-year old new graduate and she says, “I want your job.” She means today, maybe she’ll give you ten minutes to box your stuff but she means forget waiting my turn for thirty years, I want your job right now.
The fact that Rey is intuitively good at fighting and flying and the Force use doesn’t bother that audience. Because that’s not what they are there for. They want crippling emotional problems and Rey delivers there. One of the first things she says is, “I’m no one.” Rey has crushing abandonment and self worth issues.
So consulting the Story Circle we see that Rey wants something. She needs to belong. Family would have been preferable but she’ll settle for becoming a Jedi.
Now as a little exercise here lets pretend that she was not going to see Luke Skywalker but GrandMaster Krall, Hero of the Zanj Wars and the last member of the Vashtari Warriors. But GrandMaster Krall tells her that the Vashtari Warriors aren’t worth being a part of and that it’s just as well that they die with him.
Looked at from that perspective it almost doesn’t suck.
But it is Luke saying these things. That in itself makes it pretty clear that this was written by someone who didn’t have any emotional investment in Star Wars at all.
So anyway. Luke says, the Jedi aren’t worth being a part of. Which robs Rey of any hope of belonging there. Kylo confirms that Reys parents will never be able to resolve her abandonment issues because they no shit abandoned her (retconned later). But Kylo then offers the Dark Side. However Rey decides that that isn’t for her either.
She Returns to the Resistance Fleet…Squad (there’s what twelve of them by the end of that movie?) She has reached the top of the Story Circle. Her life has resumed as is nothing happened but she has Changed.
I will say that there was a basic concept of a story that could have been explored if it didn’t have the name Star Wars slapped on it. Now it was still deeply flawed in several other ways. Although, some of the damage could have been mitiagted. Letting Leia perish after she got blown out of the ship would have worked, and the character needed to be written out after Carrie Fisher died. Just lift the Rose and Finn subplot completely, it did literally nothing to support the main story. Cut straight to credits when Kylo holds out his hand to Rey. That leaves the door open for a Luke redemption arc.
Truthfully, you could say the same thing about Ghostbusters 2016. Paul Feig’s shtick is making female led parodies, just take a look at his directorial credits and that is the only thing you see. If it had been called Ghostchasers and been about a group of women trying to make it as TV paranormal investigators and then they find something real, it would have worked well enough, I guess. Or at least no one would have cared it anymore than James Bond fans cared about Feig and McCarthy’s Spy. Because it would have been trying to be its own thing.
But it did have Ghostbusters on the title. And Rian Roundhead had Star Wars plastered all over a film that fundamentally was never a Star Wars film
So in answer to my question. No, I wasn’t anywhere near hard enough on The Last Jedi because THIS IS CRAP!!!