What better way to celebrate being isolated from the beerbug sweeping the world than by willingly making myself sick?
As promised, I waited until this film came to home media/streaming to watch it, and so I found a friend who had access to it, since I’ll never again pay a dime to Lucasfilm or Disney (outside of buying pre-Disney-buyout comics and books and whatnot on the secondary market, which doesn’t count, of course). I won’t be buying the nine-film, 4K Blu-Ray boxset coming out in a few weeks. Nor any books, comics, bedsheets, lettuce, suppositories, or anything else to have the STAR WARS brand-name on it ever again. Of course, judging by the state of toy shelves and bookshelves in stores nationwide, most other people won’t be, either.
The only—ONLY—reason I’ve watched this film is to provide proper context and an informed opinion for when I read the inevitable books dissecting the Disney STAR WARS trainwreck (as well as the forthcoming video essays by the great MauLer and his like). Indeed, I recently bought and read what is among the first of these books: THE LAST STRAW, by John C. Wright, which is a scathing, funny, and spot-on dissection of Ruin Johnson’s franchise-killing monsterpiece. Wright elegantly sums up that film’s endless problems with a phrase which becomes something of a refrain throughout the book: “Nothing makes sense. Nothing matters.”. The same can be said of this new film, as well.
To briefly review, THE FARCE AWAKENS began the dismantling of the original films and characters, and was a dumb, fun, shallow copy of the original STAR WARS, but there was still absolutely potential for these new films to do something good and interesting. Then, THE LAST STRAW came out, and mortally wounded this once-great franchise, caused the fanbase to melt down, and doomed any sequels. Who would have thunk that this “trilogy” would end up as a rap battle between two idiots—the hack (Abrams) and the troll (Johnson), with each trying to undo the other’s work?
There was absolutely no way that this film would ever actually be good or massively successful. Ruin Johnson, King of The Manbabies, painted the series into a tiny corner by “subverting expectations” and throwing out any hope of a coherent narrative which respected the past while also building a viable future. So, Jar Jar Abrams (who set this whole trainwreck into motion, remember) was brought in to try and salvage it.
This is not a story. This is not a trilogy. There’s no vision here, no depth, no subtext, nothing for kids to learn from or be inspired by, as at least two generations of moviegoers were inspired by George Lucas’ STAR WARS. This disaster of a film is a desperate attempt at damage control and blatant fanservice. It bends over backwards to undo as much of the damage from THE LAST STRAW as possible, but also creates a whole new mess of problems. It will be a question for the ages as to which film is worse. I’d say that THE LAST STRAW was more painful and did more damage—the deathblow, really—but this film is much worse in terms of story structure and pacing.
Abrams employs all of his usual snake-oil salesman tricks and then turns the dial to 11. As usual, everything is BIGGER and LOUDER and FASTER. And there’s also the usual wacky, rapid-fire banter and stupid jokes which attempt to charm and distract the audience. To keep them from thinking or asking questions. And to jam three squandered films’ worth of character dynamics into one by having the three lead heroes go on a series of stupid MacGuffin chases together, and pretending that they have actual relationships.
Of course, the film also moves along at a ridiculously breakneck pace at times, to the point of incoherence. Yet it manages the feat of being both brainlessly hyperactive and boring at the same time. Abrams is clearly pulling out all the stops to try and trick people into thinking that this is the grand, epic conclusion of a story that began in 1977. It most certainly is not. But the ‘Member Berries, cutesy references, and nostalgia-milking are dumped in at every opportunity, right down to Chewie finally getting a medal.
The return of Palpatine—which is given no explanation, is an unforgivable sin that renders the original STAR WARS trilogy (as well as the six-film arc Lucas later attempted to refashion the series into) completely pointless. Almost as unforgivable as the character assassination of Luke Skywalker in THE LAST STRAW. It’s a desperation move (in a film packed to the brim with them) designed to try and salvage the trilogy and make it seem like there was actually a plan from the start. There was not.
And, because the new canon of books and comics now serves as the Explanatory Universe rather than the good old Expanded Universe, it’s very amusing to see them still desperately writing the movie (via the film’s novelization), three months after the film’s release. So...the Emperor, definitively killed in RETURN OF THE JEDI, is back from the dead, somehow. With zero explanation. Oh, no, wait, he’s just a clone inhabited by the dead Palpatine’s spirit (ripping off DARK EMPIRE, because Nu-Lucasfilm loves to plagiarize both the old Lucasfilm as well as outside sources). And Rey’s father is Palpatine’s son. Oh, no, wait, he’s just a botched clone of Palpatine. You know, like this “trilogy” is a botched clone of the original trilogy.
This film is, unsurprisingly, essentially a retread of RETURN OF THE JEDI, but made for kids with no attention span and no critical thinking skills. And this dumpster-fire of a trilogy is a woke, shitty remake of the original trilogy, which also goes out of its way to dismantle those iconic films and everything they stood for. Because “smash the patriarchy”, or some other such nonsense, I guess.
It’s just more of the same nihilistic, cannibalistic trash which has consumed and destroyed our beloved nerd culture. All of our old heroes are losers and failures, who now exist only to be disgraced, killed off, and replaced one by one by politically-correct non-characters. All of the stories we loved meant nothing, and need to be rewritten to fit with these “enlightened” times we live in. Luke Skywalker, Superman, Spock, James Bond, and all the rest have to be broken down and cast aside. Of course, any representative of Nu-Lucasfilm (“Pukeasfilm”?) on social media will dismiss my rational criticisms of story, characters, and structure by calling me a sexist, racist, and a manbaby, so none of this review matters, either, I guess.
Probably the one good thing to come out of this disaster is seeing Ian McDiarmid and Billy Dee Williams, again. Although, under the circumstances, I’d rather I hadn’t. And Denis Lawson gets a cameo as Wedge. We even get a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it cameo appearance from John Williams, whose music here mainly consists of tired rehashes of past glories, but I certainly don’t blame him for that. However, the Frankenstein’s monster of CG and unused footage employed to insert Carrie Fisher into the film is ghoulish and contrived at best. And Mark Hamill—Luke Skywalker himself, the lynchpin character of the entire franchise—gets one short scene, and it serves mainly to backpeddle his disastrous characterization in the previous film as much as possible. How did it come to this? How?
The film is dripping with desperation. And stupidity. As with its predecessor, nothing makes sense, and nothing matters. But the pacing, action, music, and acting are all trying to convince us that this is an epic-yet-fun adventure story. Because...Yelling is Drama! Running is Drama! A thousand Star Destroyers with Death Star cannons strapped to their bellies is Drama!
Of course, Rey is still the Bestest Jedi Evar, and she at last fulfills her destiny as The Ultimate Mary Sue by dying heroically (...and then getting better). At the end of what has now been stupidly branded by Disney as “The Skywalker Saga” (but can more accurately be named “The Palpatine Saga”, since all of the Skywalkers end up dead, with Rey Palpatine surviving and stealing their name and legacy) both Anakin and Luke Skywalker are shoved aside and revealed to be mere placeholders for a “strong woman” who has no character arc, no personality, and no real tests of her character. Because that’s where storytelling and characterization have gone, these days. Bland cyphers who replace actual characters and exist largely to make political statements and sell toys and cosplay costumes. And Rey does indeed replace Luke, since she’s stolen his lightsaber, his X-Wing, his droids, his accomplishments, his “looking at the twin suns” moment, and even his name. As if you couldn’t guess which Skywalker’s “rise” the film depicts.
There’s no coming back from this. They killed it. It’s over. I had a feeling it might go this way, back in 2012, when Disney bought Lucasfilm, but I never imagined it would be this bad. I felt nothing, watching this film. I can’t even muster up anger. This was just a checkbox to grimly tick off, and now I can finally move on, weary and wounded. And anxiously awaiting those (highly and gloriously unauthorized) books which examine the trainwreck. I’m sure there’s plenty of behind-the-scenes drama that we don’t even know about, yet. It’ll all come out in the wash, eventually. And hopefully we’ll all learn something from it, grow a little wiser, and move on.
STAR WARS won’t move on, of course. They can try and capitalize on the Baby Yoda fad and try to jam more identity politics and retcons down our throats with The High Republic and whatever other dumb and insulting projects are in the pipeline, but it won’t matter. The most beloved and influential series in the history of cinema has been reduced to soulless, self-referential, self-destructive schlock. Bad corporate fanfic dressed up with grotesquely large budgets. Kathy Kennedy, Abrams, Johnson, and the rest have taken something that really and truly meant something to people and turned it into something ugly and stupid. Something which tears people apart, and, worse, tarnishes what came before. These movies are akin to the pod-people INVASION OF THE BODY-SNATCHERS. As if STAR WARS was filtered though a corporation, and lost its most essential self. Its soul. The words are there, but not the language. Nor the heart.
STAR WARS was George Lucas’ baby. The artistic vision of one man, who presided over it for nearly 40 years, with numerous ups and downs, but no downs low enough to kill the franchise. Once it went corporate, it died. Because corporations care more about brand-management and merchandise than characters, storytelling, and creating a modern myth to inspire the hearts and minds of young people, and the young-at-heart. The message of the Disney Trilogy is (as RedLetterMedia correctly put it) “Consume product. Get excited for next product.”
Considering the Coronavirus pandemic we now face, and the impact that Hollywood (and Disney) will be feeling from it, it seems that the paradigm of the entertainment industry is well truly ready to have a seismic shift. It’s poetic that the death of STAR WARS may well mark the beginning of the end of the golden era of science-fiction/fantasy blockbusters films which the original STAR WARS largely created. The circle is now complete.
But I’ll always have the memories. And there are still plenty of old comics and books and other ancillaries to explore. I’ll never tire of the old films that I love so much. So, I’m going to go and enjoy all of that, rather than wasting time, money, and energy supporting the people who killed this thing I love. I’ll still be paying attention to the franchise and the trainwreck from a distance (because there’s a lot to study and learn and discuss from all of this, and I’m utterly fascinated and horrified by it), but my personal fandom of STAR WARS has no future.