Still More Non-Spoilericious Notes On THE LAST JEDI
There’s no point in arguing plot points re The Last Jedi. The producers know the direction they want the films to move in, there’s no reason to suspect either The Force Awakens or The Last Jedi are false steps.
Whatever comes next in Episode IX, it will represent the deliberate intent of the producers.
So what appears to be dreadful writing and direction in The Last Jedi may just be set up for Episode IX.
Mind you, the execution can still be dreadful even if the final chapter ends satisfactorily.
But there’s no point second guessing it.
George Lucas, by and large, is not a lightweight film maker despite making some lightweight films. THX 1138, American Graffiti, and Star Wars are not lightweight stories despite be presented in the form of popular entertainment (The Indiana Jones movies, on the other hand, are indeed fluff).
Lucas was thinking through the full implications of his Star Wars universe as early as the immediate aftermath of the first film. Splinter In The Mind’s Eye was intended as a low budget sequel if the original Star Wars did only passable business (luckily they were able to go with Plan B). It focused less on Imperial might and more on the ramifications -- moral / ethical / spiritual – of The Force itself.
When Star Wars was a smash success, Lucas crafted a more grandiose plan. Originally he planned for a series of four trilogies, with a standalone bridging film linking each trilogy to the next, for a total of 15 features.
While Lucas scaled his ambitions back considerably (first the bridging films, then the fourth trilogy went the way of all flesh), he did finish his conservatorship of Star Wars with an ambition for 9 films, 6 of which he’d seen to completion.
(Thanks to Disney, we may yet see the original 15 film plan -- and perhaps more -- before the series in finally laid to rest.)
Lucas is not a lightweight, whatever other flaws he may display as a film maker, and it’s clear he could see the implications of The Force through to their logical conclusions.
There’s only two ways for the Star Wars saga to end happily:
Either kill all the gods,
or make everybody a god.
The Last Jedi certainly seems to be leaning strongly towards the kill-all-the-gods camp (and by kill-all-the-gods I obviously mean to either eliminate or neutralize all characters capable of using The Force, since Force mastery results in near god-like power and ability).
Either Force users are eliminated from galactic culture, thus freeing the common citizen from either depredation or the corresponding need for salvation from Sith and Jedi, or everybody gains full and equal access to The Force.
Either choice results in freedom for all.
A future where some beings master The Force and others don’t is a future of blood and suffering for those who don’t.
From the initial success of Star Wars, Lucas knew the story would have to end badly for the inheritors of the currently projected middle trilogy. The false glow-in-the-dark hope at the end of Return Of The Jedi only set the stage for an endless repetition of the (as then unfilmed) prequel trilogy, in which absolute power irrevocably leads to absolute corruption.
Despite his talents as a film maker, Lucas has a full measure of flaws, including a great deal of creative insecurity.
This is evident in the numerous revisions Star Wars went through before actual production began, with the story and concepts changing radically from draft to draft. From his public interviews and from anecdotes related to me by witnesses, he appears very sensitive to any critique of his ideas, yet at the same time lacks to confidence in his own ability not to be affected by said critiques.
When he should listen to constructive criticism, he freezes it out.
As a result, the Star Wars saga is a massively self-contradictory construction, not really holding together in any substantial manner.
As has been noted, this is a problem inherent with all space operas, but some like Star Trek or Dune to a better job of keeping the issue off stage.
Star Wars constantly orbits around its inconsistency and, like a black hole, the inconsistencies can be pretty accurately mapped even if they can’t be seen.
The single biggest threat to the Star Wars universe is the money.
Lucas’ brilliant insight was in securing trademarks on everything in his movies.
Like the universes of Robin Hood, Batman, Sesame Street, Transformers, and G.I. Joe, Star Wars is blessed with a large, colorful supporting cast.
This is great if you’re trying to sell toys / t-shirts / tchotchkes.
It’s a mixed blessing at best if you’re trying to tell a coherent story.
Instead of following the story where it wants to go, you often find yourself shaping it to sell more stuff.
There’s an enormous amount of pressure on the current conservators of Star Wars to KEEP THAT MONEY TRAIN ROLLING!!!
There is virtually no pressure to do it right.
(And, no, “making money” =/= “doing it right”.)
The very thing that makes Star Wars so appealing as a merchandising brand also threatens the basic appeal of the brand.
Sooner or later the audience is going to look away and find something else.
It will be sooner if the brand is presented poorly.
Disney is sensing the Star Wars money well may not be bottomless.
Episode IX will need to thread a narrow needle:
Not contradict or nullify any substantial part of either The Force Awakens or The Last Jedi or the original trilogy or the prequels, but resolve all the story lines in a manner satisfactory to the original concept while at the same time leaving open enough potential to continue the series in a new-yet-similar direction.
© Buzz Dixon