Did you see The Last Jedi… and if so what version? Was it the directors cut where you left the theatre temporarily satisfied or the fan film cut where you left the theatre cursing the heavens. The polarization that this new installment has caused amongst the Star Wars fan base might suggest the film's more appropriate title should be "Dichotomy: A New Star Wars Story". Not since The Great Schism of 1054 have forces such as these clashed
with such epic hostility.
Since the release of The Last Jedi nearly a month ago, many hardcore fans of the original trilogy have been gnashing their teeth claiming that the film is an egregious mockery of the mythos that was the very foundation of their childhood. The film's predecessor, The Force Awakens, didn't even fetch such condemnation and it was just as much a departure from the soul of the franchise as Episode Eight turned out to be. If sacrilege has indeed unfolded,
then what exactly is at the heart of the argument.
For starters, don't hate the film and don't hate the makers. Neither is at fault here. Disney gave us a fine film with a higher production value than the original trilogy could afford and they topped it off with spectacular action sequences that had us all applauding. And what of that finale battle? No matter how incongruous this sequence might appear against the backdrop of the Jedi order (perhaps a blog entry for another time), you have to admit it was pure cinematic ecstasy. And it goes without saying that yes, The Last Jedi also has plot holes the size of Snoke's Mega Destroyer, but so did Episodes Four and Five… they just
masked them better.
So what exactly is the real argument against these new installments to the sacred franchise we call Star Wars? Plan and simple… Hollywood has no originality. But it is also fair to say that it never did. Star Wars was the creation of an independent filmmaker, a disenfranchised visionary who did his best to separate from the system. And in 1977 we championed this galactic trek with George Lucas into terra incognita. Hollywood simply came along for the ride and it's been following in Lucas' footsteps ever since. We only have George (and his good buddy Steven) to blame for what is now the center piece of the Hollywood business
model, a.k.a. the "summer Blockbuster".
What is really eating fans is that when they left their homes to go see The Last Jedi, they went to see a Star Wars film and came out having witnessed another Marvel Studios installment. Nothing seemed familiar, at least not in relation to our understanding of the Star Wars Universe or the "Way of the Jedi". It felt more like we were visiting Asgard. And as for The Force Awakens… well that movie was all too familiar (down to its replication of
the story line of "A New Hope").
But even the staunchest supporters of The Last Jedi are slowly coming around, much like they did with The Force Awakens. They are slowly beginning to realize that these films were yummy, tasty, high-priced sushi dinners that will undoubtedly leave you starving soon after. And this is because the Disney Studio is playing it safe… to the tune of billions-of-dollars-in-revenue safe. Which means (I can guarantee you), there are no future plans to reshape a more original Star Wars universe, much like the one we were first introduced to back in 1977.
Not to suggest that George Lucas was terribly original. He was, in no uncertain terms, a master of pastiche. He mined Kurusawa and the old TV serials of his youth (amongst other things) to give genesis to Star Wars chronicles (and also the Indian Jones franchise, for that matter). And even then his craftiness in telling the same old story in a new and epic fashion was bucked by every major studio in town. Studios were frightened by the films conceptual originality and all but one executive refused to fund it. It's a miracle that I am even
writing this article forty years after the fact.
What George did was take us on an otherworldly journey that seemed unfamiliar. A New Hope wasn't particularly "original" in the truest sense of the word. No, not at all. We had seen this film when it was originally entitled "The Wizard of Oz". But it's innovation and imagination made it feel new, fresh and different. George capitalized on motifs and symbols in the same way J.K. Rowling has with the Harry Potter series. Harry Potter is the same mythical story of good versus evil that George presented us, but it was presented in a
new, fresh and unique manner.
And that is what I mean by originality. Lest we forget, there are only seven basic plots that are recycled over and over and over again. (See: 'The Seven Basic Plots' 'Why We Tell Stories' By Christopher Booker). Perhaps the Star Wars universe will need to be completely reinvented before a old generation will re-adopt it as their "childhood mythology". In order for this to happen, we will need to encounter a new generation of filmmakers of the same ilk from which Lucas was birthed. Craftmen and women bold enough to bring with them an ingenuity in approach and design. Otherwise, we will continue to suffer the cyclical fate of watching
the same old off-the-shelf-CGI-visuals, slapped with a different title.
Jodie Foster recently pushed this point when she stated: “Studios making bad content in order to appeal to the masses and shareholders is like fracking. You get the best return
right now but you wreck the earth.”
The recent Star Wars installments are not "bad content" per se, but they are a bit empty, save perhaps Rogue One. Its almost as if the writers of these motion pictures had their hands tied behind their backs when trying to pen a more original approach, particularly with regards to production design. I understand they wanted the universe to feel familiar. But if the powers of CGI mean that the sky is truly the limit, then why does the new Star Wars saga look like it's built from the prefab construction of a post modern marvel universe. (Oh yeah. Disney owns both! I forgot for a minute. Sorry. But if Ridley Scott can successfully pull off a reinvention of the production design behind the Alien franchise (e.g. Prometheus),
why can't we do the same with Star Wars?)
Again, Disney is sticking too close to the formula… and that's exactly what Lucas didn’t
do. Not a sermon, just a thought.