Bittersweet Symphony: Thoughts on “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”

I went and saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the eighth episode in the saga this past Thursday night.  I wanted to wait a few days A) to avoid spoiling for others (warning there may be spoilers in this post) and B) to ruminate on my thoughts of the film.

I titled this post “Bittersweet Symphony”.  Those that may catch that reference it is the title of a 90s song.  And I think that title sums up my feelings on The Last Jedi.  On it’s own, it’s a really good film.  But in comparison to the previous film (The Force Awakens) and even more so the saga as a whole, it is very bittersweet.

This is no fault of director Rian Johnson.  He made his film and I was impressed (that was the word I immediately thought of when walking out of the theater) by the decisions that he made and the path he took.  On it’s own, this film immediately found and went its own path.  In the context of the third trilogy, it feels like in many ways it departed (good bad or indifferent) from what was established in the previous film.  A lot of people have brought up these thoughts (dismissing Rey’s parents as nobodies, killing off Snoke with no real explanation of who he is and how big a threat he is) as well as other thoughts (not explaining where a lot of the resistance leaders were after TFA, killing of Captain Phasma with little screentime, etc) It felt like Rian Johnson took a lot of TFA and just scrapped it to tell his own story.  Which is fine, it’s his right as a storyteller to do that.

Hence the bittersweet feeling.  As I kid, I dreamed about what episode VII, VIII & IX would be like.  As a teenager I heartily read through the Thrawn trilogy and the Dark Empire graphic novels and a lot of the EU (Expanded Universe) books.  Even though it seemed like there would never be that sequel trilogy, there was all this other media that told the further adventures of Luke, Han, Leia, Chewie, Lando, Wedge and the rest.

When Disney bought Lucasfilm from George Lucas and went away from his treatment of the sequel trilogy (he had written up a treatment) and went their own path, I don’t think I realized it at the time but I especially do now.  We will never (unless that treatment is turned into novels/graphic novels) know what George Lucas had in mind for the further Skywalker adventures.  While we get these new films and such (which I’m not complaining about and I do enjoy in their own right) it is sad that the EU that I loved growing up is dismissed and more importantly that George Lucas, the man who dreamed up this universe, never got to finish the story.  That would be like C.S. Lewis not getting to write the last 3 books of The Chronicles of Narnia or J.R.R. Tolkien not getting to finish The Lord of the Rings and someone else coming in to write those books.

I wonder if Disney wouldn’t have been better off just having Johnson direct this entire trilogy (like they’re doing with the new one after IX) than to come in after Abrams like he did and then discard a lot of things Abrams had developed.  Regardless, it is a film that has developed a lot of buzz (positive and negative) as the flashing “Opening weekend” lights have started to fade.

I am sure I will see it more times.  And I’m sure my thoughts and feelings about the film will continue to settle.  But I think the feeling of bittersweetness will stick around with this film (and I think in some ways it will do so with Episode IX as well).  I mentioned this before, for kids growing up, this is their Star Wars trilogy like for me the original trilogy was and for others the prequel trilogy.  They will view this trilogy differently from me and that’s okay.  For me, it reminds me of an “alternate timeline” and that somewhere else the EU or whatever Lucas had in mind are out there as well and are legitimate timelines of how the Star Wars saga continues.

There’s so much of a thought out there now that it’s extremes, you must absolutely love something or hate it.  That shouldn’t be the case.  People can have opinions (especially something subjective like movies and art) that cover a wide range of perspective.  When it comes to The Last Jedi, I can enjoy it as a film and still fill bittersweet about the story it tells in itself and the saga as a whole.

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