Part 1 is here.
Part 3 is here.
In December 2017, Star Wars: The Last Jedi was released to cinema. Few things had been greeted with such anticipation, and fewer have been as massively disappointing and awful as it turned out to be. Using the very first draught of a script (who does that?), Rian Johnson created a film so bad it has put the future of Star Wars in jeopardy. TLJ had multiple problems, some of which I will highlight below.
TLJ is dotted thoughout with attempts at “humour” that more befit a bad Star Wars parody than an official film. From the Prank Call scene in the opening moments through the stampede on Canto Bight to the Guard getting shredded in the Throne Room among others, the gags were forced, unfunny, and only took viewers out of the moment.
Just as The Force Awakens dishonoured Han Solo, regressing him back to a two bit smuggler, TLJ dishonoured Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), taking “the most optimistic, hopeful person” and turning him into a bitter curmudgeon who trolls Rey. Hamill, the only actor so far to portray Luke in live action films, has expressed his unhappiness with the way the character was written in TLJ, going so far as to say that he had to view him as “Jake Skywalker”, because the character was “not my Luke Skywalker”.
When the very actor who has played a role throughout that role’s lifespan thinks that the character has been wrongly written, then the character has been wrongly written.
Johnson’s directorial gimmick is subverting expectations. The result here was to throw out a lot of the setups from TFA, which means that Episode IX now has real problems.
As I mentioned in Part 1, J. J. Abrams barred the Star Wars Story Group from having any input on The Force Awakens. Johnson let them in, with dire results.
TLJ is riddled throughout with Identity Politics. Here, the Identity Politics are male/female. It is possible to make political statements in films, but there is one rule you must never break, and TLJ broke it.
You never subordinate the storytelling to the message. Breaking this rule turns a film into a sermon or a lecture. And those are boring.
I go to films to be entertained. If I wish to be preached to, there are several churches less than 10 minutes away from my flat. If I want a lecture, there are Colleges and Universities nearby that offer short courses, including Wits.
The Identity Politics in TLJ attempt to portray men as incompetent and needing leadership from women, but it is so badly done that the female leadership is shown to also be incompetent.
Vice Admiral Amlyn Holdo (Laura Dern) takes control after Leia (Carrie Fisher) is incapacitated. When Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) asks her what the plan to escape the First Order is, she refuses to tell him. This is known as “mushroom management” – keeping your subordinates in the dark and feeding them manure. It’s a technique of bad managers and leaders everywhere. Shortly before the plan is to be executed, Poe deduces it and realises that the First Order pursuing them will fire on the escaping transports. When he tries to warn others, Holdo orders him off the bridge. He then mutinies, but fails.
Poe turns out to be correct. The First Order detects the transports leaving for Crait and fires on them, destroying all but three and killing most of the Rebellion. In desperation, Holdo kamikazes the flagship into the First Order’s fleet to save the remnants of the Rebellion.
Holdo mismanaged the situation from the get go. As soon as Poe asked her what the plan was, she should have summoned all her senior commanders (including Poe) into the War Room and outlined the plan. When Poe objects (he would have), she could then have explained that the Rebellion has a cloaking device that will hide the transports.
Poe: “But they’ve been able to track us through hyperspace. What if they can penetrate the cloaking?”
Holdo: “Very well Captain Dameron. Come up with a contingency plan for if they can.”
THAT is how you manage Poe Damerons. You keep them busy and out of everyone else’s hair.
Solo: A Star Wars Story, the origin story of Han Solo, was released to cinema mere months after TLJ left the cinema circuit. Too soon after. It had had a troubled creation, with original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller fired with most of the film completed, and Ron Howard brought in to entirely redo it.
Solo became the first Star Wars film to make a loss. I didn’t watch it because I thought it a cash grab.
Many fans were justifiably unhappy with TLJ. But instead of being apologetic or even maintaining a dignified silence, Rian Johnson and LucasFilms attacked.
They said it was just a minority of fans who disliked it.
They accused the fandom of being “toxic”.
They called us racist, sexist, and homophobic.
They claimed Russian Bots were behind the criticism of TLJ.
They engaged in libellous ad hominems.
The irony of it all for me is that I liked TLJ, but when I saw the attacks, I had to ask myself why I liked it. And when I did, I realised just what a terrible film it was.
Not even one of the “defences” of TLJ that I have read has pointed to its merits. Instead, they have either attacked the fans, presumed to tell them what they were thinking (and being dead wrong about what we were thinking), said it was good without saying why (argument by assertion) or pointed to moments in the Original or Prequel Trilogies (the tu quoque fallacy).
All of a sudden, the attacks on the fandom petered out. And now we know why
As a publicly traded company, Disney is legally required to file its annual results from September 30 to September 29 with the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC). In January of this year, the website Cosmic Book News got its hands on this document.
For LucasFilms, the document makes for very ugly reading. It turns out that making a terrible film and then slandering fans for not liking said terrible film is a stupid business strategy.
LucasFilms was the only Disney unit to make a loss. And it was a loss of $182 million. Although TLJ made back its money and then some, sales of Star Wars toys, DVDs, novels and comic books were almost nonexistent. As the article declared “In a nutshell…everything Disney Star Wars has dropped.” It gives the lie to the claims about the “toxic fandom” and that the upset fans were just a minority. Had it been just a small minority of “toxic fans”, Star Wars earnings would not have tanked as badly as they have.
There is a great deal of unhappiness at Disney over the situation. Bob Iger, the Head of Disney and Kathleen Kennedy’s boss, knows that TLJ is a bad film and that the attacks on fans have alienated them. Indeed, he is too smart not to know this. Corrective steps are being taken. In Part 3 I will list them and why I feel it won’t be enough.