Yes, I know. I was in denial. I wanted to love it in the way that I'd loved those original Star Wars movies, and so... I wrote that piece almost as a way to convince myself. I was trying to find elements of it to hang onto, to reassure myself it was my Star Wars. History has now adopted the consensus that The Phantom Menace is terrible. And I concur with that entirely.
Actually, no. Perhaps I don't. Perhaps it's more that I think The Phantom Menace, and the other prequels, are just really, really weird. Like, sort of bafflingly weird. Like they were made by somebody who had never seen a film before, and had only a passing familiarity with the Star Wars saga.
Anyway, last year I watched Rogue One, and as soon as I got back from the cinema I wrote about it on Digitiser2000, stating why I hadn't liked it. I saw it a second time a few weeks later, and changed my mind: I did like it after all.
So, rather than pen another gut-reaction piece, I have held off writing about The Last Jedi. It was easier this time, though, because I came out of the cinema last Thursday really unsure what I felt about the film.
I'm still not sure, because there are parts of it - that, as a Star Wars fan, as somebody who likes films - which I love. And there are other parts - as a Star Wars fan, and somebody who writes scripts for a living - that I think are, at best, misguided.
It's fair to say that The Last Jedi is proving - amid Star Wars fandom - similarly conflicted. Critics love it. Fans... aren't so sure. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 93% critic score, and a 56% audience score. There's a lot of vitriol on social media about the film... and a lot of websites writing articles about why fans are wrong to be angry. It has split fandom in two.
I say this: everyone who has ever written a single thing about The Last Jedi, post-release, is wrong. But also... completely right.
Be warned; there might be one or two spoilers below.
I'm not going to get into my own thoughts regarding what I feel is wrong with The Last Jedi. I'm seeing it again on Wednesday, to try and make sense of what I'm feeling, but I do feel... a bit sad.
That's a broader point, and there isn't much we can do about it. I mean, Mark Hamill is old, Carrie Fisher is no longer with us... and she does seem very frail in The Last Jedi. Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia were eternally young in my head... up until this film. Now they're not. And I think part of me is grieving that.
Additionally, there are a lot of choices made in the film, by writer-director Rian Johnson, which seem deliberately designed to turn Star Wars lore on its head. Characters make the opposite decisions to their archetypical predecessors, sacred cows are kicked in the head, moments that were previously full of portent are played for laughs....
And worse still, the big, big questions - the ones fans have been debating online for two years, ever since The Force Awakens - are tossed aside. Literally, in the case of Luke Skywalker's lightsaber. In short: we were warned that it wasn't going to go the way we expected, and the filmmakers delivered on that. It's a ballsy, bold, brave, approach.
However, I think that's where this schism was formed; none of the fan theories about, say, who Rey's parents were have proven to be correct. Rey is a nobody, her parents were nobodies, and so the moment where that's revealed - for a lot of people - has proven to be unsatisfying.
Thing is, the way it has been handled hasn't helped the issue. The question was set up in The Force Awakens, by JJ Abrams, to be important. Johnson decided he wasn't interested in that. It's like being teased with a massive, wrapped, box under the Christmas tree.
What's inside? Your mind races with possibilities... but when you unwrap it there's just a single Curly-Wurly rattling around inside. Yeah, Curly-Wurlys are nice and all... but why bother wrapping it in a massive box that promised so much more?
It's like... in having theories that they've invested in emotionally, dismissed in such a manner, these fans are reacting as if the filmmakers have dismissed them personally. And it doubtless hurts all the more, because they've been dismissed by something they love.
It's typical of how this film plays all of the big questions from The Force Awakens; who are Rey's parents? Who is Snoke? Who are the Knights of Ren? What's it going to take to get Luke back into the fight? How did Maz Kanata come to be in possession of Luke's "laser sword"? These questions are either ignored, subverted, or the answers are treated as unimportant.
Unfortunately, they are important - more important than the way in which Johnson handles them - to the millions of fans around the world who have been waiting two years for the answers. Those two years were filled with endless debate, and pretty much every possible theory was entertained... except for the theories that would've disappointed. Because nobody wanted those, and yet... those are the ones we got.
So who's at fault here, for the film proving so divisive? Well, the fans hold a degree of responsibility, for getting so worked up about the possibilities. When I was a kid, we all talked about the cliffhanger at the end of The Empire Strikes Back in the playground at school, but nobody at school wanted to talk about it as much as I did. Now, kids like me have message boards, social media, and geek websites full of likeminded souls, and the theories feed into one another, and build, and stoke the embers.
And yet, you can't really blame the fans for that. Star Wars is important for a lot of us. We grew up with it. That galaxy far, far away was a place we could all go to when school, when life, got too much. It's the ultimate safe space - somewhere we were never betrayed. We feel like we own it.
So, Rian Johnson is to blame for not taking all of this into account? Well... yes. It has been widely reported that this is his Star Wars film. He was allowed to make a movie which was his personal reaction to The Force Awakens - and not necessarily continue the story in the way that JJ Abrams and LucasFilm intended or expected. This is the way he thought The Last Jedi needed to play out.
And yet... he has every right to do that, just as George Lucas had every right to make the Star Wars prequels the way he did, for better or worse. I'd always take a personal movie over one that has been designed by committee.
So, here's what I think: Star Wars fans have every right to be pissed off.
I also think Rian Johnson did what was right by him (no small feat, given the importance of the Star Wars brand to Disney and LucasFilm). Ultimately, it's just a movie series, and though it's deeply, profoundly, important to some of us - in ways that others find hard to understand - it's not a big deal in the grand scheme of things.
Nevertheless, our reaction to it - our personal, individual, reactions - have every right to exist too. You're not going to convince someone that they're wrong to feel whatever they feel about The Last Jedi. Let people feel it, and don't try and deny them, or beat those feelings out of them by insisting they're wrong; it's a visceral, gut reaction. It might even change over time. But you're not going to change someone's feelings by forcing them to change.
Feelings are undeniable. They are never "wrong". They are an emotional reaction, rather than a logical one. You are never at fault to feel what you feel, because feelings are the unique product of any given individual.
Likewise, Rian Johnson is not wrong to make his Star Wars film his way; because only he can do that. We might think his choices are wrong, in relation to who we are, but his choices were not wrong for him - any more than your feelings are wrong for you.
We need to own who we are, we need to own our experience, and neither deny that we're right or try and convince ourselves, or others, that they're wrong to feel what they feel. On the other hand, feelings are entirely subjective too - they might not be wrong, but they're not right either.
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