Sam Freeman

Storytelling | Theatre | Arts Marketing

Is Star Wars terrible?

Provocative isn’t it.

A month ago I would have clicked on this blog post with venom in my mind and one singular thought: this dickhead is wrong. I’d have insisted that not understanding Star Wars is like not understanding the concept of love, or hating cheesecake, essentially the domain of cold-hearted psychopaths.

But last week I saw The Last Jedi and it got me thinking about Star Wars, the films I have loved since I was 9 years old and whether that love affair might be finally fading. But first some thoughts on the latest films – of course including spoilers!

  1. Luke – I liked his fragility and his huge self doubt, the way that he’d isolated himself (that tantilising shot of the X-Wing underwater, sadly not followed up). But what had happened in the last 30 years, what had gone so very wrong? The problem was we didn’t have any of this answered – it felt like we walked in on a mentally ill man who’d had a breakdown and lost everything but without a proper explanation as to why? I wanted the origin story of that moment, of where he’d been, the things he’d seen – what motivated him to start a new Jedi order after the events at Endor? His character felt like a pencil sketch when I wanted an oil painting?
  2. Leia – Overlooking that moment in space where, with no prior warning, Leia develops a force-thruster in her hand, much like Luke I was hoping to find out more of the intervening years – also, and slightly awkwardly, it appeared that in the years since the second death star the rebellion had achieved… well, not much. Arguably if the baddies who built the planet destroying weapon are replaced by more zealoted baddies who built another planet destroying weapon you should really ask if the galaxy isn’t just a bit too fucked.
  3. Story – Essentially the story of a ship, very slowly, outrunning another ship until it ran out of fuel, yawn… It lacked imagination, the jeopardy felt almost artificial. Also if the First Order ships are a bit too slow to catch up with the rebellion ship then why don’t they try and jump ahead of it? Are they tactically inept?
  4. Rey – Her journey seems a little hollow. We set up the idea of her family being linked to Luke in the last film from her interaction with his lightsaber (we’re not sure why), they seem intrinsically connected, which is why it felt a waste for her to be from a family of “nobodies”. There’s also the tricky idea that she can develop all her force skills inside 10 days. In the earlier films it took decades to become a half decent Jedi, you’d even go to Jedi school – then Luke learnt over what felt like a few years (albeit with Yoda), and now Rey is a master in the space of what? 3 weeks?
  5. Lightsabers – So let’s chart the life of Luke’s blue lightsaber? It’s given to him by Obi Wan. He loses it on Bespin when his hand is chopped off. So where did Mas get it? What is its story? Also when Luke strides out to face Kylo on the planet surface he has a blue lightsaber, the same one that was destroyed moments earlier and the same one he’d lost and also not the green lightsaber he’d used from Return of the Jedi onwards and Kylo Ren doesn’t mention that at all (especially as it was a green lightsaber Kylo saw Luke with last…)? That’s not a clue?
  6. Snork – Great acting, clever character, actually an interesting and menacing evil character with tonnes of darkness and an almost slither. His death lost a brilliant character without ever explaining anything about him. He was powerful enough to easily beat Kylo and almost embarrass Rey in comparison, but he fails to notice the lightsaber next to him spinning?

I found myself writing this list and getting more pissed off, I could have written 40, 50 bullet points, until, in a moment of rare clarity, I thought why?

It is a family film after all, it’s science fiction, it doesn’t have to play by the rules, or explain itself, or how and why the rules of physics are routinely shattered. It’s also not aimed at me.

My main issue isn’t the film. The main issue is that it’s no longer for me.  I wanted a Star Wars film for me now, not the 9 year old me, but the 33 year old me, the one who can concentrate on plot and characterization, the one who loves True Detective and who has watched all of The West Wing four times and wants to watch it again to learn about the people. The necessity to open and close a character’s narrative arc within 2 hours 30 minutes, particularly in action films leaves me increasingly hollow.

I think that maybe the Star Wars I wanted wasn’t even a film at all? Maybe it was a 10 part TV series, made by HBO, with dialogue by Aaron Sorkin, something bleaker than ever before, something that rips apart the personalities of individuals and lays them bare. I wanted the new film to relate to the series in the same way that Jessica Jones relates to Marvel.

Is The Last Jedi a poor film? Yes I suspect, or maybe I’ve just grown out of it.