Discussion in 'Literature' started by Karl0413, Feb 5, 2016.
Sitting down for my 3rd time. Checking out IMAX 3D this time.
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Note: There is a big spoiler below for the Hong Kong trilogy of Infernal Affairs.
So, that happened.
Having seen it I can well see the axes around which people decide their opinions of it, from it being an abomination unworthy of the SW name to that of an artistic masterpiece.
For myself? To my surprise it does succeed, but not without some major reservations. Certainly, for me, going in cold would not have been wise, preparation was required.
Although in both cases, TFA and TLJ, what was that preparation? It was purely text info, of a general summary of the main beats. It was not at all representative of the final product, but gave me enough to not be so outraged at certain developments, while not supplying so much info that nothing surprises. Case in point: TFA’s trench run ANH homage combined with ROTJ’s death star reactor blowing up – it is absolutely an OT mash-up combination, but it’s also very well done and is a hugely enjoyable sequence, particularly when Poe’s in and is blowing the crap out of it.
I can’t deny that there is a degree of very major corporate cynicism in these two films. I can’t blame anyone for having the view that these films are about killing off Luke, Han and Leia and replacing them with Finn, Rey and Poe. They can be reduced to that if you are so inclined but, to invoke a quite well-known Legends one-liner: It was so artistically done.
For me, the artistry of execution overcomes the corporate cynicism but I appreciate it won’t for others. What is of more interest to me is, like TFA, the difference between what I’ve heard about and what I saw. There are significant differences between them. The way the film gets talked of suggests a wholly different order of events compared to what I actually got, but also the way characters operate in it. It is not without its flaws, some quite significant, but it gets a lot right.
For myself I never really wanted the last story of Luke, Han and Leia – once that’s got there doesn’t tend to be anything else, theur story’s done, the destination. It’s akin to comics in that respect. Oh, but they could stories set before? Yes – and there some that pretty have to be done – but it doesn’t tend to happen that much. Generally, more stories are not gotten from dead characters – although SW does have a couple of ways to cheat in that respect, say Force ghosts for instance.
On the other hand, is it the only, definitive story of them? If you are a strict, canon subscriber then it absolutely is and could be far, far more problematic. If Disney’s great reboot of 2014 taught me anything, it was how much the idea of canon meant to me and the answer I found was ‘not much’. So this is a story of those characters, it is not the story for me. Much like DC’s cinematic story so far is a version of Superman and Batman without being the sole variant. This also renders a few of TLJ’s moves less cutting than they might otherwise be.
Let’s tackle the big topic head-on: Luke Skywalker. Luke wouldn’t just give up, right? Or leg it to an island for years just waiting to die? As a word summary this reads absolutely terribly, it’s awful, it’s fuel for the outrage factor of how the hell could they do this to Luke, this the best they got? Except, except there is the little matter of Hamill’s performance and it’s Hamill that actually sells this, so successfully, that I bought into it and saw how it could work, without adding else – and yes, I will be adding some other stuff to this. It’s Hamill that makes you believe that Luke was so distraught by his moment – and it was but a moment, when assailed with the depths of evil Ben was heading gleefully towards – that he would consider himself a total failure. So great was his shame and dismay that he took himself to the first Jedi temple, perhaps hoping to find some solace. Instead, somehow, along the way he found the full story of the fall of the Jedi Order at the hands of Darth Sidious and that only pitched Luke deeper into the negative spiral he was already trapped in. Luke’s telling Rey of the old order is one entirely reflective of Luke’s own state of being at that time.
I really enjoyed Ken Liu’s book The Legends of Luke Skywalker(I just hope he avoids the curse of the final volume that strikes so many fantasy authors on the third and final Dandelion Dynasty story.) It sketched various versions of Luke, but all built around a core concept: That Luke had become a legend to the galaxy, he had become this mysterious figure that pops up here, or there, wherever he turns up something happens, a person’s life direction altered, an injustice fixed or averted. In the Battlefront 2 clips, Luke’s nature is such he turns a hardened, hardcore Imperial away from the Empire he had spent his life serving just by helping him and talking with him along the way. In this way, the book gives an excellent sense of what Snoke feared so much. Something that can’t be fought or killed, a being against which there is no defence and who could, if given, turn the bulk of the entire First Order away from their Supreme Leader.
In this sense Luke’s legacy to the galaxy is beyond the reach of Snoke and Ren to hit. Luke would have likely been on Acht-to about four or five years, as that’s the best current estimate of when it all went wrong. He would not have known about the Starkiller. If he had known of it, what could he truly have done against a weapon designed for the purpose of destroying entire star systems? Probably not that much. In this respect Luke’s initial assessment is, though clouded by his own despair, is accurate. He cannot do that much, by himself, against the legions of the First Order.
What is being forgotten with Luke is a couple of things: When he took out the Death Star and how he confronted Vader and the Emperor. It is notable that when Luke destroys the Death Star, he did so as a supremely gifted Rebel pilot, not as a Jedi. As a Jedi, he went to the Death Star 2, ended up going to the very edge of darkness in duelling Vader and, only by pulling away from that precipice, did he then become a Jedi. Luke then rejected further fighting. He was rewarded by a massive amount of Sith Lightning and Vader / Anakin taking his sweet time to decide what the hell he was going to do, but he still drew Anakin out of the depths of Vader.
In Doctor Who, a Time War erupts between the Time Lords and the Daleks, a cataclysmic and hugely destructive conflict. What was the Doctor’s response to it? In the end the Doctor concluded he had none, this conflict was beyond him and could not be fought by the Doctor as the Doctor. Thus, the Doctopr gave way to his incarnation as War, which regenerated into the Ninth Doctor after the end of the Time War. In this way, so did Luke Skywalker likely come to realise there were things he had done in his past which he could never do and remain a Jedi. The full story of the fall of the Jedi Order and the Clone Wars would have only emphasised this further. The Clone Wars were unleashed by Sidious to accomplish two purposes: Destroy the Jedi on a physical, moral and spiritual level, by sending them into an arena they were utterly unsuited to and could not adapt to without destroying themselves. Second, incubate the Empire so that by the time it was declared it already existed in all but name. The old Jedi took the route engaging in lesser evil, fighting the Clone Wars, out of a noble purpose to protect the citizens of the Republic, while seeking the greater evil that was the second Sith. They knew Darth Tyranus was the separatist leader, but never considered Sidious would be deep in the Republic. Luke’s likely conclusion would be that he cannot take the same road for fear it also leads to the same destination, but neither, in his heart, can he do nothing. It is only at the end of TLJ Luke finds the means to act in the perfect way he sought.
Luke was able to forgive Darth Vader, he’s even able to perhaps contemplate that his nephew isn’t an utter, irredeemable psychopath scumbag, but what of himself? If Luke can extend forgiveness to the second most evil person in the galaxy, with a death count in the billions, then why not to himself? And he can’t. Luke expects much of himself, too much. In his head Luke probably does wonder if he could have saved his foster parents, he’d accept his father had to die, but other losses probably haunt him, such as that of Biggs. Luke and the Doctor aren’t the same by any measure, but not being good at losing people is something they have in common. What if the loss of a family member was by Luke’s own hand? It wouldn’t have to actually happen, just the possibility would be enough for Luke to damn himself. Only towards the end of TLJ, after Yoda’s intervention, does Luke find the way to forgive himself and with that comes clearer sight as to what he can do.
The Rucka comic Shattered Empire has a chapter with Luke retrieving a tree from an Imperial base, probably a sapling of the same kind we see on Acht-to. In the process he takes a lot of care to not kill the Imperials, only giving in to that when a load of thermal detonators get thrown at him and he reverses their direction. What we see of the Jedi in the PT is them slaughtering battle droids, while killing the odd living enemy – like Jango Fett. Most of the time? I don’t think Jedi need to kill because they already have the edge in so many ways – they can move faster, think faster, partly see what you’re going to do, can move you telekinetically, perceive so quickly as to block blaster bolts with a lightsaber and even re-direct them. With all those advantages it is easy for a Jedi to not kill, unless tangling with a Sith or other powerful Force-user. This I think Luke also came to realise.
Hamill’s performance sells me all of this and more.
Moving on, let’s tackle another major element – Rey. For all the objections of Rey being able to fix and fly the Falcon – there’s a neat Rucka tale that covers that – I didn’t find her too perfect in TFA. If anything her flaws there are also here in that she’s too quick to resort to violence or assume wrongly – her scene with Solo in TFA when he hands her the blaster is a good example. The solution, however, is not for her to engage in the absolute idiocy she does here. After having seen TFA, I could see why there was a new audience for SW, due Rey being a female lead, that cannot not be responded to. Which makes Rey’s actions in this film all the more worse. The whole, well it’s been dubbed ForceTime by some and it fits, is a bad idea. Rey initially does tell him to get lost, but Ren, in full stalker mode keeps on going and, somehow - I dunno, the power of the plot compels her? – she starts listening to him.
Let’s recap – this film continues on from TFA, no time jump remember? In fact TLJ spans about 18 hours because that’s how much fuel the Resistance fleet has. So, only a few days ago, at most, Ren is who has pursued her, terrified her, captured and tortured her, killed Han in front of her and lots of other people, before trying to kill her in the forests of Starkiller Base. And all of that, just goes up in smoke? So much so, that after Luke tells her to get off his lawn, her response is a sneak attack on him on behalf of poor, poor Kylo? It. Is. Rubbish. This was absolute crap, it really was and it must have been murder for Rey fans. They take this plot strand all the way up to Rey asking to be dropped off, onto the Supremacy, because she thinks she can turn Kylo, despite all that she saw but days ago. Rey gets some token redemption by clearing the rocks to allow the Rsistance to escape, but overall, in this film? At best she’s a moron.
Poe I still really like, but Leia was right to be cheesed off with him. That said, Poe wasn’t entirely wrong either, that Dreadnought could and would have killed the Fleet had it not been taken out in quite the sequence of pyrotechnics. Let’s consider the net version of that scene: Poe takes out the Dreadnought by himself. Um, did we watch the same movie? In a boosted X-wing, so able to move faster than the point defences were designed for, he takes out the guns but that’s all he can take out. Poe doesn’t have the firepower to take out the ship, that’s what the bombers are for. Also Poe, in an X-Wing, with a nitro boost fitted, engaging in mad crap to save his family? That’s Fast ‘n’ Furious in space!
Poe’s deciding on Crait to not finish the attack on the cannon, I quite liked. I’ll come back to this in a bit.
Let’s now briefly cover the other idiot of this film: Holdo. There were no spies, no infiltrators, no saboteurs so why didn’t Holdo share her plan, why didn’t she reassure Poe and the others? We’re back in the territory of ‘power of the plot’. It’s a shame as Holdo was indeed a quirky, Luna-style character in Gray’s Leia: Princess of Alderaan tale. In that respect, this is a poor follow-through and pick-up.
Onto Finn and Rose – I really can’t like the latter and cannot buy her relationship with Finn at the end, it just doesn’t add up. I quite liked a lot of the Canto Bight stuff, a corrupt hellhole is nothing new for SW, but one that is as opulent as this is. I’m looking forward to working my way through the short story collection that’s been done for the location. Del Toro was OK, but I can’t say I found him memorable, even with him having the role of evil Lando.
Let’s move over to the dark side: Evil Weasley continues to be scenary-eating fun, ably assisted by Lieutenant Eddie Hitler. Snoke? Psychopathic nutcase, with the dial turned up to 11. Kylo? Still can’t take the bastard seriously and I loved what Luke did to him at the end. Want to know what happened when he was told the base was deserted? He went to every room, destroying everything, especially computers. I did like the move they pulled here, with Kylo moving from the Vader category to that of Emperor, but it requires serious continuation in ep 9, which I don’t have as much confidence on. At this point Kylo should be absolutely irredeemable and that should not change. The point of the Vader-Emperor dynamic in ROTJ was that Vader might be redeemed, Sidious never would be and that’s the category Kylo now occupies. Oh wait, before I forget: Phasma. This was pushing it but it’s very SW that stuff happens at just the right moment. Will she be back in Ep 9? I think so, there’s no body after all and she already from a collapsing planet, she can do the same on a Star Destroyer.
So, sacrifice, when is needed and when is it not? In SW the Resistance / Rebels have an excellent track record on pulling crazy, near-suicidal plans, near-suicidal plans, not engaging in suicide, just actions that really should be but improbably turn out not to be. Part of me always wanted someone, at one of the briefings to go: Seriously? After a crazy plan has been sketched out. That doesn’t happen here, but Poe’s realisation that they really can’t win on Crait and it’s better to leg it is a welcome change. Holdo’s sacrifice, in contrast, was required and she and the Raddus went out with one hell of a bang. Is it actually that replicable a tactic as lots of people seem to think? I don’t think so and I would expect supplementary material to already be applying limits to when it can and can’t be used.
There’s an entire subset of SW fandom that are dubbed, by some, Fleet Junkies. Their interest? It is in the capital ships and this was a good film for Fleet Junkies: Mega-class Star Destroyer, the Dreadnought, the Raddus – lot of good stuff here. The one weakness is, given everything else the Supremacy has – and it has nearly everything – it should have interdiction tech. That the First Order has a supercomputer able to track ships accurately through hyperspace but cannot also calculate precise hyperspace jump sequences to bring in more ships to blast away the Resistance is perhaps the crowning glory for ‘power of the plot’. That’s the only reason the bad guys don’t win completely in this film.
So, there are difficulties in how the film coordinates its pieces, but there are also difficulties in how it picks up pieces from TFA and that’s a problem. The sequence with Luke throwing away the saber doesn’t mesh with how Abrams set it up in TFA, nor does it work as comedy. (What would have made it work? That bit with a Porg jumping on the activation button with another Porg in the way of the blade? That would have been hilarious. As it is, the film was overload on both where those little bastards turned up and the cuteness.) Rey’s parents – if they’re nobody why was she called to Anakin’s saber in Maz’ castle? Why build a mystery around nothing? The one good point of this is that Rey can take out Kylo, as Luke was unable to overcome the protection of family that Kylo had as Luke’s nephew. Then there’s ‘Luke left a map in TFA’ – when here he doesn’t want to be found at all. I’m sure there’ll be a creative fan fix for this, if there’s not one already, but it’s one that should not be needed at all. I’m not particularly bothered much about the Knights of Ren as they were fleeting in TFA at best, but that does need to be picked up in ep 9.
Why does this matter? Because they’ve been so good at it in every other respect elsewhere. Due to that, this slapdash, cavalier attitude strikes a discordant note. Only a year ago, they did Rouge One and that worked well with existing material and linked up to new, supplementary material in the form of the Catalyst book. The Rebels third season also picked up on aspects. Then, a few months back, Vanity Fair interviews blew away the smokescreen that they, sort of, knew where they were going. Turns out there was no real plan at all. Now, there’s nothing wrong with this. That model of story-telling can work, if each new piece builds logically on its predecessor, but TLJ doesn’t do that consistently. I also object to the whole smokescreen LFL engaged in, they should just be honest about what they are and aren’t doing – if nothing else, it’ll get them points for honesty. As it is, can’t help but wonder how Ep 9 will fuse with this.
Talking of the future, while I expect there to be a Ren-Rey final duel, as SW likes those, I’d really like it to go the route of Infernal Affairs. A Hong Kong trilogy, the first sees moles in the police and criminals become aware of the other and each then seek their destruction. The first film ended with the cop mole winning, the second film was a Godfather 2 style prequel/sequel, but the third saw the cop mole unravel mentally under the burden of the knowledge of all the people he’d killed. I’d like to see Kylo self-destruct and finish it by killing himself. That he keeps seeing Luke and Han in everything, ghosts he can’t dismiss or kill.
As this is nearing the end, let’s talk of that and Luke’s end. To my surprise, I ended up really liking this. That Luke makes his peace with Leia and then walks out to an AT-AT assembly was damn cool. That a ton of AT-AT and AT-ST fire did feck all damage, also damn cool. I can see there might be objections to Luke telling Kylo he failed him, but I see that as Luke saying that for himself, that this is something he needs to say and it doesn’t matter what response it gets, it will give Luke the peace he seeks. I also really enjoyed Luke’s matrix-style dodge too. It in doing all this Luke found the answers he sought, that being a Jedi is not about violence, it’s about helping and saving others and he absolutely accomplishes that. Then, with that done, Luke feels he can let go.
That things went wrong with the Jedi doesn’t invalidate all that Luke did before, that an Empire to which the New Republic chose to show mercy to, spurns that to spend decades building new war weaponry doesn’t erase the earlier victories – can you imagine the Emperor wielding the STarkiller for instance? One neat twist for Ep 9 would be for there to have been other survivors of Kylo’s massacre, not many, one or two would suffice and still be plausible, if only because Kylo’s sloppy. The one thing, for me, that ep 9 needs to demonstrate is that that idealism SW likes to look to can actually work. It was present in how the New Republic, which ended up tangled in new errors by trying to avoid the old ones, it was present in Luke’s academy where he trusted too much. It would be easy to conclude from both films that that’s misplaced, that the dark side is efficient, that it gets stuff done. Ep 9 needs to show how wrong that view is, how wrong Kylo and Hux and the fools that follow them are. I’m reasonably optimistic that it will.
All right then, now I’m done. How to rate this overall? Very tricky. I can well see why it is such a polarising film, when it’s good, it’s very, very good and when it’s bad, it’s horrid and both exist side-by-side in this film. There is a bit too much that relies on power of the plot, there are failures of coordination, but it also does do some very interesting moves. It does attempt to do something different and mostly succeeds in that.
From the start, the new material has tried to really factor in the effect of the PT. What impact would that have? While it was of minimal effect for TFA, I think that has far more importance here, though that is entirely my musings. I like the idea of trying to tie everything together, of trying to render the nine films a coherent whole. In that respect it’s a pity they didn’t manage for this film on its own, as it really does have a tendency of going in two directions at once, at the same time.
One point the supporting material makes very clear is that the whole conflict in the ST swirls around one concept: Be better. It is this that was Grand Admiral Sloane’s first order to the remains of the Empire that became the First Order. She neglected to specify how, thus the First Order concluded that they needed to be better at cruelty, brutality and war. It is what Luke Skywalker said to the imperial in Battlefront 2 and so changed his entire life. It is what Leia was trying to get Poe to understand. To return to Doctor Who, the version there would be: Be kind. None of that says you have to be a doormat to everyone, nor that you don’t fight evil, but neither do you become what you fight. You fight in the right way to defeat the enemy without becoming them.
And I'll allways have The Glove of Darth Vader.
For real though, if Kylo doesn't wax all "I'm evil but I still have a heart" with the lighting giving the illusion of a third eye while he's being all creepy stalkerish. It will be a tremendous missed opportunity
Well then, it probably wouldn't have been a good idea to start your ST with a straight remake of the OT. To not have Vader 2.0, to not have Empire 2.0, to not have Rebellion 2.0.
Maybe to involve new antognists and better protagonists. Maybe to invent a new alien species to attack, or to do a LOT more than what they did in TFA/TLJ.
To make movie 1 of the new ST trilogy uphold everything and then to make movie 2 of the new trilogy to subvert everything, doesn't uphold what you are saying though. It comes off more as petulent and attempting to just subvert the previous movie, rather than the other 8. Especially when TLJ=ESB with just special twists to it. With weaker characters. And with completely ****ing on the previous trilogy. (Imagine if the PT did that to the OT in a similar fashion.... ON TOP of being bad movies. Which is pretty much what the ST is doing, being BAD MOVIES, and ****ing on the OT.)
Even still, I could go with what TLJ was trying to do by subverting the SW genre; IF IT ACTUALLY DID THAT CORRECTLY. And if it didn't have so many other apparent problems to the movie (Rose's character, lack of actual knowledge of the universe its in, lack of physics knowledge beyond even what the OT showed, not openingly mocking the genre and its fans - "laser swords", not having the worst horrendous dialogue and humor in just about any SW film, bar AOTC, such ridiculously flimsy plots, the gaping plotholes that could let an Executor fly through, etc, etc, etc.)
Subverting genre norms does not excuse the trash this movie became/is.
Good review Ben, I don't agree with every character choice or plot decision either. But taking a step back and looking at the themes and message of TLJ, it's really not THAT different from other Star Wars stories, it's just not a "safe" story. I feel like the old crew got some suitably spectacular moments, and the torch was passed to the new crew in a way that honored what came before.
And how about that sick saber fight eh?
I still don't understand how this film isn't safe. I have said before it's the very definition of safe.
Aside from the galaxy being in the same state as 1980, the character arcs are very safe relying on safe tv and film tropes not applicable to the characters. Retired warrior convinced to drop bitterness for 1 last fight? We just saw this in the X-Men film Logan, in Clint Eastwood films etc and this arc is forced onto Luke when it doesn't even fit his character!
Poes arc is military maverick Jack Bauer, etc shoved onto him. This arc is so contrived many have pointed out the nonsensical silence of Holdo. Finns arc about caring about the Rebels--they are called Rebels now, how safe does this get?! instead of just Rey is Hans arc in ROTJ.
Reys arc complete with resisting the old join me offer and ditching training to go on her own is Lukes arc from ESB
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Luke played Kylo like a damn fiddle
Are you talking about the scene on Crait? Because yes he did, and it was hilarious.
Kylo Ren destroyed Luke's life's work and forced him into hiding for years.
I'm sure he's sleeping okay.
Hux might shoot him if he goes to sleep though
Okay, that's fair. And I imagine Kylo has always had trouble sleeping, anyway.
You would think Kylo would have done his research on darksiders and find out they don't even get to sleep--just ask Darth Plagueis. In the PT, Vader and Palpatine were doing something new that they were sure would succeed--ruling the galaxy etc. Kylo knows this has all failed before, and nothing is shown why he wants to do it all over again or how he feels this time will be better--other than his "Let the past die" sayings which seems less daring and more like deep down he knows it will all go wrong again and just doesn't want to admit it.
The movie never addressed if anyone in the Resistance knows Leia is the mother of the new Supreme Leader of the First Order. If I were Kylo, I would declare myself as Emperor Ben Solo I, son of Leia Organa and heir to Vader and let the galaxy know in a big way to wipe out the morale of the Resistance--that Leia is the mother of Kylo Ren and she hid it all this time. And you thought the shock of her being Vader's daughter in Bloodline was bad?
Leia can die of shock and sorrow as the Resistance turns on her and is even more fractured, and this can be the opening of 9. Kylo's arc can shift from whatever was planned pre-passing of Ms. Fisher to a new one in which he contemplates how his declaration of relation broke his mother's heart and led to her death as it destroyed the morale of her allies etc.
I assumed that Poe knew that Kylo Ren was Leia's son from the beginning of TFA onward when he's cracking wise at him.
Honestly he really, really seems like he's not.
And considering we see exactly how open Poe is with his superiors in 8, I find that even more reason to think the rest of the Rebels don't know. (Man, I am still in shock they are called Rebels again, it's just so odd typing it).
Do we know that's what they're called, and they're not just using that phrase for its symbolic resonance when things get dark?
It's still not a proper term unless the FO actually consolidates control of the galaxy. They haven't. The new Supreme Leader went straight into combat, no one knows what is going on, etc. The galaxy is in chaos; despite what we are told in the crawl, the FO doesn't really seem to be ruling the galaxy yet and thus Rebels isn't really applicable.
I mean where is the capital of the FO? How do they collect taxes, do government things etc?
Oh, and it's Luke Skywalker himself who calls them that.
Apparently the capital is the capitol is Snoke's ship.
Well first it's the captain of the medical frigate, then it's Holdo, then it's Luke.
Yeah, it was an awful choice of words.
Kylo Ren probably IS stressing it and replaying the cringe material over and over again because he's Kylo Ren. He should cut himself some slack, though.
I like to think Luke is gaslighting him now.
He's always hovering over Kylo's bed when he wakes up before breaking out into the Joker laugh.
Nah, every bump in the night will be Luke or Han. Every bad night's sleep, every uncomfortable moment, every time the duvet hits the floor or his cape betrays Kylo will see Luke or Han in it.
Because the movie is about failure, and every major character fails badly in at least one spectacular way, good guys and bad. The question is, how do you deal with that? Do you let failure define you? Or do you keep working towards something better?
Meh you shouldn’t be that surprised, that’s what happens when you just want to do your own version of ANH complete with Rebels and Empire, you don’t bother to put a lot of thought in it/the universe building or worry about the sequels