Discussion in 'Sequel Trilogy' started by Pro Scoundrel
, Jan 3, 2020.
No one needs to see Glass Onion...
I am No One
You should. You really, really should. Especially with your sense of humor.
Yeah, I definitely tend to be uncharitable with assumptions about Johnson’s decision making in TLJ - though I don’t often think of malice as being behind it, or conscious problematic prejudice, and sometimes I think it’s more that he’s just bringing in a larger creative philosophy from the “art world” that has inherent biases, insecurities, and problematic blind spots.
There was a small, handful of instances on social media or in interviews where he seemed to display juvenile, myopic or apathetic attitudes towards parts of his film that really should have been “red flags,” especially when contrasted with his usually much more cooperative and empathetic film-making elsewhere:
- The “Your Snoke Theory Sucks” joke, when combined with him having no interest in a character who was supposed to be the catalyst for *everything* in the ST shows a bit of petulance and carelessness towards the larger story.
- Him overriding and ordering Williams to re-score the hand holding scene between Rey and Kylo when Williams realized it should be creepy instead of the romantic flair Johnson wanted.
- His jokes about how he could have left Finn in a coma the entire film, and about how he removed a more dramatic connection between Finn and Rose because he just “didn’t want to write it” displays clear knowledge that the story wasn’t interesting or important for a nominal male lead.
- His story getting both Mark Hamill and Oscar Isaac to voice some quiet, professional doubts about how he was writing their characters, and him telling them they were wrong.
And this isn’t stuff he’s said publicly, but stuff that is apparent in TLJ:
- He retconned Finn’ story to portray his attachment to Rey as selfish and something he had to grow past…
- …But he also retconned and removed Rey’s personality to install an objectively abusive relationship between her and Kylo, while consistently arguing it was more romantic or “intimate.”
In truth, I think the problem is that Johnson dutifully applied a bunch of creative priorities and philosophies that a lot of “art film” teachers and critics extol and praise as the epitome of true “cinema”… and he unknowingly exposed how those priorities and philosophies can be vapid, hypocritical, biased, and insecure.
I mean, I’m not just assuming uncharitable intentions and processes on the part of Johnson; I’m also assuming them on the proponents of certain genres, critical evaluations, and industry leaders… much like how the same thing happens when people review “dumb blockbuster” movies or the MCU, as is sometimes publicized with attempts to use beloved creators as authorities for why they’re schlock.
TLJ was, in my opinion, made for the part of the art world deeply insecure about more popular, optimistic art, and where some white dude privilege is still very present, just sort of denied.
In contrast… I think he’s much more secure, loose, gregarious, and critically self-aware when making his crime films.
He flat-out said “we can all relate to Kylo Ren,” and that blatant dismissal of anyone in the audience who does not relate to entitled, melodramatic patricidal maniacs leads to the uncharitable assumptions you are seeing.
He also indicated that any “young woman” would view that “romance is possible” with Kylo, which also leads to the uncharitable assumptions.
After those statements of his, I would need reason to assume benign intent on his part.
Agreed, RJ comes across a bit smug about it IMO. It’s like he just wanted to cause a stir more than even attempting to continue or further setup the ongoing narrative.
I used to like Kylo more, and still enjoy Ben Solo being redeemed, but TLJ really shot itself in the foot. It simultaneously tries to make Kylo sympathetic while making him more nihilistic and remorseless as well. It was avoidable too.
I liked Kylo being redeemed. I didn’t like being told to view him as sympathetic or being told to give him the benefit of the doubt well before he was redeemed, nor did I like Rey, who is supposed to be the audience proxy, doing so without any connection to his pre-Dark Side self at all (not even an idea of his pre-Dark Side self the way Luke had an idea of his father).
He 100% needed a backstory if they wanted him to be sympathetic. Next to Luke’s portrayal, no explained reason for Ben’s fall are my biggest gripes for the trilogy. I was still counting on seeing a flashback or two while watching TROS in the cinema, it was pretty disappointing.
Not making Rey biologically connected to the Skywalkers is problem 3. It seems they didn’t want go the obvious route of siblings or cousins because it was cliche, but it made the drama so much thinner that I have to wonder what the point of what we ultimately got was.
I’m in two minds about Rey sympathising with him in TLJ - the force bond was interesting to me at first but retrospectively the writing never made Kylo actually earn Rey’s sympathy. You get the feeling that RJ thought he was portraying depth in Kylo, but at the end of the film I wonder if we are even supposed to be rooting for redemption still, with Kylo again rejecting redemption and doubling down on destroying everything. He never gives a reason for killing Han, the narrative just kind of treads water, and his sparing Leia and Rey earlier in the movie is diluted when he overtly states he wants to kill them again by the end of the film. TLJ just does too much damage to be salvaged, personally.
The Force bond just looks like an excuse to say ‘well it’s fantasy you aren’t supposed to understand’ as a way of convincing those who are not into good-girl-fixes-bad-boy romances.
Rey never had any remotely understandable reaction to being Force bonded with an abusive person with no means of escape, which is why the Force bond could never work for me.
It’s fairly blatantly a contrived plot device designed to get the two characters interacting.
I remember enjoying it on first viewing, particularly the implication that neither has a choice and Kylo is more intrigued than hateful towards her. Like the moment he states “me too” to her requesting they do it another time was actually funny. But in terms of consistency for the character of Rey, yeah it’s bonkers. I wouldn’t even be against a romance per se if it was done better, but Kylo gives Rey absolutely no warmth or intimacy to justify her change in attitude.
True. I think RJ knew this when he had Rey shoot at him the first time, but this is quickly “progressed” to Rey sympathising with not much more reason to do so. I did find it interesting the contrast between Kylo and Vader - think of Vader stopping Han’s blaster shots with his hand vs Kylo looking hurt by a blaster shot that doesn’t actually really hit him, showing how realistically they sense each other’s presence.
The fact it was revealed to be Snoke that bridged them seems an attempt to paint it as a dark side power. With a blatant rip-off of ROTJ when Snoke and Sidious think they have benefited from their apprentices’ conflict yet get karmically defeated due to it.
Again, I’m unsure what we are supposed to be thinking by the end of the film.
Oh fair enough, we’re all entitled to make whatever assumptions we want, charitable or otherwise. I just find it fascinating because, having only read your post and not the interview(s) to which you refer, the immediate thought that comes to mind isn’t “what a jerk” (which is a perfectly justifiable response), but “I wonder what the larger context is” (which is also justifiable).
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The “we can all relate to Kylo” was RJ claiming Kylo is just a metaphor for adolescence and the teenage angst that everyone goes through - seemingly ignorant to the fact that a characterisation that amounts to a fascist dictator is not relatable to most viewers at all.
On Rey and Kylo romantically it was regarding the hand touch scene, RJ said women would be able to relate to Rey and believe in it from her point of view, which is pretty small-minded IMO.
I would argue that he loses some of the smugness when interviewed or talking about his other films - he seemed more humble in his early days, and more gleefully enthusiastic but still self-aware when talking about the Benoit Blanc films.
I think some of the “smugness” coming through around TLJ is the result of LFL at the time really, really trying to portray TLJ as their current magnum opus under Disney, and as an example of how they wanted to be the “auteur’s production studio” after Abrams and Bad Robot had to help make TFA and while RO and Solo were having BTS issues.
It’d be hard to not have your ego stroked (or at least appear like you’re having your ego stroked) if the production studio you’re working with was making a concurrent documentary about how you were the genius artist reinvigorating a classic character, “proving” the objections of his actor “wrong.”
Plus, it’s clear that LFL’s marketing department also sought to maximize a specific narrative of Johnson being the unshackled “auteur” and how that made TLJ a better movie… and how there’s definitely a subculture of Hollywood creators and critics who desperately want that auteur theory to be true.
I’m of the opinion that the “Force Skype” power would have been completely justified and a major benefit to the story of it was actually used for character work between them; if Rey and Kylo were both written with real personalities and reactions to each other, than they easily could have set-up the double team against Snoke and his guards perfectly, developed both characters and their relationship, and had real internal conflict in both characters as well because of it.
…But the problem is that it takes actual empathy and depth to make a “dialogue duet” explore and grow characters, and when Johnson chose to ignore Rey and focus only on a shallow read of Kylo, he made the Force Skype a liability instead.
It could have been a character driven subplot fro the film, and instead it sort of removed characterization from the film in favor of fawning over an idea of Kylo that Johnson never actually put on screen himself; what there is to like about Ben Solo only appears in Abrams’s TROS.
This. One, Kylo was 30 years old, not an adolescent. Two, the majority of adolescents do not become fascist dictator wannabes, or if they do, it is not because of normal teenage angst.
And I’m not even going to get into Johnson’s opinion of women if he thinks that most of us believe that romance with entitled fascists is possible.
With his wife being a critic, all these people his pals plus he’d been lauded for his Breaking Bad eps…. But in retrospect, Disney giving him the trilogy so close to the opening, which made everyone think TLJ was going to be amazing, and then it was constantly hammered if you didn’t like TLJ indicates to me that they knew it was going to be polarizing. Then having all those articles about Reylo and how George had wanted this for Luke too and that Poe against Holdo was feminism - it really read like they knew it was trouble and had their talking points ready.
I don’t know what your definition of auteur theory is. But the actual “auteur theory of film” is true. Films are stories with authors, the fact that Johnson’s voice offends you so much is proof that auteurship shows
So the point of auteurship where Johnson and Star Wars are concerned is to be offensive?
Nope. I just mean you personally don’t agree with Johnson’s taste. The auteur theory just means the director is the main author of a movie, and thats indisputably true for TLJ where Johnson wrote in addition to directing
Accept that Johnson made his decisions because he liked them, not to offend fans who can’t handle a movie made by someone with opposite taste
We can handle it, and we are handling it. We are discussing what we don’t like about it. If Johnson wanted to make a movie that specifically reflects his own taste, and his taste is broadly different from the Star Wars that came before it, maybe he should not have been chosen to create the eighth film in a saga. The idea that he thinks the first 6-7 films needed the “improvement” of his input is arrogant.
You come across as if you think Johnson is owed our respect, our deference, and our benefit of the doubt. Why should he be immune to criticism from those who don’t like what he did with a franchise we have been invested in for decades?
I think it’s going way too far to denounce auteur theory of film because you blame not liking The Last Jedi on the ego of the director
I think Lucasfilm should give creative freedom to their auteurs
I don’t care one way or another about auteur theory of film, but I will blame any decisions that come from the ego of the director on the ego of the director, as well as decisions that are intent on dismissing, as if we do not exist, those who have been invested in this franchise. (“Everyone” can relate to Kylo Ren and “the woman” would view romance with him as possible.)
So again—why should Rian Johnson be above criticism and why is “he has different taste than you do” supposed to be a way of silencing us? The latter sounds like we are supposed to bow to his taste because he is Rian Johnson.
They clearly knew it would be polarizing, and given the development schedule of the ST, they’d already run into a problem with how to make Kylo gets the specific type of redemption they wanted.
But I think it’s a mix of LFL having multiple members who shared (or, possibly, even inspired) some of Johnson’s mistakes and thus had a personal investment in them, or who recognized that the tropes, formulations, and style he was going for was the type critics especially exalt above others and thought that was na extra good thing, combined with the marketing department getting that and running with it that delivered the entire “full court press” we saw in support of the film.
LFL wasn’t in true “damage control” mode when it came out, and they clearly still favor it internally compared to the rest of the ST; I suspect that they fully expected, and still expect, to get “street cred” with professional critics and art film snobs for it, and value that over the interests of both good storytelling and their larger franchise.
It’s not the definition of auteur theory I object to - I object the idea that it’s either a solid rule for all movie (it’s plainly not), and more importantly, the idea it’s an ideal to pursue, or that it somehow makes a film more artistic or less likely to suck (it doesn’t.)
There are plenty of great films that are far more collaborative than auteur theory will admit, and often, great directors will become great partners to specific writers, producers, and casts that exponentially increase a story’s quality. There’s even been some films where writers should get more credit, or specific stars in the cast, or where a production company sets up directors so much for success, that they deserve more credit than the director, or at least to be viewed as a major partner.
…And at the same time, we’ve all seen films where directors get full power and control, and seen them turn to crap. Ridley Scott is a master director… but he botched and cut up a good script in Nottingham to create the ho-hum Robin Hood, and while he was legendarily good with Alien, he can’t escape the trap of making crap Alien sequels because he doesn’t have the story worth it. Meanwhile, the Russo Brothers are clearly utter fantastic at adapting other works, and should be seen as great directors, even if they do better with either comic books or book series to lay out the story framework for them.
@anakinfansince1983 keeps calling out how a lot of people try to defend horrifically bad, shallow, and sloppy decisions made by Rian Johnson in TLJ by arguing that his use of auteur theory somehow grants his film “sanctity” as art in comparison to more cooperatively created films like TFA, Rogue One, or the MCU. Idealizing auteur theory is the problem; a film has no more or less chance of success or depth because it’s director tackles more of it and demands more credit for it.
…Plus, to be honest, I think part of TLJ’s problem versus Johnson’s Benoit Blanc films is that Johnson indulged in more auteur theory dictation than he usually does. There’s a lot of Knives Out and Glass Onion that was the result of him cooperating with his cast and embracing their creativity, compared to TLJ where he kept on shutting out or shutting down almost everyone who brought up a point (save for Gleeson’s idea of reaching for his gun near Kylo - which, not surprisingly, is both more faithful to Hux’s previous characterization and a brilliant bit of storytelling that’s better than everything else Johnson wrote for Hux.)
Johnson is normally a great writer and director - but with TLJ, he was a bad writer and a stubborn director producing a bad film. It happens, and auteur theory shouldn’t be used to try and excuse that.
I don’t believe The Last Jedi is an objectively bad film. Or that Johnson’s decisions are mistakes.
I’m not shutting down anything by pointing out that your opinions shouldn’t be treated as fact, which is what this discussion of the faults of auteur theory boils down to. It’s not an objective fact that he was less collaborative or that being less collaborative on The Last Jedi made it suffer. Your analysis forgets that not everyone shares your distaste for his decisions
Nobody has forgotten that not everyone shares our distaste for his decisions. You keep bringing that up as if it is supposed to silence us. It doesn’t discredit us either, unless we are supposed to treat those who like Johnson’s decisions as somehow superior to those who do not, which isn’t OK.
I would love to know who on his cast Johnson collaborated with other than Gleeson and specifics about that. He certainly did not collaborate with John Boyega.
I don't have any insight into whether Johnson 'collaborated' with his actors or not on TLJ. I'm of the opinion that Johnson doesn't do that much collaboration (maybe I'm being unfair?), but I suspect he probably has a more robust opinion on where the characters and situations are going within his films (much more so than Abrams I'd imagine)... and I'm agnostic as to whether that is a good or bad thing per se... But the red flag to me was Mark Hamill. He had serious issues with Luke's depiction in TLJ... and I know they are just actors and all... but when actors, whom have a long association with those characters, are fundamentally at odds with wants being presented, any writer/director should take their issues very seriously. I guess filmmakers like Johnson (whom are strong minded) get kind of spurred on when actors like Hamill say 'this isn't who the character is'... because I can bet Johnson would say 'exactly... he's changed... this is what makes my film different'... And I suppose there's lot of situations where challenging the actors/audiences expectations can be a positive thing. But TLJ was a complete misfire IMO.
I’m sure the counter to that will be ‘Well Hamill eventually changed his opinion’ but that misses the point that Johnson did not take his concerns seriously in the first place, which is not the way to treat someone who has been playing the character for 40 years.
And Boyega’s comments on the differences between the way he and his character were treated in TFA versus TLJ said it all for me.