With the release of Star War: The Last Jedi, I thought it might be fun to revisit my review of the previous film in the series, which also happens to be the last George Lucas helmed Star War film.
George Lucas has done it again. He fooled me once, shame on him. He fooled me twice, shame on him. He fooled me three times, shaaaaame on him. He fooled me a fourth time and now I’m starting to think I’m the one that should be ashamed, like I did something wrong. But really, I did nothing wrong. I just bought a ticket to see the new Star War movie. It’s not my fault the movie was just as bad as if not worse than the prequels. And let me tell you why.
First of all, I don’t know how the idea of doing Star War at Christmastimes got past the drawing board. These movie executives are supposed to be smart guys, so I don’t know what they were thinking. I’ve always felt Star War is supposed to be a summer thing like going to the beach. So having the first scene of the new movie be a Christmas Tree lighting ceremony on Tatooine where it doesn’t even snow just seemed like the opposite of what you’d want to do to open the first Star War to come out in a decade.
Secondly, I love Han Solo. Han Solo is my favorite character in all of Star War. But making him the lead in this movie was a huge mistake. Because now that Harrison Ford is elderly and confined to a wheelchair, he just isn’t in any condition to anchor an action adventure story in my opinion. Whenever Chewbacca had to push Han Solo really fast to get away from the stormtroopers, it really strained my ability to suspend disbelief and be whisked about in a galaxy far, far away. I also felt that the newer younger characters looked pretty disgusted and sometimes disturbed whenever Han took out his dentures in the middle of a conversation.
Speaking of bad casting, George Lucas should definitely not have cast himself in the movie. He has never appeared in front of the camera in Star War before, and I think it was a big mistake to break that convention now. I know he wants to be remembered by future generations, but I didn’t understand why the scenes he appeared in had to be in the movie. They seemed more like home movies, because most of his scenes were just shaky camcorder footage of Lucas wandering around his mansion in the dark mumbling about Ewoks and Gungans and things. Though I did enjoy the scene at the end where George Lucas and a woman I didn’t recognize waited in line at a theme park to get on a Star War ride. That reminded me that I need to go back to Disneyland soon to check out the new Star War Land they have there now.
I should also warn you that this new Star War movie included a lot of offensive material, and I’m not easily offended. Giving the villainous Snoke an oversized nose and a yarmulke suggested to me that Lucas wants us to think one thing: Jewish. I think other members of the creative team tried to cover up Lucas’ racist caricature by making Snoke look like Voldemort. Also his name reminded me of Snape, another character from Harry Potter. But these choices just served to muddle things further without really hiding the fact that Snoke is basically an offensive and old fashioned Jewish stereotype. I thought those had been consigned to the dust bin of history, but leave it to that wily bigot GL to bring such trash back into fashion.
Star War has gotten a lot of flak over the years for lacking diversity. It’s true that the series hasn’t had many very memorable black characters (though when people forget about Captain Panaka I always take them outside and show them what it’s like). But I think this new movie was overcompensating by putting an interracial relationship at the center of the whole story. It’s the 21st Century guys, you’re not getting credit for that anymore. Make it about a human and alien both of the same gender, and then maybe we’re talking.
Okay, this is a minor quibble, but Admiral Ackbar’s role in the movie was not nearly as significant as I was expecting given that he was easily the coolest new character to be introduced in Return of the Jedi, and this Star War movie was supposedly a sequel to Return of the Jedi. But I guess when you introduce a character that cool you always raise expectations for what he (or she!) will do in the next entry of the series. This same thing happened with Boba Fett too. It’s a trap, I guess.
By far my biggest problem with the movie was the sense that the whole thing was coasting on my nostalgia and deepest affection for the original Star War movies. Every movie nowadays seems to be targeting me on the basis of me remembering something I liked from my childhood. But I never would have liked the original Star War movies if they had starred Harrison Old (sorry, that’s a cheap shot I know) as a character who you know is going to die in the end because he’s geriatic and needs to be put out of his misery. There’s no dramatic tension in Han Solo being cut down by a lightsaber when he’s moaning and grumbling throughout the whole movie about how painful it is to still be alive when you’re 92 years old.
I don’t know, maybe the movie just wasn’t for me. I know a lot of big blockbuster movies these days are intended for the growing Chinese moviegoing audience. Perhaps I missed out on some context for what the filmmakers were trying to accomplish because I’ve never even been to China. I know what you’re thinking, what have you been waiting for? And the answer is that I haven’t been waiting, it’s just very expensive to fly to China. I’ve been meaning to do it ever since I saw Iron Man 3, and I promise to get to it before I write another movie review.