Thursday, December 14, 2017

I (still) have a bad feeling about this



It’s that time of year again. Christmas? Holidays? Yeah, I guess so. But just before the winter solstice (in the Northern Hemisphere), has become the time for the latest Star Wars episode, and fans can’t wait for the latest offering, pre-ordering tickets, and queuing for hours for the first screening. I’m sure you all know I’m a die-hard Star Wars fan. Have been for many years, since I watched a movie that back then was just Star Wars. Later it became episode 4: A New Hope, after the little SF offering became a mega-hit and evolved into a franchise.

I was meh about the prequels, saw some hope in the cartoon Star Wars Rebels, (because Grand Admiral Thrawn), and waited in star-struck anticipation (tempered by the cynicism that comes with age) for the new dawn in The Force Awakens

It’s no secret that I was underwhelmed with the The Force Awakens. It was episode 4, rewarmed and with a few vegies added. Maybe a sprinkle of cheese. I won’t go into details, maybe there are still some people out there who haven’t seen Star Wars 7, and I expect that would be a good idea before they watch Star Wars 8: The Last Jedi. Way back in May 2017 I said I had a bad feeling about this and my opinion hasn't changed.

The size and importance of the Star Wars juggernaut was illustrated last weekend, when the cover of the Weekend Australian (a respected national newspaper) magazine was devoted to a head shot of Mark Hamill in Luke Skywalker costume for the new movie. Several pages were devoted to an interview with the film’s producer. I read it. Of course. And after reading that interview I (still) have a bad feeling about this.

The pattern was set by The Force Awakens. The heroine, a young girl (Rey), of unknown parentage, discovers by accident that she has Force skills. We are introduced to the senior villain (Snoke) and his apprentice (Kylo Ren), and learn of the First Order (in lieu of an empire) which is bent on oppressing the Galaxy. Oh, and there’s a band of brave rebels, led by General Leia Organa, bent on stopping the First Order. The film ends with Rey handing her/his light sabre back to the Wise Old Man (Luke Skywalker). This is all standard fantasy stuff and the parallels with A New Hope are obvious.There's even a precocious droid to rehash R2D2.

The stage is set and there’s no turning back. The director of  The Last Jedi had to build on that beginning.

Let’s take a look at my very favourite Star Wars movie, The Empire Strikes Back (TESB). (Yes, it’s still better than Rogue One – which I thought was great). It's rare for a sequel to hit the heights of the first movie, but most people agree that TESB was better than its predecessor.

Luke has discovered that the Force is with him. Now it’s time to learn. His past mentor, Obi Wan Kenobi, has voluntarily left the building, although he’s still around on the astral plain, to the extent that he can tell Luke to find the Jedi Master who instructed him. Now, I’m assuming after all these years, and if you’re still reading, a few spoilers won’t be amiss. Really, if you don’t know some of this stuff I’d have to ask which planet you just arrived from. After coming across young Skywalker in the destruction of the Death Star, Darth Vader has become obsessed with finding the young Jedi, which leads to the battle of Dagobah, which the Empire wins. However, Luke slips away to find the Jedi Master. One of THE greatest object lessons in TESB is the little green frog-like being who turns out to be Yoda. Luke’s looking for a great warrior, to which Yoda retorts, “Huh. Wars not make one great”. The whole episode on Dagobah is essentially spiritual as Luke learns the relationship between life and the Force, and the balance between good and evil, light and darkness. Then there’s the denouement. Luke fears for his friends, goes to rescue them, and faces his arch-enemy, Darth Vader, bent on revenge. The choice to fall down that exhaust vent after Vader informs Luke of his parentage is kind of symbolic. He’s reached his lowest point, mentally and physically. When he’s rescued by Leia and Chewie, there’s only one way to go.

Segue to The Last Jedi.

I’ve watched all the trailers. I’ve read a few analyses. Even now, I can see some inevitable similarities. A bit of new hardware appears in this movie, equivalent to my favourite spaceship, Executor from TESB. Snoke has a floating arsenal called Supremacy, and I’m guessing he's obsessed with finding the young Jedi who defeated his protégé, Kylo Ren. Rey has gone for training. We know who the Jedi Master is, but maybe there is another – the Bendu, who appeared in Star Wars Rebels, an entity of both the light and the dark. I’m saying that because of the reference to the ancient Book of Whills. So Rey will get trained. And one way or another, she’ll find out who her parents are/were. (Snoke? Surely not) Then there’s her friends, Po and Finn, who get mixed up in battles with the First Order. Is she going to have to gallop in and attempt to save them? Going by the trailers, the denouement scene involves Rey being tortured in a manner reminiscent of Luke being hit by the Emperor’s Force lightning in Return of the Jedi.

I hope that The Last Jedi isn’t going to be a thinly-veiled rehash of The Empire Strikes Back or maybe TESB plus a few bits from Return of the Jedi. There’s potential for it not to be. It seems Kylo Ren loses his mask, which was a bit of cosplay to emulate his late grandfather. What that means is another matter. Kylo (sans mask and with a scar over his eye just like Grandpa’s) is pictured piloting a TIE fighter. (Which is interesting, because all the other human pilots wear breathing apparatus.) Are we going to see a union of the dark and the light through Kylo and Rey? And that gets a bit sticky for me. Kylo apparently murdered all of his uncle’s Jedi students, and certainly his own father. Forgiving and forgetting… yeah, no.

The movie opens in Australia on 14th December, tomorrow for the UK and US. No, I haven’t pre-ordered tickets. No, I won’t be in the queues for the midnight showing. I don’t think I’ll even see the film at a movie theatre. But I’ll be hangin’ out for the reviews to see if I was dead wrong. Hoping I am, before I watch the DVD to form my own opinion.

Oh - and if you're looking for a last minute, something different present for a die-hard Star Wars fan, s/he might like one of my books - Dryden Universe, Ptorix Empire, and Morgan Selwood are all space opera. You'll be doing a struggling writer a favour too. Merry Christmas - or Holidays if you prefer.

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