Thanks to the Birth Movies Death community, I’ve been able to tease out some more of my complicated feelings about The Last Jedi. I’m reposting my posts because I want to preserve them beyond Disqus.
The Last Jedi is a weird, bad movie that might kill an entire franchise and even seriously wound Disney at the height of its power, but weirder still is how the Internet discourse around it has been managed in the last month.
TLJ itself is weird enough that I’ve coined the word ‘flopbuster’ to describe its counter-intuitive, non-Newtonian, non-Euclidean properties. The weirdness around it is even more bizarre. To describe that, I’ve coined another neologism: ‘freeze war‘.
What’s a freeze war? It’s what you get when a sufficiently big Internet comment-section flame war hits a sufficiently widely deployed based of automated algorithmic online fire-suppression systems – and when multibillion-dollar megacorporations, and nation-state level political movements, also get involved on each side. Entire comment systems just get frozen. Comments deemed insufficiently ‘civil’ are just deleted. Like a flame war, this phenomenon feeds on itself and expands. But the war is fought in silence, by silence, as silence.
And the silence is deafening.
It’s eerie as heck and it’s maybe the future of the Internet and of Western culture itself.
The Last Jedi is a heckuva movie, to echo the famously glowing review US President George W Bush gave the FEMA manager who handled a hurricane in New Orleans. It has broken everything it touched: It broke Luke Skywalker, it broke the critics, it broke China, it broke Star Wars itself, and now it’s broken the Internet. For the last month – since the end of December – there’s been an eerie silence spreading across pop culture news websites and social media. There’s also been a loud and angry fanbase, but the professional media have been deliberately silencing and diverting attention away form this.
It’s early to call, but I think this silence will in retrospect turn out to be a very large mistake.
Of course I may be terribly mistaken when I say this movie ‘broke Star Wars itself’. The First Franchise of Blockbuster Motion Pictures is hard to kill; George Lucas gave it a darn good shot with the Prequels and yet, like Han Solo in the Special Edition, it just dodged and came back stronger. We all assume Disney will be able to crank out five, six, ten of the things, Star Wars until the world ends. They’ve only made three so far. What’s one bad film, even assuming it is bad?
It’s just that, if you’ll pardon the expression, I have a bad feeling. If you squint past the professional critics and look at the ‘underground’ review sites (a good one is Rotten Tomatoes User Reviews) you see that for some people – and we still don’t know how many, but I’m one – this is a very, very bad movie. So bad it’s killed any desire even to watch the next one for obsessive completeness (nobody does obsessive completeness like Star Wars fans; the Prequels weeded out all the weaklings).
* was just dumb, it breaks my heart at how bad this is..
* Arrgh, the more I think about this movie. The more I get disappointed. Just like Star Trek into Darkness killed the Star Trek franchise . I think this movie just killed Star War
* Such a disappointment. I think many fans who watched and idolized Luke Skywalker when they were children will be repulsed by the weak, pointless ending of their childhood hero.
* Absolutely dire. Words escape me how truly abysmal this film is. My 40 year love affair with Star Wars is finally over.
* It leaves no investment for Episode 9. None. And this is allegedly part 2 of a trilogy. But it doesn’t advance the story, apart from one character (but only just).
I suspect these feelings being expressed are real because this is how I feel. For the first time in my life I have no desire to see another Star Wars movie, ever. Worse, the movie didn’t even end on a cliffhanger. It resolved all its threads; it left its protagonists (such as they are) with neither danger nor hope. We don’t like them, any of them. We feel no impulse to care about their lives beyond this point. There’s just… nothing left. All is vanity, folly and a chasing after the wind.
In 1977, George Lucas, his wife Marcia, and a few close friends made something extraordinary. For 40 years we’ve been unable to stop thinking about the strange little comic book movie that could, Star Wars.
In 1999, Lucas released a new film – The Phantom Menace – that failed as spectacularly as Star Wars had succeeded. It made Star Wars fans angry. But it didn’t stop us thinking about it. We were consumed with how to fix the Prequels. How the Original Trilogy was so good when the Prequels were so bad. What bizarre kabalistic art theories might be constructed in which the storytelling of the Prequels made any kind of sense?
But in 2017, finally, Rian Johnson has achieved the feat even Lucas couldn’t: He’s managed to make me – and many others – just plain not want any Star Wars anymore.
(There are spoilers and wrong opinions beyond the jump).
Playlist notes for Now They Are Dreams. Look away if you don’t want to know how the sausage is made.