Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

I finally figured out the real reason why The Last Jedi pisses me off.  §

So… More on The Last Jedi.

Yes, I realize that I’ve already made two posts about it and that’s too many, especially for someone that isn’t a rabid Star Wars fan, necessarily, but even given what I’ve said before, this film has continued to bug me for some reason—enough that I began to suspect that it wasn’t just about the cultural dimensions that I discussed previously.

And tonight, it hit me just what was bugging me. And now I realize that others, no doubt professional film reviewers, have probably pointed to this already, being far more attuned to the craft of filmmaking and screenwriting than myself. But better late than never.

Here’s what has been bugging me, and why you shouldn’t go to see this film: it has contempt for its audience.

Why do I say this? Because it intentionally, repeatedly wastes the audience’s time. In fact, the entire thing appears to be designed to waste the audience’s time.

In yet another moment of being bugged tonight, I started mentally going over the major plotlines once again and as it turns out, every single one of them is a “shaggy dog story.” That is to say that every one of them ends with a “ha, fooled you, that didn’t matter” from the director. Every one.

The giant quest for Luke? When we finally find him, he’s quit being a Jedi. And then he gets killed off. There was no point to it. And his lightsaber and all of that build-up about it? As soon as it’s handed back to him, he tosses it without fanfare into the ocean and we never see it again. “It didn’t matter, ho, ho; sort of sorry (but not really) that we suggested it did!”

Snoke? Big, bad evil guy that we assume we’re going to get backstory for and that will be a part of things going forward? “Ha, nope, fooled you, he was nobody, we didn’t ever have a story for him, and now he’s dead.”

Rey, the new young female (presumably) Jedi? “Ha, nope. Turns out she’s literally a nobody. Betcha didn’t see that coming!”

Kylo Ren is the new Darth Vader mask guy? “Ha, nope! Gotcha again.” And then we spend time on how he’s actually going to turn to the good side. Watch for it… watch for it… watch for it… “Ha! Nope, psych again! In fact, he’s neither good nor evil, just another mixed-up nobody!”

The giant casino story? Politics and quests and chases and… “Haha, boom, you sat through that for like forty minutes just to end on a punchline about how you’ve been fooled thinking that any of it mattered. It didn’t, ta-da! Totally irrelevant. But we got you to give us your attention for a long-ass time about nothing at all! Tee hee!”

Budding romances everywhere? Chemistry and tension building? “Whoops, nope! Why do you keep getting fooled, silly? Zero romances here. We were just toying with you.”

All the references to Darth Vader surely matter, don’t they? “Nah, it was just play acting; no importance. Gosh, you’re gullible.”

Well surely the resistance will escape largely intact so that we can have a continuing story, yes? “Not really, ha. Why are you still asking these questions? This is too easy.”

Basically, not a single thing is left to “matter” at the end of the film. Every last thing that we’re instructed to pay attention to… is tossed aside with a wink and a “gotcha” once we’ve spent (too much) time investing in it. So why is there a film?

Over and over, this move happens. Apparently meaningful reference. Build-up. Build-up. Build-up. Climactic moment that leads to further development? Big fat NOPE! Dismissed! You’ve been had, sucka!

And then at the end, you walk out with a vague sense of deflation. Only now have I finally realized that the reason for this is that not a single thing mattered. Nothing that we were shown was important to or relevant to the story. And when that happens, you don’t have a story. What you have is the feeling of having been taunted—“Oh, let me tell you a story… A long time ago, far, far away, there was this immortal demon, see…. and he liked to have scrambled eggs for breakfast! Ha! And in a neighboring kingdom, there was a beautiful maiden locked up in a tower where she was away from her loved ones and from the sunshine… so she went to the shelf, got the key, and let herself out! Ha! And overhead, on the very last day of the year, the sky suddenly filled with dragons… because a bunch of kids made dragon kites as a school project that day! Ha!

And so on.

Occam’s razor ruled the day in this film. Nothing was a big deal, everything turned out to suggest that this story is a non-story and always has been.

The justification for this seems to be that there was a desire to “subvert expectations.” But this wasn’t done at the level of plotting—twists or surprises—but rather at the level of plot itself, as in “you embarrasing fanbois actually expected there to be one… so let’s subvert that expectation, shall we?”

Those responsible seem to have forgotten that if nothing ultimately matters and all was actually much less than we thought it was—indeed, everything was mundane and nothing in particular happens at the end of the day, despite what we were initially led to believe—then there’s no reason to write and tell this much-built-up non-story.

And the fact that this film does exactly that, and at the same time that there’s another film in the works when there are now zero things open or at stake in the ongoing plot arc of the series… gives one the intuitive sensation that you’ve been duped and someone thinks you’ll be easily duped again, and that there is more than a hint of passive-aggressive malice behind it all.

In retrospect and upon further reflection, I don’t hate this film “as a Star Wars fan” because I’m not necessarily all that much of one in the grand scheme of things. No, I hate this film because:

  • Its moment-by-moment is little more than progressive virtue-signalling
  • That like so many other things poo-poohs the idea of heroism or morality
  • And in the larger sense, it actively seems to intend to show contempt for me as an audience member

The more I’ve thought about it, the more I think that the film unintentionally reveals a kind of distaste that the writer and director, as well as all the other executives involved and indeed Disney itself, have for their audience.

I don’t think it’s was conscious or intentional contempt… But it’s there.

You don’t take someone’s money and time just to taunt them and throw it away with a snicker unless you really don’t think much of them and want for some reason to piss them off and bother them.

So don’t see this film. It’s not just that it’s a waste of your time; it’s that it’s been fundamentally designed for some reason to be a waste of your time, and to rub your nose in the fact that you’re such a rube that you’ll put up with such treatment. It’s like being laughed at by a cabal of ironic hipsters who think they’re smarter than you are, even if the only meaning in and of their lives is a ruthless sense of irony and an ironic retro beard resting on some ironic retro flannel. You’re there to be sardonically mocked and they think you won’t notice.

If you’re like me, you probably won’t at first, which makes it all the worse; you’ve placed your trust in these people, and they have betrayed it and imagine that this is some sort of cool move. You’ll leave feeling troubled and deflated, and only as time passes will you gradually find yourself feeling offended—totally apart from anything having to do with “Star Wars” as a brand and as a mythology, and entirely as a matter of the structure of the film itself.

There is something rotten in Hollywood these days, and this film is a good example of it. If I was going to be crass, I’d say that they’re all pissed off over there at the deplorables that buy tickets to these kinds of pulp films and they think we should all be watching more intersectional, justice-oriented fare. So they decided to justice this one up while at the same time structuring it in such a way as to poke us in the eye with a hot, fiery stick, because that’s what serves us right in consumer America, bunch of deplorable assholes that we are.

Am I reading too much into it?

Maybe. But then… when you structure a plot as a series of shaggy dog stories, you leave yourself open to having the audience read anything into it that they are inclined to read into it, because you didn’t bother to put anything in it yourself.