I just saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi this past weekend for the first time. 6 months after it premiered. That’s out of character for me. I had no real desire to see it when it came out, and only bothered to do it now because I felt guilty for not doing it yet. And you know what? I’m fine if it’s the last Star Wars movie I see. I’m out. Stick around for what is probably the lukewarmest of hot takes on Star Wars.
Now, there’s been a lot of butthurt MRA types bitching about the Last Jedi recently, and presumably also The Force Awakens (I can’t be bothered to look it up), about how all of the diversity in the cast of the latest movies has ruin Star Wars. They can rot for all I care. Daisy Ridley’s and John Boyega’s acting were the only redeeming features of TFA, and they were perfectly fine in TLJ. And I had no complaints about Kelly Marie Tran’s performance or inclusion in the film. The original trilogy was very white, needlessly so, and regardless of the sociopolitical atmosphere of 1970s Hollywood, it’s asinine to expect or even want Star Wars to remain that way today.
That’s not why I gave up Star Wars. Let’s get that out front and center. No, this is about something else.
I’m currently 42 years old. I’m that magic age – too young to be a Gen Xer, too old to be a millennial. I’ve been categorized as part of the Oregon Trail generation, but I have always thought of myself as part of the Star Wars generation.
Born in ’76, Star Wars (A New Hope, as it’s known now) came out a few weeks shy of my 1st birthday. The Empire Strikes Back is the first movie I remember seeing in a movie theater. And Return of the Jedi is the first movie that I dearly loved. As the scion of a comfortably middle class suburban white family, I was privileged enough to have a LOT of Star Wars merchandise. An X-Wing. A Y-Wing. An AT-AT, the Ewok Village. And somewhere on the order of 30 action figures with a Darth Vader helmet carrying case for them. I lived the original trilogy.
In college, my friends and I spent most Friday night throwing our beat-up VHS copies of the trilogy on the background for whatever activities we were doing – be it Risk or Axis and Allies, or…. well, that’s really all we did on Friday nights. In fact, when my college friends couldn’t make it to the bachelor party my childhood friends were throwing, they threw me their own – consisting of Risk and the original trilogy in the background.
My point here is that these movies are a huge part of the formative experience of my life. And I am walking away from them. (This prelude to my post is now longer than I wanted the whole thing to run, so I’ll try to be brief. <b>ETA:</b> I failed.)
It finally crystalized for me about 10 minutes into that first pointless battle scene of TLJ – I found the metaphor that perfectly encapsulated my apathy for the newest trilogy, and it’s retrograde effect on the rest of the films.
The original trilogy, for me, was magic. When I watched it, I was more than just entertained or engaged. I was transported. And after the final swipe and closing credits, I would float in elation for several minutes afterward. The movies’ hold over my mind and psyche was benevolent, but complete.
It was, to me, indistinguishable from David Copperfield making the Statue of Liberty disappear, or walking through the Great Wall of China. Or of the Amazing Jonathan snorting a massive mayo jar of white powder through a straw in 2 seconds flat.
It was, literally, magic.
But then came the 90s and 2000s, when Lucas released the Special Editions and the prequel trilogy. I saw them all in eager, though respectively lessening, anticipation. And this is where the metaphor comes in.
I went from seeing a top-of-his-game world-class Vegas magician wowing audiences with astonishing novel takes on old tricks, to hanging out with a high school magic club, with awkward teenagers trying to learn card tricks, and failing. There was no magic. I saw the sausage being made, and badly at that. And all sense of wonder, of escape, of Awe, was gone. Upon seeing the misdirects and palming inexpertly done, I looked upon the original movies and saw the flaws, the cracks, and the seams. The magic was gone.
And then came The Force Awakens. And as I sat in the theater watching the Millennium Falcon run from Star Destroyers and an overmatched rebellion facing off against Nazi stand-ins played by British actors, I wasn’t watching Star Wars. No, it was a street magician of middling skill. Better than the high school club, sure. In the same way that white bread and mayo is better than food poisoning. But it was a magician trying to do David Copperfield’s best tricks, without changing the set dressings, or the comedy banter, or the costumes, and not doing them as well. It was imitiation. And I could see through it all.
And when you’ve already seen the best magician in the world doing the best magic tricks of his career, there’s really not much burning passion to see the same things done the same way over again, and inexpertly at that. I came out of TFA enraged and TLJ unengaged. Rogue One was good, as much as it was an engaging film and a fun ride. But it was still the same magic tricks, just done more smoothly than in TFA and TLJ.
And it’s made the original trilogy lose it’s hold over me.
So yeah, I’m kinda full on magic at this point. You guys can keep going. By all means, be entertained and enjoy yourselves. I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade.
But I’m good. I’m out.
Here I go,
(this post is almost exclusively written as a pre-emptive explanation to a college buddy who is seriously waiting for my opinions on The Last Jedi. Sorry Matt…)