“Let the past go. Kill it if you have to.” Every Star Wars fan immediately recognizes these sentences as being spoken by Ben Solo, a.k.a. Kylo Ren, as well as being the overarching theme of the latest main Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi.
Some of the biggest cultural movie icons were rooted in the 1980s, with The Empire Strikes Back (1980), still seen by many as the best Star Wars movie ever, Predator (1987) and Die Hard (1988). The Empire Strikes Back is also the first feature-length movie I know of that ended with a cliffhanger; our heroes lost the battle and were on the run from a resurgent Empire, Han Solo was frozen in a statue being transported to his arch-enemy Jabba the Hutt, and Luke received an artificial hand, perhaps signalling a first step toward becoming half man, half machine like his father, Darth Vader.
Maybe that was an early warning for the endless sequels and remakes we’re suffering from now at the cinema. Basically it’s just capitalism doing it’s usual destructive work by making us believe that something is good if it makes money. Mark Hamill, the actor who has given us Luke Skywalker for more than 40 years now, said exactly that with regards to The Force Awakens, and even compared that film to the Transformers movies, which are universally known as mediocre movies with terrible action sequences that always make a lot of money. He literally said: “In Hollywood, remember kids, it’s not important if it’s of high quality…only if it makes money.”
The Force Awakens is mediocre at best. The music and visuals are great, but the story is awful. As it turns out, the creative team behind the new trilogy wanted to fully maximize on recapturing the mood and atmosphere from the iconic original trilogy, and decided on an almost exact copy of the story-line from A New Hope, the very first film in the series. But doing that, they created a huge problem for themselves; at the end of episode six, Return of the Jedi, the good guys had won, balance was restored and the evil Empire was defeated with both Emperor and Darth Vader dead. And we’re only 30 years into the future… Watch MauLer‘s unbridled rage, the best rant on The Last Jedi I’ve seen:
The creative team had to reset this story in order to be able to tell the exact same story again. In the title scroll of The Force Awakens we read that Luke has disappeared and that Princess Leia is now General Leia Organa heading “The Resistance”, fighting against “The First Order”… But wait… The Republic had won. They should be in power now and Leia should have some high governmental position. The First Order, according to the title scroll, had risen from the remains of the Empire, but in this movie and it’s sequel The Last Jedi, it has all the strength, if not more, of the old evil Empire. In only 30 years?
The moral here is that if you plan to make a sequel, especially a sequel in a franchise that has millions of loyal fans all over the world, you should respect and adhere to that which has happened before. Criticisms of the Disney Star Wars movies are often brushed off with words like: “It’s a space fairy-tale with space wizards and glowing swords, so anything can happen. You’re spoiling the fun with your insistent cry for consistency!” I don’t agree. Every fantasy world has it’s own consistent set of rules and however fantastical, actions and events in that universe occur according to that universe’s laws. So when Jedi Knights are only Jedi Knights after years of training, when Luke Skywalker takes three films and about 10 years to reach a level where he’s capable of fighting (not even defeating) Darth Vader, it comes as a horrible surprise that Rey apparently needs no training whatsoever and wins every fight she’s in from the very start. She even knows the Jedi mind trick within the first half of her first movie, without anyone ever telling her anything about it…
Some say that you can find answers to the many plot holes in the new Star Wars movies in other media, like books, comics and video games, but that’s no excuse; a film should be able to stand on it’s own, especially the story, or it’s a bad film. What’s happened here is that Disney and J.J. Abrams wanted to maximize on loyal fans’ sense of nostalgia and therefore forced a reset of the story, thereby leaving us guessing about what could have happened in the intervening three decades to have the roles of Dark and Light reversed from where we left it. Compound that with numerous inconsistencies like Rey not having to train, Leia using the force in the most spectacular way ever by surviving and flying through space, there suddenly being gravity in space, ships running out of fuel… Momentum people… momentum; an object moving through space at speed X, will forever keep moving at speed X, until stopped by another force.
What Disney did, was indeed the murder of the old Star Wars universe, introducing new rules, killing off old characters only to make the new characters look even better. This is not restricted to Star Wars though. In his first movies, John McClane from Die Hard fame, was just a human, a cop with a bad marriage and kids. He always thought about the hostages and his family first and not about how to maximize his kill-count. He was a lovable character we as an audience could identify with; he’s even afraid of flying… This is a far cry from what he’s become in the last Die Hard movie A Good Day to Die Hard, where’s he’s almost become a terrible criminal himself, stealing cars and then crashing them into innocent people. He was a lovable asshole, now he’s just an asshole.
Do you remember the first Predator movie? The premise was simple yet highly satisfactory: an alien race goes from planet to planet to seek out it’s most fearsome warriors to hunt. Do you remember the music that played when the predator was near and our protagonists were sweating in mortal fear? The Predator could make itself invisible and had an arsenal of deadly space weapons the likes of which we had never seen. But the whole story was based on an alien race collecting trophies; the skull of the prey they hunted and killed. It even let out a loud roar of pride when ripping out spinal column and skull in one swift movement.
Many predator films have been made since, some of them reasonably good, some of them really bad, but all of them stayed true to the basic premise of an alien warrior race hunting the galaxy for mighty adversaries. But even that’s been ruined now. In this latest abortion of a predator movie, it turns out that all this time the predators had been preparing an invasion of Earth. And they don’t rip out spinal column and skull as a trophy, but they actually use the spinal fluid to genetically modify themselves as a preparation for the ultimate takeover of our planet. You see, the film tells us that the predators know that we’ll be extinct in two, maybe one generation due to the greenhouse effect… I’ll just link MauLer‘s video review of this cinematic car-wreck, as he words my feelings exactly:
The movie’s director, Shane Black even starred as an actor in the original movie, which makes this even harder to understand. Mr. Black has rewritten the entire established history for a beloved franchise, in order to tell a bad story in a bad film with bad humor. It has of course a new evolved, bigger, badder super predator, and it has predator dogs. The main protagonist is cooler than cool and there’s plenty of heavy CGI action. And it seems that’s enough to please Hollywood nowadays; no character development, no world building or staying true to an already existing world, no coherent story, no heroes truly deserving their hero-status by overcoming seemingly insurmountable adversity first. We only get slick visuals, plenty oneliners and jokes to keep us distracted from these fundamental omissions. Don’t think, switch off your brain and let the sights, sounds and emotions guide you. Well, sorry, I can’t get emotionally involved if the story and characters make no sense.
The Predator has rewritten 30 years of Predator history, A Good Day to Die Hard has rewritten 30 years of Die Hard history, and The Last Jedi has rewritten 40 years of Star Wars history. None of these films respected or continued to build on their respective fictional universes, instead they all killed their pasts… The Predator is just the latest in the serial killing of pop culture icons. “Let the past go, or we’ll kill it for you,” seems to be the nihilistic Hollywood mantra of the day. I wonder what will go next…