Qt3 Movie Podcast: Star Wars: The Last Jedi

I think Tom is right that the cinematic language of the film is telling us that Rey “knows it to be true” that Kylo is right about her parents. That seems to be what the vision in the cave was all about – she’s looking for her parents to give her an identity which she can only find in herself.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter whether Tom or Dingus is right about this because Jar Jar Abrams is gonna do whatever he wants with Rey’s identity, and would even if this point had been made even less ambiguous. You can always retcon a twin sister in there. (My favorite idea is that she’s a clone made from Luke’s hand by whoever found it with his lightsaber.)

(It’s baffling to me that Disney doesn’t have some overarching plan for the three movies. Was it entirely up to Rian Johnson who dies and who is still alive for Episode 9?)

From every interview I’ve seen, Kathleen Kennedy is acting more like a steward of the franchise and not specifically plotting the story out like Feige does with his directors. Rian and JJ have both said they had complete story freedom.

I mean, obviously, if you come to the plot meeting with a story about Finn being a child molester, you’re probably going to see a different side of the process.

I think I agree with most of Tom and Kelly Wand’s criticisms of the movie. In particular, the basic concepts of “gotta find help and sneak in to disable the McGuffin before the big ship destroys the fleet” and “Luke gives the remaining Rebels time to get away” are both good ideas, but the setups are so clumsy that you don’t get a good sense of the urgency and the stakes and the pacing is all wrong. And it sucks that Luke and Leia didn’t get any more screen time together than that.

Nevertheless, for all it’s faults, I had a great time watching this movie and as I think back on it, the clever and thoughtful bits stand out more than the fumbles. It won me over early on with:

  1. Poe’s baiting Hux with that ridiculous stalling gambit. I thought it was funny and congruent with some of the antics Han used to pull (like pretending to escort Chewie into the prison block where Leia is, trying to bullshit his way through a report to command, and then just shooting the mike).

And I really loved the idea of Poe, an Ace Pilot winning a big battle–but in a way that is possibly a losing move in the war. And the way it emphasized the difference between Leia being a General and the hotshot pilots who are usually the most important heroes.

  1. I admit I’m not a huge Star Wars fan, and I particularly never really liked Luke. But I love Mark Hamill, and I get the sense that he’s had a pretty ambivalent relationship with the Star Wars franchise. So when he takes that light saber and chucks it over his shoulder like a piece of trash, I was pumping my fist and yelling, “NICE!” (figuratively) And him practically rolling his eyes at the prospect of a “laser sword” battle with Kylo at the end was a perfect bookend to that. And whatever the logistical problems of getting there, I loved that Luke was able to save the day without compromising his determination not to leave the island and without killing or even harming anyone. Which was so nicely set up with Luke not leaving footprints, dodging rather than fighting, and the weird way he just shows up at the rebel base.

And there was a whole lot more that I liked. All the beautiful ways they used that white/red salt planet – clues about Luke, the crazy-but-convincing monoski stabilizers on those rickety ships leaving those gorgeous trails, the thing Tom mentioned about it looking like blood so it seems like the Order has pounded Luke into a red paste with their crazy overkill attack.

I loved how Kylo’s psychic battle with Snoke is based more on dialogue and character than posing, grunting, grimacing, and FX. Kylo feels Snoke in his mind and feeds him exactly what Snoke craves: Kylo’s purest Dark intention to turn his saber and strike down his enemy. (He even starts to swivel the saber he’s holding to illustrate the deception.) He gets Snoke salivating for it so much it’s all he can pay attention to. And then Kylo gives it to him.

And for all the nitpicks about how Laura Dern’s sacrifice is set up, damn I did not expect Star Wars could ever make me gasp like that at watching a big space ship blow up.

And I liked (and it felt kinda like Empire Strikes Back) that almost everything the Rebellion tries is a failure, including Rose & Finn’s mission, except for the unlooked-for victory of inspiring a new generation of Rebels. Rose was a great character (especially her initial confrontation and disillusionment with Finn). The humor mostly worked for me.

I’m also with Tom in thinking the moment when Kylo can’t bring himself to fire on his mom, but then his wingman does it anyway was amazing. How much is that gonna screw him up, that his mom is dead, but he couldn’t do it? It doesn’t play out that way, but that moment was still great.

Re: the question of whether Luke was “wrong” about the Jedi needing to die out.

Yes! and No! That’s the whole point of his meeting with Yoda. You might have to burn the past and let the old Jedi ways die out, but you still have to learn from your mistakes and move on, or at least pass on what you learned to the next generation. You can’t just sit back and die.

And that aside, I don’t think Luke saying, “I’m not the last Jedi” is a statement of approval. He’s just stating the facts that Rey is one, whether he likes it or not.

Basically, that’s what Rian Johnson is saying. They both believe it’s the truth, but J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio could easily rewrite that.

You do know they made 3 freaking movies right???

To me, this is the most astonishing thing about The Last Jedi. The Force Awakens raised all these big questions, and it made us think that Disney/Abrams had some kind of big three-movie arc in mind to answer those questions. But reading interviews with Rian Johnson, it sounds more like he watched The Force Awakens just like the rest of us did, and then he just went off to write his own answers.

The new trilogy is like a novel written by two authors, with each writing every other paragraph and stomping on the other’s themes and foreshadowing. Who makes movies like this?

Like, everyone other than Kevin Feige. Adaptations of existing works are obviously a different beast, but for original films, this is pretty much how it’s always worked, and how it continues to work for just about everyone but Marvel.

Television. :) Which is one of the reasons television series tend to fall apart over the long run.


Well, it’s a little different with Marvel right? I mean, I am not an expert, not really having read much of the comics, but pretty much all of the Marvel cinematic universe is adapted from existing comics in some form or other I think? Not just like someone came up with the script for stuff like Iron Man or Thor from nothing.

Nah. Not for movie trilogies. Before A New Hope, movies were made like the James Bond films. One at a time. Every film being a self-contained flick with marginal links to previous installments. After the Star Wars trilogy, that changed. Studios made the first movie a complete story, then if it resonated with the audience and the studio liked it, the producers would get the go ahead to make the next two films. This is the way The Matrix movies were made. The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter pushed studios into the current process of plotting out multiple movies in a series before the first film was even screened. Marvel’s success has cemented that model.

You still run into the older processes (one movie at a time like Prometheus/Covenant) from time to time, but the multi-movie shared universe stuff is all the rage now. Shareholders love the revenue model and it makes studios feel safe when they can look ahead and know X will happen in chapter 2, and Y will happen in chapter 3, etc. WB’s train wreck DCU movies being an example of an unsuccessful series for a variety of reasons that no one wants to repeat.

The current Star Wars model is an outlier. They have an overall boss in Kathleen Kennedy who isn’t shy about firing directors that don’t cleave to her vision of the studio, but she doesn’t actually coordinate the scripts. Lucasfilm has films scheduled, but not plotted. They don’t even have a framework of where they want to go until they start corralling writers and directors. Heck, Rian Johnson admitted that he got his trilogy without even pitching a story.

Also re: Rey’s parentage, I don’t think there’s any doubt that Kylo is telling the truth. That’s why the mirror shows her nothing but herself. There’s nothing for her there. No father figures to show her the way, no mysterious heritage to give her purpose. Just her.

And that’s more than enough. It’s not for Kylo to decide she’s nothing and has no place there, unless he graciously bestows it to her. One of the things The Last Jedi does is to put to bed the notion that its universe revolves around the Skywalker bloodline aristocracy, and lets nobodies from nowhere take center stage. That’s what that reveal, and the coda with the little slave boy is about. And that’s awesome.

And if JJ tries to retcon it and pull some “The Mystery Box was here all along!” bullshit, I will flip a frickin’ table.

I forgot about The Matrix trilogy (and so should everyone else!), those second two movies were obviously made together. I have my doubts that they were really part of some grand scheme back when the first Matrix was being written, but for the sake of argument maybe they were.

That’s still only one example. Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter are both direct adaptations of books, which as I said, are different. Whether they have the same director or switch things up, each individual film is made with a solid blueprint of what needs to be covered, what needs to be set up for the future of the franchise, what things you can’t do, etc.

Feige’s Marvel is still in the minority when it comes to franchises applying that sort of framework to original movies. I categorize them as original because yes, Marvel is pulling inspiration and plots from the comics, but they’re freely remixing and changing those stories, they’re not beholden to them or their outcomes from the comics.

DCEU is the only other attempt, but with so few films so far it’s hard to know behind the scenes exactly how much is planned vs. how much is simply announced.

Star Trek movies aren’t built with the specifics of their sequels in mind. Bond movies (also nominally adapted from books but not truly adhering to them) are made up as they go. X-Men films don’t seem to be planned in advance beyond the comic references they can drop to hint at possible directions for the future, but only on a movie by movie basis. Transformers, Ninja Turtles, everyone’s just winging it movie by movie.

Star Wars is not the outlier you make it sound like.

I disagree. Transformers, Bond, GI Joe, Predator, Alien, Pacific Rim, etc… They’re all made the old-fashioned, one film at a time way. These movies have no franchise direction other than “we want to make more money.” On the flip side, you have the DCU, Marvel, Dark Universe, X-Men, and Kong/Godzilla universes that have a people in charge, and a basic story outline to move forward with. (That a few of these are flailing is beside the point.) Star Wars is the only movie series currently with a clear franchise caretaker, a scheduled set of movies, yet still letting directors and writers make up each chapter as the go.

Unless you can point to direct evidence otherwise, I think the X-Men movies definitely belong in the “old-fashioned” one film at a time way. Their Easter eggs and stingers in the credits have always been very open-ended, pretty much on the level of “James Bond Will Return In…”

When you get into the DCU, Dark Universe, and Kongzilla, I see them somewhere in a continuum with none of them being close enough to Marvel to fit what I’m talking about. At least in the broad strokes, Marvel and Feige seem to know what’s going to actually happen in movies years in advance. Thanos has been teased since the first Avengers, Infinity Gems have been woven into things, characters have been positioned and introduced with an eye toward the future all along.

DCU and Dark Universe give a different impression. They seem more like goals than plans. It is still different from the entirely one-at-a-time approach, but it’s still not the kind of structure I see from Marvel. It’s hard to know for sure from the outside, especially because the studios aren’t about to brag about their vision when it’s failing, but the impression I get is that the guidance from movie to movie extends as far as “you can’t kill so and so, they’ve got a movie we’re hoping to make in two years”.

The stories we have seen about Batman V. Superman make it clear Batman was not in the plan when Man of Steel was made. The events of Wonder Woman have no direct ties to the other films, same with Suicide Squad. Regardless of the quality, the framework for fitting these movies together doesn’t look as robust as Marvel’s by a long shot.

All that to say Star Wars is also in this continuum somewhere of having announcements and goals, but not a structure in place for the story they’re going to tell. Marvel still looks unique there.

Really, I prefer the old fashioned way of doing things. Marvel gets away with it because while they have a plan, they craft individual chapters that work as complete things on their own, with hooks into other chapters. All the other attempts at shared universes has failed because while they might have had an overall plan, they completely failed at producing compelling individual movies. And if my choice is between self-contained episodes of varying quality or watching a first act that might have a payoff X amounts of years later, I know what I’m picking. Movies are not serialized television.

Hold on a second here. Are you really saying that Star Wars didn’t have a plan for six films worth of entertainment? George was the mastermind behind all of it, was he not? It’s his world and his stories. It has only changed with the seventh and eighth entries, right?

IMO it’s obvious he didn’t have a plan for six movies, not one in any detail, at best a rough idea of what each movie should roughly be about.

…but that’s more than these new films seem to have.

I don’t have a problem with the idea that these movies are being done in a generally hands free way, that each director gets to pick the story they want to make and LucasFilms is fairly hands off, as long as the movie appears to be quality / doesn’t fuck up future plans. It gels with my general view that creative types need to do it for the art and that having the man constraining them would end up resulting in them walking out.

I also don’t have a problem with the idea that these movies are micromanaged to the last detail to squeeze as much money out of the fans as possible, that when the directors talk about their art some bean counter comes up to them and tells them that they should start behaving as adults FFS, art, LOL, it’s movie Business.

Since I’m not present when the movies are made, both views sound plausible to me. :D