What did The Last Jedi leave behind?

This, we’re lead to believe, is pretty much the whole Resistance at the end of TLJ. So good luck wrapping up the trilogy, whoever comes next!

As much enjoyment as I’ve gotten from TLJ in the past (see this and this), I am coming to hate it more and more. Yes, J.J. Abrams left whoever was coming after TFA with a lot of mystery boxes–Rey’s parents, Snoke’s origin, Ben’s turn to the Dark Side, the origins of the First Order and the Knights of Ren. Rian Johnson clearly hates mystery boxes so he blew them all up, or just ignored them. Even Ben’s turn to the Dark Side is given short shrift; by the time Luke goes to confront him, he’s already been corrupted by Snoke (how? when?). But what did Johnson leave for the next director in line? Pretty much nothing. A dozen survivors on the Millennium Falcon is pretty damned small seed from which to grow a third movie.

If TFA left too many questions for the next movie, TLJ left nothing at all. Contrast it with the end of ESB. The Rebel fleet is a Chekhov’s gun, now we know the Rebels have a fleet with some big-ass capital ships, we can expect some stuff to go down in the next movie. Lando and Chewie are off to rescue Han, Yoda’s still out there on Dagobah, and Luke has promised to go back and complete his training. Even if George Lucas had been hit by a bus the day ESB opened, he’d left plenty of threads for someone to make a third movie. People are piling on J.J. Abrams for shoveling so much backstory into TROS, like Leia’s Jedi training, Luke’s search for Exegol, and just Exegol full stop, but hell, what was JJ supposed to do? TLJ left him nothing to build on, so of course the first chunk of Ep 9 had to be an alternate Ep 8 so there would be some stuff to resolve. Everyone and their dog is now saying that TROS should have been either three hours long, or split across two movies (and this started well before #ReleaseTheJJCut took off). Although they aren’t saying it in so many words, this is a tacit acknowledgement that Rian Johnson kicked the chair out from under whoever was coming after him.

Not that TROS is blameless! Remember that inspiring idea that anyone could rise up from nothing to become a hero? It’s flying away forever.

I think the convention wisdom on the sequel trilogy is going to go south, soon, and stay there. The prequels may have been the most woodenly-acted, bloodless exercises in pure worldbuilding that have ever made it to the big screen, but at least they gave us new things to look at (and, er, competent worldbuilding). The sequels are individually watchable, collectively kind of a storytelling dumpster fire, and ultimately just depressing. Because they could have, and should have, been much better.

(Yes, this is my grumpy old man hangover post on the whole sequel trilogy. And maybe just the first in a series!)

This entry was posted in sequels, Star Wars, The Last Jedi, The Rise of Skywalker. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to What did The Last Jedi leave behind?

  1. Hey Curt,
    I just sent you a message in your ABOUT page, but wanted to chime in on your blog, because I largely agree, but also want to add that for the RPG player it gives material in content, mistakes, narrative and the problems with all these. It is by leaving behind so many mistakes and failures that there are opportunities for youth to say WTF? when they try to string it together. Or better, they say, “I could do something so much more powerfully and relevant.” Right now, they are just saying, “Ok boomer.”

    A note on the sequels: The Timothy Zahn books of Ep 7,8,9 were better to me as they were more cannon (to me!) and I would have loved to see them on the screen, but they did not try to cover the same things… This last film ROSW did borrow the Katana Fleet from the Zahn books.

    I agree with you that a two part last film would have been nice. Then again, I just want more Star Wars, but I am happy for the return to old things like Rogue One and Solo.

    On the prequels, It is wild to watch Making of DVD of Ep 1 when Lucas and producer Rick finish watching the rough cut and then they turn and ask the people in the room what they think. No one is inspired and it is uncomfortable… then Rick and George yes themselves into proceeding. When you surround yourself with people who will only bow to you, you lose touch. It really said it all for me.

    Anyway, I love the Star Wars role-playing game and played it in the 80s when put out by WestEnd Games (I think!). We would draw so much from the movies and then after tens of hours of playing, when we would go back to the movies we would be so blown away by how much more it felt like we had explored the SW universe than what was actually in the movies. That was an amazing feeling.

    So! When I was watching the movies and as I watch each of them it always brings up that feeling of “oh we did that!” and “oh wow that’s what that would have looked like or could have looked like!” or “That’s not what we saw when we did it.” Et cetera.

    I am also thankful to watch a 200 million dollar thing for 8 bucks. Sometimes it really feels like a waste though. I have not expected much after the prequels, so I have been pleasantly surprised by Solo and Rogue One.

    Ok that was a big ramble! Well thanks for reading!

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