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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later.Support Elizabeth on Patreon.

20 Comments

  1. Eyeloch
    January 22, 2018 @ 10:16 am

    Thing is, when people talk about how different this film is (and it is, in a number of ways), the opening crawl (and thus the premise of the film) seems to have slightly bent the narrative into a more familiar shape, just so it can then subvert it later on. I know that narrative of the individual theme is more important than worldbuilding and such, but star wars also seemed, somewhat uniquely, to pride itself in a lived in and vaguely consistent world.

    While it probably makes sense to use to familiar to ground things and lead into the unfamiliar, the opening narration implying the First Order has conquered the galaxy off-screen is rather annoying – since it’s supposedly only been half a day since the prior movie (though frankly the timeline of events is screwy). To be honest, I think it would have fit the themes a little better if it was clearer the vast majority of the galaxy was just, as is later implied, waiting to see what’s going to happen. But hey, I’m not as film-literate as you lot, so I’m probably talking out of my arse!

    Reply

    • CJM123
      January 22, 2018 @ 5:19 pm

      I agree with those comments, but I think the issue is that George Lucas prided himself on making a consistent world, and some EU writers did, and the sequel guys aren’t.

      Basically, the new EU has argued that the First Order were funded by covert imperialists in the senate, and then the conspirators took over when the senate got blown up in THE FORCE AWAKENS. It works, but it feels that a STAR WARS film that successfully showed a conspiracy and betrayal would be more interesting than two films about two militias duking it out.

      But Johnson and Abrams want Star Wars to be a set of signs to plug new characters into, which I feel is sort of lazy. America always acts like an eternal underdog, and this just feeds the myth the terrorists could win tomorrow if we don’t trust our militaristic cold warriors (Leia and Ackbar show that this is a Rebellion successor), and honestly, fixing STAR WARS as always at 1977 instead of letting it grow feels pretty stupid in the long run. Imagine DOCTOR WHO which decided that the Base-Under-Seige was the only story worth telling after Pertwee left.

      I’m not sure this makes sense, but it’s my reaction to why the film is clearly vastly superior to THE PHANTOM MENACE and RETURN OF THE JEDI, but I’m fonder of the two films interested in presenting a world that changes, and shows new ideas (The Ewoks are brilliant, I’ll explain if anyone is interested) than this one.

      Reply

      • Przemek
        January 25, 2018 @ 9:39 am

        Please explain the Ewoks!

        Reply

        • CJM123
          January 26, 2018 @ 9:04 pm

          In short, the Ewoks, and the interactions they force on the cast, utterly destroy the idea that STAR WARS is trying to be cool, and instead let it be earnest. You can’t view it as some grand tragedy when they exist. It’s tonally daft, but that’s what works. Only something willing to go there could have the Ewoks cry over there fallen death.

          But they also show a guerrilla force fighting for their right to exist, just in a silly space opera way. I can totally buy that the Empire sent an undermanned skeleton crew to a planet and then got destroyed by an indigenous population.

          Fans that argued they existed to sell toys didn’t have a problem with the Imperial Walkers or the Empire’s Red Guards and Boba Fett (who, in particular, do nothing but stand around long enough to be recognisable in the shop.)

          Reply

          • Luvad
            January 27, 2018 @ 8:16 am

            The Ewoks are also perhaps the most subversive thing George Lucas ever attempted as they are the Teddy Bear Vietcong here to help bring down The Galactic Empire who’s chief inspiration was Richard Nixon’s America and have the audience cheer them as they do it.

  2. Sean Dillon
    January 22, 2018 @ 5:27 pm

    The thing with Rey’s parentage in Force Awakens is that it seemed to me like it was never the point. I seem to recall shortly after Rey has the lightsaber vision, Maz tells her that she shouldn’t keep tying herself to the memory of parents who abandoned her to slavery.

    Reply

    • Gavin Burrows
      January 22, 2018 @ 6:26 pm

      Ray’s vision in the cave, where she goes seeking answers and sees only reflections of herself, is clearly there to set up the parentage revelation. Making it slightly weird that so many are saying it just came out of the blue. Agreed with Phil we can only hope it won’t be reversed in the next instalment.

      Reply

      • Joseph
        January 22, 2018 @ 9:48 pm

        I did worry briefly that the reveal was going to be an even more intense version of the Force Messiah thing from Phantom Menace, with Rey having no biological parents at all… Thankfully not.

        Reply

        • Gavin Burrows
          January 23, 2018 @ 5:57 pm

          On the other hand, it would have allowed for a whole tranche of ‘Immaculate Rey’ merchandise. I’m picturing a nativity diorama with three wise Jedi, in time for the Christmas market.

          Reply

    • Przemek
      January 23, 2018 @ 9:25 am

      It was never the point but it was still a character flaw/weakness to overcome for Rey.

      Reply

  3. Lauvd
    January 22, 2018 @ 8:41 pm

    “Inevitably, there’s no one answer. Indeed, the crux of Johnson’s approach is to repeatedly do small and unexpected things, none of which feel like ruptures of what Star Wars means, but all of which demonstrate a willingness to ask not only what Star Wars can do that’s new, but to ask what it has thus far lacked. Setting aside the criticism of The Last Jedi that amounts to “I’m an alt-right shithead,” this instinct is probably the root of a lot of the unease a minority of fans have had with the film, because it involves an interrogatory engagement with the franchise that previous installments simply haven’t been interested in doing.”
    A fellow by the name of Movie Bob actually made a pretty compelling case that what Johnson really doing is not a deconstruction of any sort but a redemptive reading and affirmation of the fandom’s love all the way doing what you say it’s doing at the same time: https://youtu.be/qf_rqde7B0A

    So basically Johnson is taking a page out of Steven Moffat’s book by creating a meta narrative of what Star Wars is for.

    Reply

  4. TimC
    January 23, 2018 @ 8:09 am

    Pretty sure that Jay-Z didn’t invent that ‘dirt off your shoulder’ move. I remember it from the playground, and I’m old enough to have done Star Wars the first time round.

    Reply

    • Kit
      January 23, 2018 @ 10:19 pm

      Also Luke doesn’t even do the same move as Jay.

      Reply

  5. Przemek
    January 23, 2018 @ 10:02 am

    I really like this reading about SW being a story about heroic failure. It fits, and it’s a very interesting way of looking at these movies.

    I also agree that this was the best SW movie to date, mostly because it subverts expectations. But the problem with subverting expectations is that it can leave the audience feeling unfulfilled and frustrated. (That’s also my main problem with some of Moffat’s episodes of DW). Snoke is a good example here. I don’t think the audience misidentified him as a mystery to be solved. He was consciously placed in a position of narrative importance and so it’s only natural that people were curious about him. A powerful new Sith Lord? We expected at least a throwaway line about his origins, his motivations or his rise to power. Something to indicate his place in this story beyond “generic evil dude”. Instead after TFA he seems to come out of nowhere, much like The First Order does. A vague connection to the evils of the past – and that’s it. It fits this movie’s theme of letting go of the past but it still feels a little disappointing.

    The flip side of this is the Canto Bight plot which I was very surprised to learn is widely regarded as the weakest part of TLJ. And while I can agree that in a movie as subversive as TLJ it seemed somewhat undercooked, apparently one of the main lines of criticism regarding this plot is that it’s “a pointless sidequest”. Apparently many SW fans believe that if a plot ends with the main character’s failure it becomes pointless filler. Nevermind the character arcs for Finn and Rose, nevermind the worldbuilding, nevermind the betrayal that affects the main plot in a major way: the quest fails to contribute to the Resistance’s victory and so it’s pointless. So perhaps the Canto Bight plot is the biggest subversion of expectations in the entire movie. A subplot so interested in exploring themes beyond “Empire vs. Rebels” that it disappoints audiences who wanted to see exactly that.

    Reply

    • Przemek
      January 23, 2018 @ 10:04 am

      ” Instead after TFA he seems to come out of nowhere (…)”.

      This line, of course, should read “Instead after TLJ”.

      Reply

    • Jason Lee
      March 18, 2018 @ 5:58 pm

      Tight bit of writing in that last paragraph that puts into words what I’ve been trying to articulate on SW fandom.

      Reply

  6. Austin G Loomis
    January 24, 2018 @ 3:28 pm

    I suspect (but obviously cannot prove) that the reason Colin Trevorrow was pulled off Episode IX, and Abrams brought back to replace him, is because Johnson played too many games with fannish expectations, forgetting that Lucasfilm, like 3DO, moves things, and then shakes them. In that precise order. (Similarly with the change of director on Solo: a Star Wars story.)

    Reply

  7. MattM
    January 24, 2018 @ 4:24 pm

    I talked about it a bit more on the other post, but one of my main issues (besides the pacing being rubbish and the idea of the ‘slow chase where you can nip off to space Vegas in the middle’ nonsensical) was that the film creates its own problem and then claims to be the one finally solving it – basically the idea of needing to move forwards, but TFA is the film that drags the sequel trilogy kicking and screaming back into the Original Trilogy mold of Empire vs Rebels.

    TFA painted the First Order as more of this terrorist strike force sort of thing, Nazis coming out of Brazil with a superweapon for an attack on a galaxy spanning democracy, but in the space of half a day (or a title crawl) they’ve conquered the galaxy and the only ones standing in their way are a plucky rebellion SORRY resistance. Also the First Order has a ton of massive superships as well, which would have been useful in the last film.

    (Actually, the worldbuilding for the sequel films is oddly rubbish. I have no idea what’s at stake. If you just watch TFA you don’t even know that the First Order is evil apart from the fact they are led by a man with a monster face – the film even equvilates the Resistance and First Order in the casino bit.)

    But yeah, the film drags us back into that ‘Massive empire vs small rebellion’ mold whilst saying “oh no it is bad that Star Wars is always the same thing, I will fix it by moving forwards!” which makes that message ring false.

    I also don’t understand why the film needs to kill everyone old like some sort of grim reaper. I fully expected Luke to die, but the way they did it was just bizarre and lacking in any sort of pathos (at least say he’s old / wanting to cross over / making it clear the force projection strain would kill him). And why kill Admiral Ackbar apart from to upset people? Why not just not have him in it?

    I’m also upset that this is just one more film that has fallen into the trap of declaring all critics to be evil white male sexists who love Trump and hate women. At some point we need to realise that 1) People are allowed to dislike things and disliking things does not mean a major political stance and 2) Sometimes media that echos your political beliefs can still be crap.

    The film just disappointed me and left me not really caring about any future ones. My sister meanwhile (who is certainly not a nerdy male neckbeard Star Wars fanboy, and who I remember falling asleep in the cinema next to me during the original Star Wars on the ’97 rerelease) was absolutely LIVID at TLJ and how let down she felt (she really liked TFA, along with a lot of the general public it seems)

    Reply

  8. Roderick T. Long
    March 21, 2018 @ 3:36 pm

    “still the most nuanced and intelligent attempt in eight films to actually make a point about fascism and oppression”

    Actually the prequels were pretty good on this:
    https://aaeblog.com/2007/02/06/remembering-corporate-liberalism/

    Reply

  9. Lee Jones
    June 5, 2018 @ 4:50 pm

    Canto Bight wasn’t the most problematic part of “The Last Jedi” for me.

    The most problematic was the relationship between Rey and Kylo Ren. I found it disturbing, toxic and unrealistic.

    What in the hell was Rian Johnson thinking? He managed to create another story arc that I believe was marred by the time span between “THE FORCE AWAKENS” and “THE LAST JEDI”. The whole Rey-Kylo Ren story seemed wrong within the Sequel Trilogy’s time frame. As I had earlier pointed out, not long after Rey had began her brief training into the Force under Luke, she discovered that some mental Force bond had developed between her and the man who nearly killed her, Kylo Ren aka Ben Solo. This . . . Force bond led Rey to discover what Luke had nearly did to Ren. And this, along with her telepathic conversations with Luke’s nephew and visions of him being redeemed convinced Rey that it was necessary to travel to Snoke’s ship, the Supremacy, and save Kylo Ren and convince him to give up evil; evoking memories of Luke’s attempt to save his father, Anakin Skywalker, in “RETURN OF THE JEDI”.

    hen I watched as Rey decided to travel into “the bowels of evil” in order to save an overprivileged and murderous man child from himself and Snoke, I could not help but indulge in a massive face palm. Or groan. This was just simply ridiculous to me. Was I really expected to accept that Rey had developed compassion or any other kind positive feelings for Kylo Ren two to three days after what he had tried to do to her in “THE FORCE AWAKENS”? Does anyone realize how unrealistic that is from an emotional point-of-view? After all, only two or three days had passed since Rey had witnessed or experienced the following in “THE FORCE AWAKENS”:

    *Kylo Ren kidnapped Rey during the First Order’s attack on Takodana.
    *As he had done earlier to Poe Dameron, Kylo Ren tried to violate Rey’s mind in order to learn Luke’s whereabouts, using telepathy. Only she managed to defend herself using the same method.
    *Rey, Finn and Chewbacca witnessed Kylo Ren’s murder of his father, Han Solo.
    *Kylo Ren tried to injure or kill Rey by tossing her into a tree, near the Star Killer base.
    *Kylo Ren maimed Finn during a light saber duel.
    *Rey engaged in her own light saber duel against Kylo Ren, in which she managed to wound him.

    During Rey and Kylo Ren’s telepathic interactions in “THE LAST JEDI”, she managed to develop compassion for him. And I am at a loss at why she would do this over a person, who had caused so much harm to her and those she cared about . . . in such a short period of time. When Rey asked Kylo Ren why he murdered his father, the latter explained – in a scene in which he was shirtless (a massive eyeroll) – that trying to cut out any sense of emotional attachment. WHAT IN THE HELL???? That was his excuse? And she bought it? And when Rey questioned Kylo Ren’s murder of Luke’s loyal padawans, he revealed how Luke had contemplated on killing him. Never mind that I believed this did not jibe with Luke’s personality. This was a lame excuse on Kylo Ren’s part. Those padawans had not played a role in Luke’s brief contemplation to commit murder. Those padawans had done nothing to Kylo Ren or anyone he may have cared about. And yet . . . Rey failed to continue questioning Kylo Ren’s murders. She expressed anger at Luke’s behavior, which I do not blame her. But she also decided to use this and Luke’s reluctance to save his nephew as an excuse to surrender to Snoke in an effort to save Kylo Ren, someone who had wronged her and those whom she cared about . . . VERY RECENTLY. As far as Rey knew, Kylo Ren was not related to her and a long period of time had not passed between “THE FORCE AWAKENS” and “THE LAST JEDI”.

    Another problem seemed to manifest this story arc – namely Rey’s visions of Kylo Ren’s future. I am not claiming that he was redeemable. But did Rey ever consider that her visions had been manipulated in the first place? Did she ever consider that her telepathic bond was manipulated, which the movie later confirmed during Snoke’s monologuing? I realize that Rey was somewhat naive. But considering her recent past experience with Kylo Ren attempting to violate her mind, she never considered that this might be another attempt? Or that he had successfully found a way to violate her mind and try to manipulate her? Apparently not. Instead, Rey simply jumped up and rushed to Snoke’s ship in an effort to “save” Kylo Ren. It seemed obvious that Johnson had set up this whole scenario in order to plagiarize the Palpatine throne scene from “RETURN OF THE JEDI”. Unfortunately for me, it failed on so many levels. Worse, it made Rey looked like “the Idiot of the Galaxy”. This entire story arc struck me as incredibly stupid.

    Reply

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