Dear Fellow Storytellers,
So here’s the issue with needing films written out long form before creating trilogies or seemingly endless seasons of content, you might find along the way that not all of your ideas are working, and depending on how tightly wound these ideas into your narrative structure, the more difficult it can become to root them back out, before production or even during. It can be painful as sin.
The Television Show Lost is another great example of the inverse principle in play, narrative structure so little, that by the end, the only real answer can be, a Supernatural one, since after all, when a man runs out of explanations that can be described scientifically, he tends to default to claiming that he has witnessed a true miracle. In other words, we don’t know how to wrap this up so lets just catch all and go for something no one can argue against. Purgatoro indeed.
I’m re-watching Mr.Plinkett’s Review of the Force Awakens, which I tend to do from time to time, as I never tire of watching it, save for some of the darker parts of the humor that I feel are too much in places. These meta Reviews from RedLetterMedia themselves are Masterpieces of analytical breakdowns mirrored with pitch perfect tonal comedy. In this one he goes on, “let the reality of George Lucas the Creative vs the Societal Myth” he sometimes gets confused with being, be seen as what he wants to be seen as, the harsher truth being Disney recognized this early on and is creating Star Wars films for a very different reason. Prestige meet Shareholders’ concerns.
Personally speaking, like most of you growing up, I fantasized about what Episode Seven could be like. Luke now many years later is the only known Jedi Master in the entire Galaxy, when we come back to him he has attempted (and partially failed) to re-establish the Jedi Order itself, to various degrees of success goes into all the various students he has trained and taken personal responsibility for creating and unleashing out into the greater Universe. He’s been in love, had a son (could just as easily been a daughter instead) and she could very well have been our main character inside these films. The Expanded Universe has already paved the way for all of these stories to be tried and true. Disney had the money to buy the rights to make whatever they wanted and it shows. That makes perfect sense for them as a money making empire.
Search yourself and be honest as to how these films make you feel, upon completing a viewing of them. Finn’s story of being a Storm Trooper inside the First Order whom rebels due to having a moral crisis, is to me, the most compelling potential character arch followed up only by Kylo Ren’s. Sadly, Finn is instead treated like a supporting cast member that we are introduced to early on as a misdirection for Rey. Accusations of super disappointing lazy character development logically follows.
Rey is not in and of herself, a bad base to build from as a character. She is a perfectly fine human being whom lived psychologically alone (most of her life thus far) on a desert planet, scavenging for parts to barter for food/local currency. In real life someone like this would have profoundly deep social anxieties. Basically, Plato’s allegory of the cave comes in full swing and Rey would have some pretty deep triggers that would keep her from just gracefully moving from interaction to interaction with zero social frictions. Luke in contrast, had his Aunt & Uncle, plus any number of Locals and Off Worlders to play off of growing up, that and he was well cared for as a child, thus he had far more opportunities to grow socially and in a safer environment which is key. Now why is any of this important? Well, if you seek for your stories to feel real, you have to treat your characters as if they are real. Anakin had deep seeded traumas and for that his fall to the dark side only felt more real then if he had a perfect home life. So as much as the prequels get telling a story in a fun way wrong in places, Anakin turning to the dark side was about one of the only things they got right.
Rey on the other hand has spent so much of the last two films not really doing anything as a character to truly grow because outside of not knowing who her parents are, we know practically nothing about her, that’s on the film maker to bring us in more and more until we feel like we truly understand her motivations and thus can relate to her struggles, instead she plays like Blondie in a Fist Full of Dollars a.k.a The Man with no name trilogy. Doesn’t work as well here, mainly because unlike Blondie, who is more like a force of nature, Rey is supposed to be the lead star inside a soap opera in space which means far more personal emotional investing is required to keep these engines running until the very last scenes.
Now let’s go back to Empire Strikes Back (Episode Five), Luke is just beginning to gain his bearings as a Jedi like figure in the story. He’s trained with Yoda, which was a nice mini film in and of itself, and in these scenes he is eventually called back to action which leads Luke to leave planet side before Master Yoda feels he is ready to face Vader but of course that’s what raises the stakes. This includes the infamous scene of the place of great darkness where Luke confronts his greatest fear. They emulate this scene inside the new trilogy with Rey, her fear being about never knowing where she is from, who her parents are and why did they abandon her? It is by far the most interesting thing about Rey’s Character’s thus far from a storytelling perspective. Of course Kylo tells her she is from no one, because he is a careless creature who only cares for himself, who is meant to be a devil like person in this story. So retcon aside, they will most likely come back to this in Episode Nine. Otherwise, Rey is already shown to be a staggeringly well developed Jedi technique wise. Kylo trained his entire life, with Master Skywalker and then later whoever Snope really was, which sadly turned out to be another red herring. Which means, that if these characters were to be treated as real people, would Kylo really be on the same level as Rey, this quickly? The answer of course is no, which is not to be conflated with Rey not being able to learn.
The idea that Rey with zero training is putting up a fight with a technically trained fighter this fast in her Hero’s Journey is just skipping steps. It hinders our ability to connect properly to her journey by not giving her enough scenes that draw us in and help us understand how she grew over time. Imagine instead a very different turn of events in the Force Awakens. Finn is not a trained Jedi with any Force sensitivity at all (which makes him our stand in storytelling wise, unless you have force powers the rest of us don’t have), picks up a lightsaber in a last ditch effort to save Rey, is cut down almost instantaneously, cut so badly he almost dies then Rey now able to move again because of the selflessness of Finn’s actions, jolts out her right hand and pulls the lightsaber to her to Kylo’s mutual shocked self. It’s in this moment that her potential real strength is for a brief glimmering second is seen by all in attendance here, ourselves included. This is how you plant the seed.
Rey is, by virtue of linear storytelling shown to us before anything else to be a survivor, we see her living in extreme isolation in the beginning, so she goes full force and for a few staggering moments she looks like she could maybe even win, but of course, this is just the beginning of an epic three part Film Saga that would be like throwing the bottle away before you’ve opened the drink. So, after barely surviving their first encounter with arguably one of the most dangerous beings in the known Universe, Rey and Finn somehow get away and lick their wounds (my bet would be the “planet” they are on is literally falling to pieces is and was a decent enough excuse). Instead they settled for shooting him in the side… it was a risk that I do not feel played off well and doesn’t account for Kylo’s ability to manipulate the Force, especially when cornered. This where we most often see the true ferociousness of a character, especially our heel.
It would’ve been only inside this last film, after truly training with Luke, that she would have begin to grow in her abilities to the degree that she could at the very least hold her own against a force trained warrior let alone Kylo, and since in this other version of events, she did not win and in fact almost died, the stakes for this fight would be far higher. Think about every Rocky film ever made. By the time she finally defeats him, in Episode Nine either through sheer will or compassion, it would really means something to all of us.
And no, I do not believe that all nine films will ever truly reside well inside of each other, Mr. Lucas absolutely attempted to do that with the first Six Films. What Disney is doing is building Brand, Park and Audience Recognition. They need young children to see these characters as extensions of themselves. That is their main and primary goal here, a Profit Generator. It’s not evil, it’s just good business but only if it works.
If George really didn’t want to see this happen, he shouldn’t have sold the IP. I’m sure a lot of children and adults love these new films and that’s okay too, what do I know? I’m just another film critic like you. It’s just sad to me because I really wanted to see what happened to these characters we loved growing up and instead we got an anthem of tragic outcomes for people who saved the day. My father whom showed me Star Wars as a little boy together, also went and watched Force Awakens with me and said something along the lines of, “What a boring and disappointing series of outcomes.” Our heroes (in this series specifically the men for some reason) grew up to be cowards who abandoned us when we more needed them. Our main character did not need to grow and was already at the level of development she will need to be for the rest of her life. Said of no human being outside of Christ, ever.
Our villain is treated and often acts like a child whose only redeemable action was hesitating to commit patricide to one of his parents, only for him to completely go back on this for what felt like arbitrary reasons at best. Do you even remember why he no longer cares if he kills his own mother? Finn, who I still believe had more natural claim as our obvious Protagonist then even Rey, is sanctioned off to be the leader/co author of a B story line. Rose felt tacked on and underutilized, more like an archetype then a real breathing person. And lastly, Luke is perhaps the part that hurts me the most.
When I was a little kid, Luke was who we wanted to be(just as Rey could be as well). The child who never felt ready to be an adult but had literally no choice but to either grow or watch everyone around them suffer. He felt the weight of the entire Universe on his shoulders, just like his father before him. Had they tied Rey more closely to this (which I strongly suspect they will do with the next film, retcon for the win) by making her Luke’s daughter or perhaps somehow tied to Obi Wan, there could have at the very least been some tenuous connection to the story being told in the last six films. How many have said, ‘I don’t know why the stories should be about one or two families and their effect on the entire Galaxy?” There are at least two issues I take with this critique, Firstly, this is the story of the last six films has been finally told, regardless of how any one of us feels about it. Basically, the Skywalkers and Obi Wan have this massive butterfly effect on this entire fictional Galaxy, Far, Far away. Secondly, it’s common knowledge that George Lucas always meant (even if he didn’t write them out in long form) to be a complete Nine Film Story Arch, thus, these films are expected to fit in there somewhere. Even if Disney disagrees and has every right too. You spend 2 Billion dollars on something and then tell me how you feel about me lecturing you about it. Do it.
But we all know how much Disney wants this new film franchise to work, so they will keep adapting them until enough of us agree, it’s finally what we really wanted all along. Or perhaps, sadder still, they keep doing what their doing, the franchise dies and Disney locks it away in their Vault for awhile and one day reboots the whole thing for our Grandchildren. It’s something. Bah Humbug and Happy Holidays!
Either way, the damage is done and I have to get back to things that matter inside my own life not just complaining about movies I didn’t have the responsibility of making myself. I’m sure you would’ve found fault my ideas too. Film Makers make choices, no one ever said, you would agree with them.
Until Next Time,