- Sep 4, 2018
one of my big criticisms about The Last Jedi has to due with Luke's death. when it happened, I wasn't mad, I wasn't shocked, in fact, I was waiting for it to happen, due to all of the heavy handed imagery and foreshadowing. you see, red is symoblic of death. yes, i took Intro to Film in college in 1999, and before that we covered this type of basic imagery in HS Lit class. it's not advanced or complex filmmaking. it's leaden and lacking in artfulness.
everyone knew that Ford had wanted out for decades. as far as his character, i really didn't want to see any more of old Han, so i was fine w him leaving. tbh i felt the same about Luke, which is part of the reason the whole obsessive Luke-centric nature of the film turns me off. it is so focused on him, to the point where the last thing we see is some random kid re-imagining the very movie we are watching! the stopped the ending for a commercial and Luke was the toy in the commercial. they said there were new movies, they brought out the new characters, but they are all just swirling around in this toilet with a Luke shit in the center.
somehow, during Luke's death, i felt nothing. you should try to make a lead character's death impactful. Luke's death was a muddled, bungled mess. he's there! no he's not! so he survives the fight! but then he doesn't. you can't jerk around people like this, at this pace, and expect them to be emotionally invested. we have seen George Lucas learning this mistake during the filming of The Phantom Menace. that came out 20 years ago.
after making a move so "brave" and "never before done" such as doing the end of ROTJ and THEN doing the beginning of ESB, RJ lands on the most sentimental shot in the Star Wars franchise, the Twin Suns. this is well known as one of the fans' favorite scenes in the first film, and captured Luke's wide-eyed glimpse into unknown further adventures. here it is used cheaply to milk nostalgia and emotions from an audience.
it doesn't really make any sense to me why he would see that. he has been in hiding, turned away from his friends, even from his religion, all because of his threatening of Kylo Ren. this is his big character flaw, that he almost killed, or thought about killing, Kylo Ren. Luke was a violent reactionary.
yet, he makes things all better by ... threatening Kylo Ren again? by pissing him off personally, sneering at him and threatening to "see you around"? to re-kindle the mistaken feud that drove Kylo Ren to a career of galactic genocide? this is character development?
then in the middle of a fight where he is putting all his energy into using the force for the first time in decades to threaten his longtime nemesis, he just suddenly sees a peaceful vision of his home planet? like these Twin Suns are there while Kylo Ren is screaming at him from across the galaxy? they are serious? lol it doesn't make any sense. Luke is not in a peaceful place. he is saying corporate bullshit like "The war is never over!" it's just a cynical callback in a movie that pretends it is better than that.
this is all indeed direct callback to A New Hope, which happens often in this movie that, again, people applaud for being so new and original. when R2 shows the Leia hologram he lampshades "It's a cheap shot". this is a major theme of the film being disingenuous with the audience. Luke at the start mocks the anime strawman version of himself which they obviously planned as the final setpiece all along, then they do it anyways. story-wise, it is a repeat of Obi Wan's sacrifice in ANH. like Luke he died, the Jedi master, in a duel with his fallen Sith pupil, on the other side of a door, as all their friends try to escape. swap Han Solo for Poe and stop his character development right when they escape the Death Star in the Millenial Falcon, swap Rey for Luke Solo, swap the Death Star for Crait, and it's like it's 40 years never passed. why kill the past when you can milk it?
TLJ is just as much fan service as TFA. it probably brings even less new to the table.
the Twin Suns, and most of Star Wars's first act in the desert, was inspired by Lucas's early student films. a student film from 6-18-67 demonstrated his eye for these otherworldly landscapes. they bring to mind the influence of John Ford and the old Westerns, a big influence on SW & Indy. there was something magical about these landscapes shot in the deserts of California, where he grew up. this was not just an IP, this was personalized filmmaking.
Han's death at least was sort of sudden and artfully shot, with that long shot of Han & Kylo isolated on the bridge in the distance, Chewie looming in the foreground, impossibly away, crying out (to us, we understand, this shit is getting real). this shot sort of hit me in the gut, far more than Han's actual (inevitable) death did. it was the visual distance, it perfectly framed the physical distance between the old friends in Han's moment of death. it draws attention to their relationship through the framing. this is good filmmaking, (the moment at least).
Luke's death makes no sense. we are cutting back and forth to many different characters, people trying to escape in the caves, Finn & Rose doing their thing, Rey having a blast shooting guns, Leia sitting down looking pensive cos she's great at that, etc. the scene is unfocused. personally i don't find the setting pleasing or interesting, it is a flat, white plain, the red shit is great if u are impressed by dust, the underground crystal cave is 10% as exciting as the Star Tours ride i went on when i was 10. the featureless plain of Crait is "wonderfully shot" the way a dime a dozen minimalist posters of The Shining are "wonderfully designed". the movie poster looks like a fake that someone would make on Etsy. like the plot, like the narrative, it is all designed to be modern and wink-wink.