I love Star Wars.
At the age of thirteen, I begged my parents for VHS copies of the Original Trilogy, which I watched until the tape wore out. At the age of fifteen, I bought VHS copies of the Special Edition after having watched each film in theatres…twice. I saw The Phantom Menace the day it came out and felt kind of disappointed by it. I saw The Force Awakens the day it came out and loved every second of it.
I love Star Wars.
As a straight white guy, I can’t blame you if you think I’m about to go on a rant about how The Last Jedi is an insult to the fandom, but that’s not going to happen. This latest addition to the Star Wars saga didn’t “ruin my childhood” or “kill the franchise” or “insert man-baby cliché here.” In fact, Last Jedi happens to be my favourite Star Wars film to date.
Without getting into any spoilers, I can promise you that The Last Jedi offers a level of moral complexity that we’ve never seen before in a Star Wars film. Were the Jedi truly “the guardians of peace and justice in the galaxy?” Or were they merely adherents of a flawed religion, blind to the failings of their own dogma?
This movie deconstructs the trope of the lone-wolf hero. You know, the guy who bucks authority and makes a brave last stand against the enemy. In doing so, it makes us question what it means to be a hero. What is the best way to fight for the things that you believe in? It’s a remarkably deep film where all of the characters — be they fan favourites like Luke Skywalker or newcomers like Finn and Rose — are flawed but lovable people. And all of this is set against the backdrop of a thrilling space opera with some phenomenal action scenes. There is nothing about this movie that I don’t love.
Yes, even the porgs.
Especially the porgs.
So, after two years of listening to endless complaints about how The Force Awakens was just a rip-off of A New Hope, Disney offered us a Star Wars film that was a complete departure from The Empire Strikes Back. And now that Disney has listened to the fan community and made appropriate changes, the Star Wars fanboys have responded by…endlessly complaining about getting exactly what they wanted. Because of course, they did. Because this is 2017, in the darkest timeline, and God turned his loving face away from this world after the Americans were stupid enough to elect Reagan.
Here’s one guy who thinks that the problem with the new Star Wars movies — the rot, as he calls it — is that they don’t make any sense. You see, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and Princess Leia won their final victory over the Empire at the end of Return of the Jedi. So, it doesn’t make sense that, thirty years later, Rey, Finn and the gang would have to face down the Empire’s unruly stepson with a bad meth habit. (Otherwise known as the First Order).
Because that’s a valid criticism! Never mind the fact that in Return of the Jedi, they really only blew up a space station with a big laser. The entire Imperial Fleet was still spread throughout the galaxy. Not to mention the bureaucracy, the military that boasts millions of storm-troopers, fighter pilots and officers. Never mind the fact that Return of the Jedi was never intended to be the end of the story. No, no, forget all that. It makes no sense at all that there would still be enemies to fight thirty years after Luke Skywalker defeated a creepy space wizard by appealing to the better nature of his panting pet cyborg.
Let’s get to the heart of the issue, shall we? For this guy, and those like him, Return of the Jedi is the end of the saga because Return of the Jedi is when it stopped being about white guys.
Yup…You heard right.
Strap yourselves in, boys, because we’re flying straight into this asteroid field. Before I say anything else, let’s make one thing clear. Personal tastes vary. Some people might prefer the campiness of A New Hope to the grounded character drama of The Last Jedi, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If you saw The Last Jedi, and you didn’t enjoy it, that, on its own, doesn’t make you racist or sexist or anything else.
This article is for the whiny man-babies who endlessly rant about how this film is an attack on white men. And yes, they do. Hating on this movie is the Alt Right’s fun new obsession. Here’s Alex Jones ranting about how The Last Jedi is an SJW conspiracy to…be an SJW conspiracy. I don’t know. He’s not really clear on what the social justice endgame is supposed to be. But you can rest assured that he’ll spend ten minutes telling you that Star Wars is just a bunch of SJW crap, and movies are all the same now…because they have women in them.
Yeah, okay. Alex Jones is a lunatic. Fair point. Maybe you’re thinking I should go after someone who can actually make a solid critique of this film. The point isn’t Jones himself so much as it is the fact that people actually listen to this man. Star Wars is bad because it has a woman with purple hair in it. We can have the big-nosed flying creature who dresses like a Hasidic Jew. We can have the humanoid fish who wears Qin Dynasty robes. We can have the scantily-clad lady with tentacle hair because that doesn’t threaten white guys in any way. But a female authority figure with purple hair? Well, that’s just too weird for Star Wars!
Sargon of Akkad had an interesting take on the film…No, you know what? I’m not going to make you sit through his half-hour-long brain cell killer. I’ll just link you to my buddy, Kevin Logan, who plays relevant clips. Apparently, Sargon thinks The Last Jedi is a film about communism.
Now that I think back on it, I did forget that moment halfway through the movie when Luke walks into the sacred vault of Jedi texts and pulls out a copy of Das Kapital.
If my thesis isn’t entirely clear by this point, let me state it plainly. This is just a movie. It’s a very good movie with lots of interesting plot twists and fleshed-out characters but a movie nonetheless.
Most of the flaws that people ascribe to this film don’t actually exist. There are no pacing issues, no tone issues. The characters are fully-developed. The action is well-executed. You can enjoy this movie on multiple levels. There’s plenty of food for thought, but if you just want a fast-paced action movie, you’ll find that too. In my opinion, Disney and Lucasfilm did everything right.
If you disagree, that’s fine. All good art leaves room for interpretation. But if you’re one of these people who tweet at Rian Johnson to tell him that he single-handedly ruined Star Wars, chances are your real problem is that you’re just not comfortable with a movie that features women and people of colour as main characters.
So get over yourselves.
Rich Penney is a science-fiction author and futurist. You can check out his books here.