I don't really have any time to do this, I've got a lot of work to do, I've got obligations that I'm not fulfilling, but I can't help myself. I heard something yesterday and I just can't get it out of my head, it just keeps repeating and repeating, and I've got to address it, I've got to say something...
I guess that's passion. When you say, you know, I've got all these things that I need to do, but I absolutely NEED to do this as well. So, here's an essay for you that I don't have time to write, but I'm making time for, because my brain just won't leave me alone.
A lot of people don't like the newest Star Wars episode, THE LAST JEDI. And you know, maybe I shouldn't say "a lot of people." There are some very vocal people who did not like it, and to say they didn't like it is an understatement.
And live and let live, that should be my attitude. You don't have to like what I like. We can all co-exist, even if you believe one thing and I don't believe it.
But yesterday... I'm into action figures, mostly for selling them, but I do occasionally buy some for myself, and there's a new wave of LAST JEDI figures that are about to come out. And yesterday, a guy said, "I'm going to order this set, but I don't want the FORCE AWAKENS Rey, and I certainly don't want the Character Assassination Luke Skywalker."
But as I was trying to say a minute ago, live and let live. You don't have to like what I like. You don't have to like THE LAST JEDI. You don't have to like me. Hate is a great motivator, just ask anybody who ever hefted a sword, or a Bible, or a white pillowcase. But, like Resistance Tech Rose said, we win not by fighting what we hate, but saving what we love.
Having said that, I couldn't get it out of my head, it just kept repeating in my mind over and over again, Character Assassination Luke Skywalker, until finally, I thought, if I could just push pause on time, so that time did not continue to move forward, I would do that and I would sit down and I would write an essay about this.
And I put it off and tried to do some work, but after twenty minutes, I made a growling sound, and set aside my work. I sat down and I started this.
Okay, cards on the table, I quite enjoyed THE LAST JEDI. But let me go a step further and say I loved THE LAST JEDI. Now, I recognize that there are issues with it, especially the middle of the movie. When I've talked about it on my podcasts, I've complained that the Canto Bight sequence is straight out of the Prequels. And in my own vernacular, that's a negative.
And now I've got to interrupt myself. The last comic convention I went to, there was a panel that Pablo Hidalgo was giving--he's part of the Lucasfilm Story Group--and after the presentation, he opened it up for questions at the end. And a dude marched up to the microphone, and he said, "First off, I have to say that I love the Prequels, and if you don't, then you need to...grow...up." And then he continued with whatever question he had to ask.
And this . . . I'm not going to go as far as to say that it infuriated me, but whatever's just one notch lower on the totem pole than "Infuriated" is, that's what I felt. I don't remember his question, and I don't care. At that moment, I was tempted to stand up, go to the microphone and say, "First off, I have to say this: STAR WARS is just a movie, and a whole lot of marketing around that movie, all that stuff is just made up, and if you think it's more than that . . . you need to grow up." Then I'd just walk away.
That's what I wanted to do, and a little part of me still sort of wishes I had done that (because I'm no role model). Except that would make me an asshole. You know, let's put a pin in that point, that I'll come back to down the line, okay?
But I loved the film, because of what it did for me emotionally. It spoke to me, it moved me, it inspired me, and I'm not really exaggerating when I say I don't need any more Star Wars movies after this. I guess that's where the angry fanboys and I are in agreement, isn't it? But I'm fine with what they gave me; I felt like this was a good way to go out.
I'm tempted to go on a tangent and talk about EPISODE 9 (the next one), because what do you do? I won't talk about that. One day, I will get together with my friends and we will talk about it.
And, through the course of the film, he opens himself up again, he starts training Rey, I guess, a little bit. He tells her his reasoning for his self-imposed exile, and when she goes off to do what she can, he stays behind, with no way of getting off the planet (his X-wing is scuttled), and decides to destroy the sacred Jedi texts. And Master Yoda appears to him and tells him that Luke still has more to learn, and that failure is our greatest teacher. It's kind of a neat moment, those two together.
And at the end of the movie, Luke Skywalker magically shows up, to take on the First Order all by himself. He has a moment with Leia, has a moment with Threepio, he has a moment with Kylo Ren. And while the remaining few members of the Resistance escape, Luke creates a diversion, focusing all the attention on him.
It turns out that it's a projection, and he's used all of his life force to achieve this goal, and then he fades away, as Yoda did, in RETURN OF THE JEDI.
And we get this nice little coda at the end of the movie--which I know that people also hate, but ah well--this coda where there are children--which represent all of the children in the galaxy, telling stories about Luke Skywalker, this hero that they look up to. And one day, they too will rise and make a stand against injustice, because of the example that Luke Skywalker set.
Now, that's my interpretation of the movie, and that really spoke to me. I don't feel that's character assassination at all, I feel like they're showing us an unexpected, certainly--and there was a lot of unexpected stuff in this movie--unexpected side to Luke.
Oh gosh, I'm reminded there was a story that came out a few years back that Mother Teresa's journals had been acquired, and people were going through the writings in preparation to publish them. And they discovered that she had been very conflicted in her life, that she had doubts, that she was depressed a lot of the time, and that she even questioned the existence of God. And there was a bit of an outcry about this, of "Oh, this person that we thought so much of, this great hero was nothing of the sort--"
"This Super-man is nothing of the kind, I have found his weakness."
It was, like, "Fuck Mother Teresa, she's no hero."
But when I read that, I was more impressed by Mother Teresa than I had been before I heard that, because her her weaknesses, her vulnerability, her doubt, made her more of a hero, more respectful, more . . .
It made her a person.
And you know, I'm not going to convince anybody that seeing Luke Skywalker with flaws, seeing Luke Skywalker with regrets, is better than what you had in your head.
There's a moment where they flash back to reveal that Luke had considered killing his nephew Ben, because he saw the path ahead and saw that his nephew was going to create great suffering. He considered doing it, and Kylo Ren saw that in his uncle's eyes, and it terrified him. We don't know the whole story, but if I were writing it, I'd say that that made the decision for Ben Solo: he was going to embrace the Dark Side, and kill a whole lot of the next generation's future.
And Luke didn't do it, he chose not to do it, but the damage was done. Kylo Ren turned and killed a whole bunch of Luke's students--
We don't know who these students are. It's gonna be up to somebody to fill in that backstory, to come up with who were these students, to create characters among them that we embrace and fear for. Probably not me, but I'd take the job. And who's to say they weren't Luke's own children? He killed all these kids, and took a bunch of followers with him, who I'm assuming we will see in EPISODE 9, and Luke considered that the deal-breaker.
There has to have been a scene where Luke talks to Han and/or Leia and tells them what has happened, that he blames himself, and he abandons everybody and he goes off on his own, essentially to live out the rest of his days, stewing in his guilt.
And see, that's another thing where I can see people saying, "Oh, there's no hero. A hero would've stayed behind and cleaned up his own mess."
And ultimately, what happens in THE LAST JEDI is he steps forward, he makes this last sacrifice--
And was it too little, too late?
I wouldn't think Poe Dameron would say so. I don't think Resistance Tech Rose would say so. If we could understand Nein Nunb, he'd have a thing or two to say about that. The handful of people that managed to survive and escape in the Millennium Falcon would say he helped them out. Rey, Daughter of Nobodys, helped too, of course. They got out and survived, to maybe fight another day.
We'll find out December of 2019, of course.
And then Luke died. And you know, putting it the way I'm putting it, I see the reason people would hate what was done with Luke Skywalker.
And that James Earl Jones thing isn't even all that bad. I never understood so many people's focus on it as that as the worst thing in that movie. Because it was far from it.
People did say that. And that scene is the high point, the epitome of the Star Wars Trilogy. Heck, even then it might have been The Scene of the Star Wars Trilogy.
I can't help but wonder, what would the reception of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK have been if the internet had existed in 1980? The fanboys would have absolutely excoriated it.
I apologize for using that word ("fanboy," not excoriated, eff you). The word "fanboy" has become wholly negative lately. It represents the tight-fisted, loud, closed-minded, entitled, Caucasian devotee to geek culture. But you know, I'm a fanboy, if anyone is. And am I a loathsome piece of shit?
Well, maybe I am.
So, let's use a different word than "fanboy." And I'm not going to say "neckbeard." That's a slur that's just unacceptable. It's ugly, and it's petty, and it attacks someone based on their physical appearance . . . and we don't do that anymore . . .because it's inherently wrong. Society--civilized society--has accepted this nowadays, and I can try to be part of society.
So I have to try to rid my vocabulary of my beloved racial slurs. And if I can do it, so can the rest of the country.* So I'll come up with a new word. The . . . the die-hard, angry Star Wars fans.
With the never-before-seen Force power of moving things around in space with your mind! Of a major character portrayed by an obvious Muppet! With an out-of-nowhere twist that makes absolutely no logical sense! With how raked over the coals the main character--all of the main characters were. Han, Leia, and Chewie are all tortured. C-3PO is mocked, blown to bits, carried around in pieces, somebody says “Eechuta” to him. Han is frozen in Carbonite, which according to those in the know, is super unpleasant. R2-D2 is covered in mud and eaten by some kind of space alligator, then barfed twenty feet into the air. Bossk is on screen for two and a half seconds. Luke gets his face ripped off, nearly freezes to death, is pummeled, humiliated, maimed, and has his entire psyche shattered by this revelation of who his father is.
Well, he uses the Force to contact them, so that's a bit of a silver lining. But boy, is he schooled.
Then the movie ends with the bad guys pretty much having won, but the good guys have lived to fight another day, and perhaps things will go their way next time.
How dare Irvin Kershner and Lawrence Kasdan do this to George Lucas's beloved characters and universe? And what's this "Episode V" bullshit? There's only one STAR WARS in my mind.
I don't know.
Warts and all, Luke Skywalker is a hero to me, and part of why I love him is because he is so beaten and battered in EMPIRE STRIKES BACK. And--people have been talking about this for going on thirty-eight years--Han, Leia, and Chewie are tortured because it will bring Luke Skywalker into Vader's clutches. The Emperor had foreseen this (or Vader, though I don't think we ever saw Vader being prescient).
Had Luke stayed on Dagobah, and completed his training, maybe this torture wouldn't have happened. I don't know. Who knows what would have happened had he stayed? All I know is "Only a fully-trained Jedi Knight, with the Force as his ally, can conquer Vader, and his Emperor."
Luke makes mistakes, and rushes off, and luckily it doesn't cost him his life (though it probably should have).** And instead of me/you thinking Luke is a wuss, we relate to him. We understand what he suffered and that some of that suffering was brought on by himself.
There's an arc there, and that arc is completed by the end of RETURN OF THE JEDI when he says, "I'll never turn to the Dark Side. You have failed, Your Highness. I am a Jedi, like my father before me." That's the climax of Luke's story--he passes the final test--where he briefly gives in to the Dark Side, and it feels good, makes him powerful, but he pulls himself back from the brink and chooses not to give in to his evil heritage.
Luke starts out as this wide-eyed, immature, callow farmboy (which people also make fun of, calling him whiny, or petulant, or annoying, but that stuff holds so little water when you see what he becomes by the end of the Trilogy), it's almost seems like Lucas intended that, intended for Luke to start out that way so by the end we'd stand back and say, "Holy cow, look how far he's come!"
And now, we get this new development in THE LAST JEDI, 'cause we got nothing in THE FORCE AWAKENS, and I think some of the bad reception LAST JEDI has gotten has to fall at JJ Abrams's feet, because Abrams loves to do this thing where he asks a question . . . and doesn't answer it (at least for a while).
He loves to see people think about the question, speculate about it, argue among themselves. He doesn't necessary like to answer the question.
One of the things we talked about for two years was, Was that a grave Luke was standing in front of? That rock he was facing sure looks like a headstone, doesn't it?
If so, who is buried there? Did he have a son that Kylo Ren murdered? Did he have a daughter that he thought Kylo Ren murdered, but is actually alive and walking up the steps toward him? Did Mara Jade actually exist in this continuity? You start to think about it and wonder. Who is buried there? Maybe there's a character we don't yet know about that he'll tell the story of, a teacher or a friend or a gay love interest, and they're dead, and Luke visits their grave often.
That's only one of at least a dozen questions that JJ asks, which either don't get answered in THE LAST JEDI, or were never important to begin with, and due to that, we have been talking about, for two years, something that was never intended to be significant.
Who is Supreme Leader Snoke? Is he Mace Windu? Is he Darth Plagius the Wise? Is he somehow Emperor Palpatine, sort of back from the dead? Is he Darth Vader, sort of back from the dead? Is he that Inquisitor character from "Rebels?" Is he that one, barely-glimpsed Jedi in THE PHANTOM MENACE that we never saw again?*** Is he a failed clone of the Emperor? Is he an alien, actually fifteen feet tall? Holy Snoke, he's that evil Jedi Librarian (Jocasta Nu) from EPISODE II!
Well, that turned out to not be important. Somebody's going to answer that question, explore that in a novel (not me, even if someone actually donated to Marshal's podcast), just like I said somebody would explore Kylo Ren, his fall to the Dark Side, and the significance of the Knights of Ren, but in the course of this new movie, it apparently doesn't matter.
It's not answered in THE LAST JEDI. It's just dismissed. As is Rey's parentage.
It'll be interesting to see what JJ brings to the table when he does the next Star Wars. Because he's got to wrap it all up, and he's got to decide which threads need to be tied and which ones he can just leave alone. And who knows, JJ being JJ, he may ask new questions that we will be talking about, for years to come.
That's something that he enjoys, something he does really really well, that some find frustrating, but he doesn't care. If you're talking about last week's episode of "Lost" all the way up to the start of this week's episode of "Lost," then he has succeeded.
I guess I talked a little bit about why Luke is my hero, but since this is all introspective, and masturbatory, I guess I ought to ask why I was okay with this cinematic treatment of Luke Skywalker, one of my heroes, but I was not okay with the treatment of Superman (another one of my heroes) in MAN OF STEEL?
More importantly, more significantly, "Let's take a look at what people criticized about SUPERMAN RETURNS, and make sure to do the opposite. We'll turn that on its ear. Let's re-imagine him, not as a do-gooder, a boy scout, but as a flawed, selfish, grouchy loner."
But I felt what I felt.
And maybe there are people who felt that way in THE LAST JEDI. "Luke Skywalker would never drink that green milk with a shaggy beard and then grin! How dare you!?"
MAN OF STEEL was character assassination. But not just for Superman. There's the Ma and Pa Kent re-imagining. The Pa Kent horseshit, for lack of a smellier word, was a slap in the face to the legacy of that character, to a decent, humble man, who instilled in Clark a moral baseline that he would return to over and over again throughout his life. He has these god-like powers, yet because of his upbringing (and because of him himself), he doesn't misuse them, he looks out for the little guy, he looks out for everyone.
And then Ma Kent has this line about "Be their hero, Clark, be their protector, their example, their savior . . . or don't. Because you don't owe these people anything." And that's not just a slap in the face, that's spitting lukewarm ;) green milk in the face of everything Martha Clark Kent has represented since they first thought to depict her, back in the Superboy comics days.
I could never support that version of Superman. I never saw BATMAN V SUPERMAN, and I never saw JUSTICE LEAGUE, even when my sister's family was going all together. And people seemed affronted by that. There was this lady I know that asked me over and over if I'd seen JUSTICE LEAGUE yet, and when I would explain to her why I wasn't going to see it, she never accepted my answer. I was a comic book nerd, I should support that stuff! You, you live in Idaho, why do you not own a copy of NAPOLEON DYNAMITE?!
Yet, the hurt I felt, being betrayed so by MAN OF STEEL, hasn't gone away. And I would never want to feel that again.
Look, if there are people who feel that hurt by what Rian Johnson did with Luke Skywalker in THE LAST JEDI, I'm not going to say that you're wrong, I'm not going to parrot that guy from the comic-con that said, "You need to grow up." And you know what? Looking at that person in the line, I'm sure he had his difficulties in life. He seemed limited. So he does not deserve my ill will toward him.
And I'm glad that I didn't stand up and say, "Star Wars is just a movie and you should grow up," because--and it suddenly feels like we've reached the end of this rant--STAR WARS is not just a movie. It's more than that. It's a bedrock with which people have based their morality, have based who they are, in the same way that a religious person would describe themselves as "I am a ___!" First and foremost, that's how they think of themselves. Or a person that's of a particular ethnic descent, or hails from a particular region of the globe. I am a Bostonian! I am Guamanian! I am Spartacus!"
It has affected me. Now, in my middle age, it affects me every single day probably as much as when I was ten years old and I used to draw TIE fighters on my spelling tests, and try my hand at fan fiction (which never got past two or three pages, some things never change).
Luke Skywalker was a childhood hero of mine. Once I was no longer a child (now that I needed to...grow...up!), he remained a hero of mine. And now that I have seen him character assassinated in STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI, he's still a hero of mine.
It makes me want to write something that touches people, to create something that inspires people, in the way that stuff inspired me. Granted, who can say that? Unless you're last name is Rowling, you're never going to affect people on such a scale as those George Lucas characters did.
But you can still affect people, from a handful, to thousands, to one. And I hope that I can do that, I would like to create something that speaks to people, as I was spoken to. As I am spoken to, by this universe, by these characters, by these scenarios, enough that somebody somewhere would think about it, long after putting down the book or walking out of the movie theater or kicking in the television set.
To sit down and try and put into words why they feel the way that they do. I would hope, if that were the case, that that person responded to my characters' weaknesses as well as their strengths, their fears as well as their courage, their rough edges as well as their beauty. I hope that would be the case.
That's something to look forward to. One day . . . when I grow up.
Rish Outfield, Jedi Knight
*Except for you, sir. You're special.
**But a lifetime later, he stays and doesn't get further involved, perhaps replaying that earlier failure in his mind, perhaps replaying all of his earlier failures in his mind.
***Whatever happened to Kitster, Anakin's worthless little friend on Tatooine?