This isn’t going to go the way in which you assume: The Final Jedi and the mandatory disappointment of epilogues

Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker in Star Wars: The Final Jedi (Picture: John Wilson/Lucasfilm Ltd.)

This text discusses main plot factors from each Star Wars: The Pressure Awakens and Star Wars: The Final Jedi.

Luke Skywalker is previous. After we see him in The Final Jedi, the previous golden boy who as soon as gazed on the sky and dreamed of journey is now a bedraggled grey hermit who simply desires to be left alone, trying and sounding like a cross between True Grit’s John Wayne and Monty Python’s “It’s” man. He’s holed up on his distant island, alone together with his guilt and his recollections, milking the bitter teats of dolorous alien hippos with a primitive, nihilistic gusto. He’s damaged, having seen all the pieces he’s ever achieved—all the pieces that made him a legend—rendered meaningless by the rise of yet one more evil Empire beneath a a lot lamer title. All that he ever fought for, everybody he misplaced within the course of (his aunt and uncle, his mentor, even his personal father) was finally for nothing, as a result of all the pieces’s proper again the place it was. After which, he dies.

Han Solo is even older. After we see him in The Pressure Awakens, the good-looking rogue who’d lastly discovered his true calling, together with the primary loyal, real buddies he’s ever recognized (Chewbacca excepted, after all) is correct again the place we first met him. Nothing might be sadder. As a senior citizen, the entire “scoundrel” factor is considerably much less charming now. He should still bear some hint of that very same wry, Harrison Ford grin, however the swagger is noticeably gone. There’s one thing a bit of pathetic about the truth that Han’s nonetheless sporting his cool-guy leather-based jacket, hanging out together with his previous working dog-buddy, nonetheless on the market swindling petty cargo masses to make ends meet. He was a basic, for space-God’s sake; he’d captained an epochal, galaxy-saving marketing campaign and fallen in love with a princess. But only a few a long time later, he’s misplaced her, he’s misplaced his son, and he’s even misplaced the Millennium Falcon. He can’t even schmooze his method out of a minor jam with some generic space-hoods. After which, he dies.

Among the many complaints about The Final Jedi (and there have been many), the one which appears to hold probably the most weight with self-proclaimed “true” Star Wars followers is that Rian Johnson’s movie dishonors Luke Skywalker’s legacy—much more so than J.J. Abrams’ tarnishes Han Solo’s, who no less than appears comfy again in all-time low. It’s an argument that’s been lent some surprising weight by none aside from Luke Skywalker himself: A preferred video that’s presently making the rounds, at 1.79 million views and climbing, cobbles collectively dozens of interview clips ostensibly proving that “Mark Hamill Hates Star Wars: The Final Jedi.” In them, Hamill seemingly bemoans the truth that these new movies are being dealt with by “youngsters;” he suggests an entire rewrite of The Pressure Awakens, wherein Luke swoops in heroically to save lots of Leia simply in time to witness Han’s loss of life “as an alternative of two characters who’ve recognized him, what, 20 minutes;” and he laments the brand new franchise’s box-office success being mistaken for it being any “good.”

Although he’s lengthy had this type of dryly candid, self-deprecating humorousness about him, right here Hamill really comes off form of… bitter. And in tandem with different interviews the place he recollects telling director Rian Johnson, “I feel I basically disagree with all the pieces you’ve determined for me,” you might actually construct a case that Hamill isn’t simply joking round, that he really looks like he’s been railroaded by newer, youthful filmmakers and money-hungry execs who haven’t any respect for him or the tales they’re constructing on.

However then, that is all the time the danger—and the inevitable disappointment—of epilogues. When Disney first acquired Lucasfilm and introduced a brand new sequence of films to happen after Return Of The Jedi, it was an implicit announcement that the victory our heroes had achieved, the one which followers had been celebrating for many years for example of sunshine all the time successful out towards the darkish, was about to be undone. Star Wars followers had handled this concept earlier than within the post-Jedi tales of the Expanded Universe, wherein new threats arose to take up the mantle of the not-wholly-vanquished Empire. However there Luke, Han, Leia, et al. have been nonetheless young-ish and virile, and imbued with the lasting confidence of their win. They—and we—knew there wasn’t something they couldn’t deal with now, and there was little to problem that notion—or to upset ROTJ’s excellent vacation photograph ending of all of them basking of their triumph whereas the Ewoks drummed joyfully on the hollowed-out skulls of the Stormtroopers they only ate. (They positively ate them.) It’s why, when George Lucas determined there was extra story to inform, he retreated to the security of historical past, understanding there would nonetheless be that completely satisfied ending on the market ready. Nothing can erase that.

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And but, that’s not how life works. Victories fade, changed by new challenges. Heroes become older. They turn out to be broken-down and form of pathetic, bearded and cynical. Generally they even find yourself on their lonesome, stewing over decades-old fuck-ups, suckling on the nipples of unhappy, mutant cows. Comfortable endings are all the time undone as a result of “endings” don’t actually exist. Time doesn’t cease once you need it to. Your “future” can and will likely be slowly eroded away by the numerous small, cumulative abrasions of life that inevitably comply with after you obtain it. That is actual, and it’s disillusioning, and it may well fill you with righteous anger on the unjustness of all of it. After which, you die.

In tackling this notion head-on—in being prepared to not solely problem Star Wars’ completely satisfied ending, however to query whether or not completely satisfied endings really exist—these new movies are giving the saga one thing that it’s all the time considerably lacked, even in all its fixed grappling with themes of the spirit versus the machine: humanity. That’s not all the time a straightforward match with the sorts of myths that Star Wars updates; not often can we speak about the truth that Hercules, for instance, triumphed over his Twelve Labors, solely to finish up a twice-married widower who received killed by a shirt. And the very concept of it pisses off individuals who cling to the phantasm that their personal hero’s journey will sometime be “full.”

And but, that’s the story of life. We get to what looks like a snug finish—married with youngsters, say, achieved in our careers, content material to simply let issues stay established order ceaselessly. Then life intrudes, as a result of we’re just one small chapter inside its story. These issues change and slip away. We could “basically disagree” with what life decides for us. Life writes its epilogue anyway.

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The Final Jedi tells us this explicitly, repeatedly—even proper there within the trailer. “Let the previous die. Kill it, if it’s a must to,” Kylo Ren says to Rey. “This isn’t going to go the way in which you assume,” Luke tells her earlier.

Most have rightly recognized these as meta commentaries on the brand new motion pictures themselves: These movies aren’t going to play by the principles of familial future, Chosen One narratives, and all the opposite myths Joseph Campbell deconstructed a long time in the past and that George Lucas popularized for a brand new era of movies. To ensure that Star Wars to proceed in any respect, it has to undo, if not outright destroy, the story that got here earlier than—to burn the “sacred texts,” as The Final Jedi does in one in every of its different, extra on-the-nose moments.

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In any other case, what story is there to inform? Luke turns into much more the self-possessed, barely New Age-y bore he was in Return Of The Jedi, dutifully passing on his knowledge to a brand new era of Jedi trainees? Han and Leia’s marriage suffers the occasional strains, however largely they’re completely satisfied in love? All of them should intermittently band collectively towards one other Palpatine wannabe whom they—and we—know will finally be vanquished, as a result of they already did this as soon as? Star Wars: And Every little thing Was Fairly A lot Superb will not be a very compelling story to hold a brand new era of films on.

On the identical time, regardless of the way it may make us really feel—we “true” Star Wars followers, Mark Hamill, anybody who aches for the loss of life of our heroes and the asterisk that now stands subsequent to their sacrifices—it’s turn out to be clear over time that that is the story the Star Wars saga was all the time making an attempt to inform. The primary movie’s subtitle, A New Hope, hints at its very cyclical nature. Within the prequels, Anakin was that new hope: “You have been the Chosen One!” Obi-wan Kenobi shouts at Anakin with all of the frustration of somebody who thought this struggle was lastly about to finish, that the lack of his personal buddies and mentors would finally imply one thing. In Rogue One, “hope” comes within the type of the Demise Star plans, obtained at nice price to but extra lives, that are handed off to Princess Leia within the remaining scene—“hope” that then turns into about Leia cajoling Obi-wan Kenobi into rediscovering his personal, and in flip, passing it alongside to Luke. Even the “new hope” that Luke Skywalker represented must be renewed a number of occasions over, watered by the blood of numerous troopers and Bothan spies. And it led to what was, actually, solely the short-term defeat of a planet-destroying battle station that the Empire simply went and constructed a pair extra occasions anyway.

In The Final Jedi, that new hope comes full circle as Luke—in his personal Kenobi-like, self-imposed exile—first rejects its pull as a “low cost transfer,” earlier than he, too, finally sacrifices himself in its title. By film’s finish, “hope” is the small spark that’s nonetheless burning within the handful of Resistance survivors who’re as soon as extra beating retreat on the Millennium Falcon, reconvening their decimated numbers to plot what comes subsequent, That hope persists, whilst we’re left with the crushing, real-world data that the final of our previous heroes up there on the display gained’t be round to hold it by way of.

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It’s miserable, and it’s galling, and to some offended followers, it’s needlessly merciless. Nevertheless it’s additionally the truest and most essential factor this house fantasy has ever mentioned. The necessity for “a brand new hope” by no means ends, and that’s exhausting. It’s irritating. It doesn’t appear to be it must be that method—actually not within the tales we inform ourselves to distract us from such realities. Actually not in a yr the place, for thus many, it looks like we simply emerged from a interval of “hope” solely to seek out ourselves proper again on the backside once more, ready for a brand new one to come back alongside. In that very same Mark Hamill video, he even hits upon this observe whereas discussing simply how shortly the previous ’60s hippie delusions pale: “There’ll be no extra wars! We’ll finish world famine! Hey child, love is all you want… We failed! And now the world is worse than it’s ever been.” We’re nonetheless at struggle, persons are nonetheless hungry (and about to get hungrier), and Mark Hamill is having his personal inspirational phrases thrown again at him by Ted Cruz. This epilogue is pure rubbish. It’s filled with plot holes and mindless contrivances and it sucks.

However then, that’s life. That’s how tales go—all of them. We evolve, for higher and, in all probability extra usually, for worse. And we’re all the time at struggle. In being prepared to inform us that, at a time after we arguably want to listen to it most—at a time when Star Wars’ authentic followers are coming into center age, and our tradition is more and more feeding us the form of nostalgic consolation that may go away us dangerously entrenched and emotionally stunted, unable to deal with change—The Final Jedi gave us this heartbreaking, enraging, totally bullshit enrichment of Star Wars as one in every of our most significant fashionable myths. What comes subsequent will certainly even be tragic and transferring and triumphant and, finally, meaningless. I can’t wait to see it.

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