Star Wars

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Dr. Medulla
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Re: Star Wars

Post by Dr. Medulla » 02 Jan 2018, 6:48pm

Flex wrote:
02 Jan 2018, 5:57pm
I think I get what you're saying, but I still didn't really read it the way you did watching the flick. Would the Falcon getting vaporized in the final moments have come as a surprise (outside of the metataxtual read that knows a film franchise isn't going to wipe out a ship with all its leads when there's a bankable next installment to film, naturally)? It would have for me, since I think it would have pretty cynically wiped out the struggle and growth that our characters went through this whole time. I guess I'd juxtapose what I think was the movie's careful, deliberate character development against the backdrop of what was (I agree) the most bleak of Star Wars story sequences to date. If the entire thrust of the movie was to interrogate the meaning of heroism, hope and sacrifice (and one of the things I liked was that it landed firmly on the idea that sacrifice in the name of victory is not, inherently, heroic or acceptable. While some life-giving sacrifice was valorised, the movie was equally firm that no life is inherently expendable and there are - perhaps many - times when saving those you love is more important than sacrifice to destroy an enemy) then the Falcon blowing up in that context would have been harshly dissonant. I think the character arcs are so vital to the movie that decoupling them from the scenarios those characters are set into is cleaving away an important tool to reading what's going on in the film, and how we respond to what's on screen.
Whoa whoa whoa, at no time was I suggesting that the Falcon be destroyed! Only that the way the narrative was structured, with one high-tension encounter after another, with the resistance number shrinking a little more each time, there was no reason not to have them go thru yet another seat-of-their-pants fight before escaping. My critique of the storytelling is that it doesn't have an appealing (ymmv, of course) rhythm and logic, and so why not have yet another death-defying battle? Of course they have to escape. Destroying the Falcon would be wholly insane.
I think that Rogue One, and continuing with this flick, did a lot to give credibility to the franchise for caring about the regular members of the Rebellion who aren't high falutin' generals or Skywalkers. I mean, yeah, Rose's sister is similar to the death of any X-wing fighter, and that's part of the point. Heroic sacrifice isn't something to strive for or to embrace so readily, which is what Holdo's arc grapples with (It helps that the fantastic Laura Dern pulls it off).
And I think that's the crucial point where we differ—about the appropriate scale of the Star Wars story. The first two trilogies (even the shitty prequels) and Abrams' revival all work on a grand scale. Drawing from pre-modern conceptions of heroism and storytelling, these people are chosen by events to do great deeds. Not for nothing was the original Star Wars called a space opera. While I liked Rogue One as a movie, with its ambiguities of justified behaviour and purpose, I didn't think it was a good Star Wars film because it operates on that more "street level" scale and the characters are less chosen than choose to act. That is, it's modern. I'd argue that your preference for Rogue One means that you fundamentally reject the core concept behind Lucas' vision—being chosen to do great deeds, not choosing to do them.
As an aside, and not specifically pertaining to this discussion, my special lady friend is of Asian decent and found the inclusion of Rose and her sister's stories in the film extremely powerful.
Far and away the best part of Disney reinvigorating the series is in making it more cosmopolitan, to give more audience members an opportunity to find heroes that might look more like them. Even if it's a cynical tactic to appeal to more markets, not making women and people of colour have to fantasize that they're a white male to really get into the film is an obvious virtue.
I'd argue the casino planet plotline is the heart of the film! It continues the importance of the common man in the direction Star Wars is taking us, and the tangible power relationships that make up the long ago and far away Galaxy. It answers one question I had at the beginning of this film - how the heck did the Republic fall so quickly again - by illustrating the ineffectiveness of those institutions and their structural rot (the Republic didn't improve the lives of the people on casino planet, and those weapons dealers worked with both First Order and Republic) and sets up two of our primary moral mouthpieces to work through the importance of helping the concrete, tangible struggles of the dispossed (as opposed to abstracted laser sword battles on star destroyers)
Very interesting interpretation, which does make a lot of sense when one approaches the story from the "street level." I'll have to muse about this more, but my initial reaction is that if this the crucial component, it's underplayed in favour of Ren, Rey, and that force crap.
Similarly, the red planet escape - and particularly Rose saving Fynn - concretely verify the heart of the movie: sacrifices may have to be made, but not all sacrifices are noble and necessary. Saving what you love is more important than destroying the enemy. I think Luke's effort on saving the alliance fits well with his growth here: his cynicism has been cast aside in favor of a hope that extends beyond a single Jedi but an embrace of a more nuanced understanding of struggle, hope and sacrifice that aligns with what the movie has been moving us towards itself.
Even accepting your interpretation of the core "message" of the film—and I don't disagree with it—Rose could save Finn on Snoke's ship during the climactic battle that I suggested earlier. All of those things could be done on Snoke's ship, allowing things to end with a big bang. Even if I come around to your interpretation of the casino planet, I just don't see the point of the salt planet, especially coming after this huge Death Star-like explosion. And in a movie that is pretty dang long, it drags out settling matters that could have been done in the previous set.
In any case, this movie more than any other of the franchise, has gotten me excited about Star Wars as something more than a fun, escapist romp.
Whereas I'm now more relieved that Abrams is finishing things off, as I loved TFA because it played out to me like Lucas' original vision that so wowed me as a kid, but with a far better director than Lucas ever could be. I'm reluctant to dismiss the earlier installments as escapist romps, but I do think they are swashbuckling, romantic sagas that play on a huge canvas. They're pretty uncomplicated morality tales of duty and achievement. They're all foreground, whereas I think you'd prefer more of the details in the shadows and background. (Still, I'll be seeing Johnson's other SW films when they come out because, c'mon, it's Star Wars. There may be weak Star Wars films, but there are no weak films involving Star Wars. Even the prequels.)
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Re: Star Wars

Post by Dr. Medulla » 02 Jan 2018, 10:25pm

An additional thought: If the guiding point of the movie is, to paraphrase you, a hierarchy of sacrifice, where some sacrifices are much more virtuous than others, is the narrative a refutation of Poe's decision to destroy the dreadnaught at any cost and against orders, leading to the deaths of so many comrades? While not a villain per se, is he a bad guy? That his actions initiate what follows does make some sense, but he emerges unscathed from it all, which would seem to weasel out from him meriting punishment.
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Re: Star Wars

Post by revbob » 02 Jan 2018, 11:34pm

What I like is that douchbag nazis/right wingers hate it.

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Re: Star Wars

Post by Dr. Medulla » 03 Jan 2018, 7:10am

revbob wrote:
02 Jan 2018, 11:34pm
What I like is that douchbag nazis/right wingers hate it.
Ahem, they prefer to be called "real fans."
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Re: Star Wars

Post by Dr. Medulla » 03 Jan 2018, 8:35am

Longish piece that touches on some of the differences Flex and I have about SW more generally: https://slate.com/arts/2018/01/the-last ... -myth.html

edit: Thinking about this some, I wonder if this kind of internal tear down of what SW means is driven by Disney's desire to expand the franchise. That the Lucas vision is too restricting if you want to make a zillion more movies, so it's necessary to alter certain aspects to free future creators to play around in the universe. The question does rest on how much can you remove or alter and still consider it SW instead of, well, a simulacrum? Which does come down to how narrowly or widely the audience defines SW. Even if I don't see SW as something street level gritty, like Rogue One, I don't see it as a bad thing for opening the concept up to those who do want that. It does mean that future movies won't be made with my expectations in mind, but there are plenty of those films made already.
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Re: Star Wars

Post by eumaas » 08 Jan 2018, 11:49pm

Didn't care for it.
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Re: Star Wars

Post by Dr. Medulla » 09 Jan 2018, 7:36am

eumaas wrote:
08 Jan 2018, 11:49pm
Didn't care for it.
What didn't work for you?
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Re: Star Wars

Post by eumaas » 09 Jan 2018, 12:27pm

Dr. Medulla wrote:
09 Jan 2018, 7:36am
eumaas wrote:
08 Jan 2018, 11:49pm
Didn't care for it.
What didn't work for you?
Caveat that Star Wars doesn't mean as much to me as it does to some people.

I found it to be an unfocused mess.
1. The tonal disparity: I found the constant oscillation between wacky comedy and gloomy despair really disorienting.
2. The numerous twists and reversals got old for me. Leia's dead!--Just kidding, she isn't. Holdo is bad.--No, she's not, and you should care about her! Poe is bad, actually (a mutineer!), but Poe is good. The film's theme of failure doesn't really help matters here. After the halfway point I expected anything that happened to be subsequently reversed or taken back. I wouldn't have been surprised if the Falcon blew up. Followed, of course, by some comedy.
3. The Holdo thing seemed to be handled ineptly. Rather than be amazed by the big reveal that Holdo is actually competent (although here I'll note that her plan fails so she has to sacrifice herself in the jump attack rather than sacrifice herself passively in a holding maneuver), I was annoyed that the audience was set up to sympathize with Poe. It just seemed completely unnecessary to create the conflict between Poe and Holdo. The audience doesn't know who the hell she is, so the reveal that she's actually good (but again, see above) didn't do anything for me. I just felt, "So what?" The film also gives no reason for Holdo to withhold her plan from Poe and the other would-be mutineers, so the whole conflict seems unnecessary. Why not depict her as heroic from the start?
4. Leia's presumably force-driven resurrection moment looked like something from the nadir of the Russell T. Davies run on Doctor Who.
5. The structure felt more like concatenated set pieces than any kind of arc.

Things I liked:
1. BB-8 is cute and good.
2. The porgs are cute and good and basically pokemons, although the scene with Chewbacca trying to eat one felt unnecessary.
3. The notion that Rey doesn't have a special background, but rose up in reaction to Kylo Ren's rise is neat. So any desire on the part of Luke to abolish the Jedi or Kylo Ren to abolish the Sith is futile. Any excess of light or dark produces its opposite in equal measure. This seems fatalistic enough to fit the Lucas roots while also being a bit of a novel read on it. It also implies that the conflict doesn't really end, it just abates in times of balance, so their struggle is ultimately just a recapitulation of an eternal struggle. This sort of robs the good guys of any victory, but they already did that with the first sequel, so this one really doubles down. The casino planet underscores that the victory wasn't much of a victory as noted earlier in the thread.
4. I liked Luke's island. I recognized it as an early medieval Irish monastery.
5. Mark Hamill is a treasure.
6. The Rey-Ren chemistry is pretty good. I enjoyed their interactions.
7. Rose and Finn was also nice.
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Re: Star Wars

Post by eumaas » 09 Jan 2018, 12:28pm

Also, I think maybe that these laser sword space knight movies are just not able to bear the cultural weight we have placed on them.
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Re: Star Wars

Post by Dr. Medulla » 09 Jan 2018, 12:46pm

Of the things you found a mess, I wasn't bothered by 1, 2, and 4, but definitely 3 and especially 5. That was my biggest problem with the film—there's nothing wrong with the basic thrust of the story, but I don't feel it was told well. And I agree with all the things you liked, notably your third point. I've read people's responses of being pissed off that the victory in RotJ is meaningless, especially as Luke becomes cynical and all. But if one accepts this whole thing as an endless cyclical fight, a quest for balance that can't ever be achieved, there are no final victories, just new arrangements.
eumaas wrote:
09 Jan 2018, 12:28pm
Also, I think maybe that these laser sword space knight movies are just not able to bear the cultural weight we have placed on them.
I was actually thinking about this a few days ago because I was looking up something in a book by Tom Engelhardt, The End of Victory Culture. He argued that the appeal of the original trilogy at the time was Cold War related, especially after Vietnam. Americans had just experienced the ugliness of being exposed as an empire and getting beaten by perceived inferiors (racially, culturally, and technologically). Star Wars said, no, Americans can be the rebels fighting for freedom. In a post-Cold War world, and especially in the War on Terror and Civil Liberties, it's harder to accept those simple divisions in the fantasy—too much ugly reality intrudes. Which does, I think, speak to Flex's desire to see Star Wars get darker and murkier. Whether it can still be Star Wars in spirit, tho, is something I'm less certain of.
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Re: Star Wars

Post by eumaas » 09 Jan 2018, 12:59pm

I forgot to mention that I also was kind of bored at moments. There were times when I just wanted it to be over.
Dr. Medulla wrote:
09 Jan 2018, 12:46pm
Of the things you found a mess, I wasn't bothered by 1, 2, and 4, but definitely 3 and especially 5. That was my biggest problem with the film—there's nothing wrong with the basic thrust of the story, but I don't feel it was told well. And I agree with all the things you liked, notably your third point. I've read people's responses of being pissed off that the victory in RotJ is meaningless, especially as Luke becomes cynical and all. But if one accepts this whole thing as an endless cyclical fight, a quest for balance that can't ever be achieved, there are no final victories, just new arrangements.

People shit on Abrams but I think he's more competent than Johnson. I feel like the script should've gotten another set of eyes on it, and been directed by someone else. Some of the performances were a bit off too.
I was actually thinking about this a few days ago because I was looking up something in a book by Tom Engelhardt, The End of Victory Culture. He argued that the appeal of the original trilogy at the time was Cold War related, especially after Vietnam. Americans had just experienced the ugliness of being exposed as an empire and getting beaten by perceived inferiors (racially, culturally, and technologically). Star Wars said, no, Americans can be the rebels fighting for freedom. In a post-Cold War world, and especially in the War on Terror and Civil Liberties, it's harder to accept those simple divisions in the fantasy—too much ugly reality intrudes. Which does, I think, speak to Flex's desire to see Star Wars get darker and murkier. Whether it can still be Star Wars in spirit, tho, is something I'm less certain of.
Yeah, I have heard the idea of it being Americans projecting themselves in a Viet Cong position.
I feel that there is a fascistic element, for example, in the Rolling Stones . . .
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Re: Star Wars

Post by eumaas » 09 Jan 2018, 1:16pm

Also, Admiral Ackbar died like a chump.
I feel that there is a fascistic element, for example, in the Rolling Stones . . .
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I've studied the phenomenon of neo-provincialism in self-isolating online communities but this place takes the fucking cake.
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Re: Star Wars

Post by Dr. Medulla » 09 Jan 2018, 1:17pm

eumaas wrote:
09 Jan 2018, 12:59pm
I forgot to mention that I also was kind of bored at moments. There were times when I just wanted it to be over.
I wasn't bored (with the possible exception of the casino planet); instead, most of the time I felt the tension was unending. In that respect, I found it too long.
People shit on Abrams but I think he's more competent than Johnson. I feel like the script should've gotten another set of eyes on it, and been directed by someone else. Some of the performances were a bit off too.
I said upthread that I was still optimistic about the next film because I loved TFA and Abrams is coming back. Some criticism of Johnson that I read from another director (Ridley Scott?) was that he'd never done a big budget film before and that he was exposed. All that money is a luxury but it does contain its own challenges. Abrams certainly has proven he knows how to do big budget films. The bigger challenge for Abrams might be the temptation to undo what Johnson was doing, turning the third trilogy into a dumb arm wrestling competition between directors.
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Re: Star Wars

Post by Wolter » 09 Jan 2018, 1:28pm

*shrug emoji*

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Re: Star Wars

Post by eumaas » 09 Jan 2018, 1:41pm

I feel that there is a fascistic element, for example, in the Rolling Stones . . .
— Morton Feldman

I've studied the phenomenon of neo-provincialism in self-isolating online communities but this place takes the fucking cake.
— Clashy

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