I should have known better, but against my better judgement I decided to take in the latest saga in the Star Wars ‘brand’. I actually have a general rule of thumb which is, “if the 1st installment is good, don’t expect any improvement in subsequent installments”. By and large this philosophy has served me well. As an example, The Bourne series was ceased (by me) after the 2nd movie(3 and 4 were so dire that I cannot bring myself to mention them) because often the decline in quality is immediate, and although I was a Star Wars fan from the original movie(showing my age now), there were a couple of duds in these (read Attack of The Clones, and The Phantom Menace).But overall, with George Lucas at the helm I persevered with it.
The Last Jedi, which I watched a few hours ago made me realise that ‘the franchise'(another word which irks me) has gone from an epic space adventure to a business entity/money making product, with an incredible loss of both credibility and quality. Watching the film, the only thing which was missing was the raising of the American flag, or John Wayne seeing off the Indians, “to preserve justice for all” All of the cliches, and moral values which are constantly inflicted on us via movies were present in this movie, and the scene which was a direct throwback to this was the ‘cattle being ridden through the casino’. Cowboys and Indians at its best. The script supported this in so many scenes. “You are a loose cannon” ,”we have got to help him”(no, not at the cost of everyone), and “we win by saving people, not killing them”. This was real ‘good guys vs bad guys, in every way, but it was completely in your face, and a portrayal of a world that does not exist.
The one thing which might have have saved it was the introduction of non-established actors, which was one of the plus points in the early days, but no. The profit made from the film will be in part made from the sales of ‘mahogany’ which the acting had a startling likeness to. Bland acting papered over by lots of action. A formula which seems to be more and more prevalent these days. Even the so called ‘baddies’ look like public school boys who have graduated from the most expensive acting academies (or not), and have a fear factor of a wet tissue. The introduction of an aging Hans Solo and The Wookie, merely provided temporary respite in a lame product.
Do the scriptwriter just go for safety in repetition? “It has always worked so we will not change it” One can almost predict the script lines oneself. So obvious are they in their delivery. Maybe the philosophy which built America is fine for them, but please do not inflict it everyday, in every way, on others. Not only is the standard of film-making being degraded due to finance( how much a film takes at the box office in its first weekend is not a review of the film), but also the plots and acting are being sacrificed in the name of the ‘franchise’ generating income by ‘conflict for conflict’s sake, moralistic rule, psychoanalytical dialogues, and the ‘I will lay down my life for the cause’ finale.
Predictable, no longer subliminal, and completely non-compelling, in the same way the ‘Superheroes’ franchise is heading, my hope is that the wholesale thinking behind these movies changes, before films become nothing more that celluloid gold mines.