I’m gonna try to keep this short. Keep your fingers crossed.
I’ve got a long history with the Star Wars films, having seen the first one in a drive-in theater with my family the summer it came out 42 years ago. The original (Episode IV, it was later called) is my favorite movie of all time, and a few years back when they chose that to be the first major motion picture translated into the Navajo language (Diné bizaad) I was there for the public premiere.
For New Years Eve 2019 earlier this week, Brooke and I went to see “Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker“. This concludes the trilogy of trilogies that George Lucas planned way back in the 80s. The whole thing finished without Lucas, of course, since Disney bought Lucasfilm and he wasn’t really involved in the final trilogy – the sequel films. But this has been billed as completing the big story arc that was started when “Star Wars” was released in 1977. So it holds some significance for me.
I walked away from the movie feeling a little stunned. I wasn’t really sure how I felt about it. I was glad the story line finally came to an end, of sorts. I was glad that a lot of loose ends were tied up. I really like the characters and the acting. But the film didn’t really come together for me. It didn’t feel like something I wanted to see again (that’s the same way I felt about Episode XIII). I wasn’t sure why I felt that way. So I turned to Red Letter Media.
Red Letter Media is a group of YouTube video makers who got internet-famous several years ago by doing a set of seven videos analyzing the film “The Phantom Menace”. The videos go into great detail about where the film fell short, and – most importantly to me as someone interested in film making – why George Lucas made all these terrible choices. The short answer is that there was nobody who had the ability or guts to tell Lucas when he was doing something stupid; due to his stature, he was surrounded by yes-men. The long answer is…well, just watch the videos. It’s 70 minutes of the best film analysis I’ve witnessed, delivered in a very weird package.
Anyhow, the Red Letter Media guys put out a 70 minute analysis of Episode IX, and I thought it might give me some insights. I was 100% right. It explained a bunch of things I missed. But most of all, it helped me understand in concrete terms why the film doesn’t really work that well. The short answer is that it was J.J. Abrams and he’s a bad writer and only a mediocre director. The long answer is…well, just watch the video.
Besides helping me understand my feelings about the film, Red Letter Media’s Half in the Bag review also surprised me. The guys kept talking about a film called “Marriage Story” with Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson. The movie reviewers were pointing out the irony of these two actors getting fortune and fame for being in dumb action movies and then turning around and doing a film nobody’s going to hear of that actually uses their acting talent. So Brooke and I decided to watch “Marriage Story” last night, and the Red Letter Media guys were right. It’s an amazing film, and puts the two lead actors in a whole new light for me. It was hard to watch at times. It’s a very emotional film, with amazing performances. You should make a point to watch it if you have Netflix.
Also, after watching the Red Letter Media review of Star Wars IX, I realized there’s one thing they didn’t mention about the sequel trilogy that was actually a good thing. Not once was there any mention of midichlorians or Jar Jar Binks. And that’s a good thing. I’m glad some parts of Lucas’ world have been swept under the rug.
Speaking of Lucas’ world, if you haven’t seen “The Mandalorian” series yet, I recommend that, too. It’s got all the good things about Star Wars, and none of the bad. Including midichlorians. I think small films and TV series are the future of the franchise. Disney has proven that Star Wars has run out of steam when it comes to major motion pictures.