The latest Star Wars trailer hit. And I’m not so much underwhelmed (it actually does a damned good job of plucking the heartstrings), as I am crying inside over its direction.
I have old drafts of a post about the odd interconnection of liberalism, nostalgia, and Star Wars. Hopefully I’ll clean them up and post them. Today, I mostly want to rift off this piece by an online buddy: Heroes, Failures, and The Force Awakens.
Kestutis outlines how The Force Awakens undoes most the character work in the original trilogy. The members of the big three we see – Han and Leia – have in many ways failed to progress as characters, to become more than what they were.
In the case of Leia, she’s gone back to being a rebel leader – she has apparently given up on devoting her life to political development or has taken on the mantle of uprooter of all remnants of the empire. Either way, she’s still just the same character she was in the movie. Perhaps she’s now a general rather than a princess, but that’s a demotion in my book.
In the case of Han, we get an even uglier picture – he’s gone back to being a smuggler. Instead of just being stagnant, as is the case with Leia, he’s actually regressed. Not even the roguish rebel general he had become by Return of the Jedi, he’s back to being selfishly neutral and isolationist.
Now you can say all you want about the loss of Kylo, but family drama is old-hat to these guys. Leia’s father was the right hand of the empire, tortured her for information (twice), cut off her brother’s hand, and ultimately tried to turn same brother to the dark side. This should have been weathered differently.
Or maybe it shouldn’t have been? Maybe there was something involved in Kylo’s conversion to the dark side that sent everyone into a spiral of depression in which they undid any and all character development to return to their pre-Original Trilogy selves. If there was, we aren’t shown it (niether on screen nor through some implicit discussion), but are instead told it through Leia and Han’s Yo-Yo relationship (which is another sign of this weird stagnation – back to “are they or aren’t they?”). And if JJ Abrams is to believed, he has little idea either. We’ll see if Rian Johnson fills this in. I’m not holding my breath.
From the latest trailers, it seems we’re only getting a continuation of this character-undoing from Luke. “I’ve seen this raw strength only once before. It didn’t scare me enough then. It does now.” This is the man who refused to believe his father, slaughterer of jedi, enforcer of the emperor, and killer of children, was beyond redemption. This is the man who had achieved a great sense of inner peace with the force. And now he’s some paranoid hermit?
“Let the past die. Kill it. If you have to. That’s the only way to become what you were meant to be.” These are Kylo’s words in the trailer, words of a man who is devoted to the legacy of Vader and is “tempted” by the light (whatever that means beyond being grimdark-cool). But I think they are a perfect fit for the at least implicit ideology of the Star Wars creative heads. I’m not so sure it’s malicious, but most everything they’ve done has had at least a whiff of trying to kill the old trilogy in one way or another to tell some new tale.
And truth be told, I’m not one who finds the new tale terrible. I’m actually interested to see where Rey goes. I like Kylo as an adversary – a passionate and petulant foil to Vader’s calm and cool menace. I like Rogue One as a war story with Star Wars aesthetics. What I don’t like is the way the story feels it needs to tear down what came before to build upon its rubble. Especially when what it’s building appears more and more to be in stark contrast to what came before. See the first trailer for Last Jedi and it’s embracing of “Balance of the Force” being equality between light and dark. See Rogue One’s footsie with moral relativism.
These are not more “adult” stories. They are the stories of either overgrown children, lost in their passions, or decadent and lazy old men unwilling to take on the responsibilities of their age.
I’m more than willing to eat humble soup (and will relish it!) if the series ends up saving itself, but I have less and less faith in its current creative team.