I’m going to be “that guy” when I say that Disney has a bit of a situation on their hands with Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Don’t worry, they’re getting paid but if you want to talk audience response, it’s something to be desired. You might be where I am. The film is good but you’re not trumpeting certain choices made when it comes to story, unnecessary characters, and the botching of what could have been an amazing villain in Supreme Leader Snoke.
Doesn’t some of this sound familiar?
I noticed as left the theater that I wasn’t as excited as I was supposed to be post-Star Wars installment. It’s not like The Last Jedi was awful, it’s just not what I expected, and this feeling of disarray sets in. Then I become too critical for my own good. Which turned up several overly detailed analyses resulting in further disarray. After a couple hours, it hits me… I had been here before. A little over a year ago no less, when the DC fan in me was dealt the death card known as Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice.
Attention die hard Star Wars fans… stop reading now because I came to the realization that The Last Jedi is Disney’s Batman v Superman.
Here we go…
Couple obvious starter points. Both The Last Jedi and BvS are the second chapters of trilogies meant to jumpstart their respective cinematic universes. Both were highly anticipated in every regard. More importantly, both have an extremely dedicated fan base and are culture phenomenons with enough presence to dominate the box office. Don’t forget about merchandising.
As far as auteurs go Zack Snyder and Rian Johnson, visionaries in their own kind of way, and totally new to the Hollywood blockbuster game. Together, they have an impressive filmography, however each project is everything but appealing to a mass audience. BvS and TLJ don’t have the typical big movie feel. Snyder went a different route for superhero movies and was given hell for it. While Rian Johnson tried to make a real, character driven, Star Wars but fell short on story. These director’s I have a ton of respect for, I’ll continue to see their films in the future. I can only hope each has had their experience with franchise productions and move forward. Though I wonder if Johnson’s new trilogy offer is still on the table.
FYI- Man Of Steel has aged wonderfully. Was BvS ahead of its time? Is The Last Jedi?
Here’s a positive for you, and something I really liked. Both show a darker side of their antagonists. We get a taste of the betrayal that shaped Kylo Ren into the tortured soul he is. His pain, his fear, his coping with the decisions he’s made, drives the formation of his persona while adding depth to what we got in The Force Awakens. Batman (yes he’s the “bad guy”) shares a similar pain, only his hate is rooted in Superman. He’s an afraid, tortured soul after the Battle For Metropolis, pain evolves into paranoia, then action. Development tools like Kylo smashing his mask, or Bruce Wayne downing a glass of wine at the crack of dawn, take prominence on the screen. We get significant minutes used to really get the folks involved with the characters, and maybe connect with some of us. It’s a bold move I feel really separates the two installments from others in the same vein. Good choice or bad is of course up to you.
A main parallel between Batman and Kylo Ren would be their place in the world has been challenged and they are on a quest to restore their own order. Hell, finding your place in the world might as well be everyone’s theme because both movies’ protagonists are struggling on that front too. Rey with her training and the discovery of her powers. Clark Kent is trying to figure out how Superman can coexist with humanity.
BvS and TLJ rely on plot drivers that loom over the entire story but in the end, aren’t really innovative. BvS has its horribly executed “Superman killed a bunch of people” stuff. TLJ went with the whole “we only got so much power left while evading the bad guys in space” motif. Not really breaking new ground here. Though technically we’d never seen elements like this in either universe but through its presentation, lost the desired effect. They seemed recycled. In the end they didn’t work, could have been better, or both.
If movies these days are becoming more character driven, it doesn’t mean that writers, directors, producers can be lazy with what happens in the script.
BvS and TLJ demonstrated an interesting understanding of humor on screen. BvS had practically no comic relief and when it did, it was too late. TLJ laid it on thick, over using opportunities for jokes any chance it could. In the first ten minutes of the movie there’s a scene with Poe sort of prank calling Hux that was barely working and progressively fell apart as it went on. Stuff like this happened throughout the movie. By the hundredth time it happens you’re burnt out before even cracking a smile. Humor can be tricky in film, especially Star Wars or superhero stories. It’s almost as if jokes have to be perfectly placed to make an impact or have naturally funny actors. Oscar Isaac is the man, but I’d say comedy is not his forte.
Lastly, both movies completely botch a bad guy. Supreme Leader Snoke was introduced in The Force Awakens and had incredible potential. Then he’s killed. Just like that, gone. We got so little of him, the weight of his death was lost. Didn’t even feel as though it was a major plot twist. I’m now starting to think Snoke was a complete waste of time. Doomsday for me, same thing, waste of time. The character was done so poorly I actually watched a fourteen minute long YouTube video trying to sell me on Doomsday really being Bizarro Superman. Yes, that can happen as fan I think when something doesn’t go our way we head right to the one place where our perspectives can be reinforced, the Internet.
Aside from the CGI bad guy, I have to say the human supporting antagonists also suffered a Hollywood botching. Benicio del Toro as the stuttering smuggler is equally on par with casting Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor. So much promise, just ruined. I’m a little ticked there was all this secrecy behind del Toro’s character prior to the film’s release. Thought we were going to get something special from him, we didn’t. You can say the same thing for Rose, Captain Phasma, Jimmy Olsen, The Russian guy with the tattoos, and General Hux.
If you want a less complex argument… both of these movies are simply “off”. Remember, just because something is “off” doesn’t mean certain parts won’t be enjoyable, or that all hope is lost.
You still not believing me about TLJ, watch it again. See if you still feel the way you did when you first left the theater this past weekend. Then you’ll know.
As a die hard DC fan, I hope all the Disney and MCUpremacists out there can empathize with my situation. Now you know how it feels to be underwhelmed by something you’ve put so much stock in. More importantly we’ve learned that Disney is not invincible. Sure, critics are doing their best to suck up to Mickey Mouse, but the audience, they’re not so easily swayed. Who knows what this will mean for the future, fans can only hope the people behind the camera have learned from their mistakes.
J.J., our fandom turns its lonely eyes to you.
By Adam Chmielewski
Photo Credits- Interactive Entertainment/Warner Brothers/Disney
Do you think Star Wars is Disney’s DCEU? Let Nerdbot know in the comments!