Apocalypse: A Long Time Ago and Very Far Away

Art, Culture, Media, Movies, Uncategorized

There aren’t many problems Hollywood couldn’t solve by hiring me to fix all of their scripts. Now, as a caveat: I really enjoyed The Last Jedi. It was fun. It had three really good performances. It was often visually arresting. But it wasn’t good, and that’s because it had a lousy screenplay. So here, spoilers, I’m going to fix it for them.

The good story is Benicio del Toro’s character, who a lot of folks disdained as a needless B-plot distraction, a weird device met at random in search of a different device, trusted for no reason by a couple of other characters, and hauled through forty minutes of distraction only to peter out in an anticlimactic recapitulation of the Lando Calrissian bait-and-switch from Empire. But Benicio is interesting, and not only because he has a huge screen presence that entirely outshines the dim John Boyega and the desperately underwritten Kelly Marie Tran. Hey, he says, you cruel, violent idiots, Rebels and First Order, have been grinding the galaxy beneath your endless stupid war since the Rebellion and Empire ground the galaxy beneath its endless and stupid war thirty fucking years ago! And he’s right.

That, of course, is also the interesting—and abandoned—idea underneath the Kylo/Rey relationship, the other good performances here: that Kylo is not entirely bad, and Rey is not entirely good. That there’s a spark between them, some frisson, a kind of passionate compassion. That a thousand generations of elder conflict seem suddenly gray and less-than-heroic due to the telepathic instragramming of a conflicted millennial and her fuccboi counterpart.

Well, here’s how you’d make a good movie out of it. You’d start it in the same place: the rebels on the run and the order in pursuit, but you’d rewrite the pairings. Poe Dameron, this series’ Han Solo, is in desperate need of a romantic foil. He is the one who’s grown disillusioned with the Rebellion, with imperious Leia and her stupid orders, with the endless battles he’s called upon to fight, with his friends who keep dying for no reason, to no end. He is the one who’s angry at the loss of all those heroes in the attack on the dreadnaught: good men and women, comrades in arms. This makes his pairing with Rose, a true believer, on a last-ditch effort to find one guy, who turns out to be Benicio, really work; this gives it tension: Poe and Rose are deeply attracted to one another, and she thinks he’s a hero, but he is wracked by doubt and really wants to run away. And when, at last, Benicio shows him that the same guys are selling weapons to both sides of this terrible war, it breaks him, setting up his arc for the next inevitable movie.

Finn is paired up with Leia, the Phasma-less acolyte finding a new matriarch into whom he can pour his new-found zealotry. Leia has been hardened and radicalized by forty years of war. She’ll risk it all; she’ll do anything, compromise anything to win. She is the one who sends Poe and Rose on the suicide mission. Luke is gone; Han is gone; she has nothing to live for but the war. Finn is her Ren; she operates in parallel to the evil Supreme Leader. She’s Picard from First Contact, a powerful Ahab whose many losses to the Empire and First Order have hardened her. She’s a general, not a princess. Laura Dern (or, as she should be known in-universe: Vice Admiral Lorah Durn), is the call-back to the original Princess Leia: noble but kind; a hopeful realist. Her big role isn’t coming until the next movie anyway.

Luke, Rey, and Ren are all the same. Luke is defeated and broken. Rey and Ren are powerful but lost, the children of failed teachers and parents who both sense that the orthodoxies of the older generations are a lie.

The plot works the same way, except it’s Leia who sends Poe and Rose on the probably suicidal mission to find the guy who ends up being Benicio del Toro (Lorah Durn thinks it’s a baaaaad idea). We end the film with the rebels on the run, getting picked off one by one. Luke is back on his island moping. Kylo Ren still kills Snoke; he and Rey still fight the red samurai dudes; Ren says to Rey, “Join me, and we’ll start anew.” She says no. “You’re nobody,” he said, “but not to me.” He reaches out his hand. She hesitates for just a moment, and then she takes it. Cut to credits.

5 thoughts on “Apocalypse: A Long Time Ago and Very Far Away

  1. Yes, that was my immediate thought: easily the most dramatically moving and generative event would be Rey turning. It would instantly make her more interesting and set up a killer cliffhanger. Alas.

    Also alas: the entire casino sequence. Cut it out like a tumor.

  2. I had thought in the first movie, it would have been interesting to have Rey and Finn both be potential Jedi being pulled towards opposite poles of the force. In the first film, Finn is primarily motivated by fear and anger (fear of the First Order, rage at the violent injustice it imparts). Rey is… well, her character was undercooked. But sure, light side of the force of the force for her. Ren’s issue is that he wants to pursue the Dark side for the power (and to imitate his grandfather’s greatness)… but he’s defined more by petulance and angst than fear or anger, which is why he just can’t seem to attain the same level of power.

    So then the issue of being on the Light or Dark side of the Force has nothing to do with good or evil, it’s only a function of how you tap into it and what powers it gives you. Luke’s failure could have been ignorance of this fact and the hubris of thinking that he could only do good using the Light side. When he becomes aware of what he’s become responsible for, he becomes a hermit.

    This theme would segue into your edits well. But! It’s a major blockbuster entertainment aimed towards a global audience of a broad age group, they don’t want a bunch of post-modern moral relativism in there…

    Yet still, overall my frustration with “The Force Awakens” stemmed from having been an exceptionally nerdy and bibliophilic tween. From Timothy Zahn’s series to the short story collections “Tales from…,” it was frustrating to know how many writers could come up with more interesting (AND NEW- this is why “Rogue One” has been the strongest of the movies yet) stories than what we were given. But those works weren’t created by committee with an eye towards marketing.

  3. I like to offer help to special needs & retarded movies, too.

    i’m pleased to hear you like it. maybe i’ll hit it before it hits Netflix. the last two installments, rogue one & that one w/the video game title, The Force Unleashed, could not possible have been as awful as the previous 3. but they weren’t much to write about now, were they?

  4. enjoyable, but think no one had ever kamikazed a ship into another ship using light speed? and there’s the touch of JJ Abrams of Star Trek w/just tossing new-fangled techno/science junk around largely for the hell of it, e.g., tracking ships thru hyperspace.

    and a space battering ram? and the dreadnought can’t bombard the main rebel ship b/c of what again? they never had that problem before. etc., etc.

    but the thing that took me out of the movie the most was whenever Snokes got his dander up about something, his red dudes on guard would go into these hilarious mighty morphin power ranger martial arts gestures, real USA Kung Fu theater poses, though, to their credit, they did have weapons that weren’t just more light sabers.

    and do we note that the movie not circling around the toilet drain of another Death Star plot is probably better than the last 5 movies combined?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s