If you’re a long-time reader of The Pop Culture Studio, you probably noticed that I didn’t review The Last Jedi, unlike the other recent instalments in the Star Wars saga.There’s a reason for this: my initial reaction to Rian Johnson’s film was negative – really negative.
And despite the tone of some of my recent “work for hire” posts, being negative isn’t what The Studio is about. On the contrary, this site is supposed to be about being constructive – even when it comes to movies, TV shows or comics that I don’t like – and I genuinely wasn’t sure that I could do that when it came to The Last Jedi, that’s how unimpressed I was.
However, in the weeks since the movie was released, I’ve subsequently reconsidered my opinion of it – or looked at it from a different point of view, as Obi-Wan Kenobi might have put it – and I’ve come to the realisation that I do like it after all.
Don’t get me wrong: I still have issues with the film – major issues, in fact. But ultimately, I’ve decided that these imperfections are insignificant compared to The Last Jedi’s many good points, and what the film means for the future of the franchise and its fans.
By now, we’ve all had time to digest the latest trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi (unless you’re one of the strong-willed souls who resisted the urge to watch it!). General consensus among fans and critics seems to be that – adorable porgs aside – Episode VIII of cinema’s greatest sci-fi/fantasy saga looks like a far darker outing than its predecessor, The Force Awakens.
After all, this most recent look at the film provided new glimpses of a grumpy, grizzled version of Luke Skywalker, good guys the Resistance on the run, and Jedi-in-training Rey being tortured by big bad Supreme Leader Snoke – at last taking a break from his giant hologram Wizard Of Oz-schtick. Heck, there’s even the suggestion that a bit of matricide might be on the cards, with tormented wannabe Darth Vader Kylo Ren seemingly poised to murder his mother, the former Princess Leia!
Ratcheting up the gloom factor has only served to further fuel comparisons between The Last Jedi and The Empire Strikes Back – the latter of which is widely considered not only the best Star Wars episode of all time, but a perfect example of the “darker sequel” done right. And whilst it’s hard not to see tonal similarities between these two sombre films – just as it was impossible not to draw parallels between The Force Awakens and series opener A New Hope – the trailer has left me feeling surprisingly upbeat.
That’s because – despite its surface-level imitation of The Empire Strikes Back – this tantalising peek at The Last Jedi seems to have rewarded the faith of fans like me who hoped that incoming director Rian Johnson would finally taking the franchise in a fresh new direction. “This is not going to go the way you think,” promises Luke at one point – and thank the Force for that!
For as long as there has been pop culture, there have been fans. And for as long as there have been fans, there have been fan theories.
Without doubt one of the most theorised about franchises in all of pop culture is the Star Wars series, with theories ranging from the obvious (Palpatine and Darth Sidious are the same guy) to the entertaining (Jar Jar Binks is secretly a Sith Lord) and right on through to the desperate (Boba Fett actually killed Luke’s aunt and uncle because…reasons?).
With the upcoming release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, I’ve had our favourite galaxy far, far away on my mind more and more, and in particular, I’ve been mulling over theories related to the identity of shadowy villain Supreme Leader Snoke.
After trawling through a sea of online hypotheses as deep as Darth Vader’s hatred for Obi-Wan Kenobi, I’ve reviewed the most popular fan conjecture regarding Snoke (courtesy of a one page rundown and analysis by the fine folk at Goliath), and come away with the conclusion that NONE of them are correct.
In fact, I think it’s just as likely that the secret to Snoke’s true identity is that there is no secret at all!
Yet when it came time to take a look back at Super 8 – released this month five years ago – what struck me was how, even though the film does indeed owe a huge debt to the films of Steven Spielberg, it still works as a stand alone effort, telling a unique and personal story all its own.
This is visible in every strand of Super 8‘s DNA, from its semi-autobiographical narrative that looks back at what it was like for Abrams growing up a movie-obsessed kid making his own short films, through to its nostalgia-tinged sensibilities, which allow it to serve as a love letter from that same kid to the films of the late 70s and 80s that influenced his eventual blockbuster career.
That was the question on everyone’s lips when Disney announced that, as the first order of business following its $4bn acquisition of Lucasfilm, it would produce Star Wars – Episode VII: The Force Awakens.
You wouldn’t know it from all the positive buzz and critical acclaim surrounding the film, but at the time, this was a very valid query. The Star Wars franchise circa October 2012 was in a comatose state, the result of the brutal bashing dished out on creator George Lucas’ prequel trilogy by critics and fans alike.
Whilst the tie-in media – books, cartoons, video games and action figures – was still doing decent business, many doubted whether Star Wars would ever be able to recapture its popularity with moviegoers jaded by three mediocre films in a row.
Fast forward to the present, and not only do these concerns seem laughable, but the answer to that opening question stands answered in the affirmative.
With this latest entry in the series, director J.J. Abrams and his cast and crew have not only re-awakened the Force, but the entire Star Wars franchise as well.
I have a confession to make about this latest article in The Pop Culture Studio’s Star Wars series: it was inspired by a “Hitler Reacts To…” meme. In it, the Fuhrer expresses a less than glowing appraisal of the latest trailer for Star Wars – Episode VII: The Force Awakens, and in amongst the lunatic ravings is buried one very strong argument, one that I couldn’t help agreeing with: everything great about the trailer is rooted in copying the original films in the series.