[Spoilers for The Last Jedi ahead.]
Back in my initial review of The Last Jedi, I predicted that the reaction to the movie would be divisive. I personally loved it, but it was unlike other Star Wars movies and I just kind of suspected the reaction would be similar to that of The Empire Strikes Back, which was not beloved upon release. (I tweeted Vincent Canby’s original New York Times review and a lot of the complaints he had about Empire are similar to the complaints we are hearing about The Last Jedi.)
Rian Johnson is a very different filmmaker than J.J. Abrams and watching these two go back and forth between Star Wars movies is extremely interesting. In The Force Awakens, Abrams did what Abrams does and introduced a lot of mysteries. Who are Rey’s parents? Who is Snoke? Then Johnson comes along and doesn’t care about any of that, basically destroying all of these questions with a sledgehammer. I mean, there’s even a scene where Snoke calls Kylo Ren’s helmet stupid looking, leading Kylo Ren to just smash it to pieces. I can now picture Abrams, somewhere, muttering, “Well, I thought it was kind of nifty looking.”
Also, I look forward to Abram’s passive-aggressive title crawl for Episode IX:
THE LAST JEDI WAS A DREAM
ROSE is dead. The PORGS are all dead. That crystal fox thing you liked so much? It’s dead, too. REY wakes up from her FORCE DREAM to see the now real LUKE SKYWALKER standing right in front of her…
Now, what I didn’t expect was that so many people would actually care about these mysteries. This is a new phenomenon because Star Wars was never about mysteries. Oh, sure, I remember the internet in 1999 — I remember the dumb theories like Kitster, Anakin’s buddy on Tatooine, was actually Boba Fett — but these were never real things. The movies didn’t set that kind of stuff up.
Oh, yeah, I can hear you right now, “Um, what about the reveal that Darth Vader is Luke’s father in The Empire Strikes Back”? Yes, that was a huge surprise. But the reason it was a huge surprise is because no one was expecting a surprise. When the original Star Wars ended, there was no mystery about who Luke’s father was. It was pretty clear that Luke’s father was a Jedi who was betrayed and murdered by Ben Kenobi’s pupil, Darth Vader. And the reason this was accepted was that, at the time, it was true.