The first movie I ever saw in theaters was Star Wars The Empire Strikes Back. It was the summer of 1980, I was five years old and there were battles and lazers, spaceships and swordfights and a scene that continues to be unmatched in my opinion for pure action and thrills(the Millennium Falcon asteroid chase). Many, many years later when I had expanded on the universe I loved as a child with the works of Timothy Zahn and the expanded universe of comics and books, it was announced that there were going to be new Star Wars movies.
I dove into the prequel movies with the same giddy zeal I had when I was 5 and had stacks of things that I wanted to see explained to me when I sat down in that seat and watched Star Wars Episode I The Phantom Menace. When the movie ended, I found myself disappointed. Not because it was a particularly bad movie. It wasn’t great, but I had seen worse. What disappointed me was the need to explain everything and how those explanations not only didn’t make sense (Anakin Skywalker builds C-3PO) or were just boring (Midichlorians). I found that my need to have all of my expectations and desires validated took me away from enjoying a return to a world that I loved and the filmmakers need to feed into my expectations and desires hampered them from telling a compelling story.
This weekend I saw Star Wars The Last Jedi and I enjoyed it for two reasons. 1. I went into the movie with no expectations of what I was going to see on the screen other than the characters I loved. 2. The filmmakers chose to tell their story rather than pander to fan theories and expectations. You can read my review here. After I saw the movie, I decided to allow myself to read some of the comments and they were what I expected; “This isn’t my Star Wars.” “They don’t understand Star Wars.” “I was robbed of getting to learn about (insert character’s name here) lineage/history.” This let me know that that many people went into the film looking for validation of their own theories and explanations of what they cared about rather than going to see a movie. So here are some of the reasons why the things those people cared about ruined their experience.
Here’s my first question whenever anyone brings up Rey’s parents; Why do they have to be someone you already know? Rey was abandoned on Jakku and given over to a junker. She managed to survive and thrive under those circumstances and when the chance came for her to escape that life, she took it and continues to thrive because of the choices SHE made. Why does she have to have some magical blood connection to someone to make her story more credible? Instead of embracing Rey’s resilience, inner strength and compassion, the only way she could ever achieve anything that she’s accomplished has to be because of who she’s related to. Frankly, I could care less who her parents are. They abandoned her to her fate and her ability to overcome that fate is more compelling than who left her.
Who is Snoke? Is Snoke Darth Plagueis? Why does it matter? Maybe Snoke developed power and influence in the vacuum left after Palpatine died like most despots do. It only serves the narrow focus of some fans to imply that Snoke’s rise to power in the galaxy was any more significant than that. Bad people come to power. It doesn’t always have to be because of their connection to someone else. Even if you want it to be. Even Johnson took a moment to address how ridiculous it would have been to stop the action to address a theory;
“It would have stopped any of these scenes dead cold if he had stopped and given a 30-second speech about how he’s Darth Plagueis. It doesn’t matter to Rey. If he had done that, Rey would have blinked and said, ‘Who?’ And the scene would have gone on… And I’m not saying he’s Darth Plagueis!”
He’s absolutely right. With the exception of the fans who have been following these stories, who else in the galaxy at this point cares about Darth Plagueis or the history of the Sith?
One of the best parts of The Last Jedi for me was Luke on Ach-To telling Rey exactly what the galaxy expects from him. If this wasn’t the most straight forward moment of the film addressing fan theories and expectations than I don’t know what is. He addresses the fact that fans want him to suit up and take on the entire First Order by himself. That kind of wish fulfillment would have been ridiculous on film. The way they handled the moment in the story made it more relevant and more endearing for the character and served as a way of bringing hope back to the galaxy. Luke has grown the same way Yoda and Obi Wan have. He felt as if he failed and exiled himself because of it. Fans who hold onto the belief that becoming strong with the Force somehow gives you all the answers forgot about the fact that Yoda, one of the most powerful Jedi in the galaxy, escaped when the Force failed him. Luke was no different when he failed.
Like any experience, you get out of it what you bring to it. Many Star Wars fans brought to The Last Jedi their theories, expectations, relationship desires and everything else. Unfortunately, none of them were in the writer’s room when The Last Jedi was written and they will not be in the writer’s room for Episode IX. Best thing they can do is continue to speculate and have fan theories all they want and the moment they buy a ticket to Episode IX, throw them all away and enjoy the movie.