No one has asked for my opinion of the new Star Wars movie. I am delighted to respond to this non-call. Here is a short list of observations:
> This movie, like so many movies, is actually The Bad News Bears. A ragtag band of misfits overcomes huge odds and shows us something about courage.
> Mark Hamill can’t act. Adam Driver can. That’s a good torch to have passed.
> There’s no plot, is there? It’s just: We’re doomed; only this one crazy plan can save us; we did it; we’re doomed; only this one crazy plan can save us; etc.
> The franchise seems unable (or unwilling) to stop itself from repeating its own gestures. There’s always a wacky bar/casino scene; there’s always a pasty British commander standing on the deck of the Death Star (or whatever) and saying, “Soon they will be finished”; the one last Rebel fighter always has one last chance to drop one last bomb into the one slot/tunnel/cannon that will blow everything apart. There’s always a brash flyboy, a cynical quasi-outlaw, an irrepressible robot, and so on.
> The dialogue is 80s-era CBS-sitcom bad. Fine actors (plus you, Mark Hamill!) are made to say things that only a young Scott Baio and the children under his loving watch would say. In a film that is eager to be relevant (the casting is a model–almost too perfect a model–of diversity), the “wit” of the script (including a number of visual gags) feels conspicuously stale.
> One of the franchise’s telling weaknesses has always been the names it gives to its characters. Leia Organa, Kylo Ren, Maz Kanata–these are not serious names. These are names that were rejected during a brainstorming session to name a new model of Toyota. If you can’t name your characters, you don’t really have characters.
This is not a movie you should love. And yet we want to love it.
The truth is that no film in the franchise has recaptured the sense of awe that so many people felt when they saw the first Star Wars. And so when we say we’re in love with The Last Jedi, what we’re really saying is that we’re in love with the memory of having once loved a movie so much.