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New podcast, new ideas, new controversies! This week, Pete Spiliakos and I talk Star Wars. We pick apart The Last Jedi to show you what is expected of competent mediocrity; how hard it is to get plots, characters, their conflicts, and relationships right; and how important it is to do so. We talk about how the audience is supposed to react to various characters and developments, thus connecting emotions to ideas to develop themes about the education of a new generation of leaders. Properly done, TLJ would have been a good story reflecting the innocence and incompetence of Millennials and their confrontation with Boomers who are both mythical and catastrophic. This is what middlebrow art is like — if only we aspire to it…
Pete and I talk about a lot of parallels to previous Star Wars stories and some ways in which the stories are getting better and worse:
- The chaos of the plot and the failure to connect the A (Luke-Rey-Kylo), B (Poe-Leia), C (Finn) plots plausibly, not to say insightfully.
- The misery of the new Luke Skywalker.
- Ben Solo, a worthy, new Anakin.
- The prequel trilogy! The Liam Neeson problem and the tragedy of Anakin Skywalker. The riddle of Kenobi’s name.
- The Last Jedi rehearses The Phantom Menace: A character (Admiral PurpleHair, Pete calls her, not sure if that’s her title / Qui-gon) gets in the way of plot development (separating Poe from Leia / Anakin from Obi-wan). Thus, the B-plot is screwed up (Poe Dameron’s transformation from fighter to political leader) and Leia is wasted.
- Finn’s innocence-competence problems: Whereas Han shot first, now even child-soldiers are innocent of any wrongdoing, which also makes them comically incompetent and so unworthy of the other characters.
- Peter Cushing and the grandeur of Grand Moff Tarkin — the story badly needs characters like him, who showed the ruthless competence of the imperial military bureaucracy