Moral values are and should be demonstrated through art, but it’s better that they be embedded deeply so that they shine through, rather than pasted to the surface like so many flashy glass jewels. I found The Last Jedi too didactic in its details and (possibly) too cynical in its approach. See below if you want to know why.
Reflecting on The Last Jedi
I watched the movie 19 December 2017 and I’m writing this on 4 February 2018, so it’s been some time since I watched the movie.
What sticks out most in my memory is the scene in which Chewbacca finds he cannot bear to eat one of those cute creatures that look like a cross between a penguin and a guinea pig. It’s hilarious, but at the same time it screams “meat is murder”, leaving no room for us to contemplate the message and perhaps disagree, no room at all for omnivores like me to laugh without also feeling ridiculed.
The economic and moral contrast between the wealthy arms dealers in the casino and the underdog stable boys was too simplistic and too overt, but if I insist on some subtlety, I sound like I’m failing to agree that slavery is bad. It’s hard to embrace a movie that puts me in this awkward position.
In other words, if I don’t like The Last Jedi, that’s at least in part because it doesn’t like me.
I read a perceptive article that said The Last Jedi mocks everything—from sets, props, and costumes to characterization, plot, and themes—that has made Star Wars what it is. It’s possible some critics liked the movie simply because it defied pop-culture canon, which, to my way of thinking, is not a good reason.
It would be hard to argue that The Last Jedi nihilistically tears down traditions without giving audiences anything at all in exchange, but contempt for tradition per se suggests cynicism, an attitude that fits badly into a genre full of “hero’s journey” stories.
Still, that’s just my opinion. Some critics said that far from subverting paradigms, the biggest fault of the film was playing it safe. Go figure!
I’m glad that there’s a lot of discussion and a lot of differing opinions. After all, it would be surprising if any film franchise, no matter how beloved, could please all of the people all of the time.