Darkest Hour, or, “Stop Pointing That Gun at my Country!”

darkesthour

O.G. vape life

Darkest Hour, director Joe Wright’s latest film from a script by Anthony McCarten, is a distressing look at the sorts of things humanity wouldn’t need if we were angels: politicians and war.

The film follows the ascendancy of Winston Churchill (portrayed by Gary Oldman of Dark Knight’s Commissioner Jim “Stop Pointing That Gun at my Family” Gordon fame) to Prime Minister and his proceeding battle with Parliament and himself over whether or not to go to war with Nazi Germany. It’s a movie hugely concerned with war that spends a vast majority of its time behind tables and podiums or in front of microphones and audiences. We’re shown just enough warfare to remember that the decisions made by these very human, very imperfect powers are likely to result in massive bloodshed. The choice then becomes, do you resign yourself definitively to war, do you resign a country’s youth to death and maiming on the battlefield, or do you gamble and sue for peace, even then uncertain of what your standing will ultimately become?

Darkest Hour is a testament to the vileness of war. Not the grit, or the violence and torture and flying limbs. The general unpleasantness, the fact that if you are at war, no matter the side, you’ve lost something dear. War isn’t treated lightly or romanticized here. It isn’t a profound calling, or a matter of honor, or a proving ground. It’s this horrible thing that some know in their bones is coming no matter what, and others hope against hope can be staved off by placating a maniac.

The story of Darkest Hour then, in which the victory pursued is one of convincing Britain to go to war, to engage in this terrible thing, is one of coming to terms with that terror, with the unfairness of it all and the underlying human failure of it all, of looking at impending violence, seeing it for what it is and moving forward accordingly.

It’s a philosophically distressing movie to watch, particularly in a time in which we’re forced to continually make light of idiots blowing the world to smithereens over a tweet, but Darkest Hour lends a perspective to war that we don’t often get in cinema, one worth engaging with.

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The Phantom Thread, or, Another Brilliant Douchebag in a Perfectly Lovely Dress

phantom thread

“I’m a thread man, ladies and gentlemen…”

Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson’s latest film, The Phantom Thread, chronicles dressmaker Reynolds Woodcock’s (Daniel Day-Lewis) courtship and evolving relationship with waitress-turned-muse Alma (Vicky Krieps). The film often explores the connections and distinctions between the feminine forms that either inspire or demand the creation of Woodcock’s dresses and the final dresses themselves, which proved fitting in my own viewing as I found myself repeatedly considering the differences between the elaborate, cinematic drapery of The Phantom Thread and the ragged old narrative bones holding it all up.

An overwhelming majority of The Phantom Thread really fires on all cylinders. The costumes, colors and set design are engaging. The cinematography flows from cozy and confined to sweeping and elaborate without ever feeling like it’s whipping haphazardly between the two. Jonny Greenwood’s score is the perfect aural companion to the visuals. Day-Lewis gives his most quotable performance since Daniel Plainview.

It really is a remarkable dress. But it’s a dress draped about the frame of a particularly tired narrative. Woodcock is one of a million other cinematic geniuses whose brilliance and/or ambition affords them a casual cruelty and Alma joins the ranks of women cursed with loving a great and important man despite his abuses and neglect.

You’ve seen this dynamic before. Whether it’s the Godfather or Citizen Kane, any number of biopics about visionary men, or, like, any Scorsese protagonist. Hell, we’ve even seen Daniel Day-Lewis play this dynamic before in the 2009 musical Nine.

The Phantom Thread makes an effort to approach this tired trope from an ever-so-slightly recalculated approach vector, but ultimately fails to escape the worn-out “great men have no time for silly women” bullshit that one might have hoped had been beaten to death by 2018. It’s a trope that perpetuates a lazy distinction between brilliance and women, between ambition and women, between progress and women. It’s a trope that implies some perverse correlation between an inability to act like a vaguely decent human being and having any sort of creative or artistic merit or agency.

The Phantom Thread arguably offers a new wrinkle to the artist-muse relationship, but one that does little to nothing in the way of untangling it from the antiquated implications or its narrative forerunners.

I really, really love so much about The Phantom Thread. It truly is a lovely dress. But through the sights and sounds of it all those old narrative bones still groan and creak.

The Post Post, or, Film as a Weapon

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Seriously though, stairs are not that big a thing in this movie. I mean, they’re there I guess, but if you’re going to this movie for the stairs you will be bummed out.

Why yes, I am currently reading Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, thank you for asking…

The brisk momentum of The Post mirrors the breakneck pace in which the film, director Steven Spielberg’s latest (written by Elizabeth Hannah and Josh Singer), was produced. The movie Spielberg had finished production on prior to starting The Post, Ready Player One, isn’t even in theaters yet. The film, depicting the then-fledgling Washington Post’s reporting on the Pentagon Papers, is made of momentum and motivation. It is very intently put together with a purpose, to tell a story Spielberg wanted told right this second.

In a time in which the U.S. Presidency and the press are constantly under scrutiny by the public and each other, The Post demands we question the nature of those institutions, how they interact with one another and how they interact with and are controlled by individuals.

True to life or not, the 1970’s Washington presented in Spielberg’s film is one coming out of a golden age of sorts, a city in which the press and the Presidency hang out at dinner parties and display photographs of each other on their respective mantles. And it was good. Good for the Presidency. Good for the press. The pubic? What public?

But with the discovery of the Pentagon Papers, a classified Department of Defense study on the involvement of the United States in Vietnam, that golden age is not only shattered, but retroactively tainted all together. The veil is lifted and over the course of the film both institutions are indicted for abusing their powers, for allowing the institutions they represent to become all too synonymous with their own person.

The Washington Post is the press, it’s a newspaper, but it’s also publisher Katherine Graham (Meryl Streep), whose family has run the paper for decades.

The Presidency is an executive office, the Commander in Chief, but it’s also Richard Nixon (some guy).

The Post sees the Presidency and the press at war with one another even as their respective figureheads are at warring with the traditional notions of the concepts they embody. Where does the human stop and the institution begin? When do relationships across those institutions stop being fodder for conversations at dinner parties and start actively disadvantaging the public those institutions are put in power to serve?

This is film as a weapon, or at least film as a tool. Spielberg has created something with purpose, something lean and efficient, largely free of the excessive drama or frills one might embellish when parodying the director. This is a movie aimed at here and now and you can feel that vitality in its camerawork, in its dialogue, in the performances of Streep, Tom Hanks, Bob Odenkirk and the rest of the robust cast. The energy and momentum of the film’s production is mirrored time and time again in many facets of the film as it chugs along at a clip, decisive, emboldened, destination determined. You. It’s come for you. It’s made for you. You right now. It’s made to tell you that when institutions go to war it’s not a matter of taking sides and it’s not a matter of observing the barrages and salvos with a grain of salt. When institutions go to war you have to ask yourself why. What is to be gained, what is to be lost, and what do those institutions seek to get from you? Money? Ignorance? Complacency? Outrage?

The Post will undoubtedly be dismissed by some as partisan propaganda. While it examines the institutions of the Presidency and the press, it pretty definitively takes the side of the press, but questioning the motivations of the establishments we imbue with power is important regardless of affiliations, particularly in an age where the idea of what those establishments are is in flux.

Spielberg’s sense of purpose with The Post has yielded perhaps his greatest film since Saving Private Ryan.

No, you’ve been misspelling it “Stephen” for literally the entire time you’ve had a blog and so you had to go back and correct the spelling in all of your blog posts since 2013 (four).

 

Electric Ladies, or, Blade Runner 2049 Again

The Blu-ray came out, so I’m allowed to write about this one again. For some more Blade Runner 2049 jaw-jacking, check out my initial piece on the film.

blade runner 2049 again

Ry-Guy taking in the finest of art.

The force of antagonism in Blade Runner 2049, embodied by Jared Leto’s Niander Wallace, is one of spiteful masculinity viciously perusing control of the means of reproduction, that inherently female power that is in many ways the film’s MacGuffin.

Wallace is the figurehead of the Wallace Corporation, which has taken over production of seemingly everything, to include the franchise’s infamous Replicants – an IP Wallace has inherited from the remains of the original 1982 film’s Tyrell Corporation.

Wallace the man is one of impossible ambitions. An opening crawl informs us that his aptitude for synthetic farming essentially saved the populous from certain doom. Before we ever meet the character we are informed that he has mastered the means to sustain life. When we are introduced to the character he immediately likens himself to God and takes to waxing poetic about his desires for expansion and it’s hindrance due to his lack of that ever-so elusive ability to create life that creates life. He has created Replicants. He has created female Replicants. But he has not replicated the ability to procreate. And boy oh boy is he upset about that.

Wallace presents a sort of masculinity that defines womanhood by, and reduces it to, what it can do that he cannot. It’s a masculinity that punishes femininity for its power, the sort of masculinity that sees a power it does not and cannot possess and seemingly out of spite reduces it to sex, to material, to an object. It’s an aggressively antagonistic masculinity that the film reminds us is far from science fiction.

Late in the film Ryan Gosling’s Agent K finds himself exploring a dilapidated metropolis adorned with the crumbling statues of smooth, sensual women, their forms contorted and controlled by hands of creators whose mindsets are not exactly difficult to ascertain. The statues are but a forerunner to the Replicant, that artificial reproduction of humanity that, as we are reminded by Wallace’s go-to Replicant Femme-Fatale, Luv (Sylvia Hoeks), most definitely comes in a pleasure model. But Blade Runner 2049 also takes the pursuit of the replication of femininity further than its predecessor with another of Wallace Corporation’s products, Joi (Ana de Armas), a holographic, artificially intelligent girlfriend that can be bought like an iPhone and customized down to the ethnicity, hair style and lip color as easily as changing a ringtone.

Joi’s relationship with K is far more than that of an ol’ horn dog and a sex robot, which makes it all the more sinister. With Joi we see Wallace’s desire not just to usurp the means of reproduction from womanhood, but to replace it entirely. For K, Joi is a source of emotional intelligence, of empathy, of sympathy. Joi, the product, is advertised as “Everything You Want.” It’s a product that insists that women are defined by the masculine need they fulfill and that those needs can instead be fulfilled through artificial means.

It’s no coincidence than that we have a Replicant named Luv and an A.I. named Joi. They exist to freely provide the rewards a man might otherwise find from actually interacting with and appreciating a human female. And yet they aren’t quite “love” or “joy” are they?

Niander Wallace isn’t exactly Anton Chigurh or the shark from Jaws when it comes to cinematic villainy, but he is an effective display of a particularly potent toxic masculinity that begins with the spite for and jealousy of the inherent power of the most reductive idea of womanhood and crescendos forever in a limitless echo-chamber, ever fueled by failed attempts to replicate and usurp that power.

Much has been made of Blade Runner 2049’s representation of women. Similar to Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, a film in which race is presented as a crucial component despite it’s disinterest in folks that aren’t white, Blade Runner 2049 takes a pretty deep dive into femininity without taking a deep dive into any female characters.

While by no means a Bechdel award-winner, Blade Runner 2049 is an interesting examination, and arguable condemnation, of the worst of masculinity.

…and an Amphibian Man Too, or, The Shape of Water

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There’s so much going on in Shape of Water you might forget that there’s also an actual Amphibian Man wandering around.

Every frame of director and co-writer Guillermo del Toro’s latest film, The Shape of Water, is packed with the density of a neutron star. The sets, the aesthetic, the lighting, the music, the props, the dialogue, the wardrobe, Sally Hawkins’ astounding performance: there is hardly a facet of the film I can observe and reflect upon without spiraling down an analytical rabbit hole.

For all its fantastical elements, the world of Shape of Water isn’t exactly a stretch. It’s a world in which economics have perverted art and humanity alike with the notion that a human being has no inherent worth. To exist, to breathe, to live, to love, these do not make one worthy. Worth is quantified, worth is earned, worth proven by purchase. The world of Shape of Water is one in which two ideas prevail; that a human being does not possess inherent worth and that a human being can, through the pursuit of worth, possess everything.

The detrimental effects of those concepts are personified here by Michael Shannon’s (perhaps a little competition for del Toro’s muse, Ron Perlman?) Strickland, who wholly accepts the idea that there is a nobility to the pursuit of having it all, perhaps because it is a pursuit with no guarantee of success, a pursuit that requires faith. He accepts the idea that those who have not chugged commerce’s Kool-Aid, those who are not in pursuit of everything, are unworthy, or have surrendered any worthiness they might have and consented to being trodden upon to prop up those undertaking the noble pursuit.

Strickland’s corruption is mirrored by the film’s presentation of a spectrum of art. We see it presented as a voice to the voiceless, a beautiful, ethereal representation of feelings and thoughts otherwise incommunicable, but we also see it slowly corrupted. We see it dictated and nitpicked in the service of commerce, in the service of fanning the flames of that noble pursuit.

It is a singular pursuit, an isolating pursuit. Not just anyone can have it all. Only you. And if you do not get it all then someone else will. Thus, you are in it alone. But in Shape of Water there are two forces of unity – love and science. One would perhaps think them diametrically opposed. Science requires the utmost rationale, love can require the utter abandonment of it. But in Shape of Water the two are bridged with senses of wonder and empathy. The defiance of scientific knowledge brings with it a sense of awe, the confirmation of scientific knowledge brings with it a sense of relatability and that awe and that relatability blossom into a true affection.

The world of Shape of Water is a world in which everyone runs along on treadmills of varying scale, chasing carrots of various sizes that only one in a million people will actually grab. It’s a world in which those treadmills seem to have been running for a long time and don’t appear to be slowing down any time soon.

Enter: Amphibian Man!

Doug Jones’ Amphibian Man is the impetus of disruption to the economic tyranny of Shape of Water, not because he is a fantastical monster but because he possesses an inherent worth that is recognized by that system of economic tyranny. The Amphibian Man isn’t on a treadmill chasing a carrot, he’s just always had a carrot, and damnit, Strickland and his ilk want it because maybe, just maybe, stealing the Amphibian Man’s carrot and offering it up to the poisonous machine all those treadmills power will earn them their very own carrot.

The Shape of Water had me enraptured from the opening shot. It is an engaging and easily-digestible narrative that is absolutely crammed with nutrients, like some sort of delicious, cinematic fiber pill. This is a movie about economics and commerce and capitalism and the military industrial complex and sexuality and race and art and womanhood and the pursuit of knowledge and nationalism and an Amphibian Man and so, so much more. It is perhaps an acquired taste, but should it be a taste you’ve acquired it will give you a lot to look at, a lot to hear, a lot to feel and a lot to think about. With Shape of Water, Guillermo del Toro and co-writer Vanessa Taylor have crafted a masterpiece that I’ll be watching over and over again in hopes of unlocking all of its myriad secrets and sentiments.

 

The Hot Take is Dead/Long Live the Hot Take, or, The Last Jedi III: Okay I Think I’m Done Now

Spoilers ahead for Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

It is a time of reckoning. HOT TAKES blot out the sky like locusts. After leaving my initial viewing of THE LAST JEDI I found myself troubled with LUKE SKYWALKER’S direction in the film, but after sleeping on it, I began to warm up to the character’s trajectory through Episode VIII.

A second viewing revealed just how much work went into executing the narrative maneuvers behind SKYWALKER’S journey in the film and a third viewing was blissful. Afterwards I drafted my first HOT TAKE. Then, on a fourth viewing my mind wandered to the portions of the story I’d initially had no major issues with, Finn, Rose and Poe’s attempts at saving THE RESISTANCE from the pursuing FIRST ORDER.

It finally clicked just how complete their failure was. It dawned on me that these heroes didn’t just fall short of saving THE RESISTANCE, they inadvertently doomed it. I hated it and I hate it. With a few days to cool off and a second HOT TAKE shot across the bow of the internet I prepared myself for a fifth viewing and, hopefully, one final HOT TAKE….

I’m just going to jump right in, but feel free to check out my first two posts on the film in the links above for more context.

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#BetterThanEzra

While Finn and Rose’s failure to shut down the hyperspace tracking on Snoke’s Star Destroyer ensures the Resistance’s last flag ship won’t escape the weaponry of The First Order, it isn’t that failure that dooms their friends. DJ, played by a Benicio Del Toro who is really making some choices, sells out the defenseless, fleeing Resistance shuttles, and while Finn and Rose couldn’t have known that would be the outcome of their excursion with the code breaker, their misplaced trust in him is what seals the fate of The Resistance on Crait and necessitates Luke Skywalker’s climactic actions and their consequences.

That trust is its own failure, one that is shared by Leia and her fellow Resistance leadership from go, as they plan in the film’s opening minutes to jump to hyperspace and send word to their allies in the Outer Rim. It’s a failure to take the temperature of the room, a failure to understand what is and is not inherent. DJ tells Finn point blank that he equates The Resistance and The First Order, but Finn presumably holds on to the assumption that despite what DJ says, the stranger he met in casino jail understands The Resistance is inherently better, possessing an obvious moral superiority to the First Order, an obvious righteousness. A similar assumption is made by Leia, expecting that The Resistance’s call to arms will be answered because they are the side of the angles, because they carry with them an inherent, universal righteousness.

Finn, Leia and even Rey exhibit the sort of binary thinking required to sustain decades-long warfare: I am good, they are bad and these truths are not only obvious but intrinsic. What we can extrapolate from the apathetic galaxy we garner hints of in both The Last Jedi and The Force Awakens, however, is that the vast, non-combatant majority is perhaps less concerned with good and evil than they are with war and peace.

The assumptions our heroes make and their consequences in The Last Jedi feel like a metafictional extrapolation of a possible Star Wars future on the part of writer-director Rian Johnson.

How quick our protagonists are to deem themselves “rebels” and talk of “rebellion,” how eager they are to revert to the status quo of days gone by, to slip into those tried-and-true roles. Finn and Leia are making assumptions based on the Star Wars of yore, manipulating pieces as best they can to set up the familiar dynamics of the Original Trilogy where a ragtag band of freedom fighters takes on a monolith of evil in the name of freedom. But the galaxy ain’t having it, and while fans may bemoan anything that strays too far from X-Wings and Death Stars and TIE Fighters right now, Johnson’s script addresses the eventuality that, should this same conflict continue to play out as it has over the course of nine movies, the galaxy and the audience will both lose interest. While The Last Jedi certainly feels like a reaction to the accusations of repetition lobbed against The Force Awakens, it also feels like a preemptive strike against criticisms that could be lobbed against Episode X or Episode XX.

There are only so many variations of Stormtroopers, so many variations of TIE fighters, of robes and lightsabers. The unanswering galaxy at the end of The Last Jedi that so deftly subverts Finn and Leia’s assumptions is the audience of Star Wars future, the audience in a world where trilogy after trilogy sees the rise of red totalitarianism, the spark of rebellion and the eventual triumph of blue and green democracy again and again and again. That’s the cyclical thinking that breeds the failure of our heroes in The Last Jedi, the perception that that is how Star Wars worked and so it is how Star Wars will continue to work.

Finn and Rose’s failure and Leia’s disappointment are cautionary tales not only for those ready to make war (for better or worse) in the Star Wars galaxy, but for those in charge of Star Wars’ future. And yet, for all its condemnation of repetition, The Last Jedi leaves the creative forces that be behind Episode IX with an easy opportunity to slip right back into that familiar status quo of A New Hope. Will the galaxy beyond the ceaseless, titular Star War allow that sort of regression? Will audiences? Have Finn and the gang taken the lessons of The Last Jedi to heart? Has J.J. Abrams taken the lessons of The Last Jedi to heart? I guess we’ll know in two years.

There was a moment over my heated and passionate courtship with The Last Jedi in which I found myself wondering if this was the film that would separate me from future generations of Star Wars fandom, if my reception to it was indicative of the hardening of some sort of previously fluid fandom concrete that now immovably dictates what I will and won’t tolerate in relation to things I enjoy and limits my ability and desire to appreciate the new or different. You know, am I old now?

Star Wars is making a big transition as it is now, arguably for the first time, a story truly without end. That means heroes don’t get to just win and be happy anymore. That means villainy doesn’t just disappear. That means there doesn’t get to be balance. Since I was born Luke Skywalker and his friends had won. But that retaining that victory and getting more Star Wars are kind of mutually exclusive without that filthy “P” word all you punks seem to hate so much.

For some fans, The Last Jedi may very likely prove to be a line of demarcation between something they hold dear and something else.

That being said, I have had more fun dissecting and debating this movie with friends than any other piece of entertainment in recent memory. I wasn’t having these kinds of discourses about The Force Awakens, I wasn’t stumbling onto these kinds of dorky epiphanies with Rogue One. That doesn’t make it a superior film, but for that alone, and for the ingredients it gave me to cook up three fingerprint-erasing hot takes, I do love The Last Jedi.

Also, seriously, you get that she was pulling herself, not flying, right? Good lord.

The Hot Takes Don’t Stop, or, Whoops I Gotta Talk About The Last Jedi Again

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Look what you made my heroes do.

I try, I really try, but I gotta give a spoiler alert for this post. I don’t go into specifics, but there’s spoilers here for The Last Jedi. I wouldn’t read it if you haven’t seen the movie yet…

Boy oh boy, the fun never stops with this one.

When I walked out of my first viewing of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, I found myself grappling with, and eventually intellectually subduing the Force-centric storyline of the film. I assumed my issues with the movie had been the same as everyone’s issues with the movie, only to find that the loudest complaints seemed to hang around Finn, Rose and their excursion to the casino planet Canto Bight.

I love Canto Bight. I love that we see the highest and lowest of galactic society both seemingly unphased by the destruction we’ve witnessed. I love DJ and the new wrinkles he introduces to the titular Star War. I love the opportunity to use the term “titular Star War.” But four viewings in, I’m finally catching up to problems with Finn and Rose’s detour. I don’t agree that it is extraneous or without character development, and I certainly don’t agree with the sentiment that it could have been cut entirely from the film without consequence because the consequences of Finn, Rose and Poe’s scheming are utterly disastrous. Which is what’s caught in my craw at the moment.

When Finn, Rose and Poe fail in The Last Jedi, they fail hard. Disproportionately hard. And I hate it.

This isn’t a Raiders of the Lost Ark situation in which removing the protagonist from the narrative is a zero-sum game. The entire non-Force-centric plot of The Last Jedi involves Finn, Poe and Rose executing a hasty and desperate plan that, despite its best intentions, pretty much ruins everything for everyone and ultimately necessitates the film’s climactic confrontation and it’s shocking consequences. If Finn, Rose and Poe had done nothing over the course of the film, save Poe’s display of lucky recklessness in the film’s opening, our heroes would have been exponentially, staggeringly better off.

I’m hip. I get it. Poe’s brashness ultimately failing him at a dear cost is a story choice that begets important character growth. The same sort of irresponsible tactics that allow him to eek out an arguable win against the Dreadnought in the beginning of the film ultimately fail him abysmally, causing him to finally, as Leia would say, “get his head out of his cockpit.”

There’s perhaps also something to be said for Finn’s narrative, in which he begins as a true hero of the Resistance who is ready to run away, but once he fails the Resistance he is ready to stand for it until the bitter end. Whatever failures he is ultimately responsible for in this movie, his character is accountable, with Spider-Man’s sense of responsibility.

Then there’s Rose, who makes the horrendous mistake of acting on impulse to try and save the very thing her sister died protecting, only to inadvertently all but destroy it. I’ll concede that perhaps we’re to gleam that through failure her grief is transformed into renewed and specified purpose, but good lord at what cost?

These threads are in line with the film’s running themes of failure and atonement, but it’s hard not to juxtapose those who’s failures have consequences and those who’s failures do not.

I’ll try my best not to wear my woke-college-freshman-back-for-the-holidays-to-learn-you-something-big hat here, but sometimes you’re stumbling around in the dark, you hit a hat rack and what happens happens…

It’s clear from the confounding logistics of the Forceless portion of the film that the Force is the priority in the Last Jedi. The measures taken to legitimize the developments of the Rey/Luke/Kylo storyline dwarf the suspension-of-disbelief-fueled Resistance plot. Which really starts to become problematic when the Force, the all encompassing energy binding the universe together, is exclusively white. Every Force-user. Every. Last. One. Ride or die honkies, the lot of ’em. Not that that’s a change from The Force Awakens, but in that film Rey, Finn and Poe share success, in this film, they do not share failure. When Rey and Kylo Ren fail they fail upward, winding up in a stronger position then they otherwise would have been. When Finn, Rose and Poe fail, people die. What’s more, Finn, Rose and Poe’s failure comes in the face of undermining a white authority figure, while on the Force side of things, undermining white authority sows the seeds of success, setting a precedent for the film in which only Force-wielders (all white) are capable enough to effectively question authority figures (again, all white). Thus we end up with a film in which people of color inadvertently shoot themselves and others in the foot while fancy white folks navel-gaze and wax poetic until it’s time for them to save the day from the mistakes of The Forceless.

I don’t know dear reader, I don’t know. The mantra of “this is not going to go the way you think” continues to ring true. This movie has got issues. Just not the issues I’d initially thought.

I don’t think there’s an active intention on the part of Rian Johnson or Lucasfilm to draw these kinds of lines through their stories, but in 2017, in a film in which the antagonists are essentially the space alt-right, that I’m able draw those lines with a minimum of effort is disappointing to say the least.

Walking out of my fourth viewing, the entirety of these heroes’ failures really setting in, part of me wondered if it was even intentional. After all, the Forceless plot in The Last Jedi is unfortunately marred by persistently perplexing logistics. But the intention seems clear as we are expressly told failure is a great teacher, and through Finn, Rose and Poe we really watch it go to town giving an education. That being said, for all the explanations Rian Johnson has provided in interviews for moments throughout the film I’ve yet to come across a discussion of the consequences the trip to Canto Bight ultimately reap and I still can’t help but wonder if there was some narrative oversight. Again, arguably the biggest moment in this film, the momentous, saga-shaking happening, is only necessary because things, albeit accidentally, get screwed up so bad by Finn, Poe and Rose.

In my last post on The Last Jedi I made the grand statement that the creative decisions made in this movie were made with forethought, and that the debate is not so much over the quality of the film but your own personal taste for the story choices made within it. Well boy oh boy am I reckoning with that.

I can’t speak to the intention behind the brutal humbling of characters I love in this movie, and I don’t feel subjective enough to state whether or not it’s good or bad storytelling, but I know there are things in The Last Jedi I can’t unsee and damnit I know I don’t like it!

Tell me I’m wrong! Convince me their failure is awesome! Tell me why it’s okay! What am I missing?

Inevitable third revelatory hot take to follow…