We Still Don’t Know What the Last Jedi is About (No Coast Bias 12/13/17)

(This post was originally published on No Coast Bias, several days before the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. To view the original post, click here.)

We’re only a few days away from the release of the latest film in the Star Wars franchise, the cast of The Last Jedi is all over television, interviewing on talk shows as a way of promoting their latest movie. With the movie hitting theaters at the end of the week, it’s becoming apparent that nobody really knows what the hell this movie is about, and anyone who does know isn’t allowed to say.

Since the movie premiered in L.A. this weekend, we’re starting to get our very first reactions to The Last Jedi. The thing is, all the critics who watched the film are currently not allowed to write full-length reviews but instead are allowed brief reactions on Twitter. And it’s the usual early reactions we’ve seen from the past two films, like “This movie is really, really good,” or “This is the best Star Wars movie since The Empire Strikes Back,” or the extremely bold: “This movie is better than Empire Strikes Back.” Basically, all the studio wants the audience to know going in is that the movie is liked by most people who see it.

When various members of the cast appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Kimmel quipped “It’s unusual for me to interview the director and stars of a movie that I haven’t seen and we can’t actually talk about.” Mark Hammill has said something similar in all his interviews, such as this one on Stephen Colbert and this one on Ellen.

Sure, revealing too little is better than revealing too much. You look at trailers for movies like Batman v. Superman or Terminator: Genisys, it doesn’t take a genius to know that these movies showed their biggest surprises too soon. Now, it might be safe to say that since neither of these movies were particularly good, showing these surprises were a way of making sure people showed up to the theaters. But with those movies you at the very least get a general idea of what the movies are about. That’s a lot more than can be said for The Last Jedi or even The Force Awakens.

In fact, The Force Awakens is an extremely useful talking point when it comes to not explaining enough about a movie prior to its release. If you asked someone to describe what they thought the movie would be about, they likely wouldn’t have given you the right answer. But if you had asked them after the movie was released, the answer would be easy; it’s about the Empire First Order and Rebellion Resistance – who are at war with one another – trying to find Luke Skywalker. In fact, the opening crawl starts with the words “Luke Skywalker has vanished.” Even those four words are enough information for what the movie is about. If just one trailer had a line of dialogue from Leia or Poe or someone that said something like “Luke Skywalker has vanished and we need to find him,” in an extremely urgent tone it would have been ten times more informative than any of the other trailers. Secrecy wasn’t a concern for Rogue One; since the movie is a spinoff, describing the plot was necessary in convincing people to go see it. Going in, you had some idea what you were going to get. Not too much, but it was reassuring.

The trailers for Last Jedi seem to show us enough to the point that we can make a general guess what’s going to happen. It’s easy to make a predictive outline of certain plot points: Rey will train with Luke but is so powerful that she scares him, Poe and Finn fight the First Order, Leia laments over Han’s death and her son’s evil ways, and Rey tries to convince Kylo Ren to be less evil but he doesn’t do so until he sees Supreme Leader Snoke torturing her towards the end of the movie. But these various plot points don’t tell us much about the movie. I have to wonder what the harm of releasing a one-sentence plot synopsis would be.

I guess the main counterpoint to revealing any kind of plot details is that it’ll help with trolls who seek to spoil the movie for people. And I get it – it’s a definite problem. I still get extremely mad when I remember how some little cretin in my Facebook news feed revealed every considerable twist from The Force Awakens in one sentence (“Kylo Ren kills his father Han Solo”). No doubt some jerk will see the film as soon as he possibly can and take to Twitter to reveal something like “Kylo Ren kills Snoke” or “The Porgs murder Chewbacca.” And to their credit, Star Wars has turned this into a clever marketing tool. Their social media platforms recently promoted the film saying: “Don’t let anyone spoil this… Be the first to see The Last Jedi.” But I almost feel like all this secrecy won’t have any kind of impact. No matter what, people are bound to try to ruin the fun. Preventing the cast from describing the movie won’t stop this.

I think what I resent most about Star Wars’ secrecy is the fact that there aren’t really any negative consequences to it. All this hysteria about keeping the plot quiet isn’t going to affect their box office returns. No one’s going to say, “I don’t know what it’s about exactly, so I don’t know if I’ll enjoy it.” After all, it’s Star Wars, and Star Wars is bound to make boatloads and boatloads of money. I just wish that, for the fans’ sakes, they would just give us a little something to talk about. If nothing else, it would certainly take a weight off of Mark Hamill, who apparently isn’t allowed to say anything in interviews other than to call The Last Jedi “a movie [he’s] not supposed to talk about.”

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