Rian Johnson Explains

Looks like “Rian Johnson Explains” is the new “Lena Dunham Apologizes”.

You know, if you have to explain that much about your movie, chances are it’s not a very good movie. Are you ready for the hottest of takes? No? Ok, who cares, here we go. Spoilers follow.

As someone who’s not particularly invested in the Star Wars universe, I don’t really care about Rian Johnson‘s “bold” plot twists and narrative decisions. To be honest, I thought hermetic miser Luke Skywalker was pretty relatable. Flying space-Leia was supremely silly but forgivable. Cutting Snoke in half was fairly anti-climactic but symptomatic of a larger issue that plagued the film.

Why care about any of these people?

Whether or not this is a good Star Wars movie is a debate I’ll leave to the nerds, but anyone who is a fan of quality cinema cannot possibly recommend this movie based on its storytelling. The structure is lopsided; the faintest wisp of a plot blown out over an arduously long runtime. The film’s raison d’aitre seems to be character development- which is by far the weakest part of the movie. Aside from a handful key players, the people populating this movie are hastily sketched characters that seemingly rely on fan-fiction to fill in the blanks. Why bother building backstory for all these people when the citizens of tumblr and reddit can do it for you?

Luke and Rey are among the scant few who are organically developed; the former a wizened, bitter recluse and the latter a headstrong but conflicted ingenue. Kylo Ren continues to shine as the unstable dark side devotee with a massive inferiority complex.

And that’s about it.

Finn, I guess, goes from cowardly to brave? His engineer pal at some point falls in love with him? Their friendship is so sloppily assembled she could have just as easily appeared out of nowhere at the end and the “big kiss” would have had the same amount of chemistry. Why should we care about these two and their burgeoning romance? This is just fodder for the internet to cobble together their shipping fantasies to.

Chrome stormtrooper Captain Phasma shows up out of nowhere to battle Finn. At no point during this or the previous movie did she do anything fearsome, so the hamfisted epicness of this fight rings incredibly hollow. This is not the showdown you were looking for. Same goes for Supreme Leader Snoke. Why do we care if these villains are defeated if they’ve barely done anything villainous to merit their downfall? Snoke’s red bodyguards do provide one of the film’s more exciting fight sequences, but again: we’ve never seen these red guys fight before. We don’t know that they’re supposed to be super-duper warriors. Their defeat is no more a triumph than one over a regular stormtrooper.

General Leia Organa and her vice-admiral played by Laura Dern are both touted to be the most experienced leaders in the whole wide galaxy!!!!!! But Leia barely does anything and Laura Dern even less. The latter’s noble sacrifice, while aesthetically pleasing, is another empty gesture.

Perhaps the emptiest character is ace pilot Poe Dameron, who I nearly forgot to include due to his forgettable nature. Oh, what range he has! Vacillating between snarky handsome know-it-all and mutinous handsome know-it-all, he is essentially a tertiary character thrust into the spotlight. What is his persona supposed to be? What is his background? Goals, ambitions, reason for existing, anything! Over the course of two movies this guy has just been a stand-in for a good spaceship-flying man.

It’s all just so vacuous. Aside from the yin-yang relationship between Rey and Kylo Ren, there’s very little to this movie. It’s just a slow chase followed by a Battle of Hoth rerun. Many people complained that The Force Awakens was a carbon copy of A New Hope. At least that movie had a sensible story arc! Here we’ve got an Empire Strikes Back clone that hopes to distract viewers from the similarities by throwing some M Night Shyamalan tricks in, but instead just creates an incoherent, overlong slog. Explain yourself out of that, Rian Johnson.