I think that everyone can agree that the marketing for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, much like that of The Force Awakens, has been a stroke of genius by Disney and Lucasfilm. The promotional material thus far has truly stoked audiences’ interest in the movie, while failing to give away any major plot points or clues as to the structure of the movie. In an age where movie trailers have been filled to the brim with all the best moments and reveals (I’m looking at you Black Panther), it’s pleasantly surprising to see Lucasfilm play their hand close to their chest and bank on the fact that the name Star Wars alone will fill cinemas; a tactic which didn’t work out so well for Blade Runner 2049 unfortunately.
However, despite the excitement and anticipation I feel surrounding the release of The Last Jedi, I am still anxious of the fact that I fear the movie will repeat the same crowd-pleasing moments of The Empire Strikes Back, in much the same way The Force Awakens repeated many of A New Hope’s best moments verbatim. I think that despite being a crowd pleaser at the time, The Force Awakens, and its insistence on retreading with almost religious precision all the key story beats from A New Hope, is not a groundbreaking movie. I remember leaving The Force Awakens having my childhood passion for Star Wars deeply satisfied; but then I saw it again. I think looking at the movie the second time, without the lens of my childhood influencing my opinion, I was able to see the movie more clearly, and judge it more critically. Watching the movie the second time was a deeply different experience, and all the plot holes and retreads became painfully obvious. I don’t think that The Force Awakens holds up on repeat viewing. That’s not to say that the movie is bad, because it’s not, it’s just glaringly unoriginal in every way; a fact which similarly bothered George Lucas when he say the movie.
I think looking at the promotional material for The Last Jedi, one could be excused for thinking that the movie is trying to market itself as the darker Empire Strikes Back inflected movie of this new incarnation of movies. There are certainly signs that The Last Jedi might rehash certain moments and events from Empire Strikes Back, most noticeably from the trailers is the clear evidence that the movie will feature a training montage of sorts between Rey and Luke in a manner which will harken back to the Luke and Yoda training scenes from Empire Strikes Back. While I understand the over-arching structure of the Star Wars narrative being cyclical in nature, where events happen and repeat themselves in a poetic manner, I don’t think that gives the movies an excuse to feel like carbon(ite) copies of each other. Star Wars was always on the cusp of revolutionary cinema, trying new and innovative things, and whether or not you have any love for the Prequels, I don’t think they ever felt as close to a retread as The Force Awakens did.
I do feel that this is part of a bigger problem surrounding these new Star Wars films. There is certainly an anxiety in the air in relation to the Star Wars films post-George Lucas. Current Lucasfilm president Kathleen Kennedy seems ruthless in her pursuit for what she perceives as a perfect Star Wars movie, and we’ve seen explicit evidence of this in the firing of Phil Lord and Chris Miller from the now titled Solo: A Star Wars Story, as well as the departure of Rian Johnson from Episode 9 & the cancellation of Josh Trank’s Star Wars movie. This also occurred in the case of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story where large sections of the movie were re-shot without the directorial presence of Gareth Edwards. While the first two movies to come from Lucasfilm, since their acquisition by Disney, have been major successes, it does seem to be only a matter of time before this clear producer/directorial tension boils over into a car crash of a movie.