The Last Jedi

“Your parents threw you away like garbage and you can’t stop needing them,” Kylo Ren tells Rey, a prodigal son resenting his own oedipal impulses and able, as such, to perceive a similar Psychology at work in his counterpart. “I thought I’d find answers here,” Rey says of the cave she has entered on the remote island of Ahch-To, recalling the shamanic journey of her teacher Luke Skywalker on the swamp planet of Dagobah in The Empire Strikes Back. She has activated her most heartfelt desire to ask the smoking mirror therein for a vision of her parents – as, indeed, did Harry Potter of the Mirror of Erised in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001) – but instead of a buried family Memory or message of loving reassurance Rey receives a vision of herself, recurring without end in the darkness. “I was wrong,” she tells Ren: “I’ve never felt so alone.” “You’re not alone,” he replies. “Neither are you,” she says:-


Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi entry

Thor: Ragnarok

The fusion of Waititi’s aesthetic and Marvel’s story formula works – but the enjoyment comes at the cost of relegating Hela’s invasion of Asgard to a kind of sideshow to the boys-will-be-boys badinage of Thor, Loki and Hulk. Thor returns to Asgard after defeating the fire demon in the film’s prologue to find Loki posing as Odin (Hopkins): Thor – never the brightest tool in the pantheon, hammer notwithstanding – believes he has prevented Ragnarök by removing any possibility of anyone uniting the fire demon’s crown with the Eternal Flame that burns in Odin’s vault. This, in fact, is the deus ex machina McGuffin that affords the Marvel story engine one of its most basic and persistently useful moves: use one Villain to defeat the other just when all seems lost for the Heroes at the end of the movie, as, indeed, was the case at the denouement of the enormously-successful Doctor Strange (2016). Stephen Strange (Cumberbatch) pops up here to direct Thor and Loki to their father in Norway, where Odin explains that his impending death will allow Hela, his first-born and general of the armies that brought him the Nine Realms, to return to wreak vengeance on the planet of Asgard. Hela (Blanchett, in a gloriously campy and vicious portrayal of the true nature of a people intent on the Colonization of Other Worlds) obliterates Thor’s hammer Mjolnir, pursues Thor and Loki across the Bifröst Bridge and exiles them into deep space before quickly establishing her rule over Asgard by destroying the Warriors Three, resurrecting her ancient army from the dead and appointing Asgardian champion Skurge (Urban) as her executioner:-

Thor: Ragnarok entry

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

The overall effect is to (a) humanize and (b) expand the Star Wars project along familiar lines. The plot-holes – Bodhi Rook experiences a Memory Edit by a Supernatural Creature that is simply forgotten, the back-and-forth McGuffin of the Death Star schematics in fact bears very little logical examination and the last-minute romance between Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor is rumoured to have been accentuated by reshoots – seem to be an interesting feature of conversation for the fans rather than any reason to doubt the efficacy of the franchise. The economics speaks for itself. Rogue One is one of a number of recent sf films and tv series that successfully insert a strong female lead into action narratives without including other women among the major protagonists: it is difficult to build a meaningful dramatic triad around such a character without reverting to “father” or “lover”; hence, Jyn begins the movie by doing it for her dad and ends it holding hands with a man (see Women in SF). If certain sequences of Rogue One seem familiar to fans of science fiction cinema, it is more than vague similarity: editor Colin Goudie mapped out the film before shooting began by using footage from other films, in much the same manner employed by the Duffer Brothers during the pitching process for tv series Stranger Things (2016-current): the interrogation scene from Aliens (1986) was used to stand in for Jyn Erso’s first meeting with the Rebel council for instance, and a scene from Wargames (1983) was used to pace-out the sequence in which Jyn and company break into the Imperial data banks. This does not harm the overall effect: originality is not required. George Lucas reacted positively to Rogue One after making some disparaging remarks about Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens – he has since apologized to Disney – and there are rumours he may become more closely involved in future spin-offs, all of which will be standalone projects that refer to the central corpus of nine films without affecting their events. Disney’s investment seems securer than most:-

Rogue One