Of course, I need to comment on The Last Jedi. And, of course, I’ll come up with some flimsy justification for how this has anything to do with gaming.
People keep asking me “Out of how many?” Um, four, like normal critics use, as opposed to the enormity of what happens in the interwebs.
I’m sure I’ll spoil in some manner, so I’ll drone for a while before getting into specifics.
I was traveling and didn’t have a lot I needed to do, so my father and I decided we would use some of our time together to see the movie. On Saturday. Not today Saturday, a whole week ago. I was worried about lines. Nope. There was a line for some group event, but there was no one in line to get into the theaters normally. I estimate about 20% full in the theater.
So, I rarely see movies any time close to when they come out because I don’t much like movies. But, for adventure movies, comedies, whatever, you kind of like audience reaction.
Still droning. Resaw it again today and had no new reactions. Sure, was less surprising, but it didn’t reveal anything different.
I enjoyed Force Awakens more. Now, you can hear the screaming of the tortured souls of people I know who were incredibly offended by Force Awakens for reasons I don’t exactly get. I was somewhat offended by John Carter for getting the main character wrong, not having impactful book events be all that impactful, and generally messing with the setting. But, one, whatever medium I experience something in is going to cause me to have some level of disdain for another medium’s offering. Two, Lynn Collins was entirely respectable.
Force Awakens was not perfect. While I may have already reviewed it, what worked for me was that I found Rey and Finn likable.
So, let’s get into where The Last Jedi didn’t Zahn me. Rey and Finn weren’t on screen enough. Oh, I’m sure someone else could have worked for taking up more of Poe’s screen time or Porg screen time. Problem with Poe is that he seems so artificial, so much like a caricature trying to be passed off as a character. If he was Wedge’s kid, then maybe he would be likable. As is, just a space bro.
The humor was sometimes humorous. Other times, forced. In general, the movie just seemed kind of cheesy. Like it was trying to get away with what Return of the Jedi got away with (argued about how Ewoks were not that offensive at the time, recently).
Stuff with Luke and Leia neither bothered me nor fired my ion cannons. I did like the animesque scene. I didn’t think Luke’s character was assassinated. Nor was I bothered by what the Force can do.
I didn’t think there were too many subplots, as some did, as the most complained about subplot has reasons for existing besides special effects. I didn’t have a problem with the new characters, per se, though how badly would you want Billy Dee to show up?
Sure, it was long and slowish. After the fact, you realize that there’s an inherent weakness to primary plot number one.
Kylo is still hard to take seriously as a villain, but I would agree that he was less painful this time around.
Okay, bigger problems for this movie, then bigger problems for the trilogy.
There’s a subtle problem with the movie that I think various viewers feel but may not articulate in the typical brilliant way that I’m about to. Star Wars is space opera. It captured people’s souls by being mythical. A quintessential element to Star Wars that you saw in even not so great Extended Universe books but was clearly evident in the better books, like the first Zahn trilogy, was that “try” becomes “do”. In other words, if you attempt to fight the good fight, there is a reward for doing so, even if lots of people die and lots of other people remain subjugated. TLJ has this underlying problem that there was no reward for doing the right thing.
The villains in the trilogy suck. Was there a decent villain in Force Awakens? I can’t think of any other villains of consequence besides the losers we are saddled with in this movie. Vader was a good villain. The Emperor was an okay villain. Okay, some of the others weren’t all that. The Jar Jar Trilogy had some incredibly forgettable villains in that I only know they were in the movies but don’t remember them doing anything besides he-who-does-not-speak-while-doublebladed-fighting.
One of the scenes that some reviewers went gaga over actually offended me. Let’s just say that doing the obvious after lots of people die is not nearly as cool as doing the obvious before lots of people die.
Okay, moving on to general trilogy problems featured in this movie. WTF is going on? Force Awakens made no sense with the political situation, this movie doesn’t help, throwing a bone to why The First Order is suddenly that much more powerful. Totally unsatisfying why the situation is what it is. Related and part of this problem is one of the villains. Well, kind of two of the villains, but at least one has a background.
I fully expect an attempt at some payoff on certain threads that felt like they were abandoned in this movie in Episode 9, but it still comes across as “wait, you have a 2.5 hour movie and can’t follow up on this thing that could have been cool?”
I could have mentioned before the ship in the water, which I don’t expect to go anywhere, but it kind of falls into the “setup with no payoff” problem.
There were pretty scenes that didn’t distract me but enhanced the experience. This is totally unlike the Jar Jar Trilogy, where special effects seemed to exist to just get people to look at special effects.
It was okay. It was worth watching. It just wasn’t a great movie and didn’t have even the entertainment value that Force Awakens had.
We played like one or two sessions of a Star Wars d20 campaign that maybe would have worked because I was playing with people I already knew who were more cognizant of genre play. Other than that, my recollections are all terrible games set in the SW universe that had nothing to do with SW.
The Last Jedi actually does a pretty good job of presenting examples of reasons why SW RPG play doesn’t end up working. The codebreaker is much more along the lines of what a lot of PCs are. Now, I expect the next movie to do something with the character, but where A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back did it right by having the characters have some sort of arc, this was just a dude in this movie. And, that’s a general problem with a ton of RPG play – why do people want to play games where PCs are just dudes?
Next, the pacing is too slow. The original movies mostly moved at lightspeed.
Is there silly in SW from the original days? Perhaps. There was certainly some slapsticky humor. But, there are times when this movie feels like a parody, and that’s not what provides the experience people seem to want out of a genre. I don’t want parody of Eternal Champion or parody of Lord of the Rings or parody of supers. I want to capture what attracted me to the genre in the first place. RPG play so often dips into the realm of parody.
There isn’t enough Force except when there’s too much. A huge problem with RPG play is that people want to be Jedi or their ilk, yet the good movies have a balance of Jedi and … no, not edge of the Empire scum, sealife aliens, etc … heroic types good at things actually relevant in RPG play. Han, Lando, Chewbacca, Wedge, Ackbar … okay, Ackbar’s skills don’t translate great to adventures at least not his movie skills. And, R2 is completely overpowered, just as BB8 is. Anyway, the Force. There are scenes that I just think to myself “Here’s where the PC spends a Force Point.” So, there’s that. But, the Force as something more than a mechanic feels missing from SW play. Space opera. It’s just high fantasy or comic book supers in another form. Destiny, interconnection of events, soap opera aspects are not what I’ve gotten out of gaming.
I’ve gotten – we have to smuggle stuff, how do we make credits from this job, alien mechanics, interpreting Force rules. There’s a dearth of epic. I realize that the scale of going X-Wing versus Star Destroyer gets to be an issue and that even Tie-Fighter vs. X-Wing leaves out PCs who aren’t flygals. But, that’s SW. You have to have epic space battles. Wars in the Stars. I have no recollection of ever feeling like one of the good guys in a SW RPG session. Not to say it never happened, but it’s a sign that I never recall it.
Of course, it’s not like SW has the only problem failing to hit the genre feel/conventions. Supers, high fantasy are both genres I don’t recall playing where I felt it often enough. Actually, a few times with supers it may have felt right. Martial arts gaming also has some issues, though I haven’t had that many opportunities to play that.
So, I have a long weekend. I hope to bang out some posts, including a post about what new cards (maybe even new decks) I’m interested in for L5R.