COMMENT: Wait, why does 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' feel like a Marvel movie?

PHOTO: Walt Disney Pictures
PHOTO: Walt Disney Pictures

Note: This commentary contains spoilers for the movie “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”.

“Star Wars” is an epic. It always has, and it always will be. After all, it’s the grandest space opera the world has ever seen. The stakes are literally cosmic in scope. And it all boils down to powerful individuals making the choice between good and evil, light and darkness, Jedi or Sith.

So it’s surprising to see how it opens with a snarky Poe Dameron mocking an over-the-top, hammy General Hux over an intercom.

Hux was a little high-strung in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”, but this was balanced with other aspects of his character. Unfortunately, all that remains of Hux’s character in “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is his shouty, temperamental, bossy behaviour. He’s become a one-dimensional villain that’s really only there to serve a plot purpose.

Just like a Marvel Cinematic Universe film.

While they’re all under the Disney banner now, it’s a little unnerving to see how close “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is in style and tone to a Marvel movie. There are so many comical quips and witty insults between the characters that it loses that grandiose quality it once had, and sort of becomes a Star Wars film with a Marvel aesthetic to it.

PHOTO: Walt Disney Pictures
PHOTO: Walt Disney Pictures

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for snappy dialogue, especially if it helps with the pacing. But there’s a difference between fast-paced dialogue and jokey lines. “The Dark Knight” had an excellent script where characters had great back-and-forths — without having to resort to comedy.

It’s just that there are so many lines that go to the trouble of illustrating how quick-witted characters are that the jokes overshadow the actual characterisation, like the movie’s too afraid of going a few minutes without keeping it light-hearted.

PHOTO: Walt Disney Pictures
PHOTO: Walt Disney Pictures

Dialogue aside, there’s also only one villain with actual characterisation now — Kylo Ren. Previously we at least had an ensemble of villains, like General Hux, Supreme Leader Snoke, and Captain Phasma, who each seemed to have their own motivations and objectives.

Now all these other antagonists are reduced to one-dimensional humanoid-shaped obstacles (like the generic Marvel villain) or ashes (you can figure out who dies), and we’ve only got Kylo Ren who has actual characterisation. The problem is, the movie can’t seem to decide whether he’s a villain or a hero. He flip-flops between redemption and damnation, has an artificially sympathetic backstory, and ends up betraying the characters who had faith in him.

Just like Loki, if you will.

Kylo Ren isn’t actually conflicted. It’s the creators who are conflicted over whether they want Kylo Ren to be a hero (commercially more viable, one supposes) or a villain (which means limited choices when it comes to spin-offs). As a result, they don’t really give him any significantly heroic actions (since they don’t want him to explicitly be a protagonist) but he doesn’t do anything that’s really that evil either (besides killing his own father, but even that is explained in a way that is supposed to make us feel sympathetic for him). Again, just like Loki, where the creators want to keep him around but can’t really let him do evil villainy things.

PHOTO: Walt Disney Pictures
PHOTO: Walt Disney Pictures

Everyone seems to have forgiven Kylo Ren for killing Han Solo in the previous movie. Isn’t, say, Leia even the slightest bit angry about it?

There are plenty of moments of awesome for all the characters, regardless of whether they wield the Force or not, but the way they are executed feels very — showy. Again, just like a Marvel movie. They perform all these impressive feats for the sake of wowing the audience, rather than being motivated to do so organically.

Sure, there’s a logical plot-based reason for them to embark on such risky acts that are fun to watch. But the explanations are mechanical rather than compelling in nature. And the treatment of their spotlighted scenes feels more like a spectacle than a story, which again, is the way that you’d see it being handled in a Marvel movie.

All that being said, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” is still a fun film that throws some unexpected (good) curveballs while meandering into a few boring plotlines, and deserves to be called a Star Wars film. It’s just that it’s sliding precariously close to becoming a Marvel movie, and you wonder if the next film will be called “Marvel’s Star Wars Episode Nine: Rise of the Jedi” (or something like that).

Or maybe… “Avengers: The Infinity Star Wars”.

“Star Wars: The Last Jedi” opens in cinemas:
– 14 December, 2017 (Singapore)
– 14 December, 2017 (Malaysia)
– 13 December, 2017 (Philippines)

Marcus Goh is a Singapore television scriptwriter, having written for “Lion Mums”, “Crimewatch”, “Incredible Tales”, and “Police & Thief”. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. You can find him on social media as Optimarcus and on his site. The views expressed are his own.

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