George Lucas,  Original Saga,  Prequel Trilogy,  The Last Jedi

Legal scholar Cass Sunstein: “The Last Jedi doesn’t come anywhere close to the depths of George Lucas’s films”


From Cass R. Sunstein at Bloomberg:

“George Lucas, the genius behind the first six “Star Wars” movies, says that his films are defined by “a sort of effervescent giddiness.” That’s true, and it’s central to their magic.

That helps explain why writer-director Rian Johnson’s new film, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” isn’t really “Star Wars.” Sure, it’s good, even very good — but there’s nothing giddy about it. […]

Although Star Wars is a bit of a cartoon, it also has feeling and depth, and real insight into human psychology. Drawing on Joseph Campbell’s idea of “The Hero With a Thousand Faces,” Lucas told a universal tale (actually, two tales) about heroic journeys and freedom of choice, exercised for better or for worse by two young men, Anakin Skywalker and his son Luke. Both of them are deeply tempted by evil. Lucas is candid and vivid about the seductive, even erotic power of the Dark Side of the Force. […]

When Lucas’s protagonists do go bad, it is for one reason: They cannot bear to lose someone they love. The path to the Dark Side is paved by grief and loss. But in a stunning reversal of what seems to be his main theme, Lucas also shows that fear of loss (otherwise known as love) is the path to redemption as well. […]

Having studied the topic with care, Lucas is also insightful (and enduringly relevant, above all in the much-maligned prequels) about how democracy falls and how authoritarianism rises. He captures the populist allure of the all-powerful leader. As one of his characters puts it, “So this is how liberty dies … with thunderous applause.”

Anakin Skywalker himself insists, “We need a system where the politicians sit down and discuss the problems, agree what’s in the best interests of all the people, and then do it.” Ominously, he adds that if they refuse, “They should be made to” — and if that sounds like dictatorship, “Well, if it works …”

“The Last Jedi” has a lot to say about the Light Side and the Dark Side, but there is nothing about grief and loss, and it’s banal about democracy. What it does with good and evil isn’t nearly interesting enough. Rey, our heroine, is never truly tempted. That’s boring.

Mr. Dark Side, Kylo Ren, does have a bit of a struggle, and in that sense, Johnson maintains continuity with Lucas’s vision. But in this movie, at least, the struggle turns out to be a head fake. Because Kylo’s descent doesn’t have the precipitating cause of Anakin’s — the loss of loved ones — and because we don’t see Kylo suppressing the better angels of his nature, the film doesn’t come anywhere close to the depths of Lucas’s films.

The script flags the idea of freedom of choice, but it’s not heartfelt — more like checking a box. In that sense, and worst of all, Johnson ends up losing Lucas’s golden thread. […]

True, Mark Hamill is fabulous as the old Luke Skywalker, and as Rey, Daisy Ridley matches him. Johnson’s work is more than competent; it’s sharp and inventive (and in a few places, stunning). But it doesn’t wrestle with demons or with the largest questions. It isn’t brimming with life.

It’s a reminder that George Lucas was, and remains, one of a kind.”

“Cass Robert Sunstein FBA (born September 21, 1954) is an American legal scholar, particularly in the fields of constitutional law, administrative law, environmental law, and law and behavioral economics, who was the Administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama administration from 2009 to 2012. For 27 years, Sunstein taught at the University of Chicago Law School. Sunstein is the Robert Walmsley University Professor at Harvard Law School.

Studies of legal publications between 2009 and 2013 found Sunstein to be the most frequently cited American legal scholar by a wide margin, followed by Erwin Chemerinsky and Richard A. Epstein.” (Wikipedia)


  • lovelucas

    Most of us know George is one of a kind which is Star Wars. Love this article and bravo to the author for succinctly saying what true fans know.

  • Richard Stevens

    “Because Kylo’s descent doesn’t have the precipitating cause of Anakin’s — the loss of loved ones — and because we don’t see Kylo suppressing the better angels of his nature, the film doesn’t come anywhere close to the depths of Lucas’s films.”

    I guess part of what I found interesting about Kylo and Rey is how they’re motives revolve more around identity related to parentage than loss of loved ones.

    Ben Solo is a product of a family in which both parents fail him. His mother, heavily invested in rebuilding the governing body for the galaxy is unavailable, Han Solo turns out to not be a particularly accessible parenting figure. So Ben struggles to find his own identity when he can’t hold the attention of his parents: from his grandfather. He yearns for an identity of purpose and significance and mistakenly reads the legend of Vader as a text separated from the human. It’s hard to live up to legends, or even to understand them.

    Rey was abandoned by her parents, and the desperate search for personal meaning in coping with that loss (why I was puzzled she was described as not having experienced loss) drives her. She is devastated to not find satisfactory answers in this movie, and it affects her development as a person.

    Maybe it’s because this new trilogy is trying to reposition for a new fan base, but the struggles I see in Kylo and Rey are very familiar when thinking about what Millennials seem to express anxiety about: taking over a nation with a long complicated history without the social capital or access to power to make change. And yet the responsibility is falling to them.

    And at the same time, this trilogy is about the failure of their parent’s generation to enact and safeguard positive change.

    No it isn’t Lucas, doggishly following Joseph Campbell’s road map for the hero’s journey. Those were great stories, but I think there is plenty of room for other kinds of story telling, and different kinds of problems to be tackled outside the “black vs. white” framing of moral dilemmas.

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