Personal reflections on a final chapter decades in the making
As I embark on the unenviable mission of reviewing the final movie of the three “Star Wars” trilogies, allow me to address a very specific audience: Little Me.
Hey, Little Brad. It’s Brad. I’m here from the future. It’s a terrible future.
Those movies you love right now? The ones that will make you love movies? They’re still around. Also, they’re still a big part of your life and your career.
You will grow up to be two things that you both love and hate. You’ll be a “Star Wars” fan, and you’ll be a movie critic. And, I’m sorry, because both of those things, which sound awesome when you’re 8 years old, will be kinda awful in 2019.
Anyway, where were we? Oh, right. When you’re barely even born, a man named George Lucas will mine the narrative depths and cheesy thrills of the serials on which he was raised and make something truly amazing. It will change your entire goddamn life.
It will change the world.
Characters called Han Solo and Princess Leia will really mess up your concept of romance, because they’re based on some old tropes. On a larger scale, the films will introduce merchandising and the concept of blockbusters to an entire artistic medium, and that medium will be worse for it.
But the movies will also tell a story that entire generations will share. Parents will pass it down to their children, and then have a hard time dealing with this younger generation retelling it in its own way. And you’ll somehow be both one of these elders and one of these children.
You’ll remember how you always “called” Han Solo when you were playing “Star Wars” on the playground, and how you wanted to be him when you grew up. He will also come to remind you of your grandfather. When you eventually watch Han Solo die — and I’m sorry for that spoiler, Little Brad — it will wreck you, because it will remind you of both your dead grandpa and your current self. The future is complicated.
Years after the original trilogy, Lucas will return to the “Star Wars” universe in an attempt to tell a larger backstory. And that backstory, tracing the rise of the baddest baddie, will be both unfulfilling but also fantastic, because this is what you grew up with.
Later, people who are roughly the same age as you and hold this story in the same regard will take up the charge of the final chapter, and they’ll be ruthlessly lambasted by people of your generation who lack similar courage. These critics will be especially sad when they see Luke Skywalker, the character in whom they once saw themselves, onscreen as the grouchy curmudgeon that they never thought they would become.
They’ll also be threatened watching a story to which they were formerly central as it’s handed over to the rest of society. And they will try to ruin that.
This will all be OK, though, Little Brad. “Star Wars” will be OK.
Remember those courageous filmmakers I mentioned before? One of them, someone named JJ Abrams, will hit on an idea, a new hope. Believe it or not, Disney will make it happen. And then someone named Rian Johnson will make the best “Star Wars” movie ever, and terrible people will hate it because it makes them question themselves.
As a result, Abrams will return to make the most “Star Wars”-possible movie to capitulate to the purists while maintaining some of the genius subversion of Johnson, who tried to take this story somewhere it should go. A story arc that had finally started to take some chances will effectively be beaten back by a “Star Wars” fandom that had become a monster.
As a result, Little Brad, the last chapter of “Star Wars” will be both deeply, immensely satisfying, and also not everything it could have been.
And you’ll write these words wearing “Star Wars” pajama pants, lamenting what we all became.
But, chin up, because in the end you’ll know that one of us, Johnson, made the best “Star Wars” movie of all time, and another one of us, Abrams, navigated the backlash that we created to land the last “Star Wars” trilogy in a way that eases these pains, even if it sometimes goes too far in its fan service.
Little Brad, you’ll be alive for the greatest “Star Wars” movie. It’s called “The Last Jedi.”
And you’ll be alive to witness the greatest trilogy in the series.
It just ended.