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New Escapist Column! The Flawed Redemption at the Heart of “Return of the Jedi”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine on Monday. This one has been kicking around inside my head for a little while, but came to the fore with the recent trailer for Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker. Primarily, the flawed redemption at the heart of Star Wars: Episode VI – The Return of the Jedi.

Look, everybody knows the basic arc of the Star Wars saga. Luke discovers that Darth Vader is his father, sets out to redeem him, manages to turn Vader away from the dark side before Vader dies. However, that’s never been quite how it works. The actual arc is a lot messier and more complicated, and a lot less conventionally heroic than it is remembered. Return of the Jedi never actually bothers to redeem Vader, instead focusing on redeeming Luke’s idea of Vader. At its core, Return of the Jedi is a story about how hard Luke wants to believe his father was a good man, in spite of all evidence to the contrary.

Along the way, Luke gambles the entire future of the Rebel Alliance and his sister’s fate on the assumption that there is goodness in Vader, while the film never actually bothers to demonstrate that there is any. It’s a fascinating incomplete arc, and one that hints at a gaping moral void at the heart of the larger Star Wars saga. It’s a story about how an individual’s redemption doesn’t matter, only other people’s idea of that redemption. In its own way, it marks Return of the Jedi as a quintessentially eighties movie; it is a story about how the most important thing to Luke is not the fate of the galaxy, but his own self-image.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! Luke Skywalker, “The Last Jedi” and “Star Wars” as a Saga of Generational Failure…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine this week, looking at the (in some quarters controversial) handling of Luke Skywalker in The Last Jedi.

The Star Wars saga has always been – at its heart – a story of generational failure, about how the older generation inevitably fails the younger one. This was true of the prequels with characters like Qui-Gon Jinn, Mace Windu and Count Dooku. It was also true of the original trilogy with Obi-Wan Kenobi, Darth Vader and Yoda. “We are what they grow beyond,” Yoda tells Luke in The Last Jedi, and that has always been the franchise’s core philosophy. The only problem is that some of the audience grew up with Luke, and are not yet ready to grow beyond him.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

Not Everything, Not Yet: Nolan’s Dark Knight Rises and the Prospect of Finality

Read our in-depth review of the film here.

It’s a funny thing watching The Dark Knight Rises trailer that was released earlier in the week. It seems that a lot of people had the same response that I did. Colleagues in work, friends and family members, all looked at the trailer for the third in Nolan’s trilogy that began with Batman Begins and seemed to have the same observation. “I think he might kill Batman,” a lot of people remarked on viewing the teaser for the film. Given how safe most major studio productions are, especially those that are part of a cash-cow franchise, it’s amazing that the possibility even exists at all, hovering faintly over the film.

Broken bat…

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Non-Review Review: Star Wars – Episode I: The Phantom Menace (3D)

In 1999, after decades of anticipation, George Lucas unleashed Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace. The response was… less than enthusiastic. After years of heightened anticipation, during which the original trilogy had been built up to near mythical status, anything less than the second coming was going to disappoint viewers. I think it is reasonable to say that The Phantom Menace fell well short of that particular target. That said, I’ve always felt a bit of sympathy for the first of the prequel trilogy. Not enough to label it as a good film (it really isn’t), but enough to argue that the fairly fundamental and central flaws do mask a number of virtues. Those virtues don’t quite redeem the film, but they do make the end result a lot more fascinating than most would concede it to be.

Schindler’s miffed…

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