Plinkett’s Last Jedi review has inspired me to re-evaluate what makes Star Wars work so well, and it lead me to realize that Star Wars '77 has, in many more ways than a normal movie, the form and function of a dream.
Consider that Star Wars perfectly captured a moment in the American zeitgeist of the hippy counterculture rebelling against the establishment machine, using visual references drawn from sources that lingered in the subconscious of that generation. Metropolis, Flash Gordon, WWII propaganda film - all these things were at least a generation out of date when Star Wars premiered, ensuring that while the references would be felt, they would not draw undue attention to themselves.
Consider also the simple and efficient plot populated with archetypal characters that resonate with people of any time. Any specificity in the film is a reference to an unknown, alien technology or knowledge structure, anchoring the film in a timeless void where everything is approachable and everything is endlessly immersive.
Finally and most importantly, consider that the characters and the director construct the myriad conceits of the movie in complete earnest. Nowhere is there a wink to the audience to let them know that they are in a movie, never is a threat taken lightly. When Leia begins to treat her oppressors with mocking disdain, they are quick to destroy her entire planet.
These things all conspire to immerse the audience in what can only be described as a movie equivalent of a dream.
Now compare this to The Last Jedi, which although it goes some way in grounding itself in the visual references of the past, has no interest in generating or sustaining immersion in the audience. This fact above all else is, I believe, why so many in the audience failed to connect with it - The Last Jedi finally awakened them from the seven film dream.
I kind of see what you are trying to say and I’ll have to sit down to watch the Plinkett review sometime soon. That being said, I can honestly say I enjoyed TLJ more than most of ROTJ. Ewoks seriously took me out of the immersion. They are warriors that look like cuddly teddy bears that the main characters see as harmless comedic relief and they are certainly taken lightly in that regard.
For me, SW was a movie very much of the time it was made in, obviously. It was pushing the envelope with visuals and the story was basically the hero myth surrounded by a space western. Many of the facets of SW was a homage but when put together ended up being fresh and new. I liken IV to the Beatles in the sense that their talent came at the right time in the right place. There is no doubt imo that they are one of the greatest bands like SW is one of the greatest movies. But place their birth ten years later and I think things would be quite different. They would still be great but not as unique.
Finally, movies are just made differently now. TLJ is a sign of the current reflection of that in many respects. I am a middle aged male who has seen social media become close to intolerable for me. Outside of well moderated blogs like this is a sea of anonymous hate and personalization of every topic I can think of. SW is treated no differently now. There were those who really did not like ESB when it came out either and there were the vocal critics who were only heard because someone put a microphone in their face when they came out of their theater. I don’t think those folks would be as caustic as today if twitter and Facebook existed then…Maybe I’m naive but I can recall very clearly when my first foray into social media happened and I ran into the first trolls. I was genuinely shocked as if the the person was standing in front of me calling me a “F’n piece of shit” or some other off the cuff insult. Just because I dared to feel differently then they did.
All of this is to say that TLJ and TFA (the latter to a lesser degree because it didn’t even think of breaking the mold) are a sign of the times that have less to do with their respective stories but more to do with us out here watching them and how we communicate (as to your thoughts on why TLJ was less liked than the OT). Social media has become a double edged sword that has changed people in some pretty frightening ways.
Anyway, this post went longer than I first thought it would and in directions I didn’t anticipate. LoL.