Skip to comments.Kojima: 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' and the Reinvention of the Hero [BARF alert]
Posted on 07/04/2018 4:50:47 AM PDT by otness_e
SPOILER ALERT: This article reveals several key plot points from the movie Star Wars: The Last Jedi. If you haven't seen the movie, please beware.
In 1977, George Lucas revolutionized not only film but the entire entertainment industry with Star Wars.
But, 40 years later, Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) isn't a revolution. A revolution is when the oppressed overthrow the oppressor, the old are replaced by the new, giving rise to new countries and concepts. The Last Jedi doesn't change the boundaries established by Star Wars in its story, expression (technique and design) nor how its business operates.
However, rather than this being something negative about the film, it is proof that The Last Jedi is indeed the right kind of Star Wars for the 21st century.
Lucas' original Star Wars is a story of revolution, where the rebellion led by Princess Leia along with Han Solo and Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker stand against the Galactic Empire. The Last Jedi depicts the battles between the heavily armed First Order and the Resistance fighters. This structure is inherited from The Force Awakens, an "Empire versus Rebellion" theme that is persistent throughout the Star Wars series.
Near the end of The Last Jedi, Kylo Ren kills Snoke, the Supreme Leader of the First Order. This is a coup d'état by Kylo, and should be considered an internal structural revolution. However, while Kylo invites Rey to create a new order along with him, he never actually attempts to do so. Instead of destroying the First Order, he merely occupies the now vacant position of Supreme Leader. It seems that only the leadership in the organization changes, while its objective and power structure are left intact. What happens next might be portrayed in future episodes, but at this point, the First Order has only undergone a succession in administration, rather than an actual revolution.
The motif of succession is present throughout the film: Vice Admiral Holdo takes command when Leia is incapacitated, and Poe Dameron is demoted for disobeying General Leia's orders. And most importantly, there is the succession from Luke to Rey.
This is not a revolution. And just as the story isn't about revolution, its themes and portrayals aren't revolutionary either. This is only natural, though, as the film is but one piece of the continuous, eternal kingdom of Star Wars.
Star Wars and New American Cinema Let's first look back at the revolution that George Lucas started in 1977.
My first encounter with Star Wars was through a metallic sticker included in a movie magazine. It featured Luke Skywalker using binoculars while standing next to C-3PO, and that alone was enough to transmit how groundbreaking Star Wars was. However, it would take more than a year after its release in the US for the movie to be released in Japan. Actually, Star Wars ended up being released in Japan after Close Encounters of the Third Kind. At the time, there was no internet, and the speed at which information from overseas came to Japan can't begin to compare to the flow of information we have today. Even then, though, there was a daily influx of Star Wars news and reviews: a blockbuster science fiction epic that sparked a global SF frenzy. Fueled by the SF craze, Japanese Star Wars-like movies such as The War In Space and Message from Space were rushed into production so that they could be released before Star Wars in Japan.
I was one of those kids excited about watching Star Wars, but even I felt something odd about this movie being categorized as science fiction. Back then, to me, science fiction was not restricted to just movies or novels, but any expression that portrayed problems and contradictions in today's society and brought them under examination by presenting them from a different angle. 2001: A Space Odyssey, Planet of the Apes, Soylent Green, Z.P.G., Godzilla; their social commentary and philosophical perspective made them SF. At the time Star Wars was criticized in some corners for having no philosophy, and for being preposterous and childish.
Star Wars wasn't science fiction per se; it was more of a fairy tale set in space. However, it wasn't a superficial, childish soap opera either. It was a revolutionary film, set to change films altogether: a work that created a genre and a culture of its own.
It may not directly tackle themes that afflict modern society, and some might brush it off as a shallow popcorn flick, but that's not the case. It is well known that Lucas used mythologist Joseph Campbell's The Hero With a Thousand Faces as a base, and through Star Wars Lucas expanded on timeless themes such as father and son relationship and the journey into adulthood.
On top of that, by introducing ideas based on Eastern mysticism such as the Force and Jedis, he brought non-western religious and philosophical elements into the realm of science fiction (or better put: to space opera). One of those elements is how the Force extends beyond good and evil, diving into the idea of the duality persistent across all things (perhaps some of this thinking was influenced by Lucas' affection in his youth towards Akira Kurosawa's work).
There are those who claim that the success of Star Wars ended the New American Cinema, but that's not the case. George Lucas, who stood up to make films in the 1960s, had an aversion to Hollywood's system and created his own indie development company along with Francis Ford Coppola (Lucas debut film with the studio being THX1138). Lucas didn't end New American Cinema: he created a new way of making films.
Tech, Merch and Process Star Wars also revolutionized the technology and business of movies. The trilogy, consisting of episodes four to six, utilized analog special effects (SFX) such as filming miniature sets with motion control cameras, while episodes one to three created aliens, droids and environmental art mostly through digital effects (VFX), always creating its worlds with state of the art technology.
Companies such as ILM, THX and Skywalker Sound were created to pursue further research and development of these technologies, and the knowledge they accumulated would go on to significantly transform the film industry on a global scale (you may remember that Pixar was also born from the CG division of Lucas Films).
Star Wars and George Lucas blazed a new path for VFX, CG, sound systems and other film technologies, and took their development to new heights. James Cameron, a few generations younger than George Lucas, would make similar contributions down the line.
Lucas continues to use the latest technologies to edit the films on each subsequent release, whether its the 1997 Trilogy Special Edition or other releases on DVD and Blu-ray. This was a foreshadowing of the transformation from movies as finished theatrical products to continuously morphing entities, much like social games and TV series.
On the business side, by acquiring the merchandising rights, Lucas was ahead of his time in acknowledging the potential movies had as a royalty driven business. All the merchandise born from the movies - toys, figures, games, comics, animations, etc. - helped form the Star Wars universe. And each of those provides a form of entertainment different from a movie. I can't even begin to count how many Lego sets and figures I've bought over the years!
Lucas' Star Wars movie revolution gave rise to a creative process mimicked by all films since, and established the current movie business model. Of course, The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi are no exceptions. Even though The Last Jedi utilizes the latest VFX to deliver ever more astounding visuals, it's just an extension of the revolution of some 40 years past. A case in point: A lot of attention has been brought to the fact that a life-size mock-up of the Millennium Falcon was created to lend an authentic atmosphere, but the very same thing, albeit only the right half, was created way back in Episode IV. We are, in fact, not in the midst of a real technical revolution.
For each new Star Wars movie, the world setting, characters, mechanical creations and other designs must fit within the Star Wars framework, which of course makes it difficult to deliver an experience as all together new and fresh as the original. In addition, with mainline and spin-off films coming out every other year, it's impossible for a single creator to control all aspects of production. Instead, multiple directors must create films that keep fans continuously engaged, while staying within the confines of the Star Wars universe.
The Last Jedi is a movie that gallantly confronts this challenge. In fact, it is on this point that writer and director Rian Johnson really shines. Faced with the questions of how to build upon the back of an already successful revolution, and just what is the right course of action to take, Johnson chose to portray a modern, 21st century Star Wars story of succession and replacement.
The Last Jedi Despite coming in at a new Star Wars record running time of roughly 152 min., the story of The Last Jedi is actually quite simple. Over the course of the film the resistance is constantly on the run from the dogged pursuit of the First Order. During that time Luke and Rey's succession, Kylo Ren and Supreme Leader Snoke's showdown, Rey and Kylo's Force-enabled communication, not to mention Finn and Rose's infiltration mission all play out.
As far as the story is concerned, little waves are made and there are no space-shattering conflicts. Although, to be fair this may be an inescapable result of being the second act of three parts.
In any case, the story immediately reminded me of Christopher Nolan's Dunkirk. Both are only one part of a larger story, and focus almost exclusively on the theme of escape. Like Dunkirk, The Last Jedi largely sets aside any questions about the causes of conflict and what effects the outcome may yield. Rather than tell a story, it's more concerned with effectively presenting characters and situations.
This method, akin to the portrayal of TV series characters, eschews plot progression in favor of deeper character development. Significant effort is applied to diving into and increasing the allure of characters from the previous episode: Rey, Finn, Poe, Kylo, as well as a host of new characters. However, failure to follow through with these character developments yields regrettable results. Poe gets kicked to the side early on and never finds a place to shine, and Rey and Luke's interactions fail to reach a satisfying conclusion.
The Last Jedi does boast a series of striking scenes, from Kylo and Rey's intense battle with the Elite Praetorian Guard (featuring backhanded lightsaber action!), to the final showdown on the blood-like red plumes of the white salt flats.
The Force Conversely, unlike previous episodes, there is no mention of the trade federation that initially sparked the war for the Republic or other deeper political machinations. Instead, a great deal of care is paid to the positioning of characters. This is evident in Leia's role as a female general, the heroine Rey, and Finn's Asian female compatriot Rose. The film is conscious of gender and minorities in a way that could surely not have been seen in the era of Lucas' Star Wars.
The film doesn't waste its breath on bold revolutionary or political declarations, but instead sets its gaze upon social problems the audience experiences on a daily basis. Women are not princesses waiting to be rescued, but warriors who take up arms in their own fight. This fits the trend of Disney movies as well, where the once common theme of a princess waiting for her prince has all but become the ancient past.
The revelation behind the mystery of Rey's birth also brings another of the trilogy's central social themes to light.
Rey is one of the, if not the most powerful conduits of the Force, but her parents were not Jedi - just commoners (note: this truth may very well change in the next episode). This is directly opposed to Kylo Ren, who is the son of Leia and Han Solo, and Luke Skywalker, whose father is Darth Vader. Anakin's birth is also veiled in mystery. It's said he is without father, and an abnormally large quantity of midi-chlorians in his body grant him remarkable Force powers. So, just like the others, his birth has a mysterious mythological and privileged air about it.
Until now, the Force has always been something that only the chosen can come to possess, but this assumption is turned on its head. As we learn from Luke's lesson, the Force is, in fact, omnipresent, there for everyone.
The Democratization of the Hero Episodes one through six center around the Force and the story of Luke Skywalker and his father Darth Vader. The heroes in these episodes are all special carriers of the Force. Indeed, episodes one to three are almost exclusively focused on the birth of Darth Vader.
(As a bit of an aside, it is sometimes hypothesized that perhaps due to Metal Gear Solid 3's position as a prequel and its focus on the birth of Big Boss, it was influenced by Star Wars. Darth Vader = Big Boss, or something like that. This is wrong. I was actually referencing the structure of Planet of the Apes and Stephen Hunter's Swagger Saga.)
Just as the power of kings is passed to their lineage, so too the Force is passed to the chosen few. At least that's how we've viewed Star Wars until now. The Last Jedi throws this concept out the window. Anyone can awaken to the Force. Anyone can be the hero. The spotlight isn't reserved for those special few, it can shine on anyone. Princess Leia is no longer a princess, but a general, a position that can be replaced by another.
The same movement has happened within the world of games. Previously the hero was an elite, a chosen figure coming from a unique background or possessing special powers, but from the time of Grand Theft Auto and the like, minorities and oppressed members of society have become the heroes. In this day and age, the leading role isn't reserved just for the chosen, but anyone can become the hero = the player.
The Last Jedi may be the first attempt to free Star Wars from its era of mythology, and propel it into the present. The closing scene of the young boy hopefully gazing up at the stars is as fitting an indication of this intent as any.
In Star Wars, anyone can be the hero. That's what The Last Jedi tells us. It's a new era, starting in a kingdom without a king.
The revolutionary age of toppling kings is past. Star "Wars" has entered a new era of festivity, welcome to one and all. The "all flash and no blood" red plumes on the salt planet signify this change of stance. To ensure the stability and prosperity of the kingdom, a festival is held each year as part of a never-ending celebration. This is what it means for Disney, not George Lucas, to helm the Star Wars franchise. In the magic kingdom anyone can become prince or princess, no blood is spilled and there are no revolutions.
The Last Jedi is just the prologue.
Hideo Kojima, best known as the game creator of the Metal Gear series, became an independent game developer at the end of 2015 after releasing Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. He established his own studio, Kojima Productions, and is now making PS4 game DEATH STRANDING, starring Norman Reedus and Mads Mikkelsen,
Also, he repeats the same lie regarding the earlier DPs that they did nothing but wait for their princes to come (the only ones who literally waited for their princes to come were Snow White and Aurora, and to be fair to them, they didn't have a choice since they were in a coma. And besides, even Snow White at least fled the castle and also helped maintain the Dwarves' house, so really, it's only Aurora who literally only waited for their prince to come due to her having very minimal screentime), while praising the feminism of the movie.
I read it. It’s drivel. Everyone knows TLJ failed its fan base. This is just an attempt by the Entertainment Establishment (or maybe the first shot of an offensive) to put lipstick on the pig.
sjw creativity: endless sequels and genderswapping established beloved franchises and getting up in a huff over the predictable backlash.
Yeah, agreed, the fact that he made a similarly bad game in the form of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain definitely doesn’t help matters, either. In fact, of his Metal Gear games, I can only name one, maybe two games that were actually good, three at most: There’s Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake, Metal Gear Solid, and Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. The rest were pretty bad, and in the case of Metal Gear barely has any real thing to talk about (and some that were actually good weren’t even made by him in the first place such as Portable Ops or Ghost Babel). It takes a hack to defend such a hack work (of course, then again, I’d probably say that about Lucas after he not only changed Han shooting first, but even lied about it, not to mention his bluntly trying to push the idea that having ANY military at all is evil in the prequel trilogy, similar to the nukes bit that Kojima condemns in his games, even going as far as to “award” a player with instant demon status if you build a single nuke, even if it is to defend your FOB and men.).
You’ve got that right, and in Kojima’s case, while he hasn’t gone as far as to do genderswapping franchises (yet, anyway, although his having Norman Reedus’s character get pregnant in Death Stranding does come pretty close), he has stated in Metal Gear Solid 2’s grand game plan that he thinks women will rule and be protectors of men, that the 21st century will be the age of women. And he certainly got into a huff regarding MGS2 and MGSV’s negative reception.
Ripley, I rest my case.
I enjoyed Snatcher and the early Metal Gear games but in my opinion, Kojima has progressively gotten worse as a story teller.
The Last Jedi was trash. The Solo movie was great escapist fun. The trash took big box office, the fun film not so much because of the first garbage movie. Not fair.
Yeah, agreed. The fact that he relies on constantly retconning the heck out of his plot definitely doesn’t impress me at all, nor does his making characters out of character just to push his agenda (Big Boss and Miller all of a sudden singing praises for Che Guevara despite their character histories up to that point completely conflicting with the idea of supporting him comes to mind). I’d say that he probably started slipping by MGS2, maybe as early as MGS1 (I wasn’t fond of how he turned Snake from a guy who wanted to get rid of his PTSD into a complete psychopath who was arguably as bad as the terror group he was fighting based on comments from his own allies, let alone his enemies which included a psychic of all people).
If it’s of any consolation, The Last Jedi did underperform to such an extent that JJ Abrams began insulting his audience a’la FemGhostbusters.
Wow, what a waste of reading time this article was.
Too boring to read. Can anyone explain concisely exactly what “reinvention of the hero” means? Sorry to be lazy, but I was never a big Star Wars fan, including when the original came out.
El Rey Sci-Fi Channel had an all-day “Kaiju” run the other day—great because I’m recuperating from a bad back sprain, etc. Godzilla VS everything they could come up with, from the old school to present!
Yeah I know off-topic and waaaay down a different tangent.
Trust me, you think that’s bad, wait till you try to play some of his games like Metal Gear Solid 2, Metal Gear Solid 4, Peace Walker, and Metal Gear Solid V.
You may disagree but I liked MSG-V TPP and MSG-IV was great as well, he has good directing style and I like that his beliefs though that is something else.
See Solo while you can, folks. The DPs are already wondering if the scheduled Boba Fett movie should even be made.
How long till one of those tiny sprite-girls scolds Go-jira for breaking things and sends him packing back into the ocean forever?
Its translated from the original Japanese. I dont think the Hero was reinvented. The hero in Star Wars is now a heroine. Which is fine with me, but the SJWs think it is a Big Deal and will use it going forward to show how superior women are and how inferior men are.
With MGSV, unfortunately, he made the same mistake as with Peace Walker and couldn’t keep his personal political beliefs to himself (since he used Ground Zeroes to push the idea that Guantanamo Bay shouldn’t exist), and in TPP, they had disparaging remarks about America, not to mention the characters supporting the MPLA, a Communist group, and they had a guy who literally wanted to commit genocide against English, not even CARING if his own Dine tribe who knows English got killed as a result despite claiming he wanted to avenge his tribe, and being ungrateful enough to not even be glad that his language served SOME use instead of being wiped out simply because it was used in World War II. And don’t get me started on the plot twist that just destroyed whatever consistent lore the series had left.
And as far and MGS4, it’s slightly better than MGS2 and MGSV, maybe also Peace Walker, but make no mistake, it was a bad game as well, turning characters who weren’t even implied to be involved with the Patriots into their founders, and Act 2 had Otacon pretty much telling you to aid what was implied to be a communist group. Ocelot’s plan literally had no chance of working even IF Sunny’s FOXALIVE didn’t end it, and there’s also the implication from Drebin that FOXALIVE if anything may have left the world even WORSE off than it already was even with the eradication of both the Patriots AND Outer Heaven.
Last Jedi? Is this April Fools? Everybody knows only 3 Star Wars movies have ever been made.
A New Hope.
The Empire Strikes Back.
Return of the Jedi.
What is this “Last Jedi” nonsense this article refers to? It can’t be a “Star Wars” movie, since there are only 3 in existence, all made by George Lucas before 1984. Since 1984, there have been no Star Wars movies made. None. Not a single one. Nope. I don’t believe it.
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