Category Archives: star wars

Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)

After enduring the abomination that was The Last Jedi, I found myself tempted to forswear the franchise along with other old school fans. Why participate in the further vandalism and degradation of a beloved cinematic mythology at the hands of people who clearly do not care about the story, have pure contempt for the core audience and are using it as a transmission vessel for their demented ideological jihad? Furthermore, a Han Solo origin story feels especially unnecessary at this juncture in the new series. After dying a very undignified death at the hands of Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi’s very explicit message of “killing the past”, why try to revive the memory of Han Solo after you’ve closed out his story arc and signaled the desire to wipe the slate clean? Rogue One managed to split the difference by leveraging aspects of Episode IV while still presenting something that felt genuinely new. This film already feels like blatantly opportunistic mythological cannibalism. Just because you can make a Han Solo origin story doesn’t mean you should.

Call it masochism, nostalgia or just plain stupidity, I had to see Solo just to assess how bad the damage was. Admittedly, Kathleen Kennedy and her minions have made it eminently clear that she doesn’t give a single fuck about the core audience and is solidly intent on utilizing the franchise as a political bludgeon. That said, Solo wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected. It’s a serviceable, if pointless, addition to the franchise that has a couple genuinely rousing moments which approach the old Star Wars magic.

The main question surrounding Solo is why? Rogue One pulled off its central premise by fleshing out the Rebellion’s daring acquisition of the Death Star plans. You could say it was equally pointless, but it was just enough to justify its existence as a standalone Star Wars film. Whereas Solo’s existence only makes sense as an exercise in franchise vampirism since The Last Jedi nearly milked every last drop of residual goodwill from the fanbase reservoir.

Solo is essentially Smokey and the Bandit crossed with Game of Thrones set in the early years of Imperial dominion. It’s a lite heist caper set in the pre-New Hope gangland. If you don’t ask too many questions and go along for the ride, it works pretty well. As a Han Solo origin story, it’s a functional connect-the-dots which asks for relatively modest cognitive leaps. You know how things will end up, so the outcome is never really a surprise. Director Ron Howard manages to throw in enough twists to keep your attention.

In the titular role, Alden Ehrenreich has the thankless task of reimagining a beloved character whose memory is already firmly cemented through Harrison Ford’s iconic performance. Maybe there’s something to the law of diminished expectations because I didn’t think he completely sucked.

What’s perhaps most disturbing about Solo and each new installment in the Star Wars franchise is the way the films manage to make moral relativism and the brute acquisition of power seem virtuous and cool. This is, of course, entirely consistent with the progressive agenda behind them, but it’s astonishing to see increasingly overt nihilism being packaged as family entertainment. Forgoing the standard crawl that’s featured in the canonical installments, the film opens with a simple text frame which outlines the dire state of the galaxy.

It is a lawless time. Crime Syndicates compete for resources – food, medicine, and hyperfuel. On the shipbuilding planet of Corellia, the foul Lady Proxima forces runaways into a life of crime in exchange for shelter and protection. On these mean streets, a young man fights for survival, but yearns to fly among the stars…

So the Old Republic was so shitty at governance and maintaining a stable social order that the transition to empire resulted in the mass dissolution of families and the immediate rise of crime syndicates? Didn’t the Republican Senate approve Palpatine’s expanded executive power in Episode III? And these are the people we want to have returned to the seat of power? And if society deteriorates into a shitstorm of resource wars and competing crime lords so soon after the dissolution of the Old Republic, what does this say about the prevalence of ethics under the Old Republic? I’ll tell you what it suggests to me. They were incompetent and corrupt because those sympathetic to the Old Republic are in a constant state of revolution against some version of Imperial government in every film. Neither the Rebellion nor the Old Republic are capable of translating military success into stable government. Way to go, Disney. You guys are validating the existence of every The Empire Did Nothing Wrong subreddit and meme page.

Of course, our hero is the quintessential lovable outlaw, so we must understand the world that shaped him. As Darwinism and #WOKE materialism dictates, man is just a semi-conscious sack of meat who is simultaneously biologically hardwired for toxicity due to his genitals, the beneficiary of immutable social forces which accord him countless privileges and yet perpetually at war against bourgeois delusions of free will. A man whose only credo is to do what thou wilt for the highest bidder can only be understood by setting up a sociopolitical order that’s devoid of man made law. Because, after all, that’s the highest authority. What Solo presents is a sanitized variation on the type of world with which we’re presented in Game of Thrones and numerous other similar shows. In other words, the acquisition of power is the only objective. Ethics are bought and sold. Blackmail and the threat of deadly force is the only surefire way to ensure compliance, obedience or loyalty. Individual freedom and defiance of any established authority is the highest virtue.

Just as we’ve seen in all other installments, there are no real parents, no legitimate or virtuous authorities, and the universe is a seething snake pit of lawless brigands, Imperial tyrants, and ruthless slave lords. You have no organic ties to family, religion or nation. Just a collection of atomized individuals who seek either a big payday, ultimate power or salvation in revolution. In a pivotal scene in which Solo sees enlistment in the Imperial army as his only ticket to liberation, the Imperial officer asks him about his family name. “I don’t have one,” he says. Got that, kids? Your parents are useless, the world in which you live is poisoned and corrupted beyond hope and you can’t trust anyone or anything.

This is the Aeon of #SocialJustice so you know you’re going to get the SJW Catechism in one form or another. While not nearly as cringeworthy as The Last Jedi, Solo still serves up some groaners. Despite Solo being a rare new film featuring a white male hero, you know Disney isn’t just going let this film be made without swinging the wrecking ball at the male hero archetype in one way or another. Naturally, we get no insight into Solo’s childhood or parents. Like Luke and Rey, Solo is another rootless youth set adrift in a sea of galactic chaos seeking some semblance of freedom and, in this rare circumstance, a romantic connection with Emilia Clarke’s Qi’ra.

He finds a paternal proxy in Woody Harrelson’s mercenary, Tobias Beckett. Through the course of the series, we’ve seen the father figure go from Jedi Knight to Jedi muppet to communist revolutionary to Jedi incel to amoral criminal degenerate in ten films. Good work, Disney.

While impersonating an Imperial officer on the front lines of a “pacification” operation, Solo discovers that he has designs on a coaxium heist. Sensing a ticket out of Imperial servitude, Solo ingratiates himself with Beckett and his team. Early on, Beckett advises Solo to “assume everyone will betray you, and you will never be disappointed.” Given that advice, it’s not difficult to guess where this story arc ends up. In a remix of the Greedo confrontation and a foreshadowing of The Force Awakens, Solo couldn’t be more explicit about Disney’s contempt for fatherhood. Besides being utterly predictable, it is by far the most malevolent subtext.

Lando Calrissian’s co-pilot droid, L3-37, can be read either as a sop to militant SJWs and transhumanists alike or it can be read as a vicious lampoon of both. Given what Jonathan Kasdan tweeted about Solo, it’s obviously intended to be read as the former but that doesn’t exempt it from Poe’s Law either. L3 joins Jar Jar Binks, Rose Tico and Admiral Holdo as one of the series’ most irritating characters because she is basically a feminist activist in the form of a droid. She is annoying, preachy, narcissistic and domineering. Her heroic moment amounts to fomenting a droid revolution at a critical moment which buys our heroes a narrow window of time to escape. The choice to have this character embodied in a droid speaks for itself.

As one would expect, the L3 character was used as a pretext for engineering an utterly idiotic revision of Lando Calrissian as “pansexual.” That’s right. The suave smooth talker who couldn’t stop putting the moves on Leia throughout The Empire Strikes Back is really “pansexual” and has the hots for an anthropomorphic SJW garbage can. An attractive human female, a blob of alien slime, a droid. It’s all good, brah. Like clockwork, the lemmings in the media heralded this #WOKE revision with the same fanfare that Rose Tico received upon the release of The Last Jedi.

Though one could make a case that the Original Trilogy had more complex politics, the blatant leftism of the new films leaves no such room for nuance. To be fair, the politics in Star Wars have always been confused so it seems pedantic to analyze them too closely. Regardless, they require some inspection because there’s no doubt that they’re meant to transmit a political message. On the positive side, Solo is pretty explicit about the fact that Crimson Dawn and other crime syndicates are the shadow masters behind the Imperium. Whether it’s the Trade Federation, the Hutts or Crimson Dawn, the economic elites are able to buy influence within the Republican and Imperial power structure. Like their real world globalist counterparts, these are the people who buy off the politicians while the utopian rubes in the #RESISTANCE continue to romanticize the idea of a #WOKE, progressive Democracy despite being in a state of endless rebellion.

Solo’s hopes for rekindled romance with his lost sweetheart, Qi’ra, are dashed upon discovering that she has sworn allegiance to Crimson Dawn. His sole motivation entering the Imperial military and making an alliance with Beckett was so that he could earn enough money to buy a ship and rescue his bae from the Corellian hellhole from which he escaped. No such luck though, pal. This is the Aeon of #SocialJustice, Solo, and you don’t get to have your heterosexual, cisnormative romance.

When Solo finally reunites with Qi’ra, she’s already in league with Crimson Dawn capo, Dryden Vos. She’s cagey about the nature of her allegiance, but she makes it clear to Solo that there’s no going back to The Way We Were. And she’s got the Crimson Dawn insignia tattooed to her forearm to prove it. I suggest that this is a revealing insight into the culture of blackmail within Hollywood. While women in Hollywood talk a big game about female empowerment and equal pay while being sanctimonious about the evils of sexual predation, the culture of silence we saw from these very same actresses around Harvey Weinstein’s transgressions speaks volumes about their true loyalties. Qi’ra’s Crimson Dawn tattoo also bears a similarity to the marks women received during branding rituals that were utilized in the NXIVM sex cult.

Solo’s bond with Chewbacca feels rushed and arbitrary. Given that this is a character whose relationship to loyalty is initially sketchy, we want to understand how he forged such a deep bond with a creature who resembles an anthropomorphic dog. It’s a strange scene and the speed with which he earns Chewbacca’s trust as well as his mysterious grasp of Kashyyykian grunting is a bit of a leap. Why he needed only to speak in Chewie’s native tongue on one occasion and speaks to him in English from that point forward is a mystery that will have to be pondered on a subreddit.

Maybe I’m seeing Star Wars through the rose tinted glasses of nostalgia, but a Star Wars film used to feel special. Maybe they were fated to end up as bland corporate Product and Content from the start, but at least George Lucas made me feel like he actually gave a shit about the story he was telling. The same claim cannot be made about Kathleen Kennedy and her cohorts at Disney. Sure, Solo managed to be passable entertainment, but that still doesn’t explain why this film had to be made in the first place beyond lining the corporate coffers. Sure, Ron Howard managed to prevent this from being the turd it could have been, but is that really the best that can be done with this property? Maybe I’m asking too much from Kathleen Kennedy and the Disney Corporation.

No one in the progressive establishment will ever acknowledge it, but Han Solo is a kind of Randian übermensch. In the materialist dialectic, he has opted for individualistic self-interest over revolutionary collectivism. At least in this stage of his character development. In the final scene, he’s offered the opportunity to join the #RESISTANCE, but he opts to fly to Tatooine so he can score some cheddar smuggling for Jabba the Hutt. In the original Star Wars trilogy, Han Solo was the lovable wiseass in contrast to Luke’s overly earnest farmboy romanticism and Kenobi’s stoic mysticism. His character made sense within that story arc and his development felt heroic. Whereas using Solo as a subject for a heroic arc of his own feels like thin gruel for a standalone story. Why do you want to see a man become a narcissistic loner outlaw who has issues with honesty, debt, and commitment? Sadly, the only answer that’s apparent is that this is exactly the message Kathleen Kennedy and the Disney Corporation want to send with the Star Wars franchise.

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THX 1138 (1971)

Dystopian sci-fi has enjoyed a popular resurgence in film in recent years. Whether it’s youth oriented, big ticket franchises like The Hunger Games and Divergent or more highbrow offerings like Blade Runner 2049 and Ghost in the Shell, it’s increasingly difficult to discern whether Hollywood wants to warn us or simply prepare us for a dystopian technocracy of one form or another. Though dystopian science fiction has been a staple of literary sci-fi for a long time, cinematic portraits have a shorter history. Certainly among the first and, for my money, unquestionably the best vision of the Orwellian technocratic dystopia is George Lucas’ first feature length film, THX 1138. Made with the modest budget of $777,777, THX 1138 is an unremittingly grim visual and technical marvel which portrays a society that micromanages and monitors every facet of human behavior. The fact that it is so nightmarishly vivid about its forecasts of a technocratic police state makes you wonder about whether or not the occultist numerological significance of the budget may have actually embued it with its oppressive malevolence.

THX 1138 opens with a Buck Rogers clip of Tragedy on Saturn, Chapter Two from April 18, 1939. Besides being a subtle homage to the films of his youth, its sunny optimism over the glorious future of scientific progress creates an immediate contrast to the dreary and oppressive portrait that awaits the viewer. Embedded within the introduction, Lucas is also setting up the theme of THX as a “ordinary, normal human being who keeps his wits about him”. Is the title of the episode yet another subtle Crowley reference to the Nazi crackdown on the Brotherhood of Saturn? Or is the film itself a subtle allusion to the Buck Rogers episode which foreshadows THX’ purging of his profane and egoic selfhood through his union with the Mary-Isis-Sophia avatar and crossing the abyss of the demiurgical Saturnian Matrix to attain his Promethean gnosis? It may be a reach, but given the very specific numerological significance of the budget, I’m not ruling it out.

The film is unspecific about the year in which it’s set, but it is presumed to be the early 21st century. Like Orwell and Huxley, the accuracy with which it predicts the future to which we seem headed makes you wonder whether he was offering a warning or simply telegraphing intention of a larger agenda. People have been stripped of actual names and have been assigned names that resemble UPC barcodes. Human emotions have been suppressed through a strict regime of pharmacological treatments. Sex and love have been outlawed. Subsequently, drab unisex white uniforms and shaven heads ensure that no one will stand apart nor any gender distinction be recognized. In other words, a world of perfect #EQUALITY. There is no organic life whatsoever. The entire film is a series of colorless, antiseptic interiors which resemble a laboratory or a shopping mall. Presaging the sensory overload of Ridley Scott’s future metropolis by a decade, THX 1138 is arguably the cinematic archetype for every cyberpunk dystopia since then. People are awash in a bath of electronic stimulation and automated messaging. The line between advertising and state propaganda has all but disappeared.

Female voice (over P.A.): Changeable. Alterable. Mutable. Variable. Versatile. Moldable. Movable. Fluctuate. Undulate. Flicker. Flutter. Pulsate. Vibrate. Alternate. Plastic.

As the titular character, Robert Duvall is an operator on an assembly line who uses mechanical arms to insert radioactive fuel cells into robots. Anticipating both Blade Runner 2049 and Robocop, the entire police force of THX 1138 are androids. Since all organic forms of social organization and restraint have been completely obliterated, humans essentially serve the purpose of manufacturing the machines which are programmed to police their own behavior. Extend this speculation a little further to fully sentient AI, and you have the foundation for the entire Matrix and Terminator franchises.

As we’re introduced to THX, a horrific explosion takes place in an adjoining facility resulting in many injuries. A brief shot of a mutilated corpse being dragged out of a contaminated area on a surveillance camera suggests tight control of any and all information that pertains to public safety or raises any possibility of emotional distress. A velvety smooth PA announcement immediately tries to put a spin of positivity on a deadly and toxic industrial accident by comparing the quantity of losses between sectors. It’s very black humor, but it’s a chilling commentary on the depth of society’s emotional anaesthesia.

Male voice: That accident over in Red Sector L destroyed another 63 personnel, giving them a total of 242 lost to our 195. Keep up the good work and prevent accidents. This shift is concluded.

Paired strictly on the basis of sanitation ratings, THX 1138 shares a flat with LUH 3417. Living an emotionally arid existence with another human with whom she has no connection drives her to commit one of the highest crimes in society. She begins to steadily reduce the dosage of drugs required by law which has the unexpected side effect of restoring natural emotional responses in THX. After receiving sexual gratification from a mechanical device, THX switches from the African exotica porn hologram network to the violence network. Anticipating the VR trend by several decades, THX zones out to hologram of a robocop mercilessly beating the pulp out of some poor soul with a nightstick. You see very little of the actual violence, but you don’t need to because the sound effect alone creates its own psychic trauma.

In order to unburden himself from the unexpected side effect of his restored capacity for feeling, THX goes to the proto-AI confessional. Anticipating Anthony Levandowski’s transhumanist church by several decades, OMM 0000 manifests as a screenshot of Hans Memling’s Christ Blessing, but is later revealed to be a Wizard of Oz style illusion. Similar to the Wizard of Oz, I suspect Lucas wanted to simultaneously portray religion as the Noble Lie as well as a hollowed out, postmodern One World Religion demiurge. It even has the vocal inflections and cadences necessary to convey absolute interest, concern and compassion.

OMM: My time – is yours. Go ahead.

THX 1138: What’s wrong with me? What am I to her, she to me? Nothing!

OMM: Yes, fine.

THX 1138: Just an ordinary roommate. I share rooms with her. Our relationship is normal. Conforming.

OMM: Excellent!

THX 1138: We share nothing – but space. What is she doing to me?

OMM: Yes, I understand.

Taking the #MeToo movement to its fullest conclusion, heterosexual intercourse has been outlawed. When THX and LUH finally have sex, it is filled with menace and dread. THX tries to assuage LUH’s fears that they’re being watched, but Lucas cuts to a control room of surveillance monitors transfixed on the crime being perpetrated. It is a pitch perfect foreshadowing of the social media star chamber and the myriad ways our open embrace of technology has given the surveillance state every weapon they could ever need.

LUH convinces THX that they can escape the city and run away together. They arrange to meet after LUH finishes her work shift, but she appears at THX’ sector to inform him that she’s been reassigned to a new shift and new living quarters by her superior, SEN 5241. Played by Donald Pleasance, SEN is a schizophrenic collision of nervous conformity, clenched authority and creepy obsequiousness. Unbeknownst to either THX and LUH, SEN had been monitoring their transgressions all along. Traumatized by LUH’s sudden disappearance from his world, THX nearly causes another industrial accident by dropping a nuclear fuel rod. He is placed on a mind lock and detained for criminal drug evasion.

While under detention, THX is subjected to a beating that is one of the most horrific scenes ever committed to film. The police subdue THX with cattleprod-like nightsticks which are able to inflict neurological and psychic damage without ever making physical contact.

He is pronounced guilty for drug evasion and sexual perversion and sentenced to a program of reconditioning. After being mind locked and tortured by psionic nightsticks, a couple of indifferent re-education technicians bicker amongst themselves while being completely oblivious to effects their knob twiddling is having on THX’ nervous system. What Lucas is presenting is the extent to which the technocratic overlords have constructed vast systems of management which allow them to control the minds and nervous systems of the citizens through voluntary and involuntary methods.

As THX escapes, we are introduced to other ideas that are found in numerous subsequent dystopian sci-fi films. SRT is a bored AI hologram who forms an alliance with THX. The very notion of an AI which elicits sympathy from the viewer is now a standard feature of any sci-fi film with transhumanist themes. There are also hints of both organ harvesting and laboratory grown fetuses. State controlled, scientifically managed birth rates, eugenics, genetic engineering and industrial food production gone wrong would be famously examined in Logan’s Run, Gattaca and Soylent Green among many others.

Fans of Star Wars will likely appreciate the seeds of its visual world building and sound design contained in THX 1138. Lucas’ prodigious skill was evident right out of the gate. Not only did Lucas continue to reference this film throughout the Star Wars series, THX 1138 contains the first cinematic reference to a wookiee.

After a breathtaking car and motorcycle chase, the film culminates with THX escaping the confines of the city by climbing upward through a ventilation tunnel of some kind while being chased by a robocop. The robocop eventually receives instruction to abandon the chase because it would exceed the budget allotted. All decision-making has been fully optimized around efficient usage of resources. It seems insignificant on the surface, but this final scene also has esoteric symbolic significance when seen through the lens of qabalistic mysticism. THX crossed the abyss of Da’at on the Tree of Life, and passed through his spiritual nigredo to rise phoenix-like to the surface of the world with Knowledge.

Then there’s the entire question of the hidden numerological meanings embedded in the names of the characters. Both THX 1138 and LUH 3417 add up to 29 and 2+9=11. 11 has alchemical significance in that it represents the twin pillars of Solomon’s Temple, Boaz and Jachin. These pillars signify the reconciliation of opposites into an invisible third pillar. Besides being another subtle Crowley reference, OMM converts to 14 and 14 = 7+7. If you think I’m reaching, consider the dollar amount of the budget. I don’t think there’s anything that didn’t serve a very specific purpose.

Even if Lucas was using this to transmit occult symbolism and esoteric messages, it still seems to be a film which portrays a man breaking free of the conditioning and liberating himself. That alone sets it apart from the current messaging of Blade Runner 2049 or the latest cyberpunk dystopia, Ready Player One.

Though A Clockwork Orange is a very close second, I believe THX 1138 is the quintessential sci-fi dystopian film. Not only does it contain the seeds of every dystopian sci-fi film since its creation, it foreshadows the world in which we currently live. I’d like to think that Lucas wanted to warn people of the dangers of the technological age with this film. But even if he didn’t have that goal, that’s exactly the lesson you should take from it.

How To Destroy a Beloved Pop Culture Franchise 

  1. Populate every important creative post with humorless ideologues who can’t tell stories and have nothing but contempt for the core audience.
  2. Make every story about race, gender and sexuality. All heroes will be female or POC and will have no flaws or character arcs. All villains will be white males. 
  3. Dismiss all criticism as the ravings of bigoted, butthurt fanboy trolls who can’t handle #DIVERSITY.  
  4. Sit back and watch the audience disappear while you lap up the plaudits from everyone who has the exact same opinions you do. 
  5. Repeat steps 1 through 4 until said property is universally loathed by everyone.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

I was fully prepared to hate this film. I left The Force Awakens rather underwhelmed and not caring much about the fate of the new generation of heroes. I heard all about the cringey SJW content before I saw it. Friends whose opinions I hold in high regard heaped condemnation upon it. I read spoiler filled reviews and yet, despite all these things, I must confess that I enjoyed it more than I expected. That’s not because it’s a great movie. It’s not. It’s not even a Star Wars film. Perhaps having my expectations at rock bottom lowered my defenses, but somehow I found myself taken in by its absurd energy.

Besides resolving the stories of the legacy characters, The Last Jedi needed above all else a reason to exist. The original trilogy was about Luke’s journey from farm boy to Jedi Knight. The prequels showed us Anakin’s slide to the Dark Side against a backdrop of a republic in decline. What could the new series do that the originals didn’t other than swap in a female protagonist, a more multicultural cast and lots of heavy handed PC feminist preaching? Not much apparently.

For the Disney Corporation, the window dressing of the mythology is all it needs. Despite being nonsensical and utterly unhinged from its predecessor films, TLJ is more entertaining than it deserves to be. It has too much politicized content, too many plot holes, and way too many deus ex machinas even for a would-be Star Wars film. It’s ultimately yet another predictable variation on Disney’s brand of progressive establishment chic packaged as ersatz contrarianism. It’s as though all of the anti-Trump hysteria was hatched inside the Disney executive offices from the start and this film is just the latest adrenaline shot of confirmation bias. They might as well have put a hashtag in front of the word RESISTANCE in the opening crawl.

It’s the longest film in the series, but the plot amounts to little more than a story of an elite squadron of First Order Star Destroyers waiting for a rapidly dwindling Resistance fleet to run out of gas which culminates in a remix of the Hoth sequence from Empire. Characters remain under written or wasted altogether. Basic storytelling and character development has been forsaken. Rian Johnson’s pathological desperation to take the franchise into a “new direction” by rejecting canonical precepts has sapped the film of meaning and reduced it to a mind numbing, albeit somewhat engaging, endorphin rush.

There is a distinctly postmodern relativism at the core of this film. The original films worked because actions and relationships mattered. The storyline proceeded logically from how the world was presented to you. There were identifiable arcs of emotional growth. In the new series, those classical storytelling pillars are either absent or routinely demolished. The net effect manages to hold your attention, but it utterly fails to have any dramatic or emotional impact.

The Good

I agree with George Lucas in that TLJ is a beautifully made film. Everything from the set pieces to the art direction to the location shots is top quality big budget sci-fi.

Despite the lack of meaning, the various battle sequences were well done. The Reylo light saber fight against the Pretorian Guard was indeed pretty rousing. The final sequence on the mineral planet Crait was a visual marvel to behold.

Even with its narrative sprawl and numerous flaws, it hangs together way better than I expected.

The Cringe

The cringe abounds in The Last Jedi and the feminist preaching plays a pretty significant role. This film could easily be subtitled The Estrogen Strikes Back or The Feminism Awakens. All the female characters are uniformly portrayed as wise, capable and powerful. Laura Dern is utterly grating as Vice Admiral Tumblrina and literally looks like purple haired feminist activist dressed up in an evening gown. She comes across more like a bitchy college gender studies professor than a seasoned military leader of an armed resistance. Michelle Forbes’ Admiral Cain in Battlestar Galactica was the most convincing female portrait of a military commander I’ve yet witnessed and neither the character or Dern was even remotely close to that benchmark. Kelly Marie Tran makes her debut as the infinitely annoying and pointless Rose Tico. Besides delivering one of the dumbest lines in the canon, her character’s sole existence seems calculated to provide fodder for breathless commentaries from feminist media about how Refreshing it is to Finally See a Strong Womyn POC in a Star Wars film.

None of these features are mitigated by this film’s treatment of Rey. I thought Rey was a Mary Sue the first time around and this film has only reinforced that belief. There’s absolutely nothing underpinning her character arc nor anything that justifies her prodigious expertise in everything. Like the recent Wonder Woman film, I was never fearful for her life nor did I sense any real weakness or vulnerability. Her backstory was set up to be an important mystery, but this film essentially nullified that possibility. She seems to have no residual feelings of abandonment, sadness or resentment and this only compounds her lack of believability as a fully rendered character.

Leia’s appearance in this film is barely more consequential than it was in TFA. In a way, making her the general of an ad hoc resistance only reinforces the idea that her attempt at restoring the Republic was an abject failure. More on that later.

And let’s just say the less said about the Forcebook Messenger scenes the better. But hey. This Force is whatever the fuck you want it to be so whatevs man.

The Annoying

Closely related to the cringey parts are heaps of annoying preaching, misplaced attempts at humor and bad character decisions. The men are all hot headed, impetuous buffoons who are not only deprived of opportunities to be heroic, but are routinely required to genuflect to their feminist superiors.

Rose and Finn’s side mission to the resort city of Canto Bight was merely a platform for Rose to bitch about evil, rich arms dealers and animal cruelty. Never mind that the Resistance required armaments and military vehicles themselves. Somehow that stigma doesn’t apply to them. How convenient.

The Marvelesque humor completely undermines the dramatic tension. This is technically a grim portrait of a band of rebel militants suffering great losses at the hands of a brutal dictatorship, but the wisecracking jokes never allow you to feel the weight of any of it. Star Wars had lots of humorous moments, but it was always very earnest when it wanted to pull at the heart strings. Either Rian Johnson doesn’t grasp this concept or he is simply too willing to bend Star Wars into a corporate mold.

The Stupid

There was a reason Lucas cast Peter Cushing to play Grand Moff Tarkin. He wanted the Imperial leader of the Death Star to have gravitas. The Imperial villains are morally corrupt totalitarians, but these are also supposed to be men who can command Stormtrooper armies, TIE fighter squadrons, and Star Destroyer crews. They’re meant to be men who simultaneously elicit fear and command respect. Gareth Edwards understood this, and that’s why Orson Krennic worked. Johnson made General Hux and other First Order officers cartoonish jackasses and bumbling progressive caricatures of the Alt Right.

The battle sequences look great, but there are plenty of head scratching moments. Not to get all Neil deGrasse Tyson, but bombs will not drop downward without gravity. You can’t tell me that a First Order Dreadnought has no shields and no defenses against single pilot fighters. Force sensitivity or not, humans cannot withstand exposure to the vacuum of space. I’m not expecting scientific realism from Star Wars, but these liberties were a bit much.

Making BB-8 a deus ex machina droid who manages to get our heroes out of every conceivable jam just doesn’t work. The Porgs were stupid and served no purpose in the story other than to turn Chewbacca into an unwitting vessel for vegan propaganda.

The Pointless

Why build up characters like Snoke and Phasma if they just end up getting killed off without a character arc? Snoke was presented as a Dark Side Badass comparable or perhaps greater than Palpatine himself and he was eliminated in the stupidest and most anticlimactic way imaginable. Phasma was wasted in TFA and she was wasted in this film. At least Darth Maul got to go out with a spectacular lightsaber fight.

Why is Finn in this series other than to score PC virtue points? His character had potential to be interesting, but after vanquishing his former superior, what remains for him to accomplish? Why is Rose in this film other than to give the writers at The Mary Sue something to praise and to set up a love triangle in the final installment?

And I still don’t get Kylo Ren at all. His character isn’t intimidating or interesting. His journey to the Dark Side doesn’t make sense to me. I can understand that he would harbor resentment towards Han Solo for being an absentee father. If I accept that Luke tried to take him out, he makes a little more sense. Beyond the fact that his mother was a politician, I don’t understand why he wants to rule the galaxy.

The WTF

I know it’s useless to expect this level of nuance from Disney, but this new series essentially renders the predecessor films null and void. The Original Trilogy ends with two decisive military victories against the Empire accompanied by visible fanfare from every corner of the galaxy. The Force Awakens ends with yet another decisive military victory against the First Order, but somehow, that was inconsequential and the Resistance remain an embattled underdog hanging by a thread.

How did the First Order amass such military might in the thirty year span between the end of Return of the Jedi and the beginning of The Force Awakens? Why did the New Republic fail at governance so badly after being ushered back into power on the heels of galaxy wide popular support? Why wasn’t the entire galaxy united against the First Order after the Starkiller Base wiped out all those planets? Star Wars remains a film about war. Wars are fought in service of ideological agendas and to advance political goals. The Resistance were supposedly a faction of the New Republic, and presumably, they wish to reclaim political power. This reveals the film’s fundamental nihilism. There are no ideals it is willing to uphold beyond its shallow PC sermonizing. It’s just presenting a perpetual posture of rebellion accompanied by some candy ass Hope and Change platitudes as virtues unto themselves. And in case it wasn’t clear from the film, womyn are wonderful, powerful and wise. M*n are stupid, brash and reckless. Don’t eat meat. Be kind to animals and always remember that capitalism is evil. Except for the Disney Corporation.

The same goes for Johnson’s arbitrary demolition of the entire canonical tradition of the Force. Becoming a Jedi Knight and mastering the Force was consistently portrayed as a pursuit that required training, discipline and self-sacrifice. It also required mastery of your emotions. You can’t just have Leia do a Force enabled Mary Poppins in the vacuum of space when she’s undergone no training whatsoever. The path to the Dark Side was always portrayed as succumbing to hatred and fear. It’s what gave the Jedi quest dramatic weight. But now, none of that matters. Rey is a Force prodigy, and she already possesses more knowledge than the generations of Jedi who preceded her. Cuz vagina or something.

Luke Skywalker

I consider myself among those who see this film as an unsatisfying, undignified kick in the testicles to the legacy of Luke Skywalker. The final resolution of the greatest mythological figure of the modern era should have reduced the audience to a weeping mess, but it amounts to little more than a Force enabled Snapchat moment. I don’t buy that Luke Skywalker would despair so badly that he would go into self-imposed exile. I don’t buy that Luke Skywalker would spit on the legacy of the Jedi Order by allowing it to die with him. I don’t buy that Luke Skywalker would attempt to execute his nephew just because he sensed Ben Solo’s temptation towards the Dark Side. Mark Hamill’s instincts about Rian Johnson’s script were correct from the outset.

Johnson is basically saying that Luke Skywalker’s final stand against evil is a Force enabled Skype session in which he trolls Kylo Ren and the First Order. He’s saying that just because the Jedi Order betrayed their code, that in and of itself is sufficient grounds for burning the legacy of the Jedi to the ground. And somehow, this is sufficient to reignite Hope throughout the galaxy.

Nope. Fuck you, Rian Johnson.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)

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Before Rogue One, I had resigned myself to the reality that a new Star Wars film isn’t going to rock my world quite like it did in 1977. How could any new entry possibly match that experience? Star Wars certainly wouldn’t have become the global phenomenon it is without having some thematic heft and adult appeal, but it has always aimed to pluck the heartstrings of youth. To say that Star Wars transformed my youthful dreams and angst into a two hour symphony of pure cinematic magic which moved me to the core of my being at that time in my life is an understatement. Though my story is hardly unique in the vast universe of SW fandom, my love affair with the original series was indeed profound and deep. When Luke stares into Tatooine’s twin sunset and the music swells to a crescendo, the yearning for something greater was palpable. When Luke tells Obi-Wan that he wants to go to Alderaan and learn the ways of the Force, I felt that shit. Anyone who doesn’t understand that these scenes all by themselves formed the core of Star Wars’ primal and transcendent appeal doesn’t really get Star Wars in the first place. Sure, the lightsaber duels, battles and starships were awesome, but at a very basic level, Luke’s quest was my quest. This seemingly effortless fusion of the universal and the personal was the truly great feat of cinematic sorcery that George Lucas conjured.

I’m never going to be that kid again, but that kid in me simply hoped that the new gatekeepers of the SW legacy are going to remember that for all of the cinematic and visual effect innovations that have been the hallmarks of the series, what really made these films tick is that they gave you characters in which you wanted to believe. Star Wars gave you friendships and bonds in which you were deeply invested. It gave you characters whose motivations and foibles were sufficiently fleshed out that when the chips were down, you knew that each character was putting himself to the test and that made the ultimate triumphs all the more satisfying.

While the prequels failed miserably in this task, The Force Awakens also suffered from similar deficiencies in character development. It was enjoyable enough, but every character was paper thin. There was no real backstory to the characters and subsequently, no dramatic arc. These problems were only compounded by the stink of SJW agenda fulfillment permeating every frame. From the could-be-gay bromance of Finn and Poe to the cartoonish emotional instability (translation: toxic masculinity/male fragility) of Kylo Ren to the impossible Mary Sue-like competence of Rey, The Force Awakens had the unmistakable aura of a PC feminist/SJW checklist.

Despite this string of disappointments, I still came to Rogue One with genuine optimism. I didn’t care that Jyn Erso was very likely going to be another outrageous female power fantasy designed to flatter the egos of feminists and bolster a now deeply clichéd Girl Power/inverted stereotype hero narrative. I didn’t care that writers Chris Weitz and Gary Whitta were pandering to the SJW, multi-culti, Fight The Power progressive mindset when they tweeted out some moronic nonsense about the Empire being a “white supremacist organization.” I didn’t care that Disney demanded reshoots after Gareth Edwards presented his first cut of the film. Just give me some characters in which to believe and cheer. Give me a little bit of human drama to complement Gareth Edwards’ epic vision. I wasn’t worried about the eye candy or the mayhem. I just wanted to care about the people involved. I just wanted to have a small taste of that yearning to go to Alderaan and learn the ways of the Force all over again, or in this case, root for the Rebel Alliance to dismantle the evil dominion of the Empire. Surely, a new Star Wars film could deliver this modest goal to my adult self and I believed that Gareth Edwards was up to that task.

If this is also your new hope for Rogue One, I can firmly attest that this film is absolutely the droid you’re looking for. Rogue One is hands down the most successful Star Wars film since the Original Trilogy and the most genuinely satisfying Star Wars film I’ve seen since 1977. I still can’t believe how genuinely good this motherfucker is. It’s the Star Wars film you didn’t know you wanted, but now that it’s here, you can’t live without it. It also succeeds in achieving a goal that eluded The Force Awakens by referencing the original series and mythology while presenting something completely contemporary and fresh.

Rogue One is the story of a team of rebels who manage to abscond with the plans of the Death Star which find their way back into the hands of the Rebel Alliance and Princess Leia. What’s remarkable is how effectively the film builds a compelling story around what amounts to a couple sentences of opening crawl in Episode IV. Since there’s no real Jedi quest, the film is able to be a full on war/espionage story set in the SW universe at the height of tensions between the Rebel Alliance and the Empire. It comes across like a lighter version of The Dirty Dozen with a post-Battlestar Galactica grit to it and to my great astonishment, it’s a mix that works brilliantly. I believe it marks a distinct tonal shift away from the pop space opera vibe of the other canonical films, but this choice has given the series the new lease on life that has eluded every other post-OT installment. It is indeed a war film and it packs a visceral punch that is unmatched in the series.

I was concerned about the character development in this film since this has been the great Achilles Heel of every new installment in the series up to this point. While you don’t necessarily know a whole lot about any one of them, you learn enough to be invested. As Jyn Erso, I was pleasantly surprised by how much I believed in Felicity Jones’ transformation into a rebel leader and her bond with both her father Galen and the militant Rebel who raised her, Saw Gerrera. The scenes between her and Mads Mikkelsen’s Galen Erso are genuinely sweet and give the film the emotional core that made the original films sing. Once again, we’re presented with a SW protagonist who had been snatched away from her birth parents and raised by a surrogate who happened to be a radical extremist within the Rebel Alliance. Subsequently, it’s not impossible to believe that she would be proficient with firearms and have the mental and physical fortitude necessary for combat. The Strong Womyn archetype who’s smarter and stronger than her male counterparts has become very commonplace in action and SF films for many years, and I was concerned that we were going to be given another variation on Rey. Thankfully, everything about Jyn’s development and the proficiency she exhibits was consistent with what we were presented. Although when it came to Jyn’s tepid attempt at channeling Henry V, I have to agree with CNET’s Ashlee Clark Thompson that it invoked “Girl, I guess so” more than it summoned the spine of steel one would need to face certain death at the hands of the Empire.

The remaining characters were surprisingly compelling despite how little we actually knew about them. Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor draws you in through his confessions of the losses he faced at the hands of the Empire as well as the moral compromises he’s made in service of the Alliance. Nothing is really known about the origin of the friendship between Baze Malbus and Chirrut Îmwe, but their affection for one another is never in doubt and when they meet their tragic end, it has more emotional weight than expected. Bodhi Rook’s defection from the Empire roughly mirrors Finn’s from TFA, but is remarkably more interesting and believable because unlike Finn, he was merely a pilot for the Empire and one could imagine him being persuaded to the cause of the Alliance by Galen Erso. The big standout of the film is actually Alan Tudyk’s voice characterization of Imperial droid, K-2SO. He brings some welcome comic counterpoint to the film’s grim tone and his lines are genuinely laugh out loud funny.

On the Imperial side, Ben Mendelsohn brings a sufficiently nasty sneering menace to his role as Director Orson Krennic. And yes, Rogue One marks the welcome return of the greatest Sith of them all and one of the greatest cinematic villains of all time, Lord Vader. Vader’s appearance in the film is limited to two excellent scenes, and only serve to remind you that neither Kylo Ren or young, tortured Anakin has managed to scale the heights of sheer Dark Side terror that Vader can summon in one line of dialogue or just by entering a room.

Perhaps being unshackled by the weight of the Skywalker mythology really freed up some creative energies, but Gareth Edwards deserves a vigorous round of applause for the feat of world building he has pulled off here. The film is filled with both new and old worlds that have that grimy, used future vibe of the OT as well as numerous classic vehicles and images. Mostly, Gareth Edwards managed to convey a sense of scale that even surpasses Lucas’ original vision at certain times. The Empire has never seemed more massive and imposing on screen as it does in Rogue One. The data storage facility at Scarif is what you’d imagine Qatar to be like had it been developed by the Empire. Jedha and Jedha City are equally impressive with obvious connections to Arabic citadels and architecture. Edwards even gives us Vader’s palace at Mustafar as a dark monument to the disfigurement he suffered at the hands of his former Jedi mentor.

My biggest gripe with Rogue One is the facile message and the refusal to confront the inherently political content at its center in an honest and meaningful way. The entire message of the film can be summed up as Be Hopeful, Listen and Believe (especially if it’s a womyn), and Down with the Space Nazis. Sure, it’s a Disney property now, it’s unrealistic of me to expect them to make anyone think too hard and Lucas’ message was arguably just as superficial, but when Disney’s Bob Iger says there are “no political statements” in Rogue One, I’m calling bullshit. Of course Star Wars is political! It’s about fucking WAR fer chrissakes, people! It’s about the struggle of liberty versus tyranny. There is nothing more inherently political than war or armed revolution. War is the business of the nation state. Revolutions organize themselves around a political philosophy. The Rebel Alliance were the just remnants of the Old Republic who want to preserve peace and justice by restoring “democracy”. The films never spell out exactly what the Alliance’s political ideals or principles are beyond “democracy” or “hope”, but the Rebels do aspire to reclaim the seat of power in their own right. Presumably, they’re just going to be better at it than the Empire.
The politics of Star Wars have long been a subject of debate throughout the geekosphere, but I suggest that’s because people want to be able to connect it more immediately into the world of the present and their own political worldview. Disney and Lucas undoubtedly tried to keep the political content as neutral as possible so that one could view the films though one’s own ideological lens, but it still leaves me wanting a bit more. The film presents a very easily digestible Manichean dichotomy: Rebels are Good and Imperials are Bad. This simplistic dualism doesn’t allow you to wrap your mind around which mechanisms of political policy the Empire exploited or the propaganda they deployed in order to accumulate such massive centralized political power in the first place. Edwards’ world contained mountains of untapped thematic potential. If there was an Imperial Labor Camp on Wobani, it stands to reason that this is where dissidents and thought criminals were sent, and subsequently, it was a missed opportunity to introduce the propagandists for the Alliance. Furthermore, there had to be segments of the galaxy that were pro-Empire and totally pro-Death Star. It was fundamentally a government program and by extension, a boon for lots of industrial interests throughout the galaxy.

Unfortunately, the political content doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense when you inspect it closely, and more often than not, reaffirms a lot of dopey leftist clichés. How did the Confederacy of Indepent Systems, essentially the UKIP of the Republic, get to be the bad guys simply for embracing secession and opposing the excessive taxation and bureaucratic palsy of the Republic? That sounds pretty American and like the real rebels to me. And why is the Galactic Empire called a fascist regime? They weren’t promoting a racially pure ethno-state nor could they promote a unitary galactic racial identity. If anything, they were multicultural Space Communists, not Nazis.

As good as it is, I can’t help but wonder what Gareth Edwards presented to Disney executives initially. It’s a little ironic that a film franchise that cashes in on a sentiment of rebellion is ultimately subordinate to the aesthetic mandates of its corporate, Imperial overlords.

But don’t let any of this hyper-analysis deter you if you have even the slightest misgivings. Rogue One is the best thing to happen to the franchise since Luke Skywalker first brandished a lightsaber. Who knows if it is a harbinger of Episode VIII or if it remains a solitary bright light in a dying franchise? Regardless, Gareth Edwards has given us something that all of us OT OG’s have long awaited: a Star Wars film that’s actually fucking good. Enjoy it while it’s here.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

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After a riding a tsunami of hype that rivals its predecessors and geysers of gushing praise from media and fans alike, how does the Star Wars franchise fare in the hands of its new heir for this particular Star Wars OG?

It’s good, but JJ Abrams is no Jedi.

Yes, yes, yes. It erases the stink of the prequels, but the film misses the same opportunities and makes many of the same mistakes.

The film succeeds mostly by restoring the overall tone and spirit of the original series. It provides just enough visual invention and drama to keep the ball rolling, but just barely.

Yes, it’s great to see Han, Chewie, Leia, C-3P0, R2-D2, and Luke when he finally appears. Yes, the dialogue is snappy and humorous at times. Yes, there are some great battle sequences. Yes, BB-8 is adorable. Yes, it’s got a little of that old Star Wars feeling.

Not only does it feel like too much of a rehash, it falls short on character and story development. Most disappointingly, it fails to add anything truly new to the franchise. Star Wars may go down in history as a popcorn special effects spectacle, but it doesn’t get enough credit for being a successful human drama. Just as Lucas dropped this ball in the prequels, Abrams is also guilty of under writing his new heroes and half-assing the political drama in which he inserts us.

Even for a Star Wars film, The Force Awakens is asking us to make too many leaps of imagination.  There are way too many gaping holes in the stories of each of the new characters for me to feel truly invested in them.

This error is most egregiously evident in the new heroine, Rey. Rey is the new Luke and her story mirrors his almost exactly, but is infinitely more implausible.  With Luke, Lucas took time to introduce us to him. He’s an orphan, but he has a stable home life and parental guidance thanks to his aunt and uncle. He has responsibilities and his mechanical expertise can be explained by his upbringing and the skills he had to acquire by working on the farm. He has aspirations to be a pilot and the piloting skills he exhibits later in the film can be explained by the social life he had with his friends on Tatooine.

Rey, on the other hand, has none of these things. She lives completely alone. She has no guidance, no support and was presumably abandoned early in life and forced to survive in a hostile desert environment with limited access to food and water. Not only does she have fully developed language and social skills, she is in stunningly good health. She also has advanced fighting, piloting, and mechanical skills. And we’re to believe she acquired these simply by being a scavenger.  Right.

Luke spends an entire goddamn film training on a shithole planet with Yoda just to learn enough discipline to even use a lightsaber.  When he finally faces Vader, it’s dramatic because you knew what Luke had to overcome within himself. Even then, he almost gets himself killed. Rey goes through no comparable journey of emotional or skill development. She’s good at everything and acquired these skills without work, guidance or emotional growth. 

Give me a break, Abrams. Not only is this an implausible character, it runs roughshod over the pillars of the mythology.  This is the #STRONG Female Character taken to a cartoonish extreme. Rey is definitely a Mary Sue, and even if feminists are pleased the film suffers because of it. Suck it in and cope, feminists.

On a related note, it’s weird that feminists consider Rey feminist in any way. There’s nothing even remotely feminist about Rey. Rey uses firearms. Feminists oppose gun ownership. Rey is accomplished at combat. Feminists demand protection from the State. Rey has skills even if they’re implausibly acquired. Feminists demand preferential treatment simply for being female.  Feminists lecture people about gender pronouns, police what people say and are general killjoys and scolds. Rey is blessedly free of these annoying tendencies.

Finn suffers from a similar deficit of dramatic development.  Finn was presumably conscripted by the First Order as a youth and trained to kill without remorse, but we’re asked to accept his moment of awakened conscience immediately.  He suffers no PTSD or adverse effects on his social skills.  Star Wars is popcorn entertainment, but it’s still a war movie. The film could have raised the dramatic stakes by injecting just a little of this reality into it.

The same goes for Poe Dameron. I don’t know anything about him other than he’s the best pilot in the Resistance. I simply don’t know enough about him to feel truly invested in him.  Adam Driver has an enormous task filling the spiritual and psychological void of Vader as new Sith on the block, Kylo Ren. I’m not sure if the character or his acting skills are up to the task.

Abrams also stumbles by shortchanging the political drama.  For all of the flaws of the prequels (and they are numerous), Lucas gave us a pretty clear political backdrop. He intended the series as a Fall of the Roman Empire style allegory.  It was clumsily handled, but Lucas definitely wanted to show how a democratic republic devolves into a totalitarian dictatorship.  Nick Gillespie of Reason persuasively argued that the prequels mirrored the demise of the political ideals of the Boomers.

The Force Awakens inserts us into a divided galaxy 30 years after Jedi and a pretty resounding defeat of the Empire.  The second Death Star was destroyed. The Emperor and Vader are dead.  There was certainly ample opportunity for the believers of democracy to reclaim the seat of government power and restore “peace and justice”.

And yet…

The First Order have reasserted iron fisted dominion and are somehow able to amass significant military might in a remarkably short span of time. The Starkiller Base is several times the size and power of the previous Death Stars. The First Order manage to get it built in 30 years despite getting their asses kicked twice by the Rebellion.  They haven’t learned too much from their past mistakes, apparently.

Listen, guys. Military power of the kind to which you’re accustomed can only be amassed through taxation and budget deficits made possible by central bank monetary inflation. You’re not going to get too far by nuking every goddamn planet in the system. Chill out a little.

We accept that the Resistance are Good and the First Order are Bad. However, Abrams missed another opportunity by failing to spell out in greater detail where the moral fault lines lay and the political principles for which the Resistance fought.

Other missed opportunities included Carrie Fisher’s meager reprisal of Leia as well as Gwendoline Christie’s throwaway role as Phasma.  Both of these women were supposedly high ranking military officials, and yet, we see very little military style leadership from either.

Overall, it’s about as good as I could have hoped.  Not a complete catastrophe, but still short of the mythic human drama and invention that made the original soar. 

Abrams certainly hasn’t tarnished the legacy, but he hasn’t advanced it in a meaningful way either. It made me smile and I appreciated the love and reverence he brought to the enterprise. He was given the difficult task of reviving a beloved franchise while giving it a new lease on life. Maybe it’s unrealistic to expect too much innovation from either Abrams or Disney. The Force might be awake, but I’m not yet convinced that the Force is strong in Disney’s hands.

The Moral Decrepitude of Vox’ Galactic Republic

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In a recent Mischiefs of Faction piece, Jonathan Ladd argues that the Galactic Republic’s fatal flaw was that it ceded its police powers to the Jedi.  As is often the case for those who espouse liberal views, he rationalizes this argument by saying that they were a “autonomous religious cult” and that military or police personnel who aren’t sufficiently subordinate to the state will inevitably create problems.

Balderdash.  On every front.

As liberals are often wont to do, Mr. Ladd argues the counterfactual in favor of his apparent bias towards those who hold religious beliefs.

To Mr. Ladd’s great credit however, he’s refreshingly honest about the core principle at the center of state power as well as his clearly stated conviction that this principle is essential to the function of a healthy state.

All governments need a monopoly on the use of force. A sign of an unstable republic is when the military and police are not subordinate to civilian political institutions.

I submit to you that not only did this hasten the ascent of the Empire, this is precisely the problem with all state power and that the Jedi were exactly the right people to ensure peace and stability.

The Jedi certainly carried an aura of mysticism and those who mastered the Force were able to wield supernatural powers, but the Jedi code of morality was spelled out very plainly in Yoda’s lesson to Luke on Dagobah.

Yoda: Yes, run! Yes, a Jedi’s strength flows from the Force. But beware of the dark side. Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will, as it did Obi-Wan’s apprentice.

Luke: Vader… Is the dark side stronger?

Yoda: No, no, no. Quicker, easier, more seductive.

Luke: But how am I to know the good side from the bad?

Yoda: You will know… when you are calm, at peace, passive. A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, NEVER for attack.

In short, the Jedi code was not veiled in impenetrable religious babble.  This code of conduct was not only completely libertarian and fully in accord with the non-aggression axiom, but it lent itself to the possibility of a police force truly dedicated to the preservation of life and property.

Mr. Ladd groused about their autonomous organizational structure, but from this realization we can assume that they preserved independence due to the fact that they received voluntary compensation for their services just as easily as we can assume they were wards of the state.  It was the Jedi code of morality which separated them from the Imperial Stormtrooper goon squad and clone army who only lived to carry out the bidding of whoever was in charge.

The problem was not anything inherent in Jedi teachings or mysticism or their apparent autonomy; it was the abandonment of Jedi principles that was the problem.  Once Palpatine had gained full control of the apparatus of power, there was nothing to stand in his way from exerting violent totalitarian rule.

Using the example of the first French Republic, Mr. Ladd even makes a pathetic attempt at misdirection which ends up exposing the moral void inherent in his argument.  By his reasoning, the only thing wrong with this picture is insubordination; not a group of thugs pointing guns at you and your family and looting you of your belongings.

Rather than relying on the government in Paris for their pay, French armies were paid from resources looted or taxed from territories they conquered.

As recent events attest, a state monopoly on the usage of force ensures neither moral outcomes or greater accountability. The Jedi were the least of the problems faced by the Republic. Some more valid questions would be how was the construction of the Death Star sold to the public and how did a military program of that scale completely elude the press?  That seems like a more glaring failure of democracy than than anything the Jedi ever did.

In short, it’s another sad rehash of liberal talking points and bias in what one presumes is an attempt to be edgy and contrarian.

It says far more about liberal ambitions and their apparent willingness to accord total legitimacy to their favorite autonomous religious cult: The State.

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