It’s been a good week for me, I got to admit. Aside from one bit of oddity from Pablo Hidalgo (which ultimately works out way more in my favour than it doesn’t, but I still think it’s bullshit), everything that’s gone on this week has been in my favour:
- First, there was those two Q&A’s from Rian that managed to completely avoid Kylo Ren. Given that one of them was coordinated entirely by Rian, that should put the kibosh on the idea that he stans Kylo. It didn’t, but when Kylo doesn’t get half the screentime his anti’s and pro’s expect him to, I’m going to be laughing my ass off in here.
- Then there’s Rian’s confirmation, once again, that he’s just following the logical progression of what came before. I kept telling you guys that he wasn’t twisting the characters out of shape, but did you listen? Nooooo.
- Then there’s Rolling Stone’s article on TLJ. Which confirms that Daisy and J.J. both knew who Rey’s parents were and that Rian didn’t need to be told by anybody; he came to the same conclusion on his own. There’s really only one possibility that is that obvious, and that’s Rey Skywalker.
- Speaking of Pablo, he confirmed that the FO were the bad guys. I told you they weren’t being presented as the good guys! Look, I don’t like Pablo. But when he flat out states something, with no maybes in his wording, there’s not a whole lot you can do. That’s him acting in his capacity as the Official Rep of Kathleen Kennedy, and if Kennedy decides that the FO are the bad guys, then they’re the bad guys. We’ve seen, repeatedly, that Kennedy has no problem with telling people who don’t follow the Star Wars rules to take a hike, so there shouldn’t be any question about how the FO is going to be presented.
Am I feeling just a little smug? Oh, you bet your ass I am. But today, we’re not discussing just how awesome I am. No, we’re going to discuss just how ‘dark’ TLJ is going to be.
Join me under the cut!
‘Dark’ Is An Overused Marketing Term That Has Lost All Meaning
Yeah, let’s start there. ‘Dark’ has always been a loosely defined term to begin with. It can mean the lighting in a movie, it can mean the overall tone of a work, it can mean a whole bunch of different things.
And that was before Marketing got their hands on it.
Look, anybody who’s seen comic books for the last few years will remember DC’s New 52. It was terrible, and a lot of accusations were thrown at it for being very dark. Way too dark, in fact.
But it wasn’t. It was low camp with a splatter of red paint all over everything. Every attempt at being mature or ‘edgy’ or whatever, was hilarious. And not in a good way. The dialogue was terrible. The action scenes were poorly thought out. The art style, which hasn’t been good in comics for decades, was an unmitigated disaster. Somehow, the New 52 made DC all kinds of money. I suspect this was because most people bought it to make fun of it, but I could be wrong.
At any rate, that kind of killed the idea that ‘dark’ was a serious literary term actually used by authors when writing. The continued success of low camp comic writers like Mark Millar did nothing to dissuade me from this notion.
‘Dark’ is a marketing term used by critics and promoters ’cause it’s vague enough to provoke whatever feelings they want in their audience without actually having to explain it or define what it means.
Star Wars Is Melodramatic Space Opera. There’s Literally A Limit On How Dark It Can Get.
Make no mistake, Star Wars can deal with some mature themes and that scene from RO is straight out of a horror movie.
But Star Wars is still very rooted in its genre. It’s not film noir, it’s not horror, it’s not cyberpunk.
It’s Space Opera. High fantasy with starships. The bad guys are bad, the good guys range from lovable rogues and well-intentioned anti-heroes to shining paragons. There’s no major psychological drama and the good guys will always win. Eventually.
But What About Rogue One?
What about it?
RO isn’t very dark. The good guys are honest and true, albeit a little broken and having wandered through some bad paths. The bad guys remain deliciously evil. Hope, a new hope, is brought back to the galaxy. The Alliance unites. And the Empire’s doom is sealed.
Yeah, all the major protagonists die. But they die saving the galaxy.
And it’s damn hard to get a happier ending than that.
Rian Johnson’s Previous Work Has All Been Thrillers and Film Noir
Well, yeah. That’s true. And I suspect that TLJ is going to be a little darker than say, TFA. And definitely darker than TPM, which was probably the lightest in the series.
But, uh, Kathleen Kennedy has made a name for herself by cutting out directors who stray too far from what Star Wars is. So, given the level of autonomy Rian enjoyed, I doubt we’re going to see anything really weird here.
But Second Chapter! Empire Strikes Back!
Yeah. I already said that it was going to be a little darker, yeah?
But ESB isn’t that dark. While it’s darkly lit and the heroes only survive, not win, we still have a funny green goblin Jedi Master. We have C-3PO and R2-D2 up to their usual antics. Luke survives. Leia survives. The Rebel fleet is amassing. And the only bad guys who win are Jabba and Boba. The Empire, in point of fact, loses. It doesn’t end the Rebellion on Hoth, it loses Leia, it convinces Lando to officially join the Rebellion, Luke escapes and Vader’s starting to have doubts.
Whoopsie. 1984, ESB is not.
Every Star Wars Ending Has Been Bittersweet
All of the movies. All of ’em, even TPM.
- TPM: Qui-Gon dead. Many Gungans and Naboo, dead. Palpatine has become Chancellor. Anakin is inducted into the Jedi Order. Darth Maul’s dead.
- AotC: The Jedi and the Clones win the Battle of Geonosis. The Clone Wars have begun. Palpatine has been given unlimited power.
- RotS: Anakin turns. Palpatine becomes Emperor. Padmé dies. The Jedi are destroyed. Yoda and Obi-Wan survive in exile. Luke and Leia are born.
- RO: discussed above
- ANH: The Rebellion has sacrificed most of its strength to stop the Death Star. But it is stopped.
- ESB: discussed above.
- RotJ: Luke is unable to save his father. Han and Leia finally get together. The Emperor, a good chunk of his fleet, and the Death Star all go boom. The Rebellion suffers terrible losses. So do the Ewoks.
- TFA: Han’s dead. The Resistance suffers terrible losses. Starkiller Base is destroyed. Rey goes to become a Jedi. Finn is badly injured and in a coma.
With all that, Star Wars is already pretty dark, no? Or at least, it can be argued as such. At any rate, Star Wars isn’t the happy-go-lucky, kid-friendly adventure that it’s frequent portrayed and mocked as.
But The Children! Won’t Somebody Please Think of the Children!
Here’s the thing: kids like dark. They like to be scared, they like to confront the truly vile villains, they like running around in black. Emo and goth aren’t stereotyped as teen fashions simply because adults are perennially out of touch, even with themselves. It’s also because kids and teens genuinely like the spooky. At least, until they’re grown up and so beaten down that they can’t like anything anymore.
Now, obviously, there are some things that are too intense for kids or that they shouldn’t watch. Like rape or real-world torture or torture porn gore. And not all kids are equal; some are much more sensitive and don’t like the dark that much.
But it’s unlikely that Star Wars is going to show any of that crap. And if you’re taking a kid to a Star Wars movie that just isn’t built for it, that’s on you. Not Lucasfilm, not Rian, not the kid. You.
So, How Dark Do You Think TLJ Will Be?
Don’t get me wrong, there’s going to be some darkness in it. John Boyega has confirmed as much, the trailers have supported this… so, yeah. Some darkness.
But not that much, not relative to other Star Wars movies. It’s not going to be like Brick, where everyone’s some kind of trouble. It’s not going to be ASOIAF, which is just objectively terrible.
It’s going to be Star Wars. The good guys will win, the bad guys will lose, and the adventure will continue.