One of our readers asked a question I’ve been thinking about lately and is worth answering here:
Do you think you would appreciate TLJ more if Rian confirmed that your case for Rey Skywalker was his intention all along?
My reply after the jump.
Speaking for myself, I’m pretty convinced it was his intention (particularly after looking at how he approached his other films), but having it confirmed would help a little. That said, I do have a lot of problems with the execution of the misdirect. My biggest is the film is radically different in tone and style from the rest of the saga. In a saga that’s always taken an earnest and direct approach to storytelling, switching to such an abstract and deceptive style was bound to cause significant dissonance and confusion in the audience.
Whether one enjoyed the film or not seems to come down to how much the viewer accepted the base reading of the film. For myself, the rejection of a straight reading of the film as correct only came about because I had so heavily immersed myself in the wider EU material and found it impossible to reconcile the surface read of the movie with what the wider narrative depicted. Further, I found the common justifications of the surface read universally relied on assumptions that are simply not supported within the film itself or TFA. The film made no sense to me and it even seemed to know it made no sense and I wasn’t going to let it go until it did. That I had to completely tear a film apart to figure out the actual story in a franchise where that’s never been the case has caused no small amount of frustration with Rian and LFL.
The film feels too self-contained and self-referential as well. TFA did a good job conveying it was just one part of a much larger story while TLJ gave the impression it was all there was to the story (both suffer from the small universe problem). As much flack as JJ gets for his “mystery box” approach to film, it’s crucial if you’re executing a misdirect to at least make the audience wonder if they’re missing something. A lot of the negative reaction could have been avoided if the film didn’t feel like it shut down everything that had been set up in TFA. The story felt like it could go anywhere after TFA; after TLJ it felt like it was going nowhere.
Unfortunately, the interpretation does nothing to address the problems with the B plots, particularly Finn’s. Rose felt less like a character than a plot device present to makes sure Finn never actually made his own choices. Further, LFL’s failure to recognize the unfortunate implications of using the only black person in the film as the main source of comedy is rather troubling.
To sum up, I already feel completely confident in our interpretation and view the film through that lens, so having it officially confirmed won’t change my opinion of it all that much.