You know me. I've long said that -- while I'm willing every now and then to wander into some of the usual controversies -- I make a concerted effort to avoid an awful lot of what fuels most entertainment websites these days. I don't mind sounding off on a topic here and there because it's quite fun to take a stand and maybe even ruffle a few feathers. Still, I'm also quick to point out that not only making but also maintaining a multi-billion dollar entertainment franchise is no easy thing, especially in the modern era wherein practically everything a creator does gets second-guessed in the public square that is social media. While pundits are quick to pile on, I'd much rather take my time and actually have something interesting to observe in this space, and that's why I rarely rush to review every single thing that comes down the pike. Wisdom takes time, and I'd rather pony up an important observation when asked; pardon me if I just don't 'think' as fast on my feet as do others.
However, enough of you have been contacting me via other means, wanting to know my thoughts on some of the latest and greatest Star Wars happenings. Yes, I've seen the rumors of Kathleen Kennedy's impending demise (need I remind you that these blurbs have been around long before?), and, yes, I saw the news this morning about Damon Lindelof exiting -- apparently of his own decision -- the Star Wars project he began. And, yes, I'm probably just as unimpressed with Season 3 of The Mandalorian as are some, but I'd suggest that it's likely for some different reasons than the majority are Tweeting and/or blogging and/or vlogging about these days. Quality can't be rushed, and I can't help but wonder if the lackluster reception might be owed to a combination of elements rather than any single factor ... or maybe that's just me.
In any event, because I'm getting asked, I'll put up a few random observations just off the top of my head this morning.
Honestly, folks: if she's fired, then she's fired. That's a bout I really don't have any dog in. Yes, I'd agree that she's largely mismanaged the property in some interestingly creative ways, but let's not forget that many of Star Wars' most ardent fans even took issue (for a time) with George Lucas allegedly surrounding himself with folks who wouldn't tell him no. The man behind that galaxy far, far away endured an awful lot of criticism over the Prequel Trilogy -- so much so that there's a contingent out there who to this day insist the only way for him to fully clean up the mess he made (their words, not mine) is to remake the Original Trilogy. Need I say yet again that that's never going to happen?
So ... yeah, Kennedy has probably surrounded herself with a veritable Skeleton Crew of social justice warriors who thought pushing SW hardcore into the world of -- cough cough -- equity storytelling was the way of the future. And to some degree ... who could blame them? All of the Hollywood studios are doing this, and the reasons do vary. A great deal of it is owed to it being, largely, what they're investors demands are; and anyone who's been in an environment wherein the guy who signs the paychecks sitting across from you knows that when he/she speaks you pretty much do what you're told. Granted, KK may've demanded much of this, but I've no way to know the true facts and figures so I stay outta that territory generally.
As for Kennedy's -- cough cough -- legacy? Well, again: I've written reviews of a few items that have come along while she's been in the high chair, and I'll let those words speak for themselves. I doubt she had an awful lot to do with finished stories on any of the films and/or shows, but as the prime motivator behind these visual adventures she likely gave plenty of notes about what she wanted and what was ultimately expected. I've read online that Grogu's return to the wider Mandalorian saga was a demand -- Favreau planned to leave that bugger with Luke Skywalker and depart for other pursuits -- and I get why that made business sense. Sometimes what makes for good business makes for poodoo storytelling, so maybe there's something to all of this scuttlebutt after all.
Sigh. Quick answer? Not a fan. Long answer?
Well ... let's just agree that Lindelof was most likely a suggestion from JJ Abrams to KK, and that likely comes on the heels of JJ and Damon's creative relationship going back over a decade or more now. Lindelof rather famously wound down TV's Lost to its bitter/bittersweet finale, and even that produced more than a little bit of controversy. While I'll admit to pretty much hating all of that show's last season, I was honestly a bit more put off by Lindelof's 'take' on the show when he stated that fans weren't really watching Lost for all of those mysteries but rather because they loved the characters.
I watched it for the mysteries. Characters come and go. Story endures. A good story, in fact, transcends characters; and that's largely why Hollywood keeps going back to certain properties again and again and again with reboots, remakes, and revisitations. The story matters. Sure, you have to have characters in there somewhere, but even bad characters can ruin a good story. It's hard to find a bad story made better to good characters. At least, that's my argument, and I'm sticking with it.
But given that perhaps what's being said in the marketplace about KK, is it any wonder that perhaps Lindelof's script wasn't perhaps strong enough to keep him around? The news sounds like he walked away, and I can't help but wonder if some of that might be owed to his own lackluster reputation (my opinion, not yours) and the rather obvious change in management being so openly discussed. Would you want to hang around in that shop right now? I'm not so sure I would, so if he walked, then he walked. 'Nuff said.
Argh. This one hurts a bit, and it hurts for personal reasons that might get too deep to explain quickly and easily, but I'm going to give it a shot.
Yesterday, I praised Shazam! Fury Of The Gods (review here). I watched it over the weekend, and I thought it was a pretty terrific comic book movie. (Mind you: I never said it was a great f-i-l-m, and, yes, there's a difference.) Later in the day, I got a email from a random reader (clearly not a regular) who kinda/sorta took me to task for liking something that so many in the online entertainment community trashed. I responded (politely) by saying I don't base my thoughts on movies on the consensus of opinion, and I never have. I like what I like. 'Round these parts, I encourage you to like what you like. If I hate on anything, it's usually actors and the like who allow politics to get in the way, but I never disparage anyone for liking anything I may dislike. That's really my only Golden Rule, and I stick to it.
My ultimate point with Shazam 2 is that -- being as old as I am -- it was a rare theatrical experience that made me feel -- as a viewer -- an awful lot like I did when I was young and watched Superman: The Movie on the silver screen. While I don't think Batman (1989) was perfect, there were parts of it that achieved that same result. 1994's The Crow lit a fire in my soul. 2011's Captain America: The First Avenger is really the only one of the Marvel films that had that same feeling, but I'll admit to not having seen each and every one of the flicks in their library. 2012's Dredd is a breathtakingly brilliant comics-to-film experience. But if any picture -- especially one evolving from a comic book property -- can hit me so squarely in the feels, then yeah I'm probably always gonna lead with my heart than with my mind. It's just how I'm wired.
And that is exactly where I'm at with The Mandalorian at present.
Season 1 made me feel like this was Star Wars again -- the same experience I had in the dark theater watching the very first film -- and I cherished that. Season 2? Well, it was pretty damn close as well, though there were some issues here and there with some rather obvious long-form tinkering. And now ... Season 3? Well, like a lot of you, I'm lost. I won't say that the show is directionless, but I will say that I'm not all that impressed with its first three episodes for various reasons. In fact, I found this third episode -- the one so many YouTubers have been proclaming "the best episode ever" -- to be downright boring and damn near inconsequential. I realize that take may be controversial, but -- like you -- I gotta call it like I see it.