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Robin Bland

THE LAST JEDI - Movie discussion and critique

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12 hours ago, Sehlat Vie said:

I read that press piece with Hamill this morning and I have to say I kinda agree...

Once again, Founder's words kept coming back to me; "It was a great performance.  Too bad it wasn't Luke Skywalker."

Yes. And Hamill’s acting chops have never been in doubt. 

5 hours ago, prometheus59650 said:

I can see him hiding out for a year or five. Hell, maybe even thirty...biding his time. Obi-Wan did it. Yoda did it. Sure, he was afraid of Ben and he made a mistake. He was afraid of Rey. Maybe he DOES think the Jedi as we've understood them need to die

That's all fine. I can deal with that.

What kills Luke here is the complete absence of HOPE. That's all Luke has ever been. Hope for an exciting life beyond condensing water for a living. Hope for the rebellion. Hope to become a Jedi. Hope to redeem his father. Hope for the future. Hope for Ben and the Jedi to be.

And I don't even mind that he's still broken and afraid when Rey comes.

But a broken, bitter old man is all he really stays. She doesn't help him find a reason to come back nor does he really find it in himself. It feels like he just shows up to help his sister out of a jam. There's no energy, life, or hope in it.

That's where I agree with Hamill and that's where a lot of this backlash came from that I can tell Johnson was in NO WAY expecting, to happen. 

Oh, that is it, exactly. You’ve nailed it. Even though there’s a character onscreen called Luke Skywalker, if you don’t have his central core ideal, how is that the Luke we knew? There’s a disconnect. 

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27 minutes ago, Robin Bland said:

Yes. And Hamill’s acting chops have never been in doubt. 

Oh, that is it, exactly. You’ve nailed it. Even though there’s a character onscreen called Luke Skywalker, if you don’t have his central core ideal, how is that the Luke we knew? There’s a disconnect. 

And, for all intents and purposes, he just gave up on Ben. This is not the same guy who almost died trying to reach his father.

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The depiction of Luke is only one of many complaints I had with this movie.

I didn't even realize Luke had been in self-exile for that long. That means half of the time since RotJ .... instead of training and rebuilding the new Jedi Order .... he was just aimlessly milking sea cows and fishing.

What an ignominious post - RotJ story they chose for this character.

I think directors touching a major franchise need to get it in their heads that there are some things that shouldn't be "subverted" or switched around for the sake of a cheap shock.

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12 hours ago, Explorer3 said:

I seem to recall that Hamill, after learning about details in TLJ, said something along the lines of, 'I disagree with everything you have decided for my character' to Johnson. I wonder why Johnson was so insistent on this particular depiction of Luke? It still worked for me, aside from that one scene I mentioned, but it would have been nice to see other elements of the character (linking in to some of what you all have been discussing in this thread). There was a small moment when Luke sees R2D2 again and his face just lights up, and I think he looks actually quite happy. I liked that scene.

That was the only real moment where TLJ -Luke was recognizable as the same character I remember from ROTJ, his features softened and some of Luke's inner optimism and warmth came through.   TLJ's Luke seemed a mean stranger.  I agree with Hamill; maybe he was Jake Skywalker, not Luke Skywalker...

But (and I have to say this, before the wrong impression settles in) I still found TLJ entertaining overall.  I enjoyed moments of it very much.   It takes wrong turns, but it also feels more auteur-driven than a typical SW movie, and if nothing else, that was surprising.  But the sum of a few interesting parts didn't make for a cohesive and satisfying whole, and it still feels (to me, anyway) like an overstuffed bag with lots of wheel-spinning but little actual forward momentum.

As my wise wife said, it's fun but flawed.

 

11 hours ago, prometheus59650 said:

And, for all intents and purposes, he just gave up on Ben. This is not the same guy who almost died trying to reach his father.

This is the central problem with the film's depiction of Luke Skywalker; the core of the character is not there.

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2 hours ago, Sehlat Vie said:

This is the central problem with the film's depiction of Luke Skywalker; the core of the character is not there.

I think it's a case of Johnson not knowing...or maybe caring about the level of audience investment in these generational characters. JJ admits that Trek wasn't his thing, but he understood there was some reason it has endured for decades and he sat and watched it all again and figured out the angle he could relate to and push...in this case, the triumvirate. We argue even today over the level at which he succeeded, but I'll always believe it was an honest effort. He didn't set out to render them unrecognizable.

Johnson needed these people, particularly Luke, to do what his, apparently, inviolable screenplay needed him to do instead of what Luke would actually do.

And he's paying for that conceit now.

It's snowballed to the point where I'm wondering if it will affect the box office of Episode IX. Will it somehow bomb? Nah, but even down a few points over TLJ for what is the end of the trilogy would suggest some franchise damage to me.

I think, sooner or later, unless this dies down fast, Disney's going to put him on the fence-walking, "I'll never apologize for my vision, but I apologize"  tour.

Because this backlash is a real thing and not a core fanboy snit.

Edited by prometheus59650

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Over at the Camels with Hammers blog at Patheos, Daniel Fincke provides quite a different take on Luke in TLJ. I had some excerpts but they pasted at strikethrough text which was not displayed until after posting. Link:

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/2017/12/religion-philosophy-last-jedi-nietzschean-take-spoilers-galore/

Edited by Yorick
For some reason, all the pasted text ended up as strikethroughs!

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5 hours ago, Sehlat Vie said:

That was the only real moment where TLJ -Luke was recognizable as the same character I remember from ROTJ, his features softened and some of Luke's inner optimism and warmth came through.   TLJ's Luke seemed a mean stranger.  I agree with Hamill; maybe he was Jake Skywalker, not Luke Skywalker...

I really did think that were going to get more Artoo from that point forward. It was a nice reunion, but then that was it. That’s all you got. After all that Luke and Artoo had been though together, it seemed a little perfunctory. 

5 hours ago, Sehlat Vie said:

But (and I have to say this, before the wrong impression settles in) I still found TLJ entertaining overall.  I enjoyed moments of it very much.   It takes wrong turns, but it also feels more auteur-driven than a typical SW movie, and if nothing else, that was surprising.  But the sum of a few interesting parts didn't make for a cohesive and satisfying whole, and it still feels (to me, anyway) like an overstuffed bag with lots of wheel-spinning but little actual forward momentum.

As my wise wife said, it's fun but flawed.

That’s my overall perception, too. Bits I didn’t like, bits I really did. It makes for a jagged, slightly uncomfortable moviegoing experience. I’m not sure the way the character of Luke is treated will ever sit comfortably with me. At the same time, there are a lot of surprises and cool left turns along the way (like the unexpected death of Snoke) that I did enjoy. 

5 hours ago, Sehlat Vie said:

This is the central problem with the film's depiction of Luke Skywalker; the core of the character is not there.

Someone will do a fan re-edit / re-dub, I bet. 

 

In the end, a film is judged on how it makes you feel. I think Rian Johnson’s intentions are obvious, just from the “twin suns” scene at the end. He wanted to build to glorious outro. The way he chose to get there is questionable, as it required a revamping of the character of Luke - or at least, the sense many fans had of him. That’s very auteur, and it’s admirable that LF gave him that kind of autonomy. But it’s a double-edged sword - with legacy characters like this, you’re playing with modern myth, and the way people read it, what it means to them. Lucas played with similarly highly-charged memories when he revamped SW77 into ANH SE. While “Han shot first” is perhaps not quite as radical a revamp as the the version of Luke presented in this film, those are the sorts of sacraments you’re messing with. 

That Slashfilm essay at the link in my previous lost argues that Rey was also not well treated in TLJ. Must admit, while dimly perceiving this while watching, it didn’t mean as much to me as my concern for Luke’s arc did, perhaps because I know she’ll be back. But I agreed with he writer’s point there that to have her be second fiddle is an odd treatment for a character who is integral to this trilogy. 

Should these auteur directors be given such great control over the screenplays? Should the LF story department be more greatly involved in shaping the destinies of certain characters, or does that smack of writing by committee? There’s a real danger that Star Wars could settle into unsurprising niceness if risks are never taken. While there’s things I don’t like about TLJ, I can’t help thinking that if it had played it too safe I’d have found nothing to like in it at all. At the same time, I’m still kind of miffed about what happened here with Luke, Chewie and Artoo. 

 

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29 minutes ago, Yorick said:

Over at the Camels with Hammers blog at Patheos, Daniel Fincke provides quite a different take on Luke in TLJ:

ome people are, understandably, complaining that Luke’s brief contemplation of murdering of Kylo Ren is a betrayal of Luke’s character since at the end of the Return of the Jedi he was the embodiment of belief in redemption. For him to fail in this way was to undermine the character’s defining strength. I understand this response viscerally. As a child I literally had my first impactful exposure to the concept of pacifistic, self-sacrificial, redemptive love from Luke Skywalker. I watched Return of the Jedi countless times and it had an enormous impact on me long before even Jesus did.

“But that’s what’s profound here. Luke’s hubris is connected precisely to his strength. In his galaxy—and, fatefully, in his own mind—Luke got built up as big as he is in our minds. And that’s why he failed. He was a human being and not a mythic character. He was the same guy who, in Return of the Jedi itself, did get baited by both the Emperor and Vader at various points into losing his temper and trying to destroy Vader. He had gone so far as to chop off Vader’s hand before he got a hold of himself after the Emperor gleefully cackled, praised him, and encouraged him to finish the job. At that moment he had gotten a hold of himself and done the brave and pacifistic and self-sacrificial and redemptive thing. But just a moment before he had failed. He had the ability to fail within him. (We all do.) But he had defined himself by his triumphant courageous moment instead. (As we often do.) And he overestimated himself ever thereafter. Luke’s most famous strength was precisely the logical thing for the story to find him overestimating in his tragic hubris.”

And on Snoke:

“Complaints that Snoke was an underdeveloped and wasted character also miss the point. Just as Obi-Wan in the original Star Wars trilogy was there to play the archetypal role of guiding the young hero Luke through his first steps into a larger world, Snoke was there to invert the archetype. Kylo Ren is taking an inverse journey on the Dark Side to the one Luke took on the Light Side. Kylo Ren is also taking the alternative path that was available to Darth Vader and killing his cruel master. Snoke is not well developed because he does not need to be. We already know his character type. We know what he does and how he thinks. He is a mere variation on Palpatine set in place so that we can see how Kylo Ren’s opposite choice to Darth Vader plays out. It’s a “What If?” variation. What if Darth Vader killed the Emperor and took his place as he tried to plot with Luke to do in Empire Strikes Back?

“This was absolutely the right choice for the saga. It’s time for the main villain not to be the virtually omniscient and omnipotent, uncomplicatedly evil puppet master that Palpatine was. It’s time for one of our young characters struggling with the complexities of the Light and Dark sides of the Force to be the responsible evil in the universe. It was time for Anakin’s grandson to take the path he was first too cowed and then too virtuous to take himself. With Luke gone, except perhaps as a force ghost, and Snoke gone, in Episode IX the path is clear for Kylo Ren and Rey to supersede their mentors and figure out their own story.”

 

There’s lots more in a very detailed, philosophical and well informed analysis.

It’s a great article, and worth reading fully. Certainly gave me a lot of food for thought concerning Johnson’s treatment of Luke, which I’ll be chewing on during my planned rewatch. I’ve never shared the general criticism of how Snoke was treated, and thought TLJ did what it did with the character  because it put drama ahead of soap opera. I do have the same criticism of Abrams that Fincke articulates - that tendency to set up mysteries with no real plan of how to solve them satisfactorily. I’d agree that Johnson’s approach was perhaps the only one he could’ve taken so as not to deliver a “safe” movie and while I think it’s an approach that needs finessing, in time we might be more forgiving of some of the left turns he took. 

And this point: 

 “...I would rather a Star Wars so ambitious it sometimes fails than one that was too unambitious.”
 

...is more-or-less the same as the one I made in my previous post. After some doubts, I’m now looking forward to seeing the movie again. A second viewing always reveals new layers, nuances that you didn't spot first time around. 

Thanks for sharing that link. 

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The issue with the argument of "This movie is powerful because it shows Luke is just as human and fallible as anyone else." completely misses the point. It's not a disappointment that Luke wasn't a JediGod.

The complaint is two fold:

One complaint is that his entire arc in episodes 4-6 is wasted. His whole point was the Jedi ... and that was thrown away like cheap garbage.

Second complaint is ... we're literally back to square one. People keep claiming "We're finally surprised! We're taken to a new place!" What new place? The Jedi are all dead. An evil empire is in power and a small group of rebels are fighting back. Meanwhile, a struggle between light (Rey) and dark (Kylo) is ensuing. Hmmm ... where have I heard this before? Must be in Star Trek or something.

This is not "new" - this is the OT re-done with new modern packaging. Let me guess - it'll end with Rey bringing the Jedi back? Complete with enslaved orphan children? So .... back to square one.

And the worst part is - Rian Johnson is tapped to do another trilogy .... Let me guess how they'll surprise us ... Rey's new Jedi Order is wiped out and an evil empire grows into power? Perhaps a rag-tag group of rebels will fight them off? I can't wait to be "surprised" again ...

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9 minutes ago, The Founder said:

Second complaint is ... we're literally back to square one. People keep claiming "We're finally surprised! We're taken to a new place!" What new place? The Jedi are all dead. An evil empire is in power and a small group of rebels are fighting back. Meanwhile, a struggle between light (Rey) and dark (Kylo) is ensuing. Hmmm ... where have I heard this before? Must be in Star Trek or something.

^
Exactly this!

Like I said in my blog and elsewhere; there’s lots of frenetic action and wheel-spinning, but the plot winds up right where it began... just with a higher body count.  

9 minutes ago, The Founder said:

And the worst part is - Rian Johnson is tapped to do another trilogy .... Let me guess how they'll surprise us ... Rey's new Jedi Order is wiped out and an evil empire grows into power? Perhaps a rag-tag group of rebels will fight them off? I can't wait to be "surprised" again ...

Right?  If I wanted that kind of “surprise," I’d stick my head out due east for about 8 hours and wait for the sun to come up... :laugh:

9 hours ago, Robin Bland said:

...is more-or-less the same as the one I made in my previous post. After some doubts, I’m now looking forward to seeing the movie again. A second viewing always reveals new layers, nuances that you didn't spot first time around. 

I’m curious to give it another try sometime, but frankly there are other movies on my to-watch list taking precedence, like “Shape of Water."

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5 hours ago, The Founder said:

The issue with the argument of "This movie is powerful because it shows Luke is just as human and fallible as anyone else." completely misses the point. It's not a disappointment that Luke wasn't a JediGod.

The complaint is two fold:

One complaint is that his entire arc in episodes 4-6 is wasted. His whole point was the Jedi ... and that was thrown away like cheap garbage.

Second complaint is ... we're literally back to square one. People keep claiming "We're finally surprised! We're taken to a new place!" What new place? The Jedi are all dead. An evil empire is in power and a small group of rebels are fighting back. Meanwhile, a struggle between light (Rey) and dark (Kylo) is ensuing. Hmmm ... where have I heard this before? Must be in Star Trek or something.

This is not "new" - this is the OT re-done with new modern packaging. Let me guess - it'll end with Rey bringing the Jedi back? Complete with enslaved orphan children? So .... back to square one.

And the worst part is - Rian Johnson is tapped to do another trilogy .... Let me guess how they'll surprise us ... Rey's new Jedi Order is wiped out and an evil empire grows into power? Perhaps a rag-tag group of rebels will fight them off? I can't wait to be "surprised" again ...

You didn’t read that article did you? ;) Star Wars is always going to have that problem if it remains a simple binary tale about good and evil.* I agree that Johnson made a fair few errors, the reductionist take 2 on the rise of the evil empire being one of them, the handling of Luke being another, to name the two biggest. But I’m not going to write this movie off, because I know how tastes can change, and how it might well be reframed by Episode IX in a couple of years time. Johnson cleared the slate, and Ren took the path Anakin didn’t. That, for this series, is new - the completion of the failed ambition of his grandfather. Maybe it is a “What if” scenario, but watching it play out could be fascinating.    

*I don’t know how you make something like Star Wars, which is designed around myth, with sophisticated shades of grey, but let’s watch LF try. 

Edited by Robin Bland

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5 hours ago, Sehlat Vie said:

^
Exactly this!

Like I said in my blog and elsewhere; there’s lots of frenetic action and wheel-spinning, but the plot winds up right where it began... just with a higher body count.  

Right?  If I wanted that kind of “surprise," I’d stick my head out due east for about 8 hours and wait for the sun to come up... :laugh:

I dunno if that’ll happen quite the way that has been anticipated. Given the frequency of recent SW films (we have another in five months!), I think the House of Mouse will dial back on both budgets and output to protect their investment, at least in the short term. After this trilogy ends, we may get a few “Story” films for a while, but maybe they’ll reduce the frequency to one movie every couple of years. If the Solo film gets a critical panning (fans scent blood), Disney may be perceived to have damaged their own brand, and they’ll recoil from that like a rodent from cheese in a trap. Fan consensus is becoming a massively potent force in today’s big brand media, especially with the grapevine of social media to power it. 

In broader terms yet, this strikes me as a case of “Be careful what you wish for.” With Mark Hamill’s recent statements about Luke amounting to “I told you so” rebukes to Johnson, I think that the planning of future installments may be more carefully controlled by a group of powerful story manipulators at the top of LF, not just the auteur director given the assignment to shape a trilogy installment. Abrams seems able to work within such power constructs, others, as we’ve witnessed, don’t. This movie may be the last time we see a SW film that is genuinely handled by a single “visionary.” (No, I don’t think Johnson’s a visionary, either, but for want of a better word. Abrams certainly isn’t.) 

5 hours ago, Sehlat Vie said:

I’m curious to give it another try sometime, but frankly there are other movies on my to-watch list taking precedence, like “Shape of Water."

I liked it enough to want to see it a second time on the big screen. At my local cheapie with its nice seats, the price is worth it for the spectacle alone, but I want to reassess it in the light of so much rancor. 

I bet Dave Filoni is sitting in his office figuring out directions by which he can rescue the franchise...

 

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After Dave Filoni's "Rebels"?  I'd hope that Disney would give him writing duties on a live action SW movie someday....

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6 hours ago, Robin Bland said:

You didn’t read that article did you? ;) Star Wars is always going to have that problem if it remains a simple binary tale about good and evil.* I agree that Johnson made a fair few errors, the reductionist take 2 on the rise of the evil empire being one of them, the handling of Luke being another, to name the two biggest. But I’m not going to write this movie off, because I know how tastes can change, and how it might well be reframed by Episode IX in a couple of years time. Johnson cleared the slate, and Ren took the path Anakin didn’t. That, for this series, is new - the completion of the failed ambition of his grandfather. Maybe it is a “What if” scenario, but watching it play out could be fascinating.    

*I don’t know how you make something like Star Wars, which is designed around myth, with sophisticated shades of grey, but let’s watch LF try. 

I was referring to the quote above about Luke. It said the same stuff about how this took Luke and the realism of life and I don't agree. Rey taking a different path than Anakin has already been done through Luke. That was his crowning achievement in the OT - when he resisted the lure of the dark side. This moment:

like-my-father-before-me.gif?w=656&h=302

 

It's all already been done. Johnson has wiped the slate clean simply to bring us back to the point where RotJ left us. Force users returning to the galaxy (orphans), Rey being "the last Jedi", an Empire about to fall and a resistance close to winning. Unless Episode 9 does a complete 180 and the Empire wins and Rey dies? Then I stand by what I said.

I'm not asking you to dislike or write off the movie. I'll say the same thing I say to people that enjoy Abrams' Trek or DSC - great. Enjoy. It succeeded as entertainment that people liked at least.

For what it's worth - I agree with you that Star Wars would do well to break that binary tale at some point. Or as you said - we'll get nothing but repetition. But TLJ didn't break it .... it just reinforced it didn't it?

Edited by The Founder

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10 hours ago, The Founder said:

I was referring to the quote above about Luke. It said the same stuff about how this took Luke and the realism of life and I don't agree. Rey taking a different path than Anakin has already been done through Luke. That was his crowning achievement in the OT - when he resisted the lure of the dark side. This moment:

like-my-father-before-me.gif?w=656&h=302

 

It's all already been done. Johnson has wiped the slate clean simply to bring us back to the point where RotJ left us. Force users returning to the galaxy (orphans), Rey being "the last Jedi", an Empire about to fall and a resistance close to winning. Unless Episode 9 does a complete 180 and the Empire wins and Rey dies? Then I stand by what I said.

I'm not asking you to dislike or write off the movie. I'll say the same thing I say to people that enjoy Abrams' Trek or DSC - great. Enjoy. It succeeded as entertainment that people liked at least.

For what it's worth - I agree with you that Star Wars would do well to break that binary tale at some point. Or as you said - we'll get nothing but repetition. But TLJ didn't break it .... it just reinforced it didn't it?

I think we’re arguing at cross-purposes here, because broadly I agree with you, too. There isn’t a story in the world that hasn’t been “done” - or reinvented for new generations. But it didn’t really work as a satisfactory climax to a well-loved character, which is the thing you can always do differently. Or at least with different nuances, different cadences.

As for Ren, he’s not an analog of Luke the hero, he’s an analog of Anakin the villain. Anakin didn’t break free of his mentor-cum-controller, Palpatine, except at the very end of his life. He’s redeemed, and promptly dies. Ren does break free when he kills Snoke - but he still stays with the dark side. No, I don’t think that’s been done before. If it had, we’d have seen Vader break free of Palpatine long before he did, and lead the Empire to absolute control. Maybe this is something we’ll see next - a balance between light and dark. Though what the storytelling will be to pull that off, I don’t know. 

But , horses for courses. As you rightly observe, it’s what you find in it. 

 

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1 hour ago, Robin Bland said:

I think we’re arguing at cross-purposes here, because broadly I agree with you, too. There isn’t a story in the world that hasn’t been “done” - or reinvented for new generations. But it didn’t really work as a satisfactory climax to a well-loved character, which is the thing you can always do differently. Or at least with different nuances, different cadences.

As for Ren, he’s not an analog of Luke the hero, he’s an analog of Anakin the villain. Anakin didn’t break free of his mentor-cum-controller, Palpatine, except at the very end of his life. He’s redeemed, and promptly dies. Ren does break free when he kills Snoke - but he still stays with the dark side. No, I don’t think that’s been done before. If it had, we’d have seen Vader break free of Palpatine long before he did, and lead the Empire to absolute control. Maybe this is something we’ll see next - a balance between light and dark. Though what the storytelling will be to pull that off, I don’t know. 

But , horses for courses. As you rightly observe, it’s what you find in it. 

 

My apologies - I misread what you had originally posted. I thought you said Rey did something new. I just realized you posted Kylo Ren did something new. That is why I was like "Rey is just doing what Luke did ..." haha

Yes - in that case - you are quite correct that Kylo was faced with the same choice as Anakin and went the opposite route while simultaneously killing his leader. I will say this - one thing I did like about this movie - is the direction of Kylo Ren. Out of all the characters - he got the most growth (in my opinion). Plus - one of the best scenes was Kylo fighting back to back with Rey against those guards. Now if they could just tell us where the Knights of Ren are ...

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Wow. This is seriously effed up. Sorry. You just don't go from months of dislike to all conformist overnight. I bet they saw that dip over the weekend and blamed it on him. Hopefully it was prettier than that by offering him more money, using his input for the sequel, or pulling some plot out of their butts that makes everything in TLJ appealing. 

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25 minutes ago, Nombrecomun said:

Hopefully it was prettier than that by offering him more money, using his input for the sequel, or pulling some plot out of their butts that makes everything in TLJ appealing. 

Nah.

They don't need him.

Conform or we're going to turn SW into a multiverse and kill you in all of them.

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