A mostly spoiler-free conversation with Sean Doolittle about 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi'
With Star Wars: The Last Jedi having hit theaters recently, Doolittle couldn't write a full review this time (planning for a wedding ceremony takes a lot of time), but he did share some thoughts over the phone in a (mostly) spoiler-free chat you can enjoy below.
Did you enjoy The Last Jedi?
Sean Doolittle: Is this a spoiler-free thing?
I think we should keep it spoiler-free, yeah, as much as we can.
Sean Doolittle: OK. Yes, I really, really liked it. I worked really hard at not going on social media for weeks before I saw the movie. I wanted to go into it as cold as I could with zero expectations for it, and I really liked it.
I did the same. I went out of my way to avoid hearing anything and still saw a couple tweets about it, which was too much. You brought up something I wanted to ask about, too: It does seem as if you've scaled back your social media presence a bit from where you were a year or so ago. And that probably helps when it comes to the time for a new Star Wars movie.
Sean Doolittle: Yeah, not to go off on a tangent, but I needed a break from social media. Once I got traded to the Nationals, I wanted the team there, the fans there, to really understand that I was super-focused on my new job as a member of the Washington Nationals. It's not permanent, I will get back on social media at some point, but yeah, it helps when it comes to Star Wars stuff.
I didn't have that many expectations for the film. I watched the trailers nonstop, so I had my finger on the pulse of it but I wasn't looking for predictions … which I had done in the past. I didn't do that for Rogue One, either. I think it helps. Before The Force Awakens, I was so excited about a new Star Wars movie that I think it took me two or three watches before I really liked it. I think I had become too cynical when I saw it the first time. I loved it, but I was also nitpicking some things.
Being a fan of a movie franchise means having fun with it and enjoying it for what it is, not trying to have it live up to your expectations or fulfill your prophecies that you've been working on for the last two years. To me, that takes the fun out of it.
And you see the Star Wars fans on the Internet are up in arms over certain parts or aspects of The Last Jedi for various reasons. They come across as very malcontent due to this nitpicking that's going on.
Sean Doolittle: I think I'm even more excited now that Rian Johnson has his own trilogy to work on that's not going to be part of … it's not going to reference the Skywalker family. I'm even more excited about that now, because there were definitely parts of the film I didn't really like. But there was a lot more that I did like.
The same people who are up in arms over this are the same people who, after The Force Awakens came out, thought they played it way too safe with that movie -- that they didn't take enough risks. And The Last Jedi takes risks. This movie takes some serious risks, and there are some new things, some things that are taken in different directions, than we've ever seen in a Star Wars movie before.
There were some scenes where I balked in my seat. I balked at it, like, "Can that happen?" and then I was like, "Oh wait, this is a movie about space, and there's aliens, and there's magicians and wizards, and space laser swords. Yeah, I'm pretty sure this is within the realm of possibility in a Star Wars movie." So I appreciated the risks that Johnson took, and I think he humanized some of the characters in ways we haven't seen.
When it comes to the heroes that we know, I don't know if it's because of the superhero movies we see all the time lately, a lot of times we're used to seeing a hero have a clean arc to savior, basically. But in The Last Jedi, there are flaws we see in some of our favorite characters -- people that we have a lot of faith in, that we've trusted to be "good." They have these struggles just like we all have struggles. At first, you want to yell at the screen, like, "No!" but in the end it helps the story.
People have to remember, this is a transitional film. A lot of people didn't like The Empire Strikes Back when it first came out because there was the big reveal and it left with Han still frozen. We found out about Luke's father, he gets his arm chopped off and thrown down a garbage chute and people were like, "Wait, we waited three years for this?"
So it's not the first time that it hasn't officially been well received. I think it's going to get better with time.
There are a few reveals in The Last Jedi that people were waiting for after The Force Awakens, such as the truth behind who Rey's parents were, and they seem to have taken issue with how the new one handled them. But I have a personal hunch that just because somebody said or did something regarding those reveals, it doesn't necessarily mean that's it. Maybe there's more to the story that we'll find out later.
Sean Doolittle: I 100 percent agree. I think that it might have been underwhelming, and it might have not been in the direction we were expecting, but I also think you have to consider the source here. Of how she finds that out, and all that. I don't think it's as neat as it was presented, and I would not be surprised if that gets revisited.
Did you think there was too much humor in The Last Jedi?
Sean Doolittle: A little bit. I didn't find it to be distracting, but I think there were, excuse my pun here, but I think some of it was forced. There were some parts that I found genuinely funny. There's an interaction with Snoke and Kylo Ren that I thought was genuinely funny and I laughed out loud in the theater.
The film tried to have some camp thrown in there, but folks expecting a deadly serious Star Wars movie would therefore have taken issue with that.
Sean Doolittle: Yeah, and I think from the very first interaction with Rey and Luke on the island and she hands him his lightsaber, which basically picks up right where The Force Awakens left off, that interaction doesn't go where all envisioned it going. You're kind of like, "Oh, OK, this might get weird." It was kind of a way for Johnson to let you know, "I don't care what you expected, I didn't write this movie to fulfill your preconceived notions that you formed over the past few years. Let's get weird with it."
And I'm here for it.
What are your thoughts on porgs?
Sean Doolittle: (laughs) I think they're awesome. I read something wild -- I guess there were puffins on the island they filmed at, so there were so many puffins that it was easier for them to CGI in porgs than it would be to clear the sets of puffins. But yeah, I enjoyed the porgs, I enjoyed the crystal foxes -- I think that's what we're calling them -- I enjoyed that. I enjoyed the fact that, just like Ewoks were never mentioned by name in Return of the Jedi, porgs were never mentioned by name in this one.
And they've become a fan favorite already. The scene with the porgs and Chewie was another of my favorite parts, the humor was great.
(Caution: Next section might not be considered spoiler-free)
What are you hoping to see in the next film, which will be directed by J.J. Abrams again?
Sean Doolittle: Yeah, I really don't know. I hope we get closure. Closure's a funny thing, but I hope we get some closure. I'm interested to see where they take some of these characters, because we've seen for two movies now an internal struggle with Kylo Ren. We've seen Rey and Ren connect with the Force on a level that is similar to the way Darth Vader and Luke connected. We'd all love it to tie together with a nice little bow, the Rebellion wins, the First Order is destroyed. That'd be best-case scenario, right? But I also hope a proper send-off for Leia would be good. How do you wrap that up? That's an unenviable task, but you have to handle it the right way. I will revolt if her character isn't given a proper send-off.
They have to do more than just address it in the opening credit scroll. To be honest, I haven't though that far ahead yet. I do think we haven't gotten to the bottom of Rey's parents. I'm not convinced on that, even if it is the truth I think there's more to it than that.
People are getting really hung up on backstories here, like we didn't get enough of Snoke's backstory. And I agree to a point. We didn't get Emperor Palpatine's backstory, really, until the prequels. He might have been a more intimidating figure, shooting lightning out of his fingertips and all that, and maybe Snoke's character wasn't as developed, so I get that. But I kind of want a little more of Rey's backstory, her origin story. How did she figure out that she's able to use the Force?
Was it when Ren tries to read her mind in the first episode? Probably not, but I'd like some more of that backstory in particular.
One non-Star Wars question: What's it like playing with
Sean Doolittle: I'll tell you what, man, it's a lot of fun. Prior to playing with the Nationals, I hadn't seen him play in person ever before. Everything I'd seen had been via highlights or on TV. Seeing him in person, he's every bit as good as advertised. The way that every aspect of his game can impact … he can take over the game in a number of ways. The presence in the middle of the lineup, his presence in the outfield, it was really fun to watch.
There aren't many players in the game that make you feel that way, really. It's been cool to get to see him do his thing every day and help your team win.