The first, and by far most important point to clarify with regards to “The Last Hope,” is that hardcore “Star Wars” fans hoping — or fearing — that this film is their religion’s answer to Trekkies will not find their salvation in this film. Indeed, “Star Wars” itself takes a back seat — and who would’ve thought that THAT could ever happen? — to an even more pervasive mythos; one that’s in many ways far more relevant at the start of this new millennium. “The Last Hope,” you see, isn’t really about “Star Wars” at all. Instead, this at times intriguing, at times clumsy documentary uses the premiere of Star Wars: Episode I as a microcosmic canvas upon which to illustrate the corporate takeover of America.
Specifically under fire here is Countingdown.com, one of those hot new high-tech dotcoms that were so fashionably trendy all of about eighteen months ago. A website devoted to counting down towards seminal cultural events like a doomsday clock, Countingdown.com concocted the idea of forming a line of eager “Star Wars” fans outside of Mann’s Chinese Theater in Hollywood, ostensibly to benefit a children’s charity. However, as the fans begin lining up some six WEEKS before the new entry in George Lucas’ saga was set to screen, the website’s founders abruptly announce the formation of Countdown TV, a 24 hour-a-day internet TV station devoted to covering life in the line.
Problems develop almost immediately as the unexpected and unwanted TV studio’s presence grows more pervasive, literally crowding out the line its cameras were meant to cover in the first place. Passions rise and tempers that make Return of the Jedi‘s Emperor look like he’s having a hissy fit flare for those in the line, most of whom feel like unwitting props in a Countdown TV commercial.
The message directors Christopher Hrasky and Kurt Volk are trying to relate is certainly a valid one. Anyone who watches more than five minutes of a major professional or college sports broadcast knows just how nauseatingly pervasive advertising has become. Whether it’s the “Budweiser Kick-Off” or the “Pepsi Starting Line-Up,” there’s no question that corporate marketeering has crept into every nook and cranny of our lives.
Unfortunately, the filmmakers, though hinting around at this point, never drive it home. As audience members, we have an almost instinctive suspicion and dislike of what the three Countdown TV musketeers are up to. Yet, they seem genuinely befuddled at the consternation they’re causing. It’s almost as if they’re in effect saying, “Well, heck yeah it’s a marketing ploy! Why not?” Similarly, the disgruntled line-standers come across as whiny, neo-Seattle reactionaries and, yes, geeks. That they didn’t think that someone somewhere would try to use them somehow to capitalize on the huge moneymaking behemoth that is the “Star Wars” franchise comes across as the height of naivity.
What we’re left with, then, in “The Last Hope,” is a frustrating lack of true villains or real heroes. In their place, we get a bunch of annoying, self-serving geeks and dubious twenty-something corporate weenies yelling and bickering at one another for an hour and a half. True to life maybe, but a little unnerving to sit through.
Only Larry Lawrence, a struggling out of work actor and LA neophyte provides any real balm for the soul. Only tangentially connected to those waiting in the line and irrepressably optimistic to the point of extreme irritation, it is nonetheless somehow as fitting as it is ironic that his shoveling garbage after the “Episode I” screening provides the only note of hope in “The Last Hope.”