Dealing with The Last Jedi

Rian Johnson’s Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi came out just over a year ago and it has continued to cause a great disturbance in the fandom. I personally saw The Last Jedi two times within 24 hours on its release, something I’ve only done once before with The Fellowship of the Ring.

The difference between those two instances is that I absolutely loved The Fellowship of the Ring, so much that Lord of the Rings has arguably surpassed Star Wars as my favorite film trilogy. The Last Jedi, I didn’t particularly care for on my first showing. After my second viewing, my feelings didn’t change. They likely got a bit worse the more I thought on it.

People have gone to great lengths to dismiss any and all criticism of the film as blind hatred, not true fans, man children who can’t handle change. To me, it’s about respecting the property. More particularly, a lack of respect for the Star Wars saga. Rian Johnson set out to “subvert expectations” and in the process, essentially subverted the entirety of the Star Wars saga and assassinated multiple characters in the process while simultaneously making decisions that didn’t fit the pace of the film or support the narrative it was trying to present.

Poe & Holdo

The film starts off taking Poe Dameron, who we were led to believe in The Force Awakens was a hot shot pilot that was willing to take risks that would put himself in jeopardy for the good of the Resistance, and revealing he is apparently willing to sacrifice entire squadrons for a single minor victory that might boost morale. This seems like a bit of a change of character for the sake of setting up Poe to be wrong in his opposition to Holdo.

With Holdo’s introduction, it seems like Poe doesn’t believe she’s who he’s heard of because she’s a woman, striking a chord with 2017’s fresh surge of feminism and painting a target for many a YouTube video complaints. The problem with this entire set up is that Star Wars does not take place in 2017 Earth, but a long time ago in a galaxy, far, far away. Women are leaders in the Star Wars universe. They are senators, queens, admirals, generals, Jedi, smugglers, bounty hunters, assassins, and adventurers. Poe clearly holds Leia in high esteem. It’s logically inconsistent for Poe to simply be in disbelief that Admiral Holdo is capable because she’s a woman, yet that’s the impression the film seems to give.

If the film had included information that, based on her appearance, Poe recognized her as coming from a pacifist planet we’d have some basis of his disbelief. Instead it seems like a ham fisted way to set up a strong woman to dress down the hot shot pilot and thus “subvert our expectations” in having the hot shot pilot in Star Wars be a bad thing.

Then there was the whole “tell us you have a plan” vs “STFU stupid man, I don’t have to tell you jack” angle that just…. made no sense.  Yes, she didn’t owe Poe an explanation. He was demoted, she didn’t know him, he was a potential loose cannon, but to not even say “yes, we have a plan and no you don’t need to know it”? The extent to which they had her remain silent seemed irrational.

What’s more, the speculative leap from “it’s impossible to track a ship through hyperspace” to complete acceptance that it’s possible, developed, and happening, had no support. It was just speculative guessing accepted as fact. It seemed far more obvious, and I thought they were going to do it, that someone in the Resistance was a traitor feeding their coordinates to the First Order. If they had gone this route, Holdo and Poe could have simply distrusted each other as the spy.  Between Finn and Rose, they might have deduced the possibility of the hyperspace tracking technology, but by that point you’d have Poe unwilling to trust this information with Holdo (or if you took it to her, why would she believe a few nobodies who are pals with Poe?).

Ultimately, I felt nothing for Admiral Holdo. She was a fairly useless character who accomplished nothing (a common theme throughout this film for all the characters save a couple) and was written out as quickly as she was introduced. Her death had no weight or emotion to it, though. With no time to care about her, I really didn’t care about her dying.

What’s more mind boggling to me is that Abrams, Kennedy, and Johnson didn’t plan to write out the original cast with Solo’s death in VII, Leia’s in VIII, and Luke’s in IX to begin with. Personally, I’d lean towards Luke surviving to cameo in future films as the Jedi Headmaster since everyone just assumes he’s going to die akin to Obi-Wan and Yoda.

At the start of this film, Leia talks about how tired she is of losing people. It’s not guilt, but there’s a sense of survivor’s weariness to Leia that makes her simply shuffling off to leave her friend to die perplexing.  It seems to me that having Leia stay on the ship and perform the heroic sacrifice would have had far more emotional weight and would have given Leia a truly heroic send off.

It would also allow Holdo to be carried forward into IX to be further developed and fleshed out, taking on the torch in a General Leia or Mon Mothma role.

Rose and Finn

Let’s get this out of the way up front: Rose Tico was a fairly unnecessary character with how the film played out and a lot of her parts make no sense. That said, anyone who attacked the actress is a complete and utter fool. Kellie Marie Tran was given a script and she portrayed what was written in that script. She did her job. She didn’t write the script, she didn’t design the character, she didn’t make the story decisions.

Personally, I liked Rose’s introduction. A lot. Her fan girling over Finn with a quick flip of the switch to tazing him for his attempt to desert the Resistance made an interesting and fun introduction. I liked that she seemed like she was loyal to the Resistance above all else. Even tripping over her words in front of a hero she admired, she wasn’t going to give that hero any leeway whatsoever if he was going to hurt the Resistance.

Then she just sort of turned into Finn’s sidekick who was there to make a few comments on animal cruelty, class inequality, and war profiteering before ultimately taking action to save Finn by crashing her speeder through the plot to leave massive gaping holes.

The final scene with her saving Finn and telling him they’re going to win the war by saving what they love just didn’t work for me at all.

  1. Rose has known Finn for about a day and she’s in love?
  2. Rose stops Finn from preventing the cannon from blowing open the doors to allow the First Order access to wipe out the Resistance.
  3. Why didn’t the First Order just fire the cannon again into the base and kill everyone at once?
  4. How did Finn drag/carry unconscious Rose the entire distance from their crash back to the doors and get inside before the walkers made any progress?
  5. Why didn’t the First Order just take one shot and kill Rose and Finn as he was carrying her all that way back?

Just nothing about that entire scene made any sense.

Rey

Yes, Rey is still essentially a Mary Sue.

An “idealized and seemingly perfect fictional character. They can usually perform better at tasks than should be possible given the amount of training or experience, and usually are able through some means to upstage the main protagonist of an established fictional setting, such as by saving the hero.”

Rey can instantly fly the Millennium Falcon, repair the Falcon on her own, overpower Kylo Ren with the Force, use Jedi mind tricks, defeat Kylo Ren in a lightsaber duel after again overpowering him with the Force and advocates said it would be explained in The Last Jedi. Instead, The Last Jedi simply showed that she can further train herself with a lightsaber, is so powerful that she scares Luke, doesn’t need any training from a Jedi master, and can use the Force more reliably than Luke did when he sought training from Yoda. Even mirroring Luke’s confrontation with Vader by going to face Snoke and Kylo, she comes out ultimately victorious and suffers no loss or real setback whatsoever.

Rey is perfect. She has no flaws. She is skilled at everything with no background or training. And she is better than the established canon’s heroes. There is no passing of the torch in the sequel trilogy. Rey carries her own torch, she IS the torch, and doesn’t need one from anyone that came before.

Snoke

There’s nothing to even say. Snoke was a joke. We have no idea what he was or how he did anything up to this point other than being supremely powerful in the dark side, except apparently fairly oblivious to the Force at the same time. Much like Holdo, since we knew nothing about him it’s hard to really care that he’s dead beyond the emptiness of not knowing anything about how we got to where we are in the story when so much was by his doing.

Luke Skywalker

Now we come to the real crux of what drove so many fans up the wall. Luke Skywalker is part of American mythology. He’s one of the last of our mythic heroes. Johnson not only assassinated Luke’s character, but in the process wrote the entire story of the Skywalker saga to be completely irrelevant and moot.

The Jedi were utter failures in every sense of the word. Everything about the prophecy was complete rubbish. Anakin didn’t bring balance, he set the galaxy to darkness. Luke was not a new hope, he was a temporary blip before he also set the galaxy to darkness. Everything that happens in episodes 1-6 is completely pointless. The best we can hope for at the end of 9 is that Rey finally sets everything right because she read some books and was wiser than all Jedi throughout history.

If I sound a little bitter, it’s because I am. In “subverting expectations” and deconstructing Luke, Johnson managed to essentially crap on everything George Lucas had done with the Star Wars saga.

What’s frustrating is we’ve got interviews from Mark Hamill indicating he was supposed to be shown as having the Force swirling around him with how powerful he was at the end of VII and they didn’t do it. Production art shows him meditating with what appears to be a Force, or even Sith, ghost behind him.

If Luke had been pushing Rey towards that cave, towards the dark side, it would definitely not be what fans expect from Luke. We could have had Luke rediscover, and put Rey on the path of, the original Jedi from the expanded universe (which Disney is using pieces of here and there) in using both light and dark side of the Force and maintaining balance within themselves rather than the split of Jedi and Sith.

This would finally complete the Skywalker saga in full circle. Anakin, through his son, returns balance to the Force by Luke returning the Jedi to a path of balance within themselves. And that prophecy would be embodied by Rey, a nobody from nowhere, rather than the Skywalker bloodline. Yet it would still be Luke passing the torch to the next generation rather than Luke being irrelevant entirely.

Yes, Luke ultimately does something to buy the Resistance time and becomes an inspirational legend across the galaxy and I’ll admit that a final scene of Luke gazing at the sunset in mirror to the first time we met him was poetically beautiful, but a single scene of poetic mirroring isn’t better than the whole narrative coming together in mirror and contrast to bring resolution to the whole story.

Episode IX will be the conclusion of the Skywalker saga and with everything set up by Johnson in Episode VIII, the only way the saga can conclude is with the Skywalkers having been ultimately a blight upon the galaxy, not a new hope, not a correction of the Jedi mistakes. That’s why I’m bitter.

Wishes and Dreams

In hindsight, I’d have preferred Episode VII kicked off with Rey and perhaps even Finn being the only two surviving Jedi of Luke’s school, possibly with a handful of students. Luke has still disappeared and Rey and Finn have two different views on how to proceed forward – Rey searching for Luke and Finn looking to aid the Resistance.

With Finn, we could have Jedi Leia giving him some guidance and give her a chance to actually be a Jedi in her own right rather than space flying nun.

With Rey, we could have Luke discover the new path for the Jedi to follow (he already breaks from tradition with his school of Jedi in the EU anyway).

And instead of retreading and rehashing the Empire vs Rebellion, we could have had a new direction for the saga with the Knights of Ren vs the Knights of the New Republic. Fans have long wanted a Knights of the Old Republic setting, but why not the same vibe set in the New Republic with Luke’s students as the key figures?

Going Forward

So what can fans do to save Star Wars?

Be loud on social media? Make YouTube videos? Write letters?

Nothing.

Seriously, if you didn’t like The Last Jedi, there’s nothing you can do to change the course Disney and Lucasfilm is taking the series other than simply not go to future films if you feel that strongly about it.

For me, I simply decided I didn’t like this new version of the canon and decided I wouldn’t bother with any of the novels and comics, etc. I’ve heard Rebels is pretty good, so I’ll watch it eventually, though. I’ll watch Episode IX to see how Abrams tries to resolve everything, though I have no sense of anticipation for the film whatsoever at this point.

Instead, I decided to simply go back through the entire EU, starting with the comics and novels set prior to the Old Republic and I’m currently reading the books/comics and playing the games set in the Knights of the Old Republic era. I’ll continue working my way through the prequel era, the original trilogy era, and onward through the post trilogy, new Jedi Order, and on until I’ve completed the entire Star Wars EU saga.

It’s that simple, really. If you don’t like it, let it go and enjoy what was there before instead. Maybe we’ll eventually get an animated series with Han, Luke, and Leia set after Return of the Jedi, but at this point that’s about the best one could hope to ever see – though even then, knowing it all culminates in them all essentially being failures kind of takes some of the fun out of it.

But in the end, it’s a movie, no matter how beloved. It’s not worth death threats, anger, and hatred. The Dark Side can be seductive and too many who disliked The Last Jedi have fallen to its temptation.

If you didn’t like it, detail why you didn’t in a respectful manner, but realize that some enjoyed it. There’s no accounting for taste, after all, and some people… well, some people are just happy to be wrong.

(Yes, that was a joke)

 

 

 

 

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