I love me some bad movies. I can watch a film like The Room or Birdemic: Shock and Terror with ease. Give me a bad, campy movie and I’ll eat it right up.
Give me a movie that’s supposed to be good but ends up bad; I’ll struggle to watch it again.
Herein lies my problem with The Last Jedi: a movie that’s supposed to be good (currently sitting with a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes) but ends up being bad. Why is that? Let me count the ways.
I feel the need to express my thoughts over this film because most people I’ve talked to are shocked I disliked the movie. As both a lover of film (especially Rian Johnsons’s Looper) and an even bigger lover of Star Wars (R.I.P. Expanded Universe), I have a strange case of wanting to love this movie. However. . . I didn’t. Obviously, spoilers are ahead.
Why I disliked The Last Jedi as a fan of film:
Where to begin? Let’s start with the plot:
Ex-Marvel Comics Editor-in-chief Jim Shooter, once wrote a storytelling lecture on his blog. There, he covers the basic fundamentals of storytelling using the poem of Little Miss Muffet. He writes,
Little Miss Muffet–introduce the character. Sat on a tuffet eating her curds and whey–establish the status quo. Along came a spider–introduce the disruptive element. Sat down beside her–build suspense. Scared poor Miss Muffet–climax. Away–resolution. Now you know the basic building block of entertainment. Is that all you need? No. Little Miss Muffet is a story, it fits the basic building block, it is however a lousy story. You don’t know anything about this girl, you don’t know anything about the spider. It gets old pretty quick. But we can make it better.
Now let’s look at The Last Jedi: At the beginning of the film, Rey has the Force and she’s learning to use it. We also have The Resistance defeated by the First Order. We also have Kylo Ren who’s the big baddie and is angry all of the time.
By the end of The Last Jedi, we have Rey who is learning to use her Force powers, The Resistance is defeated, and Kylo Ren who as the big baddie and is angry all of the time. The rest of the movie is filler. Without a status quo change, arguably the movie really didn’t need to happen, did it? Let’s go deeper:
At the end of The Force Awakens, Rey learns she has the Force. She goes to Luke to learn how to use the Force. She syncs up with Kylo Ren a handful of times to add some mystery to the story. She even dabbles with the dark side, according to Luke. She then leaves Luke and meets up with Kylo Ren. Snoke dies and she refuses to join Kylo. She re-joins the Resistance, despite being not that much further ahead in her training than she was before. Sure, she’s learned to control her Force powers a bit better, but essentially, that’s Rey’s arc. She went from learning how to use the Force to still learning how to use the Force. Yes, it’s filled with her arguing between Kylo and Snoke – refusing the dark side and all that fun stuff – but ultimately, she’s left unchanged in the film. We kinda sorta don’t learn her history regarding her parents either, so her motives are still somewhat unchanged. She’s really not that much better off than what we started with. The audience knew she was a good person because it was established in the first film. Even as she spoke with Luke, we saw her still fighting for good, despite temptations. Ultimately, Rey’s status quo didn’t change at all.
Looking at The Resistance, they didn’t change much at all. If anything, they just got smaller. We know they are the good guys who got beat down (which they definitely did in this film), but they were already the underdogs. They went from being underdogs to staying underdogs. They lost Admiral Ackbar, Admiral Holdo, Rose’s sister Paige at the beginning of the film (they’re all heroes, don’t cha know?), and hundreds more. And so? They weren’t relevant to the film anyway. Their loss didn’t change anything, actually. The status quo of the Resistance didn’t change.
Then we have Kylo Ren – an angry defeated boy at the end of The Force Awakens who turns against his master in The Last Jedi. And that’s about it. Like I said earlier, he goes from being angry to staying angry. He was technically second-in-command of the First Order anyway so the “shift” in his character really wasn’t all that dramatic. Sure, he saved Rey from Snoke showing he has some light in him, but shortly after he wanted to kill her. Mood swing. The status quo for Ren changed in the film but was ultimately reset back to the beginning of the movie when The Last Jedi ended. That’s pretty lame.
Finn and Rose we’re something irrelevant. You could literally rip their storyline straight out of the movie and nothing would change outside of Captain Phasma still being alive (but she was irrelevant anyway). To recap: Finn wakes up, runs into Rose (who got over her sister’s death pretty quickly) and they take off to the Casino to pad out the movie. They find the Slicer DJ, end up getting caught by Phasma, getting saved by BB-8, go to the planet Crait, get both of their speeders wrecked, they both escape, and then the movie ends. They literally did nothing in the film and as such, their existence in the The Last Jedi was irrelevant.
Lesser characters, Poe, General Hux, Captain Phasma, Luke, and Leia, ultimately didn’t have much effect on the film either. Their storyline could’ve all been left out.
Poe went from being a rebellious jerk to being a rebellious jerk. General Hux didn’t change at all. Captain Phasma goes from being completely irrelevant in the first film to being completely irrelevant in the second. It was if neither director knew what to do with her. We learn Luke’s story over the past forty years, but ultimately we go from not having Luke Skywalker in The Force Awakens to not having Luke Skywalker by the end of The Last Jedi. Leia was the voice and leader of the Resistance and continued to be so. She was left unchanged.
Looking back at Little Miss Muffet with The Last Jedi – we have our characters on their tuffet and a status quo of their curds and whey. The First Order is the disruptive element and well. . . that’s as far as we get. We’re back to everyone on their tuffets eating their curds and whey.
So my biggest problem with The Last Jedi? In 152 minutes, our characters physically fly from Point A to Point B. The rest is filler. No ones character evolved in the movie and as such, the status quo did not change.
Snoke dies. Luke dies. Rey lives. Kylo Ren lives.
Why didn’t I care what happened to these characters, living or dead? The answer is motives. The audience isn’t given any – and if they are – they’re not strong enough to care about.
Let’s take a look at Snoke: what’s his motive? How did he create the First Order? Did he create it? We have no back story to him, despite his few moments of spewing out exposition when talking to Rey. We really don’t know what his character is about outside of him being big and bad. That’s it. He dies and that’s the end for him. Not only was he a lame character, but without a back story, we’re unfortunately victims to lazy screen writing and character development. R.I.P. Snoke, we hardly knew ye.
Luke’s death, while a bit of a surprise, upset me for the wrong reasons. He didn’t need to die (let alone however he died which I’ll get into below). But his motives still weren’t entirely clear. He trained Rey out of guilt, I guess. But it wasn’t much training at all. By the time we learn his back story, Rey’s already buggered off and we’re left with Luke’s final moments straining to delay Kylo Ren from killing the rest of The Resistance. Did Luke get closure because of this? Rey and Leia confirmed Luke felt “at peace” but did he really? The characters had to tell us that in the film because I certainly didn’t understand or feel it.
With Rey, we have her wanting to learn her origin but we’re still left ambiguous about it. Kylo Ren tells her something about her parents, but hey – he could be lying! We’re given vague answers to her throughout the whole movie – what her power set is, where’s she’s from, and most importantly – why we should care about her. She only became “the last Jedi” by the end of the film. Her status quo didn’t change outside of a title, so my care for her is the same as it was at the end of The Force Awakens: I really don’t know how to feel.
And with Kylo Ren, he’s still a moody, angry teenager. He killed his master, which was probably the most development we received about him in the film, but that’s about it. He lives to fight on and kill the Resistance, but I mean, how’s that any different than what he was in the first movie? It’s really not.
I’ll try to keep these to bullet points as I’ve already whined too much:
– Rey goes to Ahch-To to find Luke. Given the night and day cycles, we can assume she’s there for at least a week. We also know that the Resistance only has a little amoutn of fuel left from the start of the movie (we’re told around eighteen hours then down to six hours). By the end of the film, Rey and the Resistance meet up at the same time. Nice. The only explanation is if Ahch-To has significantly shorter day cycles, which obviously isn’t discussed.
– For plot convenience, I’m glad BB-8 can become an X-Wing conductor to help destroy a Dreadnought, can talk to a prisoner who fortunately happens to be a Slicer and steal a ship for our characters to escape, and can suddenly pilot a First Order walker (conveniently destroying its hull from the inside to reveal it’s him to the audience) to save his friends. BB-8 became the most convenient deus ex machina in cinematic history.
– I guess Threepio doesn’t need a red arm anymore? Between escaping the secret Resistance base and getting onto the Resistance capital ship, they swapped his arms?
– Yoda is cool with lying to Luke about the Jedi books and burning trees down (in case you missed it, the books were on the Millennium Falcon at the end of the film).
– The First Order has hundreds of TIE fighters at their disposal and can easily destroy the hull of the Republic cruiser (R.I.P. Admiral Ackbar). Why drag the movie out for two hours when a handful of TIE’s could’ve ended the film? We know TIE fighters can destroy the bridge easily so. . .
– From the previous point: so the Resistance exited hyperspace to a random place only to be followed by The First Order. Whose idea was that? Even IF it was with plans to fly to Crait all along (which conveniently showed up for the Resistance to escape to if it wasn’t), why would only Leia and Admiral Holdo know of the plans? There’s probably an argument that the rest of the people “in the know” died on the bridge, but in reality, the audience was left out of the information to add some drama to the story. It was unnecessary.
– What camera was following Maz around? That’s one helluva cool selfie stick.
– DJ was a slicer who helped Finn and Rose, then back stabbed Finn and Rose. What happens to him? Who cares.
– Where’s the rest of the Knights of Ren Luke spoke about?
– Nit-picking as a Star Wars fan, Luke’s death bothered me because of how he died. In Revenge of the Sith, we learn Qui Gon Jinn discovered the “path to immortality” which is why Obi Wan and Yoda disappear and become one with the Force after they die in A New Hope and Return of the Jedi. This is also why Anakin Skywalker’s body doesn’t disappear in Vader’s suit, or why all of the Jedi in Revenge of the Sith do not disappear after their deaths. However, we see Yoda come to Luke presumably for the first time (as per his reaction) since Return of the Jedi. Unless Yoda explained Qui Gon’s discovery to Luke off-screen, I can’t see how Luke could’ve disappeared at the end of The Last Jedi without that specific knowledge that Yoda didn’t even seem to have known some-eighty years prior.
– It bothered me in The Force Awakens and it still bothers me now: WHO ARE THE RESISTANCE?! We have the Republic in The Force Awakens. They were the five planets that were destroyed by the Starkiller Base. The Republic and its fleet were wiped out.
But why did the Resistance exist to begin with? Wasn’t the Republic in control? Was there a civil war? What was going on? Why is General Leia against The Republic? Was she against the Republic? To that extent, why did the Republic only exist on five planets? More so, at the end of The Last Jedi, if the Resistance had “other friendlies” to contact, why are they such wussies and refuse to help the Resistance on Crait? Are they even relevant? To that extent (and to reinforce what I’ve said earlier), if the Empire was defeated in Return of the Jedi, who let The First Order rise to be the size that they were? How is The First Order funded? What’s Snoke’s back story? Answer: it’s lazy screen writing.
– If we assume The Last Jedi takes place right after The Force Awakens, can we also assume enormous grief is what’s going to kill General Leia off in the final installment? We can assume that in a span of maybe, twenty-four to forty-eight hours(?) she loses Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, Admiral Ackbar, Admiral Holdo, most of the Resistance/her friends, and admits her son cannot be saved. That’s arguably a bigger loss than Alderaan’s destruction. However, Leia seems to handle that all in-stride. Classy.
– I’m all for jumping into lightspeed to split Star Destroyers in half, but how did it manage to destroy ALL of the Star Destroyers? Convenient.
– More of a comment: this movie isn’t Fern Gully. I can’t remember a Star Wars movie where the film goes full-stop and suggests cruelty to animals and the wealthy are bad. There’s obviously social messages in prior movies, but Star Wars was never the kind to make it so apparent. That bothered me because scenes at the Casino planet made Star Wars feel more like a Disney product than a Star Wars film.
Despite all of what I’ve said, I liked some things in The Last Jedi. Here’s what I liked:
– Leia’s use of the Force bubble is something pulled from the Expanded Universe/Legends in the book, The Courtship of Princess Leia. In there, Luke and Isolder fall from orbit safely onto a planet because Luke wraps them in a Force bubble. It was neat to see that used in the film.
– While I pointed out issues with some character development above, there was one character who had tons of back story given to her with very little screen time. Admiral Holdo’s arc and development stood out – especially when Leia and her share a scene together. We get a lot of history with Holdo with very little exposition and it completely works for the character. We have her full arc, going from a emotionally shut off Admiral to someone who had a plan unfolding all along. She has a rich history and ends up saving the Resistance due to her commitment to the cause. A true martyr. The Little Miss Muffet poem, Admiral Holdo is.
– Yoda’s cameo was great – not for nostalgic reasons, but because Yoda had some ridiculously good words of wisdom to share to Luke. While I snickered at Yoda’s CGI appearance at first (’cause he looked like a baby), they switched him over to a puppet for close-up shots and he looked fantastic.
– I loved some of the directorial artistry in the film. Some scenes I wished I could take a picture of because they were so beautiful. Those scenes are: Luke and Yoda sitting in front of the burning tree, Luke vs. Kylo Ren and their standoff on Crait, Admiral Holdo ripping through the Star Destroyers, and of course, the First Order walkers on Crait.
While I’m not petitioning to remove The Last Jedi from canon, I do feel like this’ll be the end for me and Star Wars post-Episode Nine. I’m two movies into a new trilogy and the only characters I’ve cared about died already, with Carrie Fisher unable to reprise her role in the third. I’m disappointed how the new trilogy has presented itself and have minor hopes it can turn around for Episode Nine. However, I’m cautiously optimistic and will find out in a few more years.
What do you folks think? Did you love The Last Jedi? Hate it? Was I wrong with anything I’ve said? Sound off below and let’s start a discussion.
Until next time, keep on Space Truckin’!