Star Wars: The Last Jedi is fun, exciting, full of Star Warsy stuff, and the characters we like. It currently has a 93% RT score, and fans may even love parts of it…
It’s a colossal disappointment. I’d tell you not to see it, but come on; you’re going to see it anyway. It won’t be everything you want. It’s certainly didn’t come close to my hopes from the Force Awakens.
I have a theory below, but first…
*** SPOILERS ABOUND!!!***
Last Jedi Problems
The Empire Strikes Back begins in the snow and ends in the air because it’s dramatically impactful. Begin small, end tall.
Last Jedi reverses it: we have a two-hour “OJ Bronco chase” through space that ends in a small stand off on some isolated planet with our heroes begging for a back door. That’s less interesting, especially since most of the warriors don’t get their x-wings.
Plus, the final battle should have a macro-battle of ships and a small battle of principals. Every Star Wars movie has the space battle while Luke faces Vader, Rey facing Kylo or whomever.
Last Jedi HALTS the macro-battle and has everyone WAIT while Kylo and Luke have their showdown. And that showdown doesn’t turn the story.
In fact, the showdown is a waste of time, just like the whole second act!
A Wasted Act Two
After the rebels are tracked through light speed (not explained), they’re screwed and have to come up with a plan. Poe and Finn plan to get a code breaker from a casino resort, hack into the lead ship’s tracker and disable it so they can make their one surge into light speed to get away.
Not a bad plan. Except that it’s not only NOT the official plan, but it fails too!
Instead of hiding the rebels among wealthy people who might bankroll their crusade, our rebels waste a half hour or more of plot on some casino run to get Benicio Del Toro, get him to the ship, only to fail, and as a consequence: NOTHING!
Every part of a story must move the heroes closer to or away from their goal. This plan did neither. They didn’t lose characters, gain information or even reveal character or expand the theme. It did NOTHING for the story but waste time.
Granted, the official plan is worse. Laura Dern as calm and condescending feminist ball-buster Vice Admiral Holdo wants to limp along until they can transfer fuel to the escape vehicles. Why? So they can pray that the First Order fleet won’t notice while these shuttles flee to an abandoned mining base where they can send a distress call to their supporters. I mean, seriously?
For that to work, they need a huge – I mean, ending of The Road Warrior sized – distraction to draw off that fleet. They didn’t budget for that.
And by the way, NO ONE will come to their rescue even if they did get to the planet unnoticed. We know from all the other Star Wars movies that no one likes the First Order, everyone likes the rebels and nobody wants to help.
Besides, who else has multiple star cruisers ready to do battle to rescue them?
See? Stupid plan. And THAT didn’t work either! Snoke had his lens focused on it so he could watch the fleet use them as target practice.
The Luke/Kylo Problem
The Luke/Kylo/Rey relationship triangle is the foundation of the film, its central purpose, and our only desire. We didn’t drive to the theater to watch Poe and Finn to play rebels. We paid to learn who Rey really is, and to watch her fill the void Luke left.
What we got were repeated beats, more information about the force we already knew, and a Luke/Kylo backstory that didn’t satisfy.
So let’s lay it out: while Luke trains 13(?) students, he sensed that Snoke was telepathing Ben Solo(Kylo Ren). Luke reads Kylo’s mind, thinks he’s too far gone, but hesitates. Then Kylo wakes up and tears the building down around them.
Okay, so if Kylo was conflicted, why did he kill half the students? Where are the rest of them? Why couldn’t Luke sense some hesitation in Kylo when he spent two movies playing that game with Vader?
Ultimately, couldn’t they have just talked it out in one happy therapy session?
The Luke / Rey Problem
We’re expecting a Luke/Yoda relationship. We want to spend half the movie watching Rey grow into a role, not beg for help, wait around, listen to the rain, and face-time Kylo.
If you haven’t noticed, Rey’s training is worse than Empire Strikes Back, where Yoda trains Luke to be a “master” in a matter of days.
Rey gets two Survey of Jedi Studies classes and then she’s abandoned. Couldn’t her community college offer these online? (Seriously, if the writers won’t take Jedi seriously, why should we?)
Kylo / Rey Connection (NOT exactly a problem)
The BEST thing in the movie is the mind connection between Kylo and Rey. They get to inhabit each other’s thoughts and wrestle with the force together.
For writers, you want your protagonist and antagonist to be at odds throughout Act Two, and Skype is a way for characters who are worlds apart to stay connected.
However, they don’t go far enough, because they spend the time revealing backstory instead of character, theme, or plot.
Kylo asking to rule with Rey is daring, unexpected, and it’s probably what sticks in the minds of those who loved the movie. Not to rain on the parade, but we need some variation on Vader’s offer to Luke or it’s another derivative beat.
The Supreme Leader Snoke Problem
What is Snoke’s plan? He’s the most powerful Sith ever, able to not just invade minds from across the galaxy but also do three-way calling with Kylo and Rey. He’s able to spin people (by long distance!), foresee futures, map every option in Kylo’s mind but he can’t distinguish between one and two laser swords (Luke’s words, not mine)?
So what the hell? Why is he screwing around with Rey’s mind if he could have connected directly to Luke? Because Luke “cut himself off from the force”? Why doesn’t he know where Luke is through Rey?
What kind of Skype connection is it that Rey can see Kylo but Kylo can see only her expressions but nothing around her? (cough, plot Spackle)
And I would have thought that after so many movies we’d be past the “No, you’ll come to my side” argument and finally get into values, like what kind of galaxy we want to lead.
Rethinking The Last Jedi
Yes, I could spend more time bashing the boneheaded inclusion of Finn’s Asian love interest and her hatred of “the worst people in the galaxy” (rich people).
Yes, I could have suggested the rebels flee and hide out in the casino, creating a Ragnarock/Casino Royale comparison, which still would have been a better movie…
Instead, I’d like to think we’ve all been subjected to a Jedi mind trick.
That is, just as we had to wait until the climax of The Empire Strikes Back to “rug pull” the audience over Vader’s identity, what if we’re in the throes of Luke’s ultimate plan?
I go back to my mind cloud idea (see previous). What if BOTH Rey and Kylo have it? What if Rey is another of Luke’s favorite apostles, and that before he “shut himself off from the force” he devised a plan to take down this mind-melding Snoke by creating a drab backstory of Rey as nobody and Kylo as the rebel’s rebel?
That is, Rey is Luke’s best pupil, expertly trained, and then “clouded” and stranded in a long drama that will culminate in her reunion with her childhood sweetheart, Ben Solo after they fool Snoke into his destruction.
Sure, the plan goes awry with Kylo playing his split personality too well (or too poorly?) and Rey almost killing Kylo in the Force Awakens. And who could have imagined Snoke being duped so early in the saga (yeah, still a bad plot point).
But in the final movie, the clouds part as we attempt the greatest audience “rug pull” of all: that Rey is the daughter of Lando Calrissian and some lost princess. Rey and Kylo are actually the rightful heirs to the galaxy!
They restore the balance to the force, not as duel emperors father/son (Vader/Luke), but as king and queen, man and wife, the yin and yang, the wise balance of control and freedom, the life-giving circle of birth and rebirth.
That’s certainly a better explanation than Rey as nobody from nowhere – except she’s preternaturally wiser than Yoda, a better pilot than Han, better swordsman than Kylo, better empath than Luke, better scrounger than who the hell knows, etc.
Don’t you think?