The recent release of The Rise of Skywalker has rekindled the fierce and fiery debate regarding the alleged success and failure of the previous movie in the latest trilogy, The Last Jedi. On one side of the aisle, people have praised The Last Jedi as a brilliant, subversive, and challenging take on Star Wars; the film was widely hailed by critics as a movie that dares to confront preconceptions and empowered women, the unnoticed, and the lowly members of the Star Wars universe. On the other side, ardent Star Wars fans felt immense disappointment and exasperation with Rian Johnson?s film. Many fans left the theater wondering, ?What was that?!?
In all fairness, this current Star Wars saga was put together with very little planning and attention to detail. But, I am here to cast my ballot with the ranks of those who see The Last Jedi as a [unfortunate] failure of the franchise. Now, I will say that The Last Jedi as a stand-alone film is decent to watch. However, within the context of the Star Wars universe, the film feels out of place, like a high schooler at a college party.
While there are many aspects of Rian Johnson?s film that deserve rightly criticism, but I shall divert my attention to three main points as to why the film is a Star Wars cinematic catastrophe: 1) the desecration of the set up of the previous film [and Star Wars as a whole], 2) the gaffe of plot and character development, and 3) the infusion of post-modern, left-leaning, social justice narratives in the Star Wars universe.
First, The Last Jedi [TLJ] is a break away from what J.J. Abrams had in mind. From what I have read and been told, Abrams had some ideas and suggestions for Rian Johnson on where to go with the film but ultimately gave over the reins to Rian to do whatever he saught with the movie. A horrible mistake. The Force Awakens is, for all intents and purposes, a ?set-up film?. The whole point is to establish meaningful characters and a plot that will be expounded and built upon with each coming film. But Rian went off the rails with the story, which is completely antithetical to Star Wars.
One thing to be appreciated about all the other Star Wars movies is that they built upon the proceeding movie and advanced the plot and developed the characters. As bad as Attack of the Clones was, it built upon what The Phantom Menace had. The Last Jedi seems to scrap The Force Awakens and presents itself as its own set-up movie. This is why many fans were disgruntled: the film gave little to no regard for the previous film?s direction. When you watch TLJ, you get the sense that Johnson is, for the most part, restarting the trilogy off with his vision. Rian breaks the cohesive and connectedness element that is evident in all the other movies.
With the previous film?s storyline seemingly crumpled and tossed in the trash, Rian Johnson and his crew were left with the task to develop a plot and the characters; and they failed, miserably, at it. Rian Johnson described it as ?subverting our expectations.? Allow me to translate: ?I?m gonna throw a curveball at your face.? TLJ is essentially an unpredictable movie that makes little to no sense within the Star Wars context.
The plot of The Last Jedi can easily be described as a clusterf*ck of storylines. After scrapping the drafts Abrams had for the eighth film, Johnson?s direction of the film took a wide left turn. Let’s take a glance.
Rey finds Luke on the island and [surprise!] Luke doesn?t give a rip about Rey or the Resistance battling Snoke?s First Order; in a space chase between the First Order and the Resistance, the deck of Leia?s cruiser is blown to hell, but [surprise!] Leia has Force powers and saves herself; Finn and Rose go on a special ops mission to find the Codebreaker ? because he?s the only one who can help them get onto Snoke?s destroyer ? and [surprise!] they coincidently find a thief who can do what the Codebreaker can in the very same jail cell they got locked in; Vice Admiral Holdo appears to have no plan worth sharing to Poe on how they will escape the First Order, but [suprise!] she has a secret plan to save everybody so why share it?
Oh, remember Snoke, that big, bad villain? Who is he? What?s his backstory? Well, [suprise!] because according to Rian Johson, it doesn?t even matter.
How about the mystery of Rey?s origins? Why is she so strong with the Force? Well, [suprise!] she?s a nobody and her parents don?t matter.
Luke Skywalker, a master Jedi, vs. his former apprentice Kylo Ren, a Sith apprentice? Wrong again, because [surprise!] Luke is just a Force hologram; and [double surprise!] Luke dies.
Remember the Resistance? How are they going to escape? Well [surprise again!] Holdo will use hyperspace to plow through the First Order. It makes you wonder why they didn?t try that from the start, doesn?t it? It makes you wonder why this has never been used before in other battles, doesn?t it? It also makes you wonder if Rian Johnson even remotely understands the concept of hyperspace. [While it is a visually ascetic scene, it makes no sense in the Star Wars universe because hyperspace isn?t traveling super fast; it?s traveling in a different dimension at the speed of light].
Are you starting to see what I mean when I say Rian Johnson disregarded the previous film[s] except for the names of the characters? The plot of TLJ is a headache to follow. I?m honestly surprised Johnson didn?t just go full-blown insane and bring back Jar-Jar Binks.
[Importnant side note here: The Last Jedi stands out amongst the rest of the other Star Wars movies in that it lacks a lightsaber duel. The action in this film is, at best, subpar. What makes the other films enjoyable and exciting to watch is that eventual battle between the good guy and the bad guy in a saber fight. As bad as Phantom Menance was, we had the epic showdown between Darth Maul vs Qui Gon and Obi-Wan; as bad as Attack of the clones was, we had Count Dooku vs. Anakin, Obi-Wan, and Yoda! In every movie except TLJ, we have a formidable saber contest between the light side of the Force vs the dark side. Unfortunately, the best thing we get in this film is Rey and Kylo battling Snoke?s guards in the throne room].
With the plot of TLJ seemingly all over the table, the characters have little room to grow and develop. The characters in TLJ are one of the major points of the film that have enraged the majority of the Star Wars fanbase. The characters seemingly have no arc. Johnson shows no attention or cares for characters from the previous movies.
One of the greatest characters in the Star Wars universe is obliterated by the ego of Rian Johnson. I am, of course, referring the Luke Skywalker. The Last Jedi seems like a vehicle that is hellbent on running over and tarnishing the legacy of Skywalker. In the original trilogy, Luke is a symbol of optimism, hope, and bravery. In this saga, Luke is washed up, a hermit possessed by failure, and devoid of hope.
One of the most mind-wrenching things about Luke in TLJ is the storyline between him and Kylo Ren. Rian Johnson would have us believe that in a moment of lapsed judgment that Luke drew his lightsaber to kill Kylo to prevent widespread evil and destruction. Really? After all the trials and tribulations Luke went through at the cruelty and malice of Darth Vader, Skywalker remained steadfast in trying to help his father turn from the evil and darkness. But, in the TLJ, we find Luke who senses the dark side in Kylo Ren and reaches the conclusion that he has to kill him? What a joke. The real Luke would try to save Kylo, not kill him in his sleep.
Now, if you object and say that Luke was trying to save people and prevent Kylo from destroying others by killing Ben Solo before he completely turned into Kylo Ren. But that?s not the type of character Luke is; it?s inconsistent with who we know him to be. And this is painfully obvious in the supposed face-off between Luke and Kylo on planet Crait. One would expect Luke to try to save Kylo from the dark side, but instead Luke treats Kylo like some punk kid who is lost forever. Of all the moments that could?ve redeemed Rian Johnson?s take on the character, it would?ve been that one. But, instead, we were left with a version of Luke who didn?t care to see Kylo Ren saved.
Now, you might say, ?Well, that?s just your opinion.? While that is a valid assumption, it is wrong. It?s not my opinion. It?s the obvious conclusion if you watch all the other Star Wars movies. Furthermore, it?s the same thing that Mark Hamill, the actor who plays Luke, has talked about in several interviews.
The Luke of TLJ is a contradiction to the original. One of the defining character traits that we love about Luke is that he doesn?t give up, even when things seem lost and hopeless. In the original trilogy, Luke goes to great lengths to save his friends and his evil father, Darth Vader. Yet, in TLJ we find a crusty hermit who wants nothing to do with helping his friends or try to save Kylo Ren from Snoke.
And there is, no doubt, a glaring disregard for Snoke. I must confess I was dumbfounded and intellectually rattled when Snoke was killed by Kylo Ren. Why? Because it broke one of the essential character rules: don?t kill one of the main characters that haven?t been fully explained to the audience. Snoke was set up as this powerful villain with a mysterious backstory. Fans were hoping to find out more about the origin of Snoke, but, instead, we were forced to see him killed without any explanation of who he truly was. All that hype vanished like vapor. Kylo Ren uses Luke?s lightsaber like a butter knife to slice Snoke like bread. Killing off Snoke made the character essentially pointless. It was, undoubtedly, another prime example that Rian Johnson showed no regard for the characters and the plot.
If your objection to what I?ve said is, ?Well they brought in the Emperor and killed without explaining his backstory,? then you are sadly mistaken. How can I say that? Because we know the Emperor?s back story. We have the prequels that explain the origins of the Emperor. Furthermore, the Emperor wasn?t set up to be the main villain of the original trilogy; he was portrayed as the master of Darth Vader.
Now, of course, I have to say something about Rey. Look, I don?t hate the Rian Johnson idea to show that you don?t have to descend from a particular bloodline and that your origin doesn?t truly matter. Like I said previously, if TLJ was a standalone film, this would be okay; but it?s not a standalone movie. The Force Awakens created Rey?s character arc with a focus on her unknown past ? so Rey?s origin does matter!
And what was Rian Johnson’s answer to Rey?s origin? She?s just the daughter of some drunkards. Oh really? Great. So glad we figured that out. It is yet another instance where Rian fumbles on the necessary character development to make this trilogy bearable to watch.
Finally, it is the not-so-subtle push for social justice and incapacitated writing that made the film somewhat cringe-worthy. The script appeared more focused on making some sort of allegorical political stance than actually being a Star Wars film about heroes and villains. In other words, the movie was more focused on appeasing subset groups than taking us on an adventure in a galaxy far, far away.
The most obvious and blatant example is Vice Admiral Holdo. Her character is, quite clearly, a gimme for feminists. Holdo is placed in charge and is immediately challenged by Poe, who is portrayed as this hotheaded, trigger happy, flyboy who must assert himself over others and mansplain to the Vice-Admiral what is best for the Resistance. Holdo has a plan to save the fleet, but she won?t tell Poe because of reasons untold. Even in the face of mutiny, she withholds her master plan. Why? Because of reasons untold!
What?s the reasoning behind all this? My only guess would be political correctness that Poe is not #believingwomen and he is a typical male who thinks women can?t lead. Poe?s great sin is that he didn?t trust Holdo?s leadership, even though it seemed like she was incompetent in her retreat from the First Order.
Look, I have no qualms with Vice Admiral Holdo being a woman, but the idea that Poe is supposed to just blindly trust her because she got the promotion when Leia went unconscious doesn?t make any sense. There is no rational reason to keep her plan a secret from everybody. It truly is a failed writing attempt considering that Star Wars already has prominent and strong female characters: Leia, Rey, Padme, Mon Mothma, Jen Eryso, and Shmi Skywalker just to name a few.
The other painstaking social justice theme Rian Johnson tries to shove down our throats is the tangent on Canto Bight. It is this sequence of the film that has so many fans scratching their heads. This subplot exists to propound that old and tired narrative that rich people are the worst. Seriously, why are we dragging this ?rich people are bad? narrative into Star Wars?
And to further drive home the uselessness of the Canto Bight scenes, we find Finn and Rose escaping on the backs of giant horse-dogs. Are we really supposed to believe Finn when he says ?It was worth it? after they ran through the Casino City on the back of a bunch of animals? Really? It was worth potentially failing your mission, losing to the First Order, but hey its all good cause we showed those snobby rich people whose boss. Give me a break.
And if that wasn?t cringy enough, Rose ? whose seems to be a character designed to be an idealistic heartthrob that hates the rich, loves animals, inspires kids, and thinks love will save the Resistance ? gives one of the dumbest lines uttered in the Star Wars franchise when she unsaddles a creature and lets it run wild with its pack and says, ?Now it’s worth it.? Forgive me, but it?s not. [And Rose?s line about how they?ll win with love is equally as doltish and idiotic]. Quite honestly, her lines are almost as dumb as Anakin?s infamous sand soliloquy.
The Last Jedi seems too preoccupied with proving points that people are tired of hearing here in the real world. The writers should have focused their attention and skills on making a Star Wars movie, not a political allegory.
In short, The Last Jedi is, in my view, nothing more than a subtle middle finger to the entire Star Wars franchise. Poor character development and terrible plots was a formula for a dreadful movie. Although it was a visually appealing film, it doesn?t live up to the hype as a Star Wars movie. We haven?t seen a Star Wars film this horrendous since The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. But, at least those films had meaningful action sequences that kept our eyes opened and dazzled ? even if we had to endure a couple of hours to get there ? and set up the next plot for the next films.
This movie will go down as the most divisive Star Wars movie ever. Instead of adding to the rich legacy that proceeded it, TLJ ultimately left us wondering why Disney showed no awareness in the planning and preparation for this sequel saga. It is a solemn reminder that the old maxim rings true: those who are failing to plan are planning to fail. And The Last Jedi was a failure indeed.