The Last Jedi: A Second Opinion

I am a Star Wars fan.

I enjoyed episode VIII, The Last Jedi, and wrote my thoughts on the film. Another fan with thoughts on the movie is a mutual Twitter follower of mine, @jhanan, and I am going to post his second opinion here.

As a disclaimer, I think it is fair to say that while I think there is plenty of room for criticism, I disagree with John as to our impression of The Last Jedi. But the discussion surrounding the film has been interesting, and mostly enjoyable, and this is all part of that experience… even if I do take issue with the lengths people will go in order to find gripes with a slice of sci-fi fantasy, gripes that apparently merit their anger. [ Specifically, although I agree with a few points below, I really have to chuckle at John’s hyper-literal interpretation of Obi-Wan’s limitations, rather than understanding a figurative gesture of promoting independence, but I’m getting ahead of myself. ]

Oh, and just to be clear, SPOILER ALERT there are definitely spoilers ahead. Spoilers!


Here are John’s thoughts on Star Wars: The Last Jedi. I am sure they would resonate with many.

I once read that anger is the result of thwarted expectations. I don’t know if there’s a consensus on this or not, but in my own experience I have yet to find a situation where this cannot be found to be true. It’s important to note that this is different from unmet expectations – it’s the sense that someone or something is working against you, or what you believe should be true, rather than reality just not living up to your imagination. It’s getting a cheeseburger when you specified no cheese, your kid running through the house after you told them to slow down, or being made to feel foolish for believing the things you do. Reasonable expectations justify anger, but anger flows either way.

There’s been much anger over The Last Jedi, and much written about the reasons for it. Defenders of the film have a variety of takes. Many lay the blame at the feet of overzealous fans too committed to their own head canon, swayed by YouTube theories on character origins. Some try to blame weirdly specific, culturally relevant ills for some of the backlash. Too many don’t seem to recognize much criticism as valid, instead chalking up the anger to a notoriously impossible to please fan base which really ought to be disregarded since they can’t agree on what they want anyway.

Eric is one of the few I’ve talked to willing to entertain the idea that there are some reasonable criticisms to be made, and gracious enough to allow me the space to share mine. Thank you!

I’ve seen the film twice now, first with a large group of fellow fans from my church, the second time with my immediate family. The first time, the errors I saw jumped out at me so much – were so jarring – that they pulled me out of the movie at times, leaving me wondering what was going on and why. The second time through was better, in that I knew what I was in for, and so was able to better enjoy it. I walked away the second time noticing even more errors than the first time through though.

I can list every problem I have with the film (and I may do that at the end of this post, where you can choose to look at it or ignore it) and solutions I might have for fixing them (probably a topic for another time), but allow me to focus on three issues that epitomize the whole of my problems with The Last Jedi.

If it wasn’t clear before, let me be explicit now: SPOILERS AHEAD!

The issues all center around undermining the previous films or characters in some way. I can appreciate wanting to break out of some imagined mold (the idea that Star Wars has become predictable is kind of a CYA, knee-jerk response if you ask me, but that’s a topic for another day) and allowing the franchise the space to do some new and exciting things, but you can do that without undermining what has come before. Thor: Ragnarok is an example of this done well, I think.

First, let’s talk about Hux. Poe pulls the “on hold” joke, and it’s funny the first time, but the problem is that Hux is the leader of the First Order’s military. He may not be a brilliant strategist, or the most revered leader, but he’s not a laughingstock either. Snoke praises him later on in the movie for being clever enough to track the Resistance fleet (an impossible task according to everyone in the film). So how is it that Hux is fool enough to fall for this prank? In The Force Awakens we’re shown, at minimum, a competent military leader, not some stupid figurehead. Why dumb a character down like this for a joke that won’t hold up?

Second, let’s talk about Rey and Luke’s scene, where Luke is giving his first lesson. Rey, who some accuse of being a Mary Sue for her seemingly unending ability to accomplish whatever task she sets herself to without error, looks silly as she physically reaches out. We can perhaps excuse this because she’s new to The Force and any kind of formal teaching on it (though it’s inconsistent with her never-flown-before-but-mastered-it-with-the-Falcon-instantly character), but the fact that she feels Luke tickling her with the palm frond and believes him when he says it’s The Force is foolish at best, downright stupid at worst. Entirely unbelievable at the very least, since she’s at least begun to experience The Force by now. We can see that Luke may be emulating the more goofy aspects of Yoda’s character in this moment, but having Rey fall for it so easily and completely doesn’t remedy the Mary Sue problem as much as make her look foolish, undermining the character that we know so far.

Finally let’s talk about Yoda. In The Empire Strikes Back, because of the release order/episodic numbering, the audience isn’t meant to know who Yoda is – at minimum Luke isn’t supposed to know.  When we see this slightly screwball character giggling to himself, beating a droid with a stick, and talking about taking Luke to meet Yoda, it’s easy to write him off as a bit of a loon. Only later, once we’re in the hut, does Yoda reveal himself. The character of the cranky old goofball falls away and we’re introduced to Yoda as we see him in the rest of the franchise. This is not to say that Yoda has no sense of humor, but the goofiness is a façade – a character that Yoda plays, and so doesn’t really have a place when we see Yoda appear. The fact that he calls down lightning to set the Jedi tree on fire is ludicrous when, again in Empire Strikes Back, Obi-Wan Kenobi tells Luke that if he goes off to fight Vader he’ll do it alone. “I cannot interfere,” Kenobi says, specifically. It’s not just that no Force Ghost has, to this point, interacted with anything, it’s that Kenobi specifically says he can’t that undermines The Empire Strikes Back. Heck, if Yoda could interfere in this manor, why wouldn’t he appear in Palpatine’s Throne Room and just blast him?

All three of these issues serve to weaken existing characters or ideas, for the sake of a momentary joke or scene. It speaks, to me, of a disregard for what’s come before more than the intention of allowing the franchise to go wherever imagination can take it. Hux doesn’t have to fall for the joke, Rey can give Luke the side-eye in way that says, “Really?”, and Yoda can just let Luke burn the tree down on his own. These moments, as filmed, don’t have to play out the way they do – the story doesn’t turn on any of them. So why play it this way? The only thing that makes sense is that no one cared enough to fix it, to put in the effort to find a better way of doing things. The rest of the errors in the film just serve to reinforce this idea of a kind of lazy or antagonistic filmmaking that either doesn’t care about or aggressively wants to do away with what came before.

This is what I dislike about The Last Jedi. This is what makes me angry about it – not that it didn’t live up to my expectations in revealing Rey’s parentage, or Snokes origin. Not that I needed Luke to be the Jedi Grand Master from the Legends books, heroic and infallible to the end. Changing things up, giving the fans new things to see and experience alongside new heroes is fantastic. Doing so at the expense of old heroes and the legacy we’ve enjoyed so far is not.

The List of Problems, in chronological order:

  1. BB-8 being the one to say “I have a bad feeling about this” is a bit of a copout.
  2. Hux falling for Poe’s “on hold” joke.
  3. Leia not having the ability to call back any of the other fighters or bombers. She can only talk to Poe? Poe can override her on every other ship somehow?
  4. Blowing up the Resistance base that’s already being evacuated doesn’t make a lot of sense. Why not destroy their method of escape and pick off the remaining people at your leisure?
  5. Rose’s sister is hanging out in the bomb bay with the doors open to space, and yet she’s breathing unaided.
  6. Poe gets slapped down for disobeying orders and leading the strike force to death, but then it’s business as usual within a minute or two. Demotion in name only isn’t a real consequence.
  7. Finn learned his lesson about not running away in The Force Awakens, but apparently forgot it less than a week later.
  8. Leia miraculously survives death in space. And flies.
  9. Holdo not telling anyone about the plan, or at minimum that there is a plan at all.
  10. Finn and Rose both agree that tracking through hyperspace is impossible, but automatically know without even seeing it how to turn it off, for at least six minutes.
  11. Canto Bight is a haven for arms dealers, but has lax enough security that a random ship can land on the beach without trouble
  12. As Finn and Rose are leaving, they say the fleet has 18 hours of fuel. Rey spends days on Ach-to. The fleet has six hours of fuel left when Finn and Rose are in jail.
  13. Luke is “meh” about the lightsaber when, with the backstory we get, he should be angry and bitter about it instead.
  14. Rey falls for Luke’s palm frond goofiness.
  15. Luke lies about what happened with Ben, Ben also modifies the truth, who are we (or Rey) supposed to believe here?
  16. Force Ghost Yoda can interact with the world apart from just showing up, though Obi-Wan specifically says he cannot interfere in Luke’s fight with Vader in ESB.
  17. Projectiles arc because of gravity. There is no gravity in space where the Resistance fleet is leading the galaxy’s slowest chase, and so they should not arc.
  18. The escaping shuttles are travelling ahead of the last Resistance ship, and then at minimum perpendicular to it. The Resistance ship is out of range of the guns, and yet the shuttles aren’t?
  19. Snoke gets halved because Ben fools him, but how did Ben suddenly acquire the ability to mask his intentions like this?
  20. BB-8 can control an AT-ST?
  21. Leia is standing with the door to the base open. Why would this door be open when you can see incoming fighters and a shuttle? Leia doesn’t know it’s Finn and Rose, because she’s shooting at it after it crash lands alongside everyone else.
  22. Poe agrees to attack the Battering Ram Cannon, surely knowing that the First Order will be fighting back, but then decides to retreat when the First Order actually starts to kill other Resistance fighters. Did he expect otherwise?
  23. Finn is moments away from plowing into the cannon when Rose crashes into him. At the speed she hits his speeder, she has absolutely no way of knowing whether or not she’s going to kill him herself in the attempt to save him.
  24. As far as Rose knows, there’s no other way out of the base, and yet she prevents Finn from stopping the First Order, dooming the Resistance to destruction. She’s not saving anyone, only delaying their deaths at best.
  25. Ben and Rey broke the lightsaber in two pieces on Snoke’s ship, and yet Ben doesn’t question how Luke is holding the same lightsaber less than an hour later.

One Response to “ The Last Jedi: A Second Opinion ”

  1. I’m guessing this is what you wanted…

    1. A cop-out for what? If someone *has* to say it, then that’s probably why I find it so boring.
    2. A pompous character being cut down because they’re so self-important?
    3. Because unlike Poe, they’re obeying orders.
    4. That’s what they did, the first order tracked them through hyperspace.
    5. Yes. There could be pretty much any sci-fi reason to justify it, but yes.
    6. They don’t have enough people left for it to have much consequence.
    7. And at the end of Force Awakens, he nearly got killed, can’t think why he’d still be running away. Plus he also wants to keep Rey away from the first order.
    8. yes. Did you miss the part where this is a Star Wars movie?
    9. Because no-one (except for command) needs to know, and no-one except for Finn has a problem with this, who really doesn’t need to know. And if at first they don’t have a plan, no-one needs to know that either.
    10. Theoretically impossible, which basically means just really hard. I can’t remember why they said it was just from one ship, but I’m pretty sure they did explain it.
    11. There was trouble, they got arrested.
    12. Wasn’t Finn out for weeks though? Maybe it doesn’t match exactly, or maybe Rey’s story takes place slightly earlier but due to relativity the director feels justified in placing the scenes later in the narrative.
    13. Who says how Luke should feel about anything, this is a ridiculous complaint.
    14. How ridiculous, it’s like almost any other master/student training scene in a Kung fu movie. Rey knows basically nothing about the Force, and Luke didn’t want to teach her. How naive of a naive character to act naively.
    15. Different people view the same events in drastically different ways, how unrealistic. You believe who you want to believe, or neither, or somewhere in between.
    16. He (Obi-Wan) says he cannot interfere. That can be taken any number of ways, but more importantly Yoda isn’t really interfering, because Rey already has the books.
    17. There’s gravity everywhere (I’m sorry if that’s not what you meant, but it doesn’t make sense read as “there’s no gravity where the resistance fleet is”, and that’s not true either – even without an obvious mass, e.g. the planet where the base is, that doesn’t rule one out), and assuming the first order fleet has more mass than the resistance ships, there’s a plausible reason for it to be arcing. Or maybe that’s how the shields work.
    18. Smaller targets probably mean smaller calibre weapons / lasers, which could have longer range
    19. Presumably he saw it as Kylo Ren playing along with the plan to fool Rey.
    20. Yes. A robot can control an electrical device. This is worth a spot in your big piece about why The Last Jedi is a bad movie which is bad?
    21. Weren’t the resistance still retreating to the base? No, I don’t know why she’s shooting at an enemy shuttle until she knows who’s in it.
    22. He probably thought more of them would’ve made it, and realises there weren’t enough for it to work.
    23. Finn’s probably the only person she cares about at this point, so she doesn’t think there’s much point in living without him. Which is maybe a bit much, but the only other people she has much screen time with either betrayed her and the resistance, or lead the bombing run that killed her sister.
    24. Yes, she saves her friend, in the _hope_ that they can both survive. She’s not delaying her deaths at best, at best she’s saving them both.
    25. If Luke can force-project over millions of miles, why does it suspend belief that he can fix a light sabre, or have one that looks similar.

    In summary:
    I guess 3 is good point, but it’s not like it breaks the film that she didn’t call everyone back. Probably once they’ve gone out it’s better to let them do the attack than have half of them go back and half follow Poe.
    9 is the cause of most of the tension in the film, but I don’t really know what else Holdo should’ve done, especially when she thinks there’s a spy.
    10 I’ll give you, because I suspect the explanation was bullshit. But I suppose if tracking through hyperspace was common, they’d already know about it, so it stands to reason that it might be only from one ship. I don’t think they (the characters) really thought it through, which is probably the point.
    16 is a very narrow interpretation of a 3 minute scene, but if you’re correct then it makes the film bad, because the entire trilogy rests on that one scene with Yoda.
    17 I’d have to watch again, but if they simplified 3D space to make it more readable to viewers living on a planet, it’s hardly something the original trilogy wasn’t guilty of.

    Other than that, I can’t really see any serious flaws to the film here. These aren’t reasons why the film is bad, they’re complaints about a film you don’t like, most of them fairly petty, some directly contradicted by events in the film (11 – no consequences apart from getting arrested?).

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