The Force Belongs To Us: THE LAST JEDI’s Beautiful Refocusing of Star Wars

Star-Wars-Last-Jedi-Finn-Rey-Rose

1.

Okay. I wasn’t going to write anything for one simple reason: I know way too many of the Johnson clan at this point for this to be anything but biased blatherings. So there it is. I have no idea what to do with this hope-diamond-sized-grain of salt. Feel free to literally disagree with all I say and proclaim my bias for all to see. It’s deserving. All I can say is I knew literally nothing about THE LAST JEDI going in. And if I didn’t like it, I probably would have been very quiet about it. But then a thing happened that only happens when your brain is caught on fire by a lovely movie… I couldn’t stop talking about it. And suddenly I was talking with people who had some different reactions, but also complex ones. And in those discussions I found that there was nothing less at stake then the entire meaning of STAR WARS all together… So let’s get spoilery and into this shit, shall we?

2.

I’ve made my feelings about The Force Awakens quite clear before. To sum them up, I think J.J. has always been a talented filmmaker with an incredible casting eye, quite adept at imbuing a given moment with energy and emotion, but it’s always just that: a moment. There’s never a larger context. Carol Markus will scream as her father dies then the entire movie will go on as if it never happened. It’s all bits of affectation that excite and delight, and as far as meaning goes, it’s all promise and deep questions and lingering intrigue that pull you in deep, deep, deep… but, you know, never amount to anything. And it’s not that the “answers” are bad, it’s just that they were never set up to be meaningfully answered in the first place. That’s the mystery box. That’s literally the design. He doesn’t think it matters what’s inside as long as he makes you think it’s important. He’s literally said this. And that’s what it’s always been. It’s a grift. A con. A charming way of storytelling that whispers sweet nothings in your ear and is out the window before you wake up. And in making a Episode 7, I was hoping he’d cast it aside, and in some ways he did, and in some ways doubled down on some of his worst story habits of “momentary effect” over building to a coherent point. And the lack of that point is all symbolized in that final moment, Rey standing there to hand a lightsaber to Luke. It’s not a story beat. It’s not really anything. Just someone waiting to hand a baton to someone who can figure out a way to have any of this make a lick of sense.

There’s a reason this movie begins with Luke throwing it off a cliff.

In fact there’s a number of moments in the film that seem like direct refutations to the mystery box questions that were vaguely teased as maybe kinda sorta being deeply important. Why did we think they were? Because destiny! Because Skywalkers! Because Luke I am your father! Because mysteries and answers! And so for two years the internet does what they always do with J.J. and trying to solve the unsolvable questions that were never meant to be answered in the first place. So for two years they’ve been speculating about Rey’s parentage, or Snoke’s origins, or the Knights of Ren, etc. And what does the film do in response? It definitively takes those mystery box questions and throws them off the literal and proverbial cliff. Sometimes it’s done in a funny way, sometimes in an incredulous way, but it’s always in purposeful way. Because in the end, The Last Jedi is actually about something really, really important.

And it’s going to lay the groundwork to get us there…

3.

I was having a conversation after the film and it was largely about the methodology of filmmaking. One person was talking about how they don’t like seeing the strings or feeling the manipulation of a film, which I get, and it’s often a popular criticism of filmmakers like Spielberg. But to me, andI probably expressed this a little too flippantly, I said “But that’s filmmaking.”

Filmmaking is always a construction. And what we feel or don’t feel in terms of that construction is purely the virtue of what we can actually sense as an individual. So for something to be “invisible” and for you to be “in it” is not necessarily a virtue of any filmmakers ability or the lack, but largely what we bring in our own way of seeing. In fact, it gets at the Catch 22 of movie-watching the more you can see of the construction, the less you can feel. Unless, you just learn to be cool with idea and get a sense of fluency. To that, when I say “the best cuts are invisible” I’m not arguing that I don’t actually see them and that that’s the only way I can experience the purity of movie watching (although sometimes it is). But that’s because my own vacant lack of awareness is not my end goal. I’m saying that it will largely be “invisible” for a popular audience (as are most filmmaking techniques), which is the very reason I tend to celebrate traditional functionalists because they’re the best at tapping into what a general audience brings to a movie. After all, there’s a reason Spielberg is also considered the best american filmmaker: he’s great at making you feel the thing he wants you to feel.  Which is why a lot of young movie goers go through a phase of disliking him. They don’t want to be manipulated… but that’s what filmmaking always is… so you can see the complexity of all this, no?

Anyway, the point is actually that beyond the artifice, it is actually the pure story level that makes things meaningful and last. For all his kinetic stylization, I still think Johnson’s just a traditional formalist under all of it (I wrote extensively about his work years and years ago and it’s mostly in there). And in this movie I felt so much of the rigorous work. It’s all set-ups and pay-offs. The opening bomber sequence is stacked with clarity, geography, and pure function. Same go for the army of slowly creeping dread sequences that follow. All of which are build on direct storytelling function. Poe’s arc vs. Laura Dern’s characterization is a prime example. The way the film plays with audience expectations with her is never a “ta-da! surprised you, didn’t I!?” It’s what most good turns do in that they make you slap your forehead and go “of course!” Poe’s mutiny was always misguided, him repeating the mistakes of the past. And so the narrative turn played right into his arc beautifully. And holy hell, does she get a triumphant moment as a result… the silent cut.

But perhaps there is no functional moment quite like the ending show-stopper with Luke. And as a quick aside, we finally got the Mark Hamill performance that HE always deserved to get to show US. I have no eloquent words for it. His version of Luke in this film is just incredible. A culmination of humor and love and friendship and so much more that went beyond the pale of mere posturing. But it’s all built off grounded story function. Because it has to earn so much of the real biggest mystery presented in the last film and that’s WHY, why would Luke ever do this and run away? The answer, and then the films answer to that answer, is one of the most brilliant last lessons that the Star Wars universe has yet to give: and that is the acceptance of / and learning from failure. And it’s all built up into a crystalline moment of teaching both from an old friend in Yoda, and then what he has to give forward. My audience was practically hovering three feet above their chairs for “see around kid.” But at the core of Luke’s arc, at the core of everything in this movie, is the most important message of all…

4.

“Fuck Skywalkers.”

My friend said this in a conversation a long time ago. And he didn’t mean it about the characters themselves, nor what they meant to him. He meant it in the sense of the Star Wars series’ focus on lineage and the way some all powerful family who are the most powerful force users who basically controlled the fate of galaxy was… super gross. And he’s right, quite frankly. Because it’s everything I hate about the notion of ‘destiny” and “why I’m destined to be a hero!” bullshit. That psychology only leads you to the kind of place where you are the asshole kid screaming DO YOU KNOW WHO MY FATHER IS!?!?! at night clubs. And as this series has gone on and on, it has fed more and more into that thinking. So it would always this deep fear in me that in the return to the galaxy far far away, the new trilogy would get sucked back into that thematic toxicity.

But in TFA, we actually got a nice self-aware version of that with Kylo where it saw the juvenile villainy in such bloodline thinking (he is absolutely my favorite part of that film, btw). But I still always dreaded it with Rey parentage angle and fan theorying, etc: “Is she secretly Luke’s kid, etc!?!?” Is this just going to be more stories about Skywalkers and the children of all-powerful Jedi and Sith and how they’re the only ones that matter? And so in the moments of The Last Jedi that led up to the confrontation with Snoke, I’ll admit it… I fell for the feint. I thought there was going to be Lord Snoke “I am your father” moment. Why? Well, because that’s the what gets nicely set up in the scene before with Kylo’s feint of “I know who you parents are”… but nope, the lightsaber literally goes sideways and it’s another “OF COURSE!!!” reaction that rings out in my brain, because it all says it so clearly. Especially in their scene after: Kylo just wants to burn it all down with him atop the totem pole. And Rey, she’s just a kid whose parents sold her away for nothing… a meaningless child who therefore needs to share her place among those destined to be great, in order to be great… That kinda gross regal thinking sound familiar?

But Rey won’t do it. She would never. I actually ended up arguing with some folks about the “disappointing” nature of this reveal, but to me it was the only reveal that could actually mean anything in this story. Because she’s not “just” anything. Which is actually everything. For she and Rose and so many others are everything important about this movie. They are people who aren’t the sons of daughters of legends. People who have their own lives and wants, but they are people who have been discarded and stepped on and put under a system of unbearable weight. But from those leanings, there’s nothing that makes them any less capable of the force, any less a jedi, any less powerful…

And anything less than a Skywalker.

 

5.

You can argue the one “dalliance” of the film is the action on what I’ll be too lazy to google and just call “Monte Carlo planet.” But it’s also the most thematically important because it’s where the entire Skywalker point made above comes into focus. No, not just in the clear criticism of high society and war profiteering, but deeper within the sights of nameless young children who are put under the thumb of the world. And who, within them so innately carry the understanding of the horrors of that world, and thus so tangibly know the simple, inescapable ways for it to be better. And so, within that simple, final speech about what really matters in this big old universe that we share, it’s not about Skywalkers or whose bloodline is most powerful or whose dad can beat up your dad… it’s about that equally simple, final image.

A young child cleaning a stable.

Who dreams of being more.

The force belongs to them, too.

And so it belongs to us.

❤ HULK

 

Advertisements

131 thoughts on “The Force Belongs To Us: THE LAST JEDI’s Beautiful Refocusing of Star Wars

  1. As part of the movie’s whole “passing the torch” schtick:

    Yoda’s message to Luke, about passing on not your strengths but your failures, made me cry it was so good. It makes me teary just thinking about it. It’s such perfect Star Wars: what seems like fortune cookie aphorism, but filled with intense power and meaning, because there’s real pathos and scope-of-myth type stuff behind it. You can practically see Luke smack his own forehead like “Oh, right, THAT’S what it’s all about. It’s so obvious.”

    Such a powerful final lesson from old Yoda.

  2. Lots of people complained that The Force Awakens was a ripoff of episode IV and kinda missed the point it was trying to make. As long as they kept doing the same thing, history would keep repeating, and people would fight over heroes and legends and not looking for an solution of the conflict.

    Funny enough, if you see how people are responding negatively to the movie’s portrayal of their legendary heroes, you can see that they just don’t get it.

  3. All right, Hulk. First off, I’m a huge fan of yours, your essays have inspired me to write about film, yadda yadda yadda, you’re my role model. I absolutely agree that thematically, this is perhaps the most important movie in Star Wars. Thematically, yes. Which is by all means a big deal for this franchise.

    But Hulk, come on… The Last Jedi’s got some serious issues that you frequently criticize in other movies. There’s the blatant refusal of the call because “ooo i’m scared.” The Laura Dern twist, although it makes you go “of course!,” also comes in way too late. We don’t care enough about her at this point for it to matter. We’ve been rooting against her all this time. She becomes important at the very end of her arc, and thus we mourn her, but not as much as we could have. And yes, I agree that the kids in the Monte Carlo planet represent something huge for SW, but what the fuck is up with that storyline? Was it only just so they could give Finn something to do in the mean time? Or did they have to find a way to include that bit about the kids? It’s not only the weakest part of the movie — I’d have to say it’s what pretty much sinks the momentum.

    What’s the purpose of Rose? We get that she’s not somebody’s child, that she’s not too different from those kids, and so on. But seriously, who gives a shit? The movie wouldn’t change at all if her character hadn’t been included, would it? The only reason we’re supposed to care about her is Paige’s sacrifice at the beginning of the film.

    I don’t want to sound like I absolutely hated this movie. In fact, although I claimed to strongly dislike it at first, I’ve got a feeling that it will slowly grow on me, which was the complete opposite of what happened with TFA. Still, wouldn’t you say you’re overlooking key aspects of the movie that just didn’t work?

    1. Those are not issues I criticize in other movies. Not by a long shot. It’s dramatic and plotting function is clear and purposeful. I literally disagree with everything you’ve said.

    2. Re.: the refusal of the call, I’m fairly certain I remember Hulk talking about how it isn’t bad in itself, but just in how it’s forced in where it isn’t necessary. To my point, I’m SURE it was Hulk who talked about how Hamlet was nothing BUT the refusal, but the way it played into it makes it a masterpiece, regardless. Similarly, Luke doesn’t refuse the call because that’s what Campbell’s Storytelling Handbook (the one that is absolutely anything but a handbook) says you should do, but because of Luke’s specific arc within the film.

      The refusal of the call isn’t an inherently bad thing, it’s just so widely misused it becomes a crutch, and suddenly every instance of it looks like a crutch if you’re not thinking about it correctly.

      which, by the way, is an extremely easy trap to fall to when looking at things critically; I have ABSOLUTELY fallen into it over and over, and continue to do so–it’s all about being willing to re-examine yourself and your critical approach again and again and constantly strive to be better 😀

  4. It’s a nice review but I fundamentally disagree with it. Sure, the overarching message and theme are nice but that does not equate to a good movie. I think the “rules” of this entire universe set up in the OT have undergone a huge transformation. There’s such a disregard of what came previously with these new films that even new characters, ones that were built up two years ago, are tossed out/killed left and right without them having any development. Older characters, e.g. Luke, are different characters from who they used to be. Completely different. The lesson about failure might be nice but how the character is reacting to failure is never how he reacted to failure before. If you pick up a narrative thread you can’t just fundamentally change the core of old characters under the argument that time has passed. Perhaps it’s nitpicky but I’d much more appreciate a film that can operate with the world and characters that were previously established. If changes happen, that’s fine, but there needs to be a flame of who they used to be in there somewhere . This is a “series” after all. Nudging story elements around does nothing for me, regardless of how pleasing it makes the message. I think one minor scene in TFA shows just how much reverence these new films and new filmmakers have for what came before. After Han dies and the falcon lands, Chewie walks off the falcon, passes by Leia, and goes to celebrate them destroying death star 3.0. His best friend of 40 years dies and how does he react? He goes to party. That one minor thing summarizes everything wrong with these new movies, including Rogue One. TLJ makes it three in a row.

      1. I just read this article and perhaps it’s a good piggyback off of my previous comment. It argues the point of TFA is to disregard what came before. I know you disagreed with my premise that this is what TLJ does but still an interesting read if you need to kill time, Hulk. I think TLJ executed some things very poorly but I think I’m going to give it another viewing now.

        http://www.slashfilm.com/the-last-jedi-defense/

      2. Last thing, haha, I suppose this all (my view and that articles) correlates to your “Fuck Skywalkers.” section.

    1. “Older characters, e.g. Luke, are different characters from who they used to be. Completely different. ”

      Like, can you see how ridiculous a statement this is? These movies are 30 years later than the OT. Thirty.

    2. I totally agree with you Mike. I think that if you want to move on from the Skywalker lineage that is fine. Fundamentally, the entire point was to create a saga that was mythology in space and why it resonated with so many people. Myths always have to do with family, lineage, and bloodlines. It’s as if you took Game of Thrones and said, “eh, fuck all these families and houses, this shit is stupid.” But even if you wanted to fundamentally change Star Wars and do away with The Hero’s Journey, destiny, lineage, etc (which is a little like making a Transformers movie without robots), there was no need to shit on the past. You already committed to this story with the old characters, you have to do them justice at this point. You should have not put in the old characters from the beginning, the slate was already clean, why take old characters and mythos and include it, just to disrespect it? And really, that’s why people are so upset over this film.

  5. I have a problem with the Poe arc. He had every right to mutiny. Laura Dern’s character said literally NOTHING about any kind of plan until AFTER the mutiny. As far as everyone on that ship knew, Dern was just quietly sailing them to their deaths. Poe’s actions were completely justified: he was rebelling against what seemed to be an ineffective authority. What was the point of the arc? To say we should blindly follow authority at all times? Even when we have no reason to?

    1. Poe’s actions led directly to pointless deaths at the beginning of the film, though. If the point is that a team should communicate, Poe didn’t tell her his plans either. The message isn’t about authority but about the costs of war and the difference between stupid heroism and the long game of surviving in secret.

    2. Holden is an Admiral. Poe is a Captain (recently demoted for not following orders). She’s under no obligation to tell him anything she doesn’t feel he needs to know. She’s got everything under control and she knows it. Her plan only fails BECAUSE Poe mutinies, and it’s the result of Poe’s actions that cause the deaths of everyone on the transports. And Holden’s. And the loss of the resistance’s biggest ship. I’d bet that if her plan wasn’t to kamikaze the super star destroyer in the first place, it was to lead the First Order away from Crait to give the resistance a bit of breathing room.

      But no. Poe the figher jock knows better, and he royally buggers it up for everyone.

      My problem with the Poe arc is that I’m not convinced he learned anything from it. I hope we find out in Episode IX that he did.

      1. In the scene with Leia, it seems he finally learned. And rather than do a last stand after that, he leads the exodus for survival.

      2. But they’re about to go to their deaths and there is only a handful of rebels left. Wouldn’t she at least have the fucking courtesy to tell him what was going to happen? And everyone else too? To give them some hope??

    3. Holdo’s motivations:
      Holdo doesn’t explain herself to Poe because she’s an admiral and he’s a fighter pilot (and one who’s shitty at following orders, at that!). She does not have time, obligation, or any practical reason to stop and explain herself to some hothead just because he yells and demands that she do. Who the hell does he think he is? Get this idiot off my bridge; I have work to do.

      Poe’s arc:
      Poe’s arc is basically this: “Wartime glory is horse-shit. Wars are hard and scary, and you don’t win them through being an amazingly awesome individual who pulls off reckless acts of derring-do; you win them through calm, careful decision-making in the face of overwhelming crisis, and occasionally by making acts of sacrifice (but mostly when that sacrifice is made in order to protect something, rather than just to fuck up your enemies).

      The second one, I think, sits weirdly with Star Wars fans because it is the exact opposite of the ethos classically expressed by Star Wars and adventure stories in general (that singular heroes making exciting gambles are what win great victories). It’s a major thematic shift for Star Wars, and particularly for the hardscrabble rebel factions, that is more in line with something like Trek or BSG.

      However, it’s necessary to support the film’s overall thesis: that predestined singular heroes are bullshit propaganda that inevitably lead to iconoclastic authoritarianism; that the truth is we all have the same potential for weakness and the same potential for greatness, and we must all work together in a struggle driven by love, rather than hate, to survive and flourish. Myths are useful and powerful and necessary, but they should be approached with context and cautious optimism, rather than wide-eyed mouth-agape dogma.

      In my opinion, this is a much-needed thematic palate-cleanser for the franchise, which has ALWAYS had issues with reducing its sides to a really reductive and dishonest good/evil dichotomy that limits the range of stories it can tell. If good and evil are black and white, you can only tell stories that take the form of big hammer-on-anvil myths (which the OT embodies the best example of, and the prequels embody the worst of, but that I certainly have no desire to see repeated over and over until the end of time). If you want to tell stories with a diverse scope capable of encompassing an entire setting-rich galaxy, you need a view of good and evil (and the light/dark sides of the force, and the rebel/empire sides of the conflict) that is more nuanced and less dichotomous. There have to be innocents amongst the “bad guys”, and those capable of atrocity amongst the “good guys”.

      1. Who the hell does Poe think he is!? The best pilot for the Resistance that was trusted with the McGuffin plot for entire last movie (okay, turned out to be pointless now, Luke was pathetic), the pilot that leads the rescue at Takodana, the one that blew up Starkiller Base and saved the galaxy?? He needs to be made to stfu and listen to some Admiral (nice uniform? purple hair? wtf?) that was introduced 15 seconds ago! This fuckin’ guy, m’right?

      2. Though I disliked the movie as a whole, the one arc I did enjoy was that of Poe’s. I think it presented the most growth for any of the major characters. I hadn’t thought about it in the context you present here of “[being] the exact opposite of the ethos classically expressed by Star Wars” but doing so now it doesn’t surprise me that it is the element I liked. Rey’s arc, which I would consider the main arc, disappointed me because it promised to provide us with something new in a Star Wars film – the long prophesied balance to the force. And for a brief moment we saw that in the fight scene against Snoke’s body guards. However, the film ends by retreating from the culmination of that promise.

      3. @Brian That’s how fucking rank works. You don’t like it?! Too fucking bad! Great feats don’t necessarily you could be good leader. Lots of people die because of Poe. And this is something Leia understands and exactly why she DEMOTES him. It’s apparent you clearly you don’t. And how was Luke pathetic?

      4. Really great comment!! I agree with everything you said, and you made me think about the Poe thing from a different angle that relates more completely to the overall theme, so thanks!

      5. @Indurrago …I get how rank works my friend, I was in the Army. But there was no reason to not tell the Hero of the Resistance (not an organized military anyway) your plan. It was lazy, contrived writing and a gimmick to set up a heavy-handed, pandering “mansplaining” scene. Did she really think that the guy who has risked his life maybe more than anyone in the entire series to help the Resistance was a traitor? There is really no other plausible reason not to tell him, especially when she could stop the mutiny by just telling him that they even had a plan. Holdo was actually a really bad leader, which is the ironic thing. She was confrontational with Poe from the outset, when he asked her what the plan was. Which he had every right to do as from what we’ve seen he leads the fighter contingent for the entire Resistance in every battle. Could Holdo at least explain to him that she has a plan and maybe ‘why’ she can’t tell him? No, she decides to “put him in his place”. The entire crew is also at an all time low in morale, does she even address it? No, bad leader. Holdo seems to have just joined the Resistance, she wasn’t in the last movie. If anyone might be a spy, you’d probably suspect Holdo. Poe had every reason not to trust this woman. What they tried to do in this movie, actually served the opposite purpose for me. Leia’s slap also seemed out of character to me, she has always been graceful and dignified, especially as a leader. Holdo instigates the conflict with Poe, causing tensions to boil over rather than turning them down. In an effort to pander, I think it actually painted women in a position of power in a bad light. A woman doesn’t have to be condescending, emotional, or a bitch to be a good leader. I think instead of pandering to “put men in their place”, showing qualities of a good leader that happened to be in a woman would have worked better for me. Instead of going the negative route, why not the positive? And what did Poe learn really? To blindly follow orders even if they are not good ones? I actually don’t think that’s very intelligent. Leia tells him “you shouldn’t have tried to be the hero!” Also, makes no sense. He was never doing anything for personal glory. There wasn’t any valuable lesson learned from his whole arc when you look closely, the entire conflict was just a feminist statement. Which I’m on board for, but it has to be credible and make sense within the plot of the movie. So really, logic was thrown out the window just to score points with the audience that shares the save view on this current socio-political topic — which it obviously did with the author of this blog. That’s great, but it comes at the cost of the film and that’s why it doesn’t work, even if I agree with the political agenda.

      6. ” It’s a major thematic shift for Star Wars, and particularly for the hardscrabble rebel factions, that is more in line with something like Trek or BSG.” Yeah, this is why the dudes on the internet are whining, but this was also why we majorly needed this to be taken apart –as actual fascism is on the rise.

  6. Beautifully said! I hope one day I can go from a simple young person working whenever I can in indie film, and has no famous parents, to one day work with Rian Johnson; this movie inspired me to keep going! Thank you for a great and bluntly honest review!

  7. Thank you. Your articles are always such a joy to read.
    Hulk, but what about the BB-8 subplot where the casino drunk inserts coins in him thinking he’s a slot machine. And then he uses these coins to throw them in bad guys and help Finn and Rose escape. Wasn’t that wonderful?

  8. I really like your text. I need a poster of the picture that shows Luke in front of the black AT-TT and ships AWESOME!!!! Great way to close the Skywalker-cycle.
    Expected a bit more of Snokes death but it was great.

  9. Hey there, this is the first time I’ve ever read anything you’ve posted! I’m not big on keeping up with movies, so I’m not in the know, but I make an exception for Star Wars because I’m a chained-to-the-franchise fan. Anyhoo, I really loved this write-up! When I got out of the movie I was confused but also very very intrigued and figuring out what the film meant was much more satisfying that TFA’s safe feeling or Rogue One’s rather superficial story. The movie’s got meat, and I feel quite rewarded by its existence! So thank you for articulating your thoughts and I pretty wholly agree with em! I have a feeling this movie’s gonna become an audience warzone in the future, which…will be….fun…???

  10. Not having Snoke be the big bad of the trilogy, and having Rey’s ancestry be mundane were incredibly smart decisions.

    I am just sad we won’t get to see the planned Leia centric third episode. If they had known this would be her last movie, I wonder if they would have given her Dern’s final moment instead.

    Also I will be holding a small memorial for Admiral Ackbar.

  11. Seing some of the reactions to Rey parentage reveal are so, so dissapointing. I mean I could somewhat understand (and happily argue) if someone says it’s anti-climactic, but actual adults saying “Why should I care if she is a nobody/not a chosen one/not a skywalker?” is legitimately disheartening, not as a token of many who won’t engage with the story on a thematic level, but as a terrifying way of thinking.

    Anyway, just wanted to thank you as a long time fan, first time commenter. And hopefully as a future storyteller, just wanted to say;

    Your writing makes it feel it’s all worth it,

  12. I loved a lot of the Rey/Kylo/Luke story and some of the messaging/themes of the movie. But I can not get over how angry the Poe/Finn storyline makes me. I keep imagining what would have happened in The Last Jedi if Poe and Finn hadn’t ever tried to find a new escape plan — if they’d just listened to Holdo… And it seems like Holdo’s plan would have worked, the Resistance would have bunkered down on Crait, and many lives would have been saved.

    But instead… Finn, at Poe’s behest, currently brings an untrustworthy snake (the Codebreaker) onto the Dreadnaught and, in doing so, exposes the Resistance’s escape plan. And every life lost after that — as the Dreadnaught destroys the fleet and then lands on Crait to wage a battle — is a life that Finn and Poe seem personally responsible for. I like morally grey storytelling, and I like flipping expectations on its head, I like the idea of questioning authority and not taking things for granted… But these are not heroes. These are two people whose hotheadedness lost countless lives, and they’re never punished for it, never admonished, it’s never even acknowledged. But aren’t they essentially responsible for every bad thing that happens to the Resistance in the back half of the movie? And I, as a viewer, am expected to cheer them on and to hold them in the same regard as I hold Han, Luke, and Leia?

    It reminded me of the climax of Man of Steel, where Superman essentially murders thousands of people by destroying Metropolis in a fist-fight… But nobody ever mentions it, and we’re expected to view him as a hero. It almost seems like an oversight on Rian Johnson’s part, but now that I’ve seen it I can’t unsee it.

    And I just can’t get over that. No matter what I do. 2/3 of our main cast became completely detestable to me over the course of this movie. Why would I ever root for them again?

    1. Isn’t the Poe/Finn thing to show that these characters are human? They make mistakes. Poe thinks Holden is wrong and so plans to fix things in a way he knows how. Finn is trying to show to Rose (and to himself) that he isn’t a coward (which was part of his character in the last movie). Both of them want to be the heroes that legends are made of and so go with the risky plan. If the plan had worked (like it probably would have in a lot of other movies), they would be these great heroes. Instead they fail and screw things up. I think that journey they take is why I am interested in the movie.

      We like Han because he had a human emotion of selfishness in New Hope and ran away from a fight that wasn’t his own and cause he finally was going to be free by paying off Jabba. In Empire Strikes Back, Luke expressly acts foolishly by trying to save his friends despite being told not too by every person of authority. We like that they had these humans moments and if you remember Luke fails in his mission to Cloud City but still we like him for trying.

    2. I’m not certain what you mean when you say they should have listened to Holdo. She never told Poe anything other than they were going to continue running. When he confronts her with the obvious truth that they will eventually run out of fuel and be captured or killed, she seems unconcerned but provides him with no reassurances that there is anything else going on that would keep them safe and alive. How should one respond to a leader acknowledging a course of action is a dead end yet insisting on taking it?

      I think Poe had every justification he needed with executing his plan. If anyone is to blame for the unnecessary deaths of those in the transport ships, I think it’s Holdo’s for not recognizing that the hot head man of action would need some reassurance rather than being put into his place. Such a personality wasn’t just going to sit there and do nothing, and she should have realized that.

    3. Han also shot a Rhodian in cold blood and peaced out as soon as he got paid. He certainly isn’t a paragon. He redeemed himself by coming back, just as Poe redeems himself by finally learning to keep the spark alive instead of going out in a blaze of glory on Crait. Heroes can have flaws, and are arguably better role models for those flaws, so long as they continue to learn from those flaws.

    4. Maybe Holdo should have just included the Hero of the Resistance in on the plan? I hold her responsible just as much as the others to be honest.

  13. I agree Hulk. I loved the film. Storytelling was great and visually it was beautiful. I find it funny that no one is griping about lack of Chewy scenes…come on, Chewy and Luke should have hugged or something after Han is dead reveal. Chewy gets no love from either Skywalker, Han’s best friend. 😉 I for one am looking forward to jedis, and other heroes riding from stables, scrap heaps, and even casinos.

  14. I think you’ve based this piece on a misplaced notion.

    Ordinary people have always had the power of the force and power to make a change in ALL the Star Wars movies and canon. Anakin Skywalker himself is not born of any noble or special force bloodline. The entire Jedi academy is/was full of students from all over the galaxy, poor, rich, you name it. Likewise, heroes like Han Solo, members of the resistance council etc, are not force users.

    The only reason the Skywalkers were ever a focus is that the original trilogy narrative made it so. There would have been countless other people of different names who shared similar prominence to Skywalker throughout this universes history. Likewise, Rey essentially is the Skywalker of this new franchise and of this new generation. Were she to have children, they, like Anakin Skywalkers children, would have similar force prominence. This new franchise in that sense changes very little beyond cursory perception. It is still very much based on a similar premise.

    1. Anakin Skywalker was a virgin birth caused by the force itself, with an off-the-charts midichlorian count. If that doesn’t scream DESTINED ONE~ then nothing does. (As much as I hate Phantom Menace, well, it is canon. And it painted with broad strokes the importance of the Skywalker legacy as specifically not being an ordinary person.)

    2. “Anakin Skywalker himself is not born of any noble or special force bloodline. ”

      To be fair, he’s born from a virgin and him being trained as a Jedi hinges on there being a prophecy about how he’s the most important person in the entire galaxy.

    3. Yeah, I also don’t get that “Star Wars should get rid of the Skywalkers!” line of thought. It’s a saga. A saga is a story about consequent generations in a family. In this case, yes, a family of big players in the history of this world. As in in real life, social functions, cultural capital and political position are often passed on from parents to children. The OT was far from saying “if you had an awesome dad, you’re going to be awesome too!”. That’s what Luke believes at the beginning as a naive hotshot, but it turns out that his dad was actually the genocidal bad guy all along. How is that “toxic wish fulfillment”?

      It’s all well and good to have Rey come from nowhere (in fact, I loved that moment and the demolishing of all these contrived fan theories it represented) and that be part of the thematic backdrop, but I’d say that’s more of a problem with fandom and not the movies themselves. There’s not that much “magical destiny” stuff in the OT, it’s more about dealing with the conflict between generations in my eyes, and the PT is clearly intended as a deconstruction of “chosen one” narratives.

    4. Very intelligent post. I never had any doubt that anyone could become a hero in the Star Wars movies, I’m not sure why other people did. I think the point of the prequels was to show that even if you had all the talent in the world, other people could become more successful. How do we know that Kenobi didn’t come from nothing? Or any of the other Jedi for that matter? I’m thinking they had read the EU which also followed the Skywalkers? No idea. The story just chose to follow the Skywalkers because it had a myth narrative. And although I dislike the prequels, Shmi Skywalker was a nobody. You could argue that Anakin was still special, but so is Rey. If this would trilogy would have started with Rey who came from nothing, I would have believed it. It’s what they should have done from the beginning, if this was their intent.

  15. Okay. I really liked a lot of the themes of the movie for all the reasons you just said (and the Rey dialogue with Luke about the Jedi was excellent… it recognises the difference between the Jedi as an institution (which is fallible) and the ideal that the Jedi represent i.e. the Light Side)…but there is one thing bugging me and I hope you could help me get past it… it’s what happened to Luke at the end. I was so sure that Luke would die at the end of this movie before going in because he is the Old Mentor… and when he apparently survives the clash with Kylo Ren, I was happy. Also, I thought that given Yoda’s speech to Luke, Luke would still have a part to play in continuing to guide Rey though Rey is pretty much going to be the person who would take down Kylo. But then Luke just dies like that which leaves me feeling…torn about it. I think a lot has to do with the ridiculous fakeout… and while Luke may still be able to guide Rey as a Force Ghost…I think I would still have liked him to be alive for it.

    1. In short, Luke pulled a Ben Kenobi move and gave his life so his friends could escape.

      Luke used a force power that existed in the extended universe (now SW Legends) to project himself over long distances. The EU considered it a dark side force power called Sith Phantasm. Essentially the user would cast their image over long distances, including across the galaxy, in a manner which allowed them to interact with the environment around the projection. This required a tremendous amount of energy, so a Sith would usually drain another person’s life force to use this power. This usually resulted in the person being drained dying. The way that Luke died at the end implies that he drained his own life force in order to project himself on Crait to distract the First Order long enough for the Resistance to escape.

      1. Why not just go in person then? It would have been more admirable, more brave, and more in-character. Because Rian Johnson’s whole idea of a Star Wars movie is twists, he wanted to have a twin suns scene, and didn’t really understand Luke’s character. Luke was not Ben Kenobi in this movie, that’s what people are upset over. Ben was wise and he didn’t try to kill Vader because he knew he couldn’t — he was too old, otherwise he may have tried.

      2. Also, Ben knew he had to help Luke even when he couldn’t be physically present (Trench Run). If they bring back Luke as a Force Ghost, they’re just copying the OT again, undermining the point of the direction this trilogy is now headed.

    2. The thing with Luke’s death is, it was symbolic. They talk a lot about him being a “spark of hope” in the galaxy; that his value was not as a single fighter, but as a symbol. If he had died on the plains at the hands of Kylo Ren, he would have been just one more legend falling. With this way of doing things, the entire fleet and the rebellion saw him stand up to Kylo Ren, and survive. They don’t know the exertion killed him – they only know that one man stood up to the First Order, and they couldn’t even touch him. And that’s the meaning behind the last scene with the kids acting out the confrontation – it’s a story going around the galaxy, that even after all the destruction that the First Order has wrought, people are still standing up to him, and winning.

  16. Who is “us”? Sounds vaguely like you’re projecting some fulfillment of personal political ideology. I don’t think anyone had a problem thinking they were Luke Skywalker or Princess Leia before this film. “Do you know who my father is?” Huh? Luke Skywalker was not royalty, wealthy or privileged, but just a farm boy from a distant planet. His father turned out to be someone with a gift, but someone who was a slave who could have been anyone’s father. How was the slave boy at the end of the movie any different than the slave boy growing up on Tatooine other than his last name wasn’t Skywalker? I think the whole premise of your article is inaccurate in that regard.

    And really this is a sci-fi film in which a universe has been established with one of those rules being that the Force is genetic, which in reality just makes sense with the way our world works. George Lucas wrote it that way, as it was always intended especially when you read the original scripts. I have no problem with going in a different direction, but there was no need to shit on the past or what has been established as lore thus far. I understand that they need to make more money and more movies and that they have to move on from the Skywalker lineage. And I agree that the premise of the movie was out with the old and in with the new because of it, but it was the way they did it that has people upset.

    They could have just not used old characters and start new from the beginning, because if you use them you have to be true to them or you’re going to upset people. The problem that people have with the movie is that the Luke Skywalker they presented in this film was not consistent with what he was for the last 40 years, they weren’t true to his character and their version just wasn’t plausible given everything we know about Luke. Also for the second movie in a row they’ve really not honored the old characters with a proper send off. The old characters who have the most emotional attachment to each other seem like they have the least and are dealt with haphazardly, when with the new characters it seems so forced and impersonal. We’re told we’re supposed to care, but we don’t know why, there is no connection to these characters because they don’t develop them well.

    Really, they just should not have had the old characters in this movie if they weren’t going to write them well, which is what it’s about. It just comes down to wanting a well-written story where the character development drives the movie, not vice-versa. Not that they even explain the plot, still no idea who the First Order, Snoke, or Knights of Ren were, but I guess that ship sailed. But yeah, we’ve seen Luke grow up, learn, evolve and become the hero of the saga, he was never the static Mary Sue that Rey is, of course people are going to be attached to the character and expect him to be act in way that would be believable of the same Luke we left at the end of ROTJ.

    1. Is everyone life a linear development? Luke Skywalker did what we expected him to do after ROTJ. He helped rebuild the Republic; he started a new Jedi Order; he focused on the training of someone in the “lineage.”

      But it makes perfect sense that the rise of another figure as powerful and evil as Darth Vader would make *even* someone like Luke Skywalker despair. Hadn’t the galaxy had enough figures like this in a century? He still was committed to his friends and family, but he thought that the Jedi Order was not the way forward for the galaxy. Luke sacrificed his own connection to the Force–and his continuing relationship with Leia, Han, and others–for well over a decade because he believed that this was best for the future.

      It was only encountering Rey and learning to have hope in what was in front of his nose (rather than his grand ambitions about what was “on the horizon” for the Jedi and the galaxy, as Yoda tells him) that let him rediscover his belief that the Jedi had a role in helping others understand their own connection to the Force. That is brilliant.

      1. First of all, your life isn’t linear? That’s pretty awesome, please tell me how you can time travel or change the past/future to live other parts of your life.

        But it actually makes no sense, every point you made is not what happened, and that’s why people have a problem with it. Because no, Ben Solo was not as evil as Darth Vader, and not even anywhere close! Which is kind of the point. And was he was NOT committed to his family, also why people have a problem with his actions. He decided to end the Jedi Order over trying to help Ben not turn to the dark side. Luke cutting off his connection with the world was a selfish act, if he had decided to stop the Jedi Order that’s one thing — but he still should have tried to help his family with a problem that HE created! Ending the Jedi Order was not dependent upon that.

        How could you see the exact opposite of everything that happened in this movie?!

      2. Obviously, I meant “linear” in the sense of a straight line. My life has taken turns that were unexpected and perhaps unpredictable.

        Nothing that I said contradicts anything in the movie. You seem to be *interpreting* Luke’s actions as being tempted to murder a more-or-les innocent child, abandoning his student and nephew (after Ben burned the temple and seduced or murdered Luke’s fellow students), rejecting his sister and brother-in-law and the galaxy, and then selfishly exiling himself. That is not an entirely illegitimate interpretation.

        But obviously Rian Johnson and some members of the audience have a different “point of view.” Luke’s *stated* goal was that it was time for the Jedi to end. The end of the Jedi meant exile. You really don’t think that it’s at least legitimate to believe that Luke *believed* that this choice was better for the galaxy and–at least by extension–for his friends and family. That’s really all that I was saying. Oh, and by the way, that’s exactly how Yoda interprets Luke’s actions. He says that Luke always has his eyes on the horizon (this supposedly noble ambition of ending the Jedi) instead of what is in front of his face (Rey). Luke was definitely wrong, but it’s not an absolutely ridiculous choice for Luke Skywalker to make after the devastation of the previous 50 years.

      3. But you make a good point that Luke might have been able to end the Jedi order without exiling himself. There was almost certainly some self-pity here.

  17. Dude, I love your writing. Been a fan for 3 or 4 years. But it baffles me how you manage to turn a blind eye to legitimate problems that you are masterfully exposed in many other films. I suppose everyone has that one movie they love so much that they have to defend it at all costs. But after reading some of your responses to detractors I am starting to get BvS flashbacks. I know you haven’t seen it. But I guess you at least heard of crazy fans that are willing to defend that movie at all costs. And all of their defenses can be summed up with “you just didn’t get it”. And that is what I am starting to hear from you of all people. And I don’t know. I guess I was expecting more from you.

  18. Dear Hulk,

    I think the theme of coming from nothing (or unknown, non-descript origin) and making your own way is satisfying enough (this theme is central to the original trilogy, wouldn’t you agree?). However, isn’t this theme a bit under-explored in this film? Take Finn, for example, who was literally stolen from “a family he’ll never know”, as he mentions in TFA. As far as I recall, this trauma is never touched on again. Both these movies simply play on his fear of the first order, and his instinct to escape from it (second consecutive movie where his primary motivation is saving Rey, ending in another friend zone hug). Rose telling him about the children of monte carlo planet, does not utilize his first hand experience of this horror at all? Another thing that I find quite remarkable, when discussing this theme, is the throwaway line regarding Luke’s pupils, half of which Kylo slaughtered, half we learn are currently the Knights of Ren? HOW are they not in this movie? Did Luke not fail them? He only feels remorse about letting the Skywalker/Solo-boy down. Excluding these nameless “nobodies” don’t do the film’s theme any service, in my opinion.

    Regarding “Fuck Skywalkers”…Isn’t it rather “Skywalkers = fucked”? Anakin was raised a slave to a single mom, and got lured away by promises of being the chosen one, but ended up a persona non grata to the Jedi Council, and was preyed upon by Palpatine due to his sensitivity and fear and turned into a tragic, suppressed machine. Since Anakin was the first chronological Skywalker in the saga, the name didnt open any doors for him. And Luke? Are you suggesting people would buy him drinks if he dropped that his father is basically Heinrich Himmler? I recall his reaction to this relation being more “NOOOO THAT’S IMPOSSIBLE!!!” and less “Cool, so I’m in?” I don’t agree that the films glorify the skywalkers one bit, and force sensitivity was never unique to that lineage (Yoda, Obi-wan, Emperor etc, are -quite- powerful, influential and special too). Regarding destiny, the prophecy of the chosen one was mainly Qui-gon’s belief. The jedi council dismisses this, and obi-wan takes on anakin out of respect for qui-gon. Anakin proceeds to fuck up pretty much everything. You can basically disregard the prophecy, as far as I’m concerned, and you’d still have every skywalker ending up where they end up based on their choices.

    Thinking of it, being a Skywalker is so shameful, Im not surprised Leia kept her adopted surname Organa, and would have actually advised Luke to go with “Luke Lars” to get some peace of mind.

    Thanks for everything, Hulk! Keep up the amazing work!

    T

    1. I would say there is more of a problem of how the entire galaxy revolves around the Skywalkers. Leia carries the plans to destroy the empire’s new super weapon. It gets destroyed by the other Skywalker who made a one in a million shot. All of episode 5 revolves around the machination of Anakin Skywalker. It isn’t that the Skywalkers have an easy or privileged life, it is that fate/the force/destiny treat of all of them as a fulcrum that the galaxy’s actions are distilled through.

      1. It’s called mythology — it was the entire point of the saga! I don’t think anyone would have minded if they had made this movie not about Skywalkers, but Rey’s story from the beginning. They should not have included old characters and mythos just to be disrespectful to it. I don’t think they had planned this from the beginning and definitely didn’t think this through.

  19. Your fifth point is absolutely true: Finn and Rose’s journey may not have had much (positive) effect on the immediate battle of attrition between The New Order and The Resistance, but it sows the seeds of hope on far-off worlds, and in doing so arguably has an even greater effect in the grand scheme of things, in addition to being thematically on-point as fuck.

    But in addition to that, the little mini-arc they go through on that planet is extremely touching in its own right. People point at the scene where Finn is going to pointlessly sacrifice himself and Rose stops him, saying that “We can’t just fight those we hate, we also have to take care of those we love,” or something to that effect. Now, that’s a great moment, and absolutely vital to really hammering home the film’s message, but they also did that in their whole space horse thing, where Finn says that “the whole trip was worth it” because they stampeded through the casino of wealthy war-profiteers, but then Rose releases the last space-horse to join its herd, and says “NOW it’s worth it.” The former had a more obvious place within the smaller-scale plot of the film due to being in, y’know, the last-ditch battle, so people will probably/probably have dismissed the horse thing, but it plays directly into that whole dynamic perfectly. Finn finds catharsis in the destruction of property (which plays directly into the audience’s desires) but Rose finds it in helping others (the real message to take home). It’s an exchange I don’t see people talking too much about, but it’s so important in setting up the film’s message.

    It’s beautiful.

    Just like the rest of the film.

    ps I know you had a whole point about stylisation vs functional storytelling, but that stylised hyperspeed action beat was I N C R E D I B L E

    1. I think you make a good point about giving others in the galaxy hope, even if I thought the casino scene was something horrible out of the prequels and the releasing of the space horses was absolutely pointless. “Now it’s worth it” was an awful line. Really? Now it’s worth it? They can just go round up the horses again, probably can even just use those flying droids and not leave the casino.

      Rose’s actions and dialogue at the end was so contrived and non-sensical. One of the worst parts of the movie. First of all, Finn is trying to do exactly what she prevents and tells him to do. He is actually trying to save the ones he loves you idiot (Rose, not you)!! You know, all the people in the base!! Not to mention she could have totally killed both of them with her actions! Yet she knows somehow that she is the one that will be injured and Finn will be okay if she does this, killing neither of them? Finn’s sacrifice would actually have given weight to the danger that our characters are supposed to be in that they undermine at every turn with the Guardians of the Galaxy one-liners. Then she tells him she loves him after knowing him a day or two with zero romantic interaction up to that point. Is she 12 years old? Cringe-worthy.

      Just. Awful.

  20. So glad you wrote about this. I agree with everything you’ve written here, but I had a different and more muted emotional reaction to the film. As a writer, I loved how much stronger the structure of the film was than Force Awakens, and you’re absolutely right that every set up is paid off. The ordering of scenes is so much sharper with cuts between storylines that always add momentum rather than subtract. And I adore the decision to chuck the mystery box stuff right off a cliff (though it’s going to make rewatching TFA painful).

    But the actual experience of watching the movie left me kind of tired and unsatisfied. I know 2.5 hours is not an insane length, but the movie *felt* long and overstuffed. After the confrontation in the throne room, I felt done. My writer brain said “Ah, this was great. Got a little tired of all the back and forth of the fleet story, but they’ve nailed the core here. Now we just need Luke to show up for a saving gesture and Poe to show his learned lesson and we’re done.” And those things happened but they happened over a 40-minute final sequence that had some amazing highs but also a lot of flat action and familiar bits I didn’t need or want.

    My father likes to say that there’s a point in a story when it’s time to get the barn door closed so the horses don’t get out. I felt like this movie let the horses get out.

    That doesn’t mean I thought it was bad or that I disagree that it was a functional and structural and even thematic triumph. But I left on that beautiful final frame feeling worn out rather than hopeful. And I wonder if that simple feeling of exhaustion is coloring a lot of people’s reactions and encouraging nitpicking of a story that did fundamentally work.

  21. Why does Kylo decide to kill Snoke? His indecision was genuine (it had to be for Snoke’s plan to work) so why did he suddenly go full darkside after he touched Rey’s hand?

    Why does Luke agree to teach Rey. After her first lesson he’s horrified by her attraction to the Dark Side. He’s terrified of how quickly and willingly she went into the dark but then later it’s all “Lesson 2! More teaching” What happened? Why did his motivation change? Was it because he saw her practising with the lightsaber and was impressed? Wasn’t he frightened of her nascent power the last time we saw him? Why does he teach her other than that the movie needs him to?

    Why does Rey choose the light side? She seems strongly attracted to the dark side, she dives into it willingly and isn’t repulsed by it or horrified (contrast Luke’s terrifying vision of Vader in Empire) so why does she reject it totally when the time comes? If the dark side is seductive and dangerous why does she seem to cast it off with no effort or self reflection? If it’s so easy to turn it aside then why do we care? What’s the threat?

    When Luke talks to Yoda he tells him that they can’t lose Rey and that he has to pass on the lessons of his failures. But then Luke never has another scene with Rey in the movie. Did Rey learn anything from Luke?

    Why does anyone do the things they do in this movie?

    1. This movie doesn’t care about the ‘why’. As long as it has an inspirational line thrown in here and there, that people can grab on to whether it fits or not it seems to think it can get away with it — well it does with a lot of people. “You were trying to be the hero, Poe!” Yeah! Uhh, wait what, no he wasn’t, he was trying to do what he thought was best for the Resistance, right or wrong. “We can’t fight what we hate, we save what we love.” Awwww! Wait, wtf? You love Finn? Why? Since when? Can anyone even tell me what the First Order was? They actually seem to be inclusive, or is that just for PC sake because the why doesn’t matter? Who was Snoke? Not that it even matters now. What is the connection between Rey and Kylo other than they both hate their parents? Wait, why was Kylo hesitant to kill his mother, why was he pretty dead set on killing his father? What did they even do to him? You still haven’t even explained that. Why did the Luke who who was willing to risk his life for the glimmer of good in his father, now be ready to murder his nephew because he felt a glimpse of bad in him. What happened to the Knights of Ren? Why does Rey know everything, is more powerful than anyone ever, and why should I even care? It really just doesn’t even matter. And people are okay with that I guess. As long as they pump out the movies, people are going to be entertained by the self-winking one-liners (hard for me to take your villians seriously when you don’t) and quotes of inspiration irrelevant to the story. I felt after I saw this movie that Star Wars had officially become an Avenger movie. Now that they’ve unhitched the story to the Skywalkers, we can expect countless, soulless Star Wars Avenger movies to come. The ‘why’ is, the $$$.

      1. I don’t have to explain it. Because the movie literally has an answer for every single one of your questions and they all coherently fit the psychology expressed. Do the work.

      2. “We can’t fight what we hate, we save what we love.” Awwww! Wait, wtf? You love Finn? Why? Since when?

        I think it’s clearly established that she has a crush on him when Rose first meets Finn. Then they go on an adventure together, get thrown in jail, have everything backfire on them and almost get executed together and actually live to fight another battle.
        I think t hat it’s pretty believable that she loves him by that point.

      3. incredibly well said, and the sad truth is, the box office will show an astounding success and like the Avengers movies (I can’t stand them neither) with no heart or point, it’ll just drag on ad-infinium. What happened where all of a sudden, good plot writing is no longer a requirement?

      4. And then when you further keep in mind how Marvel is hell bent on shifting everything over to space, in the 2020’s, Marvel and Star Wars will be the same thing with different titles.

      5. @HULK …oh really? Has an answer for every question? I’d love to know then!! So how did the First Order come to power? Who was Snoke and where was he during the OT? What happened to the Knights of Ren? Why does Kylo hate his parents? Why does Luke create a map to find him if needed (the entire plot of TFA) and then when Rey shows he tells her to fuck off (“uhh, you called me dude, remember, that’s why you made the map”)?! Since I can’t “do the work”, maybe answer ONE of these questions?

        @Bob …It’s clearly established that she respects him as a hero, and then promptly stuns him when she finds out she thinks he’s a coward. Lots of people go on a weekend adventure with each other without falling in love. She’s known him for a few days and she loves him enough to sacrifice her life for him? It’s believable if she was like 12 years old, maybe!? Wait, how old are you Bob? If you’re a kid, disregard this message.

      6. @ Brian: Amen, brother.

        I guess I’m glad this movie does it for somebody, because all it’s done for me is put me off Star Wars forever. After this one, I truly do not care if I ever see another SW movie again. I just don’t give a crap about these new characters, and I think what they did with Luke and Yoda was a crime.

        I think they should have left all the old SW and ST alone. These new people doing them…well, whatever.

      1. Uhh, no? I’m not the screenwriter? Its not my job, that’s why I pay the ticket, so someone else can write the story! Wtf lol. It’s a filmmaker’s job to make it compelling and interesting and delve into the story. Not for the viewer to make leaps, guesses and assumptions about literally everything and then blame the viewer. Wow. What an awful reply, definitely thought you’d have something better to offer because what you originally wrote, was at least well written. I get it, we all like different films. If you’re okay with surface material and you don’t need motivations and logic in your movies, that’s perfectly fine. Some people don’t. But don’t pretend it has them. And Star Wars was not that movie until now. There were real relationships, that’s why people loved the story and the characters, because they had depth. These films are not abstract paintings, the filmmakers needed to do the work. So you know the answers to all those questions? Really? Because I bet you’d get a million different answers from people that loved the film with a large majority just not knowing at all because it was never explained. Now you’re just being dishonest to prove it’s a worthy film. 😦

      2. I agree – I understood the answer to all of these questions. I think people are looking for things to hit them over the head, and/or convey a “motive” that’s really clear-cut and about some kind of tangible, materilistic benefit. This film is a lot more nuanced than that. The motives aren’t all materialistic either, or about power. There are a lot of emotional pulls and motives along the way, particularly with Kylo Ren, who evolves a lot through the course of the film on that level. It’s one of the things I loved so much about this movie. It’s NOT superficial. There are layers of meaning in a lot of the actions, and a lot of things that go unsaid but are conveyed in other ways.

      3. @Syrimne13 …please answer any question I’ve listed from my 12/20 @10:11pm post. Would love to know, thank you.

    2. The Dark Side is about obtaining what you desire; pretty much always power. Kylo Ren wants power; he was betrayed by his master and wants to never be under threat again. Snoke shown himself to be manipulative. He can’t be trusted.

      Rey wanted answers. The Dark Side presented those answers in an attempt to make her feel small so she would desire more. In the end, Rey rejected the Dark Side because the Dark Side had nothing to offer her.

    3. seriously well said
      I mean, Luke decapitated Vader/himself in that tree on Dagobah… I’d certainly hope he’d predict the allure to the Dark Side. I mean, good teachers teach from experience as much as they do from the text, the best ones more so.

  22. Wow. I read your essay on TFA right before I read this one – you said everything I couldn’t articulate but felt so deeply about why TFA was fun but just didn’t work, and why parts of it were just WRONG.

    The whole death planet thing – just, no. I don’t buy it. It’s cheap – a cheap trick that has no depth. I felt cheated.

    And now I know why!! Thank you for writing that out! I really, really, REALLY don’t want JJ doing the last film, and now I can clearly explain why. Seriously, thank you.

    So much to think about.
    And yes to everything you said about TLJ – can we *please* have Rian for 9??

  23. Thanks for this! Lots of food for thought. It seems like Rian is laying out a new direction for the future of Star Wars (which seems almost essential if we are going to keep getting new movies every year). The fact that Disney is hiring him to do a new to trilogy in the future seems to indicate they are really happy with the way he is pointing things. After seeing the Last Jedi it just seems strange to me that they choose Abrams to finish the trilogy. I like Abrams quite a bit but I’m curious how he will wrap things up.

  24. Excellent review. I’ve come to the same conclusion regarding the deconstruction of the singular hero — that THIS was the point. I don’t know if it would have been George Lucas’ point when he dreamed up 9 episodes, but I like where it went. Ultimately, a ‘singular hero’ is an unsustainable concept leading to individual fraility putting many at risk. We are stronger as a group of people. That’s part of Rogue One that I liked so much. The individuals leading to a collective victory.

    I will have to agree with those who felt the feint towards Holdo being a bad guy didn’t really work for me. There were less than 400 people left. She may have been the leader but she needed Poe to understand. Blowing him off had predictable results. What would make her think he’d suddenly shut up and color? He NEVER did that before. Yes, Poe made a HUGE strategic error that nearly crippled the rebellion out of existance. But Leia’s demotion of him and rebuke were inadequate. She still was evidently FOND of Poe. Which is fine, but he never took the rebuke to heart. He never did the self examination until he figured out what Holdo was doing. Which leads me to — Holdo was foolish to treat Poe like a nobody. He had referent authority (means he had earned the respect of others as a leader). She had NONE. She had formal authority (next in line). But she was no Leia. So, Holdo is just as much to blame IMO for getting half the people killed. Her failure to engage Poe and leverage him as part of the team was a massive mistake. Poe’s failure to learn from rash action was also a major contributor to their deaths. He learned in the end, but another 2/3rds of the remaining resistance died before he did. Now, if Leia and said something to the effect of “Shutting Poe out was a mistake” to Holdo, THEN I would have liked that. It would have made it clear that she was flawed. Instead she got a hero’s death and acted ‘superior’. That didn’t work for me.

    Regardless of that nit – I ENJOYED the SW!MonteCarlo. I was fine with the message about war mongers. I loved the value lesson Tico gave. She knew they inspired. She saved what she could. This was all good stuff. And it help set up that message on a larger scale at the end of the movie.

    Thanks for the thoughtful review.

  25. Okay Hulk, I think you are spot on. If anything, I think you can go bigger and grander. Let me try and dial the importance and scope of your post up to eleven – and you tell me if I’m crazy or not to really believe all this:

    So, the central idea of The Last Jedi is that nurture makes people what they are – not nature. Or, said another way: what is important in someone is how they learn and grow, not their birth or genetics.

    It sounds simple written out like that, but I honestly can’t think of another more critically important message to drop into America of late 2017. The implications and incentives that follow each interpretation of ourselves are staggering.

    If what is most important in us are our gifts, and genetics, and nature: it’s time to test for midi-chlorians, or IQ, or any kind of inherent giftedness. Failure is a mark of shame – of simply not being good enough. Failure will be avoided through minimal risk taking, blaming it on others, or simple self-deception. In this world where everyone has permanent labels, everything gets insular and wrapped in bubbles. If this is how we see ourselves, a successful filmmaker (for example,) might see himself as so gifted and genius that they accept no criticism or feedback and crank out a trilogy of mind-bogglingly awful movies.

    But! …if we are truly creatures capable of change – if what matters most about us is how we develop and learn and adapt: failure becomes a critically important teacher. In this way of seeing ourselves, retreating to an island solves nothing. If we can all see ourselves this way we can be honest about our mistakes and our failures, to learn and be better. This is the basic foothold from which we can start to make real-world improvements to *everything* – schools, politics, businesses, relationships, and even the Jedi Order.

    The Last Jedi is about fun and adventure and space wizards, sure. But if any movie, ever, was able to influence a society in a fundamentally positive way – this movie has that possibility.

    Whaddya think, Hulk? Can Star Wars save America? It’s bonkers, but I think maybe so.

  26. Have to agree on Rey’s lineage… It was the ONLY thing that could deliver The “I am your Father” ,moment, or even come close. Remember 37 years it was a kick in the gut to every 9 Year. No one was like THAT’S BRILLIANT GEORGE LUCAS! I t was stunned disbelief. In time it makes sense IT MAKES THE OT work. But repeating It With Luke or orbiwan or Palpatine is your daddy would not have the an impact. Your parents were meaningless drunks. Full stop. Thats a kick in the gut and as people pointed out it changes what was a skywalker story into every girl’s ( and boy’s) story

  27. GREAT take, well said, entirely right. People complained that The Force Awakens was too “copy and paste” from the classic trilogy (missing the purpose behind those callbacks, but oh well), and then when this movie opened us into a brave new world they apparently don’t like losing the comfort zone. I was so, so pleased with what happened with Luke – not because that is what “had” to happen with Luke (there was no such thing, and these films had to pick one if they were going to be made), but because there was value to how he ended up. I also was extremely pleased with Luke getting his moment, and not having it be a flurry of Vader-in-Rogue-One badass moves (while at the same time being more badass than we’ve ever seen before, AND showing off precisely the kind of move that a “light sider” should). And then he was gone? Yes, I’ll admit that it felt too abrupt for me, and I REALLY hope that isn’t the last we see of him in some form (only because, again, it was a little too quick), but I think it was well played.

  28. Boy you sure use the word “I” a lot and talked about yourself in this review. For better content and reading experience, you may not want to forget that the focus is about the movie, not all about you. The profanity didn’t help the quality either.

  29. Yeah, except the whole point of Star Wars is the Skywalker saga, which to me is really the biggest reason why new films was always a bad idea. The story has been told, move on. If you want to tell a Rey type story, don’t hijack a popular franchise to do it. Let that be and do something totally new, which is really the point. The idea of longstanding franchises needs to wrap up, otherwise Hollywood is painting itself into a smaller creative corner.

    1. Exactly!!! Thank you!!! (The real reason though is that it brought in old fans to sell more tickets, they were afraid it wouldn’t be able to stand on it’s own.)

  30. I don’t ever recall Luke in any of the middle three movies exclaiming or implying he had special rights because of his lineage, but that he, on the contrary, in spite of just wanting to make a difference, was sucked up into his famiy’s long unresolved problems. Suggesting he did is ignoring the truth.

    These new movies are not as good as the originals as per plot or story. The characters have no real motives. They aren’t trying to find a meaning to life beyond themselves. Kylo Stimpy and Phasma are basically gaudy Star Wars fashion statements more than they are fully developed characters with a past that must be resolved. Spin it all you want, I’m truly sorry you can’t tell the difference.

    I realize the premium millenials have on “inclusion” and how much they hate white males, etc.but if you want to make a “magic rainbow” Star Wars you do still have to develop the characters! I still don’t know why Ren killed his father Han. Why does he wear a mask? Where does he think Vader “got it wrong”? Why have a stormtrooper in chrome? It makes no sense! Stormtroopers represent conformity and death. The suit is basically an abstract skeleton, and white (for Europeans) is the color of death, as often as black is here in the states. There is no Hamlet-like struggle in the main character Rey, or Finn.

    Vader’s mask has a reason: he needs it to breathe. It also is an echo of the WWI gas masks, which invokes the fear of choking. His helmet is a cross between a samurai helmet and a German WWII helmet. He is a warrior. His armor is all black, and his cape, and we sense right from the beginning that he is not quite entirely human in soul or body. Symbolism matters. Plot, story, inner conflict, these are essentials in good storytelling, and in the latest movies (with the exception of Rogue One) they just aren’t there.

  31. All of this would have been fine if there was any character that would be fun to watch in Episode 9. There isn’t. Kylo is insufferable. He is a blunt instrument. No brains. No savvy. Rey might be cool, but the idea that she just teaches herself the force is lame. I get that Luke didn’t like the Jedi religion, but it would have been wonderful to see him be the one who brings balance to the force by reshaping the Jedi. If this is the continuation of 1,2,3,4,5,6 it fails miserably. Luke has now accomplished exactly NOTHING with his life. Failed to kill the emperor, failed to train new jedi, hid on an island, used a mind trick to help the 12 remaining members of the rebellion escape and died like a punk. What a waste of the most interesting remaining character in Star Wars.

    What is left for Episode 9? Finn? Rose? Holy crap they were boring and sucked the life out of every scene they were in. Just awful, unlikable actors and characters. It became super clear once Benicio Del Toro showed up with a fun interesting character who shone so much brighter than they did. Hell, BB-8 was more interesting as a character.

    I like the idea of Rey being “no one”, I like the idea of burning down the restrictive, uptight, exclusionary religion. It all fits. I don’t like losing Luke without ever getting to see him as a fully formed master that’s fun for a whole movie. Killing him should have been an episode 9 move. It makes no sense to keep Leia alive either.

    Also, Snoke was a waste. It was kind of fun that he was killed, but who the fuck was he? How did he get into this position? Why did he form the first order and hate the rebels so much? Was it just because Star Wars needed a villain and needed an empire type guy? Why the hell is the rebellion still going? They won in RoTJ and the whole universe celebrated in this canon. Where the hell is the rest of the universe? Nowhere. What cunning villain is left? There is none. There’s literally no conflict except that Kylo Ren is going to be on a rampage trying to kill the last 12 rebels for no reason. He’s literally won. What does that mean in the context of this? 4,5,6 were about liberation. What is the goal of this First Order/New Rebellion conflict? It’s senseless.

      1. ME, TOO!

        And I find it very interesting that my first comment to this review is STILL “awaiting moderation.”

  32. This might be a little simplistic, but what I think most people who don’t care for the movie or plural is that we are missing the last thirty years of mostly non canon history, and if somebody could just go back and rewrite it and make it canon from ROTJ to TFA maybe it would help make some sense as to why the characters “pardon this expression” seem a little wonky. I know that could take a while, but it took thirty years to find out they are fighting the same battle just using different names.

  33. Still processing how I feel about the movie, but did anyone else feel like it was trying really hard to have a Marvel-y tone, i.e. sight gags or deadpan humour every 10 seconds? It kind of bothered me that the movie couldn’t keep a straight face for any length of time, even if the scene demanded it.

  34. Magnificent film and essay.

    My super-favourite part was seeing how nobody would take Poe mansplaining space battles to them \o/

  35. The main issue with TLJ is there is no story. The plot, as far as I can tell, is a smaller ship is trying to get away from a bigger ship. Did Rian need 2.5 hours to tell this “story”? This was the most dull and uninteresting Star Wars movie to date, and yes, that counts the prequels. Can you window dressing all the subtext you want, but in the end of the day nothing much happens during this movie.

    I can sum up my reaction in word…Meh.

  36. I’d agree with you except for one problem — TLJ was the wrong time and way to introduce this idea. TFA basically dropped a lot of big hints that Lineage Matters In The Sequels the way it mattered in the original trilogy. Then along comes TLJ and rather aggressively rejects that thesis.

    It’s one thing if it had been clear from the outset that the sequels were departing from the generational themes of the prior films, but to pull the bait-and-switch TFA and TLJ combine to pull on the fans induces a kind of narrative whiplash. The themes you outline are sort of thrown in the audience’s face. “Screw your expectations,” the film tells us, “Star Wars isn’t like that anymore.” And so the movie TFA hinted we would see instead becomes a lecture on why it isn’t that movie and why our expectations were bad and wrong.

    Now, it may not seem like it, but I liked TLJ a lot and I have no problem with this new direction. But most people I’ve talked to that have seen it disliked it, and the weirdly broad variety of justifications for their dislike makes me think there’s something deeper at work.

    Maybe the problem is really with TFA, which with its overfamiliar homage tone set many who were expecting a continuation of it up for disappointment. The filmmakers really need to plan this stuff out at an earlier stage rather than executing on visions and themes that seem wildly at odds with one another.

  37. I love this review so much, and I couldn’t agree more with the comparison between TFA and TLJ. I’m so tired of gimicky, superficial movies, whether genre movies or those claiming for some kind of “art” status. It shows a certain amount of contempt for the audience, to assume no one will care if there’s any there-there in the “magic box,” so I really appreciate you outlining that whole concept and why TLJ deviates from that more cynical view of making movies.

    I was hugely disappointed in TFA, especially since it was supposed to be a reboot for the series – now I’m kind of fearful that the level of quality in the depth of the writing and character development won’t continue in the next installment in the series. Like someone said above, can we have Rian for the last movie in this trilogy? I honestly think JJ Abrams will completely screw it up, because he doesn’t even seem to “get” why that stuff matters.

    Related to that, I’ve really struggled with some people’s reactions to this film.

    The idea that everything has to refer back to the old movies in some way, or that no one matters unless connected in some way to the original “bloodline” introduced in A New Hope is really discouraging to me. Just purely on an artistic level, these movies have mined that original inspiration down to the bone – ithese movies will be completely stale if they continue to self-reference like that. I was so DANGED glad no one said “I have a bad feeling about this” or any of the other overused and now cutesy-trite phrases in TLJ. Rey being from “nobody” parents to me was brilliant, the only way it could have gone without getting an eyeroll or a tired sigh.

    Two, the insistence on everything being about the original trilogy shows that many people really just want to hear the same story over and over again without being challenged by new concepts or the reframing of old concepts in deeper and more nuanced ways. There’s a real sleepiness to that way of approaching and consuming art that I find discouraging as an artist. This refusal to engage with art more is almost a political statement at times – and it has bad effects on the kind of art that is made. This movie actually has people TALKING, and debating, and sharing insights with one another about what various elements and arcs mean. How can that ever be a bad thing? Yet people act like it’s a personal affront to them, that they didn’t get a rehash of A New Hope, with all of their favorite characters perfectly immortalized in amber, with no growth, no changes, no tragedies or failures or anything else that can happen to a person in 30+ years.

    Ironically, it’s the biggest theme of the TLJ in some ways – let the past go. Open your eyes and minds to new ways of seeing this world.

    Thanks to this letting go of the insistence on everything being predictable and lightweight in its emotional punch, they’ve opened up the universe for complex, emotionally hard-hitting, unpredictable and more ADULT storytelling. There is SO MUCH more potential in this universe now, and so many ways it could go. I love that more than I can possibly say… it’s where I always hoped the universe would eventually go, if it got some fresh and more idealistic minds at the helm.

    Moreover, to me, this captures more of the spirit of the first two films (meaning IV and V) than anything that came after. Meaning, it’s once more about love, wisdom, good vs. evil, difficult choices, difficult loyalties, real human conflict – and less about stoking nostalgia, flashy CGI, and giving us superficial saccharin hits. The world in TLJ is more mature now in some ways, slightly more serious, grimmer, but also more full of real hope… if only by realizing the lines between good/evil aren’t always as clear-cut as people want to pretend, and that tyranny can never fully stamp out resistance to the dark, no matter how overwhelming the odds.

    It’s actually given me hope on a personal level too, as a writer, I mean, that these kinds of stories DO have an audience, that bigger human questions still resonate with people, that audiences actually care if there’s substance in what they consume. Often, I get the impression Hollywood thinks they can throw any old crap at us, and as long as it gets the blockbuster numbers that opening weekend (conveniently before most people know if it’s any good or not), they don’t care if ti completely sucks, or if there’s nothing behind it but smoke and mirrors.

    I hope the numbers for TLJ are big enough that it starts a trend towards this kind of movie-making. 🙂

  38. I think this was just a dreadful time, and it’s a shame because I was genuinely excited to see someone like Rian Johnson given free reign – “Finally,” I thought, “A real film-maker at the helm.” However, I left utterly baffled at the creative decisions made every step along the way here. There’s a lot of things I agree with in theory, but were bungled in execution. (Spoilers ahead)

    Having Rey be just some person, and not just another in a long line of Skywalkers/Kenobis/etc.? Great idea! But… it completely flies in the face of everything we were shown before. So all her phenomenal force powers and whatever-the-plot-demands skills come from nowhere then? She’s the all powerful chosen one… just because? This is made even worse when Snoke says that she’s the Light Side “equal and opposite” of Kylo Ren… so great, she’s the pure and incorruptible champion of the Light side now, too. All that teasing that she may be tempted by the Dark Side, driven by a well-intentioned need for power to save her friends, is out the window and I guess never mattered at all.

    And killing Snoke! I hated Snoke and thought he was a stupid, cliche plot device only good for his relationship to Kylo and Hux… but killing him off with no explanation is equally as bone-headed a move. You’ve introduced this character who is critically important to everything happening, who helped turn Kylo Ren, who somehow had the resources and wherewithal to support a splinter group of the Galactic Empire that’s apparently as rich and powerful as the Galactic Empire, and then you just get rid of him without any explanation? What did he even WANT (besides just “power”)? It was a decision that felt like it wanted to be “clever” but instead just flippantly undermined any sort of backstory or consistency in this new trilogy. (I will say, it was almost comical to hear Snoke prattle on about Kylo Ren lacking conflict while the camera kept cutting back to Adam Driver’s goofy, L.A. Noire-esque conflicted expressions.)

    Then there’s Holdo. Sure, Poe’s a brash, stubborn fly-boy (though really you could blame the destruction of those bombers on the idiotic pilots who thought it’d be a good idea to line up so close). However, there is no reason for Holdo not to tell him her plan; EVERYONE should have been told the plan. There’s only 400 rebels left (apparently), and they’re all basically huddled together on the same ship. Even if she can’t go into detail (despite the film giving us no indication that there is any concern of spies onboard), she makes no effort to at least convince Poe that there’s a plan in motion, and instead acts in a way that only gives the opposite impression. Boy, is she lucky that Poe was kind enough not to shoot her fucking dead as part of his mutiny – that would’ve been awkward!

    I found Rose to be insufferable. I don’t blame the actress, I don’t think she was given a lot to work with, and in total fairness I didn’t care much for Finn in this movie either, which is a shame as I thought he was one of the highpoints of TFA. Their entire sideplot is interminable, and the Casino planet/war-profiteering storyline is so absurdly on the nose it just adds salt to the wound. I love how Finn and Rose put the entire Rebellion in jeopardy because they can’t be bothered to find a proper parking spot. The kids were almost prequel-esque and while I’m all for this idea of heroes finding hope and coming from anywhere, it was presented in a very ham-handed manner.

    The Leia moment was an unbelievable, shark-jumping misfire. That’s all I have to say about that.

    I also just don’t understand the sense of scale to these new movies. The First Order seems incredibly inconsistent – it’s built from the remnants of the Empire but it is also as powerful and as expansive as it needs to be at any given moment. It doesn’t feel like a credible threat. The idea that there are all of a sudden only 400 or so members of the stupidly named Resistance left at the beginning of the film seems absurd, especially given that there must be a Republic military left in some capacity (are we seriously to believe that the ENTIRE Republic military was park on four or five planets all in the same orbit?). We have no sense of scale for this conflict, or any sense of scale the movie tries to establish seems so silly that it breaks suspension of disbelief.

    Finally, the attempts at humors in this movie were grating and obnoxious. This is entirely personal and subjective, but they felt completely out of place, and for every sensible chuckle, there were 10 groaners that took me right out of the picture. A little levity is good, and I don’t outright hate the Marvel formula, but this went to an unbearable extreme.

    I thought that Mark Hammill gave a really good performance, and I like the idea of a Luke Skywalker who’s embittered and who has made mistakes, but I think the film takes it to such an extreme that he doesn’t seem like the Luke Skywalker who would put his life and the lives of his friends on the line to try and redeem his father. Making a movie about failure is admirable, but I’m not going to give it a pass just for that when we have to rely on a total “idiot plot” to try and get there. Worse, I think a lot of characters got the shaft in the pursuit of that theme; all of the characters seem less interesting at the end of TLJ (Kylo Ren as Supreme Leader, Hux as a sniveling cartoon, Finn as… someone who’s just there, etc.). I’m trying not to lose sight of the forest for the trees here, but The Last Jedi is so poorly constructed that it overshadows any of the good ideas or intentions on display. I expected finesse and subtlety from someone like Rian Johnson, but it was sorely missing. If this represents Disney’s plans for Star Wars going forward, then the emperor really has no clothes.

    1. This is what a well-written opinion by someone that cares about the story looks like. You’ve summed up my feelings and thoughts about The Last Jedi better than I could have myself. Thank you. I hope that you manage to salvage some of this train wreck with your involvement in episode IX, but I’m not sure if anything can be done at this point.

  39. Hi Hulk. Excellent essay. I agree with everything you said and I loved the failed side-quest to the casino world because, just as you said, it gave me a chance to see the people who are oppressed and discarded in the Star Wars world. The ending of the movie was perfect with that force-sensitive kid.

    I have one complaint and that was the cut from Snoke’s throne room to the hanger where Finn/Rose were captured — I was so damn pumped up from Snoke’s death and Kylo and Rey teaming up! The movie theater was buzzing so hard but the movie cut away from that scene after like 10 seconds of fighting the guards! To what? To the scene where the thief got paid and nothing happened. What a buzzkill. They really hurt they movie with that cut. Who TF cares that he’s getting paid? By the time we came back to the throne room, the moment had considerable lost its mojo. Bad editing IMO but I’m nobody.

  40. Brilliant. And everyone is saying that Rian Johnson wanted to “kill the past.” But obviously the hatred of old things is the path of the “bad guys” in the movie. The “good guys” realize that they must both respect the past and learn from the failures of their heroes (and themselves). This is what is dramatized so beautifully in Rey’s taking the books out of the tree on Ahch-To. Also, we have the new war truly beginning in an abandoned Rebel base. The bad guys (for reasons that go far beyond strategy) want to destroy the Falcon; the good guys can still depend on it in their moment of need.

  41. It appears to me that the biggest issue here is change. Many people believe change is good. Most people know that change is only inevitable (it will happen). I believe there are two kinds of change, personal change which you can control and circumstantial change beyond our control. I believe personal change can be good. I believe circumstantial change might be good to just downright horrifying. That being said whether we like it or not, it is beyond our control to change anything that has happened. All we can do is agree to disagree about any of it and learn to live with it, and try not to go to the dark side, and hope that the next movie makes sense of all this. By this I mean everybody take a deep breath and say to yourself its only a movie and doesn’t affect my reality, and Just live your life.

    1. Actually, Todd: NOW they’re only movies. They are ONLY movies…NOW.

      Let’s see if I can get my original comment in this way:

      My Star Wars rant:

      My thought walking out of this and the previous installment in the series was: “A fine commitment to recycling, they have.”

      As if the thinking went like this: “What made money last time we have to do again this time, and everything fans hated about the prequels we have to avoid like the plague this time.” Which results in canned repeats of the same old thing, which are bare of any meaning to me, because they are stripped of all history, and relevance.

      Back in the day, “slow” sequences like the Galactic Senate came under fire because audiences considered them boring. But George Lucas was trying to make a point. What happens when you give corporations too much power? (Citizens United, anyone? Don’t we almost have corporate entities in the Senate now??) And it let the movie slow down and breathe a little bit. These films suffer some from our 10-second attention spans. Everything FLIES by, and I’m going, “What?” Everything’s gotta be biggerbiggerfasterfastermoremore! I went home and turned on the TV and the original Star Wars was on TNT. And I enjoyed it SO much more than what I’d just walked out of. Here were these, JUST FOUR, characters and their two robot sidekicks running around on sets that are so minimal compared to what I just watched, and they’re so entertaining it works better than all that technological whiz-bang.

      BECAUSE I CARED ABOUT THE CHARACTERS.

      OK, Luke and Leia and Yoda and Artoo and 3PO we’re always going to care about…because GEORGE LUCAS created those characters, and HE gave them personhood and history. We CARED why Anakin fell because, first we were curious about this commanding and powerful (not derivative and dorky-looking) villain. Then, we saw his entire life story. We knew what happened and we knew why it mattered. Even Palpatine had a rich history, one thousand years of a wrecked order trying to reassert supremacy.

      Who are these bad guys now? A name like “Snoke”? Really? And he looks just like Palpatine. Can’t you just imagine the story meeting? “Well, we need a Palpatine, but he’s dead, so we’ll just create this CGI thing that looks just like him and he’s the bad guy. Who is he? Where did he come from? Does it matter? Nahhh…just so we have a bad guy that looks like the old, real bad guy we killed and he does the same thing. Only now it doesn’t mean anything, he just has to look good and persecute the good guys we’re trying to hand the story off to.”

      And the explanation offered of HAN AND LEIA’S SON ending up like this? OK, Luke made a miscue, I get that. But how/why was the kid dark in the first place? THAT was a BIG piece of what mattered about Star Wars, and now…Cue the story meeting: Well, we can just do this to Han and Leia’s son, and it doesn’t matter how or why. Just that he kills Han and everybody’s sad. We’ve gotta to bring Harrison back and kill Han off before Harrison gets too old!

      I get it about learning from failure, I really do. (You don’t know how much I do.) And some of the richness of the prequels was fans thinking about how the Jedi Order was going wrong. So, on that note, I can kind of see the wise Yoda saying, We made mistakes. Take what you learned, and start over. THAT’S one thematic note of richness that works.

      But there’s shallowness in these new films that DOESN’T work. If the filmmakers had put the depth of thinking into ALL of the themes and characters that they did into this one, I’d be a lot happier.

      The more I see of these new Disney Star Wars films, the LESS I CARE, and the more I want to know what George Lucas’s original ideas for these last three stories were. I have read reports that he was upset the Disney studio didn’t want to use his ideas, and I don’t blame him. I guess we’ll never know, and that’s sad. He wrote to share wisdom, and even though his writing (and, um, sometimes, directing) could,on occasion, be a bit clunky, that’s exactly what he did.

      These guys write to make money.

      ‘Nuff said.

  42. Okay, so I was one of the people who strongly disliked this film upon first viewing. After my second, I’ve released my hate and, as I did with the prequels, will simply look past the flaws of the film (in this case structure, tone, and world-building) and focus instead on the positives.

    And perhaps the biggest one for me is very similar to the conclusion you’ve reached, Hulk. I’m finally clear as to what the overall arc of the Skywalker Saga is. The Skywalkers ARE the imbalance in the force.

    What we relearn in TLJ is that the Force chooses it’s champions from the worthy and those in great need. Yes, you can steal power from the dark side, but it cannot be stronger than the light, thought it is quicker and easier. Except for the Skywalkers. Instead of the Force choosing it’s champion with the Skywalker bloodline, Anakin was created to be powerful regardless of the will of the Force.

    Twice, that bloodline led to great darkness (In Anakin and Ben Solo) twice to great light (Luke and Leia). But regardless, the Skywalkers are an aberration, unnatural, and something that needs to be removed from the galaxy to restore balance to the Force. Episode IX should be about the end of the Skywalkers, and since Rey isn’t one, the path for that to happen is clear.

    As a side note, it’s become more clear that the “training” that the Jedi did prior to TPM had more to do with control, both of the Force and the Jedi who used it, than in doing the will of the Force. If you allow the Force to “control your actions” rather than have it “obey your commands” you can accomplish great things, as Rey does. If you use the Force only for “Knowledge and Defense, never to Attack” you can exert your own will without fear of the dark side, as Luke does. All of the protections that the Old Jedi Order tried to put in place to protect them from the Dark Side couldn’t work, since they were constantly using the force to do their own will through violence.

    The point is, as the Saga comes to an end with Episode IX, Rian has set it up for the arc of the entire series to make sense as a single narrative, for this to be a cohesive story of Death, Rebirth and Synthesis told over nine movies and four decades.

    1. Whaaa–??

      I don’t think George Lucas thought the Skywalkers were the imbalance in the Force when he first conceived this story.

  43. Your points on mark Hamill are curious considering he was against everything Luke was in this movie, and said so to the director. This was NOT the Luke Mark Hamill wanted to play, or felt it made sense to the movie.

    1. He literally said all those things were his instinct and then ends that interview with ‘but I was wrong.” So way to cherry pick, dude.

      1. Here’s a clip of him and Rian Johnson after TLJ premiere. I’d say that his face and body language express more resentment and dislike of Rian and/or the movie more than a simple “I was wrong” and “I liked the movie” tacked onto the end of an interview. It may be speculation, but my guess is that contracts and lawyers can get you to say things you’d rather not say if you want to keep milking the cash cow.

  44. The original trilogy told one story or one continuous story arc. So did the prequel trilogy. That’s what a trilogy is. TLJ did not continue TFA. TLJ dropped everything of meaning set up in TFA. Rey had a vision, why? In it Obi Wan spoke to her. Why? In it, she saw scenes from Luke’s life. Why? She was such an incredible Falcon pilot even she was shocked. How did this happen? Maybe once we find out who her parents are, that will begin to explain.

    We got no answers. It was all just dropped, except her parents. But the answer regarding her parents denies any significance to her vision.

    That’s bad story telling. This is not a stand-alone movie. It exists (or is supposed to exist) in a larger context. The writer/director dismissed that context, and even, through a variety of shots, ridiculed the larger universe of Star Wars and in this way insulted Star Wars fans, who are the very people who enabled this movie to have such a high profile out of the box. It’s like a politician who the voters put in office, only to have him turn around and screw them over. Remind you of anyone?

    Luke refused to kill Vader, a bad guy who had killed millions, because Luke had become an enlightened Jedi and sought to redeem him. But later, after Luke has even more experience as a Jedi, he raises his light saber to kill Ben because of what Ben “might” do one day? Baloney. That is just forcing Luke to act out of character for the sake of manipulating the plot, and that is a basic error of beginning writers, not seasoned professionals.

    More minor problems were the offputting out of place humor, the scant attention paid to Phasma, Snoke, or Finn for that matter. They felt like leftovers from another movie, who had a place in the prior tale, but were now just hanging around with nothing to do to Rian Johnson gave them busywork.

    Also, just from a basic story point of view, how could the First Order, which just moments before suffered a stagering defeat through the destruction of Starkiller Base, suddenly be in such a dominant position that it is chasing that last few remnants of the Resistance (like Cylons in Battlestar Galactica, that’s what the war story basically was, a simple copy and paste from BSG), which is now all but defeated? How did that happen? The Empire Strikes Back takes place THREE YEARS after the end of ANH. But TLJ takes place IMMEDIATELY after TFA. What was the point of destroying Starkiller Base? Nothing was achieved. Makes no sense.

    All of the above only make sense in that they demonstrate that Rian Johnson was just doing his own thing in his little hermetically sealed alternative universe, having nothing to do with the larger Star Wars universe or its history. TLJ is not Star Wars – it’s not connected to Star Wars – it’s just a bad dream.

    The movie was an utter failure from a story telling perspective. But we still have 9. Maybe JJ Abrams can fix some of this.

  45. J. J. Abrams is an incompetent git. He should never be let near any creative production. Ever.

    The new Star Wars has a far better plot than the seventh (or the first, second, and third). But it is also so badly mucked up that the new guy is only marginally better.

  46. Finally, things come full circle. In 1978, ABC capitalized on the Star Wars craze by copying it with Battlestar Galactica. Now, Star Wars copies Galactica.

    And so we have achieved balance in the Force.

  47. This was a pretty awful review. If I can even call it that. I don’t know why you didn’t go more in-depth with the—

    “I know way too many of the Johnson clan at this point for this to be anything but biased blatherings.”

    Oh. Okay. That explains everything.

    “I think J.J. has always been a talented filmmaker with an incredible casting eye, quite adept at imbuing a given moment with energy and emotion, but it’s always just that: a moment. There’s never a larger context. Carol Markus will scream as her father dies then the entire movie will go on as if it never happened. It’s all bits of affectation that excite and delight, and as far as meaning goes, it’s all promise and deep questions and lingering intrigue that pull you in deep, deep, deep… but, you know, never amount to anything. And it’s not that the “answers” are bad, it’s just that they were never set up to be meaningfully answered in the first place. That’s the mystery box. That’s literally the design. He doesn’t think it matters what’s inside as long as he makes you think it’s important. He’s literally said this. And that’s what it’s always been. It’s a grift. A con. A charming way of storytelling that whispers sweet nothings in your ear and is out the window before you wake up.”

    I agree. Abrams’ writing is a tired gimmick now in which his series of “mystery boxes” never had one satisfying payoff. It poisoned Star Wars and they didn’t leave Johnson with a clear road map on how to follow up with it… because Abrams doesn’t know what he’s doing on a thematic standpoint. And since Johnson isn’t that impressive of a storytelling himself (Looper, anyone?), the entire movie ended up feeling like a big “Fuck You Abrams” hate letter instead.

    “And the lack of that point is all symbolized in that final moment, Rey standing there to hand a lightsaber to Luke. It’s not a story beat. It’s not really anything. Just someone waiting to hand a baton to someone who can figure out a way to have any of this make a lick of sense.”

    Agreed. It was a cheap awkward ending that was more puzzling than fulfilling. Just a way to end the movie on a cheap emotional high-note.

    “There’s a reason this movie begins with Luke throwing it off a cliff.”

    And that is… ?

    “It definitively takes those mystery box questions and throws them off the literal and proverbial cliff. Sometimes it’s done in a funny way, sometimes in an incredulous way, but it’s always in purposeful way. Because in the end, The Last Jedi is actually about something really, really important.”

    That is just about the biggest JJ Abrams/Rian Johnson tribute I can think of. Setup on the highly intriguing question and… no meaningful payoff.

    Luke tossing his father’s lightsaber over his shoulder is just Johnson spitting in Abrams’ eye, which inadvertently spits in the eye of the character of Luke Skywalker and the audience who had invested +40 years of their lives to this franchise (megafan or not). It was a cheap joke. A cheap, Guardians of the Galaxy-styled throwaway joke that had no meaning other than to get a cheap laugh and make Johnson fist pump in the air going “YEAH TAKE THAT!”

    A better option would’ve been to throw it back at Rey. Or walk up and shove it back to her telling her “she needs to leave the island” alluding to something much more important than Luke merely being on an island for… whatever reason. Then you setup an intrigue from there and then reveal it in the form of an old Jedi/Sith artifact or some other (admittedly, newer) McGuffin, something that the Resistance is fighting the New Order against. Something Rey needs to harness, something that perhaps corrupted Ben Solo/Kylo Ren, something that delegated Luke as a recluse on an island waiting for the Resistance to call him back in vain hope that the New Order has been vanquished but instead was given a highly potent Force Sensitive individual, which sets up a beacon for Ren (and the New Order) giving actual stakes (remember those?) and a ticking clock.

    While the pitch I just gave is nothing that special, in one fell swoop I gave the characters Rey, Luke, Ren, Leia, Snoke, Hux, and other characters a purpose and a single mission (protect Luke and the aforementioned artifact). Luke training (and failing) the new protectors of the new Republic, which the new younglings have been usurped (or destroyed) by Ren. That’s what this film ultimately failed to do: give any meaningful purpose for any of them to do anything or accomplish anything.

    So Rey finds out her parents were drunks who died in a ditch. Whoopie. What does she learn as a character otherwise? How does she harness her skills further? How does she train her Force powers to their fullest potential? We see her physically train with the rock, but what of her Force powers other than rumbling pebbles that float? She was granted all these special abilities in the last movie and in this movie she just trains for, like, 5 minutes then is able to not only take on Ren but also Snoke’s imperial guards. She couldn’t take on Snoke, but that would’ve been way too easy.

    Where’s the suspense? Where are her struggles? Why should I care? This is like playing a videogame on God mode. It gets really boring after awhile.

    And that’s just one of the many problems this film had. I didn’t come out wanting to see the next one. Why should I be excited? Rey is apparently so powerful and capable, I’m sure she’ll get herself out of the next jam with relative ease. She doesn’t need me to tune in to see how.

    And let’s not talk about the pointless subplot with Finn and Rose. Or Poe suddenly turning into an insubordinate “dude-bro” who loves blowing shit up with no questions asked all of a sudden.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s