My problems with “The Last Jedi”

I am not a Star Wars franchise fan. I loved the first film when it came out, was sorely disappointed by The Empire Strikes Back, and pretty much ignored the movies, books, games, toys, and so on for the next several decades.

I did see The Force Awakens, which I enjoyed and reviewed here.  I also saw Rogue One, which I enjoyed and wrote about here.

My expectations for The Last Jedi were shaped by those films, not the mass of other Star Wars related media.  So I won’t be talking about whether or not any particular details meshed with works that may or may not be part of some official or unofficial canon. I want to look at it simply as a film.

I will be discussing spoilers.  If you haven’t seen the film, haven’t run across spoilers in other places on the internet (and if you haven’t, kudos, because they are everywhere) and still intend to see it, read no farther. 

Okay, we’re clear on that?  I will be assuming from this point on that readers know what happens in the movie. 

Let me cut to the chase: The film was flat out badly written.

The opening scene with Poe shows him disobeying a direct order and mounting a suicide charge that resulted in losing an entire bomber wing, to essentially no purpose.

Yes, one First Order ship was destroyed. The cost of that action in Rebel losses, though, both in numbers and in percentage of available forces, was outrageous.  As a tactical move, it scored somewhere below the charge of the light brigade at Balaclava.

Then, upon returning to base, Poe is not summarily executed for dereliction of duty in the face of the enemy, but instead given a minor demotion and a verbal reprimand. Those few pilots who did survive the slaughter, in fact, treat Poe as a hero.

Fifteen minutes into the film it is obvious that the Rebellion, as a military unit, is suicidally incompetent. They are going to lose and they deserve to lose. So much for Plotline One.  From this point on, it was impossible for me to care about anything that happened with the Rebel fleet.

Plotline Two, Rey & Luke & Kylo & Snoke, was marginally better. Stripped of its surrealistic metaphysical imagery, there were two competing points of view, one espoused by each master and argued against by each student.

Luke wanted an end to the conflict, to set aside the war and try to live in peace. Snoke wanted to continue the hostilities until one side was exterminated. (Unsurprisingly, Snoke was on the winning side, while Luke represented the suicidally incompetent side.)

Rey was being mentored by Luke, but agreed with Snoke, while Kylo was being mentored by Snoke but agreed with Luke. That actually worked, and gave rise to the film’s one legitimate moment of greatness, the confrontation between Rey and Kylo in Snoke’s dance studio.  For a moment it look as if Kylo and Rey could begin to engineer a lasting peace in the galaxy, but then, the series isn’t called Star Ceasefires, now is it?

Like I say, that Plotline mostly worked–it was long and talky, and featured a return of my least favorite character in all of film, Yoda, but if it was cut out and presented as its own short film I’d give it a solid B.

Then we have Plotline Three, Rose and Finn.  Let me start by saying that Rose is my favorite character in the film, and one of my top five favorites in any Star Wars movie.  She’s up there with Alan Tudyk’s sarcastic robot in Rogue One.

What’s more, her chemistry with Finn makes him a lot more likable. The “lowly grunt pining for magic space princess” thing between Finn and Rey made Finn annoying.  But with Rose I began to see Finn as she saw him, as a decent man who had been handed the short end of the stick and did the best he could with the hand he was dealt.

Tragically, all of their best and most heroic scenes took place in a subplot that made no fucking sense whatsoever.  The whole Planet Vegas sequence was pointless and logically inconsistent. What’s more, it ended in abject failure, which is not surprising since it was Poe’s idea.  Instead of pointing out that Poe’s last idea got her sister killed, Rose goes along with it.

A big deal is made about how there is no way for people to escape the First Order ships that are pursuing them and that they are almost out of fuel.  And then (on the recommendation of Little Old Lady Ninja Space Turtle via Skype) Rose and Finn and Super Beachball take a ship, not to ferry refugees to safety, but to go to Planet Vegas to find some random hacker, whom they don’t find, but do end up losing the ship to an impound lot for a parking violation. 

Then the man that they do find turns out to be a First Order plant. Because a holding cell in the Planet Vegas jail is the logical place to find Rebel troops to hoodwink.  Or something. Plus the industrial military complex is evil. Also animal cruelty is bad, cute kids dressed like victorian chimney sweeps are good.

Suddenly, mutiny.

Then other things happen, but by this point I’m not really paying a lot of attention. The Rebel admiral decides that her career is in such dire straits that a kamikaze charge with a freighter is the logical next step, and Rey shows up to save the day in a scene that seems designed just as an inversion of the “Rocks Fall, Everybody Dies” gag. (Rocks rise, everybody lives.)

Plus Luke Skywalker does the Obi Wan Kenobi “strike me down and I will become more powerful than you can imagine” bit, only longer and with a bunch of emo dialogue.

The end.

 

 

Advertisements

About MishaBurnett

I am the author of "Catskinner's Book", a science fiction novel available on Amazon Kindle. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008MPNBNS
This entry was posted in Artists That I Admire, On Writing and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to My problems with “The Last Jedi”

  1. One thing that really annoyed me about the movie was the scale. In the prequels, each side of the battle had thousands of ships. In the original series, each side had hundreds. Now you’ve got the official Resistance movement for the Republic, which should hypothetically have most of the planets in the galaxy to draw resources, ships, weapons, crews, etc. from. Versus them are the remnants of the Empire, which also hypothetically have a decent number of planets and resources to draw from, since it was established in Episode 7 that they’ve got a Nazi-like regime over at least a portion of the galaxy.

    And yet the Resistance fleet is about 20 ships, half of which are destroyed in Poe’s ridiculous Dreadnought attack. And the First Order apparently has three ships, all of which are necessary to chase a single Resistance cruiser, despite the fact that the cruiser is on the run and presents no threat. The Resistance cruiser might be out of fuel, but you’re not — jump two of your ships ahead of them and pincer them! Or, if that’s not possible, just keep a single ship on the chase, since that’s literally all you need — and it’s probably even overkill at that point, considering how much bigger and badder your ship is than theirs.

    Poor battle tactics aside, that doesn’t answer the question of why no one seems to have any spaceships. Did all the mines in the galaxy run out of metal? Or does the First Order actually have a reasonable number of ships, and the Resistance is tiny because the First Order’s been systematically destroying them? But in that case, why did they send their flagship containing their supreme leader to hunt down a tiny Resistance cruiser, when it’s possible (as we saw) for even the smallest of ships to jump to hyperspace and tear through a massive battle cruiser? That seems like an entirely unnecessary risk. But then, from how easily Kylo Ren trick Snoke and killed him, perhaps Snoke just isn’t very bright.

    • MishaBurnett says:

      Good point. With the other films there was a distinct impression that there was a war going on that spanned the galaxy, even if it was a guerrilla war. In this one there was not that sense of scale. It could be that these few ships represented the last of the both the rebellion and the empire. There are references to both other imperial forces and the rebellions allies, but no feeling for how this particular conflict fit into the bigger picture.

  2. Lisa J Celedon says:

    <>

    The sub plot to which you refer is an internal reference to Return of the Jedi, with the rebels pairing with the relatively primitive ewoks using the resources available to them to wreak havoc on the industrial, technologically advanced Imperial forces. Imperialism here, in TLJ, has been further exposed, pulled from the shadows ROTJ kept them in.

    That sub-plot is about the minority–the unentitled, the unmonied, the disadvantaged–tearing apart the towers constructed by the entitled, monied, advantaged (whose gains were made by exploiting the resources and labor of the unentitled) class, by similar means. The battle on the moon of Endor was meant intentionally to pit rebels with animals and nature against technology– the animals finn and rose ride through the casino are an echo back to that tradition. The purpose of the echoing is expansion–a refinement, reverberation, clarification, magnification–of ideas.

    It also echoes back to phantom menace, the slave children, with similar thematic elements described above. “The meek shall inherit the earth.”
    Finn and Rose are also made privvy to the ethically dubious issue of the arms dealing on both sides.

    I agree that Rose was brilliant– as is the name choice. Review the scene where Finn is attempting suicide. He looks into the light and sees a mandala-like image (a rose)– More Jung for you. 🙂 Jung talks about the psychology of Individuation, which makes humans unlikely to fall prey to dictators and extreme, toxic authoritarianism (represented by the empire). Finn and Rose’s scene there is also brilliant, and lays the soul of the whole story open, and Rose might be the first character to really understand the nature of the empire/rebellion conflict and voice it. It is inherently problematic to impose military structure on the rebellion, which brings me back to your first point.

    I won’t write more, I don’t have time at the moment, I’m typing with an increasingly fussy infant in one hand. 😉 I do appreciate your criticism, it’s providing a good whetstone to hone some of my ideas on, which are in need of focus and refinement. Thank you for sharing your analysis.

    I honestly think that if Disney understood what they were talking about, they’d be making different movies.

    • Lisa J Celedon says:

      If you can make edits to comments you might kindly change “feed” to “need” — or it can just stay. A reminder of the perils of typing and commenting while not fully focused. 😉

    • MishaBurnett says:

      Discussing the symbolism of the imagery in no way addresses the problems that I point out in this review. Allegories are difficult to write precisely because they have to function on multiple levels simultaneously. Whether or not it worked on an archetypical level (and I personally think it doesn’t) it very clearly doesn’t work on a narrative level.

  3. Lisa J Celedon says:

    The thing that did *really* bug me was the omnipotent bb8. Viewed metaphorically as a symbol of human ingenuity, I can tolerate it more softly, but it still bugs me a bit. Not sure I like it or have it sorted out symbolically yet. Or maybe I could revisit my relationship with human ingenuity.

  4. Alan Loewen says:

    I have to say what marred the film for me was the point the filmmaker was trying to make was that all white men are evil or, at most, incompetent. Even Luke Skywalker lived in shame and fear. And according to the plot line, all Poe did was get in the way of the women.

    And then there is Rey “We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Teachers” who doesn’t need the hand waving of midiclorians in her system or the Skywalker genes who can wield a light saber and the Force with no training whatsoever. In fact, she’s just a kid whose drunken parents sold her off for more beer, but in this new Star Wars universe, *everybody* gets a trophy and we can all become Jedi just because deep down inside we’re all special regardless of our parents (and those blasted white males).

    And, sorry, but the storyline between Finn and Rose did nothing for me. Finn was ready to sacrifice his life for the Resistance and he would have taken out the cannon, but Rose stopped him with some lame excuse like “We can’t win wars by killing what we hate, but by preserving what we love,” or some such feel-good nonsense. The result is that the Resistance at the end of the movie is down to … what? Maybe a dozen people? All because of Rose (with help from the incompetence of the blue-haired general).

    By the bye, I know we are watching fantasy, but in space, when a ship runs out of fuel, it doesn’t slow down so the First Order ships can blow it up. In space, a ship in motion stays in motion unless it is acted on by an external gravity well. They could technically have coasted forever. But what really burned me was the blue-haired general could have evacuated the two smaller ships to the main transport, but no… let them run out of fuel so they inexplicably slow down in space so they and all the people on board can get blown up. At that point, it was all I could do to not scream at the screen.

    I did like the crystal foxes though. They were awesome.

    Thank you for letting me vent, even if you don’t agree with me. I believe The Last Jedi was a steaming pile, but there are so many fans who see it as a new gospel, to share my true feelings in my regular venues is self-defeating.

    • I caught that problem with the Resistance ship and its fuel issues as well. I think the concept is that once the Resistance ship runs out of fuel, it doesn’t necessarily stop in mid-space. Rather, it stops accelerating, which means the First Order ship, which still has fuel and is therefore still accelerating, would catch up to it, therefore blow it up. But they definitely didn’t say any of that in the movie — intentionally dumbing it down for audiences, or because they don’t know how space works? I’m guessing the former.

  5. Pingback: You Won’t Understand A Word That’s In It But You’ll Write It All Again Before You Die | mishaburnett

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 )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ 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 )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.