a.k.a. The Resistance is Futile
All right, let’s get this out of the way now – this will contain spoilers, so if you want to go into the movie with a fresh perspective, then stop reading right now! However, if you don’t mind knowing some of the things (some important, some not) that happen in The Last Jedi, then by all means, continue on!
So, first thing’s first. How did my predictions in my last blog match up against what really happened?
The death of Princess Leia/General Organa – Sort of close
Rey becoming disillusioned with Luke – Yes
Rey turning to the Dark Side of the Force – Not quite*
Kylo and Rey joining forces to take on Snoke – Sort of close
Luke is not Rey’s father – Yes (maybe)
Surprise twist that Snoke is Rey’s father – Nope
Changes in how we perceive the Force – Not really
Luke is killed off in the movie – Absolutely
*While Rey doesn’t turn to the Dark Side and join with Kylo, she does fall to temptation in an attempt to see the fate of her parents, not unlike Luke failing his test of the Dark Side Tree in The Empire Strikes Back.
So, in the end, I think my predictions came fairly close to some of the major themes that occurred during the movie, which makes me more surprised than anything. But there is a lot to discuss and explain on why TLJ might just go down as the weakest of all eight (nine if you include Rogue One) of the current Star Wars movies to date. I’m still struggling over my feelings about the movie and as much as I don’t want to say “disappointed” I struggle to find another word to match my first impression of the next segment of the Star Wars saga. I really wanted to like this movie as much as I did the latest two Disney productions. I was hoping for at the very least a great experience. However, I think the fears I had mentioned in a blog post prior to the release of The Force Awakens came to be realized in this outing.
If people thought that The Force Awakens was derivative of A New Hope, then one can most certainly see that The Last Jedi is derivative of The Empire Strikes Back, not that it’s a bad thing, but unlike Episode 5, which is considered the best in the saga, Episode 8 falls far short of that distinction and does almost nothing to advance the franchise in any meaningful way. We have the Resistance being discovered and evacuating their base; we have a new Force user going to a remote planet to train under an aging Master; we have a Great Space Chase; we have a land battle that is highly reminiscent of the Hoth Battle; we have characters heading out on a side journey (a la the trip to Bespin); and a betrayal that costs them dearly.
Unfortunately, there the comparisons can stop. What we end up with in The Last Jedi is nothing more than a generic Sci-Fi action flick, rife with plot holes galore and one that practically thumbs its nose at the pre-established lore that made Star Wars the popular franchise it is today. No movie is perfect, and I am sure that we can find plot holes of all sorts in any movie we pick. For the most part, these can be glossed over or are barely noticed during the course of a film. I must admit, that I hardly take note of any in most of the movies I have seen, and it’s not until it is pointed out in a review or someone else mentioning it that I even know there was a plot hole to begin with. With Episode 8, however, some of the plot holes were so big and bad, that for the first time in my experience, I felt like I was slapped in the face right there in the movie theater when they happened. The real tragedy is that the first one occurs right in the beginning of the film and essentially is the catalyst for every single other one to occur. In fact the very premise of the entire story of the movie only occurs because the very first plot hole. If it wasn’t for that, there would be no movie. But that’s not the only thing that jarred me out of the experience during the show.
Star Wars movies have always contained a bit of humor spread throughout the action. For the most part, the humor fit right in with the scene and worked brilliantly. Then along came Jar Jar and the Slapstick follies of Episode 1. Fortunately, George learned his lesson after that, and Jar Jar’s screen time was noticeably reduced in the two follow ups. The humor in Episode 7 got back to the roots of the original trilogy. However, some of the humor in this movie felt far too juvenile. The extended joke in the opening scene started off well enough, and fit in perfectly with the established characterization of Poe Dameron, but then it devolved from there, and afterwards I was waiting for a token fart joke or two to make an appearance in the movie.
The next head shaking moment comes at the end of the battle as the Resistance makes its escape. Moments before, we saw the outcome of the scene in the trailer where Kylo Ren is about to fire upon the command vessel, killing his mother, Leia. He relents and cannot pull the trigger (a great moment in the movie), but immediately afterwards, two First Order fighters fire upon the bridge, killing everyone, ejecting them out into space, including Admiral Ackbar (wasted potential there to give the character a larger screen presence in the movie – thumbing that nose) and Leia Organa.
Here I thought my prediction had come to pass and that indeed this was how they were going to kill Leia off. A fitting and noble end for the Princess turned General. On the one hand, they probably should have finished her off her as Leia have very little to do in the rest of the movie aside from a tender moment with Luke at the end, but from the standpoint that this is Carrie’s last movie, as a fan I liked that she was still there. But, I think death would have been the more noble move, especially when we get to see how she is “rescued.”
When I got home, I had a Mythbuster moment and had to look up how long a human can survive in the vacuum of space and much to my surprise learned that it was indeed plausible for her to have survived for the amount of time she did. However, she quite wouldn’t look as good as she did in the movie, but we can chalk that up to a necessary and typical Hollywood trope. Consciousness, however, would only have lasted a few seconds, so the fact that she used the Force to return to the ship would receive a solid “Busted” in this case. At the end of the day, the scene just took on an air of cheesiness I was wondering if I had suddenly been thrust into the B-movie or bad fanfic dimension. It just looked bad.
Aside from the too long joke scene, and the “I’m not dead yet” scene, the opening action of the film was spot on and set my hopes up high for the rest of the movie. Unfortunately, it was also the first plot hole slap that broke me from my emersion. Now, I’ve never been in the military, and I can’t say I’m a great student on how disobeying orders on the battlefield might be handled, but it seems to me that when an officer on the field ignores a superior’s command and as a result gets most of his squad killed for little to no tactical advantage, as well as puts the entire army, including the high command, in serious jeopardy for doing so, one would receive something more than a demotion and a slap on the wrist.
Poe should have been locked in the brig and a court martial convened for his actions. What transpires after this battle pretty much sets up the premise (that other things in the movie continue to compound) that the Resistance leadership has no idea what they are doing from a military/tactical standpoint. There is apparently much ado about the bulk of this movie being focused the women in command of the Resistance. I didn’t have a problem with that at all. It just continues what was established in the original trilogy. However, where the movie goes wrong (aside from having mostly humans in command and relegating just about every alien to cameo appearances), is just how much in your face it became. At one point, I ended up counting every single female character that appeared on screen. By then it just felt like to me that Disney was trying to say “Hey, look – there’s women in Hollywood. Look how many women we have in our movie.” At the end of the day, it defeated the purpose. Coupled with the stupid decisions made by those in command throughout the movie, and the complete waste of Phasma (the first female antagonist in the movies, and one with excellent potential at that) any point that the production was trying to make was significantly weakened by the poor delivery.
So the next major plot hole to pull me out of the experience was Finn and Rose heading off to Canto Bight to find the code-cracker in order to help rescue the Resistance from the Great Space Chase. Ultimately, a side trip that turned out to be completely unnecessary (and only occurred because of the first plot hole) except for the fact that the writers wanted to include commentary about war profiteering. Another message lost on poor delivery. But anyway, there are our heroes, on the run from the law, because well, stupid decisions seem to be the norm for the Resistance in this movie, and as luck would have it, they are jailed with someone claiming to be able to crack First Order codes. Now, never mind the fact that they were there to find a bonafide code cracker (who they did locate before being arrested), who was highly recommended by Maz (in a very brief cameo) as the only one who would be able to help them save the Resistance. So what do our heroes do? Take the jailbird with them solely on his word and that he was able to unlock the doors of some backwater jail. Let that sink in for a moment, cause I was still trying to figure that one out until the end of the movie (or one of the ends, I should say), when it finally made sense. It was simply because the filmmakers needed some dramatic tension during the ending battle.
Now this little side trip was set up because the character of Laura Dern (Vice Admiral Amilyn Holdo), who takes command after Leia is incapacitated, continues theme that the Resistance is militarily incompetent. Essentially, during the length of the Great Space Chase, the surviving Resistance command decided they would head for an old Rebel base to make a last stand. However, they decided to tell no one else of this plan despite the fact that Resistance ships were being picked off one by one as they ran out of fuel (Apparently there is no inertia in this part of space). So of course, the rebellious fighter pilot, who got most of the Resistance pilots and bomb squad killed, but was still walking around free as a bird decided to come up with a plan of his own (go find the code cracker) and lead a mutiny aboard the command ship. Again not having a military background, I can’t say for certain the effect that this would have had on the morale of the troops, but I would think this bit of information is something that might have been a good idea to share with the troops so everyone sees that the leadership is in firm control, has a viable plan, and no one need to despair.
There was absolutely no good reason to keep secret the plan to head to the old rebel base, except of course it is required for the side story, and the rest of the plot holes in the movie. It’s funny that I saw the movie at the time I did, because the conversation between Poe and Holdo about the plan after his failed mutiny reminded me greatly of conversations about having faith in both Miracle on 34th Street and Elf. Again, just another jarring moment that takes me out of the immersion of the movie. Having faith in regards to Santa Claus is a good thing. It’s sheer idiocy when lives are on the line in a war.
But wait, there’s still more regarding the Vice Admiral that just gets better! Thanks to the writers of this film, we know have been graced with the “Holdo Maneuver.” That’s right folks, space battle will never be the same again when one can simply take a starship, point it at the enemy, and just enter Hyperspace to wipe out everything in front of it. Now we see where the Rebellion went so wrong, not once but twice, when it came to fighting both Death Stars in the original trilogy. Simply point a large enough ship, set it into Hyperspace, and there would have been no need for those dire space battles to begin with. How many lives could have been saved had the Rebellion done that?
What’s that you say? Holdo was the first to come up with the idea? Sorry, but that’s highly unlikely given that Hyperspace travel has been around for several millennia at this point in the lore. Plus, what was with all the sudden realization on the part of the First Order and Resistance when Holdo turned the ship towards the First Order Fleet. It seems to me, that everyone knew what she was about to do, which then would have to say that this is something was that either done or seriously planned in previous military encounters. No doubt about it, it made for a great scene on screen, but the whole concept is ludicrous taken what is established about Hyperspace travel, and all those previously mentioned space battles we have enjoyed in the previous movies.
There’s also been a lot of talk about the length of the movie, and funnily enough, towards the end, I got the Return of the King feeling of the movie having a few too many endings. This is the first time I was waiting to the end of the movie to arrive, and was disappointed that we had yet another scene to get through. It just went on and on and on. What made it worse was that by this point we had been subjected to such bad scenes, including that plot hole of a betrayal scene where Benecio’s character suddenly knows what the secret plan of the Resistance had been with no possible way to know it. But of course, we needed that dramatic tension to set up the derivative of the throne room scene in Return of the Jedi where all looked hopeless and Luke was about to turn to the Dark Side of the Force, where in this case it was Rey in Snoke’s throne room.
And here, let me take another side track. I have read where Billy Dee Williams would love to return to reprise his role as Lando Calrissian (as would many Star Wars fans). At one point, the writers were going to make Benecio’s character Lando, but wisely chose not to. However, the perfect opportunity for Lando to return would have been to make him the expert code breaker that Finn and Rose were looking for. Another lost opportunity to bring back another character and tie this trilogy into the original. At the end of the day, the whole betrayal scene was completely unnecessary and the story would have been better served with the heroes bringing Lando back to save the Resistance, only to get caught anyway as they did.
In the end, this movie could have been better served by being a generic sci-fi space action movie, which is a shame. There were very many good parts of this movie – the scenes with Snoke, Rey, and Kylo were superb, as was Rey’s time on Luke’s island hide-away. I know Mark Hamill wasn’t happy with the characterization of Luke in this movie, and I did have some similar issues, but those were minor and I thought it was a pretty good job that was completely overshadowed by the sheer terribleness of much of the rest of the writing in the movie. Taken on its own this would have made for an entertaining Sci-Fi action flick where the plot holes wouldn’t have had as much of an impact. However, these movies simply cannot be taken on their own. They are part of a saga with a past and an in-depth lore (and it’s that lore that makes it great, like many others – Star Trek, Tolkien, etc.) I guess at the end of the day, I do have to say I was disappointed with this movie, despite those very good parts. The writers were just not up to the task of encompassing and honoring all that rich story and lore that came before it, and they should have admitted to themselves that they were not up to the task and passed that job on to someone who could have done a much better job at it. Instead, The Last Jedi just becomes a weak point in the Star Wars saga that ultimately shows little to no respect for the reasons why Star Wars became and is Star Wars, and loved by millions across the world.