My Problems with The Last Jedi

December 30, 2017 — 3 Comments

I don’t claim to be a Star Wars super-fan (I googled a bunch of names in the movie to write this post). I liked movies 4-6. They are good stories that introduce us to a creative universe and throw in some humor.

The Force Awakens was a home run, but I was disappointed by the The Last Jedi. It had its bright moments, and it wasn’t the worst Star Wars that has been made, but it is closer to the bottom of the pile than the top. I would give it a three out of five stars. What has surprised me is the varying opinions of this movie. Some loved it, others hated it. I can’t quite place my finger on why this is, so here is my explanation of my general disappointment.

It basically comes down to bad storytelling. Tell a good story and I can get past some of the bad scenes. Tell a bad story and the bad scenes become painful to watch.

It is not just super-fans who are let down, but regular movie-goers who are merely looking for some continuity within a series.

The Relationship to The Force Awakens

One huge problem was immediately apparent. Johnson didn’t care what happened in TFA. Usually the scroll screen at the beginning tells you what has happened when you were not watching Star Wars. But there is no time between TFA and TLJ. TLJ picks up where TFA left off. And if you remember, in TFA the resistance destroyed the First Orders’ biggest weapon. They should be scrambling at this point. But now the First Order is back in power again. What? It is almost as if Johnson forgot how TFA ended.

And this brings up a larger point. TLJ at almost every point took what was set up by the TFA and did something different. Now that is their prerogative, but this is a series and it teaches viewers to not care about the development in TFA. To me it says, don’t pay attention to our plot or character development, because we might scrap it in a flip of a switch.

The TFA made us think that Rey came from some important family and TLJ just quickly said, “Nope.” Again, it is not wrong to do this, but why the set up in TFA?

Add to this that they never explained who Snoke was, where he came from, and then they just killed him off. Again, TFA made me intrigued about who this figure was. TLJ said, “Let’s just cut him in two and move on.”

Plot Holes and Pointless Scenes

At the end of the day, movie had too many plot holes and pointless scenes. Here are a few of them.

– Fin just wakes up from his coma. So does Leia. So will Rose I assume. So space comas don’t matter at all is what they are telling me. Kill someone off for goodness sake. These near death experiences are killing me.

– They dropped bombs in space (enough said).

– The whole Canto Bight scene was worthless in terms of plot development. It felt off from the beginning. They had a few hours to get to a planet, find a person they didn’t know, and then break into the First Order. Fin was not developed at all in these scenes and the plot line fizzled into nothing.

– They find the robber for one second and then find another in jail? What? Why is the best hacker in jail? Why did Maz tell them there is only ONE PERSON who can do this and then they find another? And if this robber/cloaker is so good, why not employ them?

– They tried to throw in this Rose/Fin love angle right at the end. So now we have a love square going on? Rey, Ren, Fin, Rose. I am more confused than excited to see what happens next.

– Speaking of plot development, there were essentially two plot lines. One with the relationship between Rey and Kylo Ren (good) and the second with the Resistance fleet fleeing the First Order (bad). I heard the Resistance storyline compared to the OJ White Bronco chase scene. Nothing happens…for hours. It is like a space chase in slow motion.

– Oh and side note: why didn’t they just put a robot on the ship and crash it into the First Order rather than one of their top commanders?

– Rey dropping down into the dark hole in Ireland was pointless. She went down there and saw herself and snapped a few times. Maybe the point was to show that she didn’t have a famous family past but it seemed an odd way to show it. That scene should have been huge as she struggled with the dark side, but it was just weird.

– The Porgs. The Ewoks worked before because we came to love them and they ended up being a big part of the final battle. The porgs felt thrown in just to have a silly creature in there. That is not the way to make a movie. Make every scene count.

– Why did Luke pole vault?

Trying Too Hard

The movie also tried too hard. It had one really good ending scene, but then added about five more to try to wrap too many plot lines together. But this isn’t the last movie!

I would have rather had them leave a few strings hanging like TFA did at the end with Luke, Rey, Fin, and even Kylo Ren. That was a good ending that made me really want come back for TLJ. TFA realized they could keep people on the edge of their seats. I walked out of TLJ not so interested in what was going to happen next. I just kept thinking they had about 10 chance to kill Leia and didn’t do it.

The good final scene that I am speaking about in TLJ was with Rey, Kylo Ren, and Snoke. That felt like the best of Star Wars to me and clearly a throw back to the Luke, Vader, and Emperor scene. I was at the edge of my seat during this scene because the most interesting plot line of the whole movie was coming to a climax.

But they also messed up this scene with Ren then flipping again immediately after he killed Snoke. At one minute Rey and Kylo Ren are fighting side by side and then the next they are battling for the light saber. What was that? Talk about a roller coaster. I understand they were trying to get across the divided nature of Ren, but the power of the Vader flip was that no one saw it coming. Now I don’t think they have to do exactly the same thing with Ren as Vader, but the flip in two minutes didn’t work.

They tried to have four epic endings, but they focused on the epic rather than the ending. Rey and Ren face off, Luke and Ren face off, the Empire and the Resistance face off, and Fin and Chromehead face off. Talk about overkill. I realize they needed to bring some of these to a conclusion but IT WAS NOT THE LAST MOVIE. Leave something to be desired.

Conclusion

It might sound like I thought The Last Jedi was all bad. It wasn’t. Here are a few of the things I liked.

– The storyline between Rey and Ren was well done. I liked the slowness of the relationship between Rey and Luke as well. That whole plot line was good.

– Even though I didn’t like White Bronco space chase plotline, I liked Poe a lot (Oscar Isaac). He is always a good actor. The best of the bunch in my opinion.

– Though I thought Ren flipped and flopped too much, I actually think he plays his part well.

 

If you enjoyed the move I don’t have anything against that. The point here is that it is not just Star Wars super-fans who had issues; the plot had issues. I was just hoping to see a good storyline continue. Unfortunately, I was let down and am not as interested in the next movie. Sure, I will still see it, but it this even fixable now?

Either Abrams goes back to TFA in Episode IX and this movie sticks out like a sore thumb, or they keep up with TLJ and TFA looks out of place. I think they put themselves in a hard place.

Maybe someone will tell me why all the scenes I described so negatively actually worked and continued the storytelling of the Star Wars saga.

 

 

Patrick Schreiner

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I teach New Testament at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. I am married with three children. This blog, against all wisdom, includes anything I am interested in. That includes movies, music, theology, culture, hermeneutics, the Gospels, and politics. Feel free to comment and let me know you are reading or that you have found something helpful. I reserve the right to delete unhelpful or rude comments. Many of these posts are simply things I find interesting and therefore I am not asserting I agree with everything I link to.

3 responses to My Problems with The Last Jedi

  1. I’ll be that guy 😉

    I think the intriguing question you touched on is, why is this movie so polarizing for Star Wars fans? There is genuine love and genuine hate for The Last Jedi, all from fans of the franchise. My take is that it has to do with the fact that TFA set up a lot of questions (which we mulled over for two years), and TLJ answered a lot of those questions… in interesting, risky, or annoying ways, depending on your taste. Also the internet is what it is. A lot of OT fans are making mock rants about the OT to show what people would sound like if the internet was around in 1980. I have to say, I think we are being too critical.

    I don’t agree that Rian Johnson doesn’t care about what happened in TLJ, though I agree it can easily be interpreted that way based on exactly what you said. In reality though, JJ Abrams did what he does best with TFA and set up his typical “mystery box”. Then, Abrams and Johnson met to discuss the possibilities of where the next movie could go, but Abrams main role was to set up the scenarios without fulfilling them. Johnson then took the story and had free reign to fulfill them how he wanted. I agree with you, that he may have wrapped up too much, without leaving an intriguing cliffhanger. But Johnson loved the characters in TFA, and without any influence from fans (the script for TLJ was done before TFA was released) Johnson did his best to challenge the characters he now loved.

    I think some of the disappointment in the discontinuity between TFA and TLJ is self-imposed. I don’t agree that the movie made you care about Rey’s family or Snokes background. I think fans do that to themselves. I think TFA set up interesting characters, but we as fans wanted there to be some big family connection for Rey (since Luke and Leia did) and Snoke to have some storied history (like the Emperor did from the prequel trilogy). But take TFA for face value and the outcomes in TLJ are not that surprising. In TFA, Maz told Rey, her family is not coming back. Now we know why. She was always a nobody from nowhere, just as she feared. In TFA and TLJ, we are told just as much about Snoke as we were the Emperor… nothing, and then they died. The story was about Vader and Luke. I think this new story is about Kylo and Rey. So I think Snoke was used to serve that story and nothing else.

    As for plot holes, they certainly exist, as they do in every movie. I’m not going to go over it point by point… no wait, just kidding, of course I am!

    Waking up from comas and serious injury in Star Wars is kind of a movie trope that is useful for writers but annoying to viewers like yourself. I get that. But it’s not out of place for Star Wars and movies in general. Luke survived quite a bit in the OT in the same ways (Wampa attack, hand chopped off then falling a million feet to safety, etc.)

    Dropping bombs in space is just as weird as there being sound in space. But at least with the dropping bombs, you could argue the bombs were launched, not dropped.

    The Canto Bight sequence is the most criticized across the board, and I don’t blame everyone. I see what they were going for but it wasn’t executed well. Finn was supposed to be challenged in committing to the Resistance, with DJ (the thief/codebreaker) being the devil on his shoulder. But it didn’t come across clearly. The scene also set up the Broom Kid ending. But I think we were all distracted by the heavy handed PETA message.

    I agree that the way Maz was used, and leading them to the ONE PERSON, only to find a another… was wonky.

    I also agree that the Rose and Finn kiss at the end was strange. For now, I’m interpreting it as more of a fan girl love (like she showed when they first met) rather than a romantic love. But I certainly don’t know where they are taking the romance angle with these movies. Is there more to Rey and Finn? Was there anything between Kylo and Rey? And don’t forget that smile between Rey and Poe at the end… Honestly I’m not feeling the chemistry between any of them!

    The slow space chase didn’t work for me either. I don’t think the modern audience can accept it. But the space chases in the OT were just as silly. They should have just tractor beamed the Millennium Falcon in like every movie.

    A lot of people are wondering about droid piloting for the kamikaze move, not just in TLJ, but now in all the movies. I think we have to accept that plot determines how capable a droid is, how tricky hyperspace jumps are, or how effective such a move would be given ship to ship size ratio.

    The dark hole/mirror scene was intentionally set up to echo the Dark Side tree scene from Empire Strikes Back, without doing the exact same thing. It was as weird as it was in ESB, so in that sense, it worked for me.

    I like Porgs but hate Ewoks. I can’t blame anyone for feeling the opposite.

    I don’t know why Luke pole vaulted, but I read that it was a practical stunt on location. Impressive if you ask me.

    I don’t see Kylo flipping and flopping as much as you see. As far as I know, he had zero conflict within him ever since killing his father. Any conflict that Rey saw in him was a false projection from Snoke, as he said. Fighting side by side with Rey was self serving. He continued to hope Rey will use her power for dominance under his leadership, but the movie showed Kylo and Ren will be going their separate ways. Unless of course Abrams takes the next movie and throws it all out. But that rant is for 2019.

  2. I made a lot of different assumptions about some of this which made me enjoy the movie way more (but I may be let down, as I am reading between a lot of lines). I also went into this one with lower expectations because I really didn’t enjoy TFA all that much. I felt like it was a character background movie with a lot of scenes that were like “we reproduced a scene from the old Star Wars movies for you guys, since we know you liked it!”. A good way to start a series, but not really enjoyable for any reason unless you like the nostalgia scenes until you can watch the rest of the series. Now that I’ve seen TLJ I’d be interested to watch it again to see if I could get into the character development more.

    Here’s my take:
    – Space comas

    Fair point. It’s a bit silly how often people have to bounce back from critically wounded just because they want tension without lose.

    -They dropped bombs in space

    Nerd explanation: The artificial gravity in the ship was still active (see falling remote) so the bombs would have been accelerated by that until leaving the ship. From that point on, they would continue on that trajectory.

    Actual reason: Star Wars has always had space as a setting rather than a point. It was clearly intended to feel like the bombers as we know them. It’s the same reason pilots can hear explosions and other ships shooting.

    – Canto Bight and another thief

    I feel like they spent a lot of time developing the thief with the discussions he has with Finn to just be the throw away character he felt like he was in this movie. I’m wondering if we’ll see him return and have it explained that he was the person they were there to find, but how he had been caught while doing something for the rebellion(who had ditched him in prison rather than rescue him).

    It would explain his opinion that both sides are out for theirs, how they found “another guy” who could do it (because they really didn’t), and would provide another benefit (besides money) why he would strike a deal with the empire. The guy wearing the flower would have been someone who had taken the pin when he was captured, and effectively a misdirect for viewers.

    If I’m wrong than it is just disappointing. If I’m right it’s an intentional disappointment to set something else up.

    – Love square

    I’d say it’s actually a hexagon (or something) due to the exchange between Rey and Poe. However, I have a feeling they’re just working with the relationship between Rey and Finn being entirely platonic, and it’s actually just going to be the triangle between Rey, Poe, and Kylo.

    – Robot flying ship

    The bigger question is: if they had a ship that was capable of hyperspacing to death pretty much the entire enemy fleet, why wasn’t the first move to migrate people into the other two ships and hyperspacing one ship with (at most) one person into the fleet right away, providing far less drain to the systems of the other two ships with a dramatically reduced barrage?

    – Rey’s family

    Again, I’m reading between the lines and I’m assuming that Rey’s family IS significant, but that it was kept from us in this movie. The way (and at what point in time) Kylo tried to convince her that she was a nothing from nowhere without him makes me think he knows more about her past than she does, and had a good reason to keep it from her.

    – Snoke

    This part of the story makes a lot more sense to me, because of how I see Kylo. I believe he is conflicted. He tries hard to be the “bad guy” Snoke wants him to be (not surprising because of his past with Luke), up to being willing to kill his father. However, it seems like it’s all haunting him and he still sees it as being a bad guy (where a proper Sith would see morality as Jedi dogma and all of the things they do as simply prudent).

    I don’t know if Snoke was telling the truth about the connection being his doing. If it is, it still seemed to impact Kylo’s feelings for Rey, but I wonder if he was just inventing an explanation that served him in two ways. It both disheartened Rey and may keep Kylo from considering the significance of it.

    First, Kylo listens to Snoke say he’d be trading up to replace Kylo with Rey (another master who viewed him as expendable). He feels a connection to a woman with way more conviction who’s being tortured to death by this guy. It seemed like he honestly thought the good thing to do would be to save Rey and take over the First Order to run it for “the good of the galaxy” (like Anakin speaking of how a dictatorship would be fine “if it works”).

    He’s evil in that he’s carrying a lot of emotional baggage (like the crater he made out of Luke’s projection) and because he has an “ends justify the means” approach, but he’s not a typically “Good, let the hate flow through you” Sith Lord who enjoys evil for evil’s sake. Because of this, him killing Snoke makes a lot of sense to me, as does his absolute confusion of why Rey didn’t see it his way afterward and the ensuing tug of war over the saber.

    I would have loved to see Snoke be more fleshed out, but it seems like he was just a plot device to provide more to the Kylo story.

    • Afterthought: I wonder if the main reason some people enjoyed it much more than others depends upon if you take the film at face value. I expected nearly everything out of Snokes mouth (and everything from Kylo when he’s not feeling vulnerable) to be a lie because they’re Sith. So any plot explaination I got from them I basically only saw as manipulation. I also felt like there was a lot more depth to the thief they picked up in Canto Bight and the fact that, despite the effort to provide some character development, (if I remember) they never even give him a name. I think it may be because we don’t know nearly enough about that to really appreciate it.

      Then again. It may end up being like Lost, where I really enjoyed it compared to most people because I honestly saw all the loose ends as something to be masterfully stitched together in a mind-blowing way only to find out that nearly all of them were just left flopping in the breeze.

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