Fixing Star Wars: The Last Jedi
It’s what we, the fans, deserve
Star Wars: The Last Jedi has the lowest Rotten Tomatoes audience score of any Star Wars film, included the much-hated prequels, and had a very disappointing box office return. Critics have praised it to high heaven, but that hasn’t stopped Star Wars fans from hating it. And no, it’s not because it’s so “clever” and “subversive” that we wouldn’t understand it, it’s because it sucks. Rian Johnson wrote a sprawling, disorganized mess of a script that cared more about being “subversive” than about writing a good story.
One of the most popular things to say to angry fans is “Well do you think you could have done better?” Well as an angry fan I’m here to say yes, I do think I could do better. Here’s how I would fix the mess that is TLJ. Let’s start with this guy:
Finn’s subplot is the worst part of TLJ. It’s boring, pointless, and ultimately accomplishes nothing. Worst of all, Rian Johnson completely missed the untapped potential that Finn’s backstory offered him. After TFA, Finn is an ex-stormtrooper who has defected from the First Order, but he still has no real reason to be allied with the Resistance yet. Which makes sense because the First Order’s soldiers are Storm Troopers just like him. They probably come from a similar place he does, captured as children and forced into a life of servitude as cannon fodder for the First Order. It would be pretty understandable if Finn were reluctant to kill them.
RJ said he wanted to explore moral ambiguity in TLJ. Rather than some lame justification of how the First Order and the Resistance are both evil because they buy from the same arms dealer or how Kylo Ren is a helpless woobie who never had a choice, why not focus on one of the biggest overlooked injustices in the Star Wars universe? We learned in TFA that Finn was kidnapped as a child and forced into serving the First Order, so we can pretty much assume the same is true of the other Storm Troopers. Essentially, they are not given a chance in life. Of course, Finn escaped, but most wouldn’t be so lucky.
If anything, Finn’s main conflict in TLJ should have been “How can I fight my former comrades?” We know he wants to do the right thing, but this would present him with a scenario where he has to wonder what the right thing is. Not only would this deepen Finn as a character, but it would show that the Resistance doesn’t necessarily have clean hands because the people they kill are also victims of the FO.
In addition, this could give him a better storyline with Rose, as it could have lead to her and Finn infiltrating Finn’s former Storm Trooper squadron, which could have also set up Finn’s showdown with Phasma (who should have been in the film a lot more! Seriously, what a waste of Gwendolyne Christie.)
Speaking of Rose, her character was horribly misused as well.
Rose is actually barely a character. In fact, she’s more like a plot device to further Finn’s already pointless arc. We are told, briefly, that her sister Paige sacrificed herself for the Resistance and apparently Rian Johnson thinks that’s enough to make us feel for her. Too bad we never get any scenes of Rose and her sister interacting. Seriously, even one scene of sisterly interaction would give us reason enough to care about these characters and about Paige’s death. Also, it would have made Rose a real character instead of just a manic pixie dream fangirl used to prop up Finn’s arc. In addition, it would have helped TLJ pass the Bechdel Test (seriously, for the “most feminist” SW movie there is surprisingly little of women talking to each other.) And she shouldn’t have stunned Finn either. That scene shows how little RJ thinks of Finn and is a terrible example of a “meet cute.”
Now onto fixing the arc of the next horribly wronged character.
Poe Dameron’s TLJ arc involves him learning the importance of leadership… from a terrible leader.
If the point of Poe’s arc is to have him learn to listen to his superiors, why write Holdo to be such a terrible leader? Leia has the same problem in RJ’s characterization of her. We see her slapping Poe in the face and later using a taser on him. That is essentially abuse and it paints Leia in a pretty bad light as a leader as well. It’s shame that this clusterfuck ended up being Carrie Fisher’s last movie.
But that’s not even the biggest problem with the way RJ wrote Poe’s arc. You see, Poe keeps getting put in his place by women. No doubt this was supposed to come across as some sort of empowering feminist message. However, there’s a pretty big underlying problem here: Poe is a man of color who keeps getting put down by white women.
There is a term Rian Johnson needs to learn: White Feminism. Basically this is non-intersectional feminism that only focuses on issues of sexism and ignores other issues of oppression like racism. The two male leads of the sequel trilogy are black and Latino, and TFA set them up as complex characters with great potential. In TLJ, we see them reduced to incompetent buffoonish manchildren. Not only is this a complete reversal of all of their previously established character traits, but it also reduces them to racial stereotypes. The hotheaded, impulsive man of color who needs to be reigned in by white superiors, often using physical violence, is a very damaging stereotype. So not only does this make Leia and Holdo out to be terrible leaders, but it justifies white characters using excessive force to subdue “uppity” characters of color. Bad move RJ.
Holdo could have been completely excised from the movie. She’s not a necessary character, she dies anyway, and she takes up screen time that would be better spent on more important characters. Leia should not have gone into a coma, and she should have been the one to sacrifice herself in the end, not Holdo. That would have been a heroic death for her and a fitting ending to Fisher’s last movie.
Now onto our new Jedi, Rey.
Rey was pretty well established as a badass in TFA. She’s self-reliant, determined, impulsive, and a bit angry, but also full of wonder and curiousity. At the end of TFA, it is clear that she views Kylo Ren as a monster, and there’s no reason she should view him as anything else. After all, he has kidnapped and tortured her, killed her mentor, and put her best friend in a coma. Realistically, sympathy for Ren should be the last thing on Rey’s mind. And yet, Rian wants us to believe that she would hope he could be turned back to the light. Granted, the only reason she believes he can be turned is because of a force bond and visions created by Snoke (btw, who or what is Snoke, other than a plot device) but it doesn’t come naturally from her character.
Rey also had a mysterious past that was being slowly revealed through bits of her memory returning. Too bad RJ had to shit on all of that too. Sorry, but “Rey Nobody” isn’t a good twist, it’s bad writing. Every hint in TFA pointed to her having a deep and meaningful connection to the Skywalker/Solo family. Dismissing all of that for a cheap “gotcha” twist is just lazy and bad writing. It’s a twist simply for the sake of having a twist. In The Empire Strikes Back, the reveal that Darth Vader is Luke’s father completely changes the trajectory of the story. Rey’s parents being nobodies doesn’t do that. Her motivations and goals are still the same. TLJ gives Rey no character development whatsoever.
I’m not saying that Rey should have necessarily been Luke’s daughter, but she should have been connected to him somehow. Perhaps she was one of his Padawans, or she was the daughter of one of his Padawans. Her relocation to Jakku could be explained by Kylo’s murderous rampage and her guardians, whoever they were, wanting to keep her safe. It would also help explain the map in TFA, if Luke always intended for his Padawans to find him again.
And speaking of Luke…
Did Rian Johnson even watch the Original Star Wars Trilogy? Particularly, did he watch the scene in Return of the Jedi where Luke says “I won’t fight you Father. I know there’s still good in you.” Something tells me RJ has never watched a Star Wars film in his life, considering how he wrote Luke in TLJ.
LUKE. SKYWALKER. WOULD. NEVER. TRY. TO. KILL. HIS. NEPHEW.
If anything, Luke should be the one desperate to turn his nephew back to the light while Rey is arguing that it’s hopeless to try to turn him and they should just kill him. That would make much more sense in regards to their respective characters.
Rian, you can’t just butcher a beloved and iconic character in an attempt to create sympathy for a whiny emo fascist. Luke and Rey’s characterizations are both so OOC in this film that it’s almost hard to recognize them. If anything, Luke should be the one desperate to turn his nephew back to the light while Rey is arguing that it’s hopeless to try to turn him and they should just kill him. That would make much more sense in regards to their respective characters.
As it is in TLJ, Rey has no real arc. She goes from thinking that Kylo Ren is a monster, to thinking there’s a chance he could be redeemed, then back to thinking he’s a monster. The only reason she ever believed Kylo could be redeemed was because of a force bond created by Snoke, not anything that came organically from her character. There was a much better way to write both Rey and Luke’s arcs.
Have Rey wanting Luke to train her as a Jedi because she wants to seek revenge on Kylo. Luke at first refuses to train her because he fears that her anger will lead her to the Dark Side and because he believes he can turn Kylo back to the light. Yoda appears to Luke and convices him to begin training her. Luke reluctantly agrees, but focuses on teaching her to control her anger. Luke goes to Kylo and tries to turn him to the light, but Kylo refuses to turn. Then Rey fights him and it comes to a stand off.
Ultimately, Rey’s arc should have been learning self-control in order to properly use the Force and Luke’s arc should have been accepting that he can’t save everyone, that Kylo’s choices are his own, and that he shouldn’t blame himself.