Three Mistakes in The Last Jedi [Spoilers]
The Last Jedi is fantastic. It’s a brilliant course correction for the franchise that ensures it a viable future that is less likely to become boring, repetitive, and stale. But it’s not perfect. Here are the three biggest mistakes Rian Johnson made with the story, “in my opinion.”
a) Canto Bight was awful. Thematically, the Canto Bight scenes are very important — perhaps some of the most important to realize the thematic tie of generational continuance and the re-sparking of rebellion. But in execution, it comes off as a completely unrelated side mission that unnecessarily distracts from the main Resistance plot. On top of that, it was all so contrived and ridiculous, with no dramatic tension. The fleet is already in this ridiculously undramatic race at sublight speed (which is only cinematically saved by Poe’s mutiny), but then Finn and Rose have enough time to run a whole side-mission to a different star system, including enough time to get locked up and break out of prison and trash a casino. Ok? I get the themes involved, and the war profiteers connection. But it could have been handled a lot better by streamlining the events and focusing a bit more — or expanding the scenes and making the movie another half-hour longer.
Then there’s Benicio del Toro. I love Benicio, he’s an amazing actor who has done an amazing job in some of my favorite films. But he’s completely wasted in this movie. His character only has a purpose if you need Finn and Rose to get captured by the First Order, which only needs to happen if you want to see Phasma and Finn fight to the death, which only needs to happen if you want to see BB-8 smoke some storm troopers from a chicken walker. Which, admittedly, was kind of awesome. But the whole thing is a waste of everyone’s talents and time. (And I won’t even mention how much this critic wanted to see Ezra del Toro.)
Then there’s the alien horse race. I mean… come on. What an incredibly bad sub-sub-plot. It didn’t help that the horses looked notably shoddy, as if they were added in at the last minute and ILM didn’t have time to actually make professional-grade CGI renders for them. Hell, those horses made Snoke’s CGI face look believable. Huge swing-and-a-miss.
b) Rey isn’t the daughter of nobodies from nowhere. Sorry, Rian Johnson, but this was a major mistake. Now, there are some who believe it’s an intentional fake out, and in the words of Larry Young, “Kylo Ren is the definition of an unreliable narrator.” But a lot more people are going with it as gospel, and for good reason. It’s not subtle, it’s not artistic, it’s just Rey looking into the camera and saying “my parents are nobody.” Umm, ok. Did you see The Force Awakens, Rey? Did you see The Force Awakens, Rian Johnson? It’s not only implied, it’s practically openly stated that Rey is a “somebody.”
In my opinion, it’s clear she’s a Skywalker, but she could be another scion of someone important and it’d still work. The SKYWALKER LIGHTSABER calls to her, and gives her a Force vision. Kylo Ren implies he knows who Rey is. Maz implies she knows who Rey is. Han gives the impression he knows who Rey is. The bigger problem, to me, is that now if JJ makes her a “somebody” in Episode 9 everyone is going to freak out that it’s a retcon or some other deflecting criticism. Sure, it’s definitely possible Kylo Ren was lying to her or manipulating her, I get that — but given the immediate fan reaction, a lot of Star Wars fans are buying the scene at face value.
And to be clear — the objection isn’t that *every* character needs to be related or a “somebody,” the objection is the audience was specifically led to believe *Rey* is a “somebody.” Also — it’s A SKYWALKER STORY you hacks. Wake up.
c) Leia’s multiple run-ins with death came across as a bit crass in retrospect. This is tough subject. We all love Carrie Fisher and we all want her on-screen goodbye to be as meaningful as possible. And weirdly enough, The Last Jedi gave us multiple opportunities for General Leia to have a meaningful death.
First, Kylo Ren sensed her presence on the command cruiser and refused to pull the trigger. His wingmen had no connection, though, and sent Leia straight to the icy cold abyss. And then she Force-resurrects herself and floats back into the realm of the living. Ok. She could have been a Force Ghost at that point and remained in the story but slightly translucent. It wouldn’t have been a perfect outro, but acceptable and thematically consistent.
The second and more obvious ending to Leia’s journey was when someone needed to stay back to pilot the command cruiser. They even overtly set it up! Vice Admiral Laura Dern was like “someone needs to stay behind,” and General Leia was like “We can’t afford to lose more friends.” Right there she needed to Vulcan nerve pinch Vice Admiral Laura Dern and take her place on the bridge. Then Leia gets the greatest F*** YOU outro in all of Star Wars: going lightspeed through Snoke’s star destroyer. Which, by the way, was an amazing scene — possibly the best visual scene of the movie. But the audience doesn’t give a shit about Vice Admiral Laura Dern. Conversely, we give ALL THE SHITS about General Organa. A great scene would have taken on fathoms more depth and meaning for everyone involved — on-screen and off.
The worst part about this is now that they’re going to have to shoe-horn in an explanation for how Leia — probably the most beloved character in Star Wars — meets her demise. This robs the audience of closure, both on a storytelling level and personal real life closure. Use your reshoots better, Rian Johnson.