The Last Jedi May Destroy The New Star Wars Trilogy
It’s become something of a cliche to compare second installments in a trilogy to Star Wars’ The Empire Strikes Back, so of course as the time nears for Episode Eight of the Star Wars trilogy of trilogies, The Last Jedi, here we are.
I didn’t realize just how good The Empire Strikes Back was when I was a kid. Growing up with the Star Wars universe, to me it was just another Star Wars movie. But now that I’m older I can appreciate the plot, witty one-liners, and the beautiful character revelations in a way that flew clear over my head twenty-something years ago.
Empire isn’t just a good Star Wars movie, it’s just a good movie in general which is high praise for a science fiction series. And now that Star Wars is back, and here to stay for the foreseeable future, the next installment in the new trilogy has a lot to live up to. However, the obstacles that faced Empire are severely different from the ones facing the recently revealed The Last Jedi.
With The Empire Strikes Back as The Last Jedi’s forebear, the latter has a monumental legacy to live up to. The question is, will it? Or rather, does The Last Jedi need to be the Empire Strikes Back of its own trilogy? The answer is kinda, and not really.
While both films will be sequels to two hugely successful films with a lot to live up to, only one has to fix the mistakes of its predecessor.
The fact is The Empire Strikes Back benefited from something that The Last Jedi lacks; a solid first movie to springboard off of. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that The Force Awakens is a terrible movie or that I even heavily disliked it, because both of those things are not necessarily true, but The Force Awakens suffered from one fatal flaw: It didn’t explain anything.
It wasn’t a complete cinematic experience.
There are so many plot holes in Awakens and a crushing lack of character motivation between all three of the new main leads that it’s almost cringe-worthy. It seemed J.J. Abrams & co. were scared to divulge too much information about any of these new characters, or any information at all for that matter. Which seems like an oxymoron to some degree, because how can you introduce new characters and yet seemingly not tell us anything useful about them.
But why didn’t the filmmakers decide to tell us more about these interesting characters? Suspense and mystery are pillars of satisfactory storytelling, but there is a difference between mystery and an intentional lack of divulging information.
I wanted to get on board with Rey and her adventure, but I couldn’t because for one, she didn’t need to learn anything — she was instantly a pro at everything she tried her hand at — and two, we as the audience had no idea what was driving her forward. In fact, she seems rather unmotivated for someone forced to grow up and fend for herself on a desert planet. There was nothing there, nothing to get emotionally invested in.
This lack of character depth applied to the various other main leads as well, though the actors clearly did what they could with the paper-thin material. Kudos to them for making us care for these characters when the screenplay clearly didn’t.
Questions abound about these poorly constructed characters. Who is Rey exactly? No idea, though fan speculations have run rampant on the subject. Why is Finn the only stormtrooper to suddenly gain a conscious and abandon the empire? Who knows. What happened to Kylo Ren that drove him to turn to the dark side? Your guess is as good as mine. How did Poe Dameron survive the crash and make his way back to the Resistance? Deus Ex Machina, that’s how!
That’s why I’m worried about The Last Jedi. Its been forced into a corner where it can’t be just content to tell a good story because it’s going to be so laser-focused on fixing the last movie’s mistakes first and foremost. The Empire Strikes Back didn’t have that problem. It didn’t have to worry about fixing mistakes, it merely had to expand on the story that was already there, and expand it did.
Here’s hoping that director Rian Johnson can pull off a miracle and fill in the gaps of The Force Awakens while simultaneously tell a story that will be remembered as a highpoint in the series.