Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi (2017) Director: Rian Johnson
For reasons unknown to most fans of Star Wars, Disney, in their infinite wisdom, decided to allow their new Director for the seventh installment of the Star Wars series to be allowed complete creative freedom with the script and the film. For some reason, Rian Johnson (of Looper fame as well as a celebrated episode of the Breaking Bad series) was chosen to direct the film and apparently he completely disregarded any notes given to him from J.J. Abrams about how the first film might continue in plot into two more. Johnson had his staff watch classic films in preparation, like Bridge on the River Kawai and others. Johnson was a fan of intellectual films that “broke many of the rules” like Annie Hall. He was also a folk singer and banjo player.
Fair warning: the plot to The Last Jedi is riddled with errors and plot holes that are obvious even to the most novice of audiences. A great many fans have spent hours going scene by scene analyzing what a truly terrible film this is.
The plot takes place immediately following the previous film. Somehow (reasons are never given) the First Order has suddenly found the Resistance without explanation (recall the trackers that were sent out in Empire to discover the rebel base on Hoth). Thus an evacuation is ordered and Poe Dameron flies out as a distraction. He makes a ‘your mom’ joke that falls flat for a Star Wars film to General Hux (or “Hugs”) of the First Order. He flies at the starship in attempt to take out their cannons, but then his ship is damaged so BB-8 has a little comic routine of trying to plug the sparks, until he eventually just rams his helmet into the space ship’s drive. This somehow fixes the ship and he destroys the last cannon. Then he disobeys Leia and the Resistance sends out some very slow-moving, unshielded, fragile bombers, all of which get destroyed except for one which “drops” its bombs onto the starship (there is no gravity in space so this appears to be one of the many goofy errors in hobbling together this script). Poe returns to the Resistance triumphant, even though he has apparently cost the lives of hundreds of fighters, severely wounded the fleet, and destroyed all of their slow and breakable bombers for no reason whatsoever. The few remaining members of the fleet jump to hyperspace to escape the rest of the First Order fleet, only to be tracked through hyperspace (a capability that never occurred before in Star Wars) and also suddenly fuel is now an issue (again, this was never an issue before in all the previous Star Wars adventures). So for the remainder of the film, the First Order simply slowly chases the Resistance ships until they (hopefully) run out of fuel or their shields shut down. Riveting. In the next fight scene, Kylo Ren hesitates on firing at his mother, Leia, and instead one of his compatriot TIE fighters shoots open her window that sucks Leia ot into space (which should have killed her) but miraculously through the force she is able to fly back into the ship without problem! Amazing! Again, the director has once again introduced something absurd into a universe with rules around life and death. At any rate, Leia is put in a coma for much of the rest of the movie and Admiral Holdo, a highly disagreeable, purple haired lady is suddenly introduced and she refuses to demonstrate that she has any sort of plan for the Resistance. She offers no hope for them (though we later find out she is hiding a secret plan for no real reason from the others). Because they believe their deaths may be imminent, Poe and Finn (now accompanied by Rose, a random guard over the escape pods who demonstrates a laughably detailed knowledge of the First Order ship and how it is tracking the Resistance) devise a plan to infiltrate the First Order and disable their tracking beacon. How do they do this? They reach out to Maz, the random character they met briefly in the first film of the trilogy for guidance. She tells them to go to a casino planet and look for a man with a special lapel (no name??) because apparently this is the only way to crack the code to enter a First Order starship. But wait the plot only gets better. They fly to the casino planet at lightspeed on an escpae pod (no one in the First Order cares so why doesn’t everyone from the Resistance take an escape pod and fly away at light speed?! – yet another glaring miss from the writers of this brilliant script) and by the character’s own stupidity, they park their ship on a public beach, so they are arrested and thrown in prison on the casino planet. But wait! In their prison cell is a man who is locked up but WHO HAS THE KEY TO ESCAPE THE PRISON CELL – a shady figure played by Benicio del Toro who is totally worthy of trust and doesn’t at all talk like a snake. However, since the heroes are portrayed as bungling fools throughout the film, they put their full faith in him. They escape the prison thanks to BB-8 throwing coins from the casino at the guards (a totally absurd scene) and they free a bunch of animals that go storming through the planet while leaving the rest of the planet enslaved. More not so subtle political propaganda come to light as they criticize this giant Wall Street planet as a bunch of rich people who got their wealth from the business of war. Deep message. At any rate, they escape on a stolen ship, and magically the prison cell character has the same coding capability to enter a First Order ship (amazing!) so they abandon the plan from Maz to find the original character on the casino planet. They enter the First Order ship and go to find the tracker beacon (the whole point of this side plot that takes up far too much of the film’s run-time) but it goes nowhere! They are captured as Benicio del Toro’s character betrayed them (imagine that!) so they are condemned to a painful death. Now, one of the other B plots is just as terrible – Luke has become a filthy and disgraceful grump who has no hope for the Resistance any more. He refuses to train Rey except once or twice. The character of Luke is no longer the same hopeful man we last saw in the Return of the Jedi. He describes how he trained Kylo but he turned to the dark side so he gave up on the force and came to this island to hide out and die. He spends much of his portion of the film hoping the Jedi die out and bring an end to the endless conflict between good and evil. He even throws his lightsaber over his shoulder – a metaphor for what this film attempts to do – get rid of the past “kill it if you have to.” Also, suddenly we are supposed to care about a Jedi library that we have never heard about before that contains secret texts filled with wisdom. Master Yoda appears as a silly creature who lights the Jedi library on fire, thus burning down all their ancient wisdom for no reason (and also apparently ghosts can now command the forces of nature). Yoda denounces the books and says Rey has everything she needs inside her -another stupid and feckless addition to a flailing script that wants nothing to do with the Star Wars universes that has been created. But I guess we are led to believe at the end that Rey has rescued some of these books for herself or something. At any rate, Rey goes to Kylo after they have communicating through the Force with one another and he brings her before Snoke who confesses that it was he who melded their minds -but apparently he cannot read Kylo’s mind as he uses the force to slice Snoke in half with a lightsaber (so we get no information about who Snoke is or what is background was). Then Rey and Kylo fight the guards in one of the silliest fight scenes ever – clearly many of the cast issed their cues and the guards start twirling around in odd ways to avoid killing the main characters. The scene has been debunked numerous times for its unimpressive errors. We spent the whole first movie wondering who Rey’s parents might have been – but then Kylo suggests their filthy junk traders who are “nobody.” Yet another hopeful mythology cast aside in this barn-burner of a film. Then, they fight but Rey (being all powerful for no reason) escapes in Snoke’s ship (somehow) while Kylo awakens and blames Snoke’s death on Rey. Meanwhile, Holdo finally reveals her plan to evacuate everyone (only long after Poe organizes a mutiny among the crew who are fed up with the terrible leadership of Holdo) so they evacuate on small transport vessels that do not appear on tracking radar – but they do not have shields or light speed like some of their escape pods do! They also have no way to defend themselves. They decide to evacuate (gasp!) to a planet that suddenly appears like a deus ex machina that no one noticed before and that surely where the First Order will follow them immediately after landing on the planet. But as part of the heroes plan back on the Starkiller Base, the prison hacker advised the First Order to kill the transport ships. So they start picking them off like fish in a barrel until Holdo comes up with a plan to be a hero (after trashing heroes throughout the film) and she engages hyperdrive and lightspeeds her ship right through the First Order starships (somehow all of them get attacked, and somehow this was never possible in any previous films – why wouldn’t everyone just simply jump to light speed and crash into each other’s ships rather than shooting at them??) This allows Finn and Rose to escape from the First Order ship, but only after Finn battles with the former head of the stormtroopers in an unclimactic battle where he literally calls her “chrome dome” (not joking). Then, they escape thanks to BB-8 (who reveals himself to be one of the more capable characters in the film from shooting the guards at the casino to saving Poe’s ship to operating an AT-AT walker). Then a battle ensues on the planet (which is covered in salt – another deliberate subversion from Empire’s snow) and Finn and Rose barely make it into the giant hanger. The First Order (as predicted) is right on their tail with a huge cannon that can blast open the door easily. The Resistance launches out with a few dilapidated ships that are mostly harmless and defenseless, and Finn gets the idea to kamikaze directly into the cannon to save the others – BUT SUDDENLY Rose appears and prevents him from doing so (again, this is the girl whose family dies at the beginning dropping the impossible bombs on a starship and who hates deserters as evidenced by her zapping Finn and who stands for defenseless peoples throughout the galaxy and so on). Suddenly somehow she has decided Finn’s actions were not warranted. So she crashes into him and saves him, but the door to the Resistance is immediately burst open and everyone is going to die, but at least she got a kiss out of it. Then she says the most cliche, eye-rolling line in the film: “We’re going to win this war not by fighting what we hate, but saving what we love!” Suddenly there is not reason to fight anymore. Also, the Millenium Falcon appears out of nowhere with Rey and Chewbacca – somehow Rey has dropped Snoke’s ship and gotten aboard the Millenium Falcon. Then, when all hope is lost Luke shows up and finally, we are ready for a hero to save the day! However, he is still disgruntled and unpleasant as he battles Kylo in another uninspiring battle scene and then WE FIND OUT LUKE IS SOMEHOW A HOLOGRAM! He is not even there battling Kylo! His last words are “see around kid.” The whole point of his teleportation/hologram is to buy the Resistance like five minutes of time to escape through the back of the cave, which I guess they can do even though the droids said it was initially impossible. Anyway, Rey lifts a bunch of rocks using the force even though she has not been trained and Luke was barely able to lift one or two while training for weeks or months on Dagobah – but this is just yet another glaring overlook by the writers. They all escape and embrace each other in a moment of happiness – even though they have gone from hundreds of Resistance fighters to like twelve by the end of the film aboard the Millenium Falcon. Leia says to Rey that all they need is one another (imagine that!) Lastly, there is an odd bit at the end of the film, where a poor child somewhere in the galaxy clearly can use the force and is inspired by the stories of the the Resistance (snooze – a good reminder of all the things our heroes failed to accomplish in this film).
The film wound up being one of the least successful Star Wars films at the box office. In the wake of the film’s extreme and highly public backlash from fans and lovers of the series, Disney began throwing Rian Johnson under the bus, the director for Episode IX quit, cast and crew began expressing dissatisfaction and pointing fingers. Merchandise sales declined for Disney (the whole point of their acquisition of Star Wars) as their stock dipped after the film’s release and their new Star Wars attraction at Disneyland was behind schedule and under-attended by the public. In attempt to stabilize the ship, they announced new Star Wars films, most notably Solo, which completely tanked. Kathleen Kennedy was kept on board at LucasFilm only because no one else wanted to take the helm of a sinking ship. Somehow Disney managed to take over one of the most beloved and popular series trilogies of all time, and turn it into box office poison. Actors began speaking out: Mark Hamill was one of the most vocal in his opposition to Luke being portrayed so terribly, Carrie Fisher called Rian Johnson an “asshole” and John Boyega spoke out about his dissatisfaction with his character being relegated to being a goofy side plot, whereas in the first film he was the co-star with Rey. In reaction to the huge outcry among the public about this terrible film, many in the media predictably accused people critical of the film as being racist, misogynistic and so on. The usual platitudes that are leveled by people who cannot defend their arguments. What do you do when you don’t have a leg to stand on? Call someone sexist. Name-calling, sadly, seems to be the way of things these days and Kathleen Kennedy at LucasFilm carried this water, as well. Finally, after great consternation, and a rapid fanbase utterly enraged at the film, Disney chose to bring back J.J. Abrams to direct the final film in a desperate plea to right the ship of state which had sunk so low and was losing them so much money. They put on hold any further Star Wars spin-off movies after Solo unexpectedly tanked (there was early work conducted on a Kenobi spin-off that was abandoned), and toy sales after The Last Jedi were awful. Then we learned that there was absolutely no plan that was steadfastly developed for this trilogy – writers and directors are just making it up as they go. Big surprise with this one! One can only hope the Star Wars saga can be salvaged in Episode IX after this dumpster-fire of a film.
The Last Jedi is a travesty. Rian Johnson would have been better suited to direct some kind of action-hero, marvel film, rather than thumbing his nose at this once great saga. The Last Jedi turns on its head the idea of the classic hero, like the independent free-wheeling Han Solo, and instead advises heroes that they should just get in line and take orders from the likes of Admiral Holdo (much like the way the First Order works!) The morale of the film is weak for a legendary space opera. Basically, a lot of irrelevant things happen in the film. Nothing is learned, nobody grows, and the trials of the heroes are mainly due to their own ignorant missteps. Where it tries to be subversive, it is cliche, where it tries to be funny, it is off-putting, where it tries to be serious, it is slapstick, where it tries to be edgy, it is boring. The heroes are comical – everything they try to do fails not because of significant obstacles, but largely because of their own stupidity. The enemies are excessive in their constant screaming and frothing at the mouth, and the First Order parade around like a bunch of slapstick Nazis in their silliness. There is no hope, except in the writer’s absurd “gotcha” plot moments that toy with the audience’s amount of verisimilitude that will be believed. From a plot that goes nowhere, utterly wooden and undeveloped characters, meaningless adventures, cheap political ideology injected into a once great saga, and constant twists in the plot that snub the traditions of the original Star Wars that fans came to love, The Last Jedi is a film to be resoundingly disregarded as one of the worst sequels of all time. The only redeeming parts of the film are the visually stunning effects and shooting locations. Instead we should focus our efforts on a better trilogy, with The Empire Strikes Back, one of the greatest sequels of all time. Hopefully, Episode IX can salvage this sinking ship of a saga.