With The Rise of Skywalker about to hit theaters I think it is a good time to remind ourselves of the The Last Jedi and to be cautious of our expectations going into the saga’s latest installment. Star Wars is more than just a movie to me. The first time I saw A New Hope in theatres with my Dad I was completely mystified. It was all I ever wanted to talk about growing up and to this day its lore still can bring me to tears. The characters have embedded themselves so deep into modern Americana that we have created an unofficial national holiday from a simple saying “May the fourth” into a day of unapologetic fandom and appreciation. My generation grew up on the prequels which to many purists were lack luster compared to the originals. I personally loved those movies and can still watch the worst of them over and over. With all this being said I fucking hated The Last Jedi. I did not believe they stayed faithful to the originals or the prequels for that matter when it came to character development, tone, and mythology. Here are five reasons I hated The Last Jedi.
1.) The Offscreen Death of Admiral Ackbar
Admiral Ackbar is more than the “IT’S A TRAP” meme, according to canon he was a veteran commander during the Clone Wars leading the defense of his home planet of Mon Cala before his character is introduced in The Return of the Jedi. One of the chief strategists for the Rebellion and the mastermind of the rebel attack on the second Death Star deserved a more dignified death than he was given in The Last Jedi. His ability to adjust his fleet’s plans during the battle of Endor was pivotal to their success. If anyone deserved to die in an act of sacrifice and be the hero it wasn’t a purple haired Laura Dern (Vice Admiral Holdo) who was a new character that carried zero emotional attachment to the fan base, it was Ackbar. The theatre would have been in tears; I know I would have been. Instead he dies in a distant explosion and not one mention of his name follows. The disrespect to such an important character was appalling.
2.) Flying Leia
The force gives a lot of leeway to abilities when it comes to jumping from long distances, dodging blasters, and other supernatural skills. It never once gave anyone the ability to survive in deep space, let alone survive an explosion while experiencing a gravity vacuum spitting you out into unimaginable cold. Not to mention millions of pieces of broken glass and metal flying past you at alarming speeds. Leia (as far as we know, an untrained Jedi) used the force to somehow FLY through space and return safely into a starship from about 100 football fields away. I understand that the force is supposedly around us and in everything but damn Rian Johnson really took liberties too far. What about every other Jedi that died in a starship battle? This was the moment that broke me, I remember vividly turning to my cousin and whispering “what the fuck am I watching?”
3.)Cantobite the Casino Planet
This side mission added absolutely nothing to the storyline other than a Justin Therou and Benicio Del Toro cameo. Star Wars had an authentic feel from using no name actors, Disney bringing in these high priced cameos took me out of the story. It also has an animal rights political soapbox moment that misses the mark. Fin and Rose are lead onto a wild goose chase for a key breaker that doesn’t exist. During their time on Cantobite they run from the police and are turned in by alien elitists who enjoy watching the suffering of the downtrodden. In doing this they free alien animals that are used to race and gamble off of but they also see children suffering and do nothing to help them. After they are arrested they link up with a stuttering con artist named DJ who is played by Del Toro that promises to have the skills that they need. The rich are shown to symbolize the people who profited off of war i.e. The Empire. Also I don’t like political agendas forced into movies, if you are going to add a message it needs to be subtle and subliminal to have more of a lasting affect. This may be the most dreadful 2nd Act in any Star Wars movie.
4.) Unlimited Plot Armor
Star Wars is now billed as a kid’s movie due to the merchandising of the franchise which followed the first few films but the original series had death, kidnapping, and torture. It didn’t shy away from killing off main characters and didn’t play it safe. The newest series is actually doing quite the opposite. The plot armor on Leia, Fin, and Rose makes the story much more easy to predict. It also was a chance that was missed to really connect the First Order to evil. We hated Darth Vader because he killed Obi Wan. We hated Darth Vader because he tortured Han Solo. We hated Darth Vader because he chopped off Luke’s hand. Make Kylo and the First Order the villains they deserve to be! Fin and Rose both putter around in this story searching for purpose and find it in each other through and uncomfortable romance that is alluded to. During the final battle the First Order is about to use an enormous battering ram to break through the Resistance’s last line of defense. Fin flies his speeder as hard as he can towards the epicenter of the ram to destroy it as renegade kamikaze and give his friends enough time to run, a true act of heroism. Why didn’t we have Finn sacrifice himself in that last scene or Rose sacrifice her life for Finn? I felt that this was a missed opportunity to add depth to the plot and really christalize several character arcs at the same time. This also felt like shielding kids from the inevitability of death. I watched my most beloved characters suffer in my childhood and it proved to me that any real epic needs down notes, just like in real life.
5.) Missing the mark with Poe
In The Force Awakens Poe Dameron is a skilled Fighter Pilot, one who’s heroics help the Resistance escape an almost certain doom more than once. In The Last Jedi his character is used to symbolize “Toxic masculinity” and those said traits which is a stark difference than the pilot he plays in the first film. He portrays the classic “fly boy” trope that is overdone and in my opinion adds to the problem that it is trying to shine a spotlight on. Instead of using a character with toxic masculine traits how about we have a male hero that hears the female lead council and respectfully discusses the best possible plan? Instead his character mansplains and rudely expresses his opinion on his commander’s plan negatively. The female lead command down talks him and keeps him out of the loop. Is this the way we will get equality by putting each other down and feeding tropes that put masculine traits into a pinhole? The movie would be much more progressive if it showed men and women working together for the common good, much like the original trilogy which never shied away from strong female leadership.
I’m still going to watch The Rise of Skywalker in theaters. The franchise means too much to me and I really hope that J.J. Abrams can give the people what they want instead of what he wants. Rian Johnson recently stated,
“I want to be shocked, I want to be surprised, I want to be thrown off-guard, I want to have things recontextualized, I want to be challenged as a fan when I sit down in the theater…What I’m aiming for every time I sit down in a theater is to have the experience [I had] with ‘Empire Strikes Back,’ something that’s emotionally resonant and feels like it connects up and makes sense and really gets to the heart of what this thing is and in a way that I never could have seen coming.”
I can see where he is coming from if he is making a film on a premise he conceived but this movie is too important to take the risks that he took. He borrowed George Lucas’ idea and made his best effort to ruin it forever by making it his playground without standards. I know I am not alone in the sentiment because critics and audiences around the world gave this film mixed reviews. That is why I am being cautious when I watch the newest installment, Star Wars is no longer guaranteed fun thanks to The Last Jedi.