With it being May 4, aka May the Fourth be with you, I’d thought I’d examine one of the most notoriously reviled entries in the Star Wars franchise. No, not The Star Wars Holiday Special. I’m talking about The Last Jedi, the eighth episode in the Skywalker saga. The Last Jedi has become the epitome of everything bad with Star Wars since Disney took them over 10 years ago.
But it’s not the worst thing in the franchise since 2012. No, that has to between Rogue One, which seemed more like depressing fan fiction to fill a plot hole and The Rise of Skywalker which was one huge mess of a movie that for reasons that made no sense brought back Emperor Palpatine or his clone. It’s obvious there was no communication between J.J. Abrams or Jar Jar Abrams as he was called and Rian Johnson who is considered the worst thing to happen to the franchise since, well, George Lucas decided to do the prequels.
I think part of the problem is Star Wars since 1977 has mostly been for the Boys Club. I mean, you can count the number of female characters in the original trilogy on your fingers and have some fingers left over. There’s obviously Princess Leia and Aunt Beru Lars. There’s also Mon Mothma in Return of the Jedi. You could also count Jabba the Hutt’s first slave. And that’s about it. This is poor representation as many women love Star Wars just as much as men.
So, TLJ introduces a lot of female characters, quite possibly too much for fans. Along with Leia (Carrie Fisher), who’s now a general, you have Vice-Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern). Fisher’s daughter, Billie Lourd as Lt. Connix. And Daisy Ridley as Rey who was first introduced in The Force Awakens. Then, there’s Kelly Marie Tran as Rose Tico, which exposed the long unspoken racism of the franchise.
While Poe Dameron (Oscar Isaac) can come across as a mostly caucasian character. Even though Isaac whose real name is Oscar Isaac Hernandez Estrada and he’s from Guatamala, he’s still can pass for white. But as we knew when the first trailer for The Force Awakens showed John Boyega as Finn, some Star Wars fans don’t like POC unless it’s in a minor role such as Billy Dee Williams for Lando Calrissian.
And while Boyega was a victim of racist trolls online, Tran got it a lot worse that she had to delete some of her social media. I’m sure this led to Abrams grossly reducing her role in Rise of Skywalker because he had to find a role for Keri Russell, just as she was cast in the third Mission: Impossible that Abrams directed, which is the weakest of that franchise might I add.
I mean, a lot of people began to accuse Star Wars of being woke, but it’s always been “woke” or whatever. If you go back and look at the original trilogy, most of the Galactic Empire only had humans in key roles. If they used aliens, it was usually for some lowly menial position. The Rebels consisted of everyone in the galaxy, humans of all races and sexs and alien creatures. And they took their orders from Princess Leia and Mon Mothma with no ifs, ands or buts.
And while some people have questioned why Poe acts so insubordinate in TLJ, it could just be part of his persona. We don’t see much of Poe in TFA. He seems to only be in the first part then reappearing after missing for a good hour in the middle. This is because Poe was supposed to be killed when the TIE Fighter crashes on Jakku. But Isaac was able to talk Abrams into beefing up his role.
Poe’s energetic youth seems to contradict with Leia and Holdo’s older experience. Leia also correctly demotes Poe from a commander to a captain, even though in real Naval ranks, it would be a promotion. But maybe it’s different. When Poe defies Leia’s orders and begins an assault on a fleet of the First Order resulting in the destruction of all their bomber ships and other X-wing ships, he should have expected some punishment.
I’ll admit the subplot about Finn and Rose working with Poe to try to disable the First Order’s tracking device seems a disappointment and something more suited for the Star Wars book series rather than the feature films. And it does seem like a series of dumb luck coincidences that they go to the casino town of Canto Bight where they are incarcerated for a freaking parking violation. And in the same jail cell that’s where they meet the hacker DJ (Benecio Del Toro) who seems like a character that was supposed to return in the next movie but didn’t.
I also think the enslaved children who care for the fathier racing animals were supposed to make a reappearance in the next movie. Why didn’t Rose and Finn take the children with them? This part of the movie is probably the most boring part, but it does show a different side of the galaxy than what we’re used to in previous movies.
Of course the movie did get a lot of criticism for its treatment of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) who initially tosses the lightsaber Rey has brought him over his shoulder. But what were people expecting? Was Luke to just suddenly hop on the Millenium Falcon with a young tart that he’s not seen before? Luke is on Arch-To because he’s in exile. He says he doesn’t want to be found by the First Order or anyone.
I think it gives Luke some more depth. He’s always been a character at battle with his own demons. While in A New Hope, he seemed like a whiner. In The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi, he becomes a complex character. This works well with his relationship with Rey who idolizes him. And Luke doesn’t like that.
Better yet, TLJ turns Kylo Ren or Ben Solo into a more complex character. In The Force Awakens, he comes off as an whiny emo. But you can see in TLJ, he’s conflicted with wanting great power and how he can obtain it. I like there’s hostility between him and General Hux (Domnhall Gleason) even though Hux is the one of the least thought out character in this trilogy. Also, Kylo sees himself more as a puppet for Snoke (Andy Serkis), the Supreme Leader of the First Order.
I thought it was a nice move in having Kylo kill Snoke so he woudn’t turn into another Emperor Palpatine substitute. And that was the biggest problem I had with TFA. Abrams seemed to just redo A New Hope. And Rise of Skywalker was just introducting stuff for no reason, such as the clone of Palpatine.
Having the final battle on Crait, a planet that has salt on its suface that reveals the blood red terrain underneath is a beautiful touch as if the ground seems to bleed as the Resistance put up an Alamo last stand against The First Order. Here’s where Luke finally returns as he projects himself to say goodbye to Leia and battle Kylo, who now has become drunken on the power as the Supreme Leader following the murder of Snoke.
And Luke’s death as he watches the sunset on Arch-To is a nice end to his life as in A New Hope he looked to the sunsets on Tattoine. But also he’s finally at peace with himself. So, he dies realizing that he’s not the last jedi but Rey is. Just like The Last Samurai, the title has an ambiguous meaning. Is it Rey or Luke? Or is it both?
Johnson does a lot of other nice touches such as having Yoda pop up to remind Luke that he’s not as much of a Jedi Master he thought he was. And Holdo sacrificing herself by ramming the main Star Destroyer is wonderfully juxtaposed with Rose and Finn facing an execution ordered by Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie). The tension is what makes this scene work along with the lack of sound (which would be what happens really in space) when the Star Destroyer is broken in two by the Resistance’s transporter.
Initially it’s not like, but neither was Empire back in the early 1980s. Other trilogies have had similar responses. The Godfather Part II was initially not as received as The Godfather until The Godfather Part III was released. And Back to the Future Part II wasn’t too well liked at first, but now it’s seen just as good as the other two in that trilogy. I think Michael J. Fox said it best when he said, everyone loves, “Once upon a time” and “Happily Ever After,” but it’s the stuff in the middle that’s hard to get people to believe.
And as we’ve seen with Rise, which is the least well reviewed of the Skywalker Saga, maybe we were a little too harsh. It wasn’t all Johnson’s fault. I think a lot of people were expecting Finn to be trained as a jedi. Instead, we got Keri Russell wearing a futuristic motorcycle helmet. Jeez, Abrams, if you like Russell so much, why don’t you marry her?
What do you think? Please comment.