Nine Things About The Last Jedi that Failed Audiences
SPOILERS AHEAD – Don’t read on if you haven’t seen The Last Jedi yet!
Disney just released the latest Star Wars film The Last Jedi, a film that is receiving a mixed reception from ardent fans who feel that this installment is a major misstep in this iconic film franchise. I, myself, was dismayed and disappointed by this film. Let down by the supernova sized plot problems, unanswered questions, and abrupt deaths that are casually glossed over, I am at a loss as to how this film was ever allowed to become the final product that it is. Here are nine key reasons why I, a lifelong Star Wars fan, am dubious of the direction that the franchise is headed.
1. Rey’s Parentage
One of the most-intriguing parts of The Force Awakens was the mystery behind Rey’s parentage. How did this young woman, brimming with force sensitivity, come to be abandoned on the desert planet of Jakku only to become the sought-after prize of Supreme Leader Snoke and Kylo Ren? I’m pretty sure that most of us were expecting something more compelling and interesting than the random answer we were given in The Last Jedi. Perhaps this story will be given more details in Episode IX, but what we were given in this installment was about as anticlimactic as you can get. She was abandoned there by nobodies? There has to be more to this story; the writers can’t possibly be looking at this as any sort of resolution.
2. Snoke’s Purpose and Outcome
Like Rey, so much mystery also shrouded the purpose and identity of Supreme Leader Snoke in The Force Awakens, so we were looking forward to watching his character evolve and his motives fleshed-out. The Last Jedi did very little to offer us new details and, when Kylo Ren cuts Snoke in-half with a lightsaber, the creepy gargoyle’s story comes abruptly to an end. Will we learn more about him in Episode IX with a backstory? Here’s hoping, but it is hard to feel the gravity of his death in this story when we don’t know all that much about him.
3. Captain Phasma
The lead up to The Force Awakens promised that Captain Phasma would be a First Order villain to reckon with. That movie came and went and Phasma really didn’t make much of an impression. With The Last Jedi, we see her return for what we assume is going to be the chance to see the character get some development, only to have her retain her mere all purpose bad guy caricature and then die. What a waste of a character that had such possibilities.
4. Laura Dern as Admiral Holdo
Admiral Holdo, on paper, must have been a fascinating idea for a character. I’ve always felt that Star Wars could use more, strong female characters (Leia has always been my favorite character). Laura Dern, however, playing Admiral Holdo was just hard to watch. She just didn’t seem to fit into the rest of the Star Wars world. Dern is very good actress, having proven herself both versatile and compelling in other film roles. For some reason her abilities did not resonate in this character, turning Admiral Holdo into a missed opportunity.
5. Humor in the Wrong Places
The original Star Wars trilogy always had its share of humor (something that was completely void in the prequels). Most of the humor that was delivered came from the presence of Han Solo, who is sorely missed since there doesn’t seem to be another character who can organically deliver a joke. An early scene where Poe Dameron is messing with General Hux is particularly out of place (a la the space equivalent of a prank phone call), but the film is littered with awkward attempts at humor that never land.
6. Unceremonious Send-Offs of Iconic Characters
Perhaps the most egregious failing of The Last Jedi is the way iconic characters such as Admiral Ackbar and presumably Luke Skywalker are killed off in this leg of the new trilogy is insulting to those of us who have lived with and loved these characters for decades. These deaths happen abruptly and without the appropriate gravitas that these characters deserve. One wonders, too, what will become of General Leia Organa with the death of Carrie Fisher. Many of us expected not to see her character come out of this film alive, but she did. Knowing that they aren’t using CGI to recreate her likeness in the next film, one has to wonder: does she just disappear after this film? One certainly hopes that the grandest and most beloved of all space princesses will be given an exit worthy of her game-changing character.
7. Finn and Rose (and Poe)
The writers apparently had no idea what to do with Finn in The Last Jedi, creating contrived reasons to keep him around. Pairing him up with Rose, another member of the Resistance, was a milquetoast attempt at giving him a purpose. It also seemed like a less-than-obvious ploy to keep Finn and Poe apart, keeping all the bromance and homosexual subtext rumors at bay. The chemistry between Poe and Finn was great, and it didn’t need to be excised for reasons of (cough) plot or (cough cough) diminishing rumors. Their budding friendship was one of the best parts of The Force Awakens. Why would you not do something with that?
8. The Opening Crawl
It should have been an indication of what was to come when the opening crawl didn’t have much to say to get us excited about the film. Considering The Last Jedi picks up where The Force Awakens supposedly leaves off, I guess there wasn’t much to say to link the two. Still, the opening crawl has always been a major event for the start of each film, but there was nothing here that remotely resembled the epic nature and prosody of past films (including the prequels).
9. Lack of Direction and Purpose in the Plot
In general, this film seems to be fighting to find a story to tell. In many ways, it played like a placeholder for the story’s resolution. Unlike The Empire Strikes Back (which, for some unjustified reason, the film is being likened), The Last Jedi doesn’t utilize its high-stakes possibilities to propel the plot toward something of purpose and meaning. Instead of galvanizing Rey’s and Kylo Ren’s dichotomy and making the next film a must see for resolving something (anything), the writers have you leave the theatre feeling an ambiguity about the fate of these two central characters. The Last Jedi, to me, was about killing off the old to make room for the new, but never giving a reason why we should let the old go so easily or why we should embrace the future of the Star Wars universe.
As Yoda says during his surprise cameo in The Last Jedi, “The greatest teacher, failure is.” Disney, learn your lessons well.