Some Star Wars devotees consider The Last Jedi among the best of the franchise. Others rank it somewhere between The Holiday Special and that time Donny and Marie conquered the Empire using the power of disco. And while art is obviously subjective, as a fan of the movie (and with the movie now available on streaming), this seemed as good a time as any to try to rebut at least some of the more popular grievances, such as ...
Why Is Luke Skywalker A Huge Jerk Now?
Sure, it was a little unnerving seeing the fresh-faced hero of the rebellion reduced to a filthy curmudgeon -- like discovering your high school's prom king is tending bar at Nudes 'R' Us. But this portrayal of Luke is totally in keeping with the rest of the franchise.
Why? Because Luke Skywalker is George Lucas.
Back during the Original Trilogy, Luke was Lucas' author surrogate, a restless teen longing to escape the space suburbs who rejects his father's empire. He even went ahead and basically used his own last name for the character's first name.
When Disney took the reigns of the franchise, the Luke-Lucas allegory continued. In The Force Awakens, Luke is in exile, atoning for his past failures. Similarly, Lucas withdrew from filmmaking after his calamitous prequels. We're lucky the movie didn't end with Rey finding Luke solemnly poking at cold spaghetti in a mall food court.
The Last Jedi similarly finds Luke emulating George. Luke can't return to help Rey fight the First Order, in the same way that George Lucas will never return to Star Wars. The film's climax finds Luke creating an astral projection (not unlike a film projection) which serves to inspire future generations. The movie literally ends with kids playing with Star Wars action figures, as if to say that all we need from Lucas is his inspiration, not him doing anything new.
Where Did That Astral Projection Business Come From?
A lot of fans seemed to take issue with Luke's Force projection, but Star Wars used to be a franchise chock-full of wacky magical goings-on. Remember in The Empire Strikes Back, when Luke fights a psychic ghost in a haunted swamp cave?
How are people OK with haunted caves but not astral projection? Plus, from a certain point of view, it's nothing but a variation on the Jedi mind trick, only it fools the senses of everyone. Like a more extreme version of the power we saw in A New Hope, when Obi Wan magically conjures a sound effect to distract two Stormtroopers.
And as director Rian Johnson cheekily pointed out, there is precedent for that particular superpower in the 2011 book The Jedi Path. But then again, that book and all its contents have been tossed out of the Star Wars canon, along with the time Wookiee diarrhea led to the destruction of the Death Star.
Why Doesn't Everyone Employ The "Holdo Maneuver"?
In an act of desperation, Admiral Holdo makes a hyperspace jump with the First Order fleet in her path, wreaking havoc with a lightspeed kamikaze strike. Which raises the question of why people don't do that way more often in this universe. Couldn't the Death Star have been easily taken out by sacrificing, say, Porkins?
Well, beyond the obvious obstacle that most people aren't generally inclined to suicide even on heroic terms, her move doesn't do that much damage. It splits Snoke's ship almost in half, but doesn't destroy it or kill anyone important (Snoke gets cut almost in half by something entirely different). Plus, it cost the Resistance their big fancy spaceship, making it a wildly impractical tactic that only really made sense in that particular situation.
Well, Why Didn't Holdo Tell Poe Her Plan?
He was being a total asshole.
Seriously, watch their conversation again, and look at it from Holdo's perspective. This Poe guy was just demoted for insubordination, and since Holdo's kept in the dark about the First Order's hyperspace tracker, as far as she knows, there's probably a mole on board.
By the time Holdo and her higher-ups have formulated a plan, Poe bursts into their meeting, calls his commanding officer "lady," then starts yelling and kicking furniture. Why would anyone want to calmly explain a top-secret plan to someone who's acting like they're on Space Jerry Springer?
Then Why Did She Later Say She Liked Him? Even After He Staged A Mutiny?
You try staring into Oscar Isaac's eyes and see if it doesn't melt your very soul.
Why Does The First Order Need To Chase The Resistance At All? Couldn't They Use Lightspeed To Head Them Off?
Um ... do you have any questions about Snoke?
Oh Yeah, We Never Learned Who Snoke Was.
That's true. While we all thought there was going to be some dramatic reveal that Snoke was Palpatine's clone, or a deformed Mace Windu, or the ghost of a school custodian who was burned to death by a gang of angry parents, we got nothing. Which was legitimately frustrating. But on the other hand, Snoke was positioned as a new version of Emperor Palpatine, whose origins remained a mystery in the Original Trilogy.
When we did find out the Emperor's backstory, it involved Senate votes and trade tariffs. In other words, boring as hell. That's because Star Wars' track record on providing backstory has always been abjectly terrible. We should probably be glad we didn't get a flashback in which we learn Snoke was once a disgruntled Arby's employee.
Yeah, it could have been way worse.
But Why Did They Kill Him Off?
Other than the fact that it was a surprising moment in a franchise that hasn't had a surprise since the 1980s, how about this: The Star Wars saga often repeats themes and images. George Lucas said his prequels "rhymed" with the originals. Well, this moment rhymes with another moment wherein a hyped-up villain died prematurely.
Yup, both Snoke and Darth Maul get abruptly cut in half by lightsabers. Both scenes even focus on their close-up facial reactions first before revealing the damage, reinforcing the narrative echo.
Are You Saying Snoke Was Darth Maul?
Um, sure ... If that helps.
Really, Rey's Parents Were Neglectful Drunks?
After a multitude of theories that Rey's parents were Skywalkers or Kenobis or Lobots, it turned out that they simply kind of sucked. They were deadbeats who sold her for booze, as if she were a common futon.
This actually emulates the first Star Wars more than anything. Remember, Darth Vader wasn't Luke's dad until much later -- so much later that early drafts of Empire had Anakin showing up as a ghost. So the message of the original Star Wars was that anyone could engage with the Force, even some random kid from a house made of dirt.
What Star Wars taught kids before the prequels was that anyone could be a hero, even you. By making the franchise about dynasties and (unfortunately) genetic prowess, that original fairy-tale-like quality was lost until now.
How Did Leia Fly Through Space?
Um ... it's space? There's no gravity, so it was less her flying and more using the Force to pull herself closer to the ship. And sorry, but Leia deserves at least one scene of using magic powers. We were promised that back in Return Of The Jedi, dammit.
For those who are skeptical that she would survive the cold vacuum of space at all, remember that Force users can will themselves back into being after death as blue ghosts who pop by whenever they feel like it. Sometimes younger and broodier than before.
Yet one woman uses the Force to merely stave off death, and everyone loses their damn minds.
Hey, That Casino Mission Sure Failed Miserably.
One of the most contentious plotlines of The Last Jedi is Rose and Finn's trip to Canto Bight, home to an intergalactic casino and presumably some kind of tentacle monster version of Celine Dion's stage show.
Sure, taking this detour in the middle of the First Order's assault on the Resistance felt a little like going on vacation in the middle of a car chase, but the biggest issue people seem to have is that it was ultimately pointless. Worse than pointless, because if it wasn't for them recruiting a sketchy hacker who ends up being captured, the baddies wouldn't have found out about Holdo's secret escape plan.
Which is true, but also the point.
This movie is all about its young characters screwing up. Ghost Yoda outright tells Luke, "The greatest teacher, failure is." It's also straight out of Empire. Luke loses a hand after impulsively facing Vader. Han Solo thinks a city run by a criminal he kind of knows is the best place to hide out, which leads to him being tortured and turned into a wall hanging.
Learning from bone-headed mistakes is a key part of Star Wars. Movies wherein scrappy characters throw together a half-assed plan that succeeds beyond all logic have been done to death. At least this movie shows how destructive ill-informed impulsiveness can be.
Why Did Rose Stop Finn From Flying Into The Battering Ram Cannon?
During the Battle of Crait, Finn decides to sacrifice his life by flying into the glowy laser cannon of doom ...
... only to be knocked off-course by Rose.
Which seems dumb, because shouldn't he sacrifice his life if it means saving all his friends? But why would we assume he would be successful? It's a giant-ass laser cannon, and he's in the Ford Pinto of speeders. According to director Rian Johnson, Finn flying into the cannon would be less triumphant explosion and more a "mosquito going into a bug zapper."
Why Does Rose Tell Finn She Loves Him? That Seemed Out Of Nowhere?
Listen, you try staring into John Boyega's eyes ...
All the first six Star Wars movies are available in a big complete set. Ain't that convenient?
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