I gave this Last Jedi to breathe because talking about Star Wars without treading on spoiler territory is impossible. If you haven’t seen it yet, I imagine you just survived a brutal kidnapping and I commend your daring escape. Now, onto the film: The Last Jedi is a firework that never went off. My conversations with folks about the film over the holidays, always dealt with the woulda-coulda-shouldas. So I’ve decided to take that angle while talking about the film despite how it might come off.
Disney and Marvel are known for the heavy strings attached to their products… I mean films. So I commend any attempts at original ideas in a creative universe that is limited. It’s possible that the team behind the film wanted some of the following things to happen but had their wrists slapped back by higher ups who had a different vision for their franchise. Make no mistake, I don’t think I could have done better, but I’m capable of spotting lost potential in a script and offering constructive criticism. Because of this, it’s worthwhile to see the film before reading. So here are my notes
First and foremost, kill Leia already. Almost everybody can agree on this one and the fact that they want to keep her around from the grave with a CGI presence when they had a perfectly good chance to leave her sucked into the void of space is beyond me. The only justification I can come up with is that they intend to make her come back around and talk some sense into her boy. I hope I’m wrong.
Second, in the Last act they should have nutted up and killed Finn. Imagine the shock and dismay. It would have been the gut punch everyone expected from the dark second chapter that comes with most trilogies. His death would have had purpose and it would have closed his arch; From storm trooper to the hero of the rebels. There’s already a nice build up to his death in the script with regard to the somber trope of Ray and Finn both leaving messages for each other, when they’ll never meet back up. I wonder whether it was a remnant of script that intended to kill Finn. Besides, the logic that “saves” Finn is as hollow and contrived as the kiss that followed, “That’s how we’re gonna win. Not by fighting those that we hate, but by saving those we love.” —that’s what he was doing, dummy. Remember all those people in the building that the First Order is trying to blast open?
Third, Ray should have turn coated. Following the most impressive scene in the film where Ren decides to save Ray, we have a moment where she’s given the decision to change teams, or at least reorder the strata we’ve known in star wars. My question is why? She watched him kill Han, yes, but she knew Han for all of a day. In that moment a man who just saved her is offering her help with her powers, something that Luke denied her. Why Not? It’s not a terrible hard bus to catch a ride on. We just need a few more Potter/Voldermort moments between Ray and Ben Swollo to build up the attraction between the hot and cool pair, before the idea of two dejected kids teaming up becomes an easy pill to swallow. Hell, Ren could have lied to ease her conscience and said he’d spare her friends and that the pair would change the world for the better. He managed to deceive a Sith master, why wouldn’t he at least try to deceive Ray? She can join him on the deck of the ATAT and clutch her chest when she realizes that Finn died crashing into the door-knocker-downer-thingy. Maybe she lashes out at the loss of her friend and escapes, maybe she’s detained and her imprisonment is left as a cliffhanger for the next film. Almost every option her provides a more exciting ending than the one we were given.
Fourth, unlike Leia and Finn, Luke should not have died; he had unfinished business. We barely got used to this new version of Luke before he died. Sorry guys, Two Moons in the background does not justify his transcendence. He basically said, “Fuck this shit I’m out, okay.” Maybe people would be pissed if in the next film he was struck down in anger, but dammit, that’s the mythos we’re dealing with. Perhaps it would be the waking point to a Stolkholmed Ray. Picture this, Ren has just struck down Luke in anger and Ray bears witness. She sees the robes fall to the floor as the Last Jedi teaches his last lesson: Compassion over Passion.
With Luke absent, and Leia, Finn, and the purple haired admiral of the ship all dead, we’re left with Po in charge of the remaining rebel fleet. He feels the weight of authority that comes from losing a true friend on a mission he authorized. They escape as they do using Luke’s projection as a distraction. Rather than having that weird cocktail party scene on the deck of the ship, we have Po fly the millennium falcon back to some such rebel base and when the commander asks where the others are, Po can simply say were all that’s left. Maybe even add in an “Objective Burma” moment at the end where Po drops off the digital dog tags of the fallen comrades in their somewhat successful escape–Finn’s on top of course. We close with the same scene of the stable boy raising the broomstick like a lightsaber.
It’s like in an attempt to thwart fans expectations and theories they forgot that they had to write a competent script with beats that play into the next and off of the last film. My bar was low for this film because I wanted it to be anything other than The Empire Strikes back, beat for beat. So I wasn’t completely disappointed, and I didn’t dislike the film either. Once the nostalgia wore off, I pitied it. It had so many great moments and so many chances to burst into a colorful array, but it fizzled out instead. Marvel and Disney know Star War is limited and they’re grasping at straws, trying not to repeat the same tropes but like a car skidding on the thin ice the best advice is to turn into the swerve. Own it.