Last time I started us off with some positivity. This time, since I realize that perhaps my short-post preference has gotten a little out of hand, we’re going to marathon this. I’m concerned that breaking this up into more pieces leaves a lot of room for people to miss context in a discussion already charged like Starkiller Base, so… yeah, let’s just wrap this up in one.
Before I go any further, I must once again throw out my disclaimers, and in far greater depth since much of my feedback will be negative. I don’t like to include multi-paragraph ass-shields before starting controversial material, but the debate surrounding The Last Jedi has turned into such a dystopian nightmare that I feel I have no choice.
I do not believe it is ever, ever acceptable to harass, personally attack, send fucking death threats to, or otherwise attempt to ruin the life of anyone involved in a creative project. The worst that I consider acceptable when their failures–if they failed–were purely creative in nature is to call them a hack, provide calm evidence thereof one time and one time only, and move on. Not a single person involved in The Last Jedi deserved the tiniest portion of the disproportionate, sickening backlash which has been leveled against multiple cast members, and I as a Star Wars fan from earliest childhood am mortified and ashamed that I’m part of a fandom so inhumane.
All that said, those of you who loved the film are going to disagree with a lot of this, and that’s alright. You can love it–I won’t stop you, I won’t ever try to persuade you otherwise. The truth is, I don’t think The Last Jedi is a bad movie. In most departments, it’s excellent, as I said last time. The problem is, in my professional analysis, its writing is just plain poor and sometimes terrible. You can disagree with or overlook that point, but I can’t. One final time: I have to talk about what worked or didn’t work for me because my opinions, especially when we’re talking about The Last Jedi, are the only thing I can objectively summarize.
I don’t think I deserve to be catered to. I don’t think any artistic work’s creators have any obligation to do what I want. But my opinions are the only ones I can speak to. I hope, for those of you who loved the film, you’ll gain some perspective on the backlash, and that making its source easier to understand will better equip you to deal with the vitriol moving forward. For those of you, like myself, who were left cold by it, I hope I can provide a much saner approach to our concerns.
Basically, as with any time when someone tries to treat both sides equally, I hope for the best but I expect that all of you will hate my guts. That’s alright, I’m the guy who decided he just had to get stuck in to The Last Jedi discussion, but no more death threats, ever. No movie is worth that.
Every problem I have with The Last Jedi is a writing problem. I think every other aspect of its execution, including Rian Johnson’s directorial work, is absolutely wonderful. Unfortunately, I covered all those other aspects in my positive post, so now I’m going full Sith. Deep breaths, everyone: here we go.
Likely the single biggest of the movie’s common threads, and unfortunately its most tangled too.
Those of you who’ve been around here for any real number of my writing-related posts or any of my creative writing in general know that I love deconstruction. I hate seeing the same ideas rehashed over, and over, and over again in universes which offer so many greater possibilities. I especially loathe watching other writers regurgitate the same material time after time when they get the privilege and opportunity of working on something big, or worse yet, being big in their own right–yes, readers, I’m an envious bastard after all. I haven’t showed it in a while, but it’s still there.
The Last Jedi is obsessed with deconstruction. On the face of it, you’d think I’d have been all-in for that. And theoretically I am, except… well, if it wasn’t already clear, I like deconstruction when it makes room for newer, better ideas.
Understand that I say this as a writer, not with bile and spittle, only analysis: Rian Johnson didn’t bring those newer, better ideas. He created a void, and either left it raw and empty or packed it with different but equally-outmoded tropes. Even more troublingly, he did this without any regard for the logic behind the things he deconstructed. Some prime examples:
Poe’s suicide run at the dreadnought: one of the most-shredded scenes in the film by that part of the fanbase. I’m concerned they’ve already poisoned the well on this, but I do have to agree on the surface: this sequence is contrived and illogical on a multitude of levels. It largely exists to setup the “hotshot pilot screws things up for collected commanders” trope that… oh dear. You remember how I said I like deconstruction when it makes room for newer, better ideas?
How many times have we seen this one, exactly? For that matter, how many times have we seen “macho military dude disrespects competent female officers?” A lot of the positive coverage around the movie has framed this as some kind of bold, revolutionary shot at toxic masculinity.
The problem with that is Amilyn Holdo–but she has to headline the next section, so I can’t get too deep into it.
The First Order: The Galactic Empire were never models of hyper-competence, so I’m not going to tell you that the First Order’s military pratfalls (thanks for making them literal, Snokey-boy) don’t fit Star Wars. But… that’s a problem, isn’t it? Star Wars already had a gentler form of the issues many, many SciFi and Fantasy series do with villains who just weren’t up to the heroes’ level. In The Last Jedi, the First Order becomes so laughably incompetent that it’s impossible to take them seriously or root for them in the twisted way we often do for the right kinds of villain.
They basically tumble their way to victory time after time. And as a metanarrative commentary on the unfairness of life and the advantages of privilege, I suppose that could work, but… sorry guys. I just don’t agree with throwing the narrative itself in the trash to make a big clumsy moral point. And, unfortunately, you’re going to see me say that a lot more by the end of this opinion piece. We’ll come back to this in the third section. For now:
Luke Skybitter, Edgelord of Bleak Island in the Sea of Angst: overall, I did enjoy cynical old Luke; I said so last time. I don’t object to him becoming disillusioned to exactly this same extent, but I do have some execution quibbles. I’ve realized that when hyper-idealistic people lose their faith, they usually do wind up exactly like Luke does–with a key difference. In every case, there are traces of that old reverence in the subtle ways they treat the things around them. The lightsaber toss is chuckleworthy, but it’s a chuckleworthy moment that saps the emotional wallop from what should be a really powerful scene.
Rey has just handed him the same lightsaber that Obi-Wan originally did all those years ago. Luke tosses it away over his shoulder like it’s nothing, heedless of whether it plummets into the sea and is lost. And honestly that’s too much for me. Why is Luke retaining enough pretension to Jedihood that he’ll panic over the (mistakenly assumed) destruction of some old books, but still willing to discard probably the single most important object in his life that quickly?
In making a literal throwaway gag, Johnson also tossed the opportunity to showcase Luke’s emotional turmoil–something which we see in full effect later. This was a perfect time to hint at that, to let Mark Hamill use all that acting talent of his to really sell us on a Luke who remembers his old ideals and, on some level, longs for them, but just doesn’t believe anymore. You know: like an eerie shadow of his father. There’s a reason Vader never made jokes when he was trying to turn Luke to the Dark Side–it would’ve undermined the tone.
On a more general note, there just wasn’t enough time devoted to the backstory between Luke and Kylo. In such a long movie, arguably the most pivotal part of the backstory is just glossed over–there are so many things we don’t get answers for.
Rey’s Parents Are or Are Not Nobody, Maybe Kylo Lied: If Rey’s parents are nobody, I’m not bothered except that means we’ve spent huge amounts of time on that reveal instead of addressing much more interesting questions that would’ve been relevant going into the third, final movie. Inefficiency isn’t unforgivable, but this is just a “meh” reveal in a movie bursting with potential for “HOLY FUCK” reveals that it too-frequently ignores. If Rey’s parents aren’t nobody, we’ve wasted even more time when we could’ve found out who they were in The Last Jedi.
I’ve seen people arguing that The Force Awakens never suggested Rey’s parents were anyone important. My concern: the fact that you can say Rey’s parents, who are clearly important to Rey, are no one important, suggests that perhaps Rey herself hasn’t made as strong an impression as she should have.
Snoke Died, and You Laughed: If the Emperor just spontaneously exploded when he started monologuing at Luke, you’d have been disappointed, wouldn’t you? You’d have thought that was a ridiculous way to kill off this guy who’s been name-dropped the entire series. Also, Vader’s ultimate return to the Light and the Emperor’s (heh) shafting comprise one of the best moments in the entire franchise. I mean, jeez, can you imagine if all that were thrown out the window just for a cheap plot-twist?
Oh hey, Snoke, I didn’t see you there. Surprising given what you’re wearing.
So much of what happened in the first two movies revolves around Snoke. He’s the one who turned Kylo to the Dark Side, which is the event which triggered everything. Han and Leia’s divorce, Luke’s loss of faith, all the problems those two events caused. He’s the founder of the entire First Order, the one who pulled it together from the broken remnants of the fallen Galactic Empire.
If you’re anything like the audience my family and I watched the movie with, you burst out laughing at how stupid he looked when he died. Yeah, he did look stupid, didn’t he? Palpatine, in many ways a less unique villain, would’ve seen that coming a mile away. The lightsaber would’ve turned to face him, but then nothing would’ve happened when the activation switch flipped. Darth Sidious would laugh, holding up the saber’s power supply.
“Looking for this, my young Jedi friend?” he cackles. Vader was only able to get the better of him because the Emperor’s own hatred and the fact that he was actively engaged in killing Luke, actively succumbing to his own hatred, made him blind to his surroundings.
Meanwhile Snoke is inside Kylo’s head, doing nothing but watching, in a series where all Force users can sense each other’s presence, sense attacks before they happen, sense the emotions of those close to them from across the galaxy, and can deflect blaster shots canonically traveling at bullet speed (yes, it’s silly in visual terms, but Lucas did state as much even concerning the Original Trilogy.) Luke let his guard down for a literal second and Vader gleaned that he had a force-sensitive twin sister!
Snoke can link Kylo and Rey from across the universe, but can’t hear the extremely audible scrape of the lightsaber turning towards him, or better yet, use the Force to sense where Kylo is actually using the Force? But again, we got a plot twist out of it, so I guess it was worth it. “It wasn’t what you expected,” says the waiter of the giant pile of mold and maggots you’ve been given in place of filet mignon, “So I suppose it must be good.”
When we finally see the Emperor thrown down, it’s one of the most cathartic moments in cinema. Snoke? Snoke’s death is good for a chuckle and then we move on with the Rey and Kylo show. Sure, you didn’t expect this, but it was a way weaker moment than what you did expect, and immediately overshadowed by the throne room fight so there’s no time to cogitate and possibly come to understand the full gravity of this moment.
Social Justice Themes
…are a good and important thing to include that have been in Star Wars from the start, and anyone who tells you otherwise is a moron or willfully ignorant. That isn’t the problem. The problem is that The Last Jedi consistently throws these themes at the audience in a blind quest to earn points from people who already agree. And, um… isn’t the whole point of including these themes to convince people who don’t already agree with you?
I can’t help but feel that one of the main reasons The Last Jedi was so polarizing is that it seems to have a checklist of social justice talking points to hit. People who already agree clap because they see points they like without regard for whether those points were argued in a way that made any sense, and people who don’t agree throw tantrums and send death threats. Apparently.
Being balanced doesn’t mean agreeing equally with both sides, it means seeking the truth. And while I don’t personally think The Last Jedi deserves props just for having ideas about social justice, giving those props is harmless. Hounding innocent actresses off of social media in a fit of racist, sexist delirium is not.
Still, Star Wars is space opera. This is the same genre as Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga, a series to which I honestly owe more both ideologically and as a writer than I do my entire time in college. In my opinion, it’s the single best genre to work with progressive ideas, and can achieve astounding results when…
Cullen sighs and braces himself for impact.
Alright. Fucking damn it, alright, let’s just cut straight to the point: feminism. #MeToo proves pretty damn clearly that it’s still needed. Feminist themes have been in SciFi and Fantasy works for absolutely ages. They’re not new. Let me repeat: they’re not new. There are existing standards for feminism in fiction, and that’s my hangup here. In my professional opinion as a fully trained, keyboard-armed, operational creative writer, The Last Jedi doesn’t so much miss the mark as plummet beneath it and cut a hard-working single mother off at the ankles.
Leia is fine, mercifully. There is nothing wrong with Leia, largely because she has so little effect on the plot that there can’t be. It’s everyone around Leia who’s causing the problems here, and none moreso than Amilyn fucking Holdo.
Sadly necessary disclaimer: Laura Dern is an excellent actress and I appreciate her as a person.
Amilyn Holdo is the single worst female character I’ve ever encountered in a finished work. She lives and breathes for the sole purpose of making a point to a male character and then dying–does no one else see the irony here? The last conversation that she has in her life is about a man! That has to violate a subset of the Bechdel Test, right? She’s introduced after Leia is taken out of commission. Somehow Poe has never previously been introduced to her, doesn’t recognize her at first, and doesn’t know that she’s on the ship even though we later find out that she and Leia have been close for years. You know what’s conspicuous about this sequence?
It reads exactly like the setup used for every double-agent, plant, spy and agent-on-the-inside ever. This is the exact set of factors that Bond villains quote to explain how they see through his clever disguise of… never showing up with any kind of disguise.
Holdo then goes on to, by every appearance, slowly fly the Resistance fleet to nowhere in particular. We find out that she has a plan that does actually make sense. Why does Amilyn not share it? Is she afraid the First Order will find out? That might apply to some of the crew, but Poe fucking Dameron? Mister Ace von Suicide Run?
Well, actually, that would’ve been an amazing plot twist with proper setup–Poe’s impeccable combat record and seeming invincibility, all part of a First Order conspiracy? That would explain how he can be so ridiculously, implausibly, unprecedentedly skilled that he can single-handedly bring down entire squadrons, now wouldn’t it?! There were never human pilots in those TIEs, just AI to make him look good! Obviously after The Force Awakens this would’ve required too much handwaving to work, but it’s an interesting glimpse at what could’ve been.
Anyway, that’s not the case, so Holdo is just withholding information from Poe, who is known to be a hothead who will absolutely concoct some big dumb Star Warsy plan, to teach him a lesson. Pop quiz, folks! What is a commanding officer’s priority in the middle of a war? Is it:
1. Making an extremely specific moral point to a member of her command who’s highly competent and loyal but terribly stubborn?
2. Doing everything in her power to keep her command as a whole in the best shape possible while defeating or at least evading the enemy?
It’s 2. Look, I know there’s a pervasive attitude in Hollywood that war is dumb and people who fight wars are dumb and reading stuff about war would, by extension, be dumb, but Holdo shows every trait of a chickenshit superior officer–an incompetent, narcissistic buffoon obsessed with protocol and authoritarianism at the cost of everything else. These officers are uniformly hated even in conventional militaries where obedience is key.
Anyone who’s read a single one of Stephen E. Ambrose’s histories or most other solid work in the war history genre would know this. Soldiers hate chickenshit officers, and they absolutely loathe doing things without purpose, and retreating, and dying to no purpose. You know: warrior stuff. Two of the biggest morale-killers in Vietnam and much more recently in the Middle East were a sense of futility, and the lack of a clear plan. Does that sound like anything from The Last Jedi?
This is the Resistance. I know that anti-authoritarianism and anarchy aren’t the same thing, but Holdo goes out of her way to speak and act in a way that would appeal to members of The First Order. Is it any surprise that Poe winds up thinking she’s a traitor? Because frankly, I reached exactly the same conclusion! All the evidence points at Holdo being a turncoat leading The Resistance on a long flight to oblivion–finding out that she has a plan just makes this entire chain of events pointless.
In his admirable attempt to make a point about toxic masculinity, Johnson instead gives us a female commander who blindly uses her authority to silence a subordinate who’s only been misguided by his sheer loyalty to the cause, and then goes on a full-blown power trip to shield her own ego instead of just telling Poe Dameron, actual war hero of the Resistance, what the plan is.
If Amilyn Holdo were representative of female commanders, I wouldn’t want her in charge either. I don’t want somebody leading the mission who’ll put the entire unit’s lives in jeopardy to score points in a private feud. I’d have thought that was common sense.
When I say she’s the worst female character I’ve ever encountered, I mean it. Holdo’s entire character showcases a breathtaking ignorance of basic logic and common knowledge that have underpinned female soldiers in every franchise, not just Star Wars. Even on a basic level, she looks, sounds and acts like a far-right caricature of a feminist, and was latched onto accordingly when the movie came out. If people against your ideology are able to use one of your characters to tear it down just by quoting the character’s exact traits, that’s a serious writing failure.
And most of this could’ve been solved by a single scene from Holdo’s perspective where we get to see her plan, even if none of the other characters find out. Imagine if Poe had met Holdo before and trusted her, and the point about toxic masculinity came via Poe trying desperately to convince other male members of the crew that Holdo is the real deal. We could’ve seen him really struggle and begin to doubt himself, and that would be a far stronger demonstration of the macho peer-pressure which truly perpetuates toxic masculinity.
But hey, gotta have those plot twists, right?
Next up, Casino Planet! It shouldn’t be in this movie. There’s absolutely a place for this in Star Wars, and this could’ve been a really important story if done well, but The Last Jedi was not the place to tell it. Remember The Empire Strikes Back? Remember how its plot structure makes this neat little zipper-effect where it splits after the Rebels lose on Hoth, broadens out over the course of the film, and then comes back together at the end? Remember how every event that took place fed back into the same overarching narrative?
The Last Jedi could’ve done the same, but it packed way too much fat through the zipper’s open mouth. Also, the attempt to make a morally nuanced point about the military-industrial complex and the undercurrent of greed inevitably has to fall flat in a universe where there are space-wizards flying around who have different reality-defying powers based on whether they’re good or evil, and the bad guys literally enslave and condition children from birth to serve as soldiers.
The First Order do that. That’s still canon. Every stormtrooper you see die is a former child-soldier who has no agency, and was ultimately failed by the Resistance. But let’s not examine that, that might risk getting genuinely deconstructive.
On which note, Finn is briefly turned into a coward so that he can have his same plot arc from The Force Awakens but with Rose. He already did this, remember? Finn already decided to go against the First order, lost heart because he felt it was hopeless, and came back for the finale. There is no reason whatsoever for Finn to try and run away again. You’re seriously going to tell me that the man who, in the course of a single movie, could go from stormtrooper to bull-rushing Kylo Ren, is a coward at heart? You’re going to tell me his grit just mystically gave out?
No. I refuse. I refuse, and you should too. There’s no reason at all that Finn couldn’t have just gone into the depths of the Raddus to brood for a little while and met Rose that way. That is a perfectly reasonable thing that humans do in stressful situations: we go away and get depressed. It could’ve been a really great moment where Finn is trying to make peace with his likely death, and Rose offers him some actual hope, or alternatively sympathizes because she just lost her sister and she’s in a similarly morbid place.
Nope! Haha, isn’t it funny how Finn’s trying to run away and abandon the tiny handful of true friends he has? Yessir, it’s absolutely hilarious, and definitely doesn’t risk playing into any pre-modern biases about people of color in the military except for every fucking one of them. I know it wasn’t intended that way, but at the basic level it’s still manufacturing a complete 180 on Finn’s character development just to introduce a character. That’s not good writing, people.
And… this is Star Wars. This is a series that is actually built on characters running into each other in strings of coincidences so mind-boggingly ridiculous that even the Force can hardly justify them.
Finn was the The Last Jedi’s chance to make a really powerful statement about ordinary people, not just super-powered heroes, doing the right thing without having someone else nag them. When we wait for others to reaffirm our morals in the real world, that can be all it takes for the movement to fail. Finn has the most potential for character growth of anyone in the series aside from Kylo. By resetting him to exactly where he was in The Force Awakens, Johnson has robbed Finn of the chance to grow towards something more compelling.
A final note: killing Admiral Akbar. This is done to let Holdo enter the story, and I’ve seen a lot of supposedly-Liberal fans justify it by saying that Admiral Akbar is basically no one. “Look,” they say, “I didn’t really care about the squid man.” Wow! Good work! You guys are actually the First Order! Kill the xenos filth so attractive, white human women can take their place, yes! Akbar wasn’t a pivotal character in the original trilogy, but he was a character in the original trilogy. Holdo was not. Don’t try to tell me this is really about which of them was a bigger character; this is just a sticking point because people who don’t like The Last Jedi mentioned it, and you’ve already decided you have to disagree with everything they say.
Killing an actual alien to bring in a white woman who looks, sounds and acts incredibly upper-class is the literal opposite of diversity, folks. And I’m not sorry for being angry about that.
A Little Realism Is a Dangerous Thing
A little while ago, I posted a series of articles about the value of Realism in Fantasy. In the final article (at least for now), I wrote, “realism isn’t all or nothing, but it’s not something you can just lightly spoon over your writing. Bringing just a little realism will only highlight all the unrealistic things remaining in your story. You’ll have to find a careful balance with it.”
The Last Jedi is the best possible argument for this point. Johnson introduces exactly enough realistic elements to highlight every other contrivance in the story. And this is Star Wars, and Star Wars has always been fairly handwavy. Two incredibly easy examples: why didn’t the first Death Star have shields over its exhaust port, and why didn’t the Emperor build a hidden “true” shield into the Second Death Star instead of relying on a highly vulnerable planetary shield?
Johnson brings in hyperspace tracking technology and of course the First Order uses it to pursue the Resistance. That’s fine, ships in Hyperspace travel in real-space and I have no problem believing they leave some kind of space-time wake or whatever mumbo-jumbo you want to event. Then he brings in fuel, and suddenly we have a ridiculous number of problems.
First off: why are the Resistance ships low on fuel having just evacuated from their base? If fuel is a problem, why isn’t the First Order’s fleet of far larger, more heavily built-up ships having to bring in refueling ships so as not to fall behind, or at least having to cycle ships out to refuel? Wouldn’t the Resistance, from the inception a hit-and-run force founded by veterans of the long war against the Galactic Empire, have ships optimized for fuel capacity and efficiency over literally everything else?
Since they knew the First Order were coming, why didn’t the Resistance send the smaller ships to safety with the wounded and critical personnel, leaving the Raddus as a rear guard to buy time and by extension, space?
Let’s hark back to the Hoth escape. This had plot holes too–why was there only one Star Destroyer with no fighter escort blocking the Rebel’s sole escape route from the planet? Why wasn’t the Executor poised above to drop the hammer from orbit the moment the shields came down? Why did Vader commit to going in personally–oh, wait, he’s Vader, that’s what he does.
You see, Hoth had its logic gaps, but they were the kind of logic gaps that can reasonably be excused by human error. The entire setup for The Last Jedi is predicated on levels of incompetence that shouldn’t be possible–but that’s going to be its own section at the very end.
Anyway, for now we come back to other seriously-problematic questions. Why do the First Order TIE-fighters take out every single Resistance bomber except the first within seconds, but then cease to exist for the ridiculously long time it takes for Rose’s sister to make the bombing run successfully? Why doesn’t Leia just call the rest of the squadron back? She’s the supreme commander of the Resistance, not Poe! If the others consciously ignored her orders, why is Poe the only one she punishes?
Why are the blaster-cannons on Poe’s X-wing strong enough to take out the Dreadnought’s anti-fighter turrets in a single blast each time? Shouldn’t those turrets be explicitly armored and shielded to at least the threshold needed to repel an X-wing’s blasters, seeing as X-wings have been the staple starfighter of the Rebels and now Resistance for about forty years?
Why are all the Resistance ships hand-me-downs? Has nothing better been developed in forty years? Why are all the First Order ships traveling at exactly the same speed as the Resistance ships? Why is there suddenly a range-limit on their turbolasers which has never previously been indicated in any Star Wars material, and why aren’t they able to circumvent the power drop-off just by increasing their volume of fire? If the Resistance ships’ shielding can repel turbolaser fire at all, why was Kylo able to fly right up to the Raddus and into its main hangar bay to blow up its fighters?
(Because it’s deconstructive to stop pilot Poe Dameron from being a pilot, I guess. That seems to have been the only function of this moment–to remove Poe’s agency to provide a paper-thin justification for all the drama between himself and Holdo.) Why are Kylo’s wingmates able to blow up the Raddus’ bridge that easily? If it’s because all the shields are focused towards deflecting fire from the First Order ships, why doesn’t Kylo override Hux, because he can absolutely do that, and immediately order all fighters to swarm the Resistance ships which, by the way, now have no starfighter support of their own because Kylo just blew it all up?
Why hasn’t Leia already scrambled her fighters when the First Order sends theirs? Why don’t the Resistance ships have any point-defense guns of the kind that every Earth warship currently has? Why are point-defense guns in general so useless when in reality we already have computer-targeted Gatling cannons that reliably shoot cruise missiles out of the air, let alone fighters that come close enough for strafing runs?
Come to think of it, why don’t the First Order ships have long-range missiles for attacking targets outside the range of their main turbolasers? You know, like Earth warships do? Why is the Resistance so small? Wasn’t it started with support from the Republic? And Leia fucking Organa wasn’t able to attract more support? It’s not like the Resistance was a secret organization!
The Republic just collapsed last movie–if it even collapsed, we never found out its exact scale–why is the entire galaxy folding over and letting the First Order “win” this round? If Holdo can cut the Supremacy in half with a hyperspace attack run, why doesn’t the lone operator of the medical frigate try something similar instead of passively embracing death? Even a ramming attack at the First Order ships might delay them enough for the Raddus to get a little further out of range.
Why is Holdo’s plan even physically capable of working? Apparently the cloaking devices on the Resistance ships are only against sensors, not visual spectrum. Have you ever seen video of objects in space? Have you seen how brightly even painted, unpolished metal seems to glow against the void of space? The resistance transports have long, glass panels on the sides which would reflect like beacons towards at least the furthest out of the ships in the First Order fleet–surely these ships have visual sensor technology, especially in an authoritarian group like The First Order which disdains human agency? We established that computer-assisted scans and targeting existed all the way back in A New Hope.
If I really wanted to get deconstructive, I’d ask where light is coming from when the entire pursuit happens in deep space outside any discernible star system, and–wait just a minute! If they’d done that, Holdo’s plan would actually make sense! Can you imagine how tense and atmospheric all this would’ve been if it happened in near-total darkness, or in the depths of a nebula with the First Order ships becoming looming shadows in an abyssal field of phantasmagorical gas, lit only by the distant flickers of stars waiting to be born?
And then there would actually be a medium for the transports to hide in, and an explanation for how this rebel base is actually hidden and why it’s sited where it is, and maybe nebulae mess with starship sensors… Can you even comprehend the mind-warping awesomeness of watching the Supremacy shorn in half and the nebula itself tearing open with the force of the Raddus’ final oblivion? Think of the eerie light of the fires on the stricken First Order ships as seen by the fleeing Resistance shuttles–hell, a lot of nebulae contain oxygen that would feed those fires! Imagine columns of gas swirling in towards the ruined Supremacy, and…
Oh, what’s the use, we’re never getting any of that now. This entire pursuit could’ve gone anywhere in the galaxy, traversed all manner of bizarre and beautiful vistas, and instead we just flew across the void for two hours with nothing more colorful than Hux’s hair.
I’m sorry for getting so angry, but like I said in Part 1: I like deconstruction when it makes room for new, better ideas. I’ve just provided some–it took me only a few minutes and some effort. I don’t like that I was able to do that so easily. It shouldn’t be that easy to surpass the writing of a Star Wars movie, guys.
Rey and Rose: Why I’m Not Talking About Them Directly
Isn’t it obvious? There’s been too much hatred. I don’t think I can say anything here that hasn’t been said before, and said so many times by such awful people that my best wordsmithing can do nothing to redeem it. So… I won’t try.
But for the record, my only real problem with Rose is that she stops Finn’s ramming attack. I don’t think it’s fair to call her Jar-Jar.
The Entire Plot Hinges on The First Order Being Impossibly Bad At Their Jobs
So, here we are: our closing note, the ultimate problem with absolutely every stage of The Last Jedi. We’ve run long already, so I’m just going to wrap up as quickly as possible:
-The dreadnought captain targets the planet which is already mostly evacuated instead of the Resistance fleet to which the planet is being evacuated.
-The rest of the First Order fleet doesn’t attack the Resistance fleet despite a clear, overwhelming advantage in numbers and firepower.
-Neither Hux nor any other commander deploys a screen of TIE-fighters, despite the fact that fighter screens are not only standard military operating procedure in the real world but were standard operating procedure for the Galactic Empire as well. Remember how a wall of TIEs were the first thing we saw at the Battle of Endor? Remember how quickly they were scrambled in the attack on Starkiller Base?
-Neither Hux nor any other commander immediately shoots down Poe’s fighter when it comes in range and just lingers at low speed.
-None of the other ships move to screen the dreadnought while its weapons recharge.
-The Supremacy… just isn’t there for the planetary sequence, apparently?
-Once the First Order begins pursuing the Resistance fleet, not a single ship jumps into hyperspace ahead of the Resistance at any point. The First Order pursuers never call in outside help or otherwise block the Resistance from moving forward.
-None of the First Order ships have the miniaturized Death Star tech we see later in the film, which is convenient seeing as it would probably be able to break through the Resistance ships’ shielding despite the extreme range.
-So egregious it’s a separate point: the Supremacy isn’t just covered in miniaturized Death Star cannons despite being amply large enough for a least a hundred of the damn things.
-The First Order starfighters, despite an extremely successful first wave, never do anything to the Resistance for the rest of the film, including flying after the completely unarmed, helpless shuttles while Holdo makes her suicide attack.
-The First Order deploy their ground forces a ridiculous distance away from the Resistance base even though, unlike on Hoth, there’s no energy shield or any kind of orbital defense to prevent them landing closer, creating just enough delay that Rey is ultimately able to rescue everyone.
-The First Order don’t screen the miniaturized death star cannon by moving their walkers further out in front of it.
-The First Order use a miniaturized death star cannon instead of just moving a Star Destroyer into the atmosphere, which you can do in Star Wars, and firing on the Resistance with impunity. Especially a Star Destroyer equipped with the miniaturized death star cannon that you’d think would be a natural fit to mount on Star Destroyers.
-The First Order’s air-cover consists of about fifteen TIE-fighters instead of hundreds or thousands for this, the pivotal effort to annihilate the last pitiful remnant of the Resistance.
And that’s it. I’m done. None of you will ever hear or read another word from me about The Last Jedi. Let me be absolutely clear on one thing: as amped up as I’ve become at some points in this piece, none of that represents a personal vendetta against anyone who enjoyed The Last Jedi or any of the cast members involved in making it. Everything I’ve said is directed purely at the movie’s writing, and that’s it.
If you violently, irreversibly disagree with everything I’ve said, I understand. This movie has been so emotionally fraught on both sides I can’t believe my own opinion has any kind of objectivity to it. Just please confine your counterarguments to the ideas I’ve presented, and don’t attack me or other people as individuals in the comments.