forestall any conjecture and either sate your curiosity or warn you
off entirely I’ll preface this post with a summary up front - Star
Wars: The Last Jedi is one of the worst films I have ever seen. And
beware for thar be spoilers ahead.
hate it. I know that’s a strong word and one I’ve used wantonly
in the past, but in this case I can’t think of another more
accurate. I hate the film. I don’t merely dislike it. I find the
very fact that it exists offensive. My life is worse for having seen
film has drawn no small measure of controversy. Fans and critics
alike seem polarised, they either love it or hate it, with not a lot
of middle ground. Ergo there has been no small measure of discussion
on this controversy. It’s this discussion that has driven me to add
my own two cents to the melee, because at no point have I seen a post
that grasps the problem at hand.
discussion over why people dislike the film is dominated by a false
dichotomy: there are those that didn’t like it because it was too
far removed from the films that had come before and there are those
that didn’t like it because it was too similar to the Star Wars
films of old.
arguments could be made over why The Last Jedi is similar to the Star
Wars of old or why it is far too different (a view I personally
hold), this entirely misses the point. Regardless of where it sits in
regards to the pantheon of Star Wars, The Last Jedi is, in and of
itself, a terrible film.
of the franchise it represents The Last Jedi is a clunky, ham-fisted,
under-written and over-directed, unmitigated shit show. At its best
it is clumsy and at its worst it is infuriating. If I had to sum it
up in a word I’d call it “stupid”. The decisions that director
Rian Johnson has made with the film just don’t make any sense.
don’t say this lightly. I have a powerful suspension of disbelief.
I’m willing to forgive most plot holes, I’ll quite creatively
retcon even the most glaring oversight and content myself with my
in-universe explanation (my favourite film is Pacific
Rim after all). The Last Jedi doesn’t allow this. It is a
155 minute bombardment on your ability to disbelieve.
film starts off strongly. In a bold move it opens with a joke and
surprisingly it pays off. Poe Dameron’s prank call of General Hux
is genuinely funny. I’ve been a professional comedian for over a
decade, I know all the tricks, I can see behind every curtain, I
despise most attempts at comedy and that bit made me actually laugh
out loud. That is no small achievement.
then shows off his piloting skills in a daring X-Wing raid on the
Fulminatrix in a visually impressive action sequence. At this point
the film showed promise. This was flashy and exciting and what I
wanted the movie to be. Then it did something unprecedented in a Star
Wars film – inertia. Dameron’s X-Wing turns 180 degrees yet
preserves its forward momentum until it fires the engines. Actual
sound science in a space battle. My excitement at this point was at
then the stupid starts. And once it starts it never stops. Whilst I
was incredibly excited after five minutes, by the ten minute mark I
was scratching my head. At twenty minutes I was heart-broken. By 40
minutes into the film I was ready to walk out, the only thing driving
me forward was the morbid curiosity of seeing just how much worse it
could get. The answer was “a lot”.
like to go into every dumb point in detail, and I have for my own
benefit, but the document is currently another 2000 words of dot
points and I don’t think anyone has the time to read it (another
time perhaps). Suffice it to say that from about five minutes into
the film it appears that every character makes the dumbest possible
decision they can.
the sake of brevity I’ll only dive in depth into the two most
glaring cases in the film.
is Luke Skywalker. Everything to do with Luke Skywalker. When we meet
Luke it’s at the same point as the close of The Force Awakens, with
Rey handing him his father’s lightsaber. After a long moment of
silent tension Luke then throws the lightsaber away without a word.
All of that buildup for what comedians call a “pullback reveal”.
Weak. In case you missed it this is the directorial cue that the
audience should be willing to break with the past Star Wars films.
Isn’t Rian Johnson subtle?
follows is an entire act of Luke being an obtuse dickhead for no
reasonable purpose. At this point I was still willing to give the
film the benefit of the doubt. I’d reasoned that Luke was being
purposefully asinine to test the patience of his pupil – as Yoda
had once done to him. As the film progressed it became apparent that
this level of subtlety was not in play, Luke was just being an ass.
What becomes clear is that Rian Johnson has completely abandoned the
character of Luke Skywalker and bludgeoned him into an amorphous
shadow that he can shoe-horn into his own narrative.
of Luke’s actions in the film are consistent with the character
we’ve come to know. Upon the destruction of his Jedi temple and the
deaths of his students he has not come to Ach-To to commune with the
Force on some vision quest, he has come to run away from his problems
in a way that is completely inverted from the idealistic hero of the
original films. The young Jedi who rushed to confront a Sith Lord in
order to save his friends is now willing to abandon the entire galaxy
to a powerful Dark Jedi because…reasons.
are then treated to a bit of back story over what happened to Luke’s
Jedi academy. When he sensed the growing power of the dark side in
his nephew, Ben Solo, he contemplated murdering the boy in his sleep.
Luke Skywalker, who walked fearlessly into the Death Star in order to
redeem a Sith Lord who had murdered the entire Jedi Order, who had
gladly decided to die rather than murder a beaten opponent, this is
the same person who would, if only for a moment, consider killing
someone in cold blood because they might one day fall to the dark
we’re to believe that in the space of a few decades Luke would
abandon every principle he held.
Luke was willing to kill his own nephew to prevent the rise of a
powerful Dark Jedi is one thing, but then when Ben gives himself over
to the Dark Side and becomes Kylo Ren, Luke runs away and hides. He
was willing to murder his own kin to prevent this from happening but
now that it has he’s not going to do anything about it. Rian
Johnson shows here that not only is he abandoning the character of
the old Star Wars films, he can’t remain consistent within his own
that in with a multitude of scenes of Luke being a grumpy old man, a
needlessly rude hermit and, for some unknown reason, graphically
milking a space manatee and this entire arc is just offensive.
clumsy and futile handling of the character of Luke Skywalker is one
of the major reasons why The Last Jedi is a terrible movie, but as
Yoda once said “there is another”.
you’ve seen the film then you know what I’m talking about, but if
you haven’t then I’ll try and paint the scene for you. I say try
(I know, I know, “do or do not”) because it’s difficult to get
across how jarring and incongruent this sequence is.
Resistance fleet is on the run. They can’t escape to hyperspace
because the will be tracked by the First Order, who will only catch
them and destroy them. So they’re flying through space, just out of
effective weapons range of the First Order, just staying alive.
However the clock is ticking. They’re running out of fuel. They
can’t run forever. Why it takes fuel to continue in a straight line
in space is never addressed (perhaps the fuel is needed to run the
shields? Look I’m throwing you a bone here Rian) nor is the fact
that the First Order doesn’t switch from using plasma weaponry
which has an effective range to some kind of kinetic weapons which
don’t, or just send their fighters ahead. Nor are we treated to a
reason why all ships now seem to have the same speed even though
every film prior to this shows a mixture of both fast ships and slow.
Poe Dameron decides to send ex-stormtrooper Finn and random engineer
he just met Rose off on a mission to find someone who can get them
onto the Supremacy and shut down the hyperspace tracking to let the
Resistance escape. Does that sound convoluted? That’s because it
Finn and Rose find themselves on a shuttle travelling to the planet
of Canto Bight to find a slicer, instead of using that shuttle and
others like it to evacuate the stated 400 Resistance members who need
evacuating because of reasons.
in an instant we go from the incredibly dark and tense pursuit of the
last of the Resistance fleet to…a 1930’s style casino! That’s
right, everyone is in their best three piece suit dancing the
Charleston as if Finn and Rose have just hyperspace jumped into the
Great Gatsby. When are then treated to some tell-don’t-show
moralising from Rian Johnson on the nature of greed and war before
Finn and Rose indulge in a chase scene through space-Marrakesh on
space-camels while being pursued by the space-police before they are
rescued by Benecio Del Toro’s character DJ who will of course
suddenly but inevitably betray them.
you thought the pod-racing scene from The Phantom Menace was tedious
and pointless then Rian Johnson would like you to hold his beer.
should this scene have played out instead?
Finn can you sneak us on board the Supremacy to shut down the
Finn: Yes, I used to be a stormtrooper, I know
a sneaky way in.
Great, for a second there I thought we’d have to go on a
pointlessly wacky side adventure where a drunk leprechaun fills BB-8
I just shaved 30 minutes off the longest running Star Wars film in
course the stupidity doesn’t stop there, but it does perhaps peak.
The rest of the film from then on isn’t offensive because how dumb
it is, but because it is just plain seeks to offend. It is Rian
Johnson firmly and proudly raising the middle finger to anyone who is
a fan of the franchise.
previous film, The Force Awakens, raised a number of questions. The
film was written and directed by JJ Abrams, a man who is more adept
than anyone at creating intriguing mysteries without ever bothering
to answer them (the magic numbers from Lost spring to mind). The
greatest questions springing from The Force Awakens were “who are
Rey’s parents?” and “who is this immensely powerful Dark Jedi,
Supreme Leader Snoke?”
the two years since the release of The Force Awakens the internet has
been ablaze with conjecture over these questions. Fans were rabid in
their search for answers to these major plot points, enjoying
crafting elaborate theories as to where the franchise could take
these storylines. Hearkening back to the days of “is Darth Vader
really Luke’s father?” or “is Darth Sidious really Senator
Palpatine?” this conjecture is at the heart and soul of what it is
to be a fan of Star Wars.
is also something that Rian Johnson blatantly and vehemently resents.
is one thing to chastise fans for the means by which they choose to
enjoy the films, though that is bad enough, but it’s another thing
entirely to sabotage the middle film of trilogy to punish those fans
for being fans.
mystery of Rey’s parents is answered with a throwaway line by Kylo
Ren that they are junkrat nobodies who sold her. Reasonable enough I
suppose, and perhaps even the same direction I would have taken the
plot line, though perhaps with a bit more exposition. But I can’t
get over the feel that this was never the intended arc for Rey’s
character, that this is a backlash for the fan speculation over her
if the reveal of Rey’s parents was a subtle rebuke by Rian Johnson
for the over-zealousness of the fan base, then the Snoke reveal is
Rian dancing around naked, swinging his dick at them while waving a
giant sign saying “go fuck yourselves”.
through the film Supreme Leader Snoke is killed off by his student,
Kylo Ren. After some impressive displays of his powers with the
Force, after the reveal that it was he who had manipulated Rey AND
Kylo Ren with his incredible power, that he had engineered
proceedings exactly to his machinations in a way that the Emperor
could only dream of, he is abruptly killed. No heroic sacrifice, a la
Darth Vader. No impressive fight sequence a la Darth Maul or Darth
Tyrannus. No exposition. One minute he’s alive, the greatest threat
the galaxy has ever faced, the head of a bigger and badder empire.
The next minute he’s dead, never to be spoken of again, as if he
never existed in the first place.
even the most die-hard new trilogy apologist could argue that this
was ever the intended direction for the character. That an entire
film and a half would be devoted to this great and powerful evil only
for him to be written out with the in-universe equivalent of “Note:
Poochie died on the way back to his home planet”.
this was a deliberate move by Johnson. This was his objection to the
speculation on the character and the nature of Star Wars fans. This
was his personal revenge against people actively enjoying the
intellectual property instead of passively receiving whatever the
film-maker threw at them. He took an important character and story
arc and threw them into the fire, writing himself and any future
directors into a corner in the process, simply because he wanted to
engage in an act of petty revenge and onanism.
this is the man who has been given the green light to develop his own
are the most glaring examples of idiocy and clumsiness in The Last
Jedi. The rest of the film is merely bouncing from one scene to the
next with events happening because the plot needs them to happen. The
whole venture feels like they went ahead and filmed the first draft.
As if at no point a second party has looked at the script and said
“why are they doing this? It doesn’t make any sense”.
even though I’ve gone into such detail on a couple of major issues
with the film, that’s probably the main problem with the film. It
doesn’t make any sense. None of the decisions made by any of the
characters make sense. They all seem to do the dumbest thing possible
because that will generate the most drama.
Johnson has obviously read the rule of storytelling that says to
create drama you take your characters and challenge them. That you
put them in a tree and throw rocks at them, as it were. But he
doesn’t know how to do it. He doesn’t know how to make it look
natural. So he just clumsily engineers situations where the
characters are faced with adversity brought about through their own
stupidity or the stupidity of others.
core of this problem isn’t limited to The Last Jedi. It was present
in The Force Awakens and numerous other films as well – the new
Hollywood trend of the “writer/director”. Not every writer is a
director and not every director is a writer. Some can do both and do
it very well – Tarantino for instance is a brilliant slashie. But
you can’t skimp on the writers.
Last Jedi is a brilliant spectacle. It looks amazing. The use of
lighting and shot selection to convey story is wonderful at times, if
a little heavy handed at others. But the whole film is a delight to
look at. It’s just a shame that the story, the core of it, is so
very, very poor. It is the result of a director saying “we need to
do this and this, go from point A to B to C” without knowing how to
accomplish that as a storyteller.
whole film is an exercise in what could have been. The Force Awakens
wasn’t brilliant by any stretch. But it was a lot of fun and it
introduced a lot of rich plot lines which begged to be expanded on,
deeper mysteries that would have been fun to unravel. Imagine the
wonder and excitement we could have had if the next instalment of the
story was given to someone who knew what to do with them instead of
an obdurate madman hell bent on his own “artistic vision” and
driven by a need for petty revenge. If this had been a solo film,
without the rich history and lore that burdens Star Wars, it might
have been amazing. The terrible storytelling and massive plot holes
might never have occurred if such a stubborn director hadn’t been
forced to work within confines of a universe not of his own.
such wasn’t to be. Unlike Gareth Edwards, who created the utterly
brilliant Rogue One in an even more restrictive narrative confine,
Rian Johnson proved incapable of budging even an inch and the result
is a film that is an utter mess and a waste. It makes one nostalgic
for the glory days of The Phantom Menace and Jar-Jar Binks, which was
until 14.12.17 the worst thing to ever happen to Star Wars.
think about how much I hate The Last Jedi and I wonder why. I wonder
why this movie hurts me so much more than the prequels did, why the
disappointment is so much more gut wrenching. It’s because of what
it could have been.
prequels were George Lucas’ baby. It was his universe, his product
and he was going to make it his way. That way might not have been the
right way, or even a good way, but it was his. Nobody could fault him
for doing what he wanted with his own creation. We all knew the man’s
ambition outpaced his ability. His greatest excesses were held in
check by his ex-wife, Marcia, and when they divorced there was nobody
stopping him from doing dumb things like racist aliens, cannibal
teddy bears and a 40 minute love letter to NASCAR racing.
it was his house and he could paint it whatever ugly colour he wanted
new trilogy was supposed to free us of that. We had an opportunity to
build on the world he created and take it in new and exciting
directions. We had the opportunity to put it into hands more
competent than those of George Lucas, thankful for what he created
but more thankful for gracefully stepping back.
Disney decided to go in the other direction. They decided to keep
Star Wars in the hands of an intractable autocrat and the result is
more of the same. A film more notable for its potential and its
failings than for its ability to deliver.
still while that accounts for my disappointment in the film, and for
my crippling depression as a result of it, but it doesn’t account
for the hatred. I truly do hate The Last Jedi.
reason being that these new films have wiped the slate clean. They
have rendered null and void all of the former Expanded Universe, what
is now known as Legends.
the wake of Return of the Jedi in 1983 there was a great demand for
more of the Star Wars universe. What became of the characters? People
demanded to know. What was happening in the rest of the galaxy? What
other stories were never told? What else was possible?
and storytellers began to fill the void. Some of them weren’t
weren’t great, others were laughably bad, but most of them were
incredible. Most of them were incredible stories set in the Star Wars
grew up on these stories. I read and re-read nearly all of the
Expanded Universe books, handed down to me from a benevolent uncle
who fostered such imagination.
Zahn’s utterly brilliant Thrawn trilogy dared to imagine what
became of the Empire after the Battle of Endor. Beaten and broken
they faced defeat and retreat until they were revitalised by a new
villain – Grand Admiral Thrawn, an alien whose intellect and
tactical brilliance was fuelled by an appreciation of art. The Thrawn
trilogy proved the be the skeleton from which the new canon trilogy
was built, although without the panache of Zahn’s writing, while
the character of Thrawn was so iconic, so brilliant, he was adopted
into the new canon.
X-Wing series took a background character but fan favourite, Wedge
Antilles, and put him front and center. These novels were rollicking
tales of the fighter pilots so iconic of Star Wars, with their
laconic wit and dashing bravado, racing from one impossible mission
to the next. If you enjoy Poe Dameron in the new films (and who
doesn’t?) then imagine an entire series of people just like him.
The death of Han Solo in The Force Awakens never really resonated
with me but decades later the death of Ton Phanan still gives me
were so many stories of Luke’s attempts to recreate the Jedi Order.
His Praxeum on Yavin IV where he tried to mentor students as young
and as brash as he once was, all while wondering if his own brief
training was enough to prevent him from creating the next Darth
Vader. This Luke was wise and caring, confident yet humble. A true
servant of the Force who would never have imagined murdering a
student in his sleep but would have done all in his power and more to
prevent him ever falling in the first place.
are the true tales of Star Wars. These are the real continuation of
the story. And now all of them have been cast aside, destroyed by the
myopic treatment of JJ Abrams, who never wrote a story beyond his
first movie, and Rian Johnson who never gave a shit about anything
other than his “artistic vision”.
is why I hate The Last Jedi. Not only is it a terribly written story,
it is by its very existence an erasure of all of the good stories
that came before it, the ones crafted by competent writers who cared
for the subject matter. Not building upon what came before but
utterly rejecting it out of spite.
isn’t a matter of whether The Last Jedi was too far removed from
the old Star Wars movies or whether is was too similar to them. That
doesn’t matter. All that really mattered was that it was a good
story. Which it most certainly wasn’t. It was terrible. And if this
film was the audition by which Rian Johnson received his own trilogy
then I truly mourn the Star Wars saga, for it is in the most unsafe
those wondering, because this is what the reviewers all seem to do,
this is my ranking of the Star Wars films:
Empire Strikes Back
of the Jedi
of the Sith
of the Clones