A long time ago in a country far, far away, some guy named Tolstoy wrote that, “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way” and the same is true of movies. That’s a bombastic way of saying it’s New Years day and I’m strangely hung over. Well, not strangely, but very, and the effort required to be fair and balanced in this critique of Star Wars: Last Jedi far exceeds my current cerebral capacity. I have given into the dark side and just like Rey (aka New Luke), I’m diving straight into the first black hole I come to.
Let’s start with Porgs.
No, I can’t do that yet. Freaking Porgs.
I love Star Wars. I’m one of those kids who grew up in the 1970s where Star Wars was ubiquitous. There was more Star Wars promotional placement than shag carpeting and marbled mirrors combined. It was as fantastic combination of black-and-white morality and technicolor space laser fights, and no one had excessive body hair. Well-groomed samurai cowboys in space? Sign me up. I’m fully aware of how this nostalgia creates unrealistic expectations, but Star Wars: Last Jedi still disappointed.
After the Star Wars prequels, my standards were so low that the remake of New Hope (Star Wars IV) as The Force Awakens (VII), and the side-story of Rogue One, were both an intense relief. The bar was set at “don’t ruin the franchise forever” and Disney cleared that bar by a fair distance. So now that Disney has brought the franchise back from the brink, it’s time to move forward. It’s time to take all that good will, a fantastic universe and compelling moral themes, and introduce some new characters and new ideas for a new generation of Star Wars fans. You know, do something just a little bit more than remake the Empire Strikes Back with a more diverse cast. That’s not too much to ask, is it?
If I were a Porg, I’d turn to director Rian Johnson with big shiny eyes full of yearning and love. Is it too much to ask, Rian? Is it?
Apparently it is. If you’ve seen Last Jedi, you know it was both wonderful and terrible. Wondrible? Terriful? There were great bits: Leia got a great send off, the cast got even more diverse, salt is pretty and the movie will gross billions, but I don’t care about any of that. I’m here to talk about betrayal.
And I’m talkin’ Lando selling out Han on Bespin kind of betrayal. I’m talking about a movie that has absolutely no respect for the franchise or the fan base. I’m talkin’ about back-stabbing, honorless rebel scum…
Oh, wait, I just had some coffee. It’s bad, but not quite rebel scum bad.
There are of course many (other) blogs that go into the serious thematic issues with Last Jedi, including pretty much everything about the mysterious but not-so-supreme Supreme Leader Snoke, Luke Skywalker’s vacation activities, the absence of a lightsaber battle between Rey and Kylo Ren (Ben Solo), the missing Knights of Ren and so on. It’s like Rian Johnson watched No Country for Old Men and decided that was just the kind of audience disappointment we needed more of.
But those issues are all about failed promises. My focus is more on the movie as high-budget film rather than as another installment in the Star Wars saga. I’ve always hated that once a franchise gets big enough, the writing goes to hell and the audience is expected to just go with it. As much I loved season six of Game of Thrones, for instance, the latest season of the show makes factual and logical errors that would never have been tolerated in the books (e.g., ships cannot fly, armor does not float, etc.). HBO’s Thrones started to lose me where the books never had; George R.R. Martin respected his readers by respecting his characters and the internal consistency of his novels. This is missing in the most recent episodes of GoT just as it’s missing from this installment of Star Wars.
Which brings us back to the Porgs.
Porgs are cute, fat little birds with tiny wings and giant eyes that just want to be loved. They’re so cartoonishly adorable you want to punch them in the face, like Ewoks, but harder. Chewie should have eaten them all: Porgs, Ewoks, Jar Jar and every other other merchandisable abomination. It could have been an epic Muppet buffet (a Porgasbord, if you will), but he doesn’t eat them, not even one. He kills two Porgs and cooks them, but then doesn’t eat them. So wasteful, he is.
Porgs seem cute and harmless, but what they are the living manifestation of disrespect. They are the director’s way of saying cute is better than camp, slapstick is better than wry humor, special effects are better than plot, set design is more important than character, and marketability is more important than substance. It’s Disney’s way of saying you’ll buy anything as long as it comes in a pretty wrapper.
Seem extreme? Well, then let’s take at how the Last Jedi fails as a movie in ways that are completely unnecessary, totally avoidable, and reflect a simple lack of respect for us as intelligent audience members. And then you’ll see why this disrespect poses an existential threat to the franchise itself.
What Last Jedi Gets Wrong
Not so long ago, in a galaxy pretty close to this one, people did some insanely stupid stuff. Here’s just a little of it:
1 / Damien Poe – General Hux Phone Prank
In the opening battle, brave and impulsive fighter pilot Poe Dameron (aka New Han) flies his lone X-Wing fighter directly at a new class of First Order destroyer, the terrifying dreadnought. He needs to stall the General Hux (who isn’t even on the dreadnought) so he can load an attack plan or something, so how does it he do it? With an infantile phone prank.
If the purpose of this scene is to reduce the Star Wars to Spaceballs in less than five minutes and show total disrespect for the franchise, great work. This phone prank is not realistic, it’s not funny, and it sets an infantile tone for a movie that just doesn’t seem comfortable being an actual movie rather than a self-referential farce.
This is dangerous territory. Even the (sometimes) brilliant humorists at Marvel have stumbled when they go from camp to cute. Thor: Ragnorak works because camp is the entire motif of the film, as does Guardians of the Galaxy — but even Marvel fails in Guardians II when Pac Man appears. Being camp and not just cute or moronic is hard, and Disney failed here, miserably. When in doubt, take the joke out. This is a movie, not a stand-up comedy skit.
If this seems like harsh criticism, just think of how Pirates of the Caribbean went from being a brilliant, fresh and funny movie to a complete joke of a franchise. All it takes is bad writing and childish self-indulgence. And an aging lunatic who loves beads.
2 / Dreadnought Destroyer Concept from Star Trek?
As a new type of destroyer, the Dreadnought arrives in the opening with the exact same class name as the equivalent USS Vengeance dreadnought from Star Trek Into Darkness, similar sound effects from Star Trek (2009), and it later turns out to have basically the same light speed tracking ability. I’m not saying Rian Johnson stole ideas from Star Trek, largely because that’s probably libelous and Disney has more lawyers than I do, but they totally stole these ideas from Star Trek. And even if they didn’t, their appearance in movies so close to one another in time and genre should have caused some pause; if you’re going to have a different franchise, maybe make it actually different? You have money, Disney. Buy some new ideas, or at least a different class name. How about the Darthnought?
3 / Dreadnought Design and “Up” in Space
I suppose it’s been said before, meaning it’s been said a billion times, but there is no up in space. This has always been an issue with Star Wars, which is fine, but if you’re going to launch a whole new battle platform, maybe you should put guns on all sides? Or maybe the Resistance can bomb from the sides or bottom where there are fewer guns? Does anyone realize these ships are three-dimensional? Wouldn’t that be daring, if the Resistance used another angle of attack? Mind blowing.
4 / Missing TIE Fighter Escorts
After Poe’s genius-level phone prank, he takes off on run to destroy the surface cannons on the dreadnought. He does this while the entire fleet of destroyers and the dreadnought’s own commander literally wait, watch and make stunned comments. Did they forget they have TIE Fighters? Are they testing their surface defenses (hint: they have none) or checking their Forcebook status? They literally have no fighters on patrol, no protective fighters, make no attempt to launch fighters, and engage in no military action except glaring and swearing. This is, again, a general problem with Star Wars movies (and in fact all movies with over-powered villains that have be defeated), but damn. Maybe have one TIE fighter out there just for show?
5 / Everything about the Bombing Run
There are so many problems with this scene that I could dedicate a blog post to just that, and wouldn’t that be exciting? The bombers are slow as corn growing in the arctic, are apparently only capable of dropping bombs if you click on the blinking red button on a 1969-era remote control, and so on, but there are two far more glaring problems with this part of the movie:
5a / Damien Poe Disobeys a Direct Order
When told by Admiral Leia Organa to call off the bombing run, Commander Poe disregards her direct order. This is a court-martial offense in any military organization. I get that the director wanted to take Poe down a notch (literally, when demoted) and show the dangers of toxic male cowboy behaviors, but this is the kind of thing you get shot for in the military. It’s not cute; it’s basically treason. There was no thematic need to take Poe down this far to make the point. It’s disrespectful to a character who is, presumably, one of the good guys.
5b / Commander Leia Fails to Stop the Bombing Run
So, yes, Leia tells Poe to stop the bombing run, but apparently she doesn’t mean it enough to get on the radio and call off the attack herself. Did all the bombers decide to mutiny? Did all communication fail? Give me a break. No matter how treasonous Poe is, he didn’t take over the entire com network. All Leia had to do was tell the bombers to stop. Problem solved. The fact that all bombers and crews were lost ultimately comes down to Leia’s incompetence, not Poe’s refusal to obey orders. This scene is so dumb that one has to think the only reason the eponymous star wars have gone on this long is that both sides are lead by the mentally disabled (no offense to the mentally disabled). Jar Jar could have done better.
5c / How do Gravity Bombs Even Work in Space?
The bombs released by the Resistance bombers are just chain-fed gravity bombs with no propulsion or guidance. They don’t spread out and they don’t accelerate. They just sort of float “down.” The Dreadnought could escape by just going slightly downwards, or by speed-of-lighting anywhere else, or by very slowly turning. Does the First Order not understand they’re in space? You’d think if you’re going to build a great big ship with a scary name, you’d learn how to escape little floating balls. See comment above about the stupidity of everyone involved in this scene.
5d / BB-8’s Head Fix
One of the threads in this movie is that believability doesn’t matter if there’s a good (or bad) joke in it. BB-8 doesn’t have enough pointy points to fix the circuitry and give Poe back his X-Wing guns? Fine, BB-8, just stick your head in there and connect everything! So funny! Spaceballs again. They’ve gone to plaid.
6 / Ship Gravity and Airlocks
These are not really Last Jedi problems; just as with the concept of “up,” every Star Wars movie has ships with full gravity and amazing air locks on all ships, all the time. Ships may be blown to hell, but the two things they never lose are artificial gravity and atmosphere. I don’t know what what gravity and environmental generation systems are built out of, but they should build all the ships out of it; that shit is indestructible.
7 / Resistance Ships Have to Refuel?
Refuel? You just stole all the Star Trek tech; you didn’t see the never-dying Dilithium Crystals? Or nuclear power? Or, just, never mind. Refueling is stupid.
8 / Resistance Ships Aren’t Faster than Destroyers
As First Order destroyers pursues the rag-tag, fugitive Resistance fleet, we realize they can’t catch them because they’re smaller and faster which is, what? This is space. What part of space are you not getting? In space, propulsion is additive. You want to go faster, you just accelerate more (I’ll just ignore relativistic effects here because Star Wars). Nothing slows you down; there is no air resistance. The only way the smaller ships could be “faster” is if they had a larger thrust-to-mass ratio, and have you seen the engines on those destroyers? This makes no sense.
And if it did make sense, the Resistance ships would pull away from the destroyers. That’s what faster means. But no, the ships stay exactly the same distance away the entire time. This means the Resistance ships are not faster; they are going exactly the same speed and accelerating at exactly the same rate. It’s as if something is keeping them like that to maintain dramatic tension.
8a / Resistance Ship Speed Shouldn’t Matter
In this situation, to catch up to or cut off the Resistance, the First Order could light-speed a few ships in front of the feeling rebel ships, call in reinforcements from other directions, or basically do anything other than press really hard on the gas. Maybe the message here is that fascists can’t think out of the box, because they are the box. Yeah, that’s it…
9 / Why Don’t First Order Guns Work at a Distance?
Do laser weapons dissipate somehow or spread? There is no visual evidence of this. I think you can probably come up with a justification here, but considering that the Star Killer from Awakens could destroy planets in entirely different solar systems, it’s hard to believe energy attenuation is that big a deal. And even if it is, don’t you have any other weapons except wussy pew-pew lasers? Like, say, a torpedo? You could have stolen those from Star Trek too. No one would notice.
10 / Lasers Don’t Bend in Space
That’s a bad way of saying that, barring some external force like gravity, lasers fired from the destroyers shouldn’t arc when they approach the Resistance ships. These rods of deadly light should be perfectly straight. I would be more vehement about this point, but it was hard to tell whether this was an optical illusion or not. If they bent, bad Rian! If they didn’t, bad blogger!
11 / Ship Shields and Related Behavior Make no Damn Sense
Apparently, shields on Resistance ships can prevent cannon and laser fire from bigger ships, but not from smaller ships, or proximity penetration by these smaller ships. I can process that somehow, but instead of using this fact in their attack planning, the First Order pulls back all the TIE fighters (including Kylo Ren, who is laying waste to the rebel fleet) once they are out of range of the destroyers because…why? So they could provide ineffective cover they weren’t providing in the first place? To defend TIE fighters against almost non-existent X-Wings? So the less effective destroyer cannons can do nothing?
They could have ended the whole movie right there with ten more TIE Fighters from even one destroyer. But, no, they want to stare and glare from a distance. Stare Wars: In Space, No One can See You Blink. Nothing about this makes tactical sense. Just like everything in this scene, behavior is manufactured to create a situation that is absurd. The writers were just too lazy to figure out another way to maintain tension between the First Order and Resistance while Finn and Rose jet off to…oh, who cares.
12 / LIGHT SPEED AS A WEAPON
This is in ALL CAPS because it’s a massive issue that can seriously damage the franchise if anybody remembers to use it in the next movies. Which they won’t, but anyway, toward the latter part of the movie, Vice Admiral Holdo takes the helm of the last Resistance ship, turns toward Snoke’s flagship, and light-speeds right through that bastard. BOOM! Massive destruction! Silence in space!
It was great, and I mean that, but it means no other Star Wars battle makes any sense, and never has. X-Wings and TIE fighters have light-speed ability, which means pretty much any small ship or drone can have it too. So every battle can be ended forevermore just by going to light speed while facing the enemy. Destroyers? Death stars? Star Killers? Planets? Borg? All problems with one solution: light speed. Sure, you may need more mass in some cases, but the principal is the same, and that means that with one simple decision Rian Johnson has broken the Star Wars universe. None of it makes any damn sense unless we just believe that everyone is too stupid to use light speed when it matters. You don’t even need Death Stars; just light speed some big rocks and wait. Sure, these are some dumb people, but that dumb? Really?
13 / Tracking at Light Speed
Turns out, Huxley and the First Order can track the Resistance ships at light speed. That means the rebels can’t just warp, I mean light-speed, out of tricky situations. Once all First Order ships track rebel ships in parallel, versus one at a time, the Resistance is pretty much screwed. And maybe that’s fine; maybe the next Star Wars will introduce a tracker-blocker that magically takes away this power. My real problem with this is that it’s just another copy of the dreadnought abilities from Star Trek. I’m staring to wonder if Disney is buying that franchise too.
14 / Tracking Across the Universe with Blinky Jewelry
Okay, fine, it’s Star Wars. But if you can find anyone anywhere in the universe using a wristwatch-sized tracker, why doesn’t the First Order lace the universe with these things? Cover every rebel ship, inject them into rebel prisoners, etc. It’s just another example of an over-powered technology that would damage the franchise if they even remembered it existed in the next installment.
15 / Caves are Lame
The cave in Empire Strikes Back was lame, and the same cave in this movie is equally pointless even with the existential upgrade. It’s like the writers watched the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows when Harry and Dumbledore find a Horcrux on a dark, rocky island but instead of the Horcrux, Rey finds the Mirror of Erised. I don’t mind things being derivative if there’s a point, but what is the point? That even the dark side can’t show Rey the meaning of her existence? She has to make it for herself (hence, being her own parents)? Great. Boring, but great. It’s a minor issue; I just wish all the brains at Disney could be a little more creative.
16 / Weird Denigration of Men
Every male role in this movie is reduced to a cowboy caricature, dithering incompetent, or is simply irrelevant:
- Poe is a rule-disobeying, plot-hatching mutineer rather than the rascally Han who may or may not have shot first (he shot first);
- Finn is largely pointless as a character, except as the straight man for Rose. You have a strong black character with no real skills other than “knowing” stuff? Great. Send him off on a quest where he serves no purpose that a good schematic wouldn’t solve. You’re telling me that after destroying thousands of these things, no one kept the plans? Well, it’s a good thing the token black guy has such a good memory;
- Kylo Ren is a whiny twit. Darth would have wiped the floor with him. I get it, that’s the point of our new generation of characters: they’re complex. Whatever. He’s boring, even with his shirt off;
- General Hux can’t think his way out of a phone prank or successfully kill anything with all his ships. I think he may have died in the end, and I’m not even sure. I know I don’t care;
- Emperor Snoke is a joke. There’s a reason it rhymes;
I have no problem with a more diverse film. I do have a problem with the pathological need to make men less than women. You can call it justice or vindication, but hat is not diversity or inclusion; it’s just petty and lazy. All of these characters could be more interesting and compelling without taking anything away from female characters.
17 / Hypocrisy with Finn and Holdo Sacrifices
I’m skipping around a bit, but Vice Admiral Holdo saves the last of the Resistance escape ships by light-speeding her way into Snoke’s ship, as noted above. This apparently works because all of the other destroyers were so surprised at her clever maneuver that they forgot to fire their guns. Stare and drool, people, stare and drool. Regardless, it is a heroic act. Hurray for the strong woman!
A little later, Finn decides to do basically the same thing and sacrifice himself to destroy the barricade cannon thing on Crait, which would also have saved many rebels and given them more time to escape. But Finn’s knocked off course by Rose, who then tells him, “That’s how we’re gonna win. Not fighting what we hate, saving what we love.” And then she forcefully kisses him to make her point. Yet another male cowboy protected from his toxic masculinity by a brave woman. Hurray!
Okay, now flip it. Say that when Holdo goes on her light-speed run of self-sacrifice, Poe knocks her off course, causing the death of more rebels, then he tells her about saving what we love, and finishes by forcefully kissing her. Great, right? Not great; there would be a riot. Heroism and sexual assault are only okay when women do it. I think Yoda said it best: “It’s not heoism, young Skywalker, it’s heroism.”
18 / Vice Admiral Holdo Not Telling Anyone Anything
If it’s not clear yet, the key problem with the Last Jedi is that it’s primary plotline — the ongoing pursuit of the Resistance by the First Order — makes no logical sense, and results in a lot of irrational behavior and idiocy that would be otherwise unnecessary. This is also true of Holdo’s communication with her crew about her plan to save them. Basically, she doesn’t tell them anything, and tells Poe to kiss off when he demands information.
So, yes, Poe is out of line and, yes, Holdo has every right to tell Poe to go herd nerfs and get off her bridge; it’s another great take-down of Poe and stupid maleness (Notice how he’s surrounded by women in the scene. It’s subtle). But it serves no purpose; if Holdo was worried about Poe leaking her plans or acting rashly once he knew them, she should have thrown him in the brig. Hiding key information the way she does is just another crappy plot vehicle to justify Poe’s next terrible decision and a whole sub-plot that makes even less sense and nearly gets them all killed.
19 / Everything about Canto Bight Sub-Plot
The entire sub-plot, where team Rose / Finn go off at Poe’s behest to save the Resistance from Holdo’s alleged capitulation, is ridiculously, pointlessly absurd and ultimately counter-productive. It reminds me of Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones; her whole purpose is to show up in Westeros with dragons in Season Six, so you’ve got keep her occupied with random shit for five seasons including dating weird dudes in Qarth. Qarth, for God’s sake. Nobody cares about Qarth.
When you have to do this in a plotline, it means you don’t respect your characters or you’re too lazy to come up with a good sub-plot (or in Martin’s case, you probably just realized your books couldn’t be 1000 pages long). Daenerys eventually melts some slavers with dragon fire. What do Finn & Rose do on Canto Bright? Who cares.
20 / Canto Bright Casino
I don’t know how to describe how bad all this is without yelling, so l’ll just say it sucks at leave it at that. The cantina in Mos Eisley from New Hope introduced us to new aliens, Han Solo, and the dirty underside of Solo’s smuggler world. The casino on Canto Bright introduces us to racial stereotypes (e.g., Asian dealer), cartoon-like aliens, drunken fish, slapstick comedy and an explosion of self-indulgent visual tripe. And this is before the fish thing starts jamming coins in BB-8 because he looks vaguely like nearby slot machines. Is BB-8 hollow and full of holes? That must have worked really well on Jaku. I get campy humor. I like campy humor. That’s not the same as slapstick and outright immaturity. How do they not get this?
Not to mention that this was the first time we’re introduced the the world of arms dealers that feed both sides of the war. Canto Bright is a missed opportunity to deal with moral ambiguity, the military-industrial complex, tyranny and more. Instead? I wish the Star Killer was still around to take out one more planet.
21 / Finn is Not a Pilot
Wasn’t Finn’s inability to fly the whole reason he partnered with Poe, as in, “I need a pilot”? He never has time to become a pilot, because he’s in a Saran Wrap coma between movies, and yet suddenly he’s piloting everything. He pilots Rose to Canto Bright. He pilots a skimmer on Crait. At least Neo had a magic Matrix machine to teach him stuff; Finn just magically knows. I guess the library force is with him.
22 / Ski Speeders on Crait
These are idiotic vehicles that apparently need a skid to leave pretty marks across a salt landscape and serve no other purpose. The can fly; they don’t need a goddamn skid plate to “stabilize” them. Of course, maybe that’s why the Rebels left them in the first place.
23 / Perfect Salt Sea on Crait
Crait’s most dramatic feature is a salt sea created by the perfectly even distribution of a salt layer over a red substrate. It’s beautiful, and of course it looks just like the snowy world of Hoth. This doesn’t really bother me; the salt was pretty and the homage is appreciated, but that’s not how nature works. I take it back; I like the salt sea. Scratch this one.
24 / Only One Way Out of Rebel Stronghold on Crait?
We learn from BB-8’s analysis of the base specs that there is only one way out — through the closed blast doors — and five seconds later they find a way out via (a) the underground tunnels to the trenches (b) the adjacent cliffs for the skimmers and (c) a tunnel exit that is directly behind them and where the crystal doggies lead them. This is beyond idiotic; the base is riddled with exits. When BB-8 read the schematics, he couldn’t identify gaping holes leading to long, walkable tunnels? No one noticed the draft? Usually, military organizations care about that kind of stuff. Ask the Spartans.
25 / Disregard for Resistance Lives
The Resistance’s leadership apparently doesn’t care much about the lives of their troops. Admiral Leia may remember Hoth from her Princess days, and specifically that walkers can’t be taken down by fighter fire — so how is infantry fire or surface cannon going to help? And if you know it can’t help, and you never actually fire a shot anyway, why put your few remaining troops at risk? Are you just making room in the Falcon? I get it; it’s cramped and it smells like Porgs. But come on; don’t kill all the red shirts. I mean, rebel extras.
26 / First Order Military Incompetence
They rule the universe, but they cannot effectively engage in any military conflict, of any kind, ever. Stormtroopers can’t hit anything. Destroyers never fire their guns or, you know, move. TIE Fighters never fight except when it’s too late. Nobody knows how to react under pressure. Did none of them take the Kobayashi Maru exam? Kidding, well mostly. It would help.
To give just one example, when the rebel escape pods are discovered very slowly escaping to Crait, the First Order fires at them…one…at…a…time. They’ve got like ten destroyers and Snoke’s ship, but they just take their time. Pew. Take a sip of space coffee. Pew. Look around. Pew. Do a jaunty goose step. Pew. Stare and glare.
You’re too stupid to rule the universe.
27 / Rey’s Super Force Power Fight Everything Win Win Win!
I get it. She’s a girl and she’s super force-sensitive, so she can fight anyone with anything without any training. This is a completely unnecessary plot problem with a magical solution: the token training montage. It’s why they exist; to help the audience believe that Rocky can beat Ivan, that Wonder Woman can beat Hades and that X-Men can fight in leather. Everybody’s doing it.
There is no plot or thematic point that justifies the absense of even a minimal training montage to make Rey more believable (or help Finn learn to fly). Luke had one. Kylo Ren had a whole school provided by his uncle, Master Luke Skywalker. Rey has raw power created as a balance to Kylo on the dark side, yes, but not training. And yet she keeps winning. Go girls! You don’t have to work at it; you just have to be young and pretty. Sigh. Maybe there’s some great reveal in the next film that explains it all.
27a / Rey Beating Luke
Good lord. I get the point. The student is now the master; evolution, progress, societal advancement, blah, blah, blah. Occasionally, though, you have to work at it.
28 / Luke Being so Pathetic
Don’t get me wrong; I’ve never been a Luke fan; he was a whiny little kid on Tatooine, and he’s a grumpy old man on Ahch-To island. But damn, dude, didn’t you at least learn to play chess or lift mountains or something useful? You spent decades learning how to milk and fish? You’re why we can’t have nice rebellions.
29 / Fish Wives, I Mean, Nuns
I think I was just annoyed by time the Fish Nuns showed up on Luke’s island. They appear out of nowhere, do nothing but gibber and whine, and I’m pretty sure someone just looked up long-suffering in a pun dictionary to find a group of women to explain how Luke survives on the island, but they are kinda cute. Did they remind anyone else of the women from a Handmaid’s Tail? No? Well, that may be my problem then. Moving on…
30 / Yoda
I love Yoda, but I hate Yoda. No matter how badass he is, he’s still a Muppet with hairy ears and speech impediment who looks different in every movie. Show the guy some respect and let him go to Muppet heaven already. Or buy him a nose hair trimmer and day at the Jedi spa. He needs love.
31 / Jedi Teleconferencing: The Force Will Connect You
In order to have Rey and Kylo interact at a distance, Star Wars invents the Jedi teleconference. Somehow, they find themselves seeing each other across the universe, allowing them to get to know each other in safe, friendly environment. It’s very sweet. We find out later that this is all being done by Snoke to test loyalties and whatnot, which is fine. But even here, with a brand-new feature of the Force, they can’t manage one movie’s worth of consistency. We learn early on that (a) they can only see each other, not their environments and later that (b) Snoke was the one connecting them. So how the heck does Kylo see Luke in one teleconference, and how does it all happen again after Snoke’s dead? Are they just connected now a’la Voldemort and Harry Potter? If so, Rey better keep her clothes on, because…
32 / Apparently, Star Wars is Into Gratuitous Nudity Now
Only Princess Leia gets to be objectified, and only because Jaba is a 1970s blob monster thing. This is a franchise based on getting little kids excited about space and the middle-aged people nostalgic about simpler times. No part of that or any emo / politically correct update requires male or female nudity or undress.
Did you think the gratuitous Alice Eve panty shot from Stark Trek: Into Darkness was something you had to copy as well to attain balance in the gender wars? If so, good job. Steal something from at least one other franchise next time.
Oh, wait, you totally stole the Neo bending-over-backward thing from the Matrix. Forgot about that. Well done.
33 / Crait Planetary Shield
I probably should have put this up with the Crait stuff or First Order incompetence, but this is really just nonsense. The First Order never seems to bomb anything, ever, even when the Rebels are stuck in a cave on Crait, which is when bombs actually work. Why land a bunch of ships that never do anything but get blowed up? Oh, I know, the shields are up, right? Bullshit. In Empire, shield generators were massive and targeted by the Empire. In Rogue One, they was a whole planetary gate that had to be taken out. In this movie, where the rebels are holed up in an abandoned base with antiquated junk and missing tunnels? They somehow have impenetrable shields, like planetary sanitary napkins; nothing gets through. It’s amazing.
34 / What do Stormtroopers Do?
Just asking, but seriously. Anyone?
35 / Phasma’s Chrome Armor
Don’t get me wrong; I dig on Phasma’s getup. It’s stylish, shiny and really stands out from all that Stormtrooper white. But where did it come from? Is that what all the lady fascists are wearing? I didn’t know fascists were so into uniforms as a type of personal expression. Will there be other metallic troopers? Maybe heavy metal? I should read something online about it, but honestly, it’s just because it’s cool, right?
36 / What Happened to the Imperial Droids?
Remember that great imperial droid from Rogue One, K-2SO? Where the Crampus is that thing? You get 100 of those and you can kill off the Resistance while staring and glaring from Canto Bright over afternoon tea. Or are the Stormtroopers some kind of Luddite affirmative action program? Probably a result of the white armor lobby. Seriously, you can’t introduce something that cool and then pretend they never existed. Speaking of which…
37 / What Happened to Tractor Beams?
Just curious. You used to be able to suck stuff out of space, which is occasionally useful and kinda funny. Wanted to make life more challenging, did you? Props.
38 / Supreme Leader Snoke
Okay, so he’s an idiot and he dies easily. Did he not remember what happened to the Emperor, because Vader kills the Emperor pretty much the same way Kylo kills Snoke. Did he think the red ninja guard would save him? I’m not even sure why he’s in the movie. Michael Brown did a better job leading FEMA in New Orleans. Heck of a job, Snokey.
39 / Supreme Leader Snoke’s Monologue
What you need as a villain is a good monologue. Woohoo! You’ve never watched The Incredibles or any movie, ever? Just. Kill. Your. Enemies. It makes you more badass, and you won’t die as often. God, read a book already.
40 / Selective Diversity
It’s barely a point, but why are all the good guys now women and all the bad guys still old white dudes? This isn’t today, right? Or is Snoke meant to be Trump? Also, why was Rose’s sister her sister and not her girlfriend? Embrace the rainbow! Oh wait, she had to kiss Finn, you think. Embrace bisexuality! Now that Kylo is naked and everything is on the table, why not…sorry, getting off track here.
41 / Unsustainable Bad Guys
All the bad guys keep dying. Why? Because they suck. How can you possibly sustain a franchise if you kill all the bad guys and all the ones left are so pathetic? Kylo Ren the Whiny against the Resistance? Seriously? That guy wouldn’t last five minutes in the military. He’d just cry until one of his captains shived him. I’m not even sure what the point of the next movie in this franchise is. To unite Kylo and Rey in a final battle so they can hug it out? To spread Porgs through the universe?
Porgs in Space! You know it’s going to be a thing.
42 / Kylo Ren’s Missing Telekinesis
43 / Luke Sneaking into the Falcon
Didn’t Chewbacca ever watch Aliens? You never leave the loading bay door down; that’s how they get you. Chewie knows better. Maybe he was lightheaded and hangry from not eating the Porgs, but even then he might have noticed when Luke powered up the ship. You know, since he was guarding the MF.
44 / Vice Admiral Holdo’s “Uniform”
She wasn’t wearing one. Instead, Holdo had a nice evening gown…or is that the formal military garb of Vice Admirals? I think she was she dressed for they elegant hour on Canto Bright with her arms-dealer buddies, but maybe her uniform got lost at the cleaners? I don’t know. It’s a pointless distraction. Nice hair, though.
45 / Millennium Falcon Porg Jokes
No, it’s not funny that Porgs are living the wiring. That’s actually really dangerous and this is a space ship, right? Or are Porgs in Space just going to justify every stupid gimmick they can come up with? They’re like Tribbles with eyes. You have no respect for the Falcon, Rian. None. If this were Star Trek, Admiral Pike would totally throw you off the bridge.
Far more importantly, you remember the artificial gravity thing above? Well, the Falcon has that, and it always points down from the ship’s perspective. Otherwise, the crew would be flopping all over the place every time they turned. So why exactly is the Porg falling against the window? Because it’s funny, right? It’s not funny, it’s cutesy, and it breaks the rules of the Star Wars universe. But I suppose it’ll play well with the kids at Disney World.
46 / Millennium Falcon Leaving Crait
Isn’t Crait still surrounded by destroyers? Don’t they all have lightspeed tracking ability? Wouldn’t they, you know, try to destroy the Falcon or track it since it’s literally the only thing flying on the planet at the end…and the only remaining Resistance ship? Pew!
47 / Jedi Projection: Luke Isn’t Here Right Now
If Jedi can project themselves across the universe and interact in real time as Luke does from his island to Crait, well, why don’t they all do that all the time? It’s way better than flying around in ships. Maybe Luke should have taught Rey that or, well, anything. In a montage. I bet if Luke had said, “Hey, Rey, please stay. I’ll teach you how to project yourself across the universe and right into Kylo’s shirtless boudoir” she’d have stuck around.
48 / Maz Kanata
This little, orange…sorry, just can’t take it.
48a / Maz Kanata has a Jet Pack
Why doesn’t anybody else? Seems pretty cool.
XYZ / And So On…
The list goes on, but I’m not trying to trash the movie; I just don’t get why so many glaringly obvious things are being overlooked or just rubbed in our faces. It feels like Disney is like, hey, they’re dumb, blind fans with too much time and money on their hands. Just pry open their maws and let them eat cake.
Disney has to decide if things can exist without being Disneyfied. Not everything is Bambi and Nemo. Some things are less cute than they are camp, and you have to know the difference. Star Wars worked because it was a morally clear, technically advanced, good-vs-evil, boy-meets-girl, quest that just happened to have two-to-four truly unexpected and charismatic characters and some funny lines. You can’t lean on the characters forever (until CGI replaces them all), so that means you have to rely on the integrity of the franchise.
Lucas nearly killed Star Wars with cute crap and leaden dialog in the prequels. How they made Natalie Portman boring, unattractive, insipid and vacuous is beyond me. And Jar Jar? Damn. Respect the franchise, Disney. It’s yours. You get to do what you want, but it’s not Porgs in Space or Finding Kylo.
Some People Love It (At Least, Politically)
A large number of people really love this movie, but I would argue that what many of them love is not Star Wars but the idea of ripping another franchise away from the white male imperialists of prior generations. In other words, to a great number of people, it doesn’t matter that the movie is good or bad as long as Finn is black and Rose is Asian. It doesn’t matter if the movie is believable as longs as the heroes are female and the villains are male. It doesn’t matter if the film sucks, so long as it complies. This is of course an extreme statement, but there is more than one review accusing critics of the film of racism and sexism.
For instance, Vice writer Brogan Morris says, “If fans are unhappy with Star Wars: The Last Jedi, maybe it’s because Star Wars isn’t what it used to be…the main cast is no longer almost exclusively white and male…” Which is just another way of saying that if you don’t agree that (in this case) Kylo Ren is great, you must be a clueless white dude.
I actually don’t care about either side of this argument; all groups are special interest groups, and all special interest groups have confirmation biases they bring to every experience. What I find troubling is that the logical transition from a white-male dominated world to a, well, not-white-male dominated world is apparently a license to hail wholesale sloth and incompetence as visionary simply because it’s not white-male-cis-gendered sloth and incompetence.
As Angela Watercutter from Wired puts it, disliking Reys’ inexplicable power and skill is not legitimate critique, it is the “…wailing and gnashing of teeth from no-girls-allowed fanboys.” Great. That certainly leaves room for civilized discussion.
To me, a thing should be true to itself regardless of political forces; if Star Wars had an entirely lesbian POC cast, I would still hope it could be a great, internally-consistent movie that didn’t make a joke of itself. But apparently that is not the world we live in. In today’s world, you are only allowed to love Star Wars if you are young and woke, and only allowed to hate it if you’re an old white man. Fortunately, in Star Wars, both sides are so incompetent that the war will never really end.
Some People Love It (Because it’s New)
On the flip side, many people like Last Jedi because it does not have the simple black-and-white morality and one dimensional characterization of Vader’s generation. I agree with this, 100%. What I don’t agree with is that being complex, insersectional, and multi-dimensional means being factually, logically and intellectually ridiculous. I assume that diverse audiences want their minds to be respected, and not just their bodies.
What Last Jedi Gets Right
As I said earlier, there’s a lot of stuff and many other blogs that cover this. There are wonderful homages, great special effects, a good send-off for Leia, a return of the “Force” as an actual force rather than a parasitic presence, no Jar Jar, etc. Rian Johnson also made a valiant effort not to replicate The Empire Strikes Back, even if he did so by just smashing it into another franchise. There is more diversity in the cast, and more complexity in the characters, and so on. There is some really good stuff here and I would recommend seeing the movie. I’ve seen it twice. I can’t hate it that much.
What I’m Really Whining About
There are nearly four hundred million people in the USA (it sounds way bigger when you write it out), and Star Wars probably has a billion fans worldwide. Writers, artists and creatives all all shapes and sizes are ready and excited to contribute. And this is the best we can do with an infinite money and the nearly-endless goodwill of the Star Wars brand? It shouldn’t be; get some damn balls or ovaries, break the damn system, and save this thing from itself.
Otherwise it’s soon going to be the last season of Friends, Bourne without Matt Damon, Thor or Iron Man II, or Pirates of the Caribbean — all of which represent a rapid descent into mediocrity. You have so much money, and even more now that Lucas is paid off. So, maybe, use some of it to save one of the most positive, diverse, unifying franchises in the world today. Please?
Because if you turn this into Cars 3, I’m going to point a lightsaber at Mickey and turn it on with my mind. With my mind. He’ll never see that coming.
In the meantime, Disney, go Porg yourself.