Tomorrow marks the official premiere of the final Skywalker movie – a momentous day regardless of whether or not you’re a Star Wars fan. With over $9 billion grossed in the past 40 years, Star Wars is the 2nd biggest movie franchise of all time behind the MCU. And on the eve of a new Star Wars era, it leaves us fans simultaneously reminiscing about the past and looking forward to the future.
There are hundreds of Extended Universe books, two spinoff movies, and multiple TV shows, but the vast majority of the Star Wars Universe has been centered around the Skywalker family – even if the newest trilogy has only been tangentially related.
I am very excited about the direction Disney will take Star Wars moving forward. The beauty of the universe George Lucas created is that there are so many different themes to explore it’s almost a shame the movies have been constrained to the Skywalkers. But for us to fully move on, I feel the fans deserve some closure to the story first.
I have been a vocal opponent to the most recent trilogy, and JJ Abrams has a lot to fix if the ninth movie is to be any form of a success in my eyes. This article will serve as a pre-mortem for the latest movie – what are the threads that need to be wrapped up from Episode 7 and 8, continuity problems from prior trilogies, and what I’d like to see from the final movie.
Questions to be answered
There was a lot of be left resolved by the end of Episode 8. While that’s not usually a problem, here are a few questions that I feel like cannot be left unanswered if this is truly the last movie of the Skywalker Saga.
Who is the Skywalker?
Why is Palpatine still alive, and if he isn’t, why was he teased in the trailer?
Will they leave Luke’s legacy tarnished? Is he a force ghost?
Who was Snoke really, and is he actually dead?
How did Luke’s projection bring the die to Leia in the cave?
The next few sections of this writeup will deal with the continuity problems I had from Rian Johnson’s movie, as well as general complaints about Episode 8.
There were a couple moments in The Last Jedi where I simply had to look around the movie theater to see if anyone else was incredulous. These moments completely broke the immersion and I honestly wanted to walk out because they were completely unrealistic, even in the Star Wars Universe.
Leia Using the Force
It’s no surprise to Star Wars fans that Leia can use the Force. Yoda first alludes to her potential in Episode 5 when Luke leaves Dagobah when he tells Obi Wan that if Luke dies facing Vader, there is another who can be trained. Vader himself senses Leia’s potential when fighting Luke in Episode 6, and uses this realization to drive Luke to momentarily use the Dark Side to fight him/
But for Leia to use the force for the first time in space while knocked out is just ridiculous. In the scene I’m referencing, the command ship of the Republic fleet gets bombed and Leia’s command center blows up, sending the inhabitants flying through space. Not only does Leia not die from being in space unprotected, she force pulls herself back into the ship while unconscious.
This is utterly ridiculous. We have never seen a force user in Star Wars use the force while unconscious, and we have never seen a biological being (General Grievous does not count) survive while in space. Why introduce these two elements that way? Leia could have shown her abilities in the force some other way and it would’ve been the perfect time to pass the baton if that was necessary.
I still get mad thinking about it. Leia is awake in space, uninjured, uses the force for the first time, and then collapses ‘just because.’ Star Wars breaks a lot of the rules of our world, but all the past movies have obeyed the movie of their own universe. This does not, and therefore ruins the immersion of the movie.
Using a Lightspeed Ship As a Weapon
Even fictional universes are required to abide by rules. They might not be the same as ours, but rules structure our understanding. Breaking a rule is rarely done because to do so reshapes our understanding of the entire universe. Rian Johnson decided to break a cardinal rule within Star Wars – ships do not go into ships using lightspeed, and are definitely not used as weapons.
Why? The introduction of lightspeed weapons completely reshapes how warfare could exist in the Star Wars Universe. What’s the point of a Death Star when I could attach a hyperdrive to a large meteor and have it run into a planet instead? Isn’t it easier to just create hunks of metal and shoot them into opposing star ships instead of actually needing blasters or pilots?
The decision to use the Resistance command ship to destroy the First Order was a cop out by Rian Johnson that invalidated the entirety of the Star Wars series. The problems in Episodes 2-6 could have all been solved by light-speed missles, and General Hux seemed to know what was coming when the ship turned around.
While this made for an amazing cinemagraphic moment, it really destroyed the magic of Star Wars space battles when you give it more than a second’s thought.
Finn’s Redemption Arc
Self-sacrifice hasn’t necessarily been a key Star Wars motif, but it seemed very appropriate in The Last Jedi as a form of redemption for Finn. It would have echoed the sacrifices made by Obi Wan and Anakin in the Original Trilogy, and would have been a perfect way to end Finn’s story.
Instead, Rose ‘saves’ Finn and delivers another groan-inducing kiss that makes no sense within the grand scheme of the story. Rose’s excuse is that in order to win, they cannot kill what they hate but must instead ‘save what they love.’ The last time a character tried to do that they ended up destroying the Jedi Order and turning to the dark side.
I really hated this scene. First of all, I hate the kissing into passing out cliché. Couldn’t they have done any better than that? Secondly, I don’t get how they made it back into the cave when she’s passed out and they crashed right next to the ATATs and the cannon. She didn’t save anyone, in any realistic universe they would have been instantly killed by the fodder as they had no weapons and no means of transport.
This was just another scene that really pulled me out of the immersion and made no sense during the first watch or upon reflection.
Hermit, Useless Luke
Rian Johnson’s failure to understand the history of Star Wars can be best summed up by Luke’s first lines of dialogue, “you don’t need Luke Skywalker, you think I’m going to walk out with a laser sword and face down the whole First Order? What did you think was going to happen here? You think I came to the most unfindable place in the galaxy for no reason at all? Go away.”
While directors are allowed to take stories in whatever direction they want, this is completely disrespectful to the central character of the entire Skywalker Saga. Luke’s most powerful asset is his belief in the power of the light side and his ability to see good in others. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, Luke believed in his father and ultimately his faith was rewarded when Vader threw off the shackles of the dark side at the very end.
We learn later in the movie that Yoda has been communicating with Luke, and one would assume that Luke would have learned the history of his father from him. Anakin destroyed the entire Jedi Order (which was far greater in numbers and strength from Luke’s new followers) and was still able to turn to the light side. Why would Luke give up so easily on Kylo Ren and the world? This is the Luke who destroyed the first death star, faced down Vader and Palpatine alone, and trained with Yoda himself. It’s simply not in his character to give up and run away.
I believe this problem stems from having two directors with different visions of the future of Star Wars. While uninventive, JJ Abrams set the stage for a new trilogy that repeated tropes from the past. Just like Yoda, Luke sequestered himself on a hidden planet after his order fell. I’m confident that JJ meant for Luke to train Ray extensively and perhaps fall to Snoke or Kylo himself. Rian Johnson, in an attempt to create his own version of the Star Wars Universe, ruined the symmetry of the trilogies and destroyed one of the core characters of Star Wars.
For those of you that don’t know what the Extended Universe and Legends are, they are books, games, and other material that explains parts of the Star Wars Universe beyond the movies. And while most of the material written about post-Episode 6 are no longer canon because of the new movies, here are some of Luke’s achievements:
George Lucas stated that Luke was the strongest Force user to ever exist – we can basically take Lucas’ word as law, so there’s almost no point in anyone ever fighting Luke
He opened a black hole with the Force
He has become one with the Force, capable of wielding 30 lightsabers at once
Moved an entire mountain with the Force – remember how he used to struggle with an X wing?
You’re telling me that a being of this power just decided to cut himself off from the Force? That he lost to Kylo Ren who was still training? Absolutely no way. Rian cut Luke down to tiny proportions. One of the biggest disappointments ever was to see such a core character secluded for no purpose (at least Yoda was waiting to train the next Jedi), and to die without any meaningful feats.
Luke reappearing near the end of the movie was my Last Hope for the movie. But just like the rest of the movie, it was a disappointment through and through. Rian Johnson seems allergic to creating a core Star Wars movie and allergic to meaningful self-sacrifice. If he was able to withstand the blasterfire of the ships and then died to Kylo, perhaps it would have been a fitting ending to his story. But to die after projecting himself? Also, how was he able to bring the die to Leia in the cave if he was just a projection? We know the die were found on the Millennium Falcon and they were busy fighting the tie fighters.
I really hope the next movie gives Luke some form of redemption, because this was the most disrespectful treatment I’ve ever seen of a main character.
The next section deals with my general problems from the last movie.
The Snoke Problem
In many ways Episode 7 felt like a re-hashing of the original trilogy. It had a Death Star (now Death Planet? Why did the technology get worse instead of improving?), father reveal, and mentor death. It also introduced an Emperor-like character in Snoke.
Snoke’s background was kept mysterious, but we knew he was extremely powerful in the force and borrowed many of the Empire’s tactics. He was also deformed much like Vader and Sheev (Palpatine/the Emperor) were. This led many hardcore fans to believe he was Darth Plagueis, Palpatine’s teacher and one of the masterminds that helped the Sith gain control of the galaxy.
You may have heard his name mentioned in Episode 3 when Palpatine and Anakin attended the opera together. Palpatine tells the story of Darth PLagueis the Wise in order to convey to Anakin that some people were able to stop death, and used the story to entrap Anakin. While that’s all we learn from the movies, the Extended Universe books tell us much more about him as a character.
Darth Plagueis was a Munn who devoted his life to learning the secrets of extending life through the Midichlorians. There are a couple of reasons why he is a key figure in the Skywalker Saga:
He recognized Palpatine’s potential in the Dark Side and elevated him from a Noble in Naboo to a senator in the Galactic Senate, which allowed Palpatine to climb the ranks of power. Palpatine recognized that he was strong in the Dark Side on his own, but without the Munn’s teaching he would have never mastered the power necessary to challenge the Jedi Order.
The Munn were the most powerful banking clan in the galaxy, so he was able to use his considerable resources to place Palpatine in the right places at the right time to ascend through the Galactic Senate
As far as we know, he was successful in his attempts to extend life indefinitely with the force. In his experiments with Palpatine, they created an entire person out of the force. This being turned out to be Anakin Skywalker, so you could say that Plagueis and Palpatine were the fathers Anakin never knew he had.
The reason this theory existed is because when Palpatine killed Plagueis, he wasn’t sure if the dark lord was able to transfer his consciousness before his death. As the foremost expert on extending life, it may have been possible. Darth Bane survived a duel with his apprentice by casting his soul into her body, so it makes sense that Plagueis may have survived while his physical body died. This would explain why Snoke appears to be so powerful with the force. If it were Plagueis biding his time for the death of Palpatine, he could have been learning and gathering strength in the Dark Side.
And since he was a banker, not necessarily a master manipulator, it makes sense that his new empire is a reductionist form of Palpatine’s empire. He learned and observed, but rarely innovated. All of this would have made sense in Extended Universe continuity, but we are never given a true answer to who he is.
I have two main problems with how Rian Johnson handled Snoke: his death was completely anti-climactic, and Kylo Ren isn’t a suitable antagonist to succeed him. If Snoke’s death was truly the end of the character, we will never learn where he came from, how he got his powers, how he took control of the First Order, if there’s any connection to Darth Plagueis, or if he was just a newly invented character. I feel like that’s a lot to not know about one of the main villains of a story.
Furthermore, Kylo Ren is unsuited to be the final villain. Every great story climaxes near the end. In the Star Wars Universe, the Prequels end with Anakin and Obi Wan fighting at the peak of their powers and we finally get to see Yoda and Palpatine in action. The Original Trilogy gives us Luke fighting both Vader and Palpatine. Each of these respective fights showed the most powerful characters of the generation fighting one another and gave each trilogy a sense of closure.
Kylo Ren has been stalemated by both Ray and Finn with zero lightsaber training, and has just generally been ineffective as the right hand man of Snoke. If I were Disney, I would have had Kylo Ren and Ray slowly power up through the first three movies before taking on Snoke together in the final installment of the series. We could finally see the full extent of Snoke’s power, and would get the satisfaction of seeing a powered up Rey and Kylo fighting together. We got a budget version of this in The Last Jedi, but Kylo and Rey were fighting the Red Guards. Boring. We saw Yoda destroying two Red Guards with a flick of his cane in Episode 3. I want to see something new and exciting.
The Weak Antagonist
Disney has done a great job in the past humanizing villains – Thanos being a prime example in Infinity War. They understand that battles of true evil vs. true good can become boring after a while, and have added elements of nuance that make us feel for the villain. The Star Wars Universe is no different.
We’ve been simultaneously afraid and sad for Vader throughout the years. He was a machine of destruction, and often cared little for subordinates or human life. But he was also tortured physically and mentally. He wore his suit because his body was destroyed and at the very end he proved to be still good inside. It is no secret that Kylo Ren was meant to follow Darth Vader’s footsteps.
Like Anakin, he was trained in the light side of the force with one of the most powerful Jedi of all time. Anakin had Obi Wan, Kylo Ren had Luke Skywalker. Both were forced to betray their master, fellow students, and younglings by their new masters in the force. But while we feel for Anakin because we’ve witnessed him grow up for three movies, Kylo Ren’s betrayal feels empty and contrived. Kylo Ren’s obsession with Vader strips him of an unique identity, and it feels like a cheap imitation of the past in order to evoke familiar feelings – which could very well sum up this new trilogy versus the old. It makes absolutely no sense that Kylo should be wearing a mask. Darth Vader would have been the most powerful force user in history if it wasn’t for him losing connection to the force due to his duel with Obi Wan, and the armored Vader was just a shell of his potential. Therefore, Kylo is imitating a weaker version of Vader, not peak Vader without the mask. Vader wore the mask out of necessity, while Kylo wore his mask out of imitation.
Snoke even says this in The Last Jedi, “you are no Vader, you are just a child in a mask.” So who is Kylo Ren? At the end of the movie, it appears that he transcends Vader as he takes over the First Order, something Vader was never able to do over Palpatine. But he appears to be ineffectual as the defunct strongest Dark Side user in the galaxy as he loses to a force ghost Luke. He has also struggled in the past against both Finn and Rey at various points of the movies when they had little or no training. Not very impressive for the ultimate bad guy.
Disney themselves have realized that Kylo is failing to be the main antagonist a Star Wars movie needs, or else they wouldn’t tease the return of Palpatine. To me, this is an admission of ultimate failure.