“The Last Jedi” is a film that many Star Wars fans struggle to appreciate. Though a visual masterpiece, its story had real highs and lows that divided critics and fans, and made even the most die-hard geeks conflicted over the film as a whole. There’s no denying that “The Last Jedi” had some pacing issues and risky character choices, but for the most part I enjoyed what direction Rian Johnson chose to take the story in. Upon several re-watches though, there are still some issues that nag at me. With the final “Rise of Skywalker” trailer due to premiere on Monday, it seems like a good time to review what “The Last Jedi” could have done better, and how “Rise of Skywalker” will need to recapture fans’ excitement and deliver a satisfying ending to the Skywalker saga.
My Three Main Thoughts on What “The Last Jedi” Should Have Done Differently:
- Rewritten the Finn-Rose subplot into a more competent Finn-Poe subplot
Probably the most inarguable issue with “The Last Jedi” is that Finn-Rose subplot. It does nothing to advance the story, takes us away from the parts of the plot we are really interested in, and injects a forced romance that feels more unnatural than the one from the prequels. Unfortunately, a separate mutiny subplot with Poe was dependent upon how the Finn-Rose subplot played out, so it was impossible to cut. The entire second act would have needed to be rewritten, and even if it would have caused delays, I would have been all for that. And although I like how Poe grows as a character, his exchanges with Vice Admiral Holdo are cringe-worthy at best.
In “Empire Strikes Back,” our heroes are similarly split up, but not in three different directions. We have Luke’s training on Dagoba interjected with Han, Leia, and Chewy making their way to Cloud City. Having an additional subplot would have tanked the pacing of “Empire,” especially considering those training scenes on Dagobah are pretty deliberate. Juggling two subplots is no easy task, and the narrative of “The Last Jedi” didn’t flow well as a result. Johnson should have kept Finn and Poe together in one subplot and forgotten about the character of Rose altogether. It’s obvious that Finn is more interested in Rey.
2. Allowed Finn to have gone through with his sacrifice
There’s a moment towards the end of “The Last Jedi” in which Finn attempts a suicide run at the First Order’s siege cannon. When I first watched the film, I was immediately moved by his intent, and thought his Hail Mary attempt would actually be carried out. Unfortunately, this touching moment is ruined by Rose ramming her own vessel into Finn’s, and delivering one of the most incoherent lines I’ve ever heard. Since Finn got such a mediocre subplot, his sacrifice would have greatly elevated the story, the stakes, and his own character. I know we want Finn, Poe, and Rey all together in “The Rise of Skywalker,” but I’m not sure where else Finn’s character can go after that. He’ll likely be stuck in an insufferable love triangle in “Rise of Skywalker,” and might very well end up dead anyway. If Johnson was so intent on taking things in a different direction, I’m not sure why he didn’t follow through with the most emotional moment in the film. It was highly irritable, and Finn thought so too after that awkward kiss.
3. Started turning Rey towards the dark side and creating some conflict in her character
“Let the past die. Kill it if you have to” – so utters Kylo Ren. The most frustrating thing about the sequel trilogy is its inability to choose whether or not to go in a new direction or play on nostalgia. Bob Iger has said that “The Force Awakens” was so similar to “A New Hope” because they were under an enormous amount of pressure to rekindle the Star Wars fanbase and launch a new era of Star Wars movies that all fans, young and old, could enjoy. “The Force Awakens” is a well-made film, despite its parallels with “A New Hope.” When it ended, I was excited to see where the next film would take our new characters.
While an interesting connection between Kylo and Rey is formed in “The Last Jedi,” the film ultimately settles into the classic light vs. dark form, which was perhaps my biggest disappointment overall. There’s a scene in “The Last Jedi” where Rey and Kylo temporarily team up to fight off Snoke’s guards, and once they are victorious, Kylo asks Rey to join him in leading the First Order. With Rey’s identity crisis at full play, one might think this could lead to her questioning her loyalty to the Resistance, and be tempted by the power and unity of the First Order and the Dark Side. Sadly, nothing so complex is introduced, and Rey remains this unstoppable beacon of hope and virtue.
Why not take Star Wars in a new direction? Why not create some conflict for the new protagonist? Why not cause some adversity to make her hero’s journey truly compelling? Make her identity crisis an actual crisis, and not just J.J. Abram’s new mystery box. Please Disney, I implore you, make Rey an interesting character in “The Rise of Skywalker.” Test her. Punish her. Make her suffer.
With those points rounded out, here’s what “The Rise of Skywalker” needs to get right to conclude the Skywalker saga and leave fans satisfied:
- Reunite Rey, Poe, and Finn for most of the runtime, and don’t spin anyone off on needless subplots
- Have at least two epic lightsaber battles in which Rey doesn’t completely dominate
- Have Rey face some adversity, both physically and mentally, and expand on her and Kylo’s connection
- Fully play on Kylo’s unhinged madness
- Show Luke training Rey as a Force Ghost, because he needs to redeem his “Rate My Professors” score from his horrible tutelage in “The Last Jedi”
- Show flashbacks of Luke training Leia
- Explain Jedi’s connection to the Force and what the last scene in “The Last Jedi” alludes to
- Reveal Rey’s heritage
- Give some information about Snoke, the Knights of Ren, and how the First Order formed. Don’t make me read the books.
- No cell phone humor
Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
Click here for my review of “The Force Awakens”: Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
Click here for my review of “The Last Jedi”: Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi
All other Star Wars reviews can be found through the “Movies” tab.