There are so many core problems with this movie and how it has ruined the franchise and killed my hopes for the future of the series that I needed to write down my thoughts, balance them out into a more structured form (as my brain was just chattering away with "and another thing!" moments) and present them in a much more coherent fashion.
I basically feel like this film irreparably hurt everything that came before it and proves that I and many others who will agree with me shouldn't be anticipating anything positive coming out of future installments of the series.
Let's just dive into what caused me to feel so bummed out and deeply saddened as the end credits came up...
Taking risks vs. playing it safe
Let's just address the argumentative elephant in the room. People seem to be thinking that if you dislike this movie, you dislike it because it took risks, and they try to argue that you can't complain about that while also complaining that The Force Awakens played it safe.
In my mind, if your whole opinion on a movie's value is based on whether or not you could predict it, you're looking at it from the wrong perspective.
Movies aren't meant to surprise you, they're meant to tell you a story. Yes, it can be fun when you didn't see a twist coming, but that is a bonus, not the core purpose of this form of entertainment.
Subverting expectations is good only when the result that comes out of it is good. If it's just a surprise for the sake of a surprise and the end result is shit, then you're left with shit. You go into a Batman film expecting Batman to overcome the villain, right? Would it suddenly be an awesome movie if Batman was killed in the first 5 minutes just to surprise the audience and the rest of the film was spent watching Crazy Quilt rob banks?
If you're going to hate a movie because it's predictable and love it because it isn't, then just go see a magic act, because all you care about is the wow factor that will fade away in two seconds.
Movies that are written with the purpose of surprising an audience are no better than jump scares in horror films, which aren't actually scary, but just a momentary adrenaline rush.
The Last Jedi plays it safe in the sense that it copies elements of previous, better told stories as its backbone while taking risks with the few things it shouldn't play around with, and ruins them. Basically, out of fear of your child ruining their $5 toys, you handed your kid a priceless vase that can crack as soon as its dropped. Then, your kid dropped it, and if you would have just had them play with something cheaper and that got ruined, it wouldn't be as big of a deal.
This film could have taken risks with everything other than the Skywalker story, but that's the one thing they chose to fuck with, and they ruined it in the process.
Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to.
That is the theme of the movie, but it's ironic that it is hypocritical in how the story group approached writing this movie to begin with.
There's an overwhelming feeling of "kill off the original trilogy elements in order to make way for our new Disney-era Star Wars films" that I get with this, and that they're willing to hurt the franchise if they have to make way for their storytelling elements that they want to.
That in itself is a horrible way to go about things. It's the equivalent of saying that you need to total your car because the headlight was broken and you want to rebuild the whole thing. Mind you, you're running the risk of that car not being rebuilt in a better way, but much worse, and you could have just patched up the headlight and kept going.
Disney needed to correct the mistakes of the prequels that people didn't like, not burn the whole thing down to start new.
But even if we ignore that for a minute, we can see that it is hypocritical to have this kind of message and still make the types of films The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi are, because they both rely so heavily on repeating things from the original films that it proves this crop of writers can't write their own Star Wars movies, they can only rehash what has come before them.
"This movie isn't going to be like The Empire Strikes Back" is what they said. However, Empire is about the Rebel Alliance being on the run from an attack by The Empire. This movie is literally one single "running from an attack by The First Order" plot!
In Empire, two heroes (Han and Leia) that are romantically involved go to a city (Cloud City) that runs a business (mining) and they meet a scoundrel (Lando) who turns on them. In The Last Jedi, two heroes (Finn and Rose) that are romantically involved go to a city (Canto Bight) that runs a business (gambling) and they meet a scoundrel (DJ) who turns on them.
TESB starts off with a rebel base on a white planet being attacked until the heroes flee, while TLJ ends with a former rebel base on a white planet being attacked until the heroes flee.
Those Praetorian Guards? They're just the same red royal guards that we've seen before, with slightly altered costumes and weapons. I mean hell, they couldn't even color them differently? Why couldn't they have just been The Knights of Ren while we're at it?
Remember how in TESB, Luke goes into a weird cave and sees a vision of himself? Rey does the same here.
Clearly, with TFA and TLJ, the writers felt like they needed to have a Palpatine-esque guy, so they came up with Supreme Leader Snoke. If you replace Supreme Leader with Emperor and Snoke with Palpatine, what are the differences? One of them is the old, pale, scarred leader of the Empire who uses the dark side and sits on a throne before being killed by his apprentice, Darth Vader — the other is an old, pale, scarred leader of the First Order who uses the dark side and sits on a throne before being killed by his apprentice who looks just like Darth Vader and is his grandson. Jesus, they even both die with the protagonist in the room while they overlook the imminent destruction of the heroes!
The Force Awakens mostly rehashed A New Hope while this one took from The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. Real original.
Supreme Loser Snoke
One of the best characters to exhibit the flaw of this new regime is Supreme Leader Snoke—an absolutely atrociously written character who could have been interesting if better writers had put any effort into him at all...and I mean, any effort at all.
We covered above how he is just a copycat Palpatine, but it's even worse that he has absolutely no backstory or anything we can care about at all.
His character was nothing but a tool, and an unnecessary one at that. He has no purpose at all.
This is what we know of Snoke:
He turned Ben Solo to the dark side. — How? We don't get to see any of this or have any of it explained, so it's an element we don't need in the story. Ben could have just turned to the dark side any other way, including being born with an inherent bad attitude.
He was the leader of the Empire, I mean, First Order — How? Did he just pop up one day and announce himself the leader in front of a committee that I'm unaware of? Why is he evil? Why does he want to rule the galaxy? Why does he also want to continue with Stormtroopers and stuff instead of making his own mark?
He died. — That's the end of it.
Everything else, we're either not told at all because it happened off-screen, or it doesn't matter.
In The Force Awakens, we're told, not shown, that he at some point interacted with Luke and Leia and Han and turned Ben evil and rose the ranks to become Supreme Leader and that he also somehow knows what happened with Vader and Palpatine, which we were given absolutely no information about in this movie, either.
The Skywalkers are failures and none of this struggle mattered at all
The story of Episode 1 to Episode 6, including Rogue One, is about how The Force is out of balance, so The Force creates Anakin Skywalker to fix that problem. He stumbles along the way, burning down the bureaucracy and causing horror, but he is ultimately redeemed through his children. His son, Luke, convinces him to eliminate the great evil. Luke, possessing the knowledge of how to create a better Jedi Order of peacekeepers, will pass on the right teachings to the future, while Leia will be instrumental in rebuilding society in a much better way than The Republic which preceded it. All is well.
The Force Awakens comes along and says "but what if instead of peace, The Empire just continued and killed everyone and we had to start all over again?" and The Last Jedi follows it up with "and this time, we prove to you that the Skywalkers can't do anything right."
Anakin was The Chosen One. He burned down an entire galaxy to kill one guy, and then his kids spent their lives trying to achieve peace, only to accomplish the complete opposite by raising Ben to decimate the galaxy again.
But don't worry, it's cool. We've got this random chick named Rey who can fix all our problems.
Is she the new Chosen One, born out of The Force? Is she a Skywalker, offsetting the evil of Kylo Ren?
Nope, she's just some girl. We literally even tell the audience that she is a nobody. It's important for them to follow the story of a nobody who has had no training and is not only more powerful than the bloodline of our Jesus metaphor, but also has a better sense of morality than the heroes that multiple generations of people grew up on.
With the way this movie ends, we're exactly the way we left off at the end of Revenge of the Sith, only this time, meaning the events of A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and everything that followed it until Ben's turn to the dark side was all meaningless.
Now, we have to hope that this nobody can save the galaxy and pass on the teachings, cause that dumbass Luke sure couldn't do it. What a failure, that guy was, and what a failure his sister Leia was, too. The galaxy would have been better off if they both died in Return of the Jedi so they couldn't have spawned the evil of Kylo Ren. Maybe Admiral Ackbar and Mon Mothma would have kept The Republic alive, then.
Unless, of course, Kylo Ren turns good again, which means they just rehashed the Anakin Skywalker storyline again because they couldn't figure out anything else to write. Basically, you either copy and paste something that was done better the first time, or you say "fuck it, Rey's the chosen one because she's our creation and we prefer our own fan fiction to the lore that this whole series was built on."
Lucas is probably sick to his stomach that they just shat all over his story.
It reminds me of how X-Men: The Last Stand had a completely wrong message, where instead of Rogue choosing not to take the cure, she chose to take it. Instead of telling the audience "it's okay to be yourself", the message of that movie became "you really do need to change, you fucking weirdo."
Star Wars used to be about how love conquers all. Now, it's about how in the end, you're still going to fail.
If The Force knew that Anakin and Luke and Leia would ultimately not accomplish a single goddamn thing other than perpetual mass genocide, The Force should go back to the events 9 years before The Phantom Menace and just figure out a different plan.
You're just mad that it's a woman who is saving the galaxy
No, I'm mad that it isn't a Skywalker. If you told me at the end of this movie that Rey's parents were Luke and some unknown woman, or Han and Leia, then I would be much more okay with this, because there would still be a chance that the Skywalker lineage wouldn't be total failures.
Oh shut up and stop being melodramatic. It's just a movie.
I'm not tying a noose to end my life here, it's just sad to know that something you got a lot of enjoyment out of is no longer going to do that anymore.
This was one of my favorite franchises and now, I have no faith in the direction the storytellers are going, so I won't get that excitement and satisfaction out of future movies, and this one actively goes out of its way to hurt the prestige of the movies that I did love.
It's a bummer in the same way it would be a bummer to find out that your favorite television series was cancelled or that the restaurant that you love eating at changed its recipes.
Everything is "just" something. Yes, it's "just a movie" but movies are the biggest aspect of fun and entertainment in my life, and in one fell swoop, this film just did a number on damaging one of my favorite series and I'm not sure it'll ever get repaired, so I'm sad about that in the same way I would be sad if someone ruined my wedding, because in the end, isn't that just a party to celebrate my wife and I signing some papers?
But aren't you excited about how Episode 9 can fix these problems?
It won't. I'm not even going to be optimistic about it. If it does, then yeah, I'll be happier about it, but I'm not going to be hopeful.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day is my favorite movie of all time. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines ruined the franchise. Since then, Terminator Salvation was a slight step up, but didn't fix the problems of T3. Then, Terminator Genisys was meant to be the savior to the franchise, but did even more damage than T3.
No. I have no faith Episode 9 will end in a way that I'll be happy with the choices they made here. But please, please prove me wrong.
I get it. You have a political agenda.
You want to complain about the prequels being too focused on preaching, but this is okay? This feels like the only goal of the movie was to make a propaganda piece about how the establishment is awful.
Mind you, I agree with this message! I absolutely hate how the rich and greedy can be powerful and how corporations can run governments and stuff. I like that message, but I don't need that to be the purpose of my Star Wars movie.
For instance, the whole Canto Bight thing was an unnecessary side mission. If I wanted to see a movie about how jockeys hurt horses, I'd watch Seabiscuit or whatever. This felt like an episode of Star Wars Rebels that I wouldn't have enjoyed, rather than a main theme of one of the core movies.
Canto Bight was lame, too. There was almost nothing making it feel like it was a Star Wars universe concept. They had carbon copies of the same games we have, with no otherworldly instruments. Those slot machines look like slot machines anybody could make at any casino. The craps table? Come on. They even looked like they were drinking standard Earth alcohol from standard Earth liquor glasses.
What about Leia?
This one, admittedly, isn't technically their fault, but how are they going to close out her story now? Does she just get written off in a stupid death off-screen? Do they not even bother to finish her arc and just act like she isn't around for the hell of it?
They should have just taken advantage of the extra few months they had and crafted a few changes to the script, done some reshoots, and killed her character off.
Miscellaneous other problems and nitpicking
- Still no Lando? Okay, now, at this point, you need to kill him off before The Force Awakens in a side novel or show.
- "Oh shit, people are complaining that Poe and Rey never met. Let's have them in a scene where they say hey."
- "Oh shit, people are complaining that Captain Phasma should have been the one to fight Finn instead of that other random Stormtrooper. We'd better bring Phasma back to life and have the two of them fight in similar fashion and kill Phasma off again."
- Leia floating was ridiculous. Not the idea behind it, because she should be powerful, but the execution of it. She looked like Mary Poppins.
- Chewbacca should have died in The Force Awakens. He clearly has no purpose in this story anymore.
- Yoda's CGI was horrible.
- So Luke wants to burn down the Jedi text until Yoda stops him. Then, Yoda burns it and Luke is upset. Then, I guess Rey already has the books?
- Nobody said "I have a bad feeling about this" at all to my recollection. This is like having a James Bond film where he doesn't say "Bond, James Bond" or "shaken, not stirred" or that it doesn't have the opening gun barrel. Yeah, those Daniel Craig films that neglected those pissed me off, too.
What I did like about the movie...
- Porgs are adorable. I want one.
- Some utterly minor details like how Leia told Threepio to wipe that look off his face, or how Luke said Artoo playing the hologram message was a cheap move.
- Seeing Yoda again was great, even though the CGI was awful and his purpose was flawed.
- The battering ram was cool.
- Holdo going lightspeed through Snoke's ship was sweet.
- My biggest positive takeaway I had from the entire film was the absolutely beautiful imagery of Luke becoming one with The Force. That almost made me cry.
Really, I just don't know how to process all this except to feel disappointed and to wish that I could go back in time to before I saw the film, because at least then, I had some hope that it wouldn't make the mistakes this movie did.
I would say that the best I can do is hope for Episode IX to come along and make me feel better, but, well, when 2019 comes along, you're not going to see me as excited anymore, that's for sure.