It’s been 2 weeks since I saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi and I’ve been thinking about it non-stop. I liked it a lot, which isn’t the overwhelming opinion of the film. Rather than giving my review of the film, I’d rather touch on some of the elements of the film that are divisive among fans.
Luke Skywalker, Hermit
A lot of people felt like the Luke Skywalker in TLJ was not their Skywalker; in fact, Mark Hamill felt that way at first, until he saw the movie. It’s probably not the way I would have gone too, but it makes sense if you think about it.
Luke Skywalker is not the classically trained Jedi that we saw in the prequels; those kids were trained hard from the day they were found until the Jedi Counsel deemed them ready to be Jedi Knights. Yoda even pointed this out in The Empire Strikes Back. Luke got a few weeks of training with Yoda and did the rest of himself (as seen in the comics and books). He’s not a formal Jedi, so should he have been the guy to train the next group of Jedi (although there would be no other choices, so this would be if there were other options). That’s a lot of pressure to be under when it goes wrong. Naturally, a person would second guess themselves if everything they built was destroyed by a moment of weakness (his urge to stop Ben by killing him, which again is a move of an untrained Jedi).
There is a second part to Luke, which is touched upon in The Legend of Luke Skywalker: the legend is bigger than the man. The book pretty much is third-party stories of the exploits of Luke Skywalker; like any legend, they get blown out of proportion (one with Luke there listening). The stories of blowing up the Death Star, rebellion hero, and last Jedi were so blown out of proportion that Luke couldn’t live up to them.
When the legend fails and doesn’t know how to cope, he runs. It’s something that could very easily happen in real life.
People also didn’t like seeing Luke standing over teenaged Ben with the lightsaber ready to strike; this is totally within character too. Luke has been known to let his emotions take over, which the Jedi Order was against because they believed it led to the dark side. Luke came close to giving in a few times in the original trilogy, specifically fighting Vader on Death Star 2. True to the character, he came to his senses. Only this time the damage was done and Ben turned as a result.
Rian Johnson, Pariah
I believe Johnson’s goal with the movie was handing it over to the next generation of Star Wars fans and characters; the best way to do this was moving in the new direction. As the writer of the movie, that’s his prerogative.
Johnson shot a wonderful movie; it was visually stunning, the story was engaging, and he developed the new characters more than I expected. Yes, there were plot holes, but every Star Wars movie has some.
A good section of fans didn’t take to it. I don’t blame Johnson; I blame Disney and LucasFilm.
LucasFilm has a story team that approves everything in canon; it was needed after the Legends Canon got so convoluted that books would retcon books with every new release. The new canon required so they could make new movies; there were so many stories set after the original trilogy that they couldn’t have done anything new for hardcore fans. Some of those hardcore fans can’t get past what was already done in Legends; Luke, who went the complete other direction from TLJ in Legends, is a prime example of this.
LucasFilm liked what Johnson was doing or they would have gone another direction; ask Colin Trevorrow, Chris Miller and Phil Lord, or Gareth Edwards. They aren’t afraid to change directions once production has started.
Then there’s the shared blame between Disney and LucasFilm. With all of the flaws of the original and prequel trilogies, they were all written by one guy – George Lucas (technically Empire was written by Leigh Brackett and Lawrence Kasdan, but off of Lucas’s story). Each trilogy was one story that continued between the 3 movies while still being standalone. With this trilogy, they split writing duties between 2 different voices which has led to 2 different visions so far. There were tons of valid complaints that Johnson didn’t address story arcs that J.J. Abrams started in The Force Awakens. When Johnson did address the biggest 2 questions left open from TFA (Rey’s parentage and Snoke’s background), both were discarded as unimportant. These issues weren’t really Johnson’s fault; he wanted to tell his story, not finish someone elses.
The problem we face going forward is where J.J. goes; he could very easily undo what Johnson set up and focus on the TFA. He could also go a totally different direction than Johnson did and it will further irritate fans.
Princess Leia, Force User
I think everyone knew there could be major issues with Leia in the film. With the passing of Carrie Fisher after she completed filming, the franchise could have very easily sent her character out in this film and did a few reshoots to accomplish it. There were plenty of opportunities to do it too.
The biggest one was the bridge being destroyed and leaving Leia in space. The issue with this was the hour plus of footage with Leia still in it. It wouldn’t have been tough to edit it her out there, but it would have been a disservice to Fisher to cut her later scenes.
Now, I wasn’t a big fan of her using the force to save herself. It’s been established in canon that she practices the meditation side of the Force; she never wanted the rest of the training though. That said, it’s not surprising that she could use the force to save herself. It’s one of those situations where adrenalin kicks in and you do what needs to be done to save yourself; I’ve heard it compared to a parent that does an unnatural feat to save their child. I can live with that explanation.
My write off for Leia would have been in place of Holdo; it’s within Leia’s character to sacrifice herself to save the Resistance. Yes, many of the others there would want to take the place of Leia in this situation. I’d have her pull a blaster, stun Hondo, and have her ask who’s next. Her sacrifice would also have made the remaining Resistance members fight harder to survive since their leader made the ultimate sacrifice to save them.
You could make this change with reshoots of Laura Dern and do a little computer work for Fisher’s part. This will save them from having an off-screen death for Leia in Episode IX.
Star Wars Fans, Emotional
The fans have been the biggest issues with this movie. They either love it or hate it, like every movie released since Return of the Jedi. It’s pretty easy to see why.
Most fans of the orignal trilogy were kids when it came out. It was a part of their childhood and placed on a mantle.
Those fans were in their 20s and 30s when the prequel trilogy came out. Rather than entering it with the same child mentality they watched the originals, they couldn’t get past the acting, the story, the characters. They didn’t realize their Star Wars had the same issues; but, as a kid, they could look past it for 2 hours at a time because they had blind enjoyment of it without knowing how to be critical. The next generation of Star Wars fans loved the prequels; they were Anakin, Padme, and Darth Maul rather than Luke, Leia, and Darth Vader.
Now those fans are in their 30s and 40s for the sequel trilogy. The same issues are popping up. This isn’t their Star Wars; this is my kids’ Star Wars. They can look past plot holes and slow chases and surviving in space without a helmet. They don’t care if the story is a rehash of a previous movie or completely different from anything they’ve seen so far. They want to be Finn, Rey, and Kylo Ren now.
These are kid movies and kids are loving the new trilogy. Take a step back and think about it. Watch the movie again in this mindset; at the end of it, look around the theater at the kids there and soak in their love of the movie.