A New Rebellion and The Problems with Mechanical Storytelling
April 26, 2018
Mechanically, “The Last Jedi” is an ok movie. There are two fundamental flaws The Last Jedi carries with it. The humor and the Canto Bight/Rose-Finn subplot are two glaring issues that adversely affect the movie’s plot and tone. From the opening of the movie to the ending credits, “The Last Jedi” makes a futile attempt at what I love to call, “Marvel humor” aka indirect and forced comedy to garner character breaking and tone breaking interactions for a couple of laughs. The most glaring example of this is the Poe Dameron scene at the very start of the movie. Poe contacts Hux’s Star Destroyer and does the old “can you hear me” telephone joke which completely ruins the composition of the scene. This scene being Poe about to attack the Dreadnought all by himself by buying time with an awful joke. The humor in the original trilogy was sparse but when it was there it was the characters personalities bumping off each other and it felt natural. In “The Last Jedi” the humor constantly shifts the tone from dark moments to a seemingly Marvel-esque comedy. These constant tonal shifts broke the immersion and feel of multiple scenes.
The Resistance is broken and on the run, yet characters still engage in very forced humor and it just hurts to watch. There is one plot line and character specifically that was so mishandled it will go down in “Star Wars” history. Rose, the engineer for the Resistance and potential love interest for Finn is poorly acted and poorly written. The Canto Bight plotline also makes for some of the most wasted screen time in the current “Star Wars” continuum. Where we could have gotten more Rey and Luke training scenes or more Resistance screen time, we are panhandled a forced side quest that ultimately does nothing to move the plot along. It may sound like an over exaggeration but it really is not. Finn and Rose are tasked with finding a Code Breaker to get past the Supremacy’s shields and deactivate the McGuffin to save the Resistance. First off, they don’t even find the Code Breaker and the audience is treated with some philosophy spewing character that has no more than 10 minutes of runtime who then betrays Rose and Finn at the last moment for no obvious reason other than “they got money.” So Rose and Finn are captured and the very important actions of another character lead them to kill the useless Captain Phasma and escape.
There is one character specifically that completely derails all logic and sense. Poe Dameron’s assault onto the Dreadnought is what essentially created the entire plot of the movie to happen. If he had not attacked the Dreadnought, the Resistance would have either a)blown up on the spot b)be chased and eventually destroyed by the two gigantic orbital cannons on the Dreadnought. Unfortunately, Leia sees this as him being a hero rather than a leader (which doesn’t make sense) and demotes him. In his place she appoints Vice Admiral Holdo, better known as Purple Hair to the public. Her first order is to not give orders to soldiers, who in definition need orders. Poe of course comes and asks what needs to be done and how they were going to either fight or flight from the First Order. Holdo tells him nothing and berates him for asking.
The whole point of Poe’s arc is that he must become more of a leader, but instead, he stays the same from the Dreadnought to Crait. Poe is respected by the Resistance and even garners help for a mutiny which works until Leia comes in and whips him into submission. It is revealed in the end that Holdo’s “plan” could have been easily explained instead of creating false tension and emasculating and depriving one of the main characters because he is just trying to make sane decisions.
Even though the hyperspace attack was cool, the way they could have come to it should have been a lot better. With Kathleen Kennedy’s pushing of agendas and for “strong female characters” which “Star Wars” already had, it continues to ruin the feel and tone of The Last Jedi.
Even the prequels, some of the most controversial “Star Wars” movies, still used screen time effectively and when it could, powerfully. The Anakin-Padme scenes were always hard to watch but were essential to understanding their relationship and Anakin’s inner anger and turmoil. The Rose-Finn scenes are straight out of Marketing 101 and were made to pander a message that no one wanted to hear in a “Star Wars” movie.
This message could have been beautifully written in, with meaning and purpose, to show the current state of the galaxy and the grey morality of war. Instead, Rose and Finn jump on giant dog horses and run off destroying the entire casino on Canto Bight. Rose tries to deliver exposition on the message but it comes off as preachy and undercooked with some not so great acting.
These two parts of TLJ’s story are ultimately the only detractors to the beautifully shot movie. While the story of Canto Bight was undercooked, the scenery was shot so well and had so much inspiration it gave off the “Star Wars” vibe. During their escape through the outlying fields, the camera goes with a wide shot of the escapees and the rising moon with a contrast in the metallic, oppressive Canto Bight Security forces in tow.
The Battle of Crait is also another stunning example of practical and CGI effects blending wonderfully. The Ski-Speeders used by the Resistance blow up plumes of red salt and the Ski-Speeders themselves shine of the rustic “Star Wars” aesthetic we know and love, creating a fundamental, lived-in universe.
Ultimately, the mechanical story of TLJ incorporates a new, modern style of filmmaking with a care and attention to the smallest of prop and world detail. Creating a fundamentally sound movie in terms of meta-story and filmography. Even the previously mentioned Rose-Finn story is wrapped up along with the other subplots but still leaves more to be desired from the apparent pandering and waste of screen time.