Enter the person that was funnily enough dubbed Admiral Gender Studies and that we like to call Purple Space-Rave Girl, Vice-Admiral Amilyn “she had no business being there” Holdo, a battle-hardened leader whose prowess precedes her. The arc involving her was, honestly, insulting to both a regular moviegoer’s sensibilities and intelligence, as well as Star Wars canon as it stands today.
People argue that Amilyn had no reason to make her actions known to Poe in the first place, and while that may hold(o) true to chain-of-command operations in the military, Star Wars is fantasy, as we’re well aware, something that we’re reminded of time and time again when bringing up arcing turbolaser shots in space, or the fact that many other things don’t make sense in TLJ… But we digress.
While Holdo had no obligation to make her plans known to Poe, she had no reason to expect his or the crew’s undying allegiance either, especially when she comes in as a mostly unknown quantity (at least first-hand) and supplants Leia in a very authoritative and highly secretive manner. There’s a very applicable quote in the new Thrawn novel that I think sums this up nicely and can be found on page 110 of Timothy Zahn’s amazing reboot of the character within the confines of the new canon:
While leadership is owed instant obedience, the latter only happens when leaders have proven themselves worthy, and trust has been built up through information, in a circular process. So either Holdo is oblivious to the concept as a whole and runs her ship based on the first half alone, or she’ll just take her chances with arguably the most impulsive and popular member of the Rebellion (who incidentally all but worships Leia) following her orders when it’s readily apparent she’s doing something fishy that may spell the doom of them all.
For the benefit of having the “big twist” later on, a weird choice is made, thus painting Holdo in a less than flattering manner to say the least. And while people argue that she’s a mainstay of Leia’s Princess of Alderaan novel, the argument that Poe was in the wrong is further kicked to the curb with this little gem from that very book, which may even paint the mutineers in a beneficial light:
I could go on at length about her portrayal in Claudia Gray’s rather solid take on Leia, but the thing I was left with was Holdo acting like a discount Luna Lovegood: twice the cringe for half the laughs, and a heavy-handed “don’t judge a book by its cover” arc that was flimsy at its end and annoying for the most part.
Not to mention her arc being completely removed from what we get in TLJ, with the only thing it does is maybe explain her jump (sic!) at sacrificing herself when presented with the opportunity. So I still don’t get why people bring up the “oh, you’ll understand her better once you’ve read the book!” argument. If anything, it makes me roll my eyes even further back (but more on that in our future Leia Princess of Alderaan review).
But hey, at least her hair’s purple and she’s a hardass that puts a reckless, toxic, Rebellion-killing flyboy in his place! Hooray for feminism or whatever!
Speaking of bad writing, in one swoop, RJ has managed to not only undo the (at least) decent setup and hints JJ left with TFA, but also somehow turn both Finn and Poe from interesting characters with room to grow, to mostly useless ones in the overarching narrative.
Finn does literally nothing for the entirety of the movie, either playing tag-along to Rose or being thwarted by her when attempting the one act that would have even marginally redeemed him at the end of TLJ. As it stands, he’s exhibited little to no evolution, ending up in the same spot he did back in TFA (he’d sacrifice himself for his friends), but not actively or significantly participating in almost anything at all since waking up in the leaky, transparent Michelin man getup…
Poe, meanwhile is actually made to look like his one dominant trait - the impulsiveness of a “flyboy” - is somehow bad because he doesn’t know how to follow orders. I’m sorry, but sacrifices are a necessary evil when it comes to war, and I see the obsolete, borderline idiotic designs of the Resistance Bombers (and the limiting outlook of a WWII-style bombing run in a space battle) as taking most of the blame for the initial attack on the New Order Dreadnought, and not Poe’s logical intent to try and take down such a prized target. We’ve already covered the second part of him being made the villain so we’ll not go over it again.
Bears mentioning that the chain of command is broken by literally the entire Resistance Fleet for going over Leia’s head and taking after Poe, but we’ve established military-grade sense isn’t one of TLJ’s fortes…
Guess I should say a couple things about Snoke, too, since we’re here…
Hate him or not care enough about him, he’s still a missed opportunity by getting killed off in the second act of the second movie in a trilogy, and even less of an imposing villain than the Emperor was in the OT. And let’s be honest, the Emperor didn’t have much to go by before more content was written for him anyway. But Snoke was set up as someone important, hence his loss without that expectancy being built upon feeling wrong.
Would we have liked to see more of what the man who nurtured the darkness in Kylo had to offer or where he came from? Sure. Here’s hoping we can get it in a decent comic whose writer spends more time actually thinking about the plot rather than selling Snoke-in-a-(bath)robe merchandise…
“Let the past die. But not with dignity.” - Kathleen Kennedy, an intellectual
I’ll always wonder why they had to bring in a new character that nobody had any attachment to whatsoever and didn’t pass the event over to someone that holds more gravitas and command over what can be approximated as a sizable amount of the Star Wars audience. Maybe some space-shrimp Admiral who knows a trap when he sees one and whose off-screen death would be an insult to years of lore, history, and a considerable number of fans...
Leia going full Space Fairy on us wasn’t the most outrageous moment of the bridge bombing to us, ridiculous as it played out. Hell, she’s heir to one of the most powerful Force Users in the Galaxy and while only exhibiting Force Sensitivity once on the big screen (Episode V), you’d be pretty hard-pressed to think she couldn’t pull something like that off, bewildering as it may be, 30 years on from ESB.
Trust me, it’s more insulting to see Doctor Aphra “read” Vader’s actions towards her at the end of the first Disney Vader comic arc and then survive being jettisoned... Or the crew getting Leia back onboard not being sucked out into space themselves...
The insult here isn’t Leia Kent, but rather the complete dismissal and insensitive deletion of one of the old characters, i.e. Admiral Ackbar. Of course, the above story decision must be taken with the copious caveat that Rian and the writers knew what they were doing and didn’t (as he himself admits with Holdo) pull everything out of their collective asses or “just fucking did it”...
Going back to the established characters bit, Disney has shoved this torch-passing thing down on our throats for a while, and I get it, it’s time (and as much as I love Carrie Fisher, upon seeing her acting in TLJ, it really was…) for the franchise to be enjoyed anew by a fresh audience while we’re given just enough nostalgic tinges to keep us coming back… But can’t you do that without taking a steaming dump on a piece of history? Couldn’t you use it to better effect than some freshly-drawn, poorly scripted character that holds no weight with any of the audience and prevent a future snarky response to the distraught fanbase whose reactions are overwhelmingly negative to that? Couldn’t you… Write better, overall?
Since we’re speaking of steaming dumps taken on bits of history, we need to address the Grinch on the island...
Mark Hamill has gone on record dozens of times before the movie was released, saying he doesn’t like, understand, or condone Luke’s arc in TLJ, but that he did his best with it. He actually went so far as to mention that he’d told Rian Johnson they should cater more to the longtime fans of the franchise, but was met with a stern “we should focus on what we’re trying to do” from the movie’s director. As a result, the Jake Skywalker joke popped up, with Mark saying that this wasn’t Luke but some entirely different Skywalker, prompting the birth of the Jake Skywalker’s Adventures comic on Twitter which we recommend you give a read.
You can see why it’s hard for people to stomach how Luke (someone who we knew as hopeful, persistent in the face of failure even after losing Obi-Wan and then a hand altogether), faced with a fleeting image of stopping Kylo BEFORE he even turns evil, fails and (as even Mark put it) instead of taking a little time to regroup and face facts with renewed and typical resolve, opts to hide himself away from the Force, hop on to NunsBnB, and relocate to the most remote point in the Galaxy, covering his tracks to boot. And don’t give me that “But Obi-Wan and Yoda did the same!” shtick, we all know they were both fleeing from an Empire-wide force, and Obi-Wan was also basically watching over Luke while on Tattooine so get your stories straight before buying into weak memes… Even then, Luke should have been able to learn from what Yoda and Obi-Wan did, and use that knowledge to NOT become a recluse. He failed to learn the most basic lesson from his former two masters, which is beyond preposterous at this point in his life.
Going even further than this, we barely see Luke express his regret and sorrow at the loss of Han Solo. Hell, we barely see Leia grieve over the loss of her big love and the father of her child! The visual guide does tell us that the bun she’s wearing is a traditional Alderaanian grieving one. How quaint. Between that and the resurgence of a deleted scene reportedly featuring the loss of Han front and center, more and more questions pop up as to how much of a fan of the universe Rian Johnson really is...
Aside from going against literally everything we know about him, Last Jedi Luke throws another curveball on an unsuspecting Galaxy: the fact that in his self-flagellation/exile he sets up the double whammy of allowing the First Order to happen and imbalance to set itself up again, whilst arguably prompting the existence of Rey (“darkness rises, and light up to meet it”) along with the reinforcing of the Mary Sue term in modern cinema.
Ma-Rey Sue, anyone?
Which, after seeing TLJ, we can’t but agree with.
TFA had its (fast-track) ways of getting Rey up to speed with her role, and we’ve gone over them in this article so we won’t repeat them here, but good golly gosh darn, does her self-sufficiency get turned up to Reyleven in this one…
Over the course of a couple days, Rey gets to Luke’s tract of land, is faced with his refusal to have anything to do with her training, and through sheer force of will manages to turn him around and the training begins.
She then leaves Ahch-To with nothing gained from Luke but history lessons: the nature of the Force, and the failures of the Jedi across the years (with a third lesson cut out of the movie because who in the hell can count to three anymore… Upon seeing it, though, it’s probably for the best it was left out because it’s just more of Jake again with Rey somehow sounding more like Luke than he himself does...).
In the midst of all this, Rey naturally switches from being a badass staff user (which makes sense) to being a badass lightsaber user by… Chopping off a rock and nearly killing a couple dolphin nuns? And don’t give me the training montage crap, she literally flailed around for 3 minutes, gaining less from it all than maybe even Luke did training with the remote. Incidentally, we know the flight between Tattooine and Alderaan took several hours, and Luke trained with Obi-Wan, and another 3 full years pass before we ever see him use the lightsaber effectively in Episode V...
Following her Force-time with Kylo, Rey travels over to meet him and seeks to turn him to the light, hopeful but armed with nothing but knowledge and her inherent ability to use the Force. And, of course, she manages to deal with her share of the Supreme Leader’s Guard without a hitch, using her quick wit and combat experience… gained by fighting off random thugs at Niima outpost? Either she’s overblown as a “natural” at everything, or these red-shirts are level with the old Imperial Guards for the looking cool to borderline uselessness ratio.
Ah, but wait! There’s information contained within The Last Jedi novelisation that tells of how Rey tapped into something deeper through her connection. Enter the Last Jedi Force Team Viewer (™ pending): she actually learned directly from Kylo’s abilities by becoming aware of them, and ended up being driven by the Force itself rather than acting of her own volition during the Throne Room scene.
I wonder where all those “she doesn’t face any tangible odds and has everything handed to her by the script” criticisms come from… Good work on nullifying them with such a solid piece of lore… that also manages to nuke thousands of years of Jedi and Sith training because “you can just see it all with the Force, lol!”.
The Force has literally become a participation trophy nowadays. Forget training, forget thousands of years of Jedi and Sith ways, you can just tap into the Force cloud and download the most recent SickMoves.exe and things just sort of happen!
Rey also succumbs to her desire to see what’s in the Dark Place of Ach-To, much like Luke did in Empire, and goes through the island’s sphincter to find herself face-to-face with the Mirror of Erised. Only this time, Harry doesn’t see his parents, but is rather drawn into a pretty weird (some would call it boring) delay-loop and she only sees her own reflection at the other end. Rian Johnson himself has stated that this is indicative of Rey’s greatest fear, i.e. only having herself to rely on… And again, I have to go off on a mini-rant here...
The self-sufficient, instantly likable, badass pilot-scavenger, plot-armored character in this movie has self-reliance problems… I don’t know if that makes her appear hardier or makes her entire arc even harder to stomach… I thought her greatest fear would be swimming, what with living on a desert planet almost all her life, but now I’m just riffing.
Taking all of that into account, I feel like the term Mary Sue should be redefined to Marey Sue. Why? Because her naivete and tendency to cling to every father figure she comes across (which are the only two negative traits I’ve found in her over two movies) don’t make for actual flaws or drawbacks to her plot-wise. She is still near-perfect, spunky, has immense willpower, is impossibly hopeful, and manages almost all her tasks on her own. We see this happen in TFA with the Jakku escape, the Falcon impromptu improvement, the interrogation scene, the subsequent escape, the forest battle, and all of the previous examples of her doing more of the same in TLJ.
Most excuses for this happening are “it’s the Force, kay?”
Sure, bub, and I’m Myke Katarn. Have you met Jake Skywalker at all? The reason for it is poor writing and the excuse is riding on the coattails of a current girl power climate to get away with it, labeling people as sexists, misogynists, bigots, and other terms just for pointing out the above. For some reason, I have to underline this: if it were a guy, I’d be signing him up for the Gariest of Stus in a heartbeat… It’s not THAT things happen for unexplained reasons (i.e. the Force), it’s that they ALWAYS seem to happen for unexplained reasons when it comes to Rey.
But with Daisy Ridley once again proving she has nary a clue what makes a compelling character (i.e. relatability, duh!) by stating she doesn’t see Rey having any flaws, and lacking basic understanding of film tropes (along with some serious PR faults in my view), it makes me as happy as an elephant with its Bantha rug taken off to be able to call this character and the actress portraying it a disgrace to the universe and a repeated, living insult to many of those who love it.
And can we just set up a petition to get Daisy Ridley to close her mouth once in a while when she acts? Gods, woman, it’s like you went to Tom Cruise’s Acting School for the Mandibally Challenged...
“This is not going to go the way you think.” - Jake Skywalker, 34 ABY.
“This is not going to go the way you think.” - Mark Hamill, 2015, 2016, 2017...
Going back to Luke, I honestly don’t care that Mark turned around and argued that he’s grown to like the character since his initial thoughts on it and regrets voicing discontent. Dozens of statements all the way back to TFA and through the promotion of TLJ suddenly mean nothing?
Well, everyone’s entitled to their opinion, and mine is that he’s seen the backlash and thought better of it. No Disney conspiracy, no arm twisting from higher-ups, just personal sadness at what went on online. It took me years upon years to warm up to the prequels, and TLJ was actually the final push for me to actually appreciate their underlying plot and flippy shit, if nothing else. It’s weird for opinions to change radically (and somewhat magically) in a matter of days or weeks, revelation-style. Just try speaking to an anti-vaxxer...
We honestly can’t enjoy Luke as a whole (even though we featured him in the positives as well) so we’ll just remember those few spikes of greatness that pepper an otherwise poor depiction of one of the most beloved characters in pop culture and move along, even with Hamill still acting Jake out to the best of his ability, so no faults there.
There’s always the 16-bit variant of the final fight which is, and I say this in complete honesty, many times over better and more endearing than what we got in the movie itself which made Luke obsolete about as unceremoniously as Lucas was.
Overall, the movie sagged harder than Hillary on election day, with 2 of the main PoVs we get moving at the speed of smell. Barely. People are right in saying that this was just as much a chase scene as Empire, but the difference is that with Ep. V we had the action being driven forward in leaps and bounds rather than most of it being 2 sets of ships engaged in the Galaxy’s most boring race-to-empty this side of fuel being discovered.
We know pride comes before the fall and the First Order was so sure in their victory that they were hunting the Rebellion just to prove a point and drive fear into them. But they end up looking weak, dumb, and susceptible to even the handful of remaining Rebels beating them come Episode IX, and that doesn’t make for a satisfying arc or tension because they’re so incompetent a flock of drunk porgs could survive one of their attacks. Johnson’s argument regarding the Holdo Manoeuvre that “it was unexpected if even Hux didn’t see it coming” makes me that Rian sees Hux as somewhat of a military mastermind, yet all we get from him are sparks of bumbling stupidity and uselessness.
It also bears mentioning that the second-dumbest part of the whole movie, and one that again undermines the villains in this one, is the fact that the writing crew went into this hoping geeks wouldn’t remember what a Picard Maneuver (or, even better, a micro-jump) is. Also, I’m pretty sure an argument could be made for a lack of friction in space, thus no need to burn fuel to keep ships going after they reach maximum speeds, but others more attuned to the whole space-travel aspect of things than me have probably tacked this already so I’ll just leave this plothole to someone else.
I'm tired enough as it is.
Moving on to another niggle of the fandom, Hyperspace tracking existing wasn’t an issue and it didn’t get introduced with TLJ, so brush up on your canon, fanboys.
The complete tabula rasa over what happened back in A New Hope is the issue here. You know, when the Empire tracked the Tantive IV through Hyperspace? The characters’ disbelief at the New Order finding them after the jump comes off as even more idiotic when Leia herself holds one half of a device that would allow Rey to find them all no matter where they ended for the rendez-vous…
It’s dumb things like these, and in copious amounts, that mar what could’ve been an enjoyable turn after the cautious start that TFA brought to the table. Now, we just wish JJ would have carried this through… And this is saying something with Abrams making some pretty stupid statements regarding fan criticism himself…
Oh! And speaking of things that are carried through, we got Force Ghost Yoda, everybody! Hooray! Weird, puppet-cgi Yoda from the beginning of Empire where he acts all goofy and… Somehow can hit Luke while in ghost form and also summon death-lightning from the sky because that doesn’t at all go against anything Force Ghosts have been or stood for (i.e. guides, mostly passive observers), and this is Yoda so fuck it, go full on power-tripping.
Ultimately, we wouldn’t be able to distill all the essence of inadequacy, borderline character assassination, plot holes, pacing issues, and other inconsistencies that mar what could have been a great movie (and as soon as we can get our geese in a row we’ll tell you how via a series of ‘Redux’ articles, ‘cause we’re just that arrogant!) to a readable amount, so if you’d like to hear our points and more being expanded upon, we wholeheartedly recommend this series of youtube videos, going upwards of 4 hours, dissecting every bit of the movie in the context of the universe.
A brief overview of the movie can be summed up by the lightsaber battle scene itself, which, as we’ve pointed out before, has great momentum and is flashy and rewarding at first glance, but fails further scrutiny, and ultimately under-delivers on a good premise.
This is easily true throughout the experience:
Poe going maverick against all odds fails in the humour department, and the subsequent battle falls flat on its face by the realisation that it all could have been bypassed with decades old ships (Y and B-Wings) rather than the ‘newfangled’, useless ones, spliced in because Rian’s a WWII geek. Luke meeting Rey meeting was momentous in TFA, but TLJ turns the tension down to nil by Luke’s dismissal of the lightsaber in an almost indicative manner of the current treatment of the franchise’s past. The entire Canto Bight scene, Finn’s near-sacrifice, Luke and Kylo’s battle, Holdo’s death seeking an emotional response, the Force tree on Ach-To being destroyed yet the sacred Jedi texts being seen on the Falcon shortly thereafter…
There's a pattern emerging
A step back and a deep breath
All in all, TLJ is a success, at least monetarily-speaking, and from an internet-traffic-generating standpoint, even if it had the biggest Friday-to-Friday drop-off in Star Wars history. $1.3 BLN on a budget of $200 MLN is nothing to scoff at, even taking into account its Asian market bomb and the severe drop-off from TFA’s $2.06 BLN.
These movies are just going to keep coming at us on a yearly basis, along with various other decent (Rogue One) or dodgy (Forces of Destiny) accompanying products, all the while catering to a younger and younger demographic, with a shorter attention span and attention to detail who just want to be entertained by pretty lights and “Star Wars stuff” for a few.
There’s also the idea of fans clinging too tightly to the past and losing sight of the goal, but with such a solid base to build upon, can you really blame anyone?
In a day and age when Transformers has another 12 movies slated for release, loud and dumb action movies are always being made over smart and fun action movies. It takes less effort to come up with a coherent plot and characters that way. And taking the drop-off into account, it’s clear fewer and fewer people come back for seconds, at least when you apply said less effort to Star Wars. You could go as far as to say that Star Wars is beginning to pitfall into diminishing returns with a decreasing income generated by each entry, but that’s a trend that needs more than a couple years to materialise and people in charge won’t much care about this argument just yet since they’re still making billions.
The franchise is moving into a new direction, which is expected and welcome, the “we are what they grow beyond” line hitting really close to home with parents who became fans as kids and are watching this now alongside their own offspring...
But it’s a damn shame they’re choosing to pass the torch without paying proper respects and devolving into a middle-of-the-road action flick territory that is more pretentious than qualitative and needs copious amounts of further explanations as to why things happen.
A Star Wars movie this is, but a good one it isn’t. It’s mediocre at best even as a generic film, with too few truly great performances or grand moments to shine through the cracks in the plot and the characters themselves.
Sadly, both from the standpoint of this being our first movie review ever and the fact that we’re big Star Wars fans we can’t recommend it for any other reason than keeping up with the canon and maybe disconnecting your mind entirely for a couple hours and watching some pretty pictures unfold. We’re entirely open to being proven 100% wrong by Episode IX, though, and we’re still holding on for a surprise hit in Solo.
As it stands, the Gung-Ho Geeks rate this: 3.5 out of 10 scared porgs: