Writing Movie “WRONGS”
By Jim West
Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Directed by Rian Johnson
Written by Rian Johnson
Disney has taken a calculated risk with the franchise of Star Wars, and in some ways I feel it is going to pay off and some ways I feel may incur a backlash from diehard fans. Some neat and fresh themes get introduced which behooves Disney in terms of future films and marketing, but again that may not be accepted by some fans. Then again you can’t please everybody all the time. I can see why critics like the film, and also why fans are on the fence. The very direction they are taking is uncharted territory for fans. They have grown up with two trilogies that focus mostly on the Skywalker family saga. With the end of this family saga nearing is something I feel some fans are not taking too well. Yet the number one reason why fans may not like this film comes down to something that has plagued most movies lately….LACK OF A STRONG SOLID VILLIAN. No one worthy of the title Darth. Kylo Ren is still shown to be an emotional anger filled child. No real menace or evil can be seen, and for that fans are wondering what to fear in this trilogy. In all of the Star Wars films the only true villain we had was Darth Vader, followed distantly by Darth Sidious. A villain can make or break a film and with this villain it is enough to partially check a box, but not leave people satisfied. More on this topic later in the review.
Here comes the spoilers.
‘Let the past die’ is a both a quote from Kylo Ren and a theme I think fans are beginning to reject. Fans love their characters and we have yet to spend enough time with these new folks to really connect with them. It feels sort of being abandoned by your family and left to live with the neighbors. Familiar yet awkward. This film ultimately feels like a six hour film got rapidly edited down to two and a half with some mishaps in character development along the way.
We get an evacuation and space battle to start the film. Our Han Solo character fill in of Poe ‘tools’ around with General Hux while getting close enough to take out a destroyer turrets so a bombing run can take out a Dreadnaught Heavy Cruiser. His choice of counterattack is costly and although he considers it a success, it is with heavy loss to the rebellion and much to General Leia’s dismay. A beloved character has perhaps the central theme for the events of this film wrapped up in his quote, “The greatest teacher, failure is”. Failure is a recurring theme that shows up in just about every aspect of the plot. Not many characters get to accomplish what they set out to do…at first this constant failure is somewhat refreshing, but then it becomes predictable. Rey is unsuccessful in bringing Luke back to the Rebellion (At least physically…nudge nudge I caught the rouse myself early on in the film), Finn is unsuccessful in many tasks (did he actually accomplish anything he set to do beyond defeating ‘Chrome Dome’), Poe’s only success in the takedown of the cruiser was actually a huge failure, and the only characters to actually accomplish what they set out to do were Luke and Vice Admiral Holdo.
With diversity and female empowerment on full display here (kudos to Disney for this), Finn and a new character Rose collaborate with Poe on a plot to disable a tracking device that can track ships through hyperspace. This mission takes up a lot of screen time and essentially only serves to introduce some slave kids which later the films comes back to reinforce one of the new themes of anybody can be a Jedi…which aww wasn’t that how it has been for ages? Some people were just more adept at using the force than others or for a better used term ‘force sensitive’. Anyhow I get what Disney intends to do this direction for and it’s to distance from the Skywalker legacy. Yet this is not a new theme…just reminding us there are people throughout the galaxy that can use the force.
Rey and Luke resume right where The Force Awakens left us with her handing Luke his lightsaber. He is extremely reluctant to hear about the Rebels and Kylo, and most of all the force. He eventually agrees to give three lessons to Rey to show her why the force isn’t worth continuing the cycle of Jedi’s and Sith’s. Rey finally leaves Luke to rejoin the battle and then decided to go directly to Darth Snoke’s and Kylo Ren’s ship as her bid to turn Kylo to the light side. What? An unexperienced, quasi apprentice going into the belly of the Sith Beast and thinking she has a chance. Bullocks! This is easily the most Ludacris part of the film that only gets worse as it continues. Snoke then reveals he linked her and Kylo’s minds (great sith power on display there) and that was all to draw her and hopefully Skywalker in, but since all he needs to read her mind to learn Skywalker’s location he can just destroy the planet he is on. He gives her to Kylo to strike down and this sequence I found unique and well edited. Snoke tells Rey he can see Kylo’s mind and thoughts and accurately speaks those thoughts but doesn’t realize the thoughts are real but striking down his true enemy is he himself! I have waited over twenty years to see a sith turn on a lightsaber next to an opponent and kill them in this manner. Not only do I get to see Kylo dispose of Snoke in this manner, a few moments later when Rey and Kylo have to defeat the Red Guards of Snoke they do it again when Rey tosses Kylo her lightsaber. Yet in that battle with the Red Guard something doesn’t sit well with me…what was their armor that could easily be impaled by a saber through the breastplate of their armor, but their bracers could block them? Why not make all of their armor lightsaber proof? I felt this was a poor continuity choice and for me it is either lightsabers CAN cut through it or NOT. If you wanted to give them a hard fought battle they could lose then let their armor be of such that a lightsaber cannot cut though at ALL. This would have made that fight a real serious challenge to them both and forced them (pun intended) to utilize their force powers fully to defeat them. Imagine Kylo having to force push and choke to keep some at bay while fighting for his life with his saber. Then Rey has to unleash her potential and when she force pushes the entire room gets pushed to one side as she is not fully in control of her powers with the force. This would have elevated that fight sequence to an epic scale and then begun to show us the reason why Luke feared the raw power he saw in Rey and previously in Kylo. Give the audiences the same fear. This is a huge misstep by the writer here. A moment you could see the force at work. Really the only real force power on display that was most impressive was Luke’s ultimate Jedi Mind trick at the climax of the film. THAT is perhaps the most powerful force demonstration in all of the films to date.
Now this review is to showcase how better writing can make a better film, and although I liked this film a lot, it can easily be made epic. Here is how:
- Introduce the two sisters together before the bombing run mission and have they argue about why each one is supporting the Rebel alliance. Maybe have the older sister give her younger sister her rebel ring so it has extra sentimental value before they head their separate ways. This gets us acquainted with her earlier and the characters actions are more meaningful for the rest of the film on.
- Remove the Luke milking the gross alien and drinking the green milk scene to free up this time for another character development scene. For example another scene with Leia and Holdo to establish Holdo as someone who would lay down her life for the cause so when she actually does what she does (which was spectacular) it is even more powerful a scene to watch. Remove the alien ‘caretakers’ on the island with Luke. It would be far better that he was in deep isolation with only Porgs on the island. These creatures do not further the story and are distracting and used largely for attempt at comedy that is a misfire.
- Limit the comedy. The stakes are seriously high, entire rebel fleet about to be wiped from existence is not necessarily a time for jokes. I feel half the jokes were misfires in this film. Yes the other film’s had their comedic moments, but those usually were driven by the action itself and usually followed soon by the classic “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” Which I don’t recall if it was ever spoken in this film.
- Show why Luke fears the raw force powers in Kylo and Rey. We literally are JUST TOLD how powerful they are yet never SHOWN anything. Just crumbs in words only. This perhaps left many audience goer’s feeling unsatisfied. Making the Red Guard scene I outlined above would have given us this display of raw power.
- Kylo needs to mature and become much more menacing than he is. I think the only direction you can really take him is to be more cold blooded. For this film remove him bashing his helmet in the elevator. I mean that is a child throwing a temper tantrum. Show him get quiet and colder in his demeanor. Almost like you grow scared of his silence. This is really the only way to fix his character. We need better villains #MakeVilliansGreatAgain
In closing, this film is not perfect and neither were any of the other Star War’s films (some more disastrous than others), but this still for me ranks high due to taking some risks, and some of those risks potentially will payoff for Disney in terms of more and more films for years to come. Yet for the next film I offer these suggestions to really bring it all together. I now address this to Disney in hopes they will see this with help of the force…lol. Set the next film 5-10 years after this events in this film. This gives time for Kylo and Rey to each grow in the force and in terms of maturity. Both can have their apprentice teams developing those years and staged for an epic battle royale. Second since Disney is taking chances here and of course wants to rake in more box office money…I rarely say this but in terms of story development you really need two more films to fully flesh out storylines for these new characters. You have spent a lot of time with the Skywalker’s and since the baton is being passed take two more films of at least 4-5 hours more time to solidify these characters in the fan lore. Open the next film with the death and funeral of Leia. This wraps up handling of her character in a respectful way to Carrie Fisher and can setup political scheming and possible rifts in the Rebellion when an unknown leader comes to take over for Leia over Poe. Next give the audience insights into what Luke saw in Kylo and Rey. Show us the force unleashed. Make us fear them both in similar ways. Perhaps Rey is so powerful she can easily lose control of the power and unfortunate consequences occur. Have Kylo use Rey’s anger against her s Vader once did Luke. Show us not tell us this raw power you speak of in these two characters. Give us a series of saber fights that rival all the others if not surpass them. Then when you end this series of films whether or not you stay trilogy or break the mold and go four films as I suggest…please end it with two droids having a chat while walking towards two suns (C3PO and R2D2).
Thanks for reading Writing Movie ‘WRONGS’.