This article contains SPOILERS.
Do not read further if you have not watched the movie Star Wars: The Last Jedi yet. Go watch it – ASAP. No one should miss any Star Wars movie, not even the flawed Episode I. (That being said, I also tried to minimize the spoilers here while getting my points told.)
As I said in my previous article, I enjoyed the movie Star Wars: The Last Jedi. However, there are things that are not perfect from a plot or fan point of view.
Let’s start with the good things first.
Balance of the Force
After all these years Luke views the Jedi Order as being responsible for failing to prevent the rise of the dark side, just as he played an important role when Ben (Kylo Ren) turned to the dark side. For me that is actually a good reason for him to go into exile, following the footsteps of Yoda and Obi-wan Kenobi. With his “enlightenment” he went so far to try to do something to the Jedi temple tree along with the Jedi text. Snoke also said that with the rise of the dark side, there would be a corresponding rise in the light side. This is truly a balance, in Taoist view. I think this is progress in the Star Wars mythology. In the past I often wondered why elimination of the dark side was considered to be “restoring balance to the galaxy”.
Since the Skywalker bloodline demonstrated their tremendous command of the Force, it is very reasonable for people to theorize that Rey is related to them or somebody strong with the Force. The movie tells us something different, and also ends with a random boy being able to use the Force. Although this deviates from the Star Wars saga theme of focusing on the Skywalker family, I view this as progress as it sends a message of anybody can be a hero, instead of only those being born into families of power.
On the other hand, this revelation is also a letdown as fans have wide theories of who Rey’s parents are. Instead of confirming any one of the theories, the least interesting one is chosen. This does not need to be underwhelming if it were clearly established in The Force Awakens (2015), instead of forming a huge mystery for fans to look forward to and then disappointing them.
Female Empowerment and Racial Diversity
From Star Wars (1977) we already had a strong female protagonist. Now we not only have Leia, but Rey, Rose, and Admiral Holdo too. I’m especially impressed by Admiral Holdo, even though she only has a few scenes in The Last Jedi. The scene that follows her final action is awesome, and I don’t recall seeing any comparable scene from other movies with space battles.
Star Wars have always represented racial diversity. In this movie further progress is made. Not only do we have a black protagonist, the movie features an Asian-American woman in a significant role as well. This is again good progress.
Leia gets more screen time, which is good. She demonstrates her Skywalker bloodline force power in a special scene. I can accept that and find it to be kind of interesting, although I’m sure there are people who do not share my view.
The personality of Luke may not be something fans want to see. Not only that, but he also goes to get a drink from an alien. This is not a scene of good taste, to put it mildly. As the former savior of the galaxy, his power is largely wasted in the new movie. As a mentor he does not even train Rey well – he did far less than Yoda did in The Empire Strikes Back (1983). Even Mark Hamill disagrees with this treatment of his character. Perhaps the story is formed this way to let the audience focus on Rey, and also to surprise the audience. The last scene of Luke, echoing his scene in 1977, looks beautiful to me. I understand why fans are upset with the implications of him for Episode IX.
The Dark Hole
During the training, Rey sees a hole and later goes into it, analogous to what happened in The Empire Strikes Back. However, nothing important happens. This is an underwhelming non-demonstration of the dark side of the Force, and a waste of time.
People generally like the pogh creature. They are cute and adorable. I think this presents an interesting case study of why pogh is likeable but ewok is not. I think the problem is not about the outlook of ewok. It is obvious the pogh scenes can be removed entirely without affecting the story, so we can love them purely based on their appearance, not their involvement in the story. This is very much unlike Return of the Jedi (1983), in which our heroes depended heavily on the ewoks, and the ewoks defeated AT-ST and overthrown the empire. People know that this is fundamentally ridiculous.
Canto Bight Casino
Canto Bight is yet another new place in the Star Wars universe, depicting the “rich assholes” (in the director’s words) who do not care about the First Order or the Rebellion, and makes profit from the war. Although this sequence offers more action for the protagonists, and BB-8 does interesting things here as well, in terms of the main plot this side quest does not really accomplish anything.
Characters Without Background
Captain Phasma gets very little screen time. For a seemingly important character, no background is given for her. However, the case is even worse for the Knights of Ren. We see them in flashbacks, and they are mentioned, but we still know nothing about them.
The single greatest problem with The Last Jedi is the treatment of Snoke. His importance as the highest command in the First Order and therefore the galaxy cannot be understated. Yet his background, his rise to power and why his face is deformed is still not explained. Given the status of him in this movie, it is unlikely we can learn more about him in the future.