Can We Talk About The Last Jedi?

I wasn’t going to write this, but then I read Pitch Room: Fixing The Last Jedi by someone I know indirectly, and decided I had to do it. I don’t know if he will find this interesting or not, but he caused me to write up what I’d been thinking.

But first, an alert: spoilers ahead. No, really. Spoilers. Lots of them.

Did I mention that there are spoilers coming? If not, now I have. And if spoilers will bother you, please stop reading.

Still here? OK, here we go.

In a previous post I mentioned I had some issues with The Last Jedi. There are some good things about it, of course:

  • I really appreciate the fact that we’re getting new leads that are female and people of colour. Star Wars was previously far too male and white. This is better. Though we still have a species problem. Why are humans the actual heroes saving the galaxy? Why are we so essential to the plot? (Yes, I know, it’s Hollywood and how well would a movie about aliens saving the galaxy sell? Particularly when it was subtitled in English? But I digress.)
  • There was more emphasis on character growth than in previous movies as well. That’s a good thing too.

But there were problems:

  • It’s too loud. This is a modern movie thing, not limited to TLJ. Thankfully if you watch at home there is a readily available volume control. I made the mistake of seeing TLJ in the theatre and suffered as a result.
  • It’s too long. Editing is an art that is lost in the modern movie world. There wasn’t enough story there to keep us in our seats for 2.5 hours.
  • It treated Luke as a whacko. Having given up is fine. Disappearing and living on that island is OK with me too. I can see those as character options for him. But, fishing with that huge pole? And milking that whatever it was? Those was just stupid. I realize that some comic relief is a good thing, but those were pointless. We already had the “tossing the light sabre over his shoulder” gag. And the porg. And speaking of the porg…
  • Can we find a SW director willing to avoid “cute creature crap?” Please? Yes, the entire audience in the theatre I was in laughed out loud when the porg were watching Chewbacca try to eat one of their own, but really, what was the point of that? Or of those creatures at all? Tell me a story, don’t get lost in pointless, irrelevant detail.
  • Back to the light sabre toss… what about consistency between movies? The scene where Rey meets Luke in The Force Awakens had her climb the mountain and hold out the sabre. Here that was redone and it wasn’t the same. If memory serves she talked to him before handing him the sabre. (Do I have that right? I might not… but I distinctly remember sitting in the theatre thinking… “well, that’s not what we saw happen last time.”) If this is one long story, shouldn’t there be some consistency?
  • Was anyone else else reminded of Battlestar Gallactica as the last of the rebel fleet was able to run ahead of the empire’s ships, but not get away? I kept waiting for the Cylons to show up at regular intervals.
  • The entire scene at the end where Luke does the “Force Ghost” thing left me full of questions. Firstly because I had no clue what was going on and only learned the details after the fact, from other internet articles full of spoilers. But even once I learned what a Force Ghost is — and thus what he was doing — I still have trouble. How did he know to do that at that time? How did he know where do send the projection? Did Leah know it was a projection or not? And finally, why didn’t his mechanical hand clank down on the stone when he faded out? You get the idea. That last question has gotten some press lately, so clearly I’m not the only one asking these things.
  • And I’m amused, but not hugely bothered, by the fact that at the end of this movie there is a serious casting oddity: Leah’s still alive but Luke and Han are both dead. In real life things are exactly reversed, with Carrie Fisher having died well before her time, and Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill still among the living. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want them dead, but I suspect those writing the next movie are marvelling at how the universe really works.

There are probably more issues as well, but the one that really bothers me is different. I’ve seen all kinds of press lately about the scene in question, about how wonderful it is, and how the director did something totally unexpected in it.

I refer, of course, to the scene where the rebel leader Holdo turns the last large rebel ship around and flies it straight into Snoke’s (now Kylo’s) ship, causing huge damage and destruction.

I’m not bothered by the lack of an explosion sound there. That’s the thing that everyone is praising Rian Johnson for, and I am totally fine with that. It was a relief, actually. I literally covered my ears in the theatre expecting a pounding. When it didn’t happen, I was a happy boy.

And I’m not bothered by the residual destruction of the rest of the other ships as the shards of rebel ship splay out from the initial collision. It’s not at all likely there would be that many collisions and that much damage in real life, but we’re well into the suspension of disbelief here, and I can live with that.

I’m not even bothered by the ability to accurately steer the ship into that collision after that turn. Despite learning that the navicomp takes a while to make lightspeed calculations (Remember that from the very first SW movie?), the fact that Holdo (how long since she last flew anything, BTW?) can aim it with pinpoint accuracy is OK with me.

And honestly, I’m not bothered by the fact that there has to be a pilot on board, though in reality that would never be the case. The tech of the SW universe would make remote piloting easy, but we need a heroic sacrifice for the plot. Fine.

No, the problem is self induced. The problem is with using a ship moving at lightspeed to do the damage in the first place. The Force Awakens has two examples that show why this is a problem.

  • First when Han Solo and company depart the scavenger ship at lightspeed from inside the ship itself. Think about that. They jump to lightspeed from a standstill without doing damage to themselves (or, apparently) to the ship the Falcon was inside.
  • Next, Han pilots the Falcon to Starkiller Base and comes out of lightspeed just above the trees, in atmosphere. They were at lightspeed, in atmosphere.

Think about it. In the immediately preceding movie we have two examples of how lightspeed physics works, and now we get something that shows us exactly the opposite.

If lightspeed physics worked as shown in TLJ, the heroes would not have survived their idiotic decisions about how to use it in TFA.

This bothers me. It shows a lack of attention to detail.

I know, I know. It’s a story. It’s full of plot holes. Lightspeed itself is a plot hole, of course. I get that, but the fact is that it’s not even internally consistent. It doesn’t follow its own rules. I expect more from my story tellers, particularly when they have millions of dollars available and the most rabid fans in existence. They have to avoid issues like this.

I suspect someone, somewhere, will have an answer for me. Some way to rationalize the very different handling of lightspeed between the two movies. I have no clue if I will believe it or not, but bring it on.

Sculptor/Artist. Former programmer. Former volunteer firefighter. Former fencer. Weirdest resume on the planet, I suspect.

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