Love makes you blind to flaws, doesn’t allow you to see past your passion, at least at the start of any relationship. Only when we have become disillusioned over time, do we see people for what they are. This is called the infatuation stage. Love makes you blind, but time allows for clarity. This is said of humans, but also can be said of movies and franchises. We should step back and reevaluate. This isn’t the Star Wars of the 70’s and 80’s, nor is it the prequel era. This isn’t George Lucas’s Star Wars, this is Disney Star Wars, and despite what many believe, not everything Disney touches turns to gold. Many people will say, “But it’s still Star Wars.” Yes and no. When United Airlines bought PetSafe–a company who had an insane approval rating on transporting pets around the globe and considered the best in the business–they plummeted as the go-to service. Pets were dying left and right and still are. In 2017, eighteen of the twenty-four pet deaths were because of United. Now, PetSafe is synonymous with–and brings a whole new meaning to–chance. Another quick example would be Apple. If Google bought the company–or some other conglomerate–would it still be Apple? Or Marvel? What if Lionsgate purchased the mega comic-movie business like when Disney bought it? Would it still be the same as when Marvel was only Marvel-owned?
Someone who was very dear to me told me that if I loved Star Wars, I had to love all aspects of it, and couldn’t pick and choose which I wanted. She said I had to love all the flaws and go with “the spirit of intent and understand what they were trying to do.” I understand they are trying to destroy a franchise with the NF given attitude. She also equated I wasn’t a real fan because I didn’t bow to the all-encompassing, unconditional love for the movie(s). To me, being ignorant of the flaws sounds more like infatuation. Unconditional love is like blind obedience, and look how well that turned out for everyone at the Nuremberg trials. Their plea of ‘just following orders’ did not save them, nor should it. Then again, I’ve had to follow orders I didn’t agree with either; same can be said of laws. Unconditional love is absolute, and there is nothing absolute–except for death and taxes. You do not profess unconditional love at the alter–if so, you’d still be married after your wife or husband is caught for being a serial killer. I mean, maybe you would if you liked that kind of crazy. At best, marriage is conditional love, as is being a parent. Think of how many men and women walk away from their children when they are just kids. How many more so if they are found to be thieves, rapists, pedophiles, and murderers?
The point I am making is this blind adherence to something or someone. People attack others for having a different perspective, opinion, or belief. If everyone thought the same, how boring would this world be? Imagine the movies? They would be carbon copies … and I mean, they are rehashes of other movies. And the books?
Before Disney bought Star Wars and discarded the whole expanded universe, I borderlined on fanatic. I purchased and read over one hundred and twenty of the paperback books, collected hundreds of comics and toys. I could recite to you Luke Skywalker’s life. When my friend told me I couldn’t be critical of Star Wars (SW) and be a true fan, I reminded her of this significant portion of my life. How many hundreds or thousands of dollars did I spend–and continuously spent after they killed off Chewbacca and Anakin and Jacen Solo–on something I didn’t love? She said, “None of that matters anymore, only what Disney is doing.” Really? Sounds exact opposite of what she is preaching, loving all aspects of SW.
When Disney announced they were going to do a sequel trilogy with the original cast, I knew Disney would kill off the original three because ‘what better way to propel the story?’ Plus, they were getting up there in age. The fact that Han and Luke died does not bother me. Han’s death doesn’t bother me, it served a purpose, making Ben fall deeper into the dark side. Luke’s? In some ways, the compulsion to be moved came on strong as he stared off into the distance, seeing Tatooine’s twin suns, and John Williams’s new rendition of Binary Sunset. Moved, but hollow, serving a meaningless purpose in the grand scheme. More on that later. To be honest, the only thing bothering me about The Force Awakens (TFA) is taking Han Solo, the coolest SW character without a mask, and turned him into a deadbeat dad. I don’t want to read a book or view a movie that plops me back into a real situation. I peruse and watch Sci-Fi and fantasy to escape, to go somewhere else.
Sorry to say, this rambling happens to be a precursor to the actual blog. From here, I will be talking about the film. The rest is the background to what finally fueled this rant/ blog. Actually, you can thank my cousin. I hadn’t written about this before because I didn’t want to scramble for the bandwagon with everyone else, but I may repeat some things from others. I am a huge fan, and I will be approaching this not only as a fan but as a writer, too. I will be critical, maybe nitpicky to some of you, but I want to make my points. Further, what may be a small detail to you is a glaring one for me. As they say, the devil is in the details. Agree or disagree, I would love your comments at the end and will happily debate/talk about it. I will pull from all the movies and the now-deleted Expanded Universe of SW.
Here we go.
A long time ago, before they tried to destroy a great, great franchise … but Lucas took a stab at it, but sorta redeemed himself with Revenge of the Sith (ROTS)…
Star Wars is not dead, but it is a withered husk. How Disney treats Episode IX (and Solo) will determine if this hiccup we call The Last Jedi (TLJ) is the deathknell. I would like to point out something very, very simple in the SW universe. The movies–and most books–are about family. That is the purest, most authentic form of SW. Father and son, mother and daughter, siblings, aunts and uncles, the family drives SW. Sure, you can say, “not-ugh, it’s about good vs. evil.” True, but to me, that is secondary because all stories on some level are about good vs. evil or some variant thereof.
Let’s start with TFA (by the way, I will be using initializations like the previous one to talk about the movies, so if you don’t know them, brush up real quick). TFA is a rehash of ANH. No problem! I get it! You’re looking for a familiar way back into a franchise once considered dead after the dreaded prequels. The Resistance destroyed Starkiller (SK) base, a freaking planet! After ANH, there is a three-year gap between it and ESB. During that time, they built Vader’s command ship, the Executor, and it nearly bankrupted the Empire, or so the expanded universe (EU) had said. It took three years for the Empire to hunt down the rebellion after the first Death Star’s destruction. But here is TLJ, and the First Order (FO) is stronger than ever. Did the Resistance just blow up their superweapon? “Nah, it’s okay. Didn’t hurt. We got Snoke’s ship, a damn super, duper Star Destroyer (I think they call it mega SD), a super weapon in and of itself.” But the FO has gathered and is hunting the Resistance who attacked SK base. Really? Didn’t they fight a big battle or something and a lot of ships were destroyed? I mean, if the Resistance is hurting, how much more so is the FO? Plus, wouldn’t the FO be stretched across the galaxy to engage on multiple war fronts to harass and destroy their enemy?
So, sin number one, not addressing the devastating setback the FO had from TFA. And if you say, “well, it wasn’t a setback, obviously,” then I would say the New Republic (NR) is the biggest moron in the galaxy. If the FO possess the means in which to attack en mass after SK base is destroyed, then they are a much more significant threat than the Empire at the height of power and nulls any argument about why the NR ignored the FO.
Forced banter. The opening with Poe and General Hux is cringe-worthy. I knew I was in for a terrible movie with the opening tirade. And the acting on Hux’s part is too over the top. The guy, Domhnall Gleeson, can act. I’ve seen him do it, but the character Hux is too much. So, a bash on the character, not Gleeson. Still, it wasn’t funny, and the titters I heard from the crowd were nervous and forced. So, sin two: approaching SW as a comic, campy, popcorn flick. As a writer, I would have cut–no, I wouldn’t have written it in the first place. So, that’s a few sins rolled into one.
While we are talking about the opening scene of TLJ, let’s talk science. There is no gravity in space, ergo the bombs wouldn’t have dropped! In the atmosphere of the ship? Maybe. But once out of the artificial gravity, they would have floated. Now, a simple CGI fix with little rocket propellers would save you there. Or better yet, a simple line saying. “Drop those magnetic bombs and get the hell out of there. They seek out the largest source, but you won’t be safe from the blast!” Cool, I get it. You covered your ass. Sin three: ignoring science. And yes, even in fantasy–because SW is fantasy more than anything else–you cannot bend those rules because it will look cool. The crowd isn’t stupid. Granted, lightspeed at this point is theoretical other than light itself, as in we cannot achieve it, but that’s the “Fi” of the “Sci.”
Luke Skywalker: the unsentimental, hermit Jedi. Okay, dude, you could be more graceful than tossing the relic away. Poor Rey held out her arm for two years for you to take the lightsaber, and then you chuck it over your shoulder? Seriously though, this scene makes no sense. Here, a stranger who managed to track you down and hands you your first lightsaber. If I’m Luke, here’s my reaction. “Who are you? How did you find me? Was it with the map I left? Is that my father’s lightsaber? Where did you get it? I lost it long ago in a duel above a gas planet called Bespin. How did you get it? Did you happen to see a hand with it, too?” Another note is Luke’s hand. It’s mechanical, and it’s opened to the elements. Where’s the skin, dude? Why didn’t you get it covered back up? How is it still working after being on this humid-as-hell planet? Rust much?
Does no one remember this scene from ANH? Ben pulling the lightsaber out of a chest. “This was your father’s lightsaber. He wanted you to have it when you were old enough, but your uncle wouldn’t allow it.” First, holy shit, it’s his dad’s lightsaber! Two, Ben, his friend and mentor gave it to him. Three, he based his lightsaber design off his father’s as stated in ROTJ by Emperor Palpatine. Yes, it doesn’t look like it, but it’s canon. So, yeah, I’m going to toss this thing over my shoulder and storm off. Sin four: no sentimentality. Sin five: ignoring more science, water, salt, humidity, and the metal in his mechanical hand.
And before I forget… we never got the answer to how or why Maz had it in TFA, so, sin six.
I got a crap-ton more to say about Luke, but I’ll come back to him.
Kylo Ren. You had a cool helmet, though you playacted like the new Darth Vader. Why did you destroy it, your personification in the first film? Snoke made fun of you, so you got rid of it? Way to give into bullying. I think your subordinates were more terrified of you with the mask. And the unnecessary shirtless scene? We knew Rey could see him because, in the first Force-connection, she shot at him. So, the whole explanation, “it showed she could see him,” doesn’t hold water. But since we are going for shirtless scenes, I expect Rey’s in the next film … can’t wait! Yes, that’s sarcasm. Sin … what are we on now? Seven for getting rid of the helmet, because now it means nothing to you? Eight for giving into Snoke’s bullying (yes, that’s sarcasm). And nine, for the unnecessary shirtless scene (not sarcasm). The latter is nitpicky, sure, but I am set on the helmet-identity thing. He wishes to emulate his grandfather.
But Kylo Ren is a very conflicted character, and you can almost see his anguish and the war within him, the light and the dark. I am unsure if he killed Han or if Han did the self-sacrifice. Still, at times, Ben does act like a petulant child. If you are the next big badass, at least act like it instead of throwing temper tantrums like smashing that cool helmet and screaming to subordinates who happen to be standing there, “Ready my ship!” They were probably like, “Who the hell is this guy?”
Finn. This could’ve been a cool character with an astonishing story arc … until Johnson screwed him. That we know of, he is the first stormtrooper to defect. Stellar starting point! In TFA, he ran away from his problems. He lied and pleaded and pretended to be someone he wasn’t to get away. When he could have gone to the Resistance, he went to board a ship headed for the Outer Rim (Maz’s cantina scene right before the FO shows up). He was going to leave superfly Rey, bouncing ball BB-8, and the legendary, leather-clad Han Solo to flee. Then, to save Rey, he does something heroic, he leads Han to SK base, and they blow it up. In TLJ, as soon as he wakes up and sees that Rey is gone and safe, he tries to flee again. This is superb and in line with the established character. Then, he gets roped into a pointless side quest (will discuss later). But, his character comes full circle, and he finds a cause worthy of fighting for (the Resistance) and decides to sacrifice himself to save everyone, even if it is a stall tactic. He commits to dying. I rooted for him to succeed, not because I hated him and wanted him to die, but because it would be such a fantastic arc and more resonance than anything in the new trilogy to date. He speeds up, passes everyone who pulls back. He closes on the death ray (I forgot the name), and despite the pain, he endures. He’s closing. This is going to be amazing! Epic! And then fucking Rose, out of nowhere, slams into him, stopping him from saving everyone. Way to go Disney and Rian Johnson!
How did this happen? Finn passed her a long time ago. He lurched forward at full throttle! How did she loop around to the side, pass him up, and then turn toward him and save the day when they are using old, rusty speeders? Was hers faster? Was he driving a go-cart and she had the one with the NASCAR engine? This is scientifically inaccurate. If both cars can travel the same speed, and car 1 is traveling in a straight line, car 2 cannot pass car 1 by driving in an arc. Hasn’t Rose or anyone in SW watched Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan? “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one.” Rose, your lovey-dovey feelings don’t matter next to the annihilation of the Resistance. Where the hell did those feelings come from? I mean, you spent two days with Finn on an opulent planet, and now you love him? Damn, Finn got skills. Either that or Rose is the shallowest person in existence. Didn’t Rose tase him at the beginning of the movie for desertion? Didn’t she find the act repulsive? Alright, whatever… Let’s count the sins: ten, for not killing Finn when his storyline/ sacrifice may have been the best in the entire franchise. Right now, I am giving it to Jyn Erso in RO. God, I loved Felicity Jones in the movie! Eleven: for giving him a Disney ending with Rose. Twelve: for making Rose adore him in two days (Disney Princess much?) when she stood in awe of him at the beginning of the film. Thirteen: for the lame-ass kiss we endured and one-liner she gave. I mean the kiss was so terrible she passed out.
Rose. You are by far one of the most useless characters in the SW franchise. This is not an attack on the actor but the character. Johnson conjured her up for what purpose? For Finn to travel with and make a forced-poignancy moment for social justice on the casino planet? The galaxy is a vast, dirty place. I mean, Anakin was a slave for the Force’s sake! We don’t need a preaching moment to shove the point home. We got it way back in the day (1999), and even then, there wasn’t a point to drive home. It wasn’t about making points, it was the story, nothing more. I mean, the irony of Anakin being born into slavery but becoming a tyrant that helped enslave the galaxy is epic. Another character with a more significant role than Rose is Jar Jar Binks. He turned the galaxy over to Palpatine. He, one of the most hated characters in the SW franchise, has been supplanted by Rose (well, to be fair, it’s a toss-up between the two). Still, he had a purpose. Rose, the travel buddy, stopped the most significant moment of TLJ from happening. So, Rose, I fine you another sin (fourteen), do not pass Go, do not collect two hundred dollars, and may God grant mercy on your soul, but I’d be fine if he didn’t.
This next point, the casino planet storyline ties in with Rose as it shouldn’t have happened. The fact it did is another sin: fifteen. They accomplished nothing, and in the book-writing world, your publisher is going to make you cut it. Further, it was only in the story because Laura Dern’s character, Vice Admiral Holdo, is the most incompetent Resistance commander ever (we’ll get to that). They park on a beach, go to a casino, get arrested before reaching the slicer they needed, escape, and destroy the city because…?–you don’t like how the other side lives or agree with their choices? Destroying property and lives because you think you’re right and they’re wrong is a stellar message! Not. So, they escape the planet not with the slicer they needed, but with a street urchin, hobo-looking Benicio Del Toro. And the whole thing ends terribly and without accomplishing what they set out to do. Sure, the ship gets destroyed, but not because of them. Plus, Poe said, “Let’s destroy the ship,” and Rose and Finn were like, “Nah, even if you did, that wouldn’t work,” which set off the whole stupid quest. So, for the storyline: sin fifteen. Epic fail in the storyline and not accomplishing anything that added gravity or substance to the tale: sixteen.
Captain Phasma’s lame death is another sin: seventeen. They killed her off in TFA, but Rian brings her back. How did she escape the garbage compactor and get off the planet before it blew up? It’s not like she had a droid on the comm to help her. So, you bring her back just to die after seven minutes of screen time? Talk about lame. The way the female characters have been portrayed thus far (by the writing itself) is terrible and almost criminal. Phasma is a neat character that falls flat despite being a female stormtrooper in charge with chrome-plated armor. You have such potential here, and you plan to give her a quick death? “Yep, sure am. Kill her in a five-minute window of the second movie while not explaining how she got there, and she’ll be remembered forever!” And yes, that’s sarcasm. By the way, not explaining how she survived, sin eighteen. Phasma served no purpose. Also, Finn killed her, and he wasn’t the best of stormtroopers and needed reconditioning. You take the strongest and make her succumb to the ‘weakest’ … the janitor. In a deleted scene, Phasma gunned down four other troopers but still couldn’t take out Finn? Are you kidding? How are we supposed to respect her as a relevant character when you treat her like that? It starts with the writers…
Vice Admiral Holdo. A terrible leader who cared more about cutting the balls off her pilots than keeping them informed. Granted, she doesn’t answer to Poe, but an average leader will see or intuit when there is dissension among the ranks. If she is so fantastic of a leader, why did she not see the kind of atmosphere she was creating? When I write characters like this, they usually get killed for their stupidity. Instead, she’s hailed as a sacrificing hero. So, for being a terrible character, that’s sin nineteen. When she uses the terrible line to Leia about why she can’t come with her. “Someone needs to fly the ship.” Are you kidding me? Never heard of freaking autopilot? I mean, our jets have the feature. Granted, it’s limited in function, but it can fly straight… in a futuristic setting, the autopilot can do almost everything! So, her lame excuse is the twentieth sin.
Dues Ex Machina. Pronounced (Day-oos eks MAH-kee-nah) is a trope seen in movies, tv shows, novels, and comics, and in this case, it is the twenty-first sin. Dues Ex Machina is when an event, character, ability, or any iteration thereof solves an unsolvable problem in a sudden and unexpected way. This is done numerous times in TLJ, but a major one is when the old Rebel base (the planet they were running to) magically appears, and everything clicks into place for the Resistance. In other words, had Holdo informed Poe, we’d save ourselves from a terrible side quest, and she wouldn’t go down as the worst commander in the SW franchise, right behind Admiral Ozzel. Dues ex is often used when an author writes themselves into a corner, and there was plenty of pulling the rabbit out of the hat with TLJ.
Snoke. You don’t build up a character as the next emperor and then unceremoniously kill him off (sin twenty-two) at a random time. I realize you’re going to scream, “Well, they did the same with Darth Maul!” No, they didn’t. Maul was never the big baddie in the flick, but a tool for Palpatine to use, like Dooku/ Tyrannus. And, he didn’t die. Watch the Clone Wars TV series and Rebels. Sin twenty-three comes from not explaining anything about Snoke before killing him. Who is he? Where is he from? How did he come into power? Where did he learn about the Force? Did he hide from Palpatine? Did the emperor know of him? Was Snoke, at one point, ever considered as a viable replacement for Vader? What species is Snoke? Also, if Snoke was powerful enough to connect Rey and Kylo’s mind in a Force FaceTime, wouldn’t he sense Kylo’s imminent betrayal? The fact he didn’t makes him weak and lame. He could pull Ben Solo under his sway and seduce him to the dark side. Not only that, he had the power to keep the young pup in check despite Luke being afraid of Ben’s abilities. When put in that context, his death and lack of being able to discern it doesn’t make sense.
Leia. I love Carrie, and I am sad she passed. I am never bothered when celebrities pass, but I paused for a moment of silence for Robin Williams, and I wept when I found out about Carrie. She is, was, will always be, my princess. All said, her Force ability in outer space, while cool, flies in the face of science. Now, Luke did something similar in the EU, but he also had help from his wife, Mara Jade. He shut down his body, and the Force sustained him. Plus, if my memory serves correctly, he held a sphere of air around him with the Force. Had they done the same with Leia, no one would say anything. Instead, she survives in the vacuum of space for who knows how long. Sin twenty-four: defying science again by having Leia survive in space without a Force bubble holding oxygen around her body or space suit.
Sin twenty-five: lightspeed as a weapon. In the EU, lightspeed (LS) cannot be used as a weapon because when someone is traveling at LS and comes too close to a large enough gravity well, it will pull said ship from LS. So, in TFA, when Han approached SK base at LS, he wouldn’t need to disengage the hyperdrive as the planet would jerk him from hyperspace. Now, Snoke’s mega SD would be large enough for its own gravity shadow and pull any ship from LS. And if you think not, fine, but the entire fleet around his ship would add to the gravity well. Using LS as a weapon negates every SW movie up till now. First off, I doubt Vice Admiral Holdo is the first person to think of LS as a weapon. Second, if you can use it as a weapon, then why didn’t the rebel alliance back in ANH send one X-wing up into space with a droid and LS into the first Death Star, or the second one for that matter, or SK base in TFA? In fact, why not pull the trick out every time an enemy comes at you with superior numbers? You can defeat an entire enemy force with one ship and one droid, so cost is low. Why didn’t they do the maneuver at the beginning of TLJ with the massive dreadnaught instead of sending all those bombers in to blow up and die with all those pilots? Granted, a stunning visual effect, but in the grand scheme, something that looks cool but kills the logic of all the movies is a no-win situation.
Yoda. While I am hesitant to claim Yoda’s appearance is a sin–for he is quite a loveable character–his final teaching moment is not acted upon by Yoda’s greatest and failed student. Yoda delivers a pep talk to kick Luke in the pants and he … gets involved by staying home in his pajamas? When you come to a moment like this, when someone essential breaks through to the hero, this is the turning point in the novel/ movie. Yoda’s appearance is more of an appeasement to fans, a subtle… “I screwed up this motion-picture so here’s something you love.” This cinematic feature is very much a bait and switch, and Yoda’s appearance feels random as hell. In the EU, Yoda never appeared to Luke other than at the end of ROTJ. It was Obi-Wan who appeared to him, and after five years, he never came again. This passage can be found in the novel Heir to the Empire by Timothy Zahn, the godfather of SW EU. He kicked it off and did a fantastic job. I’m paraphrasing here, but Ben says, “The distance has become too great for me to come to you anymore. You are to go forth alone. Your path is yours.” Luke then has a deep sentiment of being “The Last Jedi,” to which Obi-Wan says, “Not the last of the old Jedi, the first of the new.” So, take this however you will. I am not saying Yoda is a sin, but the inaction taken by his appearance is a sin, so that’s twenty-six.
Mechanics of the activation plate on a lightsaber. The little nob at the top of the lightsaber is not the activation plate, but the lens adjuster for the crystals within, a subject thoroughly covered in the EU. Anakin had a multi-crystal saber, and the focus lens allows him to adjust the length of his blade. The activation plate is about halfway down the hilt of the saber, where Luke and Anakin activated it countless times in the movies? So why do Finn and Rey always turn it on at the top? It’s irritating. That’s at least a half sin … but we’ll round up: twenty-seven.
Where is Luke’s lightsaber? This is something else that bothered me. I doubt he’d destroy it. I mean, he did keep his X-wing tucked away under the swells of the ocean. Why would he do that he if never planned to leave? Even in his Force projection, he had his father’s lightsaber, not his own–which, if you want to get serious, reinforces why he wouldn’t have chucked it over his shoulder. If the purpose is to make Kylo more unstable, the green blade would put a crap-ton more fear into him. I mean, didn’t he see it hovering above him when Luke went to kill Ben? Luke, unless the galaxy’s biggest idiot, would keep some form of defense for himself, either a blast or saber, especially if he “closed” himself off from the Force. Sin twenty-eight.
Now, I am going to shift focus and talk about Luke and Rey. I saved these two-story points for last.
Rey. I love Rey as much as Jyn Erso, and Daisy does an absolute, fantastic job. Sure, the first few scenes in TFA were rough, but whatever. I don’t hold it against her. I also don’t hold the way she is written against Daisy. Anyone who takes this as a knock against her, well, then the fault and problem lies with you. I am critical of the character because it is written poorly, not because I’m misogynistic. I realize many of you have heard the term Mary Sue, and while it can be a derogatory term, there is a reason there is a term for it. If it wasn’t an issue, there would never be a term. Mary Sue is, for the most part, directed at females, but it can be a male, too (I think it’s called Marty Stu or Gary Stu–Superman anyone?). I didn’t coin the phrase, I am not defending or condemning it, but I am using it for this context. There are many different definitions of the term, but for this example, we will state it: “Mary Sue is beautiful but unique, as is her cool, exotic name. She’s exceptionally talented in a wide variety of ways, seemingly a master of multiple crafts with little to no training and possesses skills that are rare or nonexistent to other characters in the story. She also lacks any realistic, or at least story-relevant, character flaws. What flaws are possessed are considered endearing more than actual flaws. More often than not, these types of characters are used for author inserts or wish fulfillment. There are both male and female versions of this trope. Mary Sue is derogatory because she’s so perfect that it makes for lame storytelling.”
Okay, so now that we established the definition, we can continue. From above, Rey fits. I understand many of you–including Daisy herself–don’t like the term, but just because you don’t like it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist or isn’t true. I’m not fond of mentally and emotionally weak people who blame their actions on inanimate objects, but they still exist. Rey fits because she can fly a ship (her first time btw), sabotage the vessel, fix said ship while taking off or flying through hyperspace; speaks the Wookie language; is an excellent shot with a pistol and can wield a lightsaber. She held her own against Kylo Ren–a trained Jedi or Sith acolyte–and Snoke’s bodyguards. She can also use the Force to mind control others, snatch objects, overpower other Force wielders, or clear out a hundred boulders with ease. In gamer terms, she’s OP AF. Now, I don’t remember Luke being able to do that in ANH or ESB. In fact, had he not tapped into his anger in ROTJ, I doubt he’d beat Vader. Luke struggled to lift rocks and a droid on Dagobah and trained with one of the greatest Jedi Masters to ever live: Yoda. Please explain how Rey can do all this. In most stories, there is a valid reason the hero/protagonist is fantastical. Batman is not a superb fighter because he’s rich or because of his suit, but because he spent countless hours honing his body into a lethal fighting weapon. If we started watching a movie (having no idea who Batman is) and watched him kick the crap out of twenty people with firearms, I would say he’s OP and a Gary Stu. However, if you showed me how he became phenomenal, the years spent training in his craft (think Batman Begins), then I wouldn’t believe that. After he returned to Gotham and dressed like a bat, he still wasn’t perfect and got hit often enough.
Imagine if the roles were reversed, and Adam Driver played Ray, a badass dude from nowhere who kicked the shit out of Kyla Ren (Daisy) with no training. How much criticism would he receive? In books, we need to discover why your protagonist is incredible. We need to understand why they can call upon powers no one else possesses, or travel through time, or live in exile for fear of wiping out humanity… There has to be a reason; otherwise, your character is not memorable and is written poorly. Take Alice, Milla Jovovich’s character in the Resident Evil movies. She is a prime example of a Mary Sue, but there are reasons as to why she is so overpowering and are explained (for the most part). Did she start out that way in the first film? No. It began as a journey to gather her powers. This type is not frowned upon because there are explanations and reasons why she became what she did. To make her character more relatable, they took away her powers.
Another example of an OP Rey is at the end of TLJ where she moves dozens, if not hundreds, of boulders out of the way. Compare her to Luke in ESB. Many people say, “Oh, well, Rey is the prodigy archetype.” Okay, then Rey is the prodigy archetype, but a prodigy must learn their gifts despite their raw potential or born innate abilities. They cannot miraculously be able to stand toe to toe with others without some phase of guidance and education. They do not wake up one day and pluck the theory of time travel out of thin air, or in this case, Force powers and lightsaber training. More to the point, while some people say that Luke is the everyday man, others also argue that he, too, is a prodigy.
Take Luke’s first appearance and compare it to Rey’s. Luke got beat up by Tusken Raiders. Han yells at him every chance he gets, and Leia disregards him. Luke can’t deflect a blaster bolt to save his life and scarcely felt a glimmer while learning about the Force for the first time aboard the Millenium Falcon. But he can fly his T-16 and shoot womp rats no bigger than two meters, so that’s a plus. Still, he cannot understand Artoo without Threepio and has no clue what Chewie is saying. Rey can fly the Falcon, fix the Falcon, outmaneuver trained TIE pilots, can talk to droids and Chewie, acquired Force abilities such as telekinesis, mind probe resistance, Jedi Mind Trick, and unparalleled skill in combat against Kylo. That would be like Luke defeating Vader in ANH. The long and short of it, if I tallied a sin for each of those infractions for Rey and TLJ, we’d jump a dozen at the minimum, but I’ll count one for sin twenty-nine.
Now, here is some speculation filled with hopeful wishes. Maybe Rey is a Skywalker, which would make more sense in the overall context. As a child, kids pick up multiple languages easier than adults, which is why she can speak the Wookie language if she grew up around Chewbacca. She’s abnormally strong in the Force. Anakin had more *cough* midichlorians than any other Jedi to include Yoda. Luke is arguably more impressive, given his exploits in the now-deleted EU. How much more so if Rey is his daughter?
Some of you are saying, she can’t be because Luke would have recognized her. No, not true. Look how young she looks when dropped off on Jakku. What if Luke hadn’t seen her for years before, and she went into protective custody for her safety? Would renegade Imperial Warlords want to kill the offspring of Skywalker in retaliation for defeating the Empire? Rey said she had seen the tree that held the Jedi text. True, she said it was in a dream, but how do we know she didn’t visit before, and the dream is a repressed memory? If she is a Skywalker, that means she most likely had training prior to her being sent off. What is more, if we are using the Force for massive things like astral projection across the galaxy, who’s to say it cannot be used to block or suppress memories? Perhaps the block is wearing off at suppressing her latent Force abilities. Plus, let us not forget: Han seemed to recognize her, and Ben Solo did, too. And … after Han’s death, Leia hugged Rey instead of Chewbacca–I’m still scratching my head at that one. But why didn’t Luke recognize her through the Force? Well, Rey said it in the movie, he cut himself off from the Force. That I can recall off the top of my head, Luke only used the Force around four times, to reach out to Leia, to snatch up something to fight Rey with, to stop himself from falling, and using it for astral projection.
Without dragging into everything about Rey, we will sum it up with the above, but the last point I want to make is her backstory which is the thirtieth sin. You taunt fans with who she is in TFA and in TLJ you ignore it until Ben says, “They were nobodies, drunks who sold you for drink money.” I understand what Rian Johnson did. He told her (and fans) the most devastating thing she could hear at the moment, much like Vader did to Luke. Don’t forget, many folks thought Vader lied in the crucial moment. If Rey was a nobody, sold by her parents for drink money, why did they fly off in a beautiful ship in TFA? Why didn’t they sell the ship? Crazy things do happen, but it’s a stretch for parents to sell a child and keep their vessel… Seems to me she was put on Jakku for her protection, kinda like Luke on Tatooine. If the Force can make lightning and astral project across the entire galaxy, I think it could block out the identity of her parents and obscure her early years Force training, say with her dad, Luke.
Luke. Mark Hamill has been critical of what Rian Johnson did to Luke. He was very outspoken about it until Disney shut him up. Now, Hamill apologized and back-pedaled, but we discern the truth. He’s on record for stating this is not Lucas’s Luke but someone else’s. Moreover, Hamill fundamentally disagreed with everything Johnson did. I am not attacking Mark Hamill, the actor–I idolized him for years (Luke Skywalker), and he is my favorite character from the original trilogy other than Vader–but the portrayal of Luke to fulfill Johnson’s vision. As the biggest draw for TLJ, he could have stuck to his guns and told Johnson, “Fix this garbage you call a story.”
Luke wants to kill Ben: Luke’s main story in the original trilogy–at least to me–is about coming to a point in his life where he can either defeat or redeem his father. In my mind, Yoda and Obi-Wan had written Anakin off as irredeemable and molded Luke into a weapon to destroy the Sith. Perhaps because of Luke’s optimism, he sensed good in his father. When Luke defeats Vader, it is a hollow victory and not the climax of the film. It is the redemption of Vader and saving Luke from the emperor that is the actual climax. Luke sought to liberate his father from the dark side, a man who murdered children in the Jedi Temple, who attacked fellow Jedi and Jedi Masters alike, engaged in domestic abuse (Force choked Padme when it wasn’t kinky-time), killed countless rebels, and was party to decimating an entire planet and genocide. And these are the things we know about. What did he do those eighteen years while Luke grew up hating sand because it’s coarse, rough, irritating, and gets everywhere? This makes no sense when Luke wants to kill Ben Solo because of bad dreams and what he perceived to see in his heart. Didn’t Luke watch Terminator 2? “There’s no fate but what we make for ourselves!” If Luke could say his father is redeemable, how can he want to kill his nephew? I am sorry die-hard fans with blind loyalty, this is terrible, terrible writing with little to no planning. Luke is a Jedi, he doesn’t kill out of anger or emotion as portrayed in the film. Sin thirty-one.
Luke as a failure: My heart went out to Luke here. He failed his masters and Yoda’s last edict. Well, no, not in its entirety. He did pass on what he learned, but the Jedi Order was destroyed by a young boy. So, still failed because he went into hiding and cut himself off from the Force instead of trying again. The fact he went into hiding/exile doesn’t bother me, but staying there does. Luke wouldn’t mope for years on end. This is sin thirty-two. He’d analyze where he went wrong, pep-talked himself to death, and went back out there. Luke faced down Palpatine and Vader, two of the most formidable Sith ever, what is Snoke and a boy to him? Remember, Palpatine is the culmination of over a thousand years of Sith following the Rule of Two, and each new master had to beat the last to take the mantle.
Sin thirty-three, Luke’s Astral Projection: In the context of how much power it would take to do this, okay, that’s cool. In the EU, some Jedi could do this, and some more than others. Luke could but wasn’t the best, not like Corran Horn. But one thing is for sure, those projections don’t work on droids. Threepio shouldn’t have seen Luke. Wouldn’t it have been more epic for Luke to be there and survive the Super AT-AT barrage? If you say he couldn’t, let me direct your attention to Anakin, who on more than one occasion, absorbed blaster bolts without damage. Yes, it is an actual power in the EU and in games and comics. And as noted before, Corran Horn could absorb energy, too. If Luke can project himself across the galaxy, I’m confident he can survive a few blaster bolts. Plus, what would it have said about his actual prowess as a master? Beating Kylo in a lightsaber battle is flimsy and inadequate since Rey had already done so. Plus, he wasn’t there. He just dodged a few times. If an initiate in training can beat Kylo, what chance does boy Solo hold against Luke Skywalker? The moment Luke died, the dice should have faded immediately, not hang around for another five to ten minutes to be found by Kylo.
Luke’s Death: I am not upset Luke died, I’m irritated in the manner in which it happened. He wasn’t laying down his life for his friends or trying to protect them. The stall tactic with no relevant payoff brings us to sin thirty-four. The hermit wasn’t there and in no danger, which cheapens the effect. Luke dying is okay, as stated at the very beginning of the blog, the manner though…
Luke hiding: Luke said he came to the most unfindable place in the galaxy to die. That’s not true! He left a map so people could find him. Why else would there be a map? Sin thirty-five.
Random entry: Ben Solo. This is a random entry and more of a sin for TFA, but I never understood why Han and Leia called their son Ben. Without strong connections to Obi-Wan, why name their son after him? In the EU, Luke and Mara Jade name their son Ben after the Jedi Master, which makes sense.
Summing it all up:
The most prominent sin of all: Ego, the thirty-sixth sin. Ego ruined TLJ. Rian Johnson came in and scraped the planned works of Abrams and Kasdan. The outline, the focal points, the staples were set in place. When you disregard everything, you end up with a divisive feature full of holes in the storyline, like changing why Luke left a map to find him. You also don’t go around altering what is already established like Kylo Ren’s scar. Don’t like it? Tough. It’s canon already. Did Johnson fancy himself a better writer than the screenwriter for ESB? Abrams himself can tell some great stories. The disconnect between the final product and the fans should tell you something. One, develop a better plan when making a trilogy. Two, when you possess a template, don’t toss it out because you “are in charge now.” Fans shouldn’t have to suffer because a director wants to put “their” touch on the galaxy far, far away.
The woman from the beginning once said the story wasn’t everything, which despite my disbelief, came from an aspiring writer. Yes, the plot does matter, as does character, and their development. She also told me the reason I and so many others hated TLJ was because, “Everyone goes in with their assumptions and with their own story cooked up in their head, and that’s why you cannot accept it.” Funny, because that’s what Johnson did when he threw out the foundations of Episodes VIII & IX to suit him. “Nah, screw fans, screw the franchise, screw Abrams who revived a dying franchise … I’m going to do what I want.” Kathleen Kennedy needed a much tighter rein on Johnson (sin thirty-seven), kinda like she had on those directors she fired for the Solo movie. When you have confines, you make a much better flick. Look to Rogue One. They had a specific story with set rules. They didn’t change how the ending of RO happened because they wanted it. No, they tailored their story to how ANH began, and the cinematic experience is much better for it. Plus, the rebels gave their lives for their mission.
Disney, you own a gold mine. Don’t blow it by defecating on the fans. As for me, how the final episode of this trilogy turns out will determine whether I continue to invest in the franchise. If they kill off all the Skywalkers (as in Rey isn’t one, and Ben Solo isn’t redeemable), then I’ll be done. I understand wanting to go to different stories, but you don’t have to wipe out a family to do it. Whether you like or hate my assessment, I will be happy to discuss. What is your opinion? Where did the story excel or fail? As always, may the Force be with you.
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