The overarching plot to The Last Jedi is pretty straight-forward:
Fleeing their hidden base on D’Qar just as a First Order fleet shows up, the four vessels in the Resistance fleet zips into hyperspace following a deadly battle. However, when they exit hyperspace, the First Order fleet also re-appears and it quickly dawns on General Leia Organa that the enemy has tracked them through hyperspace, a concept thought to be impossible! Having only enough fuel for one more hyperspace jump, and knowing that the First Order will just track them through hyperspace once more, the Resistance fleet simply maintains a steady pace, chased by the Star Destroyers of the First Order but staying out of distance from their heavy guns.
With the First Order fleet chasing the Resistance fleet, writer/director Rian Johnson proceeds to tack subplots onto the pursuit. The first is Poe Dameron’s annoyance with Vice Admiral Holdo after she takes over for General Organa, an annoyance steming from being kept out of the loop regarding Holdo’s plan to escape the First Order. In turn, his annoyance will eventually lead to outright mutiny on the part of Dameron and a handful of co-conspirators. The second subplot, which is tied directly to the fleet pursuit AND Dameron’s annoyance, is the side-journey Finn and Rose take to Canto Bight in order to find a code-breaker who can disable the First Order’s hyperspace tracker.
There are, of course, other aspects to the plot of The Last Jedi which primarily revolve around Rey, Luke Skywalker, Kylo Ren, and Supreme Leader Snoke. For the sake of this post, though, I am uninterested in analyzing these other plot elements. This is not to suggest they are unworthy of consideration. Far from it. In fact, I do look at these other plot points in a prior piece titled “Reflections on The Last Jedi.” Here, though, I want to focus solely on the plot as described above, namely the fact that the movie centers on the First Order fleet chasing the Resistance fleet. And, in doing so, I wish to highlight two points of continuity confusion which I find rather apparent in this plotline.
Points of Continuity Confusion
An Imperial research initivative first teased in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story which Jyn Erso comes across as she searches the Scariff database for the Death Star plans, hyperspace tracking resurfaces in The Last Jedi as the critical piece of technology which the First Order uses to follow the Resistance fleet. Without it, the First Order would have been incapable of pursuing the General Organa’s forces after the evacuation and battle of D’Qar. The Resistance, obviously surprised by the First Order’s capability to track them through hyperspace, must then turn to a different plan to escape their adversary.
That hyperspace tracking is mentioned in Rogue One and is then used as a critical plot device in The Last Jedi is, in and of itself, a worthwhile and interesting point of Star Wars continuity. Never-the-less, I cannot help but be confused by the use of hyperspace tracking in the The Last Jedi in one very specific way:
If the First Order can track the Resistance through hyperspace, then how come they didn’t exit hyperspace slightly ahead, and not directly behind, the Resistance fleet?
This is a question that I have struggled to fully grasp ever since watching The Last Jedi. While I certainly understand, and can appreciate, that the fleet chase is what provides the movie a core part of its narrative, it seems rather silly that the First Order would willingly exit hyperspace at a point that is not advantageous to their primary cause: destroying the Resistance. One would presume that hyperspace tracking enables the First Order to exit lightspeed behind AND ahead of the Resistance, thus ensuring that they are trapped and destroyed.
Yet, exciting lightspeed directly behind the Resistance fleet is what the First Order chooses to do. Okay then, fair enough. But this is also where ANOTHER piece of continuity confusion comes into play – the “Microjump.” In brief, the concept of the microjump is one that has only been used a handful of times in the Star Wars Canon, but it is, never-the-less, a critical and intriguing capability. Essentially, it is the ability to make a tactical jump into hyperspace and travel a very short, precise distance. In effect, a ship enters and then immediately exits lightspeed.
Canonically, the microjump is used for the first time in The Clone Wars Season Two episode “Grievous Intrigue” when Anakin Skywalker makes a tactical hyperspace jump into the middle of the Battle of Saleucami. In Solo: A Star Wars Story, the Millennium Falcon performs a microjump as it is traversing The Channel through the Akkadese Maelstrom towards the planet Kessel. As well, microjumps are also used in three Star Wars novels: Tarkin, Thrawn: Alliances, and Thrawn: Treason. Admittedly, the microjump is a concept that is not widely used by Star Wars storytellers and prior to the release of The Last Jedi, only The Clone Wars and Tarkin provided examples as Solo: A Star Wars Story and the two Thrawn novels were released after The Last Jedi. Then again, prior to The Last Jedi, the concept of hyperspace tracking had only ever been mentioned, and never before used, in any Star Wars tales. And so, this leads me to another, pretty obvious question:
After exiting hyperspace behind the Resistance, why didn’t the First Order fleet – even just one Star Destroyer in the fleet – perform a microjump to get ahead of the Resistance fleet?
Again, I am confused that a fleet chase is even necessary in The Last Jedi considering that the very concept of the microjump provides an easily accessible maneuver for the First Order to trap their enemy. In fact, multiple Star Destroyers could jump in multiple directions, creating a web to ensure that every direction in which the enemy chooses to travel is covered. And yet, for whatever reason, the First Order chooses to just slowly and methodically chase their enemy, simply waiting for the Resistance ships to run out of fuel…
Okay, fine. I will begrudgingly accept that for whatever reason the First Order leadership, obsessed as it is with destroying the Resistance, chooses not to take advantage of the ability to easily get ahead of the Resistance fleet using a microjump. But the thing is, this is only one side of the coin. You see, even if we presume that the First Order just chooses NOT to perform a microjump, the Resistance leadership – namely General Organa and Vice Admiral Holdo – have no way of knowing if any First Order Star Destroyers are already ahead of their fleet.
Seriously, just think about it for a second. This aspect of the plot of The Last Jedi is premised on the notion that the First Order can, and has, tracked the Resistance through hyperspace. Even in figuring this out, the Resistance has absolutely no way of knowing if any First Order Star Destroyers jumped PAST them and are lying in wait. Further, Organa and Holdo have no way of knowing if, at any moment, the First Order will perform a microjump to get ahead of their fleet. In other words, the actions of the Resistance leadership really make no sense given that they should be able to deduce the possibility that there might be now, or will be very soon, First Order ships directly ahead of them.
And this is even more confusing when we consider that the Resistance plan is quite literally straight-forward: traveling in a line which will take them past the planet Crait where they will secretly slip away in transports while their main cruiser – the Raddus – continues traveling in that straight-line. Seriously, that is the plan. Go in a straight-line past the ONLY planet they can possibly escape to while ignoring the fact that the First Order could just microjump to Crait before they even arrive.
Yet, the thing is, The Last Jedi completely and utterly ignores this possibility which is precisely why I am confused by the fleet chase. It isn’t that a fleet chase is an implausible plotline, or something that has never happened in Star Wars (see: The Clone Wars Season 1, Episode 2 “Destroy Malevolence”). Rather, it’s the basic fact that the film fails to account for the canonical concepts- hyperspace tracking and microjumping – which render the purpose of the entire chase unnecessary in the first place. At the very least, The Last Jedi should have included a few lines of dialogue on the part of the First Order and the Resistance stating WHY the First Order fleet did not exit hyperspace ahead of the Resistance and why the First Order fleet will not microjump ahead of the Resistance fleet.
That’s it, that is ALL the film needed to account for these possibilities. Just a few lines of extra dialogue about hyperspace tracking, and some brief explanation of microjumps, would have sufficed. Except that would have required a little extra work on the part of Rian Johnson and the Lucasfilm Story Group, but let’s be honest, they were too busy acting self-satisfied about The Last Jedi on Twitter.
I have the time, though, so here are some possible exchanges that could have been added to the film. Enjoy (and leave a comment below):
[Scene: Bridge of Star Destroyer Finalizer after exiting hyperspace behind Resistance]
General Hux: “Our tracker worked perfectly. The Resistance fleet is doomed!”
Captain Peavey: “Genera Hux, the captain of the Harbinger is requesting permission to perform a microjump ahead of the Resistance fleet.”
General Hux: “Permission denied. Organa and her scum will not escape us.”
[Scene: Secondary Battle Bridge of the Raddus]
Poe Dameron: “Vice Admiral, Commander Dameron. With our current fuel consumption there’s a very limited amount of time we can stay out of range of those Star Destroyers.”
Vice Admiral Holdo: “Very kind of you to make me aware.”
Dameron: “We also don’t know if the First Order jumped out ahead of us and I’d like to not walk into a trap.”
Holdo: “That is certainly a possibility, although I think you give General…Hugs…too much tactical credit.”
Dameron: “Okkkkkay, so, what we are gonna do to shake them? What’s our plan?”
[Scene: Medical Bay in the Raddus]
Finn: “So the First Order is only tracking us from one Destroyer, the lead one.”
Rose: “It tracked us to the exact spot we left hyperspace, which must mean the tracker entirely controls the navicomputer once it is turned on. The First Order couldn’t jump past us because the tracker is locked once the jump to lightspeed takes place.”
Poe: “They could only exit hyperspace behind us…but they could still perform a microjump and get ahead of us now.”
Poe: “Okay, I think I get it….so we blow up the lead Destroyer and zip away before we run into any other Destroyers that are waiting for us.”