The Last Jedi

The Sacrifice of Paige Tico

Caught in the open during the evacuation of their base on D’Qar, the Resistance confronts an existential moment of crisis as it stares down the barrel of two orbital autocannons, affixed to a First Order Dreadnaught, targeting their base and fleet. With only seconds to spare, the final Resistance transports flee the surface of D’Qar as the autocannons obliterate the now empty base. With personnel and equipment safely aboard the vessels of the Resistance fleet, General Leia Organa orders her forces to disengage but Poe Dameron has a different idea. Having taken out the surface cannons on the Dreadnought, Dameron ignores his commanding officer, switching off his communications, intent on scoring a victory against the First Order by taking out the “fleet-killer.”

One can easily criticize Dameron for his actions; and he is criticized, even demoted, when the Resistance makes its orbital exit from the D’Qar system following the battle. In this moment, though, the impetuous Commander gives the order to attack. Protected by X-Wings and A-Wings in the Resistance starfighter fleet, massive B/SF-17 heavy bombers “in tight formation” slowly move towards the Dreadnought preparing to unleash their payload of proton bombs to destroy the terrifying Man-of-war.

Although it’s surface cannons were knocked out by Dameron’s lone assault, the Dreadnought is not defenseless. TIE Fighter Squadrons throw themselves against the Resistance attackers, intent on destroying the bombers. A fierce dogfight commences. Starfighters on both sides are vaporized. A B/SF-17 is blasted apart by the green lasers of an attacking TIE. But the Resistance does not let up, and the Bombers close the distance with the imposing First Order capital ship which is now aiming its massive autocannons at the Resistance fleet. Bombardiers ready their payloads, opening bay doors and arming bombs as the vessels inch closer to “the sweet spot” where they will inflict maximum destruction.

Suddenly, a damaged TIE Fighter crashes into one of the Bombers, unleashing hell. Shredded from the inside, massive detonations hurtle debris into two other B/SF-17s which also erupt into flame. Watching from the ball turret at the base of her Bomber, a Resistance gunner witnesses the destruction. Removing her mask and breathing heavy, her wide-eyes reveal her shock and disbelief.

Paige Shocked
Paige Tico’s expression when she sees the other Resistance Bombers exploding.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

Now, this gunner’s Bomber is the only one that remains. Suspended above the massive First Order ship, it is the last hope for the small Resistance fleet. The situation is perilous and the tension is amplified when Dameron frantically contacts the gunner:

“Paige, come in, we’re over the target. Why aren’t your bay doors open? You’re the only bomber left, it’s all down to you!”

This gunner, Paige, springs into action. Exiting the ball turret at the bottom of the weapons bay, she opens the bay doors and calls to the bombardier up above. 

“Nix!,” she yells, but there is no reply, only the distinct beeping of the weapons release on the grated floor far above.

“Paige, drop the payload, now!,” Dameron frantically exclaims. Determination on her face, she frantically climbs the ladder, past the armed bombs in their racks, emerging at the top to find the bombardier, Nix, dead on the floor. Paige reaches for the beeping, blinking weapons trigger laying nearby but as she does, a TIE Fighter blasts the cockpit of the Bomber, killing the pilot and sending fire and shock waves through the cabin. Losing her grip, Paige falls, landing heavy on the floor at the bottom of the weapons bay.

Momentarily unconscious, Tico opens her eyes. The trigger, still beeping, is far above, now dangling on the edge of the opening at the top of the ladder. Paige kicks the ladder but it does not fall to her. Again, she kicks, even harder, but it still does not fall. The Bomber continues forward, now moving over the “sweet spot” of the Dreadnought. The music laid over the scene adds to the tension, and we see Poe Dameron soundless but clearly screaming for the bombs to be dropped. Again, and again, Paige kicks the ladder but still the device does not fall to her.

Tico Kick
Determination on her face, Paige kicks the ladder a final time. Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

Autocannons glowing red as they prepare to fire, General Organa sensing the impending doom of her forces, now Tico closes her eyes and clutches a half-crescent medallion on her necklace. Opening her eyes once more, a clear sense of determination painted on her face, Paige kicks the ladder with all her strength. Finally, the trigger tips over the edge and falls. Everything goes silent, the lone exception the sound of the remote clanking against a bomb rack on its way down. Laying there in the silence, Tico exhales as she watches the still beeping, blinking device go by her.

The camera view is now on the falling remote. Suddenly, the music begins to build and a hand reaches out, grasping it from the air. Paige is now laying face down, the item in her left hand. She presses the blinking red button and the bombs begin to drop on the Dreadnought, unleashing incendiary death.

Still laying there, Tico puts her hand once more to her medallion, touching it with a few fingers. We see her face, looking down through the grated floor, fire spreading down towards her through the now empty bomb bay. Resigned to her fate, a stoic expression upon her face, Paige Tico closes her eyes and is bathed in the flames of her dying craft as it crashes into the inferno ripping through the Dreadnought.


To say that Paige Tico (Veronica Ngo) is a minor character in The Last Jedi is neither controversial nor surprising. Two minutes after meeting her as she watches the other Resistance Bombers perish, she too is gone, vaporized in a massive explosion. But while her screen time is brief, her actions are exceedingly important, not only saving the Resistance but also, we learn soon after, the life of her sister Rose.

I have never been shy with my thoughts about The Last Jedi, disliking a number of things about the movie. I highlight as much in my piece Reflections on the Last Jedi, but my intention here is not to dwell on the negative. Instead, I mention that post to note that while I find The Last Jedi lacking in some specific ways, there are scenes and characters that I really did enjoy and could appreciate in the film. And at the top of that list is Paige Tico.

The first time I saw The Last Jedi I was absolutely mesmerized by the two minutes this Resistance gunner, Paige, is in the movie. In general, I find the opening of the film quite good, hitting all of the right notes as the small Resistance, caught in the midst of their evacuation, confronts the First Order. But Paige truly stands out, the opening sequence reaching a tension-filled crescendo with her heroism and ultimate sacrifice.

Honestly, this is my favorite moment in the entire Sequel Trilogy. I very well might be the only one who feels this way, or perhaps I am one of just a few. It’s the truth, though. The entire sequence doesn’t just captivate me, it affects me at my core. Frankly, this is why I have never written about the sacrifice of Paige Tico, at least not until now. I have never been able to find the words to express just how much this scene, Tico’s actions/death, speaks to me. The fact is that it just done, plain and simple. But if I have to put it into words, expressing some reason that accounts for my feelings, I would say this: it is because Paige’s sacrifice is incredibly personal.

As an audience, we are the only ones who know what Paige Tico does to save the Resistance fleet, who actually witness her actions and her death. Later, when meet Rose Tico mourning her sister, her own crescent-shaped medallion in hand, Rose can only imagine what happened in the final moments of Paige’s life. We are burdened with knowledge that Rose can not and will never know. To me, this is what makes the two minutes we spend with Paige Tico so intimate, so personal, so damn powerful. 

We see Paige react to the destruction of the Bombers, shock and disbelief on her face.
We see Paige climb out of her ball turret, call to Nix, and climb the ladder.
We see Paige fall when the cockpit of her Bomber is destroyed.
We see Paige, on her back, desperately kicking the ladder to get the trigger to fall to her.
We see Paige close her eyes and grasp the medallion around her neck.
We see Paige kick the ladder one final time, knocking the trigger off the ledge above.
We see Paige grab the trigger out of the air as it falls past her, releasing the bombs.
We see Paige touch her medallion a final time, close her eyes and die.

We alone see the final two minutes of her life; we see the sacrifice of Paige Tico.

Paige Tico's Death
The Sacrifice of Paige Tico
Gif Credit – Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

 

 

The (Mis)Use of Rose Tico

I wasn’t a huge fan of The Last Jedi. I explain as much in my piece Reflections on The Last Jedi (which you can read for yourself). But while I did not find it as groundbreaking as other Star Wars fans, neither did I fully despise the film. I could appreciate the film at points, acknowledging that the movie presented clever and unique ideas, along with some interesting new characters.

Two of those characters were the Tico sisters: Paige and Rose. While Paige Tico only appears at the beginning of The Last Jedi as a ball gunner in a Resistance bomber, her small role is massive in that she sacrifices herself to destroy a First Order dreadnaught which threatens the Resistance fleet. Grasping the crescent necklace around her neck, Paige Tico dies in order for others, including her sister Rose, to live.

Rose, in turn, makes her appearance after Paige’s death, when Finn comes across  her as he attempts to leave the Resistance fleet. Rose, grasping her own crescent necklage, sits in tears. Introduced by this obvious connection to her sister – and subsequently mentioning her sister to Finn – Rose ends up going on an adventure with Finn and BB-8 to the planet Canto Bight. In turn, Rose, Finn and BB-8, accompanied by the slicer DJ, eventually make their way to the First Order fleet chasing the Resistance fleet in the hopes of disabling the First Order’s hyperspace device. Captured while aboard the First Order Mega-Star Destroyer thanks to the betrayal of DJ, Tico and company end up stealing an enemy shuttle in order to make it to the new Resistance base on the nearby planet Crait.

Once on Crait, Rose participates in a desperate ground battle with her allies, piloting a ski speeder against overwhelming First Order numbers in the hopes of destroying the enemy battering ram cannon. Finn, whom Rose has grown close to by this point in the film thanks to the adventure to Canto Bight and the First Order Star Destroyer, chooses to sacrifice himself when all hope seems lost, piloting his ski speeder towards the massive cannon. But at the last minute, Tico crashes into Finn, pushing him off course. In turn, Finn will run to Rose, pulling her from the wreckage but first questioning why she crashed into him. Rose, bleeding and shaken, will explain to Finn that  “…we’re gonna win, not fighting what we hate, but saving what we love.” Rose then kisses Finn before she passes out from her wounds. Dragged back to the Resistance base by Finn, the unconscious Rose will survive the Battle of Crait with the remaining Resistance fighters aboard the Millennium Falcon.

Rose Finn Kiss
Rose and Finn kiss during The Battle of Crait
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

When I saw The Last Jedi, I thought Rose Tico was an interesting and well-developed character even though I did not entirely care for the adventure she takes to Canto Bight or the First Order Star Destroyer. What drew me to Rose was her hopeful spirit, her resilience, her internal confidence, and her desire to help others. She is introduced in The Last Jedi as a character who is overwhelmed by the loss of her sister but also inspired by her sister’s heroic sacrifice. When she meets Finn, she is equally overwhelmed, amazed she is speaking with the First Order stormtrooper-turned-Resistance hero who also inspires her to keep fighting the good fight. Filled with deep admiration for the heroes in the Resistance, Rose Tico is the embodiment of the heart and fighting spirit which keeps the Resistance going, a perfect example of the “spark that’ll light the fire that’ll burn the First Order down.” 

But this brief overview of Rose and her role in The Last Jedi is a means to an end, a small set-up to arrive at the larger point of reflection I wish to discuss: the way Rose Tico was (mis)used in The Rise of Skywalker.

The (Mis)Use of Rose Tico

When I went into my first viewing of The Rise of Skywalker, the final installment of Disney’s Star Wars sequel trilogy, I did so with the presumption that Rose Tico would be an important player in the events which would transpire. My presumption, unfortunately, was wrong.

Violet Kim, a journalist for Slate, recently published a short piece about Rose Tico’s notable absence from The Rise of Skywalker. In the piece, which you can read HERE, Kim notes that Rose appears on-screen in The Rise of Skywalker, a movie with a run-time of 2 hours and 22 minutes, for only 1 minute and 16 seconds.  As a point of contrast, Kim goes on to note that in The Last Jedi, which has a run-time of 2 hours and 32 minutes, Rose is on-screen for 10 minutes and 53 seconds. 

Even without the breakdown into minutes and seconds – which is, admittedly, pretty eye-popping – it is obvious that Rose’s role in the film is lacking. And I am not going to lie, this (mis)use of Rose Tico left me feeling equally perplexed and upset. In part, I felt this way because after The Last Jedi, actress Kelly Marie Tran, who plays Rose, was assailed online with racist and sexual harassment which in turn led Tran to delete her social media presence. In a sense, the lack of screentime for Rose in The Rise of Skywalker makes it seem as though these online trolls actually got their way, that they were successful in getting a principal character, a woman of color, sidelined in the film. Because of the nasty vitriol which Kelly Marie Tran was subjected to following The Last Jedi, it was even more critical and important for J.J. Abrams and Chris Terrio, co-writers of The Rise of Skywalker, to find ways to raise Tico’s profile in the movie. That this did not happen is not only unfortunate, but it makes one wonder if Abrams and Terrio took Tran’s harassment seriously or considered the possibility that if Rose was not featured more prominently in the film that her absence would embolden the trolls who attacked Tran in the first place.

In their defense, Terrio did come out and explain that Rose was intended to be more prominent in the film. As he explains in an interview with Clarence Moye of Awards Daily, he and Abrams,

“…wanted Rose to be the anchor at the rebel base who was with Leia. We thought we couldn’t leave Leia at the base without any of the principals whom we love, so Leia and Rose were working together. As the process evolved, a few scenes we’d written with Rose and Leia turned out not to meet the standard of photorealism that we’d hoped for. Those scenes unfortunately fell out of the film.”

That Rose was to be featured more in the film, albeit before the editing process took over, is certainly positive. And that she was to be the principal character interacting with Leia is notable even if a number of those scenes were cut from the film. But while I can grant this point to Terrio and Abrams, applauding them for wanting Rose to work closely with Leia, I can simultaneously admit that I find Terrio’s response vague and unconvincing . It is all well-and-good to say that he and Abrams intended for Rose to be in the film more than she is, working alongside Leia, but the fact remains that she is barely in the film (even though Tran herself has noted that she filmed other scenes for the movie). And as a result, her story feels truncated, abruptly cut-off in the wake of The Last Jedi without any sense of finality.

This is all the more disappointing when we consider that the signature moment for Rose in The Last Jedi, the moment she saves Finn from his hatred for the First Order and then kisses him, is entirely ignored in The Rise of Skywalker. Given the adventure they go on in The Last Jedi, Rose obviously started having strong feelings for the former Stormtrooper. Whether Finn felt the same way is left unanswered at the end of The Last Jedi, but The Rise of Skywalker is uninterested in exploring this possibility, or even addressing it. Instead, The Rise of Skywalker seems content to ignore Rose’s kiss and her feelings altogether, instead focusing more on Finn’s connection with Rey, and his relationship with Jannah (another former Stormtrooper who is introduced half-way through the movie). It is as if The Rise of Skywalker is engaged in the narrative “ghosting” of Rose, with Finn purposefully ignoring her because he has other things to do and people (Rey, Poe, C-3PO, Chewbacca, BB-8,and the new droid D-O) to be with. 

Rose Tico Exegol
Rose Tico during The Battle of Exegol, one of the few times we actually see her in the movie.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker

Again, in fairness, this is not to say Rose is not given the chance to join Finn and the others on their galactic scavenger hunt. When she is asked to come along, Rose responds with a narratively contrived reason she needs to stay at the Resistance base: because the General, Rose explains, needs her to analyze the specs of the old, Imperial-class Star Destroyers. With the intention of making Rose the principal with Leia, this ensures that we are all filled-in on why Rose is hanging back. Sadly, with her scenes with Leia being edited out of the film, her need to analyze Star Destroyers instead feels like an excuse to remove her from the main plot of the film, sidelining her so the real heroes can hang out on the Millennium Falcon and save the galaxy. 

But the thing is, as I watched The Rise of Skywalker and went on the galactic adventure with the films principal heroes – Rey, Finn, and Poe – I found myself missing Rose even more. I sat and wished she was part of the team, having the chance not only to have a heart-to-heart with Finn during their travels, but also the opportunity to get to know Rey, laugh with Poe, play (and even beat!) Chewbacca at dejarik, work side-by-side with BB-8 and C-3PO, and show kindness to the skittish D-O. Moreover, I found myself wishing Rose Tico was there so she could continue to be “the spark” of Resistance she so fully embodied in The Last Jedi, her heart and fighting spirit, and the crescent necklace around her neck, used as a constant reminder to the heroes (and viewers) that winning would be accomplished  “not fighting what we hate, but saving what we love.”

Where Are The Dead Bodies?

In my last post – Continuity Confusion in Resistance – I outlined the plot of the Season 2 episode of Star Wars Resistance titled “A Quick Salvage Run.” In turn, I examined how, at the end of that episode, when the Colossus makes its getaway from the First Order, the ship is not tracked through hyperspace, an outright confusing fact considering the First Order possess the technology to do so. For the sake of brevity, I will let you go read that post to see what I say about the topic. Here, though, I wanted to return briefly to “A Quick Salvage Run” to pose a question that popped into my mind as I was watching. Allow me to set the stage.

In the episode, Kazuda Xiono leads a salvage team comprised of the members of the Warbird pirate gang to the Fulminatrix, the First Order Dreadnought destroyed by the Resistance at the beginning of The Last Jedi. The intention of the salvage run is pretty straightforward for Xiono: find the hyperfuel (coaxium) still in the ship and bring it back to the Colossus. Of course, the pirates have ulterior motives, salvaging any other materials they deem valuable, although they do not hinder the primary objective. 

As one can imagine, the “quick salvage run” to the Fulminatrix is the core of this episode, and many scenes are devoted to Xiono and his confederates scouring the wreckage of the massive vessel. And it is was during these scenes aboard the Fulminatrix where my question popped into my head:

Where are the dead bodies?

Seriously, there are no bodies of First Order crew members anywhere to be found within the wreckage of the Fulminatrix. Not even one. According to the reference book Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Incredible Cross-Sections, the dreadnought had the following personnel aboard:

  • 53,000 officers
  • 140,000 enlisted
  • 22,000 stormtroopers

That is a total of 215,000 crew aboard the Fulminatrix when it was bombed by the Resistance!!! Are we really to believe that Xiono and company are running about the vessel and no dead bodies would be present? I mean, it stands to reason that some of the crew were probably able to evacuate the doomed dreadnought, while the bodies of thousands of others  – like Captain Canady – were completely incinerated in the inferno triggered by the Resistance bombs. Never-the-less, it is difficult to believe that not a single dead body would be laying about as Xiono and the pirates navigate the debris-strewn corridors of the dreadnought. Surely, hundreds, if not thousands, of bodies should be strewn about the ship, contorted and mangled by the explosions that ripped through the Fulminatrix. 

Fulminatrix Explosion
The destruction of the Fulminatrix.
Gif Credit – Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

I mean, I guess someone could argue that because Star Wars Resistance is a kids show – it is animated and on Disney XD – the presence of dead bodies would be upsetting to children. Frankly, I find that reasoning entirely unconvincing, especially because animated Star Wars programs have been known to show death/dead bodies in the past. Besides, “war” is in the name of the franchise and this means there is an obligation not to sanitize warfare. This is not to suggest that every Star Wars story must depict the exact same level of death, horror, and destruction. I hardly think a “kids show” needs to show the grotesque, burnt corpses of First Order ensigns and gunners littering the hallways of a destroyed dreadnought. No, in this case, a few dead stormtroopers lining the darkened hallways as Xiono and the pirates walk-by would have been enough, a clear reminder to kids and adults alike that when the Resistance bombs exploded, people died. 

Continuity Confusion in The Last Jedi

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.

Supremacy's_hyperspace_tracker
The First Order’s hyperspace tracker.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

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.

The Raddus
The Raddus
Photo Credit: Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

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.”

Finn: “Right.”

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.”

DJ: Most Wanted (Review)

A while back I was perusing the local comic store when I came across a decently priced copy of DJ: Most Wanted. I didn’t really have an interest in the Marvel one-shot about the slicer named DJ who helps Finn and Rose in The Last Jedi, primarily because I was underwhelmed by his presence in the film. While it was fun to see actor Benicio Del Toro in a Star Wars film, I ultimately left my first (and subsequent) viewings of The Last Jedi not really caring one way or the other for his character. I guess you could say I “nothinged” him, having no opinion of DJ other than to say “he is in the movie.”

Yet, as I stood there looking at the Marvel one-shot – which was released in January 2018 – I decided I would bite the bullet and give it a chance. At the very least, I convinced myself, perhaps the story would make DJ slightly more interesting and help me appreciate him a little bit more. Except, that didn’t really happen. While it took me some time to finally read DJ: Most Wanted, I did eventually get around to it and was left feeling…nothing.

Spoiler Time!

The general story run down for the comic book goes like this: DJ is on Canto Bight doing some gambling, but really he is just stealing money. He finds himself in a lot trouble and as a way of saving his own skin from the casino bosses he willingly gets himself arrested. Thus, he is plopped down in a jail cell and there he will sit until Finn and Rose show up.

DJ, Finn, Rose
DJ (center) with Rose and Finn.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

Now, in fairness, there is a bit more to the story than my very basic summary. But ultimately the idea behind this comic book is to tell us how DJ ended up in jail, thus setting up his encounter with our Resistance heroes. Frankly, I have no problem with this. I am all for minor characters from the Star Wars movies (and other stories) getting some interesting depth tacked onto them. This can be fun and can even be used to add fascinating concepts into the galaxy far, far away. Ultimately, this is what DJ: Most Wanted is meant to do – give DJ a little background and some extra dialogue, use him to provide a little more insight into the culture of Canto Bight, all while explaining how his story intersects and merges with The Last Jedi.

Because I was a bit “meh” about DJ in the film, reading DJ: Most Wanted DID give me some more insight into his character. But it didn’t do anything to really make me more interested in him in general.  I am not disappointed for taking the time to read it, or for even spending a few bucks on it (though I would never have paid full price), but I am also not necessarily ever going to say to myself “I need to re-read DJ: Most Wanted.” Perhaps someday I will, and I hope if/when that happens I can more fully appreciate DJ as a character. Although, to be perfectly honest, the likelihood of that happening really hinges on whether DJ makes more appearances in Star Wars stories in the future where he gains added depth from meaningful encounters with other characters in the franchise For example, I could easily see him interacting with Hondo Ohnaka, perhaps on Batuu (at the “Galaxy’s Edge”).

Unfortunately, I don’t get the impression there are any plans for DJ to receive more treatment any time soon. And if I am right, this is really too bad. I mean, at the very least, a Star Wars character played by Benicio Del Toro should be a bigger deal. Right?

Leave a comment and let me know what you think.

The “Sin” of Star Wars Expectations

I recently came across a quote from Frank Oz – the man who brought Yoda to life – where he gave his very direct opinion regarding Star Wars fans who disliked The Last Jedi. Speaking at a SXSW event, Oz states that,

“I love the movie [The Last Jedi]…All the people who don’t like this ‘Jedi’ thing is just horse crap. It’s about expectations. The movie didn’t fill their expectations. But as filmmakers, we’re not here to fulfill people’s expectations.”

How could I, or anyone else, NOT consider what Frank Oz has to say on this point? He is a gifted filmmaker with a perspective and understanding of storytelling which I can only dream of reaching. For a number of days I allowed Oz’s point to marinate in my mind, bouncing around my brain as I reflected on my own expectations for Star Wars, not to mention the expectations of the entire community of Star Wars fans. Of course, I am in no position to speak for the entire Star Wars “fandom.” It is so massive, so diverse, and so damn opinionated that it would be folly to even try to provide any “grand unified theory” to sum-up Star Wars fans. In fact, the ONLY thing that can be said is that Star Wars fans are “unified” around Star Wars, but what Star Wars means for each fan is subjective. It is personal. And because of this, I think Frank Oz is absolutely correct: some fans certainly disliked The Last Jedi because the film did not meet the very personal and deeply held expectations they may have had going into Episode VIII.

The thing is, while I agree with Oz, I only do so up to a point. Beyond that, I fundamentally disagree with him. Why? Well, just as I cannot provide a “grand unified theory” of Star Wars fans, Frank Oz is in no position to provide a definitive answer for why people did not like The Last Jedi. It is a generalization to do so, a fallacy stating that a part (those fans who did not have expectations met by The Last Jedi) actually represents the whole (every fan who did not like The Last Jedi). Logic just doesn’t work that way, and it is important to recognize that a great deal of nuance exists within the Star Wars community precisely because individuals have those deeply personal ties to the decades spanning franchise. And this applies to fans who truly loved The Last Jedi and those who absolutely despise the film, as well as all those who fall somewhere in the middle (which is where I happen to land). My point is: some Star Wars fans didn’t like The Last Jedi because it didn’t meet their expectations, plain and simple, while other fans had a more nuanced reaction and didn’t like it for a trove of entirely different reasons. 

But beyond this  pretty obvious fact, that some fans didn’t like it because of high expectations, the more I thought about what Frank Oz said, the more I was bothered by the implication: that Star Wars fans should have no expectations for the stories which they love. Realistically, how can one NOT have expectations when they go into a Star Wars film (or any film for that matter)? How does one fully set-aside their expectations and experience a story entirely devoid of expectation? Frankly, I do not believe it possible, unless perhaps one ejects every single Star Wars thought from the mind. But going into a Star Wars movie with a “tabula rasa”, a blank slate, is just not possible, at least for me. Maybe someone out there can show me how to do it, how to just sit down with popcorn, Junior Mints and an oversized cup of Diet Coke and watch Star Wars for what it is – just another movie. Me, I cannot set aside my thoughts, and feelings, and ideas about Star Wars because the franchise has seeped into my bones. I live Star Wars, I breathe Star Wars, it infects me like a damn virus. For me, Star Wars is NOT “just another movie,” it is a way of life. And as a result, I am guilty of the sin of expectation, I demand greatness from Star Wars and yes, sometimes, I even expect it to acquiesce to my expectations.

There were a lot of things about The Last Jedi I didn’t like, and some things I absolutely did like, and I lay a number of these out in my post Reflections on The Last Jedi.” But I also know, and can easily admit, that I had expectations for The Last Jedi which were not met. I am not ashamed to say it and why should I hide it? For example, I wrote a post titled The (Mis)Use of Captain Phasma where I blasted writer/director Rian Johnson for not utilizing the First Order villain more effectively in the movie. I absolutely expected her to be a greater factor, especially after a novel and a comic series preceding the release of The Last Jedi built her up as a total badass. How could I not expect more?

Luke and Ben

Many Star Wars fans, myself included, expected Luke to NOT try to kill his nephew given that he threw his lightsaber away at the end of Return of the Jedi. Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

So yeah, I had expectations for The Last Jedi. But you know what, I also had expectations for The Force Awakens, Rogue One, and Solo. I had expectations for The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith. I had expectations for The Clone Wars, Star Wars: Rebels, and Star Wars: Resistance. And, going forward, I have expectations for Episode IX, The Mandalorian, Galaxy’s Edge, and every other Star Wars movie, novel, comic, video game, etc. But I am under no illusion that all of my expectations will be met. Are Star Wars filmmakers and storytellers supposed to meet every expectation of “the fans”? Certainly not. They can’t do it. At best, they can only hope to meet one very basic, very simple expectation: that the fan will be entertained. That is, after all, what the entire Star Wars franchise is, a massive form of entertainment. Right? We all expect to be entertained, to be transported to the galaxy far, far away so that through the experience we will find some form enjoyment.

And, as a fan, the best I can do is manage my expectations. I have to willing and able to acknowledge that everything will not line up with how I want it to unfold. But managing expectations does not mean jettisoning expectations. Rather, it means having an open-mind and giving things a chance, even when – no, especially when – things do not immediately line-up with those expectations. 

Frank Oz, the voice of Yoda, stated that “…All the people who don’t like this ‘Jedi’ thing is just horse crap. It’s about expectations. The movie didn’t fill their expectations. But as filmmakers, we’re not here to fulfill people’s expectations.” He is right, some fans didn’t like The Last Jedi because it just didn’t meet their expectations; others had more nuanced reasons for their dislike of the movie. And he is correct, filmmakers are not here to fulfill everyone’s expectations; and fans, myself included, do have to manage expectations. However, I am not going to give up my expectations for Star Wars. I am going to continue to demand greatness from it, and yes that means holding the filmmakers and storytellers to a high standard and having expectations for the franchise. And the reason I am going to do this is simple:

Because a long time ago I was mesmerized as I watched a small space ship being chased by a large space ship over a desert planet. From that moment forward, my expectations for Star Wars started to blossom and I can’t change that. So instead, I will live in the sin of Star Wars expectation and, if Frank Oz or anyone else wants to be annoyed with me, I will wear that annoyance as a badge of honor. 

Favorite Star Wars Music (by Film)

A long time ago…in 2017…I wrote a piece detailing why “The Imperial March” is my absolute favorite musical score in the Star Wars franchise. This admission came as little surprise to many of my trove of followers/readers as I have often professed my cultish admiration for The Empire Strikes Back (ESB) on this site. It stood to reason that The Imperial March would top my list considering the fact that the iconic anthem for the Galactic Empire/Darth Vader was first introduced in Episode V. Plus, given my “Casterfoian” obsession with the Empire, it stood to reason that I would likewise adopt the score as my all-time favorite.

While my unadulterated affection for all things ESB stands firm, and “The Imperial March” continues to receive constant replays on my Spotify account, there are never-the-less many other pieces of Star Wars music that have been elevated to the top of my musical mind. Hardly a shock – I am positive you can say the same if you happen to be a Star Wars fan – I wanted to take the opportunity to share a musical composition from each Star Wars film that I hold near and dear to my heart. For the sake of brevity, I have only chosen one from each film and decided to forgo long-winded explanations detailing why I love each piece, in large part because music is so damn personal it would take some of the fun out of it. Still, I may do a post for each at some point if the Force moves me to do so. We shall see.

Enjoy and be sure to comment with your own “faves” list!


A New Hope  “Tales of a Jedi Knight/Learn About the Force”


The Empire Strikes Back – “Yoda’s Theme”

While my heart will always be dedicated to “The Imperial March,” I decided to share another score from ESB in this particular list to mix things up a bit.


Return of the Jedi – “Leia’s New/Light of the Force”


The Phantom Menace – “The Droid Invasion and the Appearance of Darth Maul”

**Surprise! You were expecting “Duel of the Fates” weren’t you? Here is the deal: I love “Duel of the Fates” with a crazy passion but I likewise love “The Droid Invasion and the Appearance of Darth Maul.” I had to pick one and so I went with my gut. Besides, just listen to how the piece shifts when Maul is introduced! Holy frick that is haunting!!!!


Attack of the Clones – “Across the Stars”


Revenge of the Sith – “The Birth of the Twins and Padmé’s Destiny”


The Clone Wars – “Battle of Christophsis”


The Force Awakens “The Jedi Steps”

**I don’t care much for sentimentality but I readily admit that this piece gives me the feels. Like “Tales of a Jedi Knight/Learn About the Force”, “The Jedi Steps” packs an emotional punch by forcing me to imagine the Jedi Order, now a dying remnant, who once served and protected the galaxy far, far away. Between hearing this piece, and watching Rey literally walk the steps of the ancient Jedi, I was brought to tears in my first viewing of The Force Awakens.**


Rogue One“Your Father Would Be Proud”


The Last Jedi – “The Spark”


Solo: A Star Wars Story – “Savareen Stand-Off”

*Leave a comment with your thoughts about my list or share your own favorites!!!*

Talkerverse: Snoke Goes Solo

In my previous post – Going Solo: Darth Maul – I considered Darth Maul’s (very) brief cameo in Solo: A Star Wars Story. I don’t want to spend a lot of time recapping that post, but I will note that in it I mentioned that his cameo, while certainly intriguing, left open the possibility of confusion for fans who had no idea he had cheated death in The Phantom Menace. I mentioned how in the lead up to his reveal in Solo, I really thought the mysterious figure behind the scenes of the Crimson Dawn criminal organization was going to be Snoke, the Supreme Leader of the First Order. While I was surprised by Maul’s cameo in the film, and otherwise enjoyed it, I cannot help but imagine the possibilities that might have been if Snoke had appeared instead of Maul.

Allow me to paint you a picture with my imagination brush…

Following the death of Dryden Vos, his lieutenant Qi’ra — who is also Han Solo’s friend/romantic interest —  contacts the mysterious figure coordinating the activities of Vos’ Crimson Dawn crime syndicate. Shrouded by a hood, the figure inquires why it is Qi’ra, and not Dryden Vos, contacting him. In reply, Qi’ra responds…

“Dryden Vos is dead.”

“Vos was a fool and deserving of death. Tell me Qi’ra, what of the coaxium?”

“Stolen from Vos by Tobias Beckett.”

“An unwelcome setback.”

Momentarily pausing, the mysterious figure continues…

“I sense conflict within you, young one. There is more to your story.”

“Beckett had an accomplice…someone I knew from my youth.”

“Is that so? And who was this accomplice?”

“A man by the name of Han Solo.”

Removing his hood, the figure in the hologram now reveals himself to be Snoke. Leaning forward, Snoke responds by repeating the name: “Han. Solo.”

“He means nothing to me,” Qi’ra quickly responds. “He is a remnant of my past.”

Snoke’s eyes linger on the woman, pausing to consider her words before he speaks…

“When I found you I saw raw, untamed power, a connection to the Force unlike any I have felt before. I pulled you from the gutters of Corellia, saving your from the life of a scumrat. And yet, my care is rewarded by the naïve feelings of child.”

“The fault is mine, Master. I beg your forgiveness.”

Sitting back in his chair, Snoke replies: “Indeed, the fault is yours. Return to me and I will break the chains of your…feelings…for Han Solo. “

Before delving into the “why” of the conversation I crafted between Qi’ra and Snoke, allow me to point out an obvious thought residing on the surface of my mind. I believe that Snoke should have been the mysterious figure in Solo: A Star Wars Story precisely because he was given no backstory in either The Force Awakens or The Last Jedi. While the need to know every detail of Snoke’s pre-Sequel Trilogy life is not entirely necessary, the desire to know more about Snoke is hard to ignore. That desire is precisely why, following The Force Awakens, individuals started creating theories about Supreme Leader Snoke, attepting to piece together who he might be. Unfortunately, this fun-filled theorizing was met with childish mockery from a the self-proclaimed “elites” of the Star Wars fandom when they chose to insult fan theories with the phrase “Your Snoke Theory Sucks” (I counter this petty derision in my post Your Snoke Theory Doesn’t Suck). But I digress…my base desire, wishing Snoke had appeared in Solo rather than Darth Maul, is a desire to have been given just a small glimpse into Snoke’s backstory, a tiny morsel that fans could run with in their theories.

On this point, Snoke’s presence could have created a connection between Solo: A Star Wars Story and the Sequel Trilogy which “film-only” fans could have more fully understood. As I noted in Going Solo: Darth Maul, the possibility exists (and is true in the case of my neighbors) that fans who only watch the Star Wars films would have a difficult time understanding how Darth Maul is alive since he so obviously died in The Phantom Menace. Instead of this unnecessary confusion, Snoke would have created an enticing connection between Solo and the Sequels Trilogy. Solo: A Star Wars Story could have been even more important, more relevant and necessary, with a brief cameo by the future Supreme Leader of the First Order, a cameo that would have created a connection through presence alone.

But this connection would have been blown wide open with Snoke’s conversation with Qi’ra, especially if the conversation echoed Snoke’s conversations with Kylo Ren. You will notice that in the dialogue I crafted Qi’ra mentions that “Han Solo” meaning nothing to her, an intentional parallel to Kylo Ren telling Snoke that Han Solo, his father, “means nothing to me.” In turn, the same form of parallelism exists in Snoke’s comment that when he found her, he saw raw, untamed power within Qi’ra, a similar statement he makes to Kylo Ren in The Last Jedi. Likewise, he insults Qi’ra, calling her a child, just as he insults Kylo Ren as “a child in a mask.”

Emilia Clarke is Qi’ra in SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY.
Han Solo’s childhood friend/lover: Qi’ra.

Photo Credit – Solo: A Star Wars Story

On one hand, these small dialogical parallels serve to solidify the way(s) in which Snoke manipulates individuals under his guidance, doing so by breaking them down and ensuring they understand that he is in control. But on the other hand, these parallels also, intentionally, link Qi’ra and Kylo Ren as Force-sensitive proteges of Snoke. In this regard, Snoke’s cameo would not have been the only surprise, but it would have included the added shock that Qi’ra can use the Force. In turn, as an added way of tying her to Kylo Ren, Qi’ra could have gone on to become the very first Knight of Ren, the Master of the Knights of Ren. And, in taking the mantle of title of Master for himself, Kylo Ren could have ripped it away from her when he killed her years later. Oh, the possibilities…

But there is one other angle worth considering in regards to Snoke and his imagined cameo in Solo: A Star Wars Story, and that is the fact that Han Solo’s life would play out with Snoke as a presence in the background. Through the manipulation of Snoke, Ben Solo became Kylo Ren and committed an act of patricide, killing Han Solo and freeing himself, albeit only in part, of his familial burden. Snoke’s relationship with Qi’ra could have served a similar fashion, functioning as a catalyst for events in Han’s life which would ultimately end with the smuggler’s death. Consider:

Han and Qi’ra were friends and lovers on Corellia. Han escaped Corellia but Qi’ra did not. Snoke found Qi’ra, freed her from the planet, trained her, and she became the first Knight of Ren. Years later, Ben Solo would become a protégé of Snoke, ripping the title of “Master” away from Qi’ra by killing her and completing his conversion to the Dark Side as Kylo Ren. In turn, as Kylo Ren, the former Ben Solo would end his father’s life on Starkiller Base.

From beginning to end, Han Solo’s fate, his story in Star Wars, would have been pre-determined and framed by the menacing actions of Supreme Leader Snoke.


The “Talkerverse” is my imagined Star Wars canon where I explore different angles on the galaxy far, far away by altering aspects of the Star Wars canon to fit my own wants and desires. Check out these other “Talkerverse” posts to delve even deeper into my Star Wars mind:

Talkerverse: Vader Kills Maul

Reflections on The Last Jedi

I can say, with little remorse, that I have not yet purchased The Last Jedi. This isn’t to suggest I never will. The need – not a want, a need – to place the film next to the other Star Wars films on my shelf will eventually take over. For now, I can fight that urge, pushing back against the feeling that my shelf looks incomplete. But why am I fighting this feeling? Why not give in and just buy the most recent installment in the Star Wars franchise? I am a die-hard Star Wars fan after all, so why haven’t I gone out of my way to purchase and obsessively watch the film? Good questions.

I don’t review films on this site. I don’t review films on this site because I am not a professional reviewer, a critic trained to offer an appraisal of a piece of work. I am a fan of Star Wars, I have opinions, but those opinions do not give me the authority to offer any truly nuanced or unbiased “take.” I don’t review films on this site, but I am never-the-less, here and now, ready and willing to offer my thoughts and opinions on The Last Jedi, doing so with as little bias as possible. But again, this isn’t a formal review, and I don’t get paid to say these things.

A Smattering of Things I Liked

Paige Tico
Paige Tico
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

I appreciate aspects of The Last Jedi. The movie has some remarkable moments, and to me none is more remarkable than the moment Paige Tico sacrifices herself to save the small Resistance fleet. Tico, a character who never utters a word, a ball gunner in a Starfortress Bomber blasting away at First Order TIE Fighters. In a desperate moment, with everything on the line, Paige climbs out of her gunner’s chair and performs an act of sacrifice heroism, unleashing the bombs that destroy a First Order Dreadnaught. The action saves the fleet; the action takes her life.

I appreciate aspects of The Last Jedi, and I genuinely appreciate the acting of Kylo Ren actor Adam Driver. I was captivated by Driver’s portrayal of Kylo in The Force Awakens. I was swept away by his portrayal in The Last Jedi. Kylo Ren is not just a villain in The Last Jedi, he truly is the “monster” Rey calls him. The Dark Side isn’t just strong in him, it consumes him in a flame that burns hotter than Mustafar. He is ready and willing to destroy everything to prove himself, to be like his grandfather, to be his grandfather, to be greater than his grandfather. Darth Vader, Lord of Death. Kylo Ren, Supreme Lord of Darkness. Redemption isn’t even on this guys radar. Only death, only destruction, only darkness, only power.

I appreciate aspects of The Last Jedi, and there are smattering of moments and characters and events I really enjoyed. I loved the design of the Resistance Bombers, the First Order Dreadnaught, the AT-M6 Walkers, the Resistance capital ships. I liked the geography of Crait, and the fact that Caluan Ematt is a General leading the Resistance forces on the planet. Laura Dern is great as Vice Admiral Holdo, although I wish her sacrifice – which is visually incredible – had been saved for Episode IX since it overshadows the sacrifice of Paige Tico. Carrie Fisher’s final portrayal as Leia Organa is  very moving (sans the weird space floating moment) and her final interaction with Luke, even though he isn’t physically present, is quite touching.

KyloRey
Kylo and Rey fighting together is a pretty cool sequence. Watch closely and you’ll notice that Rey should have easily been killed.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

I could list other things, other aspects of the film I genuinely liked. But I am not here to just list things, and I don’t think you want to read a list. The truth is, those aspects of the film I just listed – and a few others here and there – are all I can muster when it comes to this film. I can identify “things” about The Last Jedi I liked and that is all. I envy those who have been so moved by this film, who have elevated it into top place in their Star Wars rank lists. I wish I could do the same – it wouldn’t supplant The Empire Strikes Back in my list but #2 is a fluid spot – but sadly I cannot. I am a life-long Star Wars fan and this film just doesn’t move me, it just doesn’t feel right. There are a handful of profound moments but this movie just isn’t very profound.

Wading into the Shallows

I am well-aware that those who love The Last Jedi see incredible depth in it, that they believe this film has done something to Star Wars that is magnificent, breathtaking, groundbreaking. I understand what they are saying, I even understand how they are thinking. I just don’t agree. The common refrain I run into is that the writer/director Rian Johnson has “let the past die,” jettisoning aspects of the Star Wars saga – even aspects of The Force Awakens – to tell a unique and different type of Star Wars story. Perhaps nothing points to this more clearly than by Rian Johnson’s depiction of Luke Skywalker as a broken shell of a Jedi, a man determined to die in-exile.

Heading into the film I knew Luke Skywalker was going to be broken in some form and I was perfectly fine with that reality. “Luke Skywalker has vanished” the opening crawl to The Force Awakens tells the audience in the very first line and to its credit The Last Jedi shows us that the line is not solely about being geographically lost. Heck, the film could have been titled “The Lost Jedi” because Luke Skywalker has completely lost touch with who he was when we last saw him in Return of the Jedi. “I am a Jedi like my father before me,” young Skywalker once proudly declared to the Dark Lord Sidious in the single most important moment in the Original Trilogy. “I’m ending all of this. The tree, the texts, the Jedi. I’m going to burn it all down,” he now tells Master Yoda (who appears as a Force ghost). Damn, the Luke Skywalker we knew really has vanished!!! It’s no wonder so many older fans of the franchise have lamented that this isn’t the Luke they remember…

Is This REALLY Luke?

In a guest post on this site – An Ignoble End to the Skywalker Saga – my friend Nancy  succinctly notes that the Luke Skywalker we experience in The Last Jedi “…could not cope with the crushing disappointment of Kylo’s turn towards the dark side and the guilt he felt towards letting Leia and Han down.” To this we can add that he feels equally guilty for Ben Solo’s ultimate turn to the Dark Side. You know, that moment when he stood above his sleeping nephew, ignited his green lightsaber and contemplated, momentarily, ending the boy’s life. When he recalls the event, Luke initially lies to Rey about what happened. Or rather, he offers a “Kenobian” point-of-view to his new protégé. But I digress. Ben Solo, frightened as he wakes and looks up at his uncle holding the blade, defends himself. Who wouldn’t? But then the young Solo does more, tearing down the Jedi Academy that Skywalker had built, killing the students (with the help of other students who had dark feelings?) and fleeing to the warmth, love, and manipulation of Supreme Leader Snoke.

That Ben Solo-turned-Kylo Ren destroyed everything Luke had painstakingly built in the years after Return of the Jedi makes sense. It was the story I expected after watching The Force Awakens. The surprising bit is that Luke Skywalker took a completely non-Luke Skywalker action which was the catalyst for Ben’s final step into the Dark Side. With the momentary ignition of his green lightsaber as he stands above his sleeping nephew, the scene from Return of the Jedi where Luke cast aside the exact same blade, refusing to kill his father, is itself thrown aside.

“This is not going to go the way you think,” Skywalker declares to Rey at one point in the movie. “Let the past die, kill it if you have to.” Kylo Ren tells Rey at another point in the film. Over and over again, The Last Jedi champions what it is doing: tearing down the foundations of Star Wars with something new and radical. The movie spends a lot of time self-referencing with quotes and metaphors (a building literally crumbles, burying Luke, when Ben defends himself) to prove this is the case, to make us believe we are watching a radically new and fresh version of Star Wars. The thing is…

I don’t buy it. From my vantage point, the self-references and metaphors – and the shallow depth of the film – are just clever tricks distracting us from the obvious. Namely, that we have seen this story once before:

A teacher takes on a gifted, young student who has incredible power. The teacher trains the student, but the student has dark thoughts and feelings, and those thoughts and feelings grow like a virus in the mind. Eventually, the teacher must confront the student, and the student fights back. While the teacher chooses not to kill the student, the damage is already done. The teacher is left feeling guilty and flees into exile. The student puts on a mask that represents their dark turn. Years later, the two finally confront one another again. The teacher is aware of their own shortcomings, that they failed the student. The student believes they are the more powerful now, but little do they know that their teacher is truly more powerful than the student can possibly imagine. Their final battle ensues, and in a critical moment, the student slashes a red blade through their former teacher…only to be left stunned and confused by their former teacher’s final lesson.

Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker?
Luke Skywalker and Ben Solo?
Rey and *insert the villain from Episodes X, XI, XII*

LukevsKylo
Luke Skywalker and Kylo Ren face off on Crait.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi


We Need to Talk about Rey

Speaking of Rey, for being the heroine of this new trilogy, The Last Jedi goes to ridiculous lengths to build her up through Acts I & II only to have her be a non-factor in Act III. Her story is an interesting one and I genuinely like Rey, but for all of her training with Luke, her Force connection with Kylo Ren, and her (brash) decision to run off and try to save Ben from the monster within him, her story is effectively set aside in the Final Act. Why? Because this film isn’t about Rey. It is really about Luke Skywalker and Kylo Ren. Don’t get me wrong, Rey has a lot of cool character development and some intriguing bits happen to her. Never-the-less, from my vantage point, Rey is ultimately set aside in what is supposed to be her own story. 

Of course, one could argue that Rey’s connection with Kylo Ren is the most fascinating aspect of the movie. In fairness, I wouldn’t entirely disagree. The relationship between Kylo Ren (Dark Side) and Rey (Light Side) is where a lot of the philosophical “depth” in The Last Jedi comes into play. This depth is certainly interesting, but it is a depth that is knee deep at best. For all of the Ontological-meets-Ethical Dualism which Rey and Kylo Ren represent, specifically as it relates to the “Balance of the Force” (whatever the hell that even means at this point), any opportunity to truly dive into the mysterious abyss of the Force never really happens. An opportunity certainly existed, one where Luke  could have helped Rey work through her connection to Kylo (and vice-versa with Snoke helping Kylo work through his relationship with Rey). This would have been a prime opportunity to highlight Luke (and Snoke) as mentors, while shedding light on this intriguing and new conception of the Force. Instead, the movie gives us only fleeting glimpses of these deeper philosophical undertones while simultaneously distracting us from them (i.e. – Kylo being shirtless; the two awkwardly touching hands; Rey running off to save Ben). Then again, I’m not sure the film even knows how to take things into the deep end of the pool. In fact, I would liken it to this: The Last Jedi (and Rian Johnson) give off the impression of a college freshman who took Introduction to Philosophy, read snippets from the I Ching, the Avesta, the Gathas, and The Jedi Path, and is now acting like a pretentious know-it-all who has minimal grasp on what they are saying. Which leads me to this…

“Getting” The Last Jedi

As Nancy and I were chatting recently about the film, she mentioned that “…there is this attitude that if you didn’t like Rian Johnson’s vision then you weren’t smart or deep enough to ‘get’ The Last Jedi.” In other words, it is as if one must possess a gnostic knowledge to truly “understand” the esoteric depth at the core of this movie. If only Nancy, or myself, or others who do not love and worship the film as a gift to Star Wars had the special knowledge to understand it, we would finally see just how profound The Last Jedi truly is. But like I said earlier, I really don’t think it is very profound.

For over two hours, I watched a film I had already seen before. Or rather, I watched a film that took thematic elements from a handful of films that I have already seen before. Don’t get me wrong, there ARE things in this film that are new, and things in this film that are intriguing. I mean, I have NEVER seen the aliens in the Canto Bight Casino before (but I have been confronted by never-before-seen aliens in a casino/cantina-esque setting before). Yet, for all the new stuff in this film, as a whole it just came off as an amalgamation of ALL the Star Wars films, pretending to be something radical and fresh while simultaneously offering philosophical possibilities that are never really teased out.

I envy those who have experienced The Last Jedi as this new and fresh dive into the Star Wars universe. Truly, I do. I wish I had the gnosis they possess and the connection tot he film that leads them to see it as philosophically deep and spiritually mystical. Then again, I don’t really believe there is any there “there,” or at least not enough to elevate The Last Jedi to the top of the Star Wars pantheon. Rather, The Last Jedi is just a film masquerading as something truly special, a “child in a mask” playing Star Wars dress up. Does it attempt some intriguing things, even getting away with a handful? Of course it does. But the thing is, if I want to really experience Star Wars, I will watch the Original six films. Hell, I’ll even watch The Force Awakens – which is also a derivative amalgamation but is at least AWARE it is – and I will definitely watch Rogue One – which woefully lacks women but is never-the-less a stellar homage to A New Hope. On the flip side, if I feel like watching something that is “technically” Star Wars but that thinks it is way smarter and self-important than it really is, I’ll watch The Last Jedi. Granted, I’ll need to buy it first, and right now I have better things to spend my money on.

An Ignoble End to the Skywalker Saga

Guest Talker: Nancy (of Graphic Novelty²)

This is not going to go the way you think.”  No truer words were said, and Luke Skywalker’s words proved to be prophetic as the movie The Last Jedi unfolded.  

I grew up on the original trilogy of Star Wars movies, with Luke being my first crush. Even as a child I was a practical lass, and the bad-boy swagger of Han Solo held no appeal to me. Instead it was humble and heroic Luke who held me enthralled.  Years went by; with the trilogy being the only Star Wars I knew until the late 1990’s when the prequels began. While the prequels have been derided for many deserved reasons, I still felt they were authentic to the Star Wars universe. George Lucas might not write good dialogue, but his vision held true, and there were many strong moments in the prequel trilogy.

When Disney bought out Lucas’s Star Wars movie rights and announced yet another trilogy with other stand alone movies planned, I was apprehensive but hopeful. The Force Awakens combined both the legacy characters and added some intriguing and strong new ones and I was thrilled with the new direction. It honored the past but looked towards the future, as did Rogue One. My first Star Wars movie review post on my blog about Rogue One  (https://graphicnovelty2.com/2016/12/22/rogue-one-movie-review/) said “if this storytelling continues, Disney will have handled the buyout of Star Wars beautifully.” It turns out I spoke too soon.

star-wars-the-last-jedi
Photo Credit – Disney/Lucasfilm

*While I assume at this stage people reading this post will have watched the movie, I do want to warn you that there are spoilers ahead.*

I headed into the movie with incredibly high hopes, but twenty minutes into my first viewing of The Last Jedi, I was whispering angry thoughts about the movie to my husband. By the end of the movie I was seething. I felt it dishonored Luke’s legacy, and I was distraught.

Soon afterwards I contacted Jeff here at The Imperial Talker and Michael at My Comic Relief to vent. Both men are huge Star Wars fans and I wanted to see if I was alone in my thoughts. While I certainly cannot speak as to their reactions to the movie, my conversations with them were enlightening, and I watched the movie a second time on their recommendation. Once all the surprises were gone, I could concentrate more on the movie as a whole and get a more nuanced view the second time.

Afterwards, I gave myself some time to mellow, but then I struggled with writing this post. I hate to be provocative and feared a backlash of other bloggers who would vehemently disagree with me. I’m typically a go with the flow person, who rarely let’s people know if I’m truly upset (except my children- they know when I’m mad). This post was going to make me push my boundaries, and I did some over-thinking before I started to write.

But here we are, so let’s get into WHY this movie affected me so negatively. There were several smaller issues such as: Leia’s use of the Force, which was visually comical, Rose’s part, which ate up time that could have been given to already established characters, Chewbacca being treated as a pet/afterthought and the Rey/Kylo scenes (don’t even get me started on the connection through time and space!). On the other hand, there were many memorable moments, one of my favorites being when Poe is schooled on long-term strategy by General Organa and Admiral Holdo. I enjoyed the overriding idea that the rebellion is for everyone and that a small spark can ignite a winning rebellion.

But that’s not what upset me the most. It was Luke, all Luke.

As Star Wars has been around since 1977, there are now several generations of fans who have come into this franchise at different times.  So you have fans like me who grew up on the original, fans such as my children who watched the Prequels as they came out in the theatres, and now a new generation who will grow up loving the newest set of characters. You can even argue, as my oldest son observed, that I am a “purist,” for although I have occasionally read some of the Expanded Universe (now called Legends) books, the movies are really my only touch stone to the Star Wars universe.

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Luke Skywalker at the end of A New Hope.
Photo Credit – Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

As such, I have always viewed Luke as the true hero of the movies. Whereas Anakin, Ben Kenobi and certainly the Jedi Council from the Prequels let pride, power or shame affect their judgment, Luke was pure. He came from a humble background, not knowing of his true parentage yet, and with little training was able to defeat Darth Vader and bring balance back to the Force.

This new movie gave us a nihilistic Luke, who years later, was filled with so much remorse and regret that he refused to leave his island where he had banished himself to wallow in misery. When the actor Mark Hamill, who has embodied Luke and will be forever connected to the role, tells Rian Johnson, “I think I fundamentally disagree with everything you’ve decided for me” that is telling as to how Luke’s hero arc was going to play out. Now I know there has been further clarification that MH has shared about this quote, and he supposedly stands behind RJ’s version…but, if his first thought was unhappiness, as was mine when I first watched it, then this viewpoint cannot be discredited.

Now this is where another quote can be used to explain the movie’s direction. “Let the past die. Kill it, if you have to,” says Kylo Ren to Rey. I understand if Star Wars is to be a viable movie franchise, it needs to grow and change. Han Solo left us in The Force Awakens, and Carrie Fisher’s death meant that Leia’s arc was going to end earlier than expected. That left Luke. He was to be the torch bearer to Rey and the new Rebels. So why did his destiny need to end so ignobly?

In this role, Luke could not cope with the crushing disappointment of Kylo’s turn towards the dark side and the guilt he felt towards letting Leia and Han down. Yes, I understand that he helped the rebellion when he sent an astral projection of himself to the planet Crait and was able to distract Kylo and send his sister and the other rebels to safety. I even understand that he used his hard won wisdom to help and wasn’t the impetuous youth who left his training with Yoda early to help Leia and Han. On one level- I get it- but I didn’t like it.

Luke & Leia
Photo Credit: Vanity Fair

Luke’s and Kylo’s flashbacks to the night that Kylo destroyed the new Jedi Academy are what truly turned me against this version of Luke and led me to feel that he was dishonored in director Johnson’s interpretation. My Luke never would have considered killing his nephew. He put his lightsaber down in front of Darth Vader, and never gave up hope that his father still had a remnant of love left in him (Jeff’s post Luke Skywalker: A Farewell To Arms beautifully describes this moment). A wiser and older Luke would have tried anything to prevent Kylo from joining Supreme Leader Snoke. Killing him would not have been an option. I believe the quote “You were the Chosen One!” that Obi-wan Kenobi shouts at Anakin in Revenge of the Sith, is in fact a better one to have used to describe Luke. His entire character was crucified in this latest movie, and he deserved better.

In real life, there are times when things go to hell. Our lives do not turn out the way we envisioned. A great success can be eroded away with failures later in life, and becoming disillusioned can be a sad reality for some. Taking all that into consideration, Luke should have gone out as a battle-worn but still dignified warrior. I wanted him to have a loving goodbye to his twin (as I wrote about in this post: https://graphicnovelty2.com/2018/01/24/star-wars-comlinks-favorite-tlj-scene/ ) and for him to have been a mentor to Rey. This lack of a proper conclusion to Luke’s story arc was not a fitting end to the Skywalker saga.

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I laughed at this meme about Luke, Ben and Yoda, for despite my opinion about the movie, I can see other perspectives!

Guest Talker Bio: Nancy is half of the writing team for Graphic Novelty², a blog that centers around graphic novels and geek life. She is a married mom of three who loves her job as a teen librarian and is a Star Wars & Star Trek aficionado.