Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Why The Last Jedi is a director's movie, not a writer's movie, the Spoilery AF version.

This is the very spoilery explanation of what I said elsewhere:
The Last Jedi: a director's movie, not a writer's movie. The moments are fine; the story is full of holes. I give it a B because I like Star Wars. Emma and I agree it's better than Rogue 1, not as good as The Force Awakens.
My problems:

1. The decision to turn Poe Dameron into an idiot who repeatedly disobeys orders and doesn't share information with his superior officers is less disappointing than what that decision does to the women who were his superiors. After Poe mutinied, Leia should have killed him on the spot or put him in chains or, if the rebels truly need every fighter at that moment, told him he would be facing a court martial if they survive. Instead, he is forgiven because...women are really nice or something?

And what is the price Poe pays for repeatedly disobeying his leaders? Alyssa Rosenberg put it nicely in From Canto Bight to the Resistance's plight, the worst parts of "Star Wars: The Last Jedi":
...I’m not going to get into how annoying it is that after being hugely wrong and unstrategic about everything for the entire movie, as well as acting like a massive jerk, Poe Dameron somehow gets promoted to be head of the entire Resistance, ending the long tradition of female leadership of this movement. But let me tell you, I noticed.
2. Finn is neglected. He only has two big moments, and both are undercut. The fight with Phasma is brief and not particularly memorable. His attempt to destroy a major threat to the Resistance by blowing himself up within it is thwarted by Rose because...women are really nice or something? Rose does not have another way to destroy the cannon. She just seems to think it's better for everyone to die in a couple of minutes than for Finn to sacrifice himself saving them. Perhaps we're supposed to believe she hated her sister's suicide bombing so she doesn't want anyone else to die the same way, but in times of war, we expect individuals to die for the greater good.

3. Rey is neglected. Her role in The Force Awakens was like Luke's in Star Wars (aka A New Hope): she was an inexperienced Jedi wannabe. But for the first half of this movie, she's less like Luke seeking Yoda for training in The Empire Strikes Back than like Leia seeking help for the rebellion in the first part of the original movie.

Rey never gets a great fight scene of her own. The Big Bad who is killed in this movie is killed by Kylo, not Rey. She's along for the ride.

4. Luke is neglected. First he's a whiny baby who isn't willing to clean up the mess he created by misjudging Kylo. When he finally acts, it's only after he has let almost every rebel be slaughtered. And then he doesn't come in person, so we don't know why he chooses to die when the rebels are at their weakest, and yet we're told he's at peace with this decision. If he had come in person, he would have died like Obi-Wan, buying time for the next generation to succeed. Instead, his death is effectively the final example of him quitting with the job undone.

5. I don't understand the Yoda cameo, so I won't discuss it, but I will note that Yoda's dialogue was not always right. Emma reminded me at the time that Yoda talks like German translated literally--the verb is always at the end.

6. R2D2 is neglected. Much as I love BB-8's design, BB-8's role in this trilogy is to be an upgraded R2D2. The writers should've simply upgraded R2D2's body in the previous movie instead of creating a new robot character.

7. C-3PO is so neglected that he needn't have appeared in this movie. Handled properly, C-3PO is a comic character who manages to be effective sometimes.

8. Chewbacca is neglected. But at least he gets a few funny moments.

9. A grumble about costume design rather than story arcs: Why does Holdo wear an unflattering outfit that looks more suitable for dinner than war?

10. A couple of points for people who say it's sexist to dislike this movie:

a. I wanted more kick-ass Rey and less overly-impetuous Poe.

b. I wanted Phasma to have more time onscreen so her defeat would matter. She easily could've shared the high minion job with the blond guy who was in charge of defeating the Resistance fleet. In a truly feminist action movie, women would be prominent among the bad guys as well as the good guys.

11. A couple of points for people who say it's racist to dislike this movie:

a. I wanted more examples of why we should love Finn.

b. Rose is a fine addition to the cast, but her job was to be just as stupid as Poe and Finn by failing to go to her superior officers, and, in her big moment, to prevent Finn from doing the right thing by blowing up the cannon when there was no suggestion that any other means of success was available.

ETA Hamill is right about his character:


ETA 2: My greatest problem with The Last Jedi: the message of the Poe/Finn/Rose subplot is "Don't question authority."