A major criticism of Episode VII: The Force Awakens is that it has many similarities to the original trilogy. Many of the same beats and character archetypes pop up in the 2015 production that were clearly lifted from the earlier films, but I just shrugged it off as nothing more than the creators trying to “get back to their roots.” But with the release of Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, I’m starting to think that the writers’ go-to move is just to copy-and-paste from the orig trig every time they get confused as to where the story should go. Now, as with any movie review I write, there will be SPOILERS ahead. So don’t go writing a bunch of snarky comments about how I ruined the movie for you because, joke’s on you,I don’t know how to read. I simply will these articles into being with my unbelievable midichlorian count and my blinding rage for that kid that played Anakin in Episode I. So, let’s get this bad boy started.
Now, let’s play a little game. I’ll describe a scene and you try to guess whether it’s from the new movie, or The Empire Strike Back. Ready? Here we go:
A young Jedi-in-training travels to a remote planet to find a kooky Jedi master to train them, only to be refused. The Jedi Master finally comes around and begins showing them the ways of the Force. But, the two of them have a falling out, resulting in the young hero galavanting off to save their friends.
So, what did you guess? Did you say Empire?
Well, the joke is on you, because it’s both. Okay, let’s try again…
An evil army, controlled by our monochromatic villain, converges on the rebel base located on a desolate planet.
Go ahead, guess. It’s got be Empire this time, right?
Well, you’re half-right. It’s both, again.
If you’re noticing a pattern, you’re not the only one. People across the country spent fifteen dollars to sit through a two-hour session of Deja vu. And unsurprisingly, they weren’t too happy about it. Couple that with more than a few odd choices, and you got yourself a bit of a mess. A fun mess, but a mess.
One of the oddest choices was to include yet another main character by the name of Rose, an Engineer(?) with pretty lose motivations for why she does what she does, other than her dead sister really believing in the rebellion, I guess. Her only other function seems to be as a love interest for Finn. But this raises more questions as he previously had romantic feelings for our heroine, Rey, in the last film. Unfortunately, those feelings seem to have dissipated in the interim. Or, maybe they’re setting up some conflict between the three of them in the next film. Or maybe it has something to do with “demographics” and “test audiences” that no Disney exec would be caught on record talking about, but who knows? She just felt really out of place to me.
Speaking of romance, there doesn’t seem to be any. By this time in the original trilogy, Han and Leia’s feelings for each other have surfaced, climaxing in the famous scene where Leia tells him that she loves him. And Han only responds with “I know” before being frozen in carbonite. It raised the stakes for our heroes, showing exactly what can be lost if they don’t prevail. And it made us care about these characters. By sharing that tender moment, we empathize with them, & it makes them more identifiable to the audience. But there’s no such moment like that in The Last Jedi. There’s an awkward smooch between an out-of-place character and the hero that we (I?) thought would get together with Rey. But, that’s about it.
Now, I know what some of you are thinking. “Rey is a strong, independent woman! She don’t need no man!”
Oh, silly reader. It must hurt to be so wrong all the time. Giving Rey a love interest doesn’t degrade her or make her any less heroic. Who watched Raiders of The Lost Ark and thought to themselves “Gee, this movie would’ve been great, but I don’t know why they had to degrade him by chasing after Marion Ravenwood.” Who watched The Fifth Element and thought Bruce Willis’ character was ruined by him and Lilu going to the Bone Zone at the end? The love interest is a time honored tool in the storyteller’s tool chest. Simply ignoring Rey’s sexuality or interest in some sort of romantic connection just makes her character lacking in depth. It makes her flat and uninteresting, and robs the story of truly high stakes. How much more interesting would it be if Rey had to not only save the galaxy, but also the man that she loves who sits helpless in the clutches of the enemy? Answer: A lot more. As it stands, we just have a bunch of platonic action figures shooting at each other. But that’s just one guy’s humble opinion.
But if you can look past the obvious flaws and copy/paste writing style, its really fun and enjoyable. Mark Hamill’s portrayal of a kooky old hermit is fun, and seeing the wizened old Jedi enter the cockpit of the Falcon again after so long is well worth the price of admission. Unfortunately, that cockpit is full of porgs now. But who knows, maybe I’m just cranky in my old age and this is the best Star Wars yet.