“Let the past die. Kill it if you have to. It’s the only way to become who we were meant to be,” says Kylo Ren to Rey. Good advice actually. Even so, Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi had lacked some essentials.
“I give it a C plus,” I had said to a boyfriend-girlfriend couple. “That seems to be the general consensus,” they both said in agreement. “Really?” I replied, while coincidentally all three of us had seen the film on December 16 th the day after its general release. Turns out, it’s not a general consensus after later finding out fan responses are split on the film. While most critics loved it.
Be that as it may, there is an unmistakable uproar over The Last Jedi. While some fans are given to nit-pick with endless lists as to why it’s the worst film in the Star Wars franchise, I’ll give just three general essentials I believe the films lacks. Using the words of King Schultz from Django Unchained, who had said, “I realize passions are high,” let’s all be cool for now and go over the three. If any still haven’t seen the film, please depart for major spoilers are ahead.
Let’s begin with the first, to have a good villain. In this film, Kylo Ren is still a weak villain. In a recent December 18, 2017 online article, titled, “Star Wars: The Last Jedi is divisive, but Kylo Ren shouldn’t be – An all-time great villain,” by Julia Alexander of Polygon, she explains why, while to be fair she does initially say that her opinion may differ from others. “What constitutes a good villain, villains are not monsters,” she says, later explaining that Kylo Ren is not a sadistic blood-hungry character. Then later, she adds, “At the heart of Kylo Ren’s personality, and what makes him a true villain, is selfishness. He can see what needs to be done for the greater good, and he turns his back on it to ensure he gets what he wants.”
Furthermore, Ms. Alexander states another key point, as perhaps her most important overall, as she says, “What I love most about Kylo Ren’s character, however, is his obvious sadness and vulnerability.” After reading such comments it was hard to find any fault. All of her key points may be true, yet all that still doesn’t negate that Kylo Ren is still a weak villain. One may ask, “Well alright then, Darryl what do you consider a good villain?” Fair question, so here goes.
A good strong villain, at the character’s core, makes you care about the hero, while at the same time, makes both the villain and the hero interesting. It’s rather a dynamic symbiotic relationship of sorts, involving mutual growth however long the story or a saga lasts. How does this happen?
Answer, a good villain puts the hero, or the heroine, through the paces, to embolden the hero to greater resourcefulness, to be ever more creative and ingenious. Again growth on both sides. All the while, there’s that sense of imperilment upon the hero while the villain puts the hero through the paces, and doesn’t let up of course until the climax. This is why the Batman film The Dark Knight is still considered not only the best comic book film, but also one of the best films ever made. Which also, earned actor Heath Ledger a posthumous Best Supporting Actor Oscar as the Joker. There simply wasn’t any of that dynamic in both The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.
All which leads to that second essential, to have a believable hero, or in this case heroine. Rey is not a believable heroine. In a December 20, 2016 online article, titled, “Rogue One: The Second Failure At A Believable Female Lead,” by Katie Frates of The Daily Caller, Ms. Frates explains why both Rey and Jyn Erso have come pre-packaged, and thus aren’t portrayed as believable. I actually partly disagree, having already gone on record saying though both are likeable, Jyn Erso is more believable than Rey. Stated in the second paragraph from last in my previous December 21, 2016 Huffpost blog, titled, “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Epic And Spectacular.”
The reason which led me to the conclusion that Jyn Erso is a believable heroine is simple. When Saw Gerrera Rebel insurgent takes Jyn then a young girl about five under his care, shortly after the death of her mother and the abduction of her father both by the Empire, there’s every reason to believe that he had to have taught her how to fight as she grew up. Though overall, Ms. Frates does make a good point, stating, “There will be no new impressive female leads for a very long time, so long as we’re too scared to portray women as humans with imperfections. Rey still has time, and hopefully we will see a genuine effort to evolve her past the perfect, shrink-wrapped product The Force Awakens presents her to be.” Of course that was then, now has arrived.
Even so, you’ll still hear some say, “Well, Rey was just naturally born strong with the Force.” So was Luke! See, people seem to conveniently forget that climatic moment when even Darth Vader said, “The Force is strong with this one.” This, while he tried to blow up Luke’s X-Wing fighter in the Death Star trench in Episode IV - A New Hope, and would have succeeded had not Han and Chewie came to the rescue. Furthermore, just before Luke’s first lightsaber battle with Vader in Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back, Vader repeats, “The Force is with you, young Skywalker. But you are not a Jedi yet.” That was a powerful statement, and meant to be so.
It took Luke the third film, Episode VI - Return of the Jedi, to perform the Jedi mind trick, after Yoda made him go through arduous training in Episode V. While Rey does it on the second try in The Force Awakens. Yoda sweated the hell out of Luke during training in Episode V, after having said, “A Jedi must have the deepest commitment, the most serious mind.” Who gave us a lasting impression, that to become a Jedi must be way harder than becoming a Navy SEAL, whose training motto is, “Your easiest day was yesterday.”
In The Last Jedi, suddenly Rey’s power in the Force is by a quantum leap, with no training by Luke while on the island of Ahch-To. Even when Snoke chastises Kylo Ren, the First Order leader says, “You’ve been bested by a child who before never held a lightsaber in her life.” That which happened in The Force Awakens. Whereas near the end of The Last Jedi, she miraculously clears lifting all the heavy rocks simultaneously off the ground to allow the Resistance to escape.
The third and last essential is, to respect an enduring Jedi Legacy. One of my favorite scenes in the Oscar winning film Gladiator, has General Maximus saying, “Five thousand of my men are out there in the freezing mud. Three thousand of them are bloodied and cleaved. Two thousand will never leave this place. I will not believe that they fought and died for nothing.”
In The Last Jedi, they disrespected the Jedi Legacy. Still, some say, “Well, it’s no longer about any chosen family or about a chosen one (meaning about the Skywalkers).” That’s not the point. There still remains that during the 800 years Yoda has trained Jedi’s, that many have sacrificed.
All this of course, involves the scene when Yoda appears in astral form to Luke while on the island of Ahch-To, shortly after some Jedi ancient texts were burned up. Sure there’ve been bad apples like Count Dooku, Vader, and Kylo Ren. Yet, the gist of their conversation came to the conclusion that such a storied legacy should die. The Jedi Legacy should be a worthy one, maintaining the honor of its creation given to the creator of the saga George Lucas.
Another scene begs to be mentioned. It involves the showdown between Luke and Kylo Ren aka Ben Solo, that to me immediately recalled a scene from Iron Man 3. Near end of Iron Man 3, we naturally assumed Tony Stark was in the suit while dramatically saving thirteen people, all of whom were about to fall to their deaths out of the disabled president’s plane Air Force One. Turns out in a later scene, Stark remote controlled the suit, while safely on a boat with best-bud Lt. Col James “Rhodey” Rhodes. That was lame.
Near the end of The Last Jedi while on the planet Crait, Luke appears to confront the might of the First Order armed with AT-M6 walkers, with Kylo Ren in the lead vehicle. After ordering all guns to fire upon Luke, after the salvo, Luke remains standing defiant with lightsaber ready. A dramatic lightsaber fight then ensues between Luke and Kylo Ren, yet it’s later revealed Luke had projected a phantom image of himself on Crait, while in reality he was still on the island Ahch-To. That was also lame. And that’s not Luke Skywalker.
A film directed by Rian Johnson, all things considered, I give The Last Jedi a C plus, equivalent to two and a half stars out of five.