There’s a lot of hate for The Last Jedi, and almost all of it comes from childish temper tantrums about how the movie didn’t conform to fan’s expectations. I’m not going to spend any time on these because it’s simply invalid criticism. If you’re angry that Luke Skywalker behaved in a way that you personally think is untrue to his character, that’s on you. If you’re angry about strong female characters calling out the toxic masculinity of your favorite shoot-from-the-hip tactics, that’s on you. If you’re angry that you feel there should have been giant reveals regarding Rey’s parents or Snoke’s backstory, that’s on you too. And if you just want to hate on Porgs, man, I want to trade lives with you because you got nothing better to complain about. Stop complaining, because none of these are the movie’s fault. They’re a result of you projecting your own expectations onto the movie and being disappointed that you don’t get everything you want. Get over it. The story is written, and its canon, so don’t be upset with Rian Johnson for letting you down, be upset with Luke Skywalker for letting you down.
That being said, the movie just isn’t good.
And it really frustrates me that nobody talks about all the real reasons it actually sucks because they’re caught up in all the wrong reasons they feel it sucks.
And let me start off by saying this: outside of the original trilogy and Rogue One, I think this is the best Star Wars movie. I mostly liked it! And it’s okay to like something and still admit that it’s not actually good. (see: The Mummy Returns)
There are quantifiable, objective problems with the storytelling in The Last Jedi. There are massive plot holes and inexcusable gaps of world logic that are perfectly capable of wrecking this movie without your fanboy hissy-fitting. So here, from a writer’s perspective, are my top 3 inexcusable writing errors in the Last Jedi.
(PS It was really hard to narrow it down to 3)
1. SURPRISE FORCE POWERS
This happens twice – Leia generates surprise Force powers out of nowhere that let her survive in outer space and fly back to the carrier, and Luke generates what can only be assumed is a well-practiced projection of himself halfway across the galaxy.
Some people hate this because these powers were not previously established. Director Rian Johnson Twitter-defended his choices with arguments such as this:
This is true - other movies demonstrated new Force powers without first explaining them. Force lightning, for instance, came out of nowhere. It’s totally legal to invent new manifestations of the Force.
The problem is that it’s bad writing.
I would argue that it’s not just bad writing, it’s self-catastrophic writing. Let me explain.
In order for us to feel connected with the main characters, we expect that we have the same information they have. That’s what makes them sympathetic, that we feel like we’re “in their shoes.” When you suddenly reveal that the hero can do something we didn’t know about, that breaks our connection with them. It is, essentially, lying to your audience for the sake of a cheap reveal. And once you break that trust, we can’t ever be as close to those characters again, because our trust has been betrayed.
When an enemy suddenly pulls out a new weapon (like Force lightning) it’s great because we are surprised and horrified – along with the hero. This raises the stakes because they were unprepared, and they now need to be even more clever to overcome their adversary. But it isn’t clever for the hero to use a new tool/power that was previous hidden from the audience. It simply feels like the writers couldn’t think of a better way out of the situation.
Let me put it this way. You’re watching a Bond movie and Bond is fighting a helicopter. He only has a pistol, a blowtorch watch, and a smoke grenade. It’s thrilling to watch him devise an escape plan using those known items. But if he suddenly reveals that he’s also an android and he can shoot missiles out of his nipples and he destroys the helicopter, that’s just cheating. It is exactly as not-clever as “But it was all a dream” because the writer is taking the known reality away from us and mocking us for believing in it.
We were previously worried about our hero, and this robs us of our ownership of that worry. “You thought Luke was in trouble? Guess what, he’s halfway across the galaxy, stupid!”
The worst part, the self-catastrophic part, is that these moments do damage to more than just their immediate scene. Once the writer establishes that they’re willing to pull cheap tricks like this, then the audience can never become re-engaged. No danger can make us worry for our hero again, because we can simply assume there will always be some other new previously unmentioned power/tool that can get them out of it in time. It removes all the stakes.
It isn’t a witty reveal, it’s a cop-out.
Bottom line: Don’t deceive your audience unless you’re also deceiving the main character. (Or, unless the entire point of the piece is to deceive them, in which case you’re Chuck Palahniuk and you’re probably not reading this)
2 HYPERSPACE TRACKING
So, the First Order hunts the Resistance using Hyperspace Tracking, which many people were upset with because it breaks the rules of established technology. Whatever. Governments constantly develop new technologies to deploy during war, this is fair.
“That’s impossible!” Poe whispers at the realization. Here’s the problem. Exactly EIGHTEEN SECONDS EARLIER in this EXACT SAME scene, we learn about something called “Cloaked Binary Beacons” which will allow someone … get this … TO TRACK YOU ANYWHERE IN THE GALAXY.
This is the magic plot device Rey will use to find them later. Only SEVEN LINES of dialogue separate this knowledge from the moment when Hyperspace Tracking is described as “Impossible” THREE TIMES IN A ROW.
ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME.
Nobody is surprised by the technology that lets you be tracked from anywhere, and then everybody is surprised by the other technology that lets you be tracked from anywhere. This is categorically the worst writing I can think of.
PERSON 1: Look I got the latest iPhone.
PERSON 2: Oh cool. I got the latest Samsung.
PERSON 1: WHAT IS THIS MAGIC DEVICE THAT MAKES LIGHTS AND SOUNDS?!? THIS TECHNOLOGY IS IMPOSSIBLE ARE YOU A WIZARD
Literally ANYBODY in that room should have said, “Um, maybe they hacked that cloaked binary beacon?” Like everyone in any movie ever who thought they were being tracked by the GPS in their phone, Leia should have rolled the window down and thrown her beacon into the back of a pickup truck going the other direction. But NOBODY thinks this. I can’t tell if the writing is dumb or everyone on board the ship is dumb, but either way there’s a lot of dumb dumbing around, which is FUCKING DUMB.
3 HOLDO’S PLAN
Soooo …. Holdo’s plan was to get all the way to the uncharted planet of Crait and then slip away from the main command carrier on unshielded transports. She “knows” that the First Order is “not monitoring little transports” so they’ll be able to escape to the planet undetected.
A) Does Holdo think the First Order CAN’T SEE THE PLANET? They know the command carrier is dangerously low on power, they’re watching it fly straight for a planet, and they’re not going to suspect the rebels are trying to, um … GO THERE?
B) Does Holdo think the First Order literally has NO SENSORS AT ALL? They don’t need to “monitor for little ships” because they just have to LOOK OUT THE FUCKING WINDOW. Don’t believe me? What about this scene in which Snoke LOOKS OUT THE FUCKING WINDOW and sees the ships trying to escape. We really needed the DJ betrayal plot point to give the First Order the same information that my dog gives me everytime a skateboarder goes by my street?
C) WHY THE FUCK DOESN’T SHE TELL ANYONE WHAT THE PLAN IS? I get why she doesn’t tell Poe because he’s being a dick to her. But why wouldn’t everybody else know they’re headed towards a Rebel base? Why would she intentionally keep her people in the dark about whether or not they’re ABOUT TO DIE?
D) If the plan is to evacuate the ship, maybe they should, instead, EVACUATE THE SHIP. I don’t want to bring up bad memories, but remember that whole awful Canto Bight Casino interlude? Finn and Rose just casually jumped into a transport and hyperspaced away from the chase scene, then came back again. Maybe umm … DO THAT. You know, with everyone. Ferry the 400 survivors off the carrier in short trips, because you just proved it’s SUPER EASY TO DO.
They could save literally everybody’s lives by putting them on a transport and hyperspacing away to LITERALLY FUCKING ANYWHERE and instead they um, DON’T DO THAT.
What about those other two ships – the medical frigate and the other one? Do they have the exact same shortage of fuel as the command carrier? All three ships all coincidentally only have one hyperspace jump left in them? We’ve already established that only one star destroyer is tracking them, but nobody thinks of SPLITTING UP?
WHAT THE FUCK IS GOING ON IN THIS MOVIE.
LITERALLY NOTHING MAKES SENSE.
STOP WHINING ABOUT HOW YOU DIDN’T LIKE ROSE. SHE WAS FUCKING AWESOME IN EVERY WAY (except for when she doomed them all by stopping Finn from blowing up the cannon). There are so many other parts of the movie that DESERVE your hate so STOP WASTING IT ON TOXIC FANBOY SEXISM.
Nathan Makaryk is an author and comedian, follow him on Twitter to hear him complain about other stupid things.
His debut historical fiction novel NOTTINGHAM retells the legend of Robin Hood from viewpoints of multiple people on both sides of the conflict. Published by Tor/Forge, available here.