Star Wars is one of the mega-dynasties of filmmaking, and everyone has an opinion. Today you guys get to hear MINE.
Since this is a space to talk storytelling, I want to momentarily set aside things like aesthetics, sound design, and performance to instead focus on comparing The Last Jedi and The Empire Strikes Back.
The stories are similar. In Empire: heroes Han, Leia, and Luke are being tracked and harassed by The Empire. In The Last Jedi : Our heroes Rey, Poe, and Finn are being tracked and harassed by The First Order. Both are the second installment in trilogies, both are set in the Star Wars Universe, and yet one is a beloved cinematic classic and the other I found really disappointing. Why?Introducing A New Character
The Last Jedi introduces Rose Tico, a lovable idealist. She proves just how lovable and how idealistic she is time and time again.
Empire introduces Lando Calrissian, a charming pragmatist. His loyalties are tested, and our trust in him is broken and redeemed.
My Suggested Fix: Rose’s idealism needs to be tested in a way that impacts the future of other characters. Perhaps she has to choose between saving Finn or saving a transporter full of the top Resistance brass? Seeing her choice and how that choice haunts her and how she has to justify and redeem herself would be a compelling viewing.
When Benicio Del Toro’s hacker character turns in Finn and Rose to The First Order I am neither surprised or hurt.
When Lando walks Leia and Han into a dining room with Vader, I am outraged. How DARE you! What is different about these two scenarios? In Empire, the stakes are clear, high, and the repercussions are felt immediately.
My Suggested Fix: Let our heroes be tortured by the buzzy nightstick thing, or better yet, separated from each other until the third movie carbonite style. Definitely, do not allow them to be rescued right away and for Finn to take vengeance his old tormentor. That would feel unearned. The betrayal needs to have serious consequences for the people in the room as well as the broader storyline. How does the betrayal effect Stoke, Maz or The Resistance? I need to know specifically.
Luke As Life Saving Distraction
In The Last Jedi, Luke returns from exile to comfort his sister, plant the idea of a back entrance to the cave, and
taunt distract his former pupil. EXCEPT IT WAS ALL A DREAM! He was only force-projecting himself from his weird hermitage.
I feel like anyone who is familiar with storytelling know to avoid the ‘it was all a dream’ ploy. It has a tendency to infuriate audiences.
In Empire, Luke must sacrifice his future as a Jedi Knight in order to help his friends. Then, his life is fundamentally changed by his experience there, physically and mentally. It changes his whole arc for the trilogy.
My Suggested Fix: Luke should actually be there risking his life. He needs to sacrifice something to be there. Instead of dying from force exhaustion(?) I want him to die as Obi-Wan did in A New Hope. It would have been sad, and mystical, and [expletive] fitting to have history repeating itself.
Also, Poe was being a real stubborn jerk who put a lot of people in danger because he wouldn’t listen to the people (women) in power.
If the only conflict your character has can be solved by a conversation – then it isn’t a very interesting conflict.
Do better Poe. Also, keep a closer eye on your droid, you’ve spent two movies apart.
Kudos: Confronting the Dark Side
Because I don’t like to be a negative Nancy all the time, I’m going to end on something I really liked in this movie. I think the confrontation between Kylo and Rey was as good or better than the (truly great) confrontation between Luke and Vader. Bold statement, I know.
The scene is one of the most famous in cinema, but I think they topped it.
When Kylo and Rey face each other it is richer because there is an established complex relationship in place. In Empire, before this scene, Vader was just a looming weird breathing bad guy. Menacing, yes, but not really much more than a mustache-twirling baddie.
The lightsaber ripping confrontation in The Last Jedi cements the complex relationship between Kylo and Rey at the heart of the trilogy, and I cannot wait to see how it plays out.