Star Wars: The Last Jedi, What Went Wrong?


By: Owen Davies

Star Wars: The Last Jedi was released in theaters on December 15th 2017. As it stands it has a 91% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and a  shockingly low 48% audience score. The lowest of any Star Wars movie. Love it or hate it, it has been one of the most controversial movies, maybe of all time. Now that’s not necessarily to say I thought it was either a good or bad film, but there’s certainly a reason for all this controversy. After all, it’s Star Wars. This should be the franchise that appeals to everyone who sees it, so what exactly about it seems to be dividing audiences. The story, the characters, the writing, the politics? Everyone’s got their own theory, but here's my best guess at The Last Jedi, and what went wrong.

Before we dive into The Last Jedi, let's first start with its predecessor, The Force Awakens. When TFA hit theatres back in 2015, audiences were generally blown away. Aside from a few complaints of the unoriginal story, fans were left giddy with questions about  mysteries to come such as Rey’s parentage, Snoke origin, what happened to Luke, and ect. These many topics were debated and talked about all across the globe for years until The Last Jedi’s release, where the world hoped for answers. And too much of the world’s surprise, many of these questions were left either unanswered, or dismissed and seen an unimportant. Mysteries such as Rey’s parents were answered, but quickly brushed away. Snoke’s origin, and even significance were rendered meaningless as he was brutally killed off. And Luke’s big reveal, a moment audiences waited two years for, was pushed aside for a cheap laugh. So many plotlines, franchise relevant questions and revolutions that people have been waiting years for were shot down in a matter of minutes right before their eyes, and rendered meaningless. Why?, many audiences wondered. Were they taking the story in a new direction? Were Disney dissatisfied with the questions they were raising? Well the answer is quite simple actually, the change of directors.

But before we get into that, to be clear, many were not dissatisfied with Rian Johnson's decisions in TLJ. Many compared them to the original trilogy, in which many plot points and events were left without a backstory of explanation. The most prominent comparison is Emperor Palpatine to Supreme Leader Snoke, and how they were both mysterious leaders of an Empire without a known identity or backstory, who was betrayed and killed by his apprentice in his second theatrical appearance. This comparison is used by many as justification for Snoke’s death, saying that the unknown factor is what make the original trilogy so wonderful. This is a poor comparison and does not work in this new trilogy the way it worked in the original. For starters, in TFA, we follow Rey through the galaxy as she discovers all sort of revelations. She discovers that the ship she stole was the Millenium Falcon,  it’s owner was Han Solo, she discovers that he knew Luke Skywalker, Luke Skywalker is even real, and that the force isn’t a myth. Let’s compare this to what Luke learns in the original trilogy. He learns that the weird old hermit that lives next to him was Obi-Kenobi, his father was a Jedi, his father is Darth Vader, Leia is his sister, and just about everything else we know about the world of Star Wars today. So what’s the difference. It’s the simple fact that in the originals, when Luke discovers all of these things about the story, and the galaxy around him, so do we. We’re learning, and discovering along with him. With Rey, we are all well familiar with the things that she learns along her journey in TFA. We know the Falcon, we know Luke. Because we as the audience already know the answers to many of the questions Rey has in the new trilogy, then naturally the questions we don’t know the answers to raise a much bigger flag. These questions are of course, who are the Knight of Ren?, who are Rey’s parents?, where did The First Order come from? And of course the biggest of all, who is Snoke? The reason Snoke is so significant is because he is the catalyst the starts the new trilogy in the first place. He’s the one who revived the Empire, he’s the one who created Kylo Ren, and by doing so, sent Luke into hiding, and created the Resistance. The ending of Return of the Jedi seemed to be the end of the story of Star Wars, the Empire were defeated, the Rebels have won, the end. But it is because of Snoke that the story continues, and the conflict is reborn. The fact that his age and power seems to suggest that he was around and ever present during the older movies, makes people wonder how nobody has ever heard of him before, and he’s had no impact on the world around him until now. All of these factors seem to suggest that we would’ve been getting a new story that explains his origin and reason for his rise to power, to better understand and be invested in the story. People trusted that the responsible adults at Disney who get paid millions to write, direct, and produce these movies had a solid plan paved out for about how this trilogy would be set up, and where it would go. And truth be told, they probably did. But here is where the change of director problem comes in. It was announced that akin to the original trilogy, the new trilogy would have a new director for each movie, giving them complete creative control over each one of their movie. What could go wrong? With all the hype and expectation of audiences around the world on all of these convoluted question that JJ Abrams loves to create, people were naturally dying to get an answer. But the problem was, they had all already been given a million answers. Countless theories and explanation had already been created online, giving every type of answer for every sort of question. But writer/director of TLJ wasn’t satisfied with giving a run of the mill theory proving answer to the many question he was planning to answer in his Star Wars film. So what he did was shatter them, rendering most as either unimportant, or giving them disappointing answers. Hence Snoke’s death, for the sake of a shocking twist, rather than a continuous story. These disappointing answers have made audiences loose intrigue. And without intrigue, the story is lost.

And that is simply the problem with TLJ, it is too disconnected and distant from the grand story spanning nine movies in 40 years, all because of fan expectation, the change of directors, and disconnect of story. And that in my opinion, is what went wrong with The Last Jedi.