The Force Awakens was a remake of a New Hope. It had Darth Vader 2.0, Tatooine 2.0, and Death Star 3.0. Like a New Hope, it began by the “antagonist” coming after the protagonist over information they have. It had bland characters which existed to sell toys (looking at you BB-8), bring out our nostalgic feelings or just sucked. It was your regular movie with plot holes and Mary Su’s. The problems were pretty clear. But the lessons were not learned.
Rian Johnson managed to beat out JJ Abrams for worst non-prequel Star Wars movie.
There is no better example of this than the useless (and generally boring) Finn-Rose mission. For their mission, Finn and Rose went on an adventure to a casino planet, find the master code breaker, get to Snoke’s flagship, hack it and save the fleet. The only problem is, they failed to achieve their goal and actually ended up hurting the fleet because the master code breaker betrayed them and told the First Order the Resistance was cloaking their getaway ships. In essence, the only plot development that came from the thirty-minute charade could have been achieved twenty different ways in less than a minute.
Another example of useless plot is buildups that do not pay off. Take the characters of Snoke and Captain Phasma. Snoke was built up for a movie and a half as a powerful badass, possibly the most powerful force user we have seen on the big screen. And he was tricked (while gloating how he can read Kylo Ren’s mind) and cut in half by a lightsaber. Similarly, Captain Phasma for the second movie was bested easily. While on the subject of Captain Phasma . . .
Endless plot force
In Kingsman, the villain notably said “this is not that type of movie” when it came to killing the protagonist. The Last Jedi was that type of movie. After Finn and Rose were captured, Phasma choose not to immediately execute the two. Instead, we saw Phasma decide to delay the execution by calling in Stormtroopers to behead the pair and used a countdown. These two events were just enough to create tension but end with the characters surviving.
One of my favorite examples of this is the inability of the First Order to be able to properly use its overwhelming military power to stop the First Order. The entire opening sequence was the First Order being outmaneuvered. On the flip side, the ice wolves in the final act were plot force manifested into physical beings.
Can a “protagonist” of some importance die? Leia survived the bridge exploding and was sucked into space. She not only survived but flew back to the star cruiser. For another example, we can go back to the fight between Captain Phasma and Finn. After Phasma wins, it appeared Finn had died by plummeting into a hole in the Starship. In another example of plot force, Finn manages to survive (after BB-8 took over a walker to miraculously save them five minutes earlier) by landing on a rising platform and then, apparently, killing Phasma. Finn also manages to almost die later again but Rose sacrifices herself to save him. I will let you guess her outcome.
The blatant lack of stakes has a simple effect, it kills any apparent tension. In the Force Awakens, the death of Han Solo proved they were willing to kill the main character. It added stakes the Last Jedi lacked. Lucasfilm’s refusal to kill anyone in the Last Jedi makes clear no one has to worry about the protagonist dying or losing.
Just about every major scene was a throwback to the original trilogy. To paraphrase one tweet I saw, it was a funhouse of mishmashed original trilogy scenes. This should have not been a surprise, Rian Johnson’s only other major film, Looper, was a mishmash of Terminator, Back to the Future and Akira (credit to Sonny Bunch).
The opening and ending scenes were remakes of the Battle of Hoth. The throne room scene was from Return of the Jedi. Luke and Rey on a remote planet were Luke and Yoda on Dagobah while the resistance escaping the first order was the Millennium Falcon escaping the Imperial blockade.
Let me be clear, there were interesting parts to the Last Jedi. Kylo Ren’s and Rey’s shared scenes were all amazing, even when they were recycled. The characters had a clear chemistry every other pair in the trilogy lacks. Some moments were genuinely funny and the movie had a good fight scene. That is about it.
With all that said, here is how it stacks up against other Star Wars movies.
- Rogue One
- Revenge of the Sith
- The Empire Strikes Back
- A New Hope
- Return of the Jedi
- The Force Awakens
- The Last Jedi
- The Phantom Menace
- Attack of the Clones
If you want to read a professional review, I would suggest Sonny Bunch’s review, here.