Rian Johnson could have given Luke, Leia and Chewbacca more to do. And would it have hurt to have what Poe, Finn and Rose did do matter in the end?
We get it. It's not easy to make a big blockbuster movie and please everyone. And while critics adore Rian Johnson's "Star Wars: The Last Jedi," a lot of fans are pretty upset about this sequel to J.J. Abrams' "The Force Awakens."
What's done is done and no amount of Change.org petitions or trolling of Rotten Tomatoes is going to change that, but we had a few ideas we felt were worth sharing in wake of the massive fan debate that has erupted since the movie hit theaters last week.
While we enjoyed the movie overall, we completely understand where some fans are coming from, because the movie did make some strange choices and some characters were completely underserved. "Star Wars" is a franchise built on lovable and eccentric characters, and the character work was definitely lacking in a major way with this film.
Below are nine easy fixes Johnson could have made in the writing process that would have strengthened this film, and kept more fans happy.
Give Chewbacca Something to Do:
Chewie is one of the franchise’s most beloved and badass characters, and yet he was reduced to just a few functions: Introducing children to the cute porg toy they’ll be bugging their parents for this Christmas, kicking a door down, and flying the Millennium Falcon. Poor guy was sitting on that boring island as long as Rey (Daisy Ridley) and Luke (Mark Hamill) were, but barely got any screen time or anything to do.
It would have been nice to at least give him a moment of bonding with Rey, who we assume will be take over for Han Solo (Harrison Ford) as his most trusted friend. Or make him fix something. Anything. As past "Star Wars" movies have proven, it only takes a few meaningful moments with the wookie to make him feel like an integral part of the movie — like that time he saved C-3PO in "The Empire Strikes Back" or finally let Han borrow his signature crossbow in "Force Awakens."
Hell, we're surprised he could resist the urge to take a look at Luke's (Mark Hamill) sunken X-Wing and see if he could fix it up with spare parts laying around the Falcon. Even if he failed, it could have provided some better humorous moments with the animal life on Luke's island, as well as interactions with his old friend. The two went through some pretty major events together, and should have shared their grief over the death of Han Solo. Instead, poor Chewie was ignored and left to fend for himself, eating barbecued porg.
Actually, now that we think about it, he was robbed of his dinner, too.
Luke Could Have Helped Rey Where He Failed Kylo Ren:
The first half of “The Last Jedi” consists of Rey trying to convince Luke to come out of seclusion to fight the First Order, or at least train her so she can. He resists both, mostly because he sees great power in Rey, who seems to be naturally drawn to the dark side of The Force. That terrifies him because his former apprentice, Ben Solo (Adam Driver), was also drawn to the dark side and things didn’t work out so well. In fact, Luke confides in Rey that he banished himself because he sees himself as a complete failure after losing control of his former apprentice, who attacked the Jedi master (or defended himself, depending on whose story you believe) and then ran off with some of Luke's recruits to join Supreme Leader Snoke.
Ultimately, Rey gives up on any training or wisdom from Luke and leaves him to wallow in his self pity while she tries to lure a conflicted Kylo Ren back to the light. While her plan doesn’t work out, she does help Ren kill Snoke but refuses to join him as the new leaders of the First Order and escapes to help the remaining Rebels in their noble fight. Luke shows up at the last second to challenge Kylo Ren and ends up distracting the bad guy long enough so that the Rebels can escape to fight another day, but here’s where the story really let the audience down (in our humble opinion, at least). Half the movie was spent on Luke and Rey without much pay off. He doesn’t teach her anything and she doesn’t seem to learn much from him.
The best that can be said is his time with Rey inspires him to help out the rebels, but there’s never any closure between them. Luke dies without ever interacting with Rey again, which leaves a very powerful young woman who is naturally drawn to the dark side of The Force without any real mentor to guide her as she grapples with her abilities and place in the world. It doesn’t help that she comes from nothing (more about that later) and has little connection to the few rebels left swinging.
But there was a really simple, more exciting, suspenseful, dramatic and emotional climax begging to be played out: Rey should have taken Kylo Ren’s hand and given in to the dark side — as it was made very clear it was calling out to her — and she should have been on Kylo Ren’s side while the First Order was closing in on the Rebels outside the salt mine. Then Luke appears to challenge Kylo Ren and talk some sense into Rey in the process, which would have given him real purpose: Save the LAST JEDI from turning to the dark side! The script could have killed two birds with one stone by having Luke confront his former pupil while making sure not to repeat the same mistake of giving up on an apprentice just because he’s scared of their power.
Luke making the final effort to give Rey the guidance and purpose she’s been begging for would have made his showdown and sacrifice more emotional for everyone involved (including the audience), and it would have been a bold move to make the audience think Rey was really going to stand by and watch the First Order slaughter the Rebels and her friend Finn. Throw in Rey wreaking havoc inside that heavy assault walker, plus Chewie scooping Rey up in the Millennium Falcon, and audiences would have had a lot more to cheer for.
Cut Finn’s Casino Adventure:
Turns out Finn (John Boyega) and Rose’s (Kelly Marie Tran) adventure to find the ultimate code breaker at a casino table (oh hey Justin Theroux!) was completely unnecessary. It was literally a multi-million dollar misdirect, since they accomplished nothing and General Leia (Carrie Fisher) and Vice Admiral Holdo (Laura Dern) had a better plan up their sleeve, anyway — even if that plan just became ramming a spaceship into another. We think the filmmakers just needed to give Finn something to do in this movie, but since the movie clocked in at over two-and-a-half hours, they could have probably given Finn something else to do that took less time and had more of an effect on the story.
Given his Stormtrooper background, Finn and Rose could have infiltrated the First Order as Stormtroopers to get on board their ship. The pair could have shared some genuine bonding moments (which would have justified that kiss later at least a little) as Finn tries to train her how to walk and act properly, and even better she would be "a little short for a Stormtrooper." With this setup, a more dangerous reunion between Finn and Captain Phasma (Gwendoline Christie) could occur as he has to try and hide his identity, and pass Rose off as a fellow trooper.
Perhaps most importantly, they could have at least accomplished something. Even if they couldn't get the light speed tracker disabled, maybe they could have gotten the formula for it, or at least a partial formula, so the rebels could start working on a blocker or defense of some kind. This way the entire adventure wouldn't have been wasted and the time wasted on the casino could have been spent enriching Finn, Rose and Phasma.
Finn and Rey Needed a Moment:
Finn’s actions were largely motivated by his desire to save Rey — a character that doesn’t really need saving — but they didn’t connect in the entire movie and this new trilogy is built on their connection. Even as the movie is wrapping up, Finn and Rey never have a scene together, she only sees him looking after his new gal pal, Rose. We’re fine with him having a romantic connection with Rose (or ya know, his true love Poe, played byOscar Isaac), but “The Force Awakens” and Finn himself in “The Last Jedi” really established his Rey relationship would be among the most important in the franchise going forward.
They may have been separated by light years throughout the film, but that’s no excuse, given all of the Jedi mind tricks Rey was learning and taking advantage of to connect with Kylo Ren. Here’s an idea: Since Rey can seemingly do whatever the hell she wants with her powers without any real training, it wouldn’t have been a stretch for her to communicate telepathically with Finn to at least let him know she’s OK.
Captain Phasma Should Have Mattered:
If her anticlimactic death was truly the end of the silver Stormtrooper captain, then it was a tremendous waste of Gwendoline Christie's talents as an actress, and a huge disappointment for a character with tremendous creative potential. Phasma was Finn's personal Darth Vader, in a way, and the dynamic between them was ripe for continued drama. Her obsessive desire to destroy him was strong enough to derail her mission parameters, but it also spoke volumes of her leadership, cruel as it may be.
We don't know how many troopers were under her command, but she knew and remembered Finn. Hers was almost an abusive parent relationship to the troopers under her command, and that would have been interesting to explore as Finn ultimately breaks free from her, rejects her intimidation, and becomes his own man. It would be a logical arc of character growth and progression for a man who had no identity or name when we first met him.
Further, as Captain of the Stormtroopers, she could have had meaningful interactions with the First Order command staff, representing the soldiers on the frontline in the ongoing war with the rebel scum. As a twisted mother figure, she would have a vested interest in making sure her troopers aren't sent to the slaughter, though she might ultimately be overruled. Humanizing this character would add depth not only to Finn and the structure of the First Order, but to all of the faceless Stormtroopers who try so desperately each film to just hit one shot.
Rey Needed Some Boundaries:
The Force was strong with both Luke and Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) in previous “Star Wars” movies, but Rey must have been born by a nuclear power plant or something because her abilities have mutated beyond strong; she’s basically a superhero. We had to wait two full movies before Luke finally learned how to properly wield a lightsaber or use those Jedi mind tricks. Rey was battle ready by the end of “Force Awakens” and almost took out one of the most feared men in the galaxy.
Girl power is great and all, but what makes characters interesting is actually the obstacles they face and how they overcome them. If she can effortlessly move a ton of boulders or kill any elite guard the First Order throws at her with no formal combat training, it’s not as suspenseful or exciting and also risks the audience’s suspension of disbelief, which is largely guided in this franchise by rules George Lucas established in the original trilogy.
Snoke Was Wasted:
We weren’t sure what the hell a Snoke was in “The Force Awakens” and we’re still not sure after seeing “The Last Jedi.” Not only was the reveal of his physical appearance completely underwhelming after only seeing holograms before that, but then he just kinda, uh, died. Seconds after telling Rey he knew Kylo Ren’s every intention — which suggested the Supreme Leader could read thoughts — Snoke was caught off guard by his apprentice literally using his mind to aim a lightsaber at his torso. Clever move, but we’re a little confused as to how Snoke didn’t see it coming, considering he was also powerful enough to link Kylo Ren’s and Rey’s minds.
For all we know, Snoke was literally wasted. Maybe his face is deformed because a bad drunk driving accident. Considering “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi” didn’t really give us much info about this big bad guy before he was killed off, that theory is as good as any others out there.
We’re also not sure whether Kylo Ren was always planning a mutiny or if he was just motivated to strike because he has feelings for Rey. Character motivations didn't seem to be all that important in "The Last Jedi."
On a separate note, wouldn’t it have been cool if Snoke was revealed to be Yoda’s size? His holographic projections in “The Force Awakens” were massive and only showed his big ugly head, so it wouldn’t have been far-fetched that Snoke was very self conscious about his size and perhaps even driven to take over the universe because of his own insecurities about his height and appearance. Plus, that Hugh Hefner-esque wardrobe wasn’t a particularly strong costume design choice, either.
Finn, Rey and Poe Needed to Spend Some Time Together:
We're not looking for a retread of the original trilogy, but it's pretty clear that Rey, Finn and Poe are the new Luke, Leia and Han of the sequel trilogy. So why is it that this trio has literally spent zero time together? One of the reasons "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi" worked was because we got to see these dear friends separated and brought back together in new and exciting ways. Two films into this new trilogy, and our new trio aren't even friends yet.
Rey didn't even meet Poe until the closing moments of "Jedi," and as we mentioned before, she spent literally zero time with Finn in this installment. Our investments in characters are strengthened by the bonds they have with one another, but Poe's only bonds are with BB-8 and Leia, who spent the film in a coma. Finn was given a new playmate in Rose, while Rey spent the bulk of the film with Luke. Had the three of them bonded during "Force," this separation would have been compelling as we anticipated the climactic moment that would bring the three friends together. Instead, we're faced with disparate personalities who don't know one another at all, and thus fans are having a harder time connecting with all of them collectively.
Imagine how powerful "Episode IX" would be if it was about this trio of heroes coming together again as friends and allies to fight the First Order. If they cared about one another on a personal level, then we would care that much more when one of them was in mortal danger, and we would cheer when they reunited, rather than realizing that these people barely know one another after two movies.
General Leia Shouldn't Have Been Sidelined Again
While it seems pretty clear that the intention was for Leia to have a larger part in "Episode IX," that's no excuse to sideline her almost completely for this installment in favor of Laura Dern's Vice Admiral Holdo. Especially after she barely had more to do than Luke in "The Force Awakens."
Dern did fine as a stern commander, but the odd choice for her to be a complete stranger to Poe made little sense, and the lesson he had to learn about leadership would have been more compelling had it come from his trusted mentor and ally, Leia. It would have shown viewers what a strong commander she is, willing to make the tough calls, and why these people are willing to fight and die for her.
Leia is the spirit of this rebellion just as Leia was the emotional center of the original trilogy. She's just too pivotal to spend so much of the film in a coma. Holdo could have still been left in charge of the bridge, but working under Leia's orders instead of her own. Not understanding the strategy, Poe would have had the same bone-headed defiance, but it would have been a more powerful moment for him to go behind Leia's back, and then have to face her after everything went wrong. Theirs is a mother-son relationship, and as Poe is maturing into leadership, friction is inevitable. Disappointing her and learning a hard lesson from it would have had far more impact had it been Leia directly he was defying, rather than someone the audience wasn't sure about, either.