Welcome to PART TWO: CHUCK WENDIG RUINS THE STAR WARS SEQUEL TRILOGY. In case you missed part one, welp, it’s right over here.
Now, it’s time to discuss: The Last Jedi.
Two things we need to get out of the way at the fore:
First, I really love this movie. Truly. I think it’s great. I don’t know that it’s my favorite Star Wars movie, or that it’s the “best” in terms of quality, but it’s up there for me on both. Let’s be clear, the sequence that takes us from Throne Room Fight Scene to Execution to Torn Lightsaber to Holdo Maneuver is one of the tightest in the whole nine films.
Just the same, I do not consider it a perfect movie, in part because no perfect movie exists. Also, the curious way that they made this trilogy — a little bit Whisper Down The Lane, wasn’t it? — lead to a quilt where each square doesn’t always feel like it matches the one next to it.
Second, this movie is way less subversive than everybody says it is. It introduces some big question marks, yes. What if the Jedi were just ego-fed shitheads and need to die? What if Kylo is right? What if the Resistance is just as bad as the First Order? Should Benicio del Toro stop playing comically mush-mouthed nobodies? Truth is, most of the subversive elements are put to bed.
a) Kylo wants “the past to die,” but it’s really only because he hates being haunted by it. He wants it all to “end” but continues to lead the First Order and continues his fight against the Jedi and Skywalker and the Resistance. He doesn’t turn over a new leaf, he’s just the same leaf.
b) What’s Luke gonna do, go out and face the old First Order with a laser sword? Turns out, yeah, that’s exactly what he’s gonna do.
c) Sure, you’re saying, “But he did it in a way that was passive, and non-aggressive.” You mean like how he ended ROTJ? By giving up the fight?
d) “He threw away his lightsaber!” Again, which is one the last acts we saw from Luke… in ROTJ. He threw away his lightsaber. It’s not odd that he starts by throwing it away, and then they complete the circuit by having him pick it back up again at the end (illusory though it may be). Even Broom Boy at the end is seen… hoisting a pretend saber. This isn’t subversive, this is just Star Wars.
e) “Oh my god, the weapons dealer is selling to the Resistance, too, the unnamed hacker guy said so, I guess we’re all bad, so Don’t Join.” Right, except Mister Don’t Join turns out to be a skeevy piece of shit, and it only confirms Finn’s choice to be, in his words, “Rebel Scum.”
f) “Oh shit, Yoda just destroyed the Sacred Tree and the Jedi Texts!” Except Yoda is a tricksy little gremblin, and says, paraphrased, Rey already possesses what she requires. Which is to say, he knows she took the books.
g) “The hot shot hero plan didn’t work! It always works!” Except when it doesn’t, like in ESB, where Luke abandons his training and accomplishes nothing except for getting his hand chopped off. And then honestly, Holdo kinda does her own hot shot hero move anyway?
h) “This movie is all about failure! Nobody wins!” Again, ESB anyone? That film is a series of cascading failures. One after the next. Poor choices left and right.
i) “But Luke is an embittered old trickster now!” Cough cough, Yoda, cough cough Obi-Wan.
) “The Jedi must end.” And then at the end, Luke is like, “Wait, no, fuck that shit, Rey is the Last Jedi.” He undoes what he’s done. He has reconnected to the Force. He’s returned to the fight. He’s saved the Resistance, saved the Jedi, and become the Master he was meant to be. It’s not a shattering of the old ways and the order, it’s — to use their metaphor — a spark to relight the fire.
So, that’s a long way to say: not as subversive as you think. Maybe still subversive in some ways, but usually in ways that surprise us, plot-wise.
With all that said, let us speak of what I’d change.
I Kinda Hate The Force Awakens Cliffhanger
The cliffhanger at the end of TFA is a bit gormless, isn’t it? It’s predicated on a question of… oooh, ahhh, will he take the lightsaber or not? It has no teeth. It’s not a compelling leave-off point. Not life-or-death. Not big-holy-shit-consequence. And it then forces the next film, this one, to begin right where the last one ended. Which is so… not Star Wars.
So, and I know this should’ve gone in the last post, I might fuck that up a bit. I’d end TFA on Rey leaving the Resistance base — and that’s it. You leave on the promise of adventure. The hope that Luke is out there somewhere.
Then, in this film, you open weeks later.
The Resistance base has moved already — because they evacuated upon threat of annihilation like anyone would — and Rey has been gone for weeks. No peep. Maybe a broken communication or something like that. But hope is fleeting.
So, the big question then is, Where’s Rey? She’s discovered that finding Luke on a whole damn planet isn’t that fucking easy. She’s on Ahtchhrthch-To (I can never spell it) with Chewie and Artoo, about to give up — and who knows, maybe it’s a Force vision, or maybe Artoo gives a clue, or maybe they just fucking see Luke standing there like a curmudgeonly jerk waving his cane to GET OFF MY ISLAND YOU DAMN KIDS. But she finally finds him. (TBH, I’d have her summoned by the creepy tree, and while she’s in there, Luke finds her.)
When the film opens, the New Republic is in tatters and has retreated only to the Core Worlds, the new Resistance base has been discovered, and they’re having to evacuate again. Which leads to the question already of, how are they being tracked? Is there a mole? (It should be their first question.) They have to flee, and mount a hasty evacuation as the dreadnaught rolls in, and mostly the film proceeds apace from there.
DJ And The Casino Planet
The middle of this movie vexes me.
It vexes me.
I like it in theory, but it presents for me a few problems:
a) It’s a simplistic thematic jab — “Wealth is a corrupter! Slavery is bad! Money funds the First Order” without ever really giving those big ideas their due. It’s too short and too simplistic to really bring those ideas home to land. And tying into the rest of the film feels muddy.
b) It’s like a 20 minute farcical spy movie in the middle of… something that is decidedly not. It feels tonally strange, an odd narrative diversion that should either be the whole film, or none of the film.
c) It’s a bit too shiny. It has that prequel-era glitz-and-gloss, when most of Star Wars is a little down-and-dingy. A bit too CGI. And then you get the singing balloon lady and the GARSH GEE OFFICER Texan alien (wtf) and the too-shiny Spaceballs security force?
d) It’s both heinously convenient and inconvenient in equal measure. They show up. The guy they want is unavailable. They end up in jail with a guy who can do exactly (!) what they need even though there was only one cracker in the whole damn galaxy who could do it (?) and then they steal a ship and ride some Space Donkeys and — fuck, I dunno.
I love Rose. I love Finn. I want more for them.
The big reason this section vexes me is because I don’t know precisely what to do with it. It’s mostly a fetch quest — “Go get this guy, okay you got someone like him, and good job, you wrecked some shit along the way.” It has a POV, though, and a thing to say, and I appreciate anytime anything has a thing to say — it turns a fetch quest into something that isn’t shallow.
That still doesn’t mean it sings for its supper though.
Two options, here.
Dirty this sequence up a bit. Put it in a Casablanca / Marrakesh stand-in. Hot, sweltering, filthy. Hive of scum and villainy. But still full of rich people — think Indy versus Belloq in terms of vibe. Bond versus Le Chiffre. Less operahouse and more Rick’s, y’dig? It’s swarming with ex-Imperials and First Order officers who are either AWOL or making weapons deals or whatever. You can’t just waltz around the place. We learn that Rose grew up here or near here and it’s a whole thing for her — she gets to still have her crusade against the corruptive power of money, the abuse of the racing animals, what-have-you. Finn gets to witness her pain, see what the Resistance is rebelling against — a hint of power structures that have to come crashing down. A hint of a fight far larger than just… blasting stormtroopers (or being them).
Maybe it’s Lando who facilitates the meeting with the slicer? The slicer, not-DJ, would have a fucking name, for one thing. (It annoys me that they meet this stuttering Jughead, never ask his name, get on his ship, and just… follow him blindly onboard a massive First Order ship. “Don’t Join” is not a name.) I think he’s literally the slicer that has been recommended to them, and they escape First Order clutches or security details to get to him — and he’s like Han, he wants money, a promise of money, but you think because Lando recommended him he’s above board. And he isn’t.
He eventually betrays them, just as DJ does.
Because sometimes the Lowest Common Denominator is just that.
This option gives you most of the same beats, but addresses a couple of my issues — it cuts out some plot middlemen, it puts it in what for me would be a more trilogy-appropriate location, and you could still have some cool action sequences. Maybe less “riding random creatures,” which feels just as exploitative” and more a scene as they run across the track, which causes havoc, and still lets them free the Space Donkeys. Because who doesn’t love Space Donkeys?
(Fathiers, I know, I know.)
(Here some chode will note that I misspelled “fathiers” in Aftermath, calling them “faithiers” but that’s how it was initially spelled when it got popped into that draft.)
Cut the whole sequence.
Cut out DJ.
Instead: Rose knows how to shut off the hyperspace tracker. Finn knows his way around a big-damn First Order ship. Poe concocts some crazy-ass plan to get them on board — hiding in the wreckage of one of their own ships, and as Snoke’s Pleasure Palace cruises by overhead, they jet on board? I dunno. Or BB-8 has some slicey-slicey ability. It really doesn’t matter. Just get to the point, and the point is putting them on that ship.
You get some nice bonuses out of this option —
– You can do worldbuilding. We can see what life on Snoke’s Pleasure Palace is like — has he introduced plant life, or does he play shah-tezh chess, or have an opera house? Do we see where the stormtrooper children are housed and trained, ala Delilah’s Phasma novel? Some Palpatine echoes here would go a long way to presaging what’s to come.
– Finn and Rose have some pent-up anger about the First Order. They killed her sister. They stole him from his home. If Rose and Finn see kids being taken and brainwashed, now we’ve presented him and her with a real dilemma — do the mission and shut off the tracker, or save these kids? Can they do both? You can bet they’d try. (And now we have a new origin for where Broom Boy comes from.) Saving kids is noble, and powerful, and generational. (And note, the kids they meet in the current film… are still slaves at the end of it. Which feels a little gross.)
– Phasma can have more of a presence as she hunts Finn and Rose to capture them. We don’t need a DJ-betrays-them scene, we just need Phasma to be in on the communication that Poe gives, thus accidentally selling out Holdo’s plan.
– And best of all, we can start working on Finn’s true arc, hinting at what will come in Rise of Skywalker — he’s fucking Force sensitive. When Rey steps on board that ship? He senses her. Which he doesn’t understand, but he knows it’s true. It’ll blip our radars and be a feeling that the act of him picking up the saber in part one, and his attachment to Rey, is about more than just Finn being Finn. He’s connected to the Force.
Again, this allows the movie to mostly play out as it does, but it cuts a lot of fat out of the middle, and gives us a stronger focus on Finn and Rose in the heart of the beast.
The Fuck Is Black Squadron?
Tiny point, but where the fuck is Black Squadron? WHERE MAH SNAP WEXLEY AT. Jess Pava! Kare Kun! At least tell us that they’re zipping around the galaxy, trying to scare up support for the Resistance, yeah?
Poe and Holdo
There’s some argument here made by minds wiser than I, that there is a racial component at play here — Poe being the hotheaded Latino, Holdo being the stern white lady reprimanding him. I can’t speak to that, and it’s not my place to be a Woke Scold, but I trust if people tell me that’s how they feel, then that’s a consideration to be made. Easy enough solve here is to cast Holdo as a woman of color. If you want an older actress, but still glamorous as Holdo is — Angela Bassett, Salma Hayek, Michelle Yeoh. I’d be sad to lose Laura Dern because, c’mon, Laura Dern. She makes a pyoo sound as she shoots her blaster! How adorable! At the same time, imagine any of those other women in that role and oof, mmm, yeah. It works. And it theoretically changes any racial dynamic at play.
Address Leia’s Force Training
It amounts to two lines of dialogue, but someone marveling at Leia’s Force ability would be nice — and then a response that they heard she trained with her brother for a time, but then gave it up. That’s true to Aftermath, too, somewhat, and would feed nicely into TROS. And it leaves us with the question of why she gave it up. Leaving people with questions is good — but to get to questions, we have to at least ask them, and answer them halfway. Halfway answers are great — it gives us some satisfaction, but still leaves us hungry.
Rey and Kylo
I love their relationship in this.
I mostly am good with how it goes.
But! Given TROS, in retrospect, I’d make a change —
I’d say after they fight over the saber, she rescues him. Takes him away from the burning ship. She pulls him away, saves his life, then abandons him to go fight with the Resistance. Even gives us a chance to have Finn see her saving him — causing tension between them. He finds her on a fiery ship, and she’s saving Kylo Ren?! Jealousy and confusion rage in him. So then on Crait, Ren basically shows up late — she’s already in the sky, fighting. He’s lost, confused, and then there’s Skywalker and his rage overtakes him.
Now, here’s the thing — a little part of me wants that to go even bigger, right? Like, she drags him off the ship, and they go off somewhere, together, and it’s REYLO time, baby. It’s Anakin and Padme, redux, except this time, they both know the score. They’ve both “let old things die,” they’ve escaped to some offworld paradise, away from their roles, their identities, no Light Side, no Dark Side, just them. Separate from the conflict. Gone from war.
And I know you’re saying, “But Rey! Rey’s part of the Resistance!” Like… not really? She meets them for ten minutes then fucks off to find Luke. She’s not a rebel yet.
While she and Kylo are on their sexy sojourn —
The war still rages.
Though the Resistance has escaped for a time, they hole up on an old base in Crait, and the First Order finds them and begins a days-, even weeks-long siege of that place, until they eventually roll out enough firepower (The Big Gun) to crack it open. Rey discovers what’s happening — maybe Finn finds her using the Force — and she has to leave her idyll, despite the fact Ren wants her to stay. And he of course follows after, and they resume their roles, but only after time away with each other.
Only reason I want to see this is to really earn that kiss and the attempted redemption that occurs at the end of TROS. And also to put Finn in the mix — both as a jealous figure and arguably someone who deserves her love more, and who needs her teaching. And it puts him into the arms of Rose, which maybe makes Poe jealous and — I’m just saying, SEXY SPACE RHOMBUS. Okay? Okay.
Is this an essential change? Nah. But I like it. I think.
Everything Else Is Pretty Solid
Like I said, I love this movie. It works as-is. You don’t have to change anything, really, but for my mileage, the above stuff is where I’d make some changes. Okay, I might do a couple other little things — Luke should actually teach his third lesson (he doesn’t get to that, does he?). But he still guzzles green tiddy milk. He’s still a curmudgeon. Yoda still gives him that beautiful paean to failure. He still faces down the First Order as an illusion. Snoke gets turned into hot dogs. Ren and Rey fight the guards in that wicked lightsaber ballet. Poe’s arc is one of him going from hot shot pilot to leader. Finn’s is about realizing he’s not just in this for Rey, but he’s Rebel Scum, now. (His fight against Phasma should have more teeth, though — more anger at who she is and what she did to him.)
And that’s it. That’s part two.
Next week, I’ll try to finish up, and cover The Rise of Skywalker.
See you on the other side, Baby Yodas.