Star Wars: The Last Jedi is no stranger to criticisms. Rotten Tomatoes, for example, has a massive gap between the overall Audience Score, and the Tomatometer (“Top Critics” or industry pros who review media for a living).
We didn’t really like TLJ very much, and many fans that we have come in contact with, whether in-person or online, agree that it had a ton of issues and plot abandonment in favor of a story with Rose and Finn. Well, Rian Johnson, the director of the film (who also wrote the movie), is addressing the topic of the film’s diversity, two years after the film’s release, apparently due to fans responding negatively to it (because Rose is Asian and Finn is black?), but we are a little confused by this.
Throughout the many reviews we have seen, discussions among ourselves with what we didn’ tlike, and the issues that many on the interent pointed out, we never once saw anyone ever bring up the topic of diversity as a negative. So we can’t help but find it weird that this is what is being discussed in terms of what criticism the movie received over the last two years.
This all apparently happened during a recent Q&A for Wired, where Rian Johnson was addressing inquires and promoting his new film, Knives Out, and a fan in the audience recorded portions of the panel before posting it to Twitter. Moly Chu, whose account is now private, managed to capture Rian’s response when asked about cast diversity in The Last Jedi.
“if someone’s responding to diversity negatively, f**k ’em.”
This is a totally reasonable response, and we agree that if you did not like The Last Jedi, or any movie or consumable media, or anything else due to diversity, then f**k you. But that isn’t the problem with The Last Jedi, not by a long shot, and it is very odd that this is a topic to be brought up when there are very clearly many other writing and directing issues that fall on Rian Johnson as the reason for the hate. Whether there really is this issue or not, it seems like Johnson may be a little tone-deaf as to what fans gripes have actually been about. Because honestly, diversity is not the issue. Not at all.
We reviewed The Last Jedi when it came out in 2017, and we have no issue with the cast or the diversity. In fact, we would celebrate that. John Boyega is a wonderful actor and a seemingly wonderful individual. We have never met Kelly Marie Tran (Rose), or Boyega but we are sure they are equally as wonderful. Her acting in The Last Jedi was never something that stood out to me as worthy of criticism, but rather some of the more flatter moments would be Johnson’s fault for being a weak director. In fact, all of our criticisms were related to the writing and especially Rian Johnson’s directing. So, let’s revisit this dead horse and give it another nice long beating, shall we?
The Relationship Between the Audience and Paige / Rose is Non-Existent
First, we are introduced to Paige, played by Vietnamese actress Veronica Ngo, whose only on-screen presence in the film is during the very beginning where she sacrifices herself to give the rebels an advantage against the First Order in a space battle. We were not attached to her character in any way, we did not spend a reasonable amount of time with her character to form a bond or connection to really care about her sacrifice, and after she died it was more like an “oh, well, that sucks but that happens in war” type of moment.
When it is revealed that Rose is Paige’s sister, it’s like, okay, I suppose? Rose, who wasn’t really doing much aside from guarding the rebel’s storage rooms below deck on one of their ships, eventually joins forces with Finn to help the rebels in a key point against them in another space battle. We really do not feel the connection between Rose and her deceased sister, and as a result, we do not care about Paige’s death, nor do we care about anything Rose is doing, or why she does it.
Rose’s Entire Plotline was Almost Entirely Unnecessary
The entire plot is her and Finn on another planet-saving space horses and breaking out of jail and then getting caught by the First Order and blah, blah, blah. A plot that goes nowhere, has next to no payoff and seemed like it was shoved into the film just to give Finn something to do because he didn’t have any place in the rest of the movie.
Eventually, Kylo Ren and the First Order faceoff against the rebels on that salt planet (which we only know is salt because some unnamed rebel soldier decided to lick the ground and confirm that it was salt to let the audience know), and Finn tries to sacrifice himself because he ha done literally nothing else of value in the whole movie. Rose interjects, saves him by injuring herself, but not before professing her love to him and saying that you win wars through love and not, say, large guns and even larger forces. So, not only is Rose an unnecessary plot device to keep Finn busy, she literally stops Finn from doing the only act of value in the movie, something that she should appreciate because her own sister did literally the same thing. She kisses Poe, passes out, and that’s her whole plot. Rose only served to distract Finn and make a touchy/feely moment about love winning a war, which makes zero sense. If wars were fought Rose’s way, the rebels would’ve been wiped out in Episode IV.
None of the issues related to Paige, Finn, Poe, or any other cast member are related to diversity. This is a universe filled with aliens and multi-gendered creatures from galaxies far, far away. Why would we care if there was an Asian or black actor or anything else? We wouldn’t. That isn’t why we as fans disliked TLJ.
To sum it up, this is a quick list of every issue that immediately comes to mind for what we had a problem within The Last Jedi:
- Rose’s plot was pretty much pointless
- Rian Johnson wrote the movie and thus is responsible for killing Snoke, giving him no backstory or character history, despite being the big bad in TFA and TLJ
- Finn had no redeeming arcs or plot events. He didn’t fight or face off against Phasma like we were promised leading up to TLJ
- Phasma was useless
- Princess Leia flying through space like Superman
- Porgs were annoying and only used in the film because there were little birds on the island they were filming and it was too hard to remove them from the movie, so they CGI’d over them and created Porgs.
- Rey became a very skilled lightsaber-user and force-wielder, despite receiving next to no training or understanding of how to use a laser sword or understanding of what the force is, how it works, or how to effectively use its applications
- “salt” (this was only done because the salt was red, and Rian Johnson wanted a cool visual effect in the movie with the contrast between white and red all over this planet but didn’t want us to think that the salt was blood, apparently. Instead of introducing the audience to this planet as ‘the red salt planet’, Johnson presumably forgot to include this nugget of information and decided to include a no-name extra to scoop up the red stuff on the ground and lick it, to which he says ‘salt’ and is never seen again. What if that stuff was poisoned? Why did you need to show us this was salt? Ugh, this scene infuriates me more than we can explain.
- The choreography of that fight sequence in the throne room. Holy crap, those royal guards are ridiculously stupid and incapable of protecting anyone. How did they even get the job?
- Rey’s parents were no one. They sold her for booze. Okay, seriously? Even if the rumors are true that her parents were nobody, but her grandfather is Palpatine, that is just so stupid. We got no pay-off about her origins in this movie simply because Rian Johnson did not want to include it. This is why J.J. Abrams was brought back to take on RoS, and why Disney took away an alleged trilogy that was handed to Johnson. Because J.J. setup a neat trilogy with TFA, Rian Johnson decided to rewrite the whole thing into the ground, and now J.J. has to clean up his mess in the trilogy finale.
We can go on, but those are our biggest complaints. If anything, we feel strongly that the audience had issues with a lot of the same things as we did, and are not just a bunch of internet racists who hated the movie because Finn is black or because Rose is Asian. No one cares about that. Rose only got hate because her nothing-storyline was literally half of the movie, and the other half was Johnson saying ‘f**k you‘ to TFA by ignoring every plotline Abrams teed-up for him that fans wanted to explore/receive closure on.
Also, it felt a lot like the industry professionals and Top Critics in the media that left a raving, positive review for TLJ did so only because the film featured diversity and not because the plot and directing were good. This is the same exact thing with acclaimed movies like Wonder Woman and Black Panther. They all suffer from being boring but featured a diverse cast. In fact, the most interesting thing about WW, BP, and TLJ was that it was diverse. Everything else just fell flat or simply sucked. And those Top Critics? They were all too afraid to give it a negative review for those reasons, as they all pretty much live in fear that the Twittersphere would lash out and call all who said anything that was not positive either ‘racist’, ‘sexist’, or ‘homophobic’. You can’t simply review a movie objectively that contains one or more of these elements, without giving it massive praise, otherwise you are a bigot.
Over all, The Last Jedi was poorly written, even more poorly directed, and focused too much on Rose and Finn when they did nothing of significance and ended up only annoying fans by drawing attention away from
Rey’s parents, her force training, Snoke’s backstory, okay, well, I guess nothing interesting or fun really happened in this movie.