Why The Last Jedi gives me (yes!) hope for Episode IX

As the Christmas release date for the next Star Wars movie approaches, and with filming now reportedly completed, the anticipation and the backlash that have both become synonymous with the franchise since the release of the prequel trilogy remain as prominent as ever.

While the reception for last year’s Solo: A Star Wars Story was less than enthusiastic, the other three films released under the Disney banner—The Force Awakens, Rogue One and The Last Jedi—have all earned critical praise and enormous amounts of money. This is no doubt why, despite demands in some circles, Kathleen Kennedy has not stepped down as the head of Lucasfilm.

The article continues after these advertisements...

Of course, the backlash of some fans wasn’t limited to Solo. Actors John Boyega, Daisy Ridley and Kelly Marie Tran have all been unfairly ridiculed on social media since they signed on to the recent films. Both actors who portrayed Anakin Skywalker in the prequel trilogy (Jake Lloyd and Hayden Christensen) have been through similar abuse and have pretty much disappeared from the acting scene as a result. Esquire posted an article which explains this nicely.

Disliking characters in a movie is one thing, but throwing that dissatisfaction at the performer who’s only doing his or her job is going way too far. Social media has always been a double-edged sword to me, and this is a perfect example of why.

Personally, I find myself really looking forward to the upcoming Episode IX thanks to The Last Jedi. When I saw The Force Awakens, I thought the new characters were likable, just like the ones in the original films. Many considered Ridley’s Rey a Mary Sue (meaning she seemed to know everything), but I thought she was a lot more lively than Natalie Portman’s Padme. Also, Ben Solo’s fall from grace is much more interesting and much less overdone than that of Anakin in the prequels.

But my problem with the film is that the storyline itself is a bit too similar to the original 1977 film. I’m also unhappy with what became of Luke, Han, and Leia after Return of the Jedi. Looking back now, just a few years later, it was probably understandable that Disney would want Episode VII to have similarities to the original film. It was, after all, the first Star Wars film released by Disney, so they naturally wanted to ensure that the $4 billion they paid for George Lucas’s empire was money well spent. Nonetheless, I came away from The Force Awakens thinking these new characters deserved a much better storyline.

But after watching The Last Jedi a few times, I feel that the future is bright for the Star Wars series. Below are some reasons why.

The characters

The Last Jedi felt to me like, if nothing else, the start of a much better storyline for Rey, Finn, Poe, BB-8, and newest addition Rose. It’s also nice that the three non-human heroes of the original films (Chewbacca, R2-D2 and C-3PO) are alongside them without being seemingly shoehorned in like R2 and 3PO were in the prequel trilogy. I found Last Jedi more enjoyable than The Force Awakens perhaps because the emphasis was more on these characters, and unlike the previous film, the narrative didn’t seem to have the baggage of what happened to the original trilogy’s characters hanging over it. Hence, I’m holding out hope, which seems to have become the word of choice with the Disney-produced films, just as “NOOOOO!” was the word of choice with the Lucas-produced ones.

I especially liked the climatic scene between Rey, Kylo Ren, and Snoke, which I initially thought would be a rehash of the duel in Return of the Jedi, but ends up taking a different and interesting turn. Kylo Ren’s continuous inner turmoil, which he failed to purge even after killing his father, leads nicely into what happens in this climatic moment. Rey herself also becomes a more interesting character by having moments of uncertainty about herself, despite her great Jedi skills.

This is not to say that The Last Jedi doesn’t have its flaws. For instance, I’m still unclear as to how the First Order was able to track the Resistance ship when they were at light speed. The amount of time Rey seems to train under Luke is also a bit iffy. I can also understand Mark Hamill’s dissatisfaction with how Luke was portrayed in the film. But the Luke/Rey scenes have a nice sincerity to them, and one could say they give new meaning to Yoda’s classic line “There is another!”

But the way the confrontation between Rey and Kylo plays out should make their next encounter in the upcoming film quite interesting. I also like how Poe’s commitment to his cause ends up, unintentionally, making things worse, but yet we still side with him because of that commitment as he, Finn, Rose, and the rest of the Resistance keep pressing on during the film even though the odds are definitely against them. This is probably best illustrated in the climatic battle scene where Admiral Holdo sacrifices herself by going kamikaze on the Star Destroyers in order to save the remaining Resistance members who are escaping on defenseless transports.

The moment where we see from both Luke and Kylo’s points of view how Luke lost his nephew to the Dark Side is also interesting and even sad. While we may still wonder why Luke simply gave up from what we heard in The Force Awakens, this showed that he did have reasons for becoming disenchanted with the Jedi.

I must also mention the nice touch of Yoda’s cameo. Happily, he looks more like the original puppet from Empire and Jedi, rather than the obvious CGI redo for the prequels.

Hence, I’d like to think the late Carrie Fisher would have been pleased with this film, which was naturally dedicated to her.

What we’ve heard about Episode IX

I’m also happy that Billy Dee Williams will finally be back as Lando Calrissian, whose unexplained absence in Episodes VII and VIII always bugged me. (At least they mentioned Q in Live and Let Die even though he didn’t appear in that film, although the book James Bond: The Legacy explained that Desmond Llewelyn was unavailable.)

From what I’ve been hearing, all the returning actors seem pleased with how things are turning out with the new movie.

The potential for new directions

In addition, considering how lucrative the Marvel characters have become thanks to Disney, everyone’s known from the beginning that the studio set out to make Star Wars more of an ongoing saga than even Lucas imagined. Episode IX has been reported to be the last entry in the series to focus on the Skywalker clan. While I’m still thinking that we’ll see Luke appear as a Jedi ghost, this would certainly bring a new dynamic to the franchise.

While Disney has put any standalone Star Wars films on hold for the time being after the failure of Solo, the ongoing series has the potential to continually reach new heights just like its Avengers series. It has appealing characters, and it’s beginning to bring original storylines into the narrative.

Star Wars itself primarily began as a homage to science fiction serials such as Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon. The first two sequels to the original film went further than that by making the story a fall from grace along the lines of Oedipus Rex. This shift made such an impact that fans pretty much demanded the prequel trilogy that was implied when the Episode V label appeared above the opening crawl for Empire Strikes Back. Even with the dissatisfaction many felt for the prequels, this allowed the saga to thrive as the 21st century began.

With the saga now in Disney’s hands, it seems logical that such changes are necessary in order for the franchise to not become stagnant. The films they’ve put out so far have begun to lay groundwork for the different directions the series can go. Naturally, this can open the door for new characters to appear, with even more story possibilities. Rogue One was already a step in this direction, with an emphasis on completely new characters as well as an ending that was truly bittersweet, as anyone who’s seen the original film can tell you. What if future entries had endings with a similar tone? (Not that I want the series to become downbeat, but shaking things up is always good.)

For a comparison, the original Star Trek, like many shows of its era, was an episodic series. But with the exception of the first and fifth entries, the original series films had an ongoing story arc. I always felt this, intentionally or not, influenced how both The Next Generation and even Deep Space Nine ended up, as it had both standalone entries as well as prominent story arcs. This shows how Star Trek itself thrived well into the ’90s, and why some fans believe that Voyager, Enterprise, and even Discovery are simply rehashes of what Trek had done previously.

In this day and age, when the internet is a cornerstone of society, the backlash to the franchise’s direction—uncalled for or not—will always be around. But the financial and critical successes of the Disney-produced films have given the studio the clout to take things in a different direction, even if it’s one some fans weren’t planning on.

Offhand, the only red flag I can see is if Disney attempts to cross over any of its other characters, Marvel or otherwise, with the Star Wars ones.

Rob Kirchgassner

Rob is a blogger, critic, and author. His latest novel is a western: The Search West is available now from Amazon.

You may also like...

  • As nice as it is to see Lando back (since I agree, his complete absence and no mentions at all was odd), I don’t really want him back. If the sequel trilogy has a mantra, it’s Kylo Ren’s “let the past die, kill it” and they sure have. With Han and Luke both dead and having to write around Carrie Fisher’s passing, the odds of Lando making it to the credits are at an all time low.

  • Hal_10000

    My hope is that they will go with the thread that has been building since the prequel trilogy: that the Jedi order were too rigid and that a “gray” path — between the light side and the dark — is where they need to be going.

  • Grumpy

    “I’m still unclear as to how the First Order was able to track the Resistance ship when they were at light speed.”

    I don’t have time to teach the principles & applications of hyperluminal detection & ranging, so to keep it short: they invented a thing that does it. As mentioned in the movie.

    • Greenhornet

      Simple. Leah has a thing that let Rey find her way back, so the first order tapped into the signal.
      No, no, that would have been a GOOD story.

  • Greenhornet

    I could write an entire article about the last Jedi, but let’s look at the problem with a sequel instead.
    At the end of the movie the resistance has NO allies, NO resources, NO ships, No bases, NO money and No support.
    They DO have ONE aging Wookie, ONE hot-shot fighter jock, ONE Mary Sue, ONE politician/war veteran who is going to die soon, ONE modified old light freighter, THREE droids and a dozen or so aliens and humans with small arms. OH yeah, there’s also some force-using kids that they NOW NOTHING ABOUT and who couldn’t leave the planet if they wanted to.
    The only thing they could do with a sequel is to either have “the resistance” go into hiding and the First Order either hunt them down and kill them one by one, or just ignore them.

  • Xander

    I’m just getting tired of Star Wars at this point. The thing I liked about Star Wars was that every movie felt like an event with years between them with just the novels and comics to tide over until the new movie (or the special edition) dropped. Now, with a movie, TV series, and more, it just feels like too much, and I’ve largely stopped caring about any of it.
    Of course, this is true of the Marvel movies, too, with previously one per year with one movie hinting at what might come next; now there are multiple movies each year that all have to dovetail into each other.
    And, finally, I want to see Poe’s court martial at the beginning of the next film. I’m sorry but if any soldier disobeyed orders and caused as many causalities as Poe did, they’d probably be subject to friendly fire even before the court martial.

    • Greenhornet

      In defense of Poe, he DID NOT order the attack.
      How do I know this? Because in the military, you can’t just say “let’s go punch some Nazis!”, jump into your fighters and go off on a toot. The ships have to be prepped, the crews briefed, intelligence examined and distributed, and so forth.
      In a REAL war situation, they would have had a plan in case the enemy were sighted and ships readied for such an event. WHO would have planned for this and ordered the attack?
      Three people had that authority: Admiral Akbar, Vice Admiral Holdo and General Leia Solo.
      Leia called off the attack, but that would have been suicide in any case. The First Order were redirecting their big guns to target the enemy squadron (Can’t call it a “fleet”) and with fully loaded bombers flying to the carriers, it would have been a turkey shoot. There are several videos that explain this in detail.
      The makers wanted to do “Twelve O’clock High” (A good movie, by the way) but they should have done “Midway” instead. The latter movie shows the U.S. Navy taking HUGE chances because they had to and Poe leading fighters and fast, light bombers in the manner of Major “Red” Parks’ fighter defense or the ill-fated Torpedo Eight attack would have been better visually; especially if they had shown Leia trying to recall the planes pointing out that it was suicide and Poe counters that if they didn’t hurt the enemy fleet, EVERYBODY could die.
      We would then get a shot of Leia’s face that says “Oh shit, he’s right!”.
      To put it another way, the interference gets a fractured shoulder blade, but the Quarterback makes the goal.

      • Xander

        That makes sense for the opening battle, but what about his skulking around behind everyone in charge’s back that got several unarmed transports blown out of the sky when his plan failed spectacularly?

        • Greenhornet

          Sorry for the late reply.
          Why didn’t Holdo tell Poe that they were following Leia’s plan which Poe knew about?
          1: She didn’t have to tell him any details, only what he needed to know.
          2: He was demoted in rank, not relieved of duty, or command. She should have told him enough to do his job.
          3: As commander of the air group, he should have been told about the transport plan since it was HIS JOB to carry out such orders.
          4: Holdo acted like a petty ass and openly mocked an experienced officer in front of every one for no other reason than to make herself look important.
          5: Poe was not the only one who was suspicious of Holdo’s actions (Or LACK of actions); you could see it in their faces and in their joining the mutiny.
          6: Many military organizations have regulations for relieving officers of command due to incompetence, or becoming a danger to the mission or their command.
          7: Viewers thought she was going to turn out to be a traitor and before I had seen the movie, the descriptions of her scenes made me thing she was having a nervous break-down.
          8: She was getting lots people killed for no visible gain.
          9: Holdo told Poe to follow her orders, but gave him none. As I said, he had been demoted, not relieved of duty; there is a difference.
          10: All she had to do was say “Yes, we have a plan and I’ll tell you your part when the time is right”. Had she done that, Poe would have backed her against all objections and “Kanto Bite Me” would have been avoided.
          I think that’s enough.
          The dolts who made this movie obviously have no idea how military forces work. According to their “logic” General Ridgeway would have just told his paratroopers to pack their gear combat and board the planes.
          “What’s our destination, sir? Where are the re-supply drops? What support do we have?”
          “Say, aren’t you the captain that got a platoon shot up in an ambush? So you want to know where you’re going do you? YOU’RE going to the GUARDHOUSE if you don’t shut up!”

  • Chewbacca

    Thank you for defending this movie. Seriously, the negativ backlash is getting soo far out of hand. It is easily the most annoying part of the current Star Wars thing. This movie is certainly not the best the franchise has to offer, but a lot of the hatred just disgust me. I can’t open Youtube without being suggested this hate reviews about ‘DEATH OF STAR WARS’ or ‘WE DEMAND KATHLEEN KENNEDY HEAD’ . I want more Star Wars movies, preferably with new characters, sceneries and stories. I love the OT, but I don’t need to see old Han, Luke and Leia, Lando, Wedge and who knows who else, if they don’t bring anything new to the table. Well Luke sort of did… Which didn’t go well with most people. Again: liked last Jedi, but tired of defending it.

    • Greenhornet

      Like wise. I had suggested on another article how they could have done a movie introducing the new generation simply by putting the story in different part of the galaxy.
      They also should have kept Reh off “Mad Max World” and made her a racing pilot.
      PS: I’ve seen the movies since my original posts. My reaction was not hate, but sad disappointment.

      • Chewbacca

        Hey, thank you for replying in a kind manner and not calling me an ‘untrue’ fan or anything. We’re all no real movie critics, but we are fans and know if we liked something or not. As soon as we expect others to feel the same, it gets problematic.
        Your ideas are interesting, though I have to admit that they had to rely a little on the existing lore. They just shouldn’t have made the original cast so prominently featured thoughout the movies. Rey comming from Jakku also isn’t the biggest issue that I have with the movies (tbh that would be deathstar 3 and its lackluster defeat).

        • Greenhornet

          Just calling them like I seem them.
          In my “racing pilot” idea, we would get Reh’s fist hint of using the force:
          After her introduction in a race scene, she’s in the pilots’ lounge, drinking “space coffee” and reading a tech manual when another pilot tells another “She can do it every time”. The other pilot tells him to “put some credits on it” and after laying down some tokens, he takes a piece of fruit and throws it at Reh.
          Her hand shoots up to catch the fruit, she says “thanks” and eats it without even looking up.
          Also, I would have liked to have seen Finn confess to Reh early on that he’s a deserter (And why) and she accepts him because she isn’t taking sides at this time. Finn would then teach her some hand-to-hand fighting he’s learned in the military.
          In short, I would have some scenes to show that Reh doesn’t already “know everything”.

          • Chewbacca

            I kinda like the racing pilot idea. Though some might see it as too similar to Anakins origin. But another look at races in Star Wars sounds interesting to me. But I don’t need to have the origin of Reys abilities explained in great detail. Tbh I don’t like this ‘Mary Sue’ thing, which somehow seems to apply to Rey, and not to other earlier characters like Indiana Jones, James Bond, John Mcklan etc. We also don’t see them in constant training. Which is good, since we would have to sit through a lot of training.
            And about her handling the force… Well
            We assume we know everything about the force. I don’t think so. We can only make asumptions and theories. . But that is part of the fun. My theory (sorry, I’ll make it quick) is that even the Jedi knew (almost) nothing. They thought it was about midichlorians… And they’re wrong.
            But the truth is, we don’t know.
            Whats up with Rey and the force? We don’t know, yet. What was up with Anakin and the force? We also don’t know that. Maybe this will be revealed, maybe not.

          • Greenhornet

            I kept spell REY’s name wrong. Oops.
            Fans also complain about the fuel thing, but this deleted scene settles it. It was the editor’s fault for the F-up.

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BBp6PEHV_MU

          • Chewbacca

            Yeah, you said Reh as in meh, good one. Also fans complain about: Holdo, Snoke, Hyperspeed ramming, Leia and the force, Rose, Casino Planet, misplaced humor, Luke, Luke, Luke and Luke, Akbars death, women in general, the wheather, foreigners, ewoks, mexicans, russians, Kathleen Kennedy, the EU, people from honduras, DC movies, not supporting Trumps space force, Jar Jar Binks and especially pineapples on pizza…
            They generally like that one scene in Roque One, when Darth Vader slashes people left and right with his red lightsaber. So. Disney (or shall we say ‘Dis-like-ney’ ) should just make movies that extends this scene and never look back. I would not like that, but I guess I also wouldn’t be as vocal about it as others…