Kevin Smith raises some interesting questions about Rian Johnson’s choices in ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ that seemed to undo the work done in ‘The Force Awakens’…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
There seems to be a real dramatic split in how people are perceiving ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ after it opened in theaters on Dec. 15.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the aggregate score for critics gives the film a whopping 91-percent approval rating, which is a top score for such a blockbuster movie. Unfortunately, theater goers haven’t agreed as much with only 51-percent giving the film positive reviews and considering the movie has already been out for a couple of weeks, it’s not likely that score will change much going forward.
Now it’s not unusual for a movie of this proportion to be so divisive amongst critics and fans but it’s a huge contrast from ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’, which currently sits at 93-percent approval by critics and 88-percent approval from the audience.
Director Rian Johnson has stood by his vision for the film, which he knew would end up as a conversation piece amongst ‘Star Wars’ fans when he made it in the first place.
Is it possible that part of Johnson’s vision for ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ was undoing many of the major pieces of the puzzle put in place by his predecessor J.J. Abrams in ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’? Perhaps that’s some of the discontent shared by fans who haven’t received the film as well as critics?
Filmmaker and life long ‘Star Wars’ fan Kevin Smith made an astute observation in his 90-minute review of ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ when noticing at least three major elements that were set up in ‘The Force Awakens’ and then completely dismantled in Johnson’s sequel.
“I think Rian Johnson’s a really nice guy and I know he is, I sat here and talked to him, and I don’t want anyone to misconstrue this — I don’t think he was attacking J.J. or ‘The Force Awakens’ but there are plenty of what I like to call ‘fuck you J.J.’ moments in this movie where it seems like the work that was done in ‘Force Awakens’ just got fucking undone in one very quick swoop by Rian,” Smith said.
“So again, I’m not saying Rian says ‘fuck you’ to J.J. for real, this is a joke, but there are fuck you J.J. moments in this movie.”
Now it must be noted that Smith was making his observation in a very tongue-in-cheek manner but it’s also impossible to ignore the points he raises.
There are no less than four major moments in ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ that really do unmake what Abrams set up with his film two years earlier. Needless to say, massive spoilers lie ahead so be forewarned…
SPOILERS LIE AHEAD BE WARNED…
THE REBEL BASE
At the very start of ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’, the First Order have arrived at the site of the base held by the Resistance that served as a staging ground for the attacks in the first film.
In fact this is where Han Solo and Leia reunited for the first time and where the Resistance launched the attack to bring down the First Order’s fearsome battle station.
But in ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’, the entire base is destroyed just seconds into the movie as the Resistance escapes and attempts to find a new place to call home. It’s a minor detail but still a major location created in ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ that completely demolished in the new film.
So much was made in ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ about Rey finding that lightsaber at Maz Kanata’s bar and finding out it once belonged to Luke Skywalker. In fact, that lightsaber had been passed down from father to son before it was lost on Cloud City during ‘The Empire Strikes Back’. Rey uses that weapon to defeat Kylo Ren and then she goes through an arduous journey to finally track down the long lost Luke Skywalker before handing him the weapon.
Unfortunately that monumental ending that closed ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ ends up as a joke at the very onset of ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ when Luke literally chucks the lightsaber over his shoulder and disregards why Rey has come to pay him a visit.
Now without digging into the depths of the movie, Luke is obviously trying to be left alone on this desolate planet, which is why he came here in the first place and Rey is an intruder trying to get him to return to a war he doesn’t want to get involved in. Still it seems rather off putting that such a huge part of ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ would just be tossed aside as a joke at the start of ‘The Last Jedi’.
An entire marketing campaign built around ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ was based on new villain Kylo Ren, who is somewhat of a new age Darth Vader. Of course it’s later revealed that Kylo Ren is actually Ben Solo — the son of Han Solo and Leia Organa and the grandson of Anakin Skywalker aka Darth Vader. Kylo has no reason to wear the mask as anything more than an homage to his grandfather, who he’s desperately trying to mimic in the first film.
Now the second movie starts out with Kylo being admonished by Supreme Leader Snoke for losing a fight to Rey and then allowing her to escape. Snoke then mocks Kylo for wearing that mask in the first place before discarding him as a pupil, at least for the moment.
When Kylo Ren leaves, he ends up smashing the helmet into pieces and leaves it laying in an elevator on Snoke’s command ship. Now as far as the symbolism goes, Kylo smashing the helmet could serve as a transition for him into his own character rather than trying to emulate his grandfather, who he never actually met and only idolizes as a powerful member of the Dark Side of the Force.
Then again, Kylo Ren trying so hard to be like his grandfather was a huge plot point in ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ and once again Johnson unmakes that within minutes into the new film.
Maybe this really was just a way to get rid of the past — like Kylo Ren actually says to Rey later in the movie — or perhaps Johnson just didn’t want to deal with a Darth Vader clone and instead decided to remake a villain in his own way in the sequel.
SUPREME LEADER SNOKE
Perhaps the biggest switch from ‘The Force Awakens’ to ‘The Last Jedi’ was the way that Supreme Leader Snoke was introduced as the new big bad — the updated version of the Emperor if you will — with a ton of mystery surrounding his character. Fans were so obsessed with figuring out Snoke’s origins that there have been tons of threads on Reddit dedicated to people going back and forth trying to detail his character.
It seems Rian Johnson had a much different idea in mind when it came to Snoke when he was unceremoniously killed in the second act during ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ without any real background on who he was as a character much less what his connection was to Kylo Ren before dying.
The idea was why keep Snoke around when the grand plan is to turn Kylo Ren into the real big bad and the only way to have him ascend the throne is to get rid of the greater villain in charge of him. But once again it’s a major story and huge character introduced in ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ that is more or less just discarded in ‘The Last Jedi’.
There’s no background given much less any story arc fulfilled for Snoke other than watching him get lopped in half by his apprentice.
Now that was definitely one of the most shocking moments in ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ but still another part of ‘The Force Awakens’ that was ignored and more or less trashed within the first hour of the sequel. Snoke’s ending has actually been one of the bigger complaints from fans only because of the unsatisfying way he was introduced in one film and then just discarded in the next
Now as Smith clearly stated during his review, none of this may have been done on purpose by Johnson when he was writing the script for ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ and it must be remembered that Lucasfilm — particularly CEO Kathleen Kennedy — still have a final say in any story decisions for the movies. Still, Johnson does seem to do away with a lot of the emotional beats and mythology created by Abrams in the first film.
That being said, Abrams is returning to write and direct ‘Star Wars: Episode IX’ so anything is possible when it comes to how he approaches the project and carries on what Johnson left for him at the end of ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’.