The LAST JEDI that could have been

The Last Jedi. I give it a 6.5 out of 10. I also think with maybe one or two significant tweaks to the main plot points, it could have been an 8. Alas, the fingerprints of whatever committee Disney is running these days, were all over this thing. It tried too hard to be too much to too many people. I liked Rogue One a lot more, and felt like Rogue One didn’t have to work so hard to appeal to the sense-o-wunda that lives in the heart of every STAR WARS fan.

Yes, The Last Jedi had some very, very good moments. But these tended to get undercut by the choppy nature of the other material. So while those moments were on the brink of soaring, some of the pointless and gratuitous plotting (as well as pointless and gratuitous characters) were a net drag on the entire enterprise. The movie just wasn’t “tight” the way it could have been tight, if someone in a position of authority at Disney (and with a clearer eye, aimed backward at the original trilogy) had been allowed to chop the damned thing down. Scuttle some of this stuff that clearly sounded neat in pitch sessions, but should have stayed there. And gone no further.

Thus, here’s how I would rank all of the extant STAR WARS films. This is a gut rank, based purely on my personal satisfaction with each of the movies, in relation to each of the other movies. I’m not basing it on any kind of aggregate (Rotten Tomatoes) nor am I comparing these films to any other movies or franchises.

1) Episode IV
2) Episode V
3) Rogue One
4) Episode VI
5) Episode VII
6) Episode VIII
7) Episode I
8) Episode II
9) Episode III

I do think it’s quite true that all of us who grew up with STAR WARS (as kids and teens and young adults) can never go back home again. Meaning, the unbridled excitement of the original three films cannot be captured in a bottle. We will never see these new movies through child-like eyes. And it’s clear that the franchise does struggle with too much self-awareness, in terms of its global cultural footprint. But ROGUE ONE was an illustration (to me) that they can still nail it, when they want to.

On that note, how hard would it have been to boost The Last Jedi into an orbit matching Rogue One’s? Not very.

Case in point. Imagine a Last Jedi with these modifications . . . .

1) Ditch the Vegas Planet dead end, and have Rose tag along with Finn as they are dispatched (instead, with a tiny team) to Crait. Which is not an old Rebel base, but an old abandoned Imperial base. Which Finn can get into using “older codes, but they check out” and he needs Rose’s help, because she knows what kinds of Imperial fuel and which kinds of Imperial weapons can be quickly adapted for Resistance use. DJ the arms smuggler is already there, though. And isn’t willing to give up his hideout — and cash cow — without a fight. Finn must lead the Resistance expedition against DJ’s small army of mercenary thugs. Eventually DJ bails out, stating, “I sell stuff to your side too, kid. This fight you’ve brought to me, it’s bad for business.” He escapes and lives, to return and play a bigger part in Episode 9. Finn and Rose get back to Organa’s command cruiser — with the goods in tow — only to find:

2) Poe Dameron and Vice Admiral Holdo in a shouting match over what to do now, as General Organa’s cruiser is mere minutes from losing the aft shields. A wounded (but surviving) Admiral Ackbar stumbles from the medical bay, upbraiding Dameron and Holdo both — about how General Organa would be ashamed to see Resistance discipline and chain-of-command so grossly disregarded. He orders the two of them to cease fire, and rally the troops — using the weapons and fuel provided by Finn, with Rose’s assistance. Holdo will put the remaining “brain trust” of the Resistance into the transports for escape to Crait, while Ackbar takes sole command of the cruiser, with Dameron out in front leading a small squadron of the last Resistance snub fighters, co-attacking the big Snoke star destroyer. Both Ackbar and Dameron know it’s a suicide mission. Holdo, with a comatose Leia aboard, departs.

3) Leia, who has been in a kind of Force Fugue since being expelled into space (after her bridge was hit) experiences a dream-like sequence during which she communicates with Luke’s soul, similar to how she heard Luke calling her at the end of The Empire Strikes Back. Luke says he has turned away from The Force, after ruining Ben Solo, and contributing to Ben’s flight to the Dark Side. Luke is too ashamed to re-assume the mantle. Leia begs Luke to come back one more time, and do what a Jedi knows must be done. She loves Luke. She forgives Luke. She wants him to help her one last time, and possibly help Ben Solo, too. Lest the First Order snuff out the Resistance utterly. Luke is inspired, as well as humbled. We then see a scene of Luke quickly trimming his facial hair, military-short. We also see him using The Force to raise his old X-Wing out of the Ahch-To sea, with R2D2 obediently at Luke’s side.

4) Dameron and Ackbar are deeply engaged against Hux and the First Order. Kylo Ren orders Hux to ignore Ackbar and Dameron, so as to pursue Vice Admiral Holdo, in whose care the “kernel” of the Resistance now rests. With fresh fuel and weapons, Ackbar is able to keep Snoke’s super-dreadnought occupied, but cannot block the pursuit of Vice Admiral Holdo. In desperation, with his ship falling to pieces, Ackbar wishes Dameron, “May The Force be with you,” and punches the hyperdrive, launching his cruiser — like a missile — into Snoke’s the super-dreadnought. Dameron retreats to cover the fleeing Holdo, with her transports. A cloud of angry TIEs is all over them, as they descend to Crait. Into this swarm of angry TIEs, the Millennium Falcon appears, communicating with Dameron on Resistance bandwidth. Together, Chewie, Dameron, and Rey, give Holdo cover while Holdo and Finn land the transports, and flee (with Organa in medical stasis) into the old, abandoned Imperial fortress

5) With the Millennium Falcon now badly damaged from overwhelming TIE strikes, Chewie is forced to crash-land the Falcon at the mouth of the imperial fortress. He and Rey disembark, and pursue Finn. Dameron is frantically trying to keep the cloud of TIEs busy, while a force of First Order walkers marches on the horizon. Severely outnumbered, Dameron concludes he’s not going to survive this fight. But just as he’s about to suicide-run one of the walkers, a second X-Wing appears. Older, somewhat worn down, but being piloted with expert precision. The old X-Wing uses proton torps to disable several walkers, while also downing a mess of TIEs, allowing Dameron to get his badly-damaged advanced X-Wing out of the fight. Both fighters eventually fly to where the Falcon is smoldering, and land. Poe and Luke have a moment of mutual admiration — for the fine flying — and then Luke tells Poe to go alone into the fortress in pursuit of Rey. “But you’ll never escape,” Poe says. “Escape is not my plan,” Luke informs him.

6) The remaining First Order walkers, with Kylo’s command shuttle floating among them, close on the abandoned fortress. Seeing one man out in front of the old X-Wing — a blue-accented droid at the pilot’s side — Kylo orders the walkers to stand fast, and his shuttle to land. Kylo stomps down the ramp and walks across the salt, to face his old master. They exchange words, about how things went sour back in the Jedi temple. About how Luke did Kylo wrong. And about how Kylo then did Han Solo and Leia Organa wrong. Enraged, Kylo finally shouts, “Your powers are weak, old man!” And ignites his cross-saber. Luke throws off his Jedi robe — revealing the old fighting Jedi uniform underneath — and replies firmly, “You’ll find I’m full of surprises.” At which point Luke ignites his own saber. The two men raise their weapons, as if to strike, and . . . . cut to black.

THE END

Star Wars fanfare trumpets through the theater.

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23 thoughts on “The LAST JEDI that could have been

  1. Hi, Brad. I like your take though with the changes it would make a different movie altogether. Questions for you:

    1) How would you handle the Force link between Kylo and Rey?
    2) What would you do about Snoke? Does Kylo Ren kill him or does he move on to the third movie?
    3) Does the Resistance get whittled down to the last dozen or so that they actually did by the end of the movie?

  2. Still has the hyperspace missile issue, which totally changes warfare in the Star Wars universe.

    Why not just use hyperspace missiles against the Death Star, or the Star Destroyers, or the Rebellion ships, or basically anything?

  3. Here’s a question for you: why do you think the scriptwriter felt compelled to compress the whole movie into a day and a half?

    To my mind, many of the plotting sins could have been avoided, and greater emotional impact created, if more time was allowed to pass. In particular, Rey could have gotten a real training sequence instead of inexplicably just being awesome, and Luke too could have showed off his chops as a sensei.

  4. Much better idea. Luke wakes up with a start on the Rebel base on Yavin a few days after the Death Star was destroyed.

    “R2, I had the most horrible dream,” he says.

    Cut to the main title: Star Wars, Episode 2

  5. Nonsense. All it needed was a spherical space station with a super weapon in it. A round space station as big as an entire solar system, but with a secret flaw. After destroying an entire galaxy in one shot, Harry Potter, Dumbledore, and Hagrid analogues take a crack at it. Use this plot for free for the next 3 movies!

  6. It’s strange…I both agree and disagree with you. I DO think The Last Jedi was sloppily written, just as The Force Awakens was. However, I don’t think it is nearly as easily corrected as you do. I just can’t get past the massive flaws in the premise. Maybe I have these issues because I read a lot of military sci-fi (among other things) so they seem blindingly obvious to me, but…

    Why would the Resistance fleet be almost out of fuel at the start of the film? They are evacuating their own primary base. Did they not have fuel at their base? Wouldn’t that be one of the very basic things you’d keep there?

    Why wouldn’t the First Order use their dreadnought to hammer the fleet first? That base isn’t going anywhere.

    We see what 4 TIE fighters can do when the Resistance Fleet’s shields are concentrated aft. Who cares if you can’t support your TIE fighters from the Star Destroyers? Launch 3 or 4 thousand of them and have them attack the Resistance from the bow. Even if you lose a couple hundred fighters, it’s completely worth it to wipe out the last organized resistance to your rule in the galaxy. As a general I’d be completely willing to trade a few hundred fighters for THAT.

    For that matter, going back to the Force Awakens, why was the Republic fleet wiped out when the capital was destroyed? That would be like having the whole of the US Navy at anchor in National Harbor…it can’t do it’s job from there.

    I’d also point out that this movie makes it completely clear that the Republic isn’t worth saving. They’ve known about the First Order for decades and they couldn’t muster the will to deal with that existential threat before they finished their superweapon. Instead, they commit a handful of ships and fighters in a deniable resistance movement. Then, when their capital gets blown away, absolutely no one bothers to lift a finger to help the only people fighting the madmen that would use such a weapon on an inhabited world.

    I could go on for a long time. I’ll agree the movie had its high points, but the core premise seems artificially induced, and all the little flaws and irritations snowball, not just from one scene to the next but from one movie to the next. As a result, The Last Jedi just doesn’t even come close to it’s potential.

  7. We can’t get rid of the casino planet; we have to complain about capitalism (Seriously, if you dig into Rian Johnson’s development of that scene, he found multiple problems with it in each draft, but rather than ditch it like a writer should when he can find no justification in the story to make it work, he instead bent over backwards to include it. Literally everything that happens with Poe Dameron and Finn, and Rose Tico’s entire existence, came about so he could have his casino scene and complain about capitalism).

    Slay your darlings, folks. Slay your darlings.

  8. Excellent direction, but this should have been the movie Leia exits the SW universe (as 7 was the movie for Han’s exit). It would’ve been easy enough to modify after Fisher’s death: you need 30 seconds where Leia orders Holdo onto the transports, with some earlier setup about her being mortally wounded. Ackbar doesn’t have the same fan investment. Then 9 becomes the vehicle for Luke to exit the SW universe.

  9. And now that I think about it, it would be possible to fix the gigantic plot hole of warp drive being a superweapon; Leia pilots the ship and uses her Force abilities to hold the ship’s mass in normal space long enough to do the damage. Luke/Rey whomever could have explained this in retrospective.

  10. @john — even better, Leia uses the force to pilot the ship into the destroyer, and then drops out of HS inside the other ship. You don’t break the universe, because the explanation is “no one can pilot a ship that precisely, even with the best navigation computer” (calling back to Luke’s shot without the targeting computer). You can make that strike, but you have to be a suicidal force user.

  11. I would like to have seen Rey convince Luke that yes perhaps the Force and Jedi’s are problems but that can’t be resolved until the current Sith are gone. Luke drops Rey off at a neutral-force monastery of the likes that would have trained Rogue Ones blind fellow. Rey is trained in the Force, but its mostly non-combat stuff ”I am with the Force, the Force is with me”. Luke confronts the Sith in person, knocking down AT-ATs like dominoes and eventually confronting Snoke and killing him in an epic duel. Luke dying in the process. End with Kilo Ren arriving at that neutral-force monastery and finding Rey untrained in combat.

    The non-force stuff could go as suggested in the article although I’d add a major world or two dropping out of the rebel alliance to avoid being slaughtered and hammer in the themes. Such a story-line would have provided epic battles as well with leaving on a nice cliff-hanger and lots of thematic threads about taking a side or not and end with Rey truly being the Last Jedi.

  12. III was better than II was better than I, arguably all three tie for last as, in my opinion, they were less about telling a good, coherent story and more about selling toys. Other than that, spot on.

  13. The problem with the “Use the Force” stuff apart from the idea of using the force to telefrag the enemy ship is that there are already too many last minute asspulls of never before seen Force abilities with no foreshadowing that are used at the last minute to save the heroes in the movie. One is… tolerable. 3 or more is not.

  14. I lost my Star Wars enthusiasm after Rogue One. I liked Force Awakens in that it actually felt like a normal Star Wars film. I know a lot of people complain that it was identical to A New Hope, but I think it struck a nice balance between call-backs, homage, and new material. Besides, if you’re doing a trilogy of trilogies, the three-act structure is going to limit somewhat what you can do.

    I’m probably biased against RO because it felt like a big middle finger to the EU. In dismissing the EU, Disney basically said, “We can do better than all these professionals who have been doing it for decades.” Such a move made no business sense to me. If the movie studios are so focused on franchises as a cash cow, why would you want to throw away pre-made source material that could easily supply movies for the next 20 years?

    The EU canon had Kyle Katarn and Jan Ors as key players in stealing the Death Star plans. Why would you not center RO on them? Then you’ve got them set up to do the whole Dark Forces story line. That allows you to smoothly bring in Mara Jade and the new Jedi Academy, which could be a launch pad for any number of original movies. Instead they gave us a very forced plot that ends in rocks-fall-everyone-dies and a very horrible segue into A New Hope.

    Now if Disney dismissed the EU because it didn’t automatically get movie rights preference to it with its acquisition of LucasArts and LucasFims, then I can understand it a little more.

  15. It cost me most of a week’s pay for a ticket to see whichever one had the ewoks in it. I walked out in fury before it was over.

    Decades later I saw some of the later movies via tapes from the video rental store. They were just barely worth the 99 cents. Maybe.

    It’s dead, Jim. The stinking rotted corpse needs to go back to its grave.

    I expect there’ll be a Star Wars Centennial Edition in 2077…

  16. ” Imagine a Last Jedi with these modifications . . . .”

    OK.

    First thing that comes to mind is that if you lose the casino-planet sequence, you lose the final scene, of the slave boy with the broom and his Force power.

    Second thing that occurs to me is that having Luke come roaring in to kick the First Order’s ass goes against everything that has been established about his character. He started out a dreamer and a passive character, someone that things happened to rather than someone who made things happen. In the original films he tried four times to be a hero – rescuing the Princess on the Death Star, rescuing his friends from Cloud City, rescuing Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt, and confronting the Emperor. He barely succeeded in cases 1 and 3, failed catastrophically in case 2, and would have failed in case 4 if not for circumstances far beyond his control. During the timeskip between the films, he failed in his mission to rebuild the Jedi Order, lost his nephew (who was also his best student) to the dark side, and saw the rest of his students either turned or killed. His record, in short, is one of doing his best, time after time, and failing badly, time after time. After the last and worst failure, he gave up and left instead of trying again – a decision that only a blackly depressed man would make. And then he spent years in exile alone with his guilt and self-hatred. This is not a man who can believably turn his life on a dime and become an action hero.

    Third thought: using Luke as a deus ex machina destroys the theme of “passing the torch” to a new set of protagonists.

    And the last thing I’ll note is that your idea for the ending strikes me as a horribly cheap, clumsy, melodramatic attempt to get a laugh by echoing Vader and Kenobi’s lines from their confrontation in _Star Wars_, not to mention one of the most infuriatingly mercenary cliffhangers I’ve ever heard of.

    There certainly were holes in “The Last Jedi”. There was some bad characterization, and some things I’d have done differently, and some things that made me cringe. But I don’t think your ideas would have resulted in anything much better. Sorry, but that’s the way I feel.

  17. I like your idea a lot. Mine was very different and added in lots of characters we lost when the original EU was ditched, but I still like your idea. It sounds far better than theirs (Disney’s). Thanks for posting! 😉

  18. Brad, your version, I would have walked out of mildly annoyed at the cliffhanger and otherwise meh.

    The real version, we’re all still talking about…

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