Needless to say, I’m biting off more than I can likely chew on this piece. I think ultimately what I’ll do is follow this up in the near future with a more in-depth video on The Dallas Prospect’s YouTube channel. For now, I’ll just outline a few quick notes on how Disney and Director Rian Johnson could’ve largely kept the same story framework while producing a vastly better product.
5. Scrap the Code Breaker
Or, more frankly put, ditch the casino planet subplot. Let’s be honest here; the pacing of The Last Jedi is brought to a screeching halt the moment Fin and Rose leave the Rebel fleet in search of this mysterious Code Breaker. Not only that, but the Code Breaker in question proves to be nothing more than a MacGuffin, the first of many throughout The Last Jedi. The entire casino planet sequence feels like a series of forced social commentaries for readily obvious points that feel more like a hammer bludgeoning you into submission rather than a thought-provoking statement: war profiteering is bad; slavery is bad -especially child slavery; and animal cruelty is also bad, m’kay? It goes without saying, each of these ideas is so plainly clear it begs the question why the film felt it necessary to even ask them. As for the ascetics of the scene, the setting itself doesn’t feel like it belongs within the Star Wars universe. Instead, it feels more akin to something from the 5th Element. Perhaps even more troubling is that the design behind the vast majority of the creatures and characters filling this space are so bland and unimaginative. If this was supposed to be a memorable setting rather than simply being infamous as it is now, character designers should’ve looked to previous Star Wars films and scenes like the Mos Eisley Cantina from A New Hope or Jabba’s Palace in Return of the Jedi. Give me a strange and intriguing design like Greedo, not a cricket in a tux and monocle.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: what do we do with this sudden chunk missing from the film? In total it’s close to a fourth of the overall run-time. You can’t just scrap it!
Quite true, dear reader. It’s pretty simple actually. If you want Rose and Fin to go on their own little adventure, fine, but change some things around first. For starters, don’t suggest that their side quest and eventual return could all occur within the span of the 16-hour window presented to us at the time of their departure. Instead, have the Rebels reach the decommissioned bunker earlier and force them to make a stand. This allows the nearly 400 remaining Rebels to at least put up a fight -even if they’re still going to be overwhelmed- rather than being blasted like fish in a barrel as they run. Additionally, have Rose and Fin, together with Poe, approach Vice Admiral Holdo with their plan to deactivate the lightspeed tracking device aboard the First Order Dreadnaught. Then, when Holdo refuses, the three of them take matters into their own hands, similar to what happens actions in the film.
The siege at the bunker should be the scene for the majority of the Rebel force’s arc here, with intermittent skirmishes as they attempt to fend off the First Order and call for help.
While we’re at it…
4. The lightspeed tracking device doesn’t exist
Let’s be honest about some plotholes here, okay? First, the idea of a lightspeed tracking device is stupid to begin with. Second, suggesting one would suddenly come into existence on the heels of Episode VII -the film’s timeline suggests Episode VIII literally picks up where The Force Awakens ended- is too great a leap in logic. The funny thing is that the idea could have been saved had they taken a more simple approach: have one of the tie-fighters in the opening scene stick an X-Wing with a small tracking device after the ship’s droid is damaged. Unaware of the tracking device, the X-Wing would return to the larger carrier ship and enter lightspeed. That way, the moment the Rebels come out of lightspeed, the First Order has a logical means of locating them. What the film does instead is present this device as a brand new technology that is quite literally so new even Emperor Snoke is unaware of it.
A better approach would be to have this thread be a red herring. Fin and Rose seek out a former First Order security expert who has gone AWOL following the events of The Force Awakens. You know, when Star Killer base wiped out five planets at once? That’s a lot of blood to have on your hands… Anyway, this expert would presumably be a blithering drunk living in secrecy while bounty hunters hired by the First Order search for him. Given the previously mentioned timeline following Episode VII, we can only presume he’s been missing a couple days at most. As such, he likely wouldn’t have been found yet by said bounty hunters. As for how Fin and Rose find him, that can keep in line with their discovery of the Code Breaker, AKA a connection of Maz’s.
Upon finding the security expert, Fin and Rose fail in their initial recruitment. It’s made abundantly clear he’s a broken man with nothing left to give emotionally, or so it would seem. Eventually, the pair is forced to head back and regroup with the Rebels. As they approach their ship, Fin radios Poe back at the bunker. Just then the ship explodes into a ball of flame, knocking them back. Blaster fire rains down from above as a Mandalorian bounty hunter touches down with his jetpack. We quickly learn that the bounty hunter was sent to take out the security expert but has recognized Fin in the process. As such, he’s looking to collect on the undoubtedly lofty bounty placed on his head by Captain Phasma. Fin engages the bounty hunter but is overwhelmed and outgunned. Rose tries to help but can do little given her utter lack of training. When all seems lost, a blaster bolt from another ship’s artillery strikes down the bounty hunter, hurling him out of frame. The camera then pans over to reveal that the security expert has come to their aid and decided to help. United, the three of them make their way to the Dreadnaught, boarding the ship as we saw in the film. As for how the security expert would crack the code, if you don’t mind my phrasing, it would be revealed that he helped design it and knows of a couple yet-to-be-patched flaws in the system. This is how he’s able to get onboard without the obvious credentials that would have been revoked.
Once on board and into the main server room, they discover that there is no lightspeed tracking device. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they soon discover secret communications to an operative inside the Rebel forces, an operative by the name of Vice Admiral Holdo. Using a discreet device, Holdo was able to automatically relay their coordinates to the First Order the instant their fleet warped out of lightspeed. It’s then revealed she had also done this at the beginning of the film when the previous Rebel base was attacked by the First Order. Why? Because the First Order has taken her family, and bloodshed will never stop unless they lay down their arms. In short, she’d rather live like a caged bird than crushed beneath the Order’s foot. At that moment, numerous stormtroopers, accompanied by Captain Phasma, appear and apprehend the trio.
The rest of this scene plays out largely the same, save for a couple key differences: the security expert doesn’t betray them but rather is killed by Phasma as a demonstration to Fin of what’s to come. Also, Phasma isn’t killed in a fiery blast because Holdo doesn’t sacrifice herself to destroy the First Order fleet (yes, I know, it was a gorgeous shot and the one thing I’m really bummed to leave on the cutting room floor). Instead, the bay area of the ship is devastated by a large explosion when BB-8 hacks a sentry gun and causes it to blast a fuel line. As the chaos spirals out of control, several more explosions from hit munitions split the grated flooring, creating a sizable gap between Phasma and Fin.
So what happens to the traitor, Holdo?
It seems pretty obvious she would be exposed by the returning Fin and Rose, who meet up with Poe and stage a brief mutiny. To ensure they’re heard, Poe holds Holdo at gunpoint so that she can’t prevent them from blowing her cover. But how’d they get inside the base? All of this would take place after Poe discovers the rear entrance to the base and communicates its location to Fin and Rose, who have just fled the Dreadnaught. With the disc drive in hand from the First Order server, they reveal Holdo’s betrayal, leaving Leia to have her arrested for treason.
3. Luke legitimately trains Rey
Let’s face it, The Last Jedi never attempted to hone Rey’s ability. Instead, it takes a massive leap from The Force Awakens, despite supposedly taking place immediately after the fact. Rey literally goes from awkwardly flailing against Kylo Ren to effortlessly mastering her lightsaber; all without the help or training of Luke Skywalker. Rather than simply having Luke spend two minutes teaching her how to feel and connect with the Force, it would’ve gone a long way to show at least some lightsaber technique training. Yes, yes, Yoda’s training for Luke lacked this as well but in the case of the original trilogy, several years passed over the course its story, allowing Luke believable time to master his craft. Even when he faced down the Emperor and Darth Vader he hadn’t yet mastered his training. As for the foundation of his swordsmanship (light…sabersmanship?), this is taught to him by his first master, Obi-Wan Kenobi. This at the very least establishes a base from which to work.
If Luke was to train Rey by, say, having her lift his old X Wing from the depths of the ocean, that would not only pay homage to his training in The Empire Strikes Back but also give us a glimpse into Rey’s growing power. As it is now, Rey -and Kylo it seems- simply take massive leaps in power without clear rhyme or reason. And don’t even get me started on the missed opportunity with the dark side vision Rey has in the depths of that cave. Given only a taste of intrigue, we quickly find ourselves swept back to the casino planet. I would explore this further by having Rey navigate her subconscious by confronting the loss of her parents, her fear at her own unbridled power, and an increasingly strong pull to the Dark side. Honestly though, just about anything would better than a hundred duplicates of herself standing in a line, each moving at roughly a half second delay while she quite literally tells instead of shows. “I should be afraid, but I’m not…” Blegh.
Finally, having Luke fear Rey’s power and her total lack of hesitation after she swan-dives into the Dark-side cave is an excellent moment. I would’ve liked to have explored it a bit more, however. Don’t just have him stop her training, have him literally try to force her off of the island and planet as a whole. That way, when he eventually yields we can see that his character has completed a small arc of change. Just a thought…
2. Don’t Kill Snoke
Or at least don’t do it before you explore his backstory somewhat. Seriously, this guy was set up to be this intriguing, emperor-like being whose mythos presented countless possibilities. Certain Easter Eggs even hint at his species being an ancient race somehow closely tied to the Force. To suggest he’s Sith-like and so powerful he can literally bridge two extremely Force-powerful minds without them being any the wiser, and yet somehow can’t foresee his own protegee’s betrayal is a bit much. We’re told by Luke that Snoke had infected Ben Solo’s mind even as Luke trained him in his Jedi Temple. This suggests his power is even greater than that of Luke Skywalker at the height of his power.
As for the scene itself, it wasn’t bad necessarily, it just came too early. All the pieces were there for this character and then they were just shamelessly thrown aside as if they’d never meant anything at all.
Prefer the idea of Kylo betraying his master? Fine. Have him betray Snoke, but hear me out on a completely new angle. The new Star Wars movies have shown themselves to be less black and white than their predecessors. That much is obvious. So here’s an idea: if Kylo betrays Snoke, have him do it in a way that Snoke senses it at the last moment and deflects the worst of the lightsaber’s beam. If he’s wounded, he can still retreat. Hell, his throne room is about as empty and generic villainy as it gets, why not have the platform his throne rests on descend while his Elite Praetorian Guards swarm Kylo and Rey? Then, you’ve effectively set up a three-sided dichotomy in the final installment of the trilogy. Kylo is still dark, yet he rejects Snoke’s First Order. To try to seize power, he enlists his Knights of Ren. On the other side, Rey finds herself still fighting to find the good in Kylo while understanding Snoke remains a very real threat which is actively destroying the Rebellion and those she cares about. Snoke could even remain the puppetmaster attempting to manipulate the two Force-sensitive powers. Perhaps Rey even has to rely on one of the two dark forces in the struggle to end the war. Such a moral dilemma would not only add to her character development but literally shift her into the role of a gray Jedi, the embodiment of not being light or dark, white or black. That’d make for an interesting, not so black and white approach to the final act of a trilogy, no?
1. Luke Takes a Final Stand
Luke Skywalker’s death was for many, the greatest disappointment of this sequel trilogy. If you think about it, fans waited nearly 40 years to finally see Luke back in action. In the end, they only got about sixty seconds of action, all of which was dodging, and then a Force-ghosting death. He didn’t raise his X Wing. He didn’t go to save the Rebels or Leia when they needed him. Instead, he acted as a distraction for something he couldn’t have even known was needed in that moment. And then he was gone. It was disappointing to say the least. Don’t get me wrong, the symmetry of him drifting away as he watched the dual setting suns was a nice way to harken back to A New Hope, but it doesn’t excuse the otherwise poor execution that preceded it or the fact that it felt like a cheap cop-out.
A better approach would be to have Luke actually show up and actually fight. He wouldn’t have to win, but he could at least show us some of the amazing Force abilities he’s learned over the course of four decades mastering ancient Jedi training.
Picture the scene: when the AT-ATs open fire, Luke throws out a hand, halting their fire. It’s just like what we saw from Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens but on a far more impressive scale. With his other hand, he raises tosses it aside as if it were a fly. He repeats the gesture again, knocking the next one into several others and causing them all to crumble in a fiery heap. As horror sets in on Kylo’s face, Luke gives an even greater show of power, lifting a third AT-AT into the air and crushing it with the Force as though it were a fist. This would not only intimidate Kylo Ren but leave him seething as he feels like his former Master is making a mockery of him. Not to be outdone, Ren exits his AT-AT and confronts his former Master in a proper duel.
Given Luke’s years-long absence from the Force, as well as the fact that he establishes himself mostly as a distraction for the Rebel forces’ escape than anything else, it’s reasonable to assume such exertion is taking a toll on his body, effectively burning the candle so bright and brilliantly he could never hope to sustain it. It wouldn’t even be upsetting for him to lose to Kylo Ren given that context.
During their duel, the First Order breaches the bunker. Stormtroopers pour into the base and the remaining Rebel troops are being gunned down as they defend Leia and the others during their escape. Seeing this, Luke pivots mid-duel and begins flinging the stormtroopers into each other and away from the door, all the while dodging Kylo’s attacks. He does this again and again but eventually, enough stormtroopers get past him.
Just then, he senses Rey’s approach in the Millennium Falcon. Breaking from the duel, he outsmarts his hot-headed former apprentice, getting Kylo to wax nostalgic, so to speak, and talk rather than fight. During this distraction, Luke concentrates and Force projects onto the Falcon to deliver a crucial message to Rey. He tells her he can sense Leia and the others near the back of the base and tasks her with rescuing them there before the First Order can capture or kill them. Before he vanishes, he, in a somewhat roundabout way, thanks her for bringing him out of hiding.
On the battlefield, Kylo becomes impatient with Luke’s long stretches of silence and apparent distraction. Luke is now visibly panting; sweating profusely with a wince. It’s clear he’s just about to the end of his line. Somewhat puzzled by this, Kylo prods with his mind and penetrates Luke’s weary defenses to learn his plan. Understanding this will be the end, Luke casts one final projection, this time reaching out to Leia so that he may say goodbye. At first Leia is horrified, but he dispels her sorrow by echoing her primary message: They will be the spark that ignites the flame that burns down the First Order. He’s simply playing his part in it all. He says goodbye and his projection vanishes.
Back on the battlefield, Kylo rushes Luke. Luke begins to lift his lightsaber, only to hesitate and then display it before him as Obi-Wan had when squared off against Darth Vader. Speaking calmly, he proclaims “Strike me down and I will become more powerful than you could ever imagine.” Kylo screams furiously and strikes. The saber passes through Luke’s robes as they crumple to the lie upon the white powder and red clay. In an instant he’s vanished from sight, becoming one with the Force.
These changes would not only continue to stir questions raised by The Force Awakens, but would also trim fat from The Last Jedi, better develop character, and give a proper send off to one of film’s most iconic heroes.
If you guys like these ideas, let me know. If I end up doing the more in-depth video on The Last Jedi, I plan to do it in three segments. In the first, I’ll discuss what the film did. After that, I’ll explain the numerous plotholes and continuity errors created by the script and then I’ll cap things off with a full breakdown of how I would fix the script, some of which is outlined above.
Let’s be honest, you probably don’t agree with me 100%. So why would I claim I could do it better? Because I’m a smartass (ding).