I remember when I first watched Star Wars. No, I wasn’t camped out in line in front of a movie theatre to see it. I also wasn’t introduced to the iconic franchise through my parents or friends. I first saw Star Wars on VHS. I must’ve been about 9 or 10-years old, but I specifically remember signing up for my first library card on a school field trip, and my mother taking me to the library that weekend to get some books. Of course, the first thing I do is venture into the VHS department of the library to check out some movies. And there it was… Star Wars. The title had me hooked, and the box art mesmerized me. I knew this was going to be an awesome adventure in a world far, far, away.
As a kid, the character who intrigued me the most was Han Solo. First of all, his name sounds badass, and second of all, he is a BADASS. In fact, the first time you meet the character, he ends the life of a bounty hunter named Greedo, who catches Han seemingly off-guard at gunpoint in a bustling cantina. The way Han nonchalantly inches towards the blaster on his holster underneath the table, finally gripping it, all while giving Greedo the chance to walk away with his life, before he is ultimately forced to kill the Rodian with an unsuspecting blaster shot to the dome–was single-handedly one of the coolest things I have ever seen in cinema. Han Solo was the real deal.
I repeatedly gobbled through the rest of the original trilogy in shock and awe. In shock at the ruthlessness of Vader and the Empire, in awe of Luke and lightsabers. The original Star Wars trilogy was an amazing adventure. As I grew older, my love for Star Wars had waned a little with the Prequel trilogy. Another of my favorite villains, Darth Maul, had already died at the end of the first movie. I didn’t synergize too much with Anakin, and I was upset by how quickly Jango Fett was effortlessly killed by Mace Windu. Overall, the prequel trilogy was halfway decent to me, except for Yoda flipping around with his lightsaber. That was pretty friggin’ awesome. What turned out to be more awesome than that, was experiencing one of the greatest video game storylines ever with Star Wars Knights of the old Republic. A prime example of getting Star Wars 1000% right. Drew Karpyshyn, you are a mastermind.
I began to fall off a bit more with Star Wars as I got older, but once it was announced that Disney had bought the rights to Star Wars off George Lucas, the spark was reigniting. I couldn’t wait to see how these childhood favorite characters of mine would return in an all-new Star Wars journey. Enter the Force Awakens. In a nutshell, the opening sequence of the movie blew my mind. Seeing Kylo Ren use the force to freeze blaster projectiles was exhilarating. Finn as a stormtrooper abandoning his duty because he didn’t want to be a mindless pawn, was a narrative breath of fresh air. Rey was also an interesting character with the mystery surrounding her. However, by the time the film concluded, I was left with a sour taste in my mouth. How was it that the seemingly sinister villain, Kylo Ren, was literally bested by Rey in the first film? Remember, a great protagonist is measured by the scope and dimension of the main antagonist. The villain needs to push the hero/heroine to the limit. To effectively break them, push them to the brink, to where we see how the hero/heroine overcomes adversity. For me, all of Rey’s mystery didn’t matter to me because she had already overcome her first real obstacle in Kylo Ren. Finn’s potential as a possible force-sensitive stormtrooper was also wasted, as he was denigrated to being a loud-mouthed, walking meme. With no true formidable villain, why O why am I even going to care about where the rest of this trilogy goes?
So the next Star Wars movie after The Force Awakens was actually pretty darn great. NO, I’m not talking about The Last Jedi, I’ll get to that, I’m talking about Rogue One. Something about that film got everything right to me about Star Wars. High stakes, insurmountable odds, betrayal, redemption, and an OP sequence of Darth Vader wreaking havoc. It held up nicely and served as a beautiful way to address a plot hole from the original trilogy.
Now, let’s talk about why The Last Jedi hurt me in the feels. Luke Skywalker. This is the only topic I’m going to zero in here for when talking about this train-wreck of a sequel. They just got him all wrong. ALL wrong. No way does he throw his lightsaber off a mountain. No way does the same man who believed there was good in his father, Darth Vader, (the most iconic villain in all of the storytelling), attempt to snuff out his first student as he sleeps because of whacked-out force visions. Just stop it. And it’s not about subverting expectations. Do you know what would be subverting expectations? Having Rey ultimately become the villain in the sequel trilogy, while Kylo becomes the hero. When constructing well-crafted stories, you have to let your characters be WHO they are, and make their OWN decisions. You don’t force them into hermithood, turn them from walking beacons of hope, into nihilistic asshats, because of a contrived scenario that will rock the very core of their character. Let alone a scenario that is ultimately nothing more than a vision. For Luke to take on such a cataclysmic shift to his character, it needs to be tied to an actual traumatic event that the reader or audience experiences, which would organically justify that sudden and drastic change. Otherwise, it’s just Luke falling victim to the pen in the hand of the hack. In fact, the shot of Luke drinking alien breast milk is a brazen allegory of how he’s forced to just swallow his newfound role, handed to him by outsiders who have zero respect for the character. In other words, just shut up and drink your nipple milk, Luke.