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First off, while I didn't quite like this movie... i also think 95% of the "criticism" by hardcore fans is nothing but whining. There ARE problems with this film, but almost none of those problems "ruined my childhood" and whatnot. In fact, I consider half that stuff to be the good parts.
So, on to the themes. This movie has a good theme it's supposed to teach: Failures are important, because you can learn from your failures. Except I guess they completely forgot about the second part. There are several plot threads, all of which end in failure. And nobody learns anything, everyone just pats each other on the back and say "we'll succeed in the end, we have hope!"
Poe almost learns his lesson I think, except he's too gosh darn likeable to suffer the consequences (his commanding officers even say this.)
Rose and Finn don't seem to learn any lesson at all. They have their own subplot, which is very reminiscent of the Prequel trilogy - in the bad way. Their failure is due to taking shortcuts and half-assing their own job, but we never see them learn their lesson (much less question themselves in the first place).
Oh, we also see Finn almost have a character arc, but he's forced to fail by Rose, and the reason is, well, completely pointless if they didn't just Hand Wave the problem away. Oh wait, it is still pointless and it's still a problem.
Most of the other problems the hardcore fans have? They mostly boil down to "character doesn't meet my expectations set up by the EU." Luke isn't EU luke? Force Power wasn't in the EU? Villain doesn't have 4 novels, games, and TV shows worth of backstory? Complain, complain, complain.
My major complaint with Rey in the TFA is still here though. She just perfects everything, first try. Mary Sue is still Mary Sue. Mock lightsaber battle, beats Luke first try. Luke expressly tries NOT to teach her anything, she does a massive Force Lift first try. Oh, and I guess this is her second lightsaber battle ever, but obviously she does it perfectly.
Lastly, the twists and double-twists. The movie seems like it's actually taking chances and doing something interesting - what a twist! But wait, at the very last second there's another twist to make sure the basic, boring Jedi Good vs Sith Evil setup is where we remain.
I wouldn\'t say that it\'s to much to ask a little bit of backstory for a character who supposedly built up the entire First Order from what remained of the Empire. But the Sequel Trilogy has done an awful job when it comes to anything resembling world-building that I\'m not too surprised.
Again I'd like to compare it to the Emperor in the original trilogy. He had NO backstory whatsoever and was literally just a cackling evil dude in a chair. That was fine. We just got used to a world where he has a million side stories fleshed out afterwards, which may have tainted everyone's memory of what the original was like.
Throwing a red herring regarding the big bad is fine by me.
I think the difference between the Emperor and Snoke is that the Emperor _genuinely_ had no backstory. There weren\'t being coy, or trying to mystery box him. He had a narrative purpose, he fulfilled it. Not knowing where he came from added to the sense of awe and grandeur (things TLJ is allergic to).
Whereas The Force Awakens was actively dangling Snoke\'s backstory to entice the audience. The Last Jedi decided not to build on that - but _still_ dangled Snoke\'s backstory. Almost half his dialogue is referring to events he knows about and seems to be familiar with.
The fact he was able to corrupt Kylo Ren and bring back the darkside is worldbuilding feature both sequels rely heavily on. The importance of Snoke is even referenced when Luke talks about the effect he had on Kylo.
So I don\'t think it\'s good writing not to explain it. Its got shock value and plays well to people who - if we\'re honest - derive some satisfaction from Star Wars fans being disappointed.
But I also don\'t think it\'s that big a deal. Its no more important in the world building than knowing if the Republic or the First Order have a bigger sent. And that itself is just a nagging background detail that resolves itself unsatisfactorily. Its a mild annoyance, but nothing more.
The original trilogy established that it was an Old Republic which fell to an Empire, that Vader betrayed the Jedi, and that Vader was Anakin Skywalker, which we knew when we met him in ESB and then later in person in ROTJ. So the Emperor had a clear and logical role, and when Luke faced the Emperor we knew that he could corrupt our hero since he already did that to his father who he Reforged into a Minion. All this is solely in the movies, no novels or transmedia, so the movie clearly explains the Emperor, what he did, and how dangerous and threatening he is to Luke...so that when Yoda in his dying words warns Luke about the Emperor in ROTJ and how cunning he is, we know it means something.
The new trilogy hasn\'t explained anything about the backstory on even this much level. The movies tell us nothing about the post-ROTJ status-quo, nothing about the New Republic, nothing about the First Order, and nothing about Snoke. TLJ even throws doubts about Snoke being the one to turn Kylo Ren since Luke doesn\'t mention Snoke once in his conversations with Rey.
So I think it\'s a pretty valid complaint to call foul on the film\'s World Building. The original trilogy was initially released as standalone works without the prequels so you can make excuses for the former whereas the sequel trilogy is absolutely a Continuation Fic that depends on the first three films in a way that even the prequel trilogy did not. I wouldn\'t say not explaining this stuff is problematic or disqualifying in and of itself, except for the fact that the first film already established some possible backstory material and rather than build on that as for instance ESB did with ANH, you have a film that introduces its own ideas and stuff while leaving the job of piecing it to unpaid fans.
I tend to defend Finn and Rose\'s story arc: Firstly, it helped to flesh out the universe beyond yet more rebel vs imperial battle grounds. Secondly, there is a whole character arc for Rose and Finn, who go in reverse directions of each other: Finn goes from being an individualist who just wants to keep him and Rose safe, to someone willing to sacrifice them-self for the bigger picture. Rose is a humble engineer and committed rebel who lived in the shadow of her supercool sister (who sacrificed her own life), but comes to realise that she still needs to care about the individual lives. I don\'t think Rose ever explains herself very well, but as far as she\'s concerned, saving just one more life, even if that is all she can do, is the victory, not the big acts of noble heroism
Also, where we not watching the same movie in regards to Rey? If she\'s so perfect, what exactly has she achieved by the end of the movie?
For someone who was a fan of Finn from TFA, this film definitely had him Demoted to Extra, he went from being the male lead in the first film and being the linchpin of the sequel trilogy (the guy who connected Poe Dameron, Kylo Ren, Phasma, Rey, Han Solo, and engaged Kylo in battle before Rey) to basically sidekick-of-a-sidekick, since the entire Canto Bight arc was more about Rose Tico than him, and he is her Satellite Character. His friendship with Poe Dameron didn\'t develop much even if that was a major part of The Force Awakens.
Failure to properly develop and manage the ensemble cast is definitely a legitimate criticism of these films since fundamentally these are sagas and not intended to be standalone works.
I like Canto Bight as a concept but to me the subject there was so big that it should have been dealt with more in depth, and basically the movie suffers for its weak plot...the concept of the entire film having this slow chase and siege between two space-fortresses, and also being an Immediate Sequel to the first film makes the entire action feel odd and lop-sided for me. If they had chosen a better plot, and a Time Skip, that would have helped. You could also allow for a more in-depth look at Canto Bight and so on.
Just because Rey does everything she attempts perfectly, doesn\'t mean she attempted anything particularly important.
Although killing the emperor\'s elite guards in her second lightsaber battle ever counts, and lifting several tons of rock to save the day counts too. First try, no training for both.
Rey really only took out two guards and she was noticeably struggling against them. She also attempted to redeem Kylo, something that was a spectacular failure.
\"She also attempted to redeem Kylo, something that was a spectacular failure.\"
More than that, she was such a Horrible Judge of Character that she honestly thought mass murderer Kylo Ren was a stronger candidate for redemption than the new, grumpy old guy version of Luke.
Plus, she got knocked around like a rag doll when she tried to take on Snoke and Kylo had to save her ass.
Plus, she spent the whole movie wanting to know her parents are, which turned out to be an exercise in futility driven by her own inability to admit that they were nobodies. When you get right down to it, she really fails at every major goal she has in the movie.
Honestly, putting aside the Mary-Sue complain for a moment, my personal problem with Rey can be summarized to a single phrase: I can\'t, when trying to describe her, find a single distinct Character trait. I can say Finn is a disturbed Child Soldier trying to move away from his past, tend to run away from his problems rather than confront them, and is strongly loyal toward Rey in specific. I can say Poe is a hotheaded, but skilled pilot with a tendency to snark. I can say Kylo Ren is an impulsive, mentally unstable Manchild who desperately tries to live up to Darth Vader\'s legacy. But Rey? I can\'t think of anything that makes her stand out as a character, aside from her inexplicable skills in so many areas she shouldn\'t know. Of course, that\'s my personal feeling - if any of you actually can come up with convincing character traits to make her stand out, then by all means, tell me.
As for Snoke vs the Emperor, it\'s simple really: the Emperor didn\'t need a backstory because that wasn\'t the point. The universe was introduced as it was: all we needed to know was that the Empire was ruled by a creepy old evil guy who was responsible for corrupting Darth Vader. At the time, no big detail was needed to understand the story. But the new trilogy is a sequel, supposed to build on something already established. And based on what was established, the Sith were all exterminated, and no known Dark Jedi had ever shown up since then. Snoke single-handedly made the happy ending of a trilogy we spent years watching, so yes, explaining where he came from was important.
BTW, I\'m kind of confused as to why people are still desperately clinging to the \"Rey is a Mary Sue\" complaint when Rose is already a textbook Mary Sue, and you could argue for Holdo being one as well.
@ading: .... I knew people had a habit of calling Mary Sue any character they don\'t like, but wow... seriously?! Have you even checked the definition?
@Theokal 3: Every line out Rose\'s mouth is just establishing her moral superiority over the other characters around her. The only thing that makes her sort of a flawed characters is that she is part of the long-shot mission to save the day, which ends up not working, but even then, she\'s the only one of the main characters who doesn\'t have to learn anything from her failures. I don\'t know what is planned for her in Episode IX, but she\'s pretty Mary Sue-y here.
@ading: Meh, didn't strike me as such. She is far from having the plot gravitating around her, she has no special powers, he role in the story is pretty small, and it's later established that these same people she criticized for selling weapons for the First Order also sold weapons to the Resistance, thus nuancing her point. Also, her telling that kid they were from the Resistance wasn't her trying to establish her moral superiority, and I'm pretty sure that by looking a bit further you can find other lines that don't do that. Finally, she is no way portrayed as special; in fact, I don't even think we see her interact with Rey, Leia, or Luke. Frankly the only reason she doesn't have that many flaws is because she really has a minor role at best.
Don't get me wrong, she's still a mediocre to average character at best, but a Mary-Sue? Nah.
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