I’ll be talking about The Last Jedi and why I think it’s a fantastically told story, with each component fitting into the movie smoothly. Be warned – I’m going to assume you’ve seen the movie, so there will be spoilers ahead.
So, there are a couple key things I want to address with this, in addition to an overall look at it. First is the one where people are angry because Poe screws up immensely, directly causing significant portions of the plot by being a hothead. The other is the claim that Canto Bight felt “too long” or “unnecessary” to the plot as a whole.
First, we start the movie off with a relatively familiar bit – the Resistance evacuating their base of operations, much like the Rebels were having to evacuate Hoth early in The Empire Strikes Back. On the other hand, while Poe is doing a good job of being a distraction, his determination to take out people in the First Order is a problem – he leads most of the Resistance strike force to their doom, even as it takes out the super-massive dreadnought. Leia justifiably demotes Poe for ignoring her direct orders, Poe gets pissed about it, and they do a hyperspace jump to get away with the people they have left.
The First Order tracks them and follows, and this is a part where people argue that Poe was right in disobeying the order because otherwise the dreadnought would have followed them and wiped them out, rather than the long chase happening. On the face of it, this seems like a fair criticism – but we don’t know, in the movie, how long the tracking took to establish. It’s entirely possible that if the attack had been called off, they’d have all been able to jump away without being tracked, but Poe’s determination to take down the big ship gave the First Order all the time they needed. It’s not covered, I don’t have an answer either way, and the movie makes it clear that Poe being a hothead is a problem.
Then, in order, Leia is knocked out of commission, Holdo takes command, Poe is told to be quiet, Finn is stunned by Rose, Finn and Rose realize the First Order must be using active tracking, and they go to Finn’s friend Poe to see what they should do. Mind, here – Rose probably doesn’t know that Poe’s been demoted, Finn trusts Poe, and so they trust his decision to be subversive to the chain of command.
This is important because they have information that Holdo has no way of knowing – Holdo is keeping the plan close for those who need to know it, because they have people trying to desert and for all she knows there’s a First Order traitor on board. She’s trying to buy time and safety for her friends and allies by not letting anyone who isn’t 100% trustworthy know the plan. Poe ignores orders and gets good people killed. He isn’t, at this point, reliable. He’s a loose cannon waiting to cause a disaster.
We know that people are trying to desert because the first interaction between Rose and Finn tells us that she’s already had to stun three people just that day, trying to sneak aboard an escape pod. This little detail tells us everything we need to know about why Holdo isn’t explaining the plan – the fewer people that know all of the details, the less likely that someone will jettison, get captured by the First Order, and then be forced to reveal the plan. It would’ve worked, if Poe hadn’t decided that he, Finn, and Rose were going to save everyone with a wild plan. If Poe had trusted Holdo to know what she was doing or if he’d been less of a brash dude insisting that he be brought in on everything, if he’d told her how the First Order had tracked them, the entire movie would have gone a very different route.
Instead, they gamble on a daring plan – the kind that we’re led to believe will pay off by sheer guts and luck. Poe will stay on the ship and be ready to lead a mutiny to save everyone from Holdo’s perceived incompetence, while Finn and Rose fly to retrieve a world-class slicer to get them in and help them save everyone. It’s an absolutely terrible plan, relying on an absolutely ridiculous amount of luck (or, since this is Star Wars, a ridiculous amount of help from the Force) to work.
They go to Canto Bight, come back with a slicer who can do what’s advertised but is not the dude Maz told them to look for, they get caught, and because they were talking about Resistance information around a dude who makes it clear repeatedly that his only motivation is wealth, the plan is blown to hell. He’s already planning to cut a deal when he returns Rose’s pendant; he smells a payoff no matter which way it goes. When they get caught, he cuts a deal, and the Resistance gets absolutely wrecked.
At this point, we get all the flash and dazzle of the ending, but it’s only as Poe realizes that he has royally screwed up and can’t handle pointless casualties that we wrap up the part that this is pretty much Poe’s fault. If he had trusted Holdo to have a plan, the Resistance wouldn’t be down to a literal double handful of survivors aboard the Millennium Falcon; the Resistance would have a base of operations that they could work on fortifying, while the First Order kept chasing Holdo for a bit longer. If he’d been willing to pass along how the First Order was tracking them instead of hatching a low-odds plan to deal with it, they’d have been able to relax the secrecy. Poe screwed up and didn’t trust the people on his side to know what they’re doing.
It’s a fair chunk of the movie spent on taking the flashy hothead sexy flyboy and hammering it into his head that you don’t win by fighting what you hate; you win by protecting what you love. Once it gets through his head, Leia can sense the difference, and when everyone looks to her to confirm Poe’s order to follow him after the crystal fox, she tells them to quit looking at her and follow him.
As for Canto Bight, which people claim is too long, unnecessary, and unrealistic, I have to say that these people are missing an essential element of the movie’s story – one that ties directly into Rey’s story. Canto Bight is there to tell us how war is brutal and ugly, how autocracies and militaristic groups tears lives apart, how the lifestyle of the wealthy is built on the backs of the lowly (such as, say, a scavenger girl from Jakku , or a war orphan), and how heroes can come from anywhere. Heroism isn’t genetic. It isn’t predestined. You don’t have to be a Skywalker to be a hero or to make a difference.
Canto Bight speaks about how heroes can come from anywhere. Rose, one of the most beloved characters in the movie, was just like the children in the stables. One of those children is shown, in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment, to be a Force-sensitive – a future hero, if that Resistance ring is anything to go by. We already know that Finn is a rebel against the darkness of the First Order, escaping his fate as a programmed child soldier to find freedom and friendship. Rey, the first of a new kind of Jedi, free from the strictures of the old Order, is a literal nobody, a Force-sensitive child of a couple of scavengers. Poe is the closest thing we get to a hereditary hero in this story, the child of the Rebellion raised on tales of heroism.
Yoda tells Luke that “We are what they grow beyond” and this movie can be summed up by that line. Each of our heroes learn more of who they are, what they’re willing to do, and who stands with them. Poe learns the cost and challenge of being a leader, Finn embraces his place as a rebel, Rey accepts that her past is gone and that people in the here and now need her more than any memory of the people who left her behind, and dear, sweet Rose embraces the fight to protect those she loves on the front line.
The Empire Strikes Back ended on a terrible note – Luke lost a hand, had his spiritual center torn apart, the Rebellion was still on the run, Han was captured, and it was a grim situation. The Last Jedi leaves the Resistance on the run, thoroughly devastated, and without allies – but it also leaves them together, the heroes reaffirmed while the First Order was baffled and stymied by a Force projection, and with a renewed sense that they will prevail. The Light may be dimmed, but it isn’t out, and the Dark can’t last. It’s fantastic storytelling, in my opinion, even if some bits could have been tightened up or better focused.
The Last Jedi is an excellent movie, and I fully intend to go see it again.