Since The Last Jedi hit theaters, there has been a lot of talk on the movie. Talking about your love or dislike of new Star Wars movies seems to be becoming a treasured national past time! However, there has been criticism on The Last Jedi that I think is missing the point of, not only Star Wars, but stories in general.
The most heard piece of criticism I have observed about the film is that the characters act irrationally. There are a few ways in which people have complained about this:
- Vice Admiral Holdo should just tell Poe the plan.
- The Casino Planet (Canto Bight) was pointless.
- The Last Jedi betrayed Luke’s character. (From Mark Hamill himself)
All these complaints have a similar theme of being about a character making a mistake. Holdo most likely made a mistake by not telling Poe her plan. Poe most likely made a mistake by having Finn and Rose go to Canto. Luke most likely made a mistake when he went into hiding, and he definitely made a mistake when he tried to kill Ben Solo. Making mistakes actually seems to be a big theme of the movie.
However, characters making mistakes in plots is a vital to stories, and the fact that we can’t accept characters making mistakes probably says more about ourselves than the movie. First, I want you to consider why we like stories or why stories are important. Stories are meant to entertain, definitely, but they are also meant to teach us something. Sometimes they aim to teach us something about ourselves and sometimes they try to teach us something about the world around us.
The original trilogy of Star Wars is meant to teach us something about ourselves. While there is a story of rebellion vs. authoritarianism, the plot is pretty un-political and wrapped mostly around the lives of the main characters. We are suppose to see ourselves in Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, and (hopefully not) C-3PO. When Luke doesn’t want to join the rebellion because he has “too much work to do”, this is suppose to remind us of ourselves. Many times in our lives we push away big opportunities because we don’t want to change the status quo or at least feel bogged down by it. When Han Solo decides to join the rebellion, regardless of payment, it is supposed to point out actions that may not be so different from our own.
The prequels are a bit different. For the most part, the sequels are about a grand all-encompassing plot. While Anakin Skywalker is the main character, a lot of what we see has more to do with the universe itself than Anakin Skywalker, as a person. The prequels are much more political, and seem to want to teach us more about the world around us than about ourselves. The Republic was a standard of justice yet it got warped to become the evil Galactic Empire. The prequels examine the steps of how something like that can happen. However, do many of us really see ourselves in Anakin Skywalker? He is a hard character to relate to.
When it comes to the new trilogy, I think it is more a fusion of the two. It is meant to teach us something about the world around us (like with the scene showing Canto Bight), but it is also suppose to teach us something about ourselves.
Luke is not the most admirable character in the beginning of The Last Jedi. He is annoying and you just want to reach through the screen and shake him around a bit. But he isn’t evil and he isn’t unrelatable. When we saw Luke on screen as a defeated and depressed hero, Mark Hamil and many Star Wars fans hated him. But why? Is it so unrealistic that a hero can have flaws? Can make huge mistakes? Can make things worse off? It seems all too real to me, but we hate to see it that way because it makes us look in the mirror. We all view ourselves as the hero of our story, but, god damn, we are flawed. But we don’t want to be reminded of this, so we pass it off as a plot hole that makes absolutely no sense!
Same with Poe and Holdo. Is it really unheard of for military leaders to have large errors in judgement? Is it really hard to believe that Poe was probably acting inappropriately? Poe is still a hero, as is Holdo, even if they made mistakes.
If anything, characters acting irrational is the most realistic part of the The Last Jedi. Our lives are full of event after event of ourselves, our family, our coworkers, our friends, and our enemies making mistakes. Yet, for some reason when we see people being stupid on the big screen, we pretend it doesn’t make sense. I think it is because we don’t want to admit our own mistakes.
It is easy for us to judge characters actions as irrational because we see the entire context. We see what is happening in the enemy ship. We see what is happening in Poe’s room. We see what is happening on Canto Bight. And we also know we are watching a movie so the plot must go in certain ways. However, the character, hypothetically, do not know any of this just like we do not see the entire context of our own lives. Thus we, like a character in a movie, make many errors. If characters in a movie made constant rational actions, that would probably be the most unbelievable movie ever (and it is honestly why I find Superman, and characters like Superman) to be the most boring fictional characters ever created).