‘Star Wars: Episode IX’: How the Story Might Make ‘The Last Jedi’ Better
Star Wars: The Last Jedi has been about as divisive as a movie can be. It’s no secret that Star Wars diehards are a difficult crowd to please, but director Rian Johnson seemingly went out of his way to purposely disappoint a large segment of his fan base. But we don’t need to go into all of that just yet, as to properly examine the film would be to immediately delve into spoilers.
J.J. Abrams, the director of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, will also be taking on the final movie in the sequel trilogy. Although no actual title has been announced for Episode IX, a working title has apparently been leaked following Abrams’ story pitch to the bosses at Disney. There is some indication that the story for Episode IX could go a long way in redeeming some of the frustrating portions of The Last Jedi.
We took a look at what that working title could mean, plus everything else that went wrong with Johnson’s Star Wars vision.
The same trilogy, but no coherent direction
Abrams put together The Force Awakens with a simple goal in mind: Give fans something familiar, but introduce the next generation of characters in a way that sets up the trilogy. Diehard fans, as always, had their complaints. It was too much like Star Wars: A New Hope, they said. Just an even bigger Death Star, they said. And that was fair. But Abrams accomplished his goal, leaving Johnson with Rey, Finn, Poe, Kylo Ren, Snoke, Leia, the Resistance, and an entirely unexplored Luke Skywalker.
There was so much potential, but rather than continuing the story lines that Abrams established and teased throughout The Force Awakens, Johnson instead scrapped much of it and went his own way. The sting would’ve been lessened if Disney weren’t so tight-lipped about everything Star Wars-related, leaving fans to speculate for two years on story lines that wouldn’t get resolved.
Finn was wasted in a red herring story line
Another large complaint about The Last Jedi is the second act, and the way that Finn was wasted following John Boyega’s breakout performance in The Force Awakens. Finn was the central point to all of it, tying together the story and taking probably the most screen time of any character. But in The Last Jedi, we open with Finn still in a coma. Realistically, they could’ve just left him there.
Johnson paired Finn with Rose Tico, aptly played by Kelly Marie Tran. Although Tran’s performance is excellent, their entire story line ends up adding nothing to the plot. Instead, it’s merely a device for commenting on war profiteering and ethical treatment of animals.
It’s not to say that those messages don’t have a place in film, or even in Star Wars. If you think movies just started using their platform to push a political agenda, you’re kidding yourself. But coming off The Force Awakens, Finn’s story amounting to nothing but a red herring and some political commentary is a major letdown.
Oh, the plot holes. Some of the plot holes in The Last Jedi are specific to the movie itself, while others are created through inconsistency with its predecessor. For example, when Rey arrives on Ahch-To, Luke makes it extremely clear that he would not return under any circumstances — even if it means the death of the Resistance and putting the First Order firmly in control of the galaxy. He actually tells Rey that he came to Ahch-To to die.
So, tell us again why he made a map to his location and left part with R2-D2 and gave the missing piece to Lor San Tekka? If he really didn’t want to be found, Luke would’ve destroyed any evidence of that map.
Another plot hole relates to the implied importance of Rey. While her parents being nobodies is a perfectly acceptable twist, the fact that Kylo Ren, Han Solo, and Leia clearly knew who she was in The Force Awakens isn’t accounted for. But in this specific movie, the biggest plot hole is the chase sequence between the First Order and the Resistance. If both ships are moving at the same speed, why doesn’t General Hux send some Star Destroyers ahead into light speed and then cut off the last remaining Resistance ship?
Snoke was painfully unexplained
The most mysterious thing about The Force Awakens is Supreme Leader Snoke, a deformed bad guy only seen on hologram that seems to have turned Ben Solo to the dark side and built the First Order on the ashes of the Empire. Considering that Star Wars: Return of the Jedi was the satisfying end to the original trilogy, giving the Star Wars universe peace and democracy again, it would take a major baddie like Snoke to upset all of that harmony.
Fans debated Snoke’s origin, coming up with wacky ideas that included the return of Darth Plageuis to a mangled Boba Fett. Even if those aren’t the correct answers, killing Snoke off after about five minutes of screen time and zero explanation of his character isn’t an answer at all. This has to be the biggest chasm between what Abrams envisioned and where Johnson took The Last Jedi.
Abrams pitched his ideas for Episode IX to Disney on Friday, Dec. 15. For now, the working title for the movie will be Black Diamond, which appears to be a direct reference to the black ring that can be seen on Snoke’s hand throughout The Last Jedi. The visual dictionary for The Last Jedi revealed that Snoke’s ring is made of obsidian, mined from Mustufar underneath Darth Vader’s castle (seen in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story).
The ring, itself, is only seen in the movie. It’s not mentioned or fleshed out in any measurable way. However, giving Episode IX the working title of Black Diamond is an eyebrow-raising move. Could this ring end up having some serious importance? And what, exactly, is Abrams trying to tell us?
Is Abrams sending a message?
The conclusion that could be drawn from the working title Black Diamond is that Abrams is sending a message to fans that are unhappy with The Last Jedi. That message seems to be, “I hear you.” Abrams is the architect of the sequel trilogy, serving as director for the bookending chapters and executive producer for all three. For an artist such as he, watching Johnson scrap the entire Snoke story line midstream had to have been every bit as painful as it was for fans hoping to learn more.
For Abrams not to go back and somehow explain Snoke and the rise of the First Order would be to compound Johnson’s mistake. Some might complain that this is nothing more than fan service, but think back to The Force Awakens again. Abrams isn’t afraid of a little fan service.
Pushing the reset button
It could be argued as both good and bad, but The Last Jedi pushed the reset button on the Star Wars saga in a very big way. Kylo Ren’s line, “let the past die,” is a metaphor for the entire film. Rian Johnson wanted to let Star Wars‘ past die, and in some places he even had to kill it. What we were left with at the end is Supreme Leader Kylo, General Hux, and a strong First Order ruling the galaxy with just a handful of freedom fighters remaining.
There are no Jedi and no Sith. Gone are the days of Force religions and the Skywalker family drama. Assuming some sort of time jump, Abrams has a whole lot of freedom to direct the final chapter of the trilogy. He won’t be constrained by the existence of old characters, with Han Solo and Luke having died and actress Carrie Fisher passing away in January of 2017.
Where Abrams goes from here with Rey, Finn, Poe, and the Resistance is anybody’s guess. The Last Jedi backed him into a corner, but it also provided him with the ability to finish the story in a way that could make Johnson’s penultimate chapter better in retrospect.
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